A new book was published today in the UK, following what Penguin Books told The Bookseller was “Harry Potter-style security measures” to keep its contents secret.
"The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection" by Thomas de Wesselow (Viking) is the latest book to take a controversial angle on the world-famous religious relic.
With a US release date of April 3rd (in other words just in time for Easter), the book claims that it was encounters with the shroud itself, rather than seeing a risen Christ, that convinced the apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead.
The author, an art historian based at King’s College, Cambridge, told the Daily Telegraph that “back then images had a psychological presence, they were seen as part of a separate plain [sic] of existence, as having a life of their own.”
de Wesselow was brought up in the Church of England but describes himself as agnostic. He worked on this book for eight years.
In the book, he writes:
"Throughout most of history images have been viewed as mysterious, metaphysical beings... Before the Enlightenment, images of gods, sains, spirits and ancestors were routinely credited with power, not only affecting the emotions of those who looked at them, but also influencing the course of events. In the premodern world images were perceived to be, in some sense, alive."
"The Shroud's envelopment of Jesus's body would have fostered the idea of the transference of his soul from flesh to cloth... Christ's clothing (like Peter's shadow) contained or conveyed something of his spiritual presence. The Shroud, which clothed Jesus in the tomb, would surely have been infused with similar power - a power focused and increased by its "miraculous" image."
The book also contains explanations for the carbon-dating of the shroud that took place in 1988, and placed the date of the shroud as 1260-1390, as well as for the Biblical depictions of the resurrected Christ.
"Finding a peculiar image on the inner surface of his burial cloth, the followers of Jesus became convinced he had been raised from the dead and exalted to heaven. This belief led to the emergence of a new sect within Judaism - Christianity-to-be. The real founder of Christianity was not Peter or Paul or even Jesus - it was the Shroud."
The shroud, whose existence is first confirmed in the 14th century, is currently held in its own chapel at Turin Cathedral, where it has been since 1694. In 1983, it became the property of the Vatican, which has not proclaimed on its authenticity.
It is only occasionally exhibited to the public; the last time was in 2010, with the next date for its public display currently set as 2025, to coincide with the next Holy Year of the Catholic Church.
Italian researchers last year declared that they were “95% certain” that the shroud dated back to the time of Christ.
Clarification: The Daily Telegraph interview used the exact term "plain of existence." As it is a direct quote, we have left the error in place, adding [sic] for clarification.