Shroud evidence delights believers and sceptics in turn

The 2D Shroud image transformed by 3D computer graphics

Weeks after posting a story about new three-dimensional imaging of the Shroud of Turin, Utterance continues to field search inquiries about the Shroud from around the world.

Fascination with this enigmatic cloth apparently never ends and no doubt has been heightened with the Shroud’s first public display in 10 years having just ended at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin.

Another factor is the quest for faith or unfaith as some seek in the Shroud evidence of Jesus’s reality while others continue the quest to disprove him.

While Christ’s reality does not hinge on the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin (there are many other historical evidences), it is still a powerful symbol of faith for millions of Christians and a ‘thorn in the flesh’ for secular atheists.

Two recent Shroud findings are split between supporters and detractors. 

Firstly for the detractors: a group of scientists known as the Italian Committee for Checking Claims on the Paranormal claim to have ‘reproduced’ the Shroud of Turin, saying the experiment proves the relic was man-made.

The Shroud of Turin bears the figure of a crucified man, complete with blood seeping out of nailed hands and feet, and believers say Christ’s image was recorded on the linen fibres at the time of his resurrection.

The scientists say they reproduced the shroud using materials and methods that were available in the 14th century, proving the relic was man-made.

The group said in a statement ‘this is further evidence the shroud is a medieval forgery. In 1988, scientists used radiocarbon dating to determine it was made in the 13th or 14th century.’

But the dispute continued because experts couldn’t explain how the faint brown discolouration was produced, imprinting on the cloth a negative image centuries before the invention of photography. Also, other serious explanations emerged, throwing the carbon dating process into doubt.

Still, lead scientist Luigi Garlaschelli said his experiment ‘clearly indicates that this [negative image] could be done with the use of inexpensive materials and with a quite simple procedure.”

Garlaschelli, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pavia, said in an interview with La Repubblica daily that his team used a linen woven with the same technique as the shroud and artificially aged by heating it in an oven and washing it with water.

The cloth was then placed on a student, who wore a mask to reproduce the face, and rubbed with red ochre, a well-known pigment at the time. The entire process took a week, La Repubblica said.

The shroud is first recorded in history around 1360 in the hands of a French knight – a late appearance that is one of the reasons why some scientists are sceptical of its authenticity.

Measuring 4 metres long and one metre wide, it has suffered severe damage during the centuries, including from fires.

Owned by the Vatican, it is kept locked in a special protective chamber in Turin’s cathedral and is rarely shown.

The Catholic Church makes no claims about the relic’s authenticity, but says it is a powerful symbol of Christ’s suffering.

And for the Shroud’s supporters: A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the Shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters.

A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio last year that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago.

She said that in 1978 a Latin professor in Milan noticed Aramaic writing on the shroud and in 1989 scholars discovered Hebrew characters that probably were portions of the phrase “The king of the Jews.”

Castex’s recent discovery of the word ‘found’ with another word next to it, which still has to be deciphered, ‘together may mean “because found” or “we found”,’ Frale said.

What is interesting, she said, is that it recalls a passage in the Gospel of St Luke, ‘We found this man misleading our people,’ which was what several Jewish leaders told Pontius Pilate when they asked him to condemn Jesus.

She said it would not be unusual for something to be written on a burial cloth in order to indicate the identity of the deceased.

The search and the debate continues. An even better place to search for Jesus is in your own reading of the New Testament. Timothy Keller’s Reason for God is also helpful for sceptics.PH

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