Is the Shroud of Turin a Genuine Miracle?
by Fr. Dwight Longenecker
In June I had the joy to spend a week in Italy. One reason for my pilgrimage was to venerate the Shroud of Turin. I had been intrigued by the supposed burial cloth of Christ since I was in college, and as I was in England leading a pilgrimage with Joseph Pearce, I did not want to miss the chance of traveling to Turin to see the shroud.
I was not disappointed. After taking the high-speed train from Rome, a decent restaurant and an overnight stay, we walked the few blocks from our hotel first thing in the morning to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. We hustled, crowd free down the pathways set up to accommodate the tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world who would, like us, have a few minutes to stand in silence before the famous, mysterious linen winding sheet of Christ.
After my visit I am more convinced than ever not only that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Christ, but that the mysterious image was produced by a blast of radiance from the resurrection. Those who wish to research the shroud can find scholarly and popular articles here and here. The most interesting thing about the shroud is the more scientific research is done the more the claims to authenticity accumulate. Not only is the image on the shroud that of a crucified man, but a particular crucified man.
He wore a crown of thorns. His legs were not broken. His face was punched. His side was pierced in a way consistent with a Roman spear. His back shows the marks of a severe flogging consistent with the flagellum used by the Romans. In other words, all the wounds match those not just of any crucified man, but those unique to Jesus of Nazareth.
Other details match in an extraordinary way. Fabric experts acknowledge that the particular linen cloth matches that used in the first century by wealthy individuals. The chemical traces on the cloth match the herbs and spices that were known to be used for Jewish burials in Roman times. Pollen from the shroud matches that present in Jerusalem in the first century. New scientific dating techniques counter the 1988 carbon 14 dating which identified a medieval date and they date the shroud to the first century.
Most mysterious is the image itself. In 1978 a team of American researchers were finally given access to the shroud. They ran a whole series of tests covering the range of scientific disciplines. Their analyses found no sign of artificial pigments and they concluded, “The Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist.” What formed the image? The scientists were stumped and admitted that “no combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances” could adequately account for the image.
So what formed the image? The best description is that it is an extremely delicate singe marking. Italian physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro concedes, in an April 2015 article for National Geographic, that every scientific attempt to replicate it in a lab has failed. “Its precise hue is highly unusual, and the color’s penetration into the fabric is extremely thin, less than 0.7 micrometers (0.000028 inches), one-thirtieth the diameter of an individual fiber in a single 200-fiber linen thread.”
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