From Publishers Weekly
Christian communities all over the world hold sacred material artifacts that supposedly date to early Christianity—baby Jesus' swaddling clothes, pieces of the sponge from which the dying Jesus drank, even a tear Jesus shed at Lazarus's grave. In this quirky little book, Nickell (author of more than 20 books and columnist for Skeptical Inquirer
) debunks those relics. Nickell examines the Shroud of Turin, the Crown of Thorns, chalices that people have identified as the Holy Grail and so on. Could any of these objects be what Christian enthusiasts claim? In Nickell's view, the answer is a simple no. He concludes that "not a single, reliably authenticated relic of Jesus exists." For example, a 2003 scientific examination of the so-called "Holy Lance," purported to be the spear with which Jesus was pierced on the Cross, found that the gold sheath dated to the 14th century. Nickell includes a bibliography, but footnotes, directing readers to the specific scientific research on which he relies in each chapter, would have been appropriate as well. One of the most interesting passages comes in the epilogue, where Nickell notes that some defenders of relics are sincere believers. A longer discussion of people's experiences with relics would have rounded out this book. (Mar.)
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"Joe Nickell is the embodiment of the Mythbusters, Sherlock Holmes, and Richard Feynman: one part lab tinkerer, one part field sleuth, and one part theoretical genius. And the relics of the Christ that he investigates in this delightful narrative render themselves bare to the magnifying glass of his inimitable mind. Having Joe Nickell show up at your miracle is like having Mike Wallace arrive at your company" -- Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist for Scientific Amer
"A provocative book." -- Milton C. Moreland, editor of Between Text and Artifact
"Free of sarcasm and without any sort of denigration of religion in general or Christianity in particular, this book provides an indispensable guide to the subject of relics, especially in its detailed refutation of hot-off-the-presses, spurious claims on behalf of the Turin Shroud and associated hoaxes." -- Robert M. Price, Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies, Johnnie Colemon T
""Thorough, fair and entertaining."" -- Journal of American Cultures