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And in fact, were it in any way to look like a work of art-something made by human hands-this would imme-diately disqualify it from being what it is supposed to be: an acheiropoietos.
This is the catch-22 that sindonologists fail to appreciate: For the shroud to be the shroud, it more or less has to look the way it looks.
The Shroud of Turin is not, by definition, a work of art but instead belongs to the long and revered tradition of sacred objects that are at once relics and icons.
Such objects first appeared during the sixth century, in the Holy Land; in Greek they are called acheiropoietai (singular, acheiropoietos), which means "not made by human hands." They are called this because they are (apparently) contact impressions of holy bodies.
But two of BAR's savvy readers have objected to our assessment.
Known as Veronica's Veil, the relic became one of the most famous acheiropoietai of the Middle Ages.* Another such cloth image (also generated by perspiration) was produced on the night of the betrayal, as Jesus prayed intently at Gethsemane.
And then there is the Shroud of Turin, seemingly produced by blood, blood plasma and sweat absorbed from Jesus' dead body at the time of entombment (see box, p. Several reputed examples of each of these holy-iconcloths have surfaced over the centuries.
They have become relics through physical contact with the sacred, and they are icons because of the resultant image; but in neither case is there (by definition, at least) any intervention by an artist.
Among the earliest acheiropoietai is the Column of the Flagellation, in Jerusalem.
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