Archive for March 2015

David Suchet, Joan Taylor and Eddie Adams on BBC   Leave a comment

Announcement: Eddie Adams & Joan E. Taylor (my first supervisor) featuring in upcoming BBC Documentary

BBC1 has announced the broadcast dates for David Suchet in the Footsteps of Saint Peter.  These are Good Friday and Easter Sunday 9am.  Eddie Adams was the series adviser, and appears in the series along with Joan Taylor.

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This is a follow up to the BBC1 series David Suchet in the Footsteps of Saint Paul.  That series, broadcast in 2012, won two prestigious awards: the Radio Times Listeners’ award for Religious Programme of the year, and the Sandford Premier Television award for religious broadcasting.

Posted March 27, 2015 by Mina Monier in Conferences & Events

The Shroud of Turin and the CNN: Scientific and Theological Predicament   Leave a comment

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Although I did not wish to comment on the documentary since TV documentaries usually fail to describe academic matters accurately due to time restraint, Finding Jesus sparked some interesting conversations in social media.

Briefly, some discussions focused on the NT issues in the programme. Personally there was not too much scholarly input to be controversia. The scholars who appeared on this show simply narrated some sort of a harmonised reading of the passion narrative, which is fine for a 44 minute show.

There was not many discussions that dealt with the shroud of Turin itself, though. Perhaps the reason is the sharp tone of many academics when it comes to a “relic”; many usually fear of being branded “conservative” or academically limited to personal faith which makes them retaliate strongly if anyone dared to ask any question regarding the authenticity of that piece. Indeed, many faithful people react emotionally when the authenticity of that shroud is questioned , but I cannot see that stream in academia.

Most importantly, the responses in these discussions reflected some other issues: scientific and theological, and that’s what I would like to briefly comment on.

1- What is the problem with this shroud?

Sometimes it is theological: I know scholars from different denominational backgrounds and with different “labels” like “liberal, conservative..” who clearly refuse this shroud a priori because it could cause them a theological predicament. God is wholly other and cannot leave traces like this to reveal himself. It is not only Bultmann and his successors who adopted this theological stance, but it was also adopted by people from other traditions because it protects their belief from exposing it to criticism. This Bultmannian Vorverstandnis made the case for a scientific proof (whether it is true or not) for something metaphysical like Jesus’ resurrection utterly unacceptable. Hence, scientific reasons could be cherry-picked to create a solid case for considering the shroud as a forgery. Any attempt to discuss the full details of the shroud should be framed as a disparate attempt from a die-hard faithful.

I believe that this approach is theologically invested as much as the one of the die-hard faithful. Both are equally presumptuous.

Therefore, I found some people dogmatic and affirmative about the scientific findings which could support their conviction more than those who made these findings!

The reason is that the case of the shroud has become a scientific issue in the sense of the post 19th century German classification Naturwissenschaft with its strict empirical methods. It is no longer subject to the theological methods people use to inquire about the Transubstantiation in Eucharist.

The theological predicament of “not allowing” God to act in history (i.e. stripping Christianity of its raison d’etre) created a scientific one. This presumptuous position, due to fear from academic bully or God-is-wholly-other theology will lead to finding support in specific scientific statements.

2- How to defend a scientific statement?

Finding Jesus has systematically ignored loads of scientific data published in prestigious scientific journals and strangely focused on the wacky “camera obscura” theory, and some other “painting” suggestions which are thrashed by the results of the 3-D relief.

Because the radio-carbon 14 is the most famous dating tool amongst the public and humanities studies scholars, the results were taken uncritically and without assessment against other chemical and optical findings which have straight and clear data.

Part of the problem is that people do not appreciate the difference between the complex nature of the shroud and any other simple papyrus found in Egyptian desert.

But how can we criticise one statement over the other? when professor Mark Goodacre was asked about the validity of the carbon dating, he said that those people know what they are doing. This answer simply means: we don’t know, you should ask those who did it.

I did my BSc in engineering. My degree included courses in quantum mechanics, optics, three levels of advanced mathematics..etc. and when someone asks me about a detail in a paper about the shroud published in the most prestigious engineering journal IEEE, I think twice before I answer because I will have to discuss issues related to Fourier series, Gaussian law, differential equations ..etc. and I must admit that my BSc wouldn’t be enough to fully grasp the content of these papers. However, surprisingly, I see strong judgment from people who read classics or theater against these papers or findings.

That’s a problem!

a couple of years ago, a German computer geek published a book about Jesus: the Nazarene was invented by Vespasian to tame the poor. When this book was published, every historian I know raged against that man due to his irrelevant background, which is reflected on the content.

But why do we history scholars claim authority over the shroud which mostly belongs to the territory of natural science? Of course we can form an opinion, but we have to remember that this opinion will always be limited to the capacity of our knowledge of the hardcore of the issue.

This has nothing to do with faith or lack of it. Personally, I cannot make a final decision on the case. According to my knowledge, I can see many strong arguments and observations that need to be resolved before calling it ” a medieval forgery.”

Finally, I must say that extreme views do not reflect the general situation in NT scholarship. The best case that dealt with this issue contextually is Dr. Simon Joseph’s paper: http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/sjoseph.pdf

Mina

Posted March 7, 2015 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized