Not literally, but he is dangerously close to doing so. Here’s how it works. The notorious Shroud of Turin has been purported to be the burial shroud of the crucified and resurrected Christ for centuries. Skeptics have been explaining why it is an artistic fraud over the same period, starting apparently with an outraged Catholic Bishop in the 1300s. Radiometric dating shows that the cloth dates from about that time. Rarely displayed, the Catholic Church has tended to take a neutral stance on the authenticity of the object. But during its current exhibition Benedict 16 contended that the shroud once "wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the gospels tell us of Jesus" (www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0503/Pope-Benedict-says-Shroud-of-Turin-authentic-burial-robe-o f-jesus; www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/World/Story/STIStory_522047.html). Although it is not absolutely clear if the Papacy is now claiming that the shroud is directly tied to Jesus, Ratzinger is clearly stating that it was used to wrap the body of a human being. The same claim was made on the new two hour History (when its convenient) Channel pseudodocumentary "The Real Face of Jesus" that gave shroud advocates free reign to present their nonsensical notions without contradiction by those more in touch with reality.
No two ways about it, the Pope is wrong. And wrong in a way that is ironically and amusingly embarrassing to the person and to the church who claim to be the representative of Christ on Earth. That’s because if the shroud figure really is that of a human being, then that person was a very odd fellow, to the degree of being pathological mentally and otherwise. I detail the reasons why at secweb.infidels.org/article815.html, which includes a nifty figure illustrating the pertinent issues. Here’s the problem. For one thing, the image on the shroud is over 6 ft. tall, which is not in accord with the status of the average Semite in the Roman era, and deviates from the need of Judas to identify the physically typical Jesus to the Roman authorities. The real issue centers on the head. It’s too small. I’m not the first to note the fact, it’s obvious once one realizes the defect. The main reason the head isn’t big enough for a normal adult male is because the forehead is too low for a modern human, and that too is obvious when aware of it. Being a person who both engages in representative art, and works on aspects of brain evolution, it struck me last month that if the head is too small, then the brain must be too. So I did the calculations and found that the brain of the shroud figure would have been the size of that of an early Pleistocene protohuman Homo erectus (which is not to be confused with the much bigger brained H. neanderthalis).
It is not hard to explain why the Gothic artist who concocted the famous fraud made the head too little. It was a standard artistic convention of the period to elongate the body of noble personages relative to the head to make the figure look more impressive – it’s a simple but effective visual trick still applied to comic book superheroes – and is common in representations of Christ at the time. For some reason the forehead was often made too shallow as well. As I discuss in my analysis lots of other readily apparent problems with the shroud image prove it cannot be a record of an actual human body, it’s a clever but often sloppily crafted deception. The question that must be asked is not only why are so many so gullible that they not only think the shroud is the real deal, but why do some actually go public with the idea? Many Christians conservative and liberal roll their eyes at the belief in the shroud, they have websites denouncing the proposition. It may not always be a matter of gullibility. In the History Channel program the supposedly digitally reconstructed Jesus forehead miraculously ended up about 25% taller than it is in the shroud -- just enough to keep it from looking outright ludicrous, but still leaving the Son of God something of a lowbrow. In the case of the Pope one can be excused for suspecting that a desire to divert the attention of believers from ongoing unpleasantries might be involved. It is too bad that Benedict did not see my analysis before making his statement, it might have saved him from making a knave of himself by in effect proposing that Jesus Christ was a hypocephalic pinhead.