(Note: I’m off to Arizona and Nevada to visit with family. This will be my last post until about July 10th.)
About a year ago I included information on the Shroud of Turin in a much longer post about proofs of God’s existence. Today I am concentrating on the Shroud alone. I urge you to read the following carefully and thoughtfully.
Every year more information becomes available on the Shroud of Turin, a large linen cloth that can be traced back to Lirey, France, in 1355 and is now kept in a cathedral in Turin, Italy. It is believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth.
For four decades, beginning in the 1970s, I have read everything I could obtain on the Shroud, and I have become convinced of its authenticity. I believe that the Shroud proves the accuracy of Biblical accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. I also believe that the Shroud of Turin is itself a miracle, preserved over the centuries, to prove God’s truth to modern, skeptical men. Only in this age of science could the amazing information contained in the Shroud be fully revealed and understood.
How can I make such a strong statement about a religious relic? I am a very rational person. I am aware of the many fraudulent claims about relics, and I am inclined to question their authenticity. For example, there are perhaps enough pieces of the cross of Calvary scattered among churches around Europe to build a modest dwelling. But the Shroud of Turin is different. There is nothing else like it in the world. Scientists themselves are mystified. I urge you to examine the evidence and come to your own conclusions.
The following facts about the Shroud have been established through years of examination and testing by experts from many disciplines:
- Radiocarbon dating tests were performed on the Shroud in 1988, and these tests seemed to show that the Shroud of Turin was a product of the Middle Ages. After these tests the Shroud was dismissed as a medieval forgery. But there was a serious problem with the radiocarbon dating. Contrary to scientific protocols recommended by a committee of experts, the tests were only performed on one small piece of material taken from a corner of the Shroud. Subsequent studies revealed that the test piece was anomalous and probably not representative of the main body of the Shroud. The radiocarbon testing results were therefore inconclusive. Other evidence from a variety of sources appears to confirm that the Shroud originated in the Middle East at about the time of Christ.
- The history of the Shroud can only be known with certainty since its appearance in Lirey, France, in 1355, but there are indications of its existence many centuries before that. A strong hypothesis has been developed, based on solid historical references, that traces the Shroud back to its presumed origin in the first century. According to this hypothesis, the Shroud passed through Christian communities in Palestine, Antioch, and Edessa before arriving in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, in the late first millennium. An image believed to have been the Shroud was venerated there for centuries. Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders in 1204, many religious relics were stolen, and the Shroud disappeared. It is conjectured that a Crusader took the Shroud home to France.
- The Shroud is a linen cloth approximately 2 ½ by 14 feet in length. The original dimensions are believed to be eight cubits by two cubits, a familiar measurement to Jews in Palestine during the First Century. The use of a single linen cloth is also consistent with Jewish burial practices of that time. The Shroud is made of fine linen in a herringbone weave. The weave and the particular stitching are very distinctive and rare. Though known in the ancient Middle East, no linen cloth comparable to the Shroud has been found that originated in medieval Europe.
- The Shroud bears the faint image of a crucified man. The image is anatomically accurate, and it depicts the front and back of a naked man of good form and about 5’10” tall. Although tall for a first century Jew, the height is not unusual. The image itself is a light, straw colored shading of the very top fibrils of the cloth, and it is microscopically shallow. There are certain features only visible with ultraviolet light, a phenomenon not understood until the 19th Century.
- The ability to perceive details on the Shroud is markedly and dramatically improved with photographic negatives that were not available until 1898. These photographic negatives produced a positive image of the man on the cloth. Many more photographs have been taken since that time, most notably during exhaustive scientific examinations of the Shroud in 1978, and these proved that one of the most amazing features of the image on the Shroud is the fact that it is a photographic negative with three-dimensional qualities. More recently, using a high-tech image analyzer, scientists converted the figure on the Shroud from a two-dimensional photo to a remarkably life-like, three-dimensional figure. Nothing else like it has ever been seen.
- There is much blood on the Shroud, and testing proved it to be human blood type AB. A full DNA analysis was not possible because of the Shroud’s age and the contamination caused by centuries of human handling. The blood was on the cloth before the Shroud’s human image was formed, and there is no part of the image under the blood, further evidence that no artist could have created it. The blood contains significant amounts of bilirubin, which means that the person exuding the blood had suffered extreme and prolonged torture before death on the cross. At places on the Shroud the blood is surrounded by a serum ring that is only detectable by microscopic examination. Again, no artist could have created this effect.
- The man in the Shroud was dead when he was covered head to toe, front and back, by the linen cloth. He had been beaten severely before crucifixion. There are hundreds of scourge marks all over his back and the back of his legs, sometimes extending to his sides and chest. These marks show bloody dumbbell patterns that would have been created by some sort of whip (perhaps a Roman flagrum). A beating of this severity would have left the victim in severe shock and barely alive. The man also wore a crown of thorns. Instead of the traditional circlet shown in paintings of Jesus on the cross, the man in the Shroud had a thorny cap covering the entire top of his head. The thorns had penetrated his forehead and scalp, and the blood flows are visible on the linen. His cheeks show the effects of being struck in the face, and his shoulders have abrasions consistent with the marks of someone having had to carry the crossbeam of a cross.
- The man’s hands had been nailed to the cross. Unlike almost all medieval depictions of a crucifixion, the Shroud’s victim had his nails driven in through the wrist area. This is historically accurate, since only in this way would the nailed hands support the weight of the crucified man as he moved up and down, in excruciating pain, in an attempt to breathe. The feet were also nailed to the cross, probably by a single nail driven through the feet into the crucifixion post. Blood flows from both hand and foot wounds are visible on the Shroud.
- It was the practice of the Romans to leave executed criminals on a cross for days. Sometimes the condemned man lived for a considerable time before expiring; and then the body might be left hanging there as a warning to other would-be malefactors. The crucifixion of Jesus took place on a Friday, immediately following Passover. Probably in consideration of Jewish sensitivities, the bodies of Jesus and the other victims were removed before sundown, the beginning of the Sabbath. If the crucified man was not dead, the Roman practice was to break his leg bones. That way he could no longer push himself up to breathe, and death would come almost immediately. According to the gospel account, When the soldiers approached Jesus he appeared already dead. Rather than breaking his leg bones, a Roman soldier thrust a spear into his side to confirm his death, “bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” A spear wound, blood, and fluid stains are clearly visible on the side of the man on the Shroud. Forensic evidence shows the wound to be post-mortem. A post-mortem lance thrust into the thoracic cavity is consistent with the release of blood and a massive pleural effusion of fluid from the area around the heart. This fluid had accumulated because of the trauma of the brutal scourging and crucifixion. The pleural effusion would have the appearance of water.
- There are other things on the Shroud that are of interest. In the area where the cloth covered the man’s feet there is dirt, consisting of limestone particles, that is markedly consistent with a rare variety of limestone found in the area of Jerusalem and only a few other places on Earth. Also, pollen grains were found on the surface of the Shroud. There are some 380,00 species of plants on Earth that have been identified, and the scientific study of the pollen of these plants is known as palynology. Each geographical region of Earth has its own unique palynological imprint, and forensic palynology has been employed in criminal, historical, or archaeological contexts as evidence to place an object in a certain place at a certain time of year. Noted criminologist Max Frei of Zurich, Switzerland, studied pollen from the Shroud and concluded that the Shroud originated in Palestine and then traveled through Anatolia (Turkey) to Constantinople, France, and Italy.
- The most intriguing question of all is how the Shroud image was created. Over the decades there have been many attempts to explain it. In the early years many detractors, claiming the Shroud to be a fraud, insisted that it was a medieval painting, but overwhelming evidence proved that to be impossible. There are no paints on the Shroud, and no artist has ever painted a negative image of such complexity. The image is not discernable at a distance of less than 3 feet, some minutiae are only detectable by using a microscope, and anatomical details are far beyond the abilities of any medieval artist. There have been other hypotheses trying to prove the Shroud a clever hoax, but many of them are patently ludicrous, and none of them survive the weight of careful examination. Truth is, there are some people who would rather die than admit that the Shroud is authentic or that God is real.
- Many scientists from various disciplines have performed an in-depth examinations of the Shroud of Turin over the years, and some physicists have developed an intriguing radiation-based image formation hypothesis that is consistent with the Shroud’s image characteristics. According to this theory, the body of the man in the shroud became radiant, and that radiance was so intense that it scorched the man’s image onto the face of the cloth. The radiance was extremely powerful and incredibly brief, otherwise the linen would have been incinerated.
Please, examine the evidence yourselves. If you do, I believe that you will be convinced as I am that the Shroud of Turin was truly the burial cloth of our Savior, and on it are recorded proofs of his crucifixion and resurrection.
HE IS RISEN INDEED!