Alan Whanger - Previously unpublished response to the article When the Shroud of Turin went on display this spring for the first time in 20 years, it made the cover of Time magazine with the blurb "Is this Jesus?
" In BAR, we summarized the controversy that has enshrouded this relic, venerated for centuries as the burial cloth of Jesus ("Remains to Be Seen," Strata, Julyl August 1998, p 13).
But in fact, it is simply historical ignorance of what the shroud really is (or at least, what it pur-ports to be) that leads these people to wrongheaded notions.
The Shroud of Turin is not, by definition, a work of art but instead belongs to the long and revered tradition of sacred objects that are at once relics and icons.
The most characteristic form of acheiropoietos, however, is the holy cloth. Veronica stepped forward to wipe the sweat from Jesus' brow as he stumbled toward Calvary, and her towel already transformed into a relic through that holy contact miraculously retained the image of Jesus' face.
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Known as Veronica's Veil, the relic became one of the most famous acheiropoietai of the Middle Ages.* Another such cloth image (also generated by perspiration) was produced on the night of the betrayal, as Jesus prayed intently at Gethsemane.
Among the earliest acheiropoietai is the Column of the Flagellation, in Jerusalem.
This relic (the column) appears for the first time in fifth-century historical sources, which describe its location in the Church of Holy Sion; but it is only in the sixth century that pilgrims began to see the image of Jesus' hands and chest impressed into its stone surface, left there, presumably, as Jesus was bound in place for the flagellation.
But two of BAR's savvy readers have objected to our assessment.
The following articles suggest there is no reason to doubt that the image, as well as the cloth, was produced in the Middle Ages.- Ed (BAR) Nothing puzzles and intrigues the sindonologist - the student of the Shroud of Turin - more than the supposed mystery of how the image on the shroud was made.