Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My critique of Charles Freeman's "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey," part 9: "The Image of Edessa" (5)

Continuing from part 8 of my critique of historian Charles Freeman's, "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey," May 24, 2012 [pages 7-8] with this part 9, "The Image of Edessa" (5).

[Above: My illustration of Freeman's "four foot by four foot" square Image of Edessa (see below), marked with `one foot' gridlines, and with his own "good example" of the Image, "one of the panels of the Santa Chiara triptych (c. 1330-50) in the Sartario Museum in Trieste" (see part 7) in the centre, making Freeman's "foot by two foot square" face image, in portrait aspect.]

Freeman continues, looking first at two arguments that historian Ian Wilson provides for his attribution of the Image of Edessa being the Shroud of Turin (folded eight times, with Jesus head only visible in landscape aspect).

What arguments can Wilson provide for his attribution? I will look at those from before the sixth century later but here let us take just two. He has tracked down one of the legendary accounts of the origins of the Image of Edessa in a sixth century text, the Acts of Thaddeus (or Jude). This gives a standard account of the image having been made by Christ himself and this in itself just provides further evidence against Wilson's thesis!

Here is the relevant part of the Acts of Thaddeus:

"In those times there was a governor of the city of Edessa, Abgarus [Abgar] by name. And there having gone abroad the fame of Christ, of the wonders which He did, and of His teaching, Abgarus having heard of it, was astonished, and desired to see Christ, and could not leave his city and government. And about the days of the Passion and the plots of the Jews, Abgarus, being seized by an incurable disease, sent a letter to Christ by Ananias the courier ... And Ananias, having gone and given the letter, was carefully looking at Christ, but was unable to fix Him in his mind. And He knew as knowing the heart, and asked to wash Himself; and a towel [Gk. tetradiplon] was given Him; and when He had washed Himself, He wiped His face with it. And His image having been imprinted upon the linen [Gk. sindon], He gave it to Ananias, saying: Give this, and take back this message, to him that sent you: Peace to you and your city!"("The Acts of Thaddaeus, One of the Twelve," New Advent, 29 January 2010).

Freeman had just stated that the Acts of Thaddeus is "one of the legendary accounts of the origins of the Image of Edessa." So how can a "legendary account," which claims that Jesus' image was imprinted upon a linen towel when Jesus wiped His wet face with it, be regarded as historically factual? And what about Freeman's previous statement in this same paper (see part 6) that:

In the case of the Image of Edessa there were two or three stories, that it had been painted by the court painter of king Abgar or, more usually, that Christ himself had wiped his face with a cloth and the image had been imprinted. ... What is important is that these images are not known before the sixth century and the stories of their origins must be treated as legendary.

So if Freeman believes that those stories which say that the Image of Edessa was imprinted on a cloth when Christ wiped his face with it, "must be treated as legendary," how can he then claim that one of those stories, in the Acts of Thaddeus, "provides further evidence against Wilson's thesis"? Neither Wilson, nor any Shroud pro-authenticist, believes that Jesus' image was imprinted on the Shroud while He was still alive. Indeed, Wilson actually states in his latest book, which Freeman implies he has read, that, "... the Acts of Thaddaeus ... its initially off-putting aspect is that it 'explains' the creation of the Image as by Jesus washing himself ...":

"In the case of the Image of Edessa's dimensions, one important indicator is to be found in one of the very first documents to provide a 'revised version' of the King Abgar story in the wake of the cloth's rediscovery. The document in question is the Acts of Thaddaeus, dating either to the sixth or early seventh century. Although its initially off-putting aspect is that it 'explains' the creation of the Image as by Jesus washing himself, it intriguingly goes on to describe the cloth on which the Image was imprinted as tetradiplon `doubled in four'. It is a very unusual word, in all Byzantine literature pertaining only to the Image of Edessa, and therefore seeming to indicate some unusual way in which the Edessa cloth was folded. So what happens if we try doubling the Shroud in four? If we take a full-length photographic print of the Shroud, double it, then double it twice again, we find the Shroud in eight (or two times four) segments, an arrangement seeming to correspond to what is intended by the sixth-century description (fig. 25). And the quite startling finding from folding the Shroud in this way is that its face appears disembodied on a landscape-aspect cloth exactly corresponding to the later 'direct' artists' copies of the Image of Edessa." (Wilson, I., "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," 2010, p.140).

As can be seen above, Wilson's major claim about the Acts of Thaddaeus is that:

"... it intriguingly goes on to describe the cloth on which the Image was imprinted as tetradiplon `doubled in four'. It is a very unusual word, in all Byzantine literature pertaining only to the Image of Edessa, and therefore seeming to indicate some unusual way in which the Edessa cloth was folded."

And that:

"If we take a full-length photographic print of the Shroud, double it, then double it twice again, we find the Shroud in eight (or two times four) segments, an arrangement seeming to correspond to what is intended by the sixth-century description (fig. 25). And the quite startling finding from folding the Shroud in this way is that its face appears disembodied on a landscape-aspect cloth exactly corresponding to the later 'direct' artists' copies of the Image of Edessa."

[Above (click to enlarge): "Tetradiplon," The Definitive Shroud of Turin FAQ, Dan Porter, 2009. Illustration of Ian Wilson's discovery, that if the Shroud of Turin is doubled four times, keeping Jesus' face image uppermost, the result is Jesus' face only, in landscape aspect, exactly as it is in the earlies copies of the Image of Edessa!]

So again Freeman, "fails to tell his readers relevant material which might undermine his case, weak though it already is" (to quote Freeman's own criticism of Wilson in this very paper), so that he can take a cheap shot at Wilson, knowing that his Skeptical Shroud of Turin Website readers would be unlikely to notice his self-contradiction.

Having softened up his readers so that they are in the frame of mind to reject Wilson's real point about the Acts of Thaddaeus (see above), Freeman now tries (unsuccessfully) to explain away Wilson's discovery:

However, the Acts go on to describe the image as tetradiplon which seems to imply some form of doubling (diplon) taking place four (tetra) times.
Freeman continues to mislead his readers by concealing from them that tetradiplon, which literally means "four-doubled," is unique in all of known ancient Greek literature. As Wilson stated in his book (see above) and Freeman must have read, "in all Byzantine [and Greek] literature" it occurs "pertaining only to the Image of Edessa."

Freeman continues:

This is not difficult to explain. All cloth needs to be folded and stored against the damp and other molesters, and this is usually done in a wooden box or chest. This would be as necessary for the Image of Edessa as it would be for the Turin Shroud whenever the latter was made.

Freeman misses the point. A cloth is not normally described by its method of folding. And there would not be only one right way to fold a cloth. Nor would it be necessary to coin a unique Greek word, tetradiplon ("four-doubled") to describe the way a cloth was folded. Wilson is surely correct when he says (see above) that tetradiplon "indicate[s] some unusual way in which the Edessa cloth was folded."

And if Freeman had actually read Wilson's book, he need not have been so vague. Because Wilson quotes from the tenth century Story of the Image of Edessa that the Image of Edessa was stored and carried about in a wooden chest:
"Thus, the Story of the Image of Edessa - whether or not it was directly written by or merely commissioned by the Emperor includes some tantalizing indirect snippets of information about the Image's physical appearance, even though it never provides us with any direct description. In terms of the Image's housing, the Story includes several mentions of its being carried around Constantinople, together with the letter of Jesus to Abgar, in a kibotos, which means a coffer or chest. In the description of how the Image had been stored in Edessa the alternative word used was theke, carrying much the same meaning. There is therefore a strong suggestion that whether it was being transported long distance or being stored long term, its housing was rather more substantial than might be expected for something that was merely a headscarf-size piece of cloth." (Wilson, 2010, p.174).

Freeman continues with his attempt at an ordinary explanation of how the cloth bearing the Image of Edessa was stored:

Now how to store the Image of Edessa? It would clearly have been sacrilegious to have folded the sacred face of Christ and one would expect that the face would be fully visible when the protective box was opened.

Again Freeman reveals his ignorance of the Edessa Image, in assuming it was stored loose. But as Wilson, again quoting from the Story of the Image of Edessa, points out, the cloth bearing Jesus' face was "fixed to a wooden board and adorned with ... gold":
"The Story also makes fairly explicit that, as a piece of linen cloth, the Image was mounted in some form rather than merely being stored loose. For it relates that after King Abgar had been cured of his disease, he ordered the Image to be 'fixed to a wooden board and adorned with the gold that can still be seen. He had these words inscribed on the gold: "Christ, the God. Whoever hopes in you will never be disappointed.'" [Guscin, M., "The Image of Edessa," 2009, p.33] The strong inference is that at the time of the Story's composition - understood to have been no later than 16 August 945 - the Image was being preserved in Constantinople in the very same mounting provided for it while it was being kept in Edessa, a mounting possibly dating even as far back as Abgar's time." (Wilson, 2010, p.174).

So Freeman's `explanation', premised on a loose cloth, fails right there! Freeman, aptly, prefaces his `explanation' with "Now let us suppose ...":
Now let us suppose the Image was four foot by four foot. Lay it on the ground, draw a horizontal fold across the cloth one foot down from the top and fold the resulting rectangle underneath the cloth. This is the first doubling.

[Above: My illustration of what would be seen (minus the gridlines) after Freeman's "first doubling" of his "four foot by four foot" square Edessa Cloth (see above). But as can be seen, this is not a "doubling" of the whole cloth. It is merely a folding over of 4/16ths or one-quarter of Freeman's "four foot by four foot" square cloth bearing the Edessa Image.]

Continuing with Freeman's already failed (because the Edessa Image was not loose but fixed to a board) `explanation':

Repeat with the lower part of the cloth ...

[Above: My illustration of what would be seen after Freeman's "second doubling" of his originally "four foot by four foot" square cloth bearing the Edessa Image. Again, this is not a "doubling" of the whole cloth, but merely a folding over of another one-quarter of Freeman's originally "four foot by four foot" square Edessa Image cloth.]

Continuing with Freeman's failed `explanation':

... and then the two sides...

[Left: My illustration of what would be seen of the Edessa Cloth after Freeman's third `doubling' of it. But as can be seen, it is even less a "doubling" of the whole cloth, being only a folding of 2/16ths or 1/8th of the remaining left edge. And the original top left and bottom left corners that were already folded in the first and second `doubling' are now not doubled, they are quadrupled!]

[Right: My illustration of the Edessa Cloth after Freeman's fourth `doubling' of it. As can be seen, like the left hand `doubling', it is also only a folding of 1/8th of the remaining right edge. And again, the original top right and bottom right corners that were already folded in the first and second `doubling' are now quadrupled!]

Freeman concludes his `explanation':

... so as to make four doublings, and you have a folded cloth, with the face, now in a two foot by two foot square, ready for storing in a much smaller box.
Freeman deceives himself. Did he ever check this out? As can be seen, he has not doubled the whole cloth. All he has done is folded over: 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/8 = three quarters of the whole cloth. And the centre one quarter was not "doubled" at all!

So Freeman's alternative `explanation' fails not once, but four times: First, the oldest copies of the Edessa Image show Jesus' face on a rectangular cloth in landscape aspect, not on a square cloth in portrait aspect. Second, according to the 10th century Constantinople Story of the Image of Edessa, the Edessa Image was not a loose cloth as Freeman's explanation requires, but it was "fixed to a wooden board." Third, Freeman's "four doublings" explanation are not even that, but a folding over of a total of only three-quarters of his "four foot by four foot" square cloth, leaving the central one-quarter not doubled at all. Fourth, Freeman's `four-folding' ordinary explanation is just that. Ordinary! There would be no need to coin a unique word, tetradiplon ("four-doubled") to describe the result and in fact, it would not be described as "four-doubled".

Freeman concludes this section of his paper with an unscholarly dogmatic assertion:

As the Image of Edessa was never the Shroud of Turin in the first place, we do not need Ian Wilson's elaborate explanation (p.190 ff.) of how the Shroud, as we know it today, could be folded into four!

Freeman evidently thinks he is omniscient, being able to infallibly affirm that "the Image of Edessa was never the Shroud of Turin in the first place"! Freeman is here like the preacher whose sermon outline had a note: "Argument weak here: SHOUT!" That Freeman feels he needs to conclude his evaluation of only two of Wilson's arguments why the Image of Edessa is the Turin Shroud, with a dogmatic assertion, I interpret as `body language' revealing that deep down Freeman knows that he hasn't refuted Wilson's arguments at all.

And as for Freeman's "we do not need Ian Wilson's elaborate explanation ... of how the Shroud, as we know it today, could be folded into four," at least Wilson's explanation, unlike Freeman's: 1) accounts for the unique word tetradiplon ("four-doubled") being applied only to the Image of Edessa; and 2) explains why, if the Shroud is folded eight times (doubled four times), keeping Jesus' face image uppermost, the result is Jesus' face in the centre of a rectangular cloth, in landscape aspect, exactly as the earliest copies of the Image of Edessa, depict it (see above).

Continued in part 10: "The Image of Edessa" (6).

Stephen E. Jones.
My other blogs: Jesus is Jehovah! and CreationEvolutionDesign (inactive)

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