Re: Botanist: Shroud of Turin came from Jerusalem

George Murphy (
Sat, 07 Aug 1999 21:20:45 -0400

Tom Pearson wrote:
> Folks,
> Like the Shroud of Turin itself, I find this discussion to be far more
> fascinating than any Lutheran (which I am) properly should. Nonetheless,
> what is fundamentally so engaging about this topic is the
> faith/reason/scientific inquiry nexus. Why should the claims made for the
> Shroud of Turin as the authentic burial shroud of Jesus be seen as
> inimical, or irrelevant, to Christian faith? It seems to me that the same
> response could be tendered to those who are concerned to demonstrate the
> validity of claims about God-as-Creator, whether they be YEC, OEC, TE, ID
> theorists, or otherwise. Why should we not view those Christians who are
> drawn to questions about God-as-Creator as simply misguided and
> superstitious? To put it another way: Why should skepticism regarding the
> Shroud be treated any differently from skepticism about Genesis? Are they
> not both objects of faith? Or are they both objects suitable for rational
> and scientific analysis? If God could bestow on us the gift of his
> authoritative presence by means of a written text, could he not also bestow
> on us the gift of his authoritative presence via an artifact such as the
> Shroud? What's the basis for the tacit acceptance of the former, and the
> tacit suspicion of the latter? I don't understand why Genesis, with its
> portrayal of God-as-Creator, is to be seen as a legitimate object of
> devotion, while the Shroud as a possible historic testimony to
> God-as-Redeemer, is to be seen as less legitimate. What's going on here?

There are some differences. OTOH, Scripture speaks of God as creator but it
says nothing at all about the survival of the burial shroud of Jesus. OTOH, God's
fundamental self-revelation is Jesus, & specifically his cross & resurrection, with
which a putative shroud would be closely connected. The idea of ID &c as divine
revelation is more problematic (& IMO wrong).

> I have one other question, this for George Murphy.
> At 09:37 AM 08/07/1999 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
> > All interesting questions but in order for people to take any of the actions
> >you speculate about they would have to ignore a basic aspect of
> Christianity. While
> >Jesus had a very specific biological identity - male Homo sapiens, Jewish,
> &c - what
> >the Word assumed in the Incarnation was not an individual human person
> (for the person
> >of Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity) but human nature in general.
> Because of
> >this, there is a proper sense in which all humanity is included in him &
> his saving
> >work, & thus that all human beings can be saved through him. The idea
> that only type
> >AB people could be saved would precisely parallel the idea that only Jews
> or males
> >could be saved.
> I'm puzzled, George, by the distinction you draw between the "very
> specific biological identity" of Jesus, and his assumption of "human nature
> in general." This sounds like it may lead to some sort of bifurcation of
> Jesus' humanity (as in: Jesus' humanity was one thing specifically, but
> another thing generally). My first reaction on reading this was a sense
> that this would wreak havoc with orthodox Christology. But my second
> reaction was that I might be misunderstanding your intent here. Can you
> say more about this? Thanks.

This kind of language was developed in attempts to explicate and defend orthodox
christology after the Council of Chalcedon, & is set out in Book III of John of
Damascus' "Exposition of the Orthodox Faith". (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2d Series,
Vol.IX.) That Jesus had a specific biological identity probably needs no defence. The
Definition of Chalcedon says that Christ has both divine and human natures united in one
person, the divine Second Person of the Trinity. From the first moment of its existence
the assumed human nature subsists in, or is "enpersoned" (enhypostasized) in, not a
human person (hypostasis) but the person of the Word. As Newman put, "While Man, he is
not, strictly speaking, _a_ man."
This does NOT mean -
a) that Jesus is not a person (but that person is divine, not human), or
b) that he did not have a human "personality" in the modern sense of the term.
Of course all this makes use of categories of Greek philosophy like "nature" and
"person", and one can certainly question whether these are adequate today. One modern
attempt to work this out is Pannenberg's _Jesus - God and Man, especially the section
"The Enhypostasis of Jesus in the Logos".

> Tom Pearson
> _______________________________________________________
> _______________________________________________________
> Thomas D. Pearson
> Department of History & Philosophy
> The University of Texas-Pan American
> Edinburg, Texas
> e-mail:

George L. Murphy