Magazine article The New American

Is the Shroud of Turin Authentic? Believers Have Long Maintained That the Shroud of Turin Is the Burial Cloth of Jesus, While Others, Including Scientists, Concluded It Was a Hoax. but What Does Modern Science Say?

Magazine article The New American

Is the Shroud of Turin Authentic? Believers Have Long Maintained That the Shroud of Turin Is the Burial Cloth of Jesus, While Others, Including Scientists, Concluded It Was a Hoax. but What Does Modern Science Say?

Article excerpt

After a 10-year hiatus in public viewing, the Shroud of Turin is being displayed once again (April 10 to May 23) at the cathedral in Turin, Italy.

The 14-foot-long, 4-foot wide, linen fabric with the image of a naked, bloody, bearded man is regarded by millions of Christians to be the burial cloth that covered the body of Jesus Christ in the tomb after his crucifixion. The image of the Man in the Shroud, they believe, was miraculously formed. Skeptics claim it is a medieval forgery, and longstanding arguments about it are again being raised in the media.

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During the 44 days it will be available for viewing, one million to two million people are expected to queue up to look at it. Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to view the shroud during a one-day visit to Turin.

To resolve the question--is it authentic or a hoax?--dozens of scientists and scholars have investigated the Shroud for decades. Only last year an Italian scientist announced that he had reproduced an image similar to the Shroud's by using conventional means--oven heating of a painted cloth. His claim was immediately and loudly disputed by other Shroud researchers.

Where do things now stand? On the basis of both scholarly and scientific research, the Shroud of Turin appears to be genuine. Here are facts provided by scientists and scholars.

Some Particulars

First, the provenance of the Shroud--its documented history of ownership--has now been completely established. There had been a gap of one and a half centuries, from 1204 to 1351 A.D. In 2009, the Vatican announced the discovery of a letter indicating the Knights Templar held the Shroud during that time. (That confirmed what many scholars had long thought was the case.) The discovery filled in the gap, giving an unbroken, documented history of the cloth. On that basis alone, it is enough to say with great certainty that the Shroud is not a hoax. But there is much more to support that view.

A carbon-14 test was performed on a sample of the Shroud in 1988 to determine its age. The test, widely publicized at the time, dated the Shroud between 1280 and 1430 A.D., which suggested that the Shroud was a medieval forgery. However, newer research discovered that the test used a cutting from the Shroud that is now recognized as a 16th-century ''patch" or "Invisible" repair--invisible to the naked eye but seen clearly under high magnification. The repair used cotton thread, which is found nowhere else in the Shroud. Nuns had performed the repair to a section of the cloth that had been damaged in a 15th-century fire. The carbon-14 test was performed upon a sample that included both new and original threads, thus yielding the apparently medieval origin. New chemical tests on samples from the original linen move the age of the Shroud back in time to the first century A.D.

Furthermore, the weaving of the linen Shroud is now recognized as consistent with the weaving of first century Palestine, but not 14th-century Europe. New research has also identified pollen grains on the Shroud that some experts claim could only have come from the vicinity of Jerusalem during March and April--Passover time--when such vegetation is in bloom.

For these and other research-based reasons, the cloth is said to be clearly established as an authentic first-century relic from the Near East.

The Creation of the Image

As for the image of the Man in the Shroud, research likewise indicates it is no hoax. The blood stains are real (type AB) and contain human male DNA. The man was about 5' 11" and weighed about 170 pounds. The Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), a group of scientists who began researching the Shroud in 1976, stated in its report: 'The actual image was created by a phenomenon (as yet unknown) or a momentous event that caused ... a sepia or straw-yellow colored image similar to that of a scorch." Moreover, the image was formed only on the topmost fibrils of the surface fibers touching the body or close to it; the scorch does not go below the surface of the cloth. …

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