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Jesus Christ, the Man
Jesus Christ may be the most famous man who ever lived. But how do we know he did?
Most theological historians, Christian and non-Christian alike, believe that Jesus really did walk the Earth. They draw that conclusion from textual evidence in the Bible, however, rather than from the odd assortment of relics parading as physical evidence in churches all over Europe. That's because, from fragments of text written on bits of parchment to overly abundant chips of wood allegedly salvaged from his crucifix, none of the physical evidence of Jesus' life and death hold up to scientific scrutiny. [Who Was Jesus, the Man?]
Biblical blanketsSlide 2 of 15
Perhaps the most famous religious relic in the world, the Shroud of Turin, is believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus. The 14-by-4-foot linen blanket, which bears the ghostly image of a man's body, has been worshipped by millions of pilgrims in a cathedral in Turin, Italy. But scientifically speaking, the Shroud of Turin is a fake.
Radiocarbon dating of the shroud has revealed that it does not date to the time of Christ but instead to the 14th century; coincidentally, that's when it first appeared in the historical record. In a document written in 1390, Bishop Pierre d'Arcis of France claimed the image of Jesus on the cloth was "cunningly painted," a fact "attested by the artist who painted it."
Today, the Catholic Church does not officially endorse the Shroud of Turin as authentic, though many of the faithful, including Pope Benedict, have indicated that they personally believe in its holiness. [Is Shroud of Turin Real? Debate Resurrected]Slide 3 of 15
Wood chipsSlide 4 of 15
Along similar lines to the abundant nails, enough wood chips from the "True Cross" – the cross on which Jesus was crucified – are scattered across Europe to fill a ship, according to this famous remark by the 16th-century theologian John Calvin: "There is no abbey so poor as not to have a specimen. In some places, there are large fragments, as at the Holy Chapel in Paris, at Poitiers, and at Rome, where a good-sized crucifix is said to have been made of it. In brief, if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big shipload. Yet the Gospel testifies that a single man was able to carry it."Slide 5 of 15
Holy hardwareSlide 6 of 15
In a documentary called "The Nails of the Cross," which aired in 2011 on the History Channel, filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici tells the story of two nails allegedly discovered in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem. He presents circumstantial evidence that seems to suggest the rusty relics once nailed Jesus to the cross.
The tomb in which the nails were found is believed by some to be that of the Jewish high priest Caiaphas, who presides over the trial of Jesus in the New Testament.
In their coverage of the new film, Reuters reported that most experts and scholars they contacted dismissed the filmmaker's case as far-fetched and called it a publicity stunt. It turns out publicity stunts abound when it comes to holy hardware. In 1911, English liturgical scholar Herbert Thurston counted all the nails that were at that time believed to have been used to crucify Jesus. Though only three or four nails (the exact number is up for debate) were supposed to have pinned Christ to the cross circa A.D. 30, in 1911, 30 holy nails were being venerated in treasuries across Europe.
In an entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Thurston, a Jesuit himself, offered this explanation for the surplus in hardware: "Probably the majority began by professing to be facsimiles which had touched or contained filings from some other nail whose claim was more ancient. Without conscious fraud on the part of anyone, it is very easy for imitations in this way to come in a very brief space of time to be reputed originals."Slide 7 of 15
Lead liesSlide 8 of 15