Guillermo Gonzalez for sending me the issue of BAR with the Shroud article last November and encouraging me to act on it.
But the more important point is this: The Shroud of Turin is not and never was a "work of art" in the conventional sense of that term.
And in fact, were it in any way to look like a work of art-something made by human hands-this would imme-diately disqualify it from being what it is supposed to be: an acheiropoietos.
Following Time's lead, we reported that although radiocarbon tests have dated the shroud to 1260-1390 A.
D., no one has been able to account for the shadowy image of a naked 6-foot-tall man that appears on the shroud.
Such objects first appeared during the sixth century, in the Holy Land; in Greek they are called acheiropoietai (singular, acheiropoietos), which means "not made by human hands." They are called this because they are (apparently) contact impressions of holy bodies.
They have become relics through physical contact with the sacred, and they are icons because of the resultant image; but in neither case is there (by definition, at least) any intervention by an artist.
Without prejudicing the possibility that one or more among history's several dozen acheiropoietai may be genuine, we can be positive that this one cannot, since, according to its carbon 14 dating, it could not possibly have come into contact with the historical Jesus.
Yet it would be incorrect to view the Shroud of Turin as just another icon, because it was very clearly, very self-consciously doctored in order to become what millions, until recently, have taken it to be: an image not made by human hands.
With bloodstains on the back, wrists, feet, side and head the image appears to be that of a crucified man.
The details - the direction of the flow of blood from the wounds, the placement of the nails through the wrists rather than the palms - displays a knowledge of crucifixion that seems too accurate to have been that of a medieval artist.