Christ Burial Cloth the Shroud of Turin Bares New Scientific Evidence
Here we are again, same day different year, Good Friday 2013. You can mark this place in time on your calendar, especially if you’re a fan of the Shroud of Turin. The 14ft-long linen cloth, which clearly displays the face and body of a bearded man, has for centuries been associated as the burial cloth used to bury Christ’s body when he was lifted down from the cross, after being crucified 2,000 years ago. Now new experiments have allowed the Shroud of Turin to bare new scientific evidence, placing its origins closely around the first century.
Scientists or experiments, which ever it is, are said to have conducted test on the religious relic at the University of Padua in northern Italy. There conclusions suggest that the “shroud” of Turin dates back in time to between 300 B.C. and 400 A.D., a few centuries before or after the historic Christ lived.
Catholics, in overwhelming numbers worldwide, believed in the shroud’s authenticity since its first recorded discovery, arguably around 1353 or 1357.
Some scientific experts dispute the mid 14th century date simply because, physical proof of its existence was not documented until 1390, when its presence was discovered in Lirey France by Bishop Pierre d’Arcis. Pierre wrote a memorandum to Clement VII, claiming that the shroud was a forgery, as the artist had provided a complete confession.
Results of the latest test has been published in Giulio Fanti and Saverio Gaeta’s new book, titled, “Il Mistero della Sindone” or “The Mystery of the Shroud.”
Fanti is a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Gaeta is a professional journalist. Their tests have revived the debate over the true origins of one of Christianity’s most prized but mysterious relics.
According to their book, the two used infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – to analyse fibres from the shroud. The sacred cloth is kept in a special climate-controlled case in Turin, and has been their since 1578. They claim their study shows that the shroud is much older than previous tests had concluded.
Fanti and Gaeta’s findings fly in the face of scientific tests conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, which support Bishop Pierre d’Arcis theory that the shroud was a fake. These Independent tests were carried out in 1988 and concluded with confidence that the shroud’s material couldn’t have been older than 1260-1390 CE, and therefore it couldn’t have been associated with Christ’s burial.
Nevertheless, the 1988 results were disputed on the basis that they may have been skewed by a contamination of the fibres from cloth that was used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.
Mr Fanti, a Catholic, said his results were the fruit of 15 years of research.
He said the carbon-14 dating tests, carried out in 1988, were “false” because of laboratory contamination.
Now just in case you’re leaning towards embracing the 1988 laboratory findings in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, it’s fair to point out, “Lucy! You got some ‘splainin’ to do!,” because scientists have never been able to explain how the image of a man’s body, complete with nail wounds to his wrists and feet, pinpricks from thorns around his forehead and a spear wound to his chest, could have formed on the cloth. Mr Fanti said the imprint was caused by a blast of “exceptional radiation”, although he stopped short of describing it as a miracle.
Catholic Online, in opposition to Fanti suggest that previous samples, which were radiocarbon dated in 1988, were taken directly from the shroud in a documented manner by a textile expert from the British Museum and transferred in a “blind” fashion to no fewer than three laboratories—all selected for their expertise and impartiality. The tests also utilized swatches of ancient cloths of known dates as controls. In contrast, the new samples—only tiny fibers—allegedly came from the “shroud” in 1978 and were allegedly obtained from pro-shroud researcher Giovanni Riggi di Numana who died in 2008. If the samples cannot be legally certified as unquestionably authentic, they are inadmissible as scientific evidence.
But Fanti counters Catholic online’s claim, arguing that his tests backed up earlier results which claimed to have found on the shroud traces of dust and pollen which could only have come from the Holy Land.
The Vatican stands between these two sides of the coin. The Church in Rome has never said whether it believes the shroud to be authentic or a fake, although Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that the enigmatic image imprinted on the cloth “reminds us always” of Christ’s suffering. His newly-elected successor, Pope Francis, will provide an introduction when images of the shroud appear on television this Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection. Cesare Nosiglia, the Archbishop of Turin, who also has the title “pontifical custodian of the shroud,” has stated that “The display of the shroud on a day as special as Holy Saturday means that it represents a very important testimony to the Passion and the resurrection of the Lord.
In-spite of the upcoming Catholic Easter ceremony, Catholic Online is quick to point out that in the past, such pre-Easter claims—published first in the media instead of scientific journals—have been made by pro-shroud religious zealots, and they have often been proved to be scientifically dubious.
Moreover, Catholic Online argues that since the accuracy of the 1988 tests was confirmed by three laboratories who obtained dates in such close agreement, it’s like three arrows hitting a bullseye.
Nevertheless, Fonti and Gaeta were able to partially reproduce the doubly body image of the Shroud. Dozens of tests were conducted in 2010-2013 in the Laboratory of High Voltages of Padua University to explain the origin of the mysterious image. Their findings suggested, that presently, if we were to reproduce a similar image on a fabric in 1/2 scale, it would require a voltage of about 300,000 V. But according to the American scientist Igor Bensen, a voltage of 50,000,000 would be necessary for the Shroud body image in a 1/1 scale.
Fanti was also able to show, following robust statistical analyses in collaboration with the Universities of London (Anthony Atkinsons), Parma (Marco Riani) and Udine (Fabio Crosilla), that there were difference of more than 200 years between the laboratories of Arizona and Oxford in the response of carbon 14 dating on the Shroud.
A statistical model has highlighted the systematic tendency to change: if for a few centimeters of fabric there are differences in 200 years, it’s easy to think that there are thousands years of variations along the nearly 4.5 m of the Shroud.
Clearly, both Catholic Online and Fonti and Gaeta are entrenched in their beliefs. Their arguments have been well defined well supported and well documented. The only question that lingers, is which one do we believe; or which conclusion do we trust. I believe that if we allow logic to prevail, the answer to this question is quite simple. Happy Easter.