After having watched the first episode of this new CNN series, "Finding Jesus" focusing on the Shroud of Turin, I found the scholarship and conclusions confusing and convoluted. It's disappointing CNN produced such a mediocre and muddying documentary. They even misrepresent Bible passages! Simon Peter and John do not visit the tomb. It's Mary and some of the other women associated with the group. Aside from biblical misquotes, the producers decided to approach the subject as if the Gospels are purely factual with little questioning of these texts. Were they targeting faithful Evangelicals? The purely faithful believe Jesus is the Son of God, etc. However, if the aim is to focus both on scholarship and faith, then the views of scholars who don't hold with the unerring historicity of the Bible need to be expressed. In short, the documentary seemed unbalanced towards faithful belief rather than objective scholarship, until the last 15 minutes.
Christian believers accept "historical" aspects of his life as portrayed in the Bible: there were crowds of people gathered who saw Jesus as he was carrying his cross towards Golgotha, Joseph of Arimathea petitioned Pontius Pilate for the body of Jesus while it still hung on the Cross, the placing of the body into a tomb with a large rock, and of course the miraculous Resurrection. These items are in the gospel accounts and fine to believe in if you're among the faithful, but historical details such as these and many others are highly disputed and contested among scholars. Not one scholar interviewed for the programme had any skepticism about details as related in the gospel account of the Passion narrative, let alone that the gospels disagree with each other about a lot of details, such as who visited the empty tomb initially. (Some gospels don't specify which "Mary" visits the tomb. For those who don't realize the gospels disagree with each other in terms of many details, I suggest you reread them.)
During the first 75% of the documentary, very faithful individuals try to show the shroud is not only ancient but THE shroud of Jesus. Not one shred of actual physical evidence was offered linking the shroud to Jesus. All of it was pure interpretation and hypothesis. They show how marks on the shroud supposedly corroborate with details in the Bible. They rely mostly on the Gospel of John, regarded as probably the least reliable historically of the four gospels, possibly written nearly 100 years after Jesus' death. (Even the early church recognized the difference between John and the other three.) If the shroud were ancient, it could simply be one which wrapped an executed body, one of the many 1000's executed by the Romans during ancient times.
One of the most problematic of historical details in the Passion Story as described in the Gospels is the soliciting of Pontius Pilate by Joseph of Arimathea for Jesus' body while it still hung dead on the cross. Scholars have combed through surviving sources and found almost no instances of government officials allowing crucified bodies to be handed over to family and/or admirers. It was not just that Pilate was a hardened man. Part of the point of crucifixion was to deny the victim proper burial. Why would he grant such a request for a convict of sedition? While Pilate could have cared less about the theological implications of Jesus declaring himself the Messiah, it seems highly unlikely to the vast majority of scholars Pilate would have granted Joseph's request. But of course, for the shroud to be the actual shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, than the Joseph of Arimathea story must be true. One of the more eyebrow-raising moments is when Prof. Candida Moss of Notre Dame describes the feelings of Arimathea when soliciting Pilate. Where is she getting all this? There's only "(Joseph of Arimathea) went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus." We don't get much else in the Gospels, yet Moss adds all these other narrative details to the story. If the story was true, although it's likely it wasn't, it's not out of the question Arimathea may have had in's with the Roman government. The point is so much of this documentary embellishes upon very scant details.
Then the documentary takes a very odd turn. After spending nearly 45 minutes of this hour-long documentary showing the viewers how the shroud matches aspects of the gospel accounts, the film discloses the results of the carbon-dating enacted on the shroud in 1988: the shroud dates from circa 1250 to 1400, not the 1st century. It is in fact a medieval forgery. While this part of the documentary was probably the most factually accurate, the trouble is showing these results so late discounts the previous 75% of the documentary! The last 15 minutes showcases how the shroud may be a medieval photograph of sorts, created by camera obscura. The form of the documentary makes little sense. I would have liked to see more about the history of the shroud itself, particularly why it became revered in the Middle Ages and into modern times, rather than gruesome details and graphic imagery of Jesus' crucifixion and how certain believers want it to be the shroud of Jesus.
While I don't have a problem with the faithful offering their arguments as to why the shroud is the shroud of Jesus, there needed to be scholars on the skeptical side. Details of the shroud being authentic are laid out no-holds-barred for 75% of the documentary without anyone else questioning these ideas, until the documentary declares, well no, it's not really from the time of Jesus! While I am among those who think the shroud is not the shroud of Jesus, I didn't know what to make of the view of the filmmakers, except they desired to play both sides, maybe because of a particular sponsor. Overall a missed opportunity.
31 of 45 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this