The Latest on the Shroud of Turin

The link below addresses new evidence suggesting that the Shroud of Turin may be the real deal: the burial clothe of Jesus!

I don’t take any particular position on the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. If some day incontrovertible evidence is produced that proves the Shroud could not possibly be the burial clothe of Jesus, so be it. Like the author of this column, my faith is not in the Shroud of Turin, but in the Resurrection of our Lord and the grace of God that has moved so powerfully in my life.

Even still …

It seems to me that skeptics have a lot to answer. Simply pointing to the carbon-14 tests that were done in 1987 isn’t enough. Even if we can have confidence in the medieval dating recommended by that testing, there are so many questions about the Shroud that have yet to be answered.

For instance, we know that the image is not a painting. That is conclusive. There are no known methods of painting that could produce such an image and, furthermore, there’s no evidence of any paints on the shroud. We know that the image is a photographic negative. Paintings can’t produce that effect. Neither can paintings capture 3D imaging, which the Shroud possesses. What is more, the image only appears on the upper third of the fibers of the Shroud. Paint or, for that matter, any other material applied to the Shroud would have been absorbed all the way through the depth of the fibers.

The image cannot be seen but from a distance of several feet. The closer you approach the Shroud, the more faint the image appears, until it eventually disappears from eyesight. Anyone who applied material to the Shroud to create the image would have had to have done so from several feet away. Any closer, and whatever artist applied the image would have been working blind. Given the perfect proportions of the image, this is impossible.

All efforts to re-produce an image similar to that on the Shroud have failed. While some have succeeded in creating very interesting results, none have come close to achieving the kind of image the Shroud holds: a photographic negative with 3D imaging that descends only to the very tips of the fibers.

The current consensus seems to be that the image was produced by a magnificent burst of energy, unlike anything reproducible by modern techniques. But, what kind of burst of energy is capable of producing such an image while not destroying the shroud itself?

As of yet, there simply is no explanation for the image on the Shroud. Even those who accept the dating recommended by the 1987 carbon-14 testing must concede this. We still have no empirical evidence to support an explanation of the image on the Shroud consistent with what humans were capable of creating in the Middle Ages, or even what humans are capable of creating today.

This is why investigations of the Shroud need to continue. It would be wonderful to be able to say that the sciences have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Shroud of Turin is, indeed, the burial clothe of Jesus. This will never happen. It isn’t possible for the sciences to come to that conclusion. The best we can hope for is a preponderance of evidence pointing to Jesus. Of that, I’m hopeful. I’m also hopeful that a firm confirmation of the dating of the Shroud will be achieved. We can certainly count on ever new theories being proposed, considered and tested on how the image was produced. This is a good thing. What is most likely to happen is more evidence that raises still more questions.

One final thought: It’s always bothered me that those who don’t accept the Shroud of Turin as the burial clothe of Jesus are in the habit of referring to it as a “fraud.” This suggests only two possibilities: that the Shroud is the actual burial clothe of Jesus, or that the Shroud is the work of a huckster out to make a buck by fooling everyone into thinking the Shroud is genuine and cashing in on their devotion or natural curiosity.

The scenario that never seems to be considered is that the Shroud, if it is proven not to be the burial clothe of Jesus, is the work of one or many who desired nothing more than to create a marvelous work of devotion to our Lord. In that case, the Shroud is more like the priceless Pieta than a worthless forgery. If that’s the case, I think they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. For, if nothing else, the Shroud reminds us of the great sacrifice made for the sake of our salvation by our Lord Jesus,

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”     Philippians 2:6-11

As for now, the mystery continues!

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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