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Is the Shroud of Turin the Burial Shroud of Christ?
Evidence like the pollen point to a Middle East origin of the cloth. Other evidence like the Roman coins over the eyes suggest a first century origin. So let's say for argument sake that the Shroud is an authentic 1st century burial shroud. Many people ask how it could ever be determined to be the Shroud of Christ? Why could it not also be the shroud of someone else who was crucified? It's a fair question.
Aside from the obvious parallels with what happened to Jesus which are all featured on the Shroud, such as the Crown of Thorns, severe scourging, wound in the side, wrists and feet pierced, and legs that were not broken. The very fact that a burial shroud of someone executed by crucifixion exists at all is a complete anomaly.
Disowning the Crucified
Those who were crucified in Roman times were done so because they were criminals. Crucifixion was a public way of creating fear and keeping order in an occupied country. Similar to public hangings in more recent centuries. It was considered a shame and disgrace that any one in the family be found guilty of a crime worthy of execution. They were usually renounced from family affiliation … excommunicated from all family contact. This is a particular Middle East custom. You can almost hear the Jewish father saying,"You're not my son!" And then forbidding all contact. See Fiddler on the Roof and you'll understand this cultural aspect. When the last of the three daughters decided to marry a gentile. Tevia, her father, ousted her from the family forever. Such was the case with those sentenced for a crime worthy of death.
So what happened? Those crucified were almost always given a common burial. They were simply thrown together into a burial trench and covered with dirt. The dirt was often mixed with lime to hasten decay so that the "bones" might be given a proper burial at a later time. Common graves like this are found today in war-torn Bosnia and in Nazi Germany following the Holocaust. You've probably seen the gruesome pictures.
Criminal's Death, but Rich Man's Burial
Jesus was executed as a criminal yet he was given a rich man's burial! The Gospel of Mark recounts how Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy merchant, purchased a fine linen cloth for Jesus' burial (Mark 15:46). And he also offered his own tomb in which Jesus would be laid to rest. This is a fulfillment of Isaias' prophecy of the coming Jewish Messiah as written in chapter 53:9 — "And they made his grave with the wicked (crucifixion) and his tomb with the rich (Joseph's tomb)."
The very fact that an expensive shroud was used in the burial of someone executed by crucifixion, combined with all the other unique aspects as mentioned above, leaves little doubt as to the identity of the man whose image appears on the Shroud. If it's not an artwork done by some unknown medieval genius, then there really is no other reasonable choice.
Image Formation Theory
Much of the science involved in Shroud research is in the area of image formation theory. If Shroud were an obvious work of art, the subject would be irrelevant and even ludicrous. But it is precisely because the cause of the image still remains a mystery after years of diligent research that leads some to investigate other non-artistic causes of the image.
Let’s summarize what we know about the image
Are there paint particles on the Shroud? Yes. But they do not make up the image. They are randomly distributed over the whole cloth. How did they get there? Because over the course of hundreds of years, painted copies of the shroud or the face of Christ have been touched to the cloth thereby giving it greater value. Without question, particles from these paintings dislodged and fell onto the Shroud. Does that mean the Shroud is a painting? Obviously not. Unfortunately, a few people still try to make headlines by rehashing old theories.
The Blood of the Shroud
What about the blood? It’s real human blood. AB Positive and evidence for human DNA. The blood tests positive for the following components: Hemoglobin Heme Porphyrins Serum albumin Bile Bilirubin
The blood stains show the separation of blood and serum and also show where blood would have spurted from an artery or dribbled from a vein depending on the wound. The blood flows show the influence of gravity as if the body was alive and upright yet also shows post-mortem blood flows from when the body was lying down on the back. Evidence of rigor mortis is also visible. As gruesome as all this seems, it all represents medical knowledge totally unknown in the Middle Ages.
Rash Judgments Condemn the Shroud
To declare in a brash cavalier manner that the Shroud is the work of some medieval artist is to totally ignore nearly everything we know about the cloth. That is simply not a scientifically satisfactory answer. This is why many question the validity of the C-14 (carbon-14) dating tests and is also why we continue to search for new clues as to how this incredible image may have been formed.
The image shows up because something caused the rapid dehydration and oxidation of the linen fibers immediately surrounding a body. What caused it? Direct contact with a corpse only explains the blood images. Another process is at work to account for the image. Heat? Light? Radiation? A combination of the three? Dr. Gus Accetta’s experiments on emitted radiation may be an important clue.
STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project) findings, published in 1981, contain the following results:
► "No pigments, paints, dyes, or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray fluorescence and microchemistry preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image."
► "It is clear that there has been a direct contact of the Shroud with the body, which explains certain features such as the scourge marks, as well as the blood. However, while this type of contact might explain some features of the torso, it is totally incapable of explaining the image...there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image..."
► "We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and give a positive test for serum albumin."
► No similar material found from Medieval times.
► Threads hand woven - pre 12th Century
► Unique manufacture indicates a Middle East origin
► The cloth measures exactly 2 x 8 Syrian cubits, a Middle East measurement.
► Travertine Aragonite limestone particles indigenous to caves surrounding Jerusalem
► Outside pollen are mineral coated whereas inside pollen are uncoated
► Suggests placement in damp tomb or cave
► The image density corresponds to a mathematical gradient related to distance between body and cloth. “Confirmation that the Shroud covered a body shape at the time of image formation.” (Dr. John Jackson ).
► “The blood is, in fact, real blood.” Confirmed by presence of heme, porphyrins,bile pigments and serum albumin. Confirmed also by spectrographic analysis. (Dr. John Heller).
► “The blood marks seen on the shroud are consistent with a contact transfer to the cloth of blood clot exudates that would have resulted from major wounds inflicted on a man who died in the position of crucifixion.” (Dr. Al Alder & Dr. Gil Lavoie)
► “The stains have a central hollowness which probably results from the physical separation of red blood cells from serum.” (Dr. Robert Bucklin)
► “The remarkably fine detailing of the scourge marks revealed by ultraviolet fluorescence would be impossible to obtain by any other means than direct contact between a body and the linen.” (Dr. Sam Pellicori)
1. HISTORICAL CHRONOLOGY
What's it all about?
Was the Shroud image the original image upon which all Byzantine icons were based? The icon pictured here is the Sinai Icon from the Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula. It was created around 550 AD and has numerous “points of congruence” to the Shroud image. It curiously was crafted only 25 years after the Image of Edessa was discovered in 525AD. The field of Iconography suggests that the Shroud Image was the “Image not made by hands” from which all icons drew their inspiration. Was that inspiration what we know today as The Shroud of Turin?
Looking at Recorded History
Now let us fast-forward to France in the Middle Ages for now because that is where the fully documented and continuous history of the Shroud begins. But there is more to the story on the Shroud’s probable history. We’ll get to that later.
1353: The Shroud’s fully documented history began in Western Europe when it was revealed by Geoffrey DeCharney in Lirey, France.
1452: DeCharney’s granddaughter sold the cloth to the Duke of Savoy in exchange for two castles. It remained in the Savoy family until 1982 when it was officially willed to the Catholic church although it had custodial care of the Shroud for centuries.
1532: The burial linen was severely damaged by fire in Chambery, France. Thought to be arson the very security measures in place to protect it from theft thwarted the Shroud’s rescue until it was too late to prevent severe damage. Theories about the fire somehow altering the carbon date of the cloth have proven to be erroneous. More on that later.
1534: The Shroud was repaired by the Poor Claire Nuns who were skilled in making textile repairs. The holes from the fire were patched and the entire cloth was attached to a backing cloth for support. This repair now looms large as the carbon dating tests of 1988 are called into question as having dated a medieval reweave rather than the original cloth of the Shroud. This now is the most credible explanation as to what the labs dated and why they were wrong.
1578: The cloth was moved to Turin, Italy for safe keeping and remains there until this day. It is kept in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and is only brought out for public display on rare occasions. The next public exhibition will be held in 2015.
The history of the Shroud prior to 1353 is not fully documented, but a significant historical trail allows for the following reconstruction of the cloth’s early history.
70AD: Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire. The “Legend of King Abgar” suggests the Shroud was taken to Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey) sometime prior to this date. The King was miraculously healed of leprosy after gazing upon a mysterious image and converted to Christianity. The first church outside the Holy Land was reported to have been built in Edessa in the early second century. Later that century persecutions would sweep the Roman Empire. The mysterious cloth would be hidden away inside the fortified wall surrounding the city and forgotten for 300 years.
525: A severe flood destroyed most of Edessa. During the rebuilding of the walls, a metal box containing the mysterious cloth was rediscovered. By this time the Emporer Constantine had declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire (330AD). It was safe to reveal the image without fear of the persecutions. It became known throughout the Byzantine world as “The Image of Edessa” and later was called the “Mandylion”. It was described as “The true likeness of Christ, not made by human hands.”
944: The Byzantine Imperial Army invaded Edessa for the express reason of retrieving the cloth from the city which had fallen to Islam. In exchange for gold and 200 prisoners of war, the cloth was delivered to the army without a fight. It was taken to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and presented to the Emperor. August 16th of 944, with great ceremony, the cloth was draped over the Emperor’s throne and crowned with his crown. The sermon that night was delivered by Gregory the Arch Deacon of the Hagia Sophia, the great cathedral. In that sermon he points to both the face and side wound of the image declaring it to be that of Christ.
1204: Constantinople was invaded by the Fourth Crusade. After laying siege to the city for two years, they finally breached the walls and ended up burning down nearly half the city. In the carnage nearly everything of value was stolen. All the silver and gold were taken by the Venetians who had funded the campaign but the French desired the “relics of the saints” and, according to a letter to the pope written in 1205, “Most holy of all, the cloth in which our Lord was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection”. The Mandylion as it was then known had disappeared and most likely in the hands of the French.
1204 to 1353: One of several gaps in the history of the Shroud, evidence suggests it was secretly kept by the Knights Templars for safe keeping. The Templars offered protection for items of great value. They had castles all over France and Europe and specialized in offering safe passage to pilgrims making their way to he Holy Land. They would a small army of “warrior monks” to accompany the pilgrims on their trek by land or sea. Such protection came at a price and the Templars became wealthy with land, castles and gold. They had the means to keep the safe the booty stolen from Constantinople.
1307: It was in this year that the King of France conspired with the Pope to bring down the Templars. They had become too rich and too powerful. The King had borrowed heavily from them to finance his war with England. It was decided that the Pope would issue a decree to have all Templars arrested and their property confiscated. It was Friday the 13th, 1307 when over 15,000 Templars were arrested in France on the same day and thrown into prisons. As part of the French Inquisition, the Catholic Church’s crusade against heresy, they were all made to confess under torture to various heresies. One of those heresies was that they “worshiped” a mysterious image.
Two leaders of the Templars, Geoffrey DeCharney and Jacques DeMolay were burned at the stake for their “heresy”.
1353: The Shroud is revealed in public for the first time at a small collegiate church in Lirey, France. Who owns it? None other than Geoffrey DeCharney. A coincidence? Not likely. Although how the Shroud came into his hands is not completely known, he was obviously a descendant to the Geoffrey DeCharney who was burned at the stake less than 50 years prior.
It is from this point that the history of the Shroud is without dispute. Did the Templars have it? We can only speculate. Was it the same cloth as the Mandylion that disappeared in 1204? It sure sounds like it from descriptions. Was it the same cloth that was revealed in 525 and heralded as the “True Likeness of Christ”? Was it the same image that was delivered to King Abgar in the First Century which brought about his healing of leprosy?
We cannot answer these questions with absolute certainty, but only with probability. The pollen trail confirms this same historical trail. The evidence from Iconography also confirms it. Other evidence indicates its origin in Israel, its manufacture in the Middle East, and its correlation with other Jewish burial shrouds and burial practices.
The enemies of the Church will always want to cast doubt and skepticism over the miracles that God performs in His Church. That is something that we must always take into account. Miracles like those of Lourdes have always been questioned, doubted and even ridiculed. Some even doubt the Resurrection itself; and among them, sadly, we even find modern Catholic clergy!
2. SCIENTIFIC CHRONOLOGY
1898: The Shroud was photographed for the first time by Secondo Pia. These first pictures led to the discovery that the image on the cloth is actually a negative. In other words, the image becomes positive only when the light values are reversed in a photographic negative. This discovery startled the scientific community and stimulated worldwide interest.
1931: Guisseppe Enrie photographed the Shroud again with more advanced film technology confirming that the Shroud is indeed a negative image. Copies of Enrie’s photos were circulated throughout the world prompting more scientific inquiry and interest.
1950: Dr. Pierre Barbet, a prominent French Surgeon, published his landmark book, A Doctor at Calvary documenting 15 years of medical research on the Shroud image. He described the physiology and pathology of the man on the Shroud as “anatomically perfect”.
1973: Max Frei, a noted Swiss criminologist, was given permission to take dust samples from the Shroud which contained pollen. He discovered 22 pollen species from plants that are unique to areas around Constantinople and Edessa, and 7 pollen species from plants common mostly to the Middle East. The pollen trail confirmed the historical trail.
1975: Air Force scientists John Jackson and Eric Jumper, using a sophisticated image enhancement analyzer (VP-8) designed for the space program, discovered the Shroud image contained encoded 3-D data not found in ordinary reflected light photographs. This discovery indicated that the cloth must have wrapped a real human figure at the time the image was formed.
1978: The Shroud was on public exhibit for the first time since 1933 and was displayed for six weeks. Over 3 million people passed through the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to view it behind bullet proof glass. At the close of the exhibition, 40 scientists comprising the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), mostly from the United States, analyzed the Shroud for five continuous days (122 hours) working in shifts around the clock.
1980: In June, National Geographic magazine published a landmark article on the Shroud further propelling the cloth into a science superstar calling it “One of the most perplexing enigmas of modern times”.
1980: This same year, microscopist Walter McCrone who was not part of the Shroud Project was given several fibers to analyze. After finding iron oxide particles and a single particle of vermillion paint, he broke ranks with the Shroud scientists who had agreed to make all findings public the following year. McCrone proposed that the Shroud was a painting of red ochre paint created from iron oxide particles suspended in a thin binder solution. However McCrone’s findings in no way agreed with any of the highly sophisticated tests conducted by two dozen other scientists. McCrone jumped the gun for the sake of getting his own publicity. His claims have all been dismissed.
1981: After three years analyzing the data The Shroud of Turn Research Project (STURP) made their findings public at an international conference in New London, CT. All the scientists agreed upon the following statement: “We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and give a positive test for serum albumin.”
1988: The Shroud was carbon dated by three laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona. They indcated a date range from between 1260 to 1390 making the cloth only about 700 years old. This earth shattering news seemed to contradict the conclusions of STURP which gave support to the Shroud’s possible authenticity. This new data posed a great dilemma for proponents of the Shroud and further complicates an explanation for the Shroud’s existence.
The Shroud cannot be explained in a medieval context because it demonstrates medical knowledge and artistic expertise unknown until centuries later. If it was not made by an artist then what is it? Was it a custom crucifixion performed to mimic that of Jesus? Knowledge of Roman crucifixion practices was totally unknown in the Middle Ages. There are dozens of reasons why a medieval date doesn’t fit the evidence.
1997: Noted Israeli Botanist and a professor at Hebrew University, Avinoam Danin confirmed Dr. Alan Whanger’s discovery of flower images on the Shroud. He also verified that several pollen were from plants that grow only around Jerusalem.
2000: Shroud researchers Joseph Marino and Sue Benford present a landmark paper at an international conference in Ovieto, Italy. Their paper would present initial evidence that the area of the Shroud cut for carbon dating in 1988 was actually a medieval reweave.
2002: The Shroud was secretly restored amidst much controversy. All the burns and patches were removed. The shroud was attached to a new backing cloth as well. Most researchers feel the restoration was unnecessary and that much important data will be lost to future researchers. .
2004: Redeeming what may have been lost during the restoration, textile expert Mechthild Flury-Lemberg revealed that the seam on the Shroud that runs the entire length known as the side strip is typical of burial Shrouds found in Masada. This further supports the Shroud’s ancient origin.
2004: Another result of the restoration was the discovery of the Shroud’s double face image. Italian scientists, Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolio of Padova University were able to analyze scans of the backside of the Shroud after it was removed from the backing cloth. This had never been done before. The previous backing cloth had been attached since 1534 as part of the restoration following the fire of 1532. Examining the scans revealed faint superficial images of the face and hands. The image occurs only on the top surface of the fibers, similar to the front side of the Shroud but there is no coloring of the threads in between. This enhances the mystery of image formation and makes it that much more difficult to ascribe the Shroud to the work of an artist.
2004: Thermal Chemist, Dr. Raymond Rogers, retired Fellow with the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory proves using samples from the area cut for carbon 14 dating and samples from the main body of the Shroud that the sample cut in 1988 for C-14 dating was in fact a medieval reweave confirming Marino and Benford’s hypothesis presented in 2000.
Rogers also determined the evidence of a madder root dye used to blend in the color of newer threads with the more yellowed threads of the original Shroud. He also found cotton in the C-14 sample but not from the main body of the Shroud indicating both cotton and flax were used in the repair.
Lastly and most importantly, he found that 37% of the vanillin remained intact in the lignon from the C-14 fibers whereas the vanillin content from the main body of the Shroud had decayed to 0%, similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Not only does this new evidence show that the carbon dating tests were severely flawed by dating an erroneous sample, but that the evidence also shows the main body of the Shroud is much older as indicated by the lack of vanillin.
This critical research is precisely the kind of micro-chemical analysis the carbon dating labs were supposed to do in 1988, prior to taking the sample according to the original protocol, but failed to follow.
The carbon dating tests of 1988 have been thoroughly and completely invalidated by good science rather than the shoddy and arrogant effort demonstrated by the carbon labs in 1988. The cloud has been lifted.