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Relics of the Christ Hardcover – March 16, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (March 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813124255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813124254
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,567,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jim Randolph on April 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
He's so fair and thoughtful and willing to look at the evidence carefully. He doesn't just say,"This can't be," but says,"Really? Ok, let's check it out..." Of course he finds nothing, which should surprise neither secularists (who always suspected it was fiction) or believers (evidence doesn't matter to the truly faithful). And no, there's no good evidence that the so-called "Shroud of Turin" is anything other than what it looks like: an interesting medieval period painting.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Meehan on March 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although the book presented an interesting topic, I was a bit disappointed in the content. The majority (not all) of the citations were from either encyclopedias or from "Relics" by Joan Cruz. The book also lacked any sort of bibliography. The author also based the methodology in his book on the "Occam's razor" principle, but curiously enough seemed to miss the point of this argument when discussing several relics.

The basic outline of each chapter was to present and article, give a brief history of its origin and provenance and then refute the authenticity of the relic. The book would have been much better if he had chosen less relics and focused more on the history, the provenance, and the arguments (both for and against) each relic rather than trying to squeeze in very little information on each. All of the information presented can be found on Wikipedia or some other online resource and was really not original research relying on "primary" sources. In my opinion, this book seemed more like a "report" written for a class, than the scholarly overview of relics it was portrayed as being.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By FCZ on January 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It is remarkably unsurprising that Joe Nickell achieved the "outcome" he did, given that, as a man who makes his living as a professional skeptic, he is predisposed (and enriched) by only noting such evidence as is clearly questionable, while ignoring that which is harder to refute. That's what pays his salary, and that's the purpose for this book.

There is no original research reported here; for that matter, there was (judging by his lack of bibliography or footnotes) not even any sort of serious search of the professional literature-- Wikipedia doesn't count. Mr. Nickell apparently looked at just enough sources to pad out his book, refuted those statements he could (and ignored those he couldn't), and went to press, knowing that he would have no trouble selling his book to all the people who already agreed with his premise.

Certainly, there has been a long history of fake relics being sold for a profit, particularly during the Middle Ages. It was possible to buy a vial containing a drop of the Virgin's breast milk, a shoe from the colt Jesus rode into Jerusalem, even one of Jesus' baby teeth (the seller probably could get 60 more if he thought they'd sell!).

However, there were also many, many legitimate relics-- relics whose provenance was well known-- and the biggest category could probably be described as "believed but not provable"... which implies 'not provable as false', either. The Shroud of Turin falls into this category.
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More About the Author

Joe Nickell has been called "the modern Sherlock Holmes." Since 1995 he has been the world's only full-time, professional, science-based paranormal investigator. His careful, often innovative investigations have won him international respect in a field charged with controversy.

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