Faith + science = a shroud of mystery

It is being reported that physics Professor John Jackson of the University of Colorado, one of the leading experts on the famed Shroud of Turin, has convinced the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit to retest the Shroud under the assumption that exposure to carbon monoxide skewed the carbon dating results. The Oxford lab previously conducted carbon dating analysis of the Shroud, placing it in the 13th or 14th Century. Jackson’s theory is that exposure to CO could throw off the analysis by as much as 1300 years, placing the Shroud at least in the same century as Jesus.

Of course, even the Vatican, who possesses the Shroud, has not claimed it to be authentic. Still, they are quite protective of it, keeping it locked away in a protective case, as is done with other ancient relics and books. The Shroud has never been foundational for faith; the Bible, of course, mentions the grave clothes, but only that they were left folded in the tomb. And, I doubt that proving its age will prove its authenticity; there’s simply no way to know for sure, even though circumstantially the evidence is certainly compelling.

There are a number of reasons to believe that the Shroud dates to the 1st Century, or at least is much older than the Oxford lab concluded, as stated yesterday by

Their evidence suggests the shroud is as old as Christianity.

Forensic data shows the blood stains on the shroud are real. Jackson said blood stained the cloth before the body image appeared. This rules out scorching the cloth to produce the image because the blood was not degraded by heat.

Forensic experts have documented that stains around the head are consistent with punctures by thorns. The scourge marks on the back are consistent with those made by a Roman whip called a flagrum.

A large puncture wound to the man’s side is consistent in shape and size with a Roman spear of the era.

While medieval paintings and Christian iconography portray Jesus nailed to the cross through his palms and the front of the feet, archeologists have found the bones of a Roman crucifixion victim nailed through the wrists and heels.

The shroud is consistent with the archeological find and not centuries of artwork.

In 2002, renown textile restorer Mechthild Flury-Lemberg went to Turin to help preserve the shroud and found a style of stitching she had only seen once before — in the ruins of Masada, a Jewish settlement destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 74.

The cloth’s herringbone weave, while common in the 1st Century, was rare in the Middle Ages, she said.

Then, too, there are mysterious historical references. Some connect the shroud to what is know as the Image of Edessa (a city in Northern Mesopotamia), which is first referenced in the 6th century as at least the image of the face of Jesus. There is supposedly an Arab legend that the burial shroud of Jesus was thrown into a well encompassed in the Mosque when the city was overthrown in 609. Then, story has it that the shroud was exchanged for some Muslim prisoners in 944, and taken to Constantinople. When the Crusaders sacked Constantinople in 1204, the Shroud was taken with other relics to Western Europe. Draper also wrote:

Genealogical and literary researcher Alexei Lidov found that the Shroud of Turin’s former owner, de Charny, was married to a direct descendant of a French crusader who sacked Constantinople.

The Shroud of Turin also has been linked to the Sudarium, a face covering touted as another burial cloth of Jesus. The Sudarium has been on display in Oviedo, Spain, since the mid-600s.

When researcher Mark Guscin compared the blood stains on the Sudarium and the Shroud of Turin, by laying one over the other, he found a match.

We may never know if any of these connections is valid, but they are certainly interesting. And, as long as mysteries like these exist, there will be plenty of material for novels and adventure movies. However, as an “article of faith,” I find the Shroud of little value. If Jesus didn’t find it valuable enough to take with him when he left the tomb, why should I care about it now?

2 thoughts on “Faith + science = a shroud of mystery”

  1. I had wondered about that, too, but apparently the Jews didn’t mummy-wrap people, as the Egyptians did. Assuming they could afford to bury them in the first place, they’d drape the bodies in cloth & spices, then after a couple of years the bones were removed and put in ossuaries, as they used less space. Then there’d be room to lay out more bodies. That’s why it’s mentioned in three of the Gospels that this was a new tomb- otherwise there could have been other bodies, or at least ossuaries, in there as well.

  2. The thing I always found troublesome about the shroud was that the image is an overlay of person as if the cloth were laid on top of the body, rather than wrapped around a body.

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