April 16, 2010

The Shroud Codex: unwrapping the mysteries of the human religious experience

By Katherine Haas

By Katherine Haas

Corsi, Jerome R. "The Shroud Codex." Threshold Editions, New York. 2010. ISBN 978-1-4391-9041-8

On May 2, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Turin, Italy and venerate the Shroud of Turin, a relic which many believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. While the Catholic Church’s does not confirm the Shroud as such, it does not deny that it is a relic, the veneration of which may assist some in their faith.

Author Jerome Corsi makes no excuses. He believes the Shroud of Turin is indeed the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, and is fascinated by both the faith-based and scientific aspects of the piece of linen. This fascination has led him to write a book, an interesting blend of faith, science, and fiction. With the book, titled “The Shroud Codex,” Corsi hopes to use a captivating story to draw more people into learning more about the Shroud for themselves.

The premise of the book is simple, though perhaps not believable. But as it is a work of faith and of fiction, perhaps that can be bypassed. A certain Fr. Paul Bartholomew, a brilliant physicist turned pastor of a New York City parish, dies after a massive car crash. He has an after death experience in which God sends him back to earth with 30 days to prove that the Shroud of Turin is no forgery or piece of art. Fr. Bartholomew then begins to manifest the stigmata in his wrists. Soon he also suffers the wounds of Christ scourged at the pillar and those inflicted by the crown of thorns. As the media catches hold of the story, more and more people become interested in his resemblance to the man on the Shroud as well as the authenticity of the Shroud itself.

Corsi’s storyline is augmented by no dearth of information about the Shroud itself. Citing the inspiration of Michael Crichton who combined accurate science and pressing questions with successful storylines, “The Shroud Codex” walks readers through physics as complex as event horizons, string theory, and alternate dimensions, as well as more practical investigations like radiocarbon dating, pollen analysis, and holographs or 3-D images of the man on the Shroud which attempt to verify the its authenticity. While the book does a good job of presenting the scientific, and indeed the faith-related, aspects of the Shroud in layman’s terms, the description and explanation become tiresome after a while.

The most powerful aspect of the book is in the details. As Corsi presents the wounds of Christ appearing on the body of Fr. Bartholomew, in accordance to the details portrayed on the Shroud, one cannot help but wonder at the great love which would motivate a man to suffer such pain for an ungrateful human race. The process of crucifixion was, and Corsi portrays it well, a detailed and masterful process of sadism. For Christians, as well as for unbelievers, Fr. Bartholomew’s suffering is unbelievable, and it is gut wrenching.

Anyone who picks up this book should do so with an open mind. No matter what your expectations are, it will not be what you expected. There are too many levels, too much information, too many angles. But the book succeeds in its purpose, that of bringing together faith, science, the Shroud of Turin, and a unique storyline while introducing a topic most people have never delved into.


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