Thursday, August 23, 2012

My critique of Charles Freeman's "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey," part 6: "The Image of Edessa" (2)

This is part 6, "The Image of Edessa" (2) of my critique of historian Charles Freeman's, "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey," May 24, 2012 [pages 5-6]. Freeman's paper's words are bold. See previous parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

[Above (click to enlarge): The Image of Edessa (11th century), Sakli church, Goreme, Turkey: Wilson, I., "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam: London, 2010, plate 22b. Again note that Jesus' head appears in landscape aspect, which is obtained by doubling the Shroud of Turin four times, as Wilson points out in his book, but Freeman conceals it from his readers:

"But we still come back to a key question. Even if we accept that the Image of Edessa was a piece of cloth bearing Christ's imprint, so far that is all we have heard about it, that it bore the face of Jesus. Why should we believe it was a cloth of the fourteen-foot dimensions of the Shroud? And what evidence do we have that this Edessa cloth actually was the Shroud? 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 ... 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, 2010, p.140)]

[Above (click to enlarge): How the Shroud "doubled in four" (Greek tetradiplon) results in Jesus' face in landscape aspect, exactly as it is in depictions of the Image of Edessa, like that in the Sakli church above: Dan Porter, "The Definitive Shroud of Turin FAQ: Tetradiplon" (2009). Wilson has a similar set of diagrams in his book on the opposite page 141, to illustrate his point above, but it is only in black and white. But again Freeman conceals this crucial information from his readers. And perhaps even from himself?]

Freeman resumes his fallacious argument that because there are many copies of the Image of Edessa (i.e. the Shroud of Turin doubled-in-four), therefore there cannot be an original from which all those copies ultimately derive:

The late sixth century saw the emergence of many such images and they have been studied in detail by Hans Belting in his authoritative Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art, Chicago, 1994. This period was one when the first intimations of iconoclasm were being heard. Could Christ be represented in images? The response was the appearance of a number of paintings that were said to be acheiropoieton, `not made by human hands'. Most, but not all, were images left by the living Christ on a cloth, though there were others such as the traces left by Christ's body on the pillar against which he was scourged. So Christ had apparently shown, during his own lifetime, that he could be represented and so the iconoclasts could be resisted. Yet the emergence of these images came over five hundred years after the life of Christ! Each acheiropite or image therefore had to develop a story, telling how had it been created and where had it been in the intervening five hundred years. 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.

Freeman continues to mislead his readers by confusing the Image of Edessa with the "Veil of Veronica" story that "Christ himself had wiped his face with a cloth and the image had been imprinted" on

[Above: Poor quality distance photograph of the Vatican's Veronica, which the Vatican apparently refuses to allow to be photographed close up, presumably because they know it is merely a deteriorated copy of the Mandylion/Image of Edessa: Veronica's Veil]

it. But as Freeman must know if he has read Ian Wilson's latest book, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved" (2010), which Freeman implies he has (under an alternative subtitle):

"Despite many years of research de Wesselow uncritically accepts much of the work of the veteran Shroud researcher Ian Wilson whose latest volume, The Shroud, Fresh Light on the 2000-year-old Mystery, Bantam Books, 2011, is used here" (page 1)
the Vatican's Veronica is merely "an official 'copy' for the western world of something that was altogether older and more mysterious being preserved at that time in the Byzantine east, in Constantinople", namely the Shroud:
"For westerners, the most familiar example of the genre will probably be the famous Veronica cloth. This is popularly associated with the story of a woman called Veronica wiping Jesus's face with her veil as he struggled with his cross through Jerusalem's streets on his way to be crucified. According to the story, Jesus's 'Likeness' became miraculously imprinted on Veronica's veil. Dozens of medieval and Renaissance artists depicted the scene, and thousands of Roman Catholic churches have it included among their 'Stations of the Cross', leading many to suppose the story must be in the gospels ... In fact the story in this form dates no earlier than the late Middle Ages, seeming to have been invented to spice up 'miracle play' dramatizations of the Passion story. In a twelfth-century version" there was no woman called Veronica, though at that time the canons of St Peter's, Rome were already keeping under close guard a cloth that was supposed to be the Vera Icon or 'True Likeness' of Jesus. Reputedly this likeness was imprinted not during Jesus's carrying of the cross but when he wiped his face after the 'bloody sweat' in the Garden of Gethsemane. A popular attraction for pilgrimages to Rome during the Middle Ages, this cloth can be traced historically no earlier than the eleventh century. It seems to have been an official 'copy' for the western world of something that was altogether older and more mysterious being preserved at that time in the Byzantine east, in Constantinople." (Wilson, 2010, pp.110-111).

So, as previously observed, either Freeman has not read Wilson's book thoroughly (which would be scholarly incompetence) or he has read the above, but is concealing it from his readers (which would be scholarly dishonesty).

Freeman continues with irrelevant red herrings about "Greek myths" and "Veronica's Veil" as part of his overall strategy to depict the Shroud as just another fake relic:

Varying legends were common, just as many Greek myths have several versions. The Abgar legends then went on to claim that the image had come to Edessa in the first century where it had been hidden in the city wall before its `reappearance' in the sixth century. Similar legends tell of images or other relics from the first century being buried (and often revealed in a dream) or stolen by Jews in the early days after the Crucifixion. Veronica's Veil was supposed to have been brought to Rome by Veronica after she had [6] wiped Christ's face with it and then presented it to the emperor Tiberius. (In fact Veronica was simply a corruption of Vera Iconica, `the true likeness'.) There is also a set of icons of the Virgin Mary that appear at this time said to have been painted by the evangelist Luke. Again the attribution is in order to give them status. 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.

But the difference is that: 1) unlike "Greek myths" the Shroud does exist today; and 2) no one (including Freeman) would bother arguing whether "Greek myths" are authentic.

And as for "The Abgar legends" which "claim that the image had come to Edessa in the first century where it had been hidden in the city wall before its `reappearance' in the sixth century" Freeman either is concealing from his readers, or may be simply ignorant of the fact, that many (if not most) Shroud pro-authenticists (including me) accept the modification to Ian Wilson's theory proposed by attorney/historian John J. (Jack) Markwardt that the Shroud was in Antioch from c. AD 47 until Antioch was devastated by a major earthquake in AD 526, after which the Shroud was taken to Edessa, and the Edessans retrospectively applied to their city, the true history of the Shroud at Antioch.

Briefly Markwardt's theory as set forth in his "The Fire and the Portrait" (1998); and "Antioch and the Shroud" (1999) [PDF]; and "Ancient Edessa and the Shroud" (2008) [PDF], proposes:

  1. The Shroud was first in the custody of the Apostle Peter in Jerusalem from c. AD 30-47, having been recovered by him when he and John entered Jesus' empty tomb, as recorded in Jn 20:3-8.

  2. Then following the persecution of the early Jewish Christians recorded in Acts 6:8-8:3, the Shroud was taken by St. Peter to Antioch, in ancient Syria. See Gal 2:11-12 where Peter was the leader of the church in Antioch, about AD 50.

  3. The Shroud was kept secret in and around Antioch from c. 47 to 357, most of that time in the control of minority Christian groups, the Arians and Monophysites, who kept the Shroud a closely guarded secret from iconoclastic Christians and Jews.

  4. In c. 357, following the Emperor Constantine's policy of centralisng all passion relics in Constantinople, the Shroud was hidden in Antioch's city wall above the Gate of the Cherubim (the source of Edessa's similar legend) until it was rediscovered following the destruction of Antioch's city wall in a major earthquake in 526.

  5. Then, between 526 and the Persian further destruction of Antioch in 540, the Shroud was taken to Edessa, where it was regarded as a secondary relic to Edessa's letter of Jesus to Abgar V.

  6. During the Persian siege of Edessa in 544, following the failure of Jesus' letter to Abgar V protect the city, the Edessans took the Shroud into a tunnel under the Persian's wooden siege tower where they thrust a hot poker four times into the folded Shroud (the poker holes), the Persian siege tower miraculously caught fire, and the Persians abandoned their siege, sparing Edessa from Antioch's fate.

  7. The Edessans then regarded the Shroud as their primary relic, and to cover up the poker holes damage they doubled the Shroud in four and framed it, so that Jesus' face only appeared in landscape mode, becoming the Mandylion or Image of Edessa.

Markwardt's theory plausibly explains so many facts about the Shroud in its pre- and early-Eddessan period (c. AD 30-540) that it should be preferred over that part of Wilson's general theory.

Continued in part 7: "The Image of Edessa" (3)

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My critique of Charles Freeman's "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey," part 5: "The Image of Edessa" (1)

This is part 5, "The Image of Edessa" (1) of my critique of historian Charles Freeman's, "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey," May 24, 2012 [page 5]. The paper's words are bold. See previous parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

[Above: Icon of King Abgar V (c. 25 BC - AD 50) of Edessa, holding the Mandylion or Image of Edessa, 10th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai: Wikipedia and Digital Journal. Abgar's face is actually that of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus who reigned from 913 to 959, therefore the icon presumably dates from this time.]

I will first comment on Freeman's paragraph immediately preceding his section, "The Image of Edessa":

Ian Wilson has been tackling the problem of the Shroud for many decades. The latest of his many works is The Shroud, Fresh Light on the 200-year old Mystery (2011). Wilson accepts the authenticity of the Shroud as the burial shroud of Christ, collected by the disciples, preserved, its linen remaining intact over the centuries. He has to go against gospel tradition, of course, as the Turin Shroud is one long piece of cloth which would have covered Jesus in ways not recorded elsewhere, with the body lying on the cloth which was then brought over its head and presumably fixed at the feet. I have already noted other problems, that of the Shroud being collected as a relic in the first place and survival of cloth over centuries when damp and molesting insects are such a threat. Still Wilson has created a narrative and we need to follow it.

Freeman's "Wilson ... has to go against gospel tradition" is not only false, it does not follow from Freeman's "the Turin Shroud is one long piece of cloth which would have covered Jesus in ways not recorded elsewhere ..."

But as against Freeman's first point, three out of four gospels mention the seemingly irrelevant fact that Jesus was buried in a sindon a large linen sheet:

"And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud" (Mt 27:59);

"And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock." (Mk 15:46);

"Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid." (Lk 23:53);
with the fourth gospel, John, including the Shroud in the othonia "linen cloths":
"So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews."(Jn 19:40).

As for Freeman's "the Turin Shroud is one long piece of cloth which would have covered Jesus in ways not recorded elsewhere, with the body lying on the cloth which was then brought over its head and presumably fixed at the feet," this is misleading because there are no surviving intact Jewish first century burial shrouds to base a statistically valid comparison of them with the Shroud of Turin.

And either Freeman has not fully read Wilson's book that he refers to (which would be academic incompetence) or Freeman is again concealing relevant information from his readers (which would be academic dishonesty). Because as Wilson points out in his book, according to Jewish scholar Victor Tunkel, a first century Jew who died a bloody death (as Jesus had), would have been buried in a "sovev ... an all-enveloping ... single sheet ... used to go right round' the entire body" and "Such a sovev readily corresponds to the `over the head' characteristics of Turin's Shroud":

"Lazarus died a natural death. In accordance with normal Jewish practice he would have been washed, interred fully dressed in his Sabbath best, tied up with a few binding strips to keep his jaw and limbs suitably together, and provided with some kind of face cloth for screening purposes. Jesus, in contrast, died a very bloody death, and stark naked, his clothes having been removed from him at the time of his crucifixion. [Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23] In his case Jewish law prescribed something very different. As has been carefully explained by Jewish-born Victor Tunkel [Tunkel, V., "A Jewish View of the Shroud," Lecture to the British Society for the Turin Shroud, London, 12 May 1983] of the Faculty of Laws, Queen Mary College, University of London, the belief among the Pharisees of Jesus's time, shared by Jesus's own followers, was that everyone's body would be physically resurrected at the end of time. This meant that as far as humanly possible everything that formed part of that body, including particularly the life-blood, should be buried with it. As expressed in the Jewish Code of Laws, `One who fell [e.g. in battle] and died instantly, if ... blood flowed from the wound, and there is apprehension that the blood of the soul was absorbed in his clothes, he should not be cleansed.' [Gansfried, 1927, Vol. IV, ch. CXCVII, Laws Relating to Purification (Tahara nos 9 and 10), pp.99-100] In these circumstances, therefore, those preparing the dead person for burial had to wrap a `sheet which is called a sovev' straight over any clothes, however bloodstained. This sovev had to be an all-enveloping cloth, that is a `single sheet ... used to go right round' the entire body. Such a sovev readily corresponds to the `over the head' characteristics of Turin's Shroud." (Wilson, I., "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," 2010, p.52).

Freeman commences his discussion of the Image of Edessa with yet another concealment of relevant information from his readers, in his statement that "Edessa may have been Christian as early as the beginning of the third century":

The Image of Edessa
Let us start with Edessa, the modern Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey, where a image of Christ was first reported by the historian Evragius Scholasticus in the 590s. Edessa may have been Christian as early as the beginning of the third century but its legends took Christianity back further. (This was quite common. In the fourth and fifth centuries many cities `discovered' a first century founding bishop, usually one who had been consecrated as such by one of the apostles.) The Edessa legend told the story of King Abgar who had received a letter from Christ that was preserved within the city. As late as the 540s this was recorded as giving protection to Edessa but by the end of the century a new relic, an image of Christ, took its place as the `top' protector relic of the city.

But as Wilson pointed out in his latest book, which Freeman implies he has read, there are several lines of historical evidence which indicate Christianity was flourishing in Edessa from at least the second century:

• What appears to have been the earliest church building existed in Edessa in AD 201:

"In its entry for the year 201, the Chronicle of Edessa included a very detailed description of a lethal flood in Edessa during which the floodwaters 'destroyed the great and beautiful palace of our lord king and removed everything that was found in their path - the charming and beautiful buildings of the city, everything that was near the river to the south and north. They caused damage, moreover, to the nave [Syr. haikla - which can also mean 'shrine'] of the church of the Christians ... This is one of those tiny nuggets of information indicating that Christianity genuinely must have arrived very early in Edessa, to the extent of its having an officially recognized Christian church building as early as AD 201. As such this is a world first for Edessa, yet historians all too often sit on their hands over acknowledging this." (Wilson, 2010, p.118. Emphasis original).

• A coin issued in Edessa's King Abgar VIII's reign (177-212) depicts a Christian cross on his head-dress:

"A second nugget is Abgar VIII's coinage. In a recent article describing the evidence for Abgar VIII's conversion to Christianity as 'extremely flimsy', distinguished Oxford Syriac scholar Professor Sebastian Brock remarked that 'important ... in this connection is the negative evidence of the coins of the kings of Edessa, none of which bear any hint of a Christian symbol'. [Brock, S., " Transformations of the Edessa Portrait of Christ," Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Vol. 18, 2004, pp.227] When I pointed out to him that on several examples of Abgar VIII's coins, some of them housed in London's British Museum, there is an unmistakable Christian cross on the king's head-dress ... , Professor Brock very graciously acknowledged, 'It certainly looks as if I was too categorical.' [Email to the author, 12 March 2009] Abgar VIII, who issued his coins in close liaison with the Romans, seems to have dared to be open about his Christian affiliations only during the reign of Emperor Commodus, whose wife/mistress Marcia had Christian leanings. As the earliest-known instance of a monarch displaying the Christian cross symbol on his head-dress, this was another Edessan world first. It also sets Abgar VIII's adoption of Christianity back in time to no later than AD 192, because Commodus died in that year." (Wilson, 2010, pp.118-119).

[Above: Abgar VIII coin depicting a Christian cross on his head-dresss, probably issued during Emperor Commodus's reign (AD 177-192): Wilson, 2010, plate 15a.]

• A stone lion in Sanliurfa (Edessa) bearing a Christian cross, the lion (Syr. aryu), which was the symbol of the Abgar dydnasty which ended in AD 215:

"A third nugget is an archaic-looking sculpted stone lion ... that stands forlornly in the open-air, outdoor section of Sanliurfa's [Edessa's] present-day museum, typically with no accompanying explanatory information. Judging by the hole drilled in the animal's mouth it clearly once served as a city fountain; but our interest is in what stands on top of its head: an unmistakable sculpted Christian cross, an all-too-rare sight in present-day Sanliurfa. In Syriac, the word for `lion' is aryu - the name of Edessa's ruling dynasty. This fountain has to have stood in Edessa when the city was ruled by a Christian king of the Abgars' Aryu dynasty, a line that ended for ever when the Romans took over in AD 215." (Wilson, 2010, p.119).

[Above: A stone lion, the symbol of the Abgar dynasty, bearing a Christian cross, in Sanliurfa (Edessa), which must have been erected before AD 215: Wilson, 2010, plate 15b.]

• Edessa is only 180 miles (290 km) from Antioch, on a direct trade-route to it, and spoke the same Syriac language, making it highly likely that Edessa would have been evangelised by the mid-first century:

"That Addai's Image-bearing missionary journey ... happened in the first century rather than the second is further indicated by any glance at a map of the missionary journeys of St Paul. Every one of Paul's journeys started from Antioch, modern-day Antakya in south-eastern Turkey, from which he ventured five hundred miles westwards to Ephesus, a further five hundred miles westwards to Malta, and ultimately even further, to Rome. In contrast to these far-flung destinations, Syriac-speaking Edessa lies only 180 miles to Antioch's east, and on a direct trade route from both Antioch and Jerusalem. Is it really likely that throughout Christianity's first 150 years the first Christians should have ignored Edessa as a target for their missionary activities? That they did not is further indicated by the chronicle of one of Edessa's further-flung neighbours, the small border kingdom of Adiabene, whose capital was Arbela, today the large Iraqi city of Arbil. Arbela's ancient lineage of bishops began with one Pkhida, who can reliably be dated to the year 104. And according to Arbela's chronicle it was Addai who converted Pkhida to Christianity, thereby again indicating that Addai belonged to Abgar V's first century rather than Abgar VIII's second. As has been pointed out by the Estonian-born American scholar Arthur Voobus, if Christianity had reached as far as Adiabene by the year 100, there can be 'no doubt' that in Edessa 'the Christian faith had been established before the end of the first century'. [Voobus, A., "History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient," Vol. 1, 1958, p.7]" (Wilson, 2010, pp.121-122).

[Above (click to enlarge): Map of Paul's missionary journeys showing Edessa's comparative closeness to Antioch:]

So Freeman's claim that, "Edessa may have been Christian as early as the beginning of the third century" is misleading because, as the above evidence from Wilson's latest book, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved" (2010) shows, Edessa would have been Christian much earlier than that, beginning from the mid-first century.

And again, all the above is in Wilson's book, which Freeman implies that he has read. So either Freeman withheld this above important information from his readers (which would be a form of academic dishonesty); or Freeman did not read Wilson's book thoroughly (which would be a form of academic incompetence-considering this is all in Wilson's chapter on Edessa: Chapter 9, `Blessed City', pp.114-126).

Continued in part 6: "The Image of Edessa" (2)

Posted: 7 August 2012. Updated: 31 July 2016.