Leper Wrapped in Cloth Buried in Jerusalem
The headlines on the web this morning are a little more sensational:
- Burial cloth found in Jerusalem cave casts doubt on authenticity of Turin Shroud (Daily Mail)
- Jerusalem tomb discovery casts further doubt on Turin Shroud (Telegraph)
- Jesus-era leper sheds light on Turin shroud mystery (Haaretz)
- Remains in tomb near Old City show first known case of leprosy (JPost)
- 'Jesus-era' burial shroud found (BBC)
The tomb was found nearly a decade ago, and all of the sensational results have been known for years. Two of the excavators, Gibson and Tabor, have both written extensively on this discovery in books they have published.
What is new is the publication of an article in the US Public Library of Science Journal, with the finding that this was evidence of the first human known to have leprosy. That’s good, but it’s not news. Maybe the news is buried in the details, and the publication of this article provides an opportunity to review an important discovery. That’s fine, but it should be noted that news outlets lead you to believe that there are more discoveries than they actually are because they report the same items time after time, particularly during the Christmas and Easter seasons.
- A man was buried in this tomb between AD 1 and 50.
- The rock-hewn tomb was located on the south side of the Hinnom Valley, in a cemetery used by the wealthy.
- The man was wrapped in a burial shroud with a different weave from that of the Shroud of Turin.
- The deceased suffered from tuberculosis and leprosy. (Apparently even the rich got sick.)
- A significant portion of the dead man’s hair was recovered and analyzed (it was clean, short, and lice-free).
- The man did not receive a secondary burial in an ossuary, as was typical at the time.
Here’s an important statement in the JPost article:
Based on the assumption that this is representative of a typical burial shroud widely used at the time of Jesus, the researchers conclude that the Turin Shroud did not originate from Jesus-era Jerusalem.
That gives you the basis for the researchers’ conclusion that the Turin Shroud is fake. As long as there was only one shroud maker in town in the first century, we can be absolutely sure that the Turin Shroud is from the medieval period. (I have no interest in or knowledge about the Shroud, but I do care about assumptions necessary for conclusions. The conclusions are in the headlines; the assumptions are always buried if not omitted.)
You can read the rest in the articles linked to above. The books that I alluded to by the archaeologists are these:
- Shimon Gibson, The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence
- James Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity
UPDATE (12/17): James Davila at Paleojudaica responds to the Jerusalem Post statement quoted above:
That's not quite what it says in the Daily Mail article quoted in my post yesterday. The claim there is that "[i]t was made with a simple two-way weave - not the twill weave used on the Turin Shroud, which textile experts say was introduced more than 1,000 years after Christ lived." That is a more general claim that ought to be verifiable or falsifiable based on the reasonably ample surviving textile evidence from antiquity. If it is true that this type of weave is only attested much later, that would severely weaken any case for the genuineness of the Shroud of Turin. Are there specialists in first-century textiles out there who would like to speak up?