Kirkus Reviews QR Code


The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness

by Ian Wilson

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-385-26105-5
Publisher: Doubleday

 British journalist Wilson has built a career around the Turin shroud (The Mysterious Shroud, 1986) and other religious arcana (The After-Death Experience, 1989, etc.). Astonished by the 1988 carbon-dating findings that the shroud--which carries a life-size image of a crucified man popularly believed to be Jesus--appears to be a medieval forgery, Wilson now turns to the puzzle of where and when the idea of an ``imprint of Jesus'' on cloth originated. After an informative romp through the halls of Christian art, he winds up where he started, suggesting that--lo!--the ``discredited'' shroud is in fact the key. The most important clue traced by Wilson is that of the ``Veronica'' face. Legend has it that shortly before the crucifixion, Jesus left the image of his face on a cloth given to him by St. Veronica. Would-be ``Veronicas'' abound; the most impressive--unseen by Wilson, but not for lack of trying-- reportedly lies in a secret chamber in one of the piers supporting St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Wilson untangles the knots within knots that bind the history of the Veronicas, concluding that their origins lie in a much earlier relic (pre-1000 A.D.) known as the ``holy face of Edessa,'' which may in turn be none other than our old friend, the Shroud of Turin. But how can this be? As Wilson demonstrates, carbon-dating is terribly inexact, especially when contaminants (one major fire and centuries of candle-smoke, not to mention the tears of believers) have corrupted the object under study. Conclusion: the Turin shroud lives, ``part of a cosmic drama not yet played out.'' Admirable for its doggedness, scholarship, and sensitive handling of a real hot-potato.