Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Re: John Calvin on the Shroud #1


Thanks for your comment under my post "Re: Shroud: I had a quick question regarding blood evidence." As I briefly responded

[Above: Painting titled Portrait of Young John Calvin from the collection of the Library of Geneva: "John Calvin (1509-1564)" Wikipedia]

to your comment:

"... many of the arguments Calvin raised against the Shroud are fallacious and plain wrong, but they are still used (or thought) by many (if not most) of my fellow Protestant Christians and by atheist/agnostics like you, to dismiss the Shroud out of hand, regardless of the evidence for its authenticity."

----- Original Message -----
From: Edward T. Babinski
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Monday, January 03, 2011 9:46 AM
Subject: [The Shroud of Turin] New comment on Re: Shroud: I had a quick question regarding blood....

>Hi Steve, I didn't know you were not only a fan of "creationism" but also "sindology though maybe I forgot, and maybe we did discuss that topic briefly ages ago on the web.

It's sindonology, "the scientific study of the Shroud of Turin." And I did argue for the authenticity of the Shroud on my now defunct CreationEvolutionDesign Yahoo group when you may have been then a member.

>Anyway, I put together a post recently on my blog regarding the shroud. Since I was doing some online research, I also ran across this blog of yours, and thought I'd share the link with you: The Shroud of Turin: John Calvin versus the Catholic Church

Thanks for the link. Although I am a life-long Calvinist, owning Calvin's two-volume "Institutes of the Christian Religion" and a 12-volume set of his New Testament Commentaries, as well as his commentaries on Genesis and Daniel, I regret to say that while Calvin was right about a lot of things, he was wrong about the Shroud.

Here are Calvin's arguments against the Shroud in his "A Treatise on Relics" (1543):

"It is now time to treat of the `sudary,' about which relic they have displayed their folly even more than in the affair of the holy coat; for besides the sudary of Veronica, which is shown in the Church of St Peter at Rome, it is the boast of several towns that they each possess one, as for instance Carcassone, Nice, Aix-la-Chapelle, Tréves, Besançon, without reckoning the fragments to be seen in various places. Now, I ask whether those persons were not bereft of their senses who could take long pilgrimages, at much expense and fatigue, in order to see sheets, of the reality of which there were no reasons to believe, but many to doubt; for whoever admitted the reality of one of these sudaries shown in so many places, must have considered the rest as wicked impostures set up to deceive the public by the pretence that they were each the real sheet in which Christ's body had been wrapped. But it is not only that the exhibitors of this one and the same relic give each other mutually the lie, they are (what is far more important) positively contradicted by the Gospel. The evangelists who speak of all the women who followed our Lord to the place of crucifixion, make not the least mention of that Veronica who wiped his face with a kerchief. It was in truth a most marvellous and remarkable event, worthy of being recorded, that the face of Jesus Christ was then miraculously imprinted upon the cloth, a much more important thing to mention than the mere circumstance that certain women had followed Jesus Christ to the place of crucifixion without meeting with any miracle; and, indeed, had such a miracle taken place, we might consider the evangelists wanting in judgment in not relating the most important facts." (Calvin, J., 1543, "A Treatise on Relics," Krasinski, V., transl., Johnstone, Hunter & Co: Edinburgh, Second Edition, 1870, pp.175-176. Emphasis original).

Of the above, the "sudary" at Nice on the French Mediterranean coast (about 182 miles, or 293 kilometres from Geneva where Calvin lived) was evidently the Shroud of Turin (although it was not called that then as it did not arrive in Turin until 1578), because the Shroud was in Nice between 1537-1540 when Calvin may have been writing his Treatise:
"The Holy Shroud. Calvin (1543, 237) mentions several alleged shrouds of Jesus. He does not refer to a Shroud of Turin, since the most famous of the reputed shrouds of Jesus-of which there were once some forty-three in Europe alone (Humber 1978, 78)-did not arrive at Turin until 1578, long after Calvin's death. However, Calvin does mention a shroud at Nice, and the cloth now known as the Shroud of Turin was kept in Nice at the time Calvin was writing his treatise (Nickell 1998, 26). Therefore he is surely referring to that famous cloth (and copies of it, like the one at Besançon [Wilson 1979, 300]) when he remarks how unlikely it would be that Jesus' shroud had borne `the full-length likeness of a human body on it' without the apostles or evangelists having mentioned the fact (Calvin 1543, 239). Except for copies or fakes inspired by it, the Turin cloth is unique in bearing the image of an apparently crucified man. (It is also crucial to observe that no burial cloth in the history of the world ever bore such images.)." (Nickell, J., 2008, "Treatise on Relics: John Calvin," Prometheus Books: Amherst NY, pp.40,43. Emphasis original).

The other important "sudary" in the list above is the copy of the Shroud which was at Besançon (destroyed in 1794), which was only about 71 miles or 114 kilometres from Geneva because (as we shall see in part #2) it may be the only `Shroud' that Calvin had personally seen (if even that).

Calvin continued in his Treatise:

"The same observations are applicable to the tale of the sheet in which the body of our Lord was wrapped. How is it possible that those sacred historians, who carefully related all the miracles that took place at Christ's death, should have omitted to mention one so remarkable as the likeness of the body of our Lord remaining on its wrapping sheet? This fact undoubtedly deserved to be recorded. St John, in his Gospel, relates even how St Peter, having entered the sepulchre, saw the linen clothes lying on one side, and the napkin that was about his head on the other; but he does not say that there was a miraculous impression of our Lord's figure upon these clothes, and it is not to be imagined that he would have omitted to mention such a work of God if there had been any thing of this kind. Another point to be observed is, that the evangelists do not mention that either of the disciples or the faithful women who came to the sepulchre had removed the clothes in question, but, on the contrary, their account seems to imply that they were left there. Now, the sepulchre was guarded by soldiers, and consequently the clothes were in their power. Is it possible that they would have permitted the disciples to take them away as relics, since these very men had been bribed by the Pharisees to perjure themselves by saying that the disciples had stolen the body of our Lord? I shall conclude with a convincing proof of the audacity of the Papists. Wherever the holy sudary is exhibited, they show a large sheet with the full-length likeness of a human body on it. Now, St John's Gospel, chapter nineteenth, says that Christ was buried according to the manner of the Jews; and what was their custom? This may be known by their present custom on such occasions, as well as from their books, which describe the ancient ceremony of interment, which was to wrap the body in a sheet, to the shoulders, and to cover the head with a separate cloth. This is precisely how the evangelist described it, saying, that St Peter saw on one side the clothes with which the body had been wrapped, and on the other the napkin from about his head. In short, either St John is a liar, or all those who boast of possessing the holy sudary are convicted of falsehood and deceit." (Calvin, 1543, pp.176-178).

Calvin also wrote about the Shroud (probably the inferior copy of the Shroud at Besançon) in his Commentary on the Gospel of John), as we shall see in part #2.

I will now work through Calvin's criticisms of the Shroud (his words bold to distinguish them from mine), first in his Treatise on Relics and then in his Commentary on John, in this two-part series of posts.

>The same observations are applicable to the tale of the sheet in which the body of our Lord was wrapped.

Calvin had previously in his Treatise been debunking various medieval Roman Catholic relics. But most (if not all) advocates of the Shroud's authenticity would agree with him that (with the exception of the Sudarium of Oviedo, which Calvin did not mention) they are frauds.

But Calvin is here using the same logical fallacy that atheists use against Christianity: "1. All religions contradict each other in their core truth claims; 2. Therefore all religions are false." The fallacy is that one of those religions can be true, and all the rest be false, which is Christianity's (and therefore Calvin's) claim (Jn 3:16-18; 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; 10:38-43). So also, the Shroud of Turin can be authentic (i.e. the very burial sheet of Jesus) and all the other relics listed by Calvin can be false.

>How is it possible that those sacred historians, who carefully related all the miracles that took place at Christ's death, should have omitted to mention one so remarkable as the likeness of the body of our Lord remaining on its wrapping sheet? This fact undoubtedly deserved to be recorded.

This is an example of the Argument from Silence, fallacy, i.e. "the Shroud must be false because the New Testament writers did not mention it." This is the same argument that Christianity's critics use against the Virgin Birth, that it is only mentioned explicitly in two gospels Mt 1:18-24 & Lk 1:26-38, therefore it must be false, because otherwise the other Gospels would have mentioned it. Or the resurrection of Lazarus must be false because only one Gospel mentions it (Jn 11:38-43) and such a stupendous miracle, if it really happened, would have been mentioned in all four gospels.

But the fact is, as Calvin was well aware, the Gospels did not mention everything about Jesus, and in fact Jn 20:30-31; 21:25 explicitly states this:

"Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ... Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

Calvin himself in his Commentary on John later wrote that "John ... has only written some things out of many; not that the others were not worth recording:"
[Jn 20:30] Many other signs therefore. If this anticipation had not been added, readers might have thought that John had not left out any of the miracles that Christ performed and had given a full and complete history. John therefore declares that he has only written some things out of many; not that the others were not worth recording, but because these were sufficient to build up faith. And yet it does not follow that they were performed in vain, for they profited that age. Secondly, although today their kinds are unknown to us, we must not deduce that it is of little importance for us to know that the Gospel was sealed by a great wealth of miracles." (Calvin, J., 1553, "The Gospel According to St. John, Part Two 11-21," Parker T.H.L., transl., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1959, Reprinted, 1979, p.213).

So Calvin here contradicts himself. That Jesus' image on the Shroud was "worth recording," does not mean that it had to be recorded, otherwise it didn't exist. Why did no New Testament writer include a physical description of Jesus? Or an account of the first 30 years of His life? And Calvin is not the only Christian theologian (and indeed Shroud theorist as far as I am aware) who ignores the fact that Jesus spent "forty days" with his disciples after His resurrection:

Acts 1:3. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

in which there was ample time for Him to answer their questions whether to keep His burial garments and if so, to publicly mention they had them.

Besides, all four gospel writers did mention the Shroud:

"The Shroud Is Mentioned in the Bible Jesus' burial wrapping is a part of the Easter story of the Bible. All four Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John [Mt 27:57-60; Mk 15:42-46; Lk 23:50-54; Jn 19:38-42]) tell how Joseph of Arimathea, a devoted follower of Jesus, bought a fine new linen burial sheet for Jesus' body after he was taken down from the cross. Is this sheet the Shroud which is today in Turin, Italy? A passage in the Gospel of John is probably the last `official,' that is, Biblical, reference to this cloth. In John 20:19-36 we read that John and Peter ran to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning. Inside John saw the burial sheet, and he saw the sudarium or chin-band (for holding the jaws closed) rolled up in its own place. After this the record is silent." (Scavone, D.C., 1989, "The Shroud of Turin: Opposing Viewpoints," Greenhaven Press: San Diego CA, p.68. Emphasis original).

Why the seemingly unnecessary recording in all four gospels the fact that Jesus' burial garments were "linen":

"Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth" (Mt 27:59)

"Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen"(Mk 15:46)

"Then he took it [Jesus' body] down, wrapped it in linen cloth" (Lk 23:53)

"Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves." (Lk 24:12)

"Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen" (Jn 19:40)

"He [Peter] bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there ... Then Simon Peter ... went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there ... as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen." (Jn 20:5-7).

unless the Shroud (and Sudarium) were kept, and the disciples wanted to let Christians know, but needed to keep it a secret from their much more numerous and powerful enemies, the Jews and the Romans?

>St John, in his Gospel, relates even how St Peter, having entered the sepulchre, saw the linen clothes lying on one side, and the napkin that was about his head on the other; but he does not say that there was a miraculous impression of our Lord's figure upon these clothes,

Calvin shows his ignorance of the Shroud image, which is very faint (and photography enhances the image):

[Above (click to enlarge): "This is how the Holy Shroud looks as we see it with our eyes ... There is only a very faint image of a human being on the shroud. The first photograph taken of the Shroud in 1898 revealed the miraculous nature of this faint imprint." ("Shroud: A Miracle of Christ We See Even to this Day," 8 March 2008).]

so it is unlikely the disciples would see the image in the darkness of the tomb, especially when they would not be expecting it and were overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus' body was not there. Also, it may be that "the image was not yet visible on the cloth" and so "If an image could not yet be seen on Easter morning, then the ... Gospel writers ... could not mention one.":

"What the Gospel narratives do not say is equally important-and has, in fact, set in motion the mystery that has surrounded the Shroud of Jesus ever since: none of the Gospel writers say that the Shroud was saved after the events of Easter Sunday morning. John's last reference leaves it in the sepulcher. Also, the Gospel accounts do not mention an image on Jesus' burial sheet. These omissions are one reason Bishop d'Arcis believed the Lirey Shroud could not possibly be the one referred to in the Bible. Wouldn't the Gospel writers have said something about preserving Jesus' burial linen with his precious blood on it? Wouldn't they have mentioned if it had contained a portrait of Jesus himself? As Bishop d'Arcis argued, this would seem to be proof that the Lirey Shroud with its image was not the same as the shroud of the Gospel accounts. One explanation may be that the image was not yet visible on the cloth. Perhaps it only darkened little by little. (Remember what was said about the slow yellowing of linen.) If an image could not yet be seen on Easter morning, then the Evangelists (Gospel writers) could not mention one." (Scavone, 1989, pp.68,70).

However, as mentioned above, Calvin had probably never seen the true Shroud, only inferior copies (if even that), and if so he would not be aware of the extreme faintness of its image.

And of course, writing in 1543, Calvin would not be aware of the

[Above: "The actual image on the Shroud (left) - Photo negative of that image (right)": Photo of That is, the photo on the right is a negative which is photographically positive, developed from the Shroud image on the left, proving that the actual image on the Shroud is a photographic negative!]

discovery over 350 years later in 1898 that the Shroud was actually a photographic negative (something no one knew existed until the discovery of photography in 1825), and therefore a forger would not (and could not) have produced the Shroud:

"More than one hundred years ago, on 28th May, 1898 an amateur Italian photographer, Mr. Secondo Pia, took the first photograph of the shroud. He was startled by the resulting negative which seemed to give the appearance of a positive image. See below more recent Jesus pictures of the actual image on the Shroud and the photo negative of it. Ever since Mr. Secondo Pia took the first photograph of the shroud in 1898, the Shroud of Turin has been the subject of intense scientific study. A negative image is what appeared on a developed film (negative) back in the days of 35mm photography. No one could understand how a perfect, full length negative image of a human body could be formed on an ancient piece of linen cloth. Scientists found it difficult to accept the fact that it was a Jesus Miracle, but to date no one has been able to find an explanation. When the scientists did investigations with very modern sophisticated instruments, even more surprising facts emerged. They discovered that the image on this ancient cloth is more than just an ordinary photo negative, it also has digital information from which 3D images could be made. Many other surprising findings were also made ... Even though many modern scientists, photographers and painters have tried to make a similar image on cloth, no one has succeeded. If the holy Shroud were a fake, then a forger, sometime before the year 1578 (the year the holy shroud came to be kept with utmost care in Turin), produced a masterpiece that not a single modern man has been able to duplicate. ... Considering all this, it is impossible for a forger, even the most cleverest, to have made such a Shroud. Modern scientists, even the cleverest scientists of today, from the leading research institutions of the world, are unable to understand or explain how the image on the Shroud was formed." ("First Photograph of the Shroud of Turin," Photo of Jesus.Com).

>and it is not to be imagined that he would have omitted to mention such a work of God if there had been any thing of this kind.

If Calvin, with his brilliant mind, had really thought it through, he could easily have "imagined" why John (or the other three Gospel writers) "does not say that there was a miraculous impression of our Lord's figure upon these clothes."

As pointed out above: 1) The image on the Shroud is very faint and it is most unlikely the disciples would have noticed it in the tomb; 2) The image may not have been visible even in the light of day at that point in time; 3) Jesus in the forty days between His resurrection and ascension, could have (and so almost certainly would have) answered the disciples' questions about what to do with His burial garments that all four gospels mention.

Apart from the above, Calvin should have "imagined" 4) the fact that Christianity was for many centuries after its origin a persecuted minority religion, and therefore if the New Testament writers were to publicly announce that they had Jesus' blood-stained burial shroud, complete with the imprint of His crucified (and resurrected) body, it would lead Christianity's much more powerful enemies, the Romans and the Jews, to demand they hand it over, on pain of torture and death:

"As to whether the disciples of Jesus did remove the burial wrappings from the tomb, the Gospels are indeed silent. There is evidence, described later, that they did take the Shroud. This evidence suggests they took it with them into hiding, for, as we read in the Bible, they feared for their lives. They would have known that if they `advertised' their valuable possession, it might become a target for either Romans or Jewish zealots. Those who were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion seemed determined to stamp out the new Christian-sect. The Easter story shows that they would do anything to erase the memory of Jesus. They would seize and destroy the Shroud if their attention was drawn to its survival. So the Shroud was kept hidden, and the Gospel stories are silent about its removal from the tomb. The Bible is silent on many other things as well. For instance, details about much of the first thirty years of Jesus' life are omitted." (Scavone, 1989, pp.70-71).

"It is absurd to demand a detailed documentation from Jews and Jewish Christians regarding the presence and handing down of the Holy Shroud in the period before Christianity enjoyed full freedom of expression in the Middle East, and particularly in Jerusalem, which was a troubled, much conquered city right from the beginnings of Christianity. The lack of documentation may be due to three main reactions which would have been provoked by the open showing of the shroud of a man who, from the blood marks and entire imprint, clearly died on the cross: a religious reaction concerning legal impurity, a theological reaction concerning the question of real or only apparent humanity, and a juridical reaction concerning violation of the tomb. This would have led to the immediate destruction of the shroud and severe punishment of those having it in their possession." (Ricci, G., 1981, "The Holy Shroud," Center for the Study of the Passion of Christ and the Holy Shroud: Milwaukee WI, p.xxi. Emphasis original).

This should be so obvious to a first-rank scholar as Calvin was, that it can only be his extreme prejudice against anything to do with "the Papists" that prevented him seeing it.

Concluded in part #2.

Posted: 5 January 2011. Updated: 15 June 2020.

No comments: