PORTRAIT OF JESUS? by Frank C. Tribbe


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A bulging, messy, encyclopedic account of ""the most controversial of religious relics."" Tribbe describes himself as a ""researcher-reporter-lawyer,"" and he obviously had to slave away in all three capacities on this heroic survey of everything known about the Shroud. It's the most complete, but hardly the best, treatment now available. On history, for example, Tribbe sounds some distinctly amateurish notes, calling the Middle Ages ""times of rough politics, some of which were quite odious. . . ."" He is too eager to accept unproved speculation, such as Inn Wilson's theory that the Knights Templar had the Shroud from 1204 to 1357, and to consider tainted or spurious evidence, such as the apocryphal correspondence between Jesus and King Abgar V of Edessa. Yet if the long hypothetical thread that Tribbe spins from the Crucifixion to 1357 (when the Shroud was indisputably exhibited in Lirey, France) threatens to snap at various points, there is solid proof--the image of a coin, datable to 29-32 A.D., that was placed on the right eye of the dead man--connecting the Shroud to Jesus. And, as Tribbe shows at some length, all serious scientific attempts to prove the Shroud a forgery have failed. (E.g., the Shroud reveals patterns of arterial vs. venous bleeding, which were not discovered until 1593.) But granting the Shroud's authenticity (extremely probable) and assuming it belonged to Jesus (impossible to prove), the nature of the image is an absolute conundrum. It has no blood smears, it reflects wounds inflicted over a period of time, it has a unique ""3-D"" quality. Tribbe goes over all this exhaustively, but concludes, as he must, that only the will to believe can make the Shroud an object of devotion. There's a great deal of rich, complex material--way too much, in fact--poured indiscriminately in the reader's lap, and Tribbe could have learned from John Heller's crisply written Report on the Shroud of Turin (p. 503), about recent sleuthwork. Still, an intriguing grab bag.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Stein & Day