Dale Allison – I wager against authenticity

Dale Allison, in his book, The Resurrection Of Jesus: Apologetics, Polemics, History (2021), makes this observation – “New Testament scholars have generally failed to broach the topic [of the Shroud of Turin]”. He does mention John Robinson, but the reference is quite dated with a publication of 1977. I know Gary Habermas has written on the subject in the past, but I haven’t seen anything recent that he was written about the shroud. So, the only recent comments on the shroud from a Biblical scholar that I’ve read is in Allison’s 2021 book on the resurrection.

Allison does not believe the shroud is authentic. He states, “I wager against authenticity. The default setting for medieval relics is, without question, fake: and unless the evidence for the authenticity of an alleged relic is uniformly beyond cavil – which it definitely is not in this case – skepticism is sensible.”

I agree over 99.99% of medieval relics are most likely fake. But I disagree the evidence for the authenticity of the shroud is lacking.

His main argument seems to be there is no general acceptance of what the shroud is, therefore we should accept the skeptical position.

And so it goes, back and forth, like a tennis match, leaving an observer wondering if the arguments – which incessantly exemplify what psychologists call ‘confirmation bias,’ the all-too-human tendency to interpret evidence so that it confirms what one already believes – will recede indefinitely.

At the end of the day, maybe no verdict fully satisfies. If one opts for authenticity, the testimony of the Bishop d’Arcis remains embarrassing, as does the carbon-14 dating, which matches that testimony. Yet those defending a medieval origin should perhaps be uneasy with the fact that, so far, modern attempts to reproduce the Shroud are less than compelling, and also stumped because nothing else quite like it may survive from the Middle Ages.

I argued at length against the d’Arcis memo with a summary at:

I argued even longer against the 1988 C-14 dating with a summary at:

As Allison correctly notes:

One hurdle to responding intelligently to these words is that sindonology has become a vast and complex field in its own right. Robinson, writing in 1977, observed that “there is a daunting literature on the subject.” That literature has become far more daunting in the decades since he wrote.”

This is an understatement since after 1977, the 1978 STURP investigation has provided the most amount of scientific data on the shroud and the 1988 C-14 data has also produced a lot of literature.

Allison adds:

How is a historian of early Christianity supposed to evaluate such publications? Most of us know nothing – absolutely nothing – about maillard reactions, colorimetric measurements, low-energy radiography, thermal neutron flux, or pyrolsis mass spectrometry.

Which Biblical scholar has the time and background to deeply investigate the shroud? I would venture not many, including Allison, which only devoted a few pages of his book on the shroud.