Monday, April 12, 2010

Afterthoughts On 'The Real Face of Jesus'

Earlier, the documentary that aimed to pull a lifelike 3D representation of "Jesus" from the shroud of Turin was discussed.  And my general conclusion stands: I'm impressed and it warrants further scrutiny. However, I was not without certain doubts. Among those questions most nagging me was the issue of the "dripping" blood. While the position and nature of the wounds themselves appear to be historically accurate, the nature of their weeping concerns me for several reasons.

Before I proceed, I shoud mention that I am neither a forensic pathologist nor criminalogist nor medical professional in any capacity. That said, it is my understanding that once the heart stops, the blood stops pumping, and would begin the process of coagulating and sinking to the lowest levels. Since a man crucified would be upright, his blood would sink to the lower half of his body. By the time he was removed (assuming a bit of time to "display" the criminal), what blood hadn't bled out through his injuries would have settled like motor oil in his lower extremities.

The body would have then been removed and burial rites, according to Jewish laws, would have been observed. This man would have been ritually washed, annoited with oils and spices, and then wrapped in cloth. 

Now, I am only assuming, but would not the act of washing and annointing remove the vertical or "downward" streaks of dried blood that had accumulated on his body as he stood nailed to that cross? How then can we explain their reappearance on the cloth in which he was shrouded after being washed? Seepage from the wounds? Perhaps, but would that seepage not be minimal (due to the coagulated blood), and more importantly, have flowed across the body since the rituals certainly involved handling a supine form? That is to say, if we were looking at this individual standing up, those bloody streaks would not be "dripping" down, but rather flowing horizonally across his face, arms, chest, legs...

Instead, on the Shroud of Turin, we are treated to a display of exactly what we would expect to see - if we didn't think about it too much: bloody wounds dripping thickly downward. But even if we entertain the thought that this man was buried without ceremony, we would have to face the fact that the blood on his skin would have mostly dried, and that if any staining occurred, it might only be suggestive spotting. 

Shroud enthusiasts will simply say this attests to the supernatural power of the cloth; it is a divine photograph to illustrate what Christ looked like in his final moments upon the cross. This is all fine and well for those for whom the Shroud is a relic of faith, but for those among us who are looking for scientific answers to a scientific enigma, such matters of metaphysics will not suffice. Sadly, until the Shroud can be examined more completely, we are still left with too many questions.

The Real Face of Jesus let us down in this respect. It was far too concerned with safeguarding the Shroud's mystical enigma to truly examine its tangible mysteries as thorougly as they deserved.

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