from our archives:

Why the Shroud of Turin is real

by Michael H. Brown

       As we near the height of Holy Week, we are reminded of the controversies surrounding the Turin Shroud. Let's put them to rest: the shroud is real.

       I'm not going to get into a long argument here with so many dates and places that your eyes will glaze. Let's get right to the heart of the matter. The shroud is a length of linen with an image of a strong tall bearded man who looks very much like older paintings of Jesus (before artists began to modify them). It's in negative. Only when the camera was invented in the 19th century did the details of its features become clear. 

       While scientists debate a bunch of technicalities, an overwhelming fact stands out: No one can explain how the image got on a piece of cloth in the first place. Even with modern technology, it would be impossible to inflect such an image on imperfect fabric in a way that displayed no use of pigments or any type of artistic substance and left no distortion. You could not do the image with a laser without scientists detecting the technique. You couldn't do it any known way. The image is just there

        Only a single layer of fibers is affected in a way no one can discern.

       That overwhelming fact -- that no one in the world can explain the technique used to form the image -- is enough for most people. But let's take it a step further. Even if there was a way of inflecting the image in the way it was inflected, how could anyone have done it in negative, especially back in the Middle Ages?

       Those who dispute the Shroud would have us believe that back in medieval times someone forged this image and magically was able to do so in a way that anticipated the later invention (six hundred years later) of the camera. It is not a very convincing argument. They base such views on so-called radiocarbon dating that they say places the shroud's age in the Middle Ages, making it only 600 years or so old and not 2,000 and thus "proving" it could not have been what many claim, the burial cloth of Jesus. 

        The problem with the carbon dating, however, is that the shroud had been through two fires up to that point in its history, one of which scorched the linen itself. When something is in a fire it picks up carbon residues that skew radiocarbon dating. And radiocarbon dating is suspect to begin with. Scientists throw out a lot of dates for everything, but I've seen cases where such dating, at least with ancient fossils, has been off by thousands of years.

        Incredible are other tests that confirm authenticity by revealing that there are spores and pollen in the shroud, as well as images, that come from flowers and plants that are only found in Israel (despite skeptical claims that it was forged in Europe) and that furthermore only come from the vicinity of Jerusalem! The pollen of one plant, Zygophyllum dumosum, was especially significant because its northernmost extent is in the area of Jerusalem. In all more than two dozen of the species whose imprints were found on the shroud have been correlated with plants listed in Israel. "We discovered that there is one square of ten kilometers to a side that contains 70 percent of the species were were seeking -- and is located midway between Jerusalem and Jericho," says Israeli botanist Avinoam Danin of Hebrew University. "Another check determined that five of the five-kilometer-sided squares containing 27 of the 28 species are in the Jerusalem area."  

         Scientists scrutinizing the shroud are amazed at the precision of its detail, the way the wounds correspond exactly with the wounds of Christ, the indications of actual blood, the precision of how the bones were structured and the blood flowed, the exact portrayal of how a body would be after crucifixion, the spots indicating where the crown of thorns were, the marks on the back that precisely resemble what would happen with the type of implement used back then to scourge, and even the fact the computer-enhanced images of the eyes show they had been covered (as was the custom) with coins -- coins found to have the image of a ruler who reigned at that time.

       More scientific details can be found by clicking onto some of our shroud links on the front page of Spirit Daily, or by clicking on the image of the shroud itself. You can also find pilgrimages there; it will displayed until October 22. We could go on forever with details supporting authenticity. To me the bottom line is how I felt when I visited the Turin Cathedral in 1990. Although the shroud was not on display, it was in a chamber above the altar and as I approached the vault in which it was kept, I felt a tremendous force come upon me, one that pressed me to my knees on that hard marble and led me through the most perfect prayer of my life. I then spent 45 minutes reciting the Scriptural Rosary as a fantastic grace came upon me. No scientist could ever diminish that and I will never forget it. It was as powerful as visiting Lourdes or Medjugorje.

       A few years ago, there was another fire (Satan is always trying to destroy this greatest of relics), but a fireman heroically saved the shroud by breaking into the vault as flames roared around him. The fireman had been a nonbeliever but said he felt an incredible force as he was trying to save it. Something came upon him too. He is an atheist no longer. 

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