The Shroud of Turin, Part 1
WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• Is the Shroud of Turin an image of Jesus?
• How did the Shroud get from Israel to Turin?
• How was the image formed?
• What about carbon dating?
PHILLIP WIEBE IS A FRIEND FROM CANADA. Phillip and his wife, Shirley, helped me make copies of my Ph D thesis while we both were studying at the University of Adelaide. A Professor of Philosophy with a Ph D, he is currently Human Research Ethics Co-Chair at Trinity Western University.
Phillip is also co-director of a very interesting club: the Vancouver Shroud Association. This club meets regularly to discuss the latest findings about the Shroud of Turin. Phillip has meticulously collected reports written about the Shroud, especially the results of scientific studies. The following words are excerpts of a presentation of his called The Shroud of Turin: Authenticity and Significance for Theology.
IN SHORT, IF YOU WANT TO KNOW IF JESUS WAS WRAPPED IN A BURIAL CLOTH THAT BECAME THE SHROUD OF TURIN, READ ON….
Phillip Wiebe has also collected reports of visions of Jesus, from first hand interviews mostly. I blogged about these fascinating reports (click HERE) which come from one of his books called Visions and Appearances of Jesus. Phillip can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Shroud of Turin is perhaps the most important relic in Christendom, for this linen cloth kept in Turin, Italy, is believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus. It bears the image of a man showing signs of crucifixion, scourging, and other injuries.
Close scrutiny of photographs of the Shroud have revealed many important facts, and research continues in several dozen fields of scientific inquiry. The two central questions raised by this relic are:
1. Who is the person depicted on it?
2. How was the image produced?
IS THE SHROUD AN IMAGE OF JESUS?
We find an impressive number of similarities between the Gospels and the facts apparent on the Shroud. The first group of similarities I shall mention here derive largely from studies of the Shroud made by forensic pathologists:
1. There are blood flows on the Shroud from hands and feet, as from nailing. These correspond to the wounds of crucifixion described in the gospels.
2. Pathologists say that the victim was flogged, evidently by an instrument consistent with what the Romans used when they carried out this form of torture.
3. The victim has injuries to his head, as from a crown (or cap) of thorns. The gospels explain that this was devised for Jesus to ridicule the claim that he was a king.
4. The victim does not appear to have had his legs broken, contrary to the usual practice in crucifixion. John’s gospel says that Jesus’ legs were not broken.
5. The victim seems to have his heart pierced by a sharp object, for images corresponding to blood and “water” (serous fluid) appear on the back. John’s gospel says that Jesus had his heart pierced.
6. Pathologists say that the victim on the Shroud was between 30 and 35 years of age. This is consistent with information available from the New Testament about the age at which Jesus was crucified.
The fact that the image depicts one who was crucified does not uniquely identify Jesus as the man on the Shroud, since many people were crucified in antiquity. However, the evidence of any one of these items might not be that significant, but the combined effect of them is impressive. Also, the fact that the image depicts one who was uniquely tortured with a crown of thorns goes a long way to make the identification of the person as Jesus.
7. Very fine cotton fibrils are also found on the Shroud, probably because the loom on which it was woven was earlier used to weave cotton. These are from a type of cotton that existed in the Middle East in the first century. These facts also suggest that the cloth did not have its origin in Europe. Moreover, the fact that the dimensions of the cloth are an exact multiple of a Jewish cubit suggests that it might be from Israel.
8. Forty of the pollen grains found on the Shroud are from plants growing exclusively in Israel or its immediately adjoining areas. This implies that the Shroud was exposed to the open air in that country, since this is the usual way in which pollen becomes embedded in the fibers of a piece of cloth.
9. Flower images from plants growing in Israel have been detected among the various images on the Shroud. Paul Maloney says he found a chrysanthemum-shaped flower, and Alan Whanger reports finding a flower garland near the head of the Man. An Israeli botanist has confirmed the presence of plants in this garland exclusive to Israel.
10. Dust has been found in the area of the feet. This dust contains limestone of the relatively rare aragonite variety, rather than the calcite variety. The limestone has small quantities of iron and strontium, but no lead, and corresponds to limestone found in tombs near Jerusalem.
The various items of evidence above are not conclusive about the identity of the person depicted on the Shroud, but they do point in the direction of Jesus.
HOW DID THE SHROUD GET FROM ISRAEL TO TURIN?
Historian Ian Wilson suggests that the combination of pollen evidence, texts from the early church, and other documentation supports the claim that the Shroud originated in Israel and then was taken to Edessa in Southern Turkey where it lay hidden for several hundred years.
When it was rediscovered in the 6th century it became known as the Mandylion of Edessa, from which it was taken by force to Constantinople in 944, where it was listed among the Church’s treasures until the Fourth Crusade at the beginning of the 13th century.
Wilson thinks it then passed into the possession of the Knights Templar Order, who took it to France, where it was exhibited in 1353 in Lirey. Its subsequent history via Chamberey, in Southern France, to Turin is well documented.
HOW WAS THE IMAGE FORMED?
There are good reasons to reject the suggestion that an image of Jesus (or some other person) was formed by an artist in the medieval era:
1. An artist would likely have painted the victim as having been nailed through the palms of the hands, rather than through his wrists (as the Shroud reveals), and would likely have portrayed the crown of thorns as a circuit around the head rather than as a cap — because this is how tradition has imagined the crucifixion. Also, the hands would likely have been painted with thumbs, rather than without them (as the Shroud reveals). We now know that being impaled through the wrist damages a nerve which causes the thumb to bend sharply into the palm.
2. The optimal viewing distance of the Shroud is six to ten feet away; at less than six feet the image almost disappears. A medieval artist trying to produce such an image would have to have stood a large distance away to produce even a slightly plausible image — and an image that is in the form of a photographic negative!
3. The color variations on the fibers that form the body-image are so delicate that an artist would have to have used a brush with only one hair in it, and that thinner than a human hair.
These objections suggest that the Shroud image was not produced by a deliberate act of an artist.
WHAT ABOUT CARBON DATING?
In 1988 the decision was made to carbon-date the Shroud of Turin. Laboratories in Tucson, Zurich, and Oxford examined a small piece of the cloth, and announced that it was “95% certain that it originated sometime between the years 1260 and 1390.” Many who believed the Shroud to be the burial cloth of Jesus were disappointed to hear of this result, and interest in the Shroud dropped off.
But there are reasons to question this dating result.
1. In 1203 Robert de Clari, a knight of the Fourth Crusade, described the wonders of Constantinople, among them “the shroud in which Our Lord had been wrapped.” Nicolas Mesarites, overseer of the relic collection at the Great Palace of Constantinople, listed it in 1201. If these accounts refer to the Shroud, they place its existence earlier than the carbon dating results of 1260 – 1390.
2. Icons from the 10th and 13th century depict the face of Jesus with some of the distinctive markings found on the Shroud: a line across the forehead, strongly accentuated cheeks, an upside-down triangle at the bridge of the nose, and a hairless gap between the lower lip and beard.
A SHORT BURST OF RADIANT ENERGY has been put forward as the cause of both the resurrection and the image that appears on the Shroud.
The three-dimensional image is extremely detailed — much more detailed than one might expect of a porous cloth. The information provided by the image is in the form of dots that resembles the style of art known as pointillism (I have some beautiful pointillism images in aboriginal art from Australia). Normally the size of the dots is determined by the artist’s brush, medium, and finesse. But in the Shroud the dots are microscopic in size. Some think they are molecular or even atomic in scale.
One technical possibility suggested by physicist John Jackson, and developed by Thaddeus Trenn from the University of Toronto, is that some external form of energy caused the bonds between the protons and neutrons in the atoms that formed his body to break apart — a phenomenon described as weak dematerialization. The Shroud then fell through this mass of protons and neutrons, each subatomic particle contributing to the pointillistic effect.
If this happened, free neutrons would have bombarded nitrogen in the linen of the Shroud, and would have converted some of it into carbon-14. When the dating was done in 1988, more than the expected amount of carbon-14 would be found, thereby making it look younger (medieval) rather than ancient (first century AD).
Much evidence (but not all) from the Shroud corroborates the claim that a person known to history as Jesus of Nazareth died a cruel death on a cross and left behind a mysterious image that may prove the body was resurrected.
POST-SCRIPT: I ask that you join with me and say a prayer for Phillip as he has been diagnosed with late-stage esophogal cancer. Thank you.
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