In the next few weeks leading up to Easter Sunday you can expect to hear more news about the Shroud of Turin — a mysterious piece of linen that millions of Catholics and other Christians believe is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
It was during Holy Week last year when the Shroud of Turin generated headlines around the globe. That was a result of Italian scientist and renowned Shroud researcher Giulio Fanti releasing his book, The Mystery of the Shroud.
Fanti is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Padua in Italy. His 2013 research book scientifically debunked the infamous and controversial 1988 carbon-14 dating that supposedly “proved” the cloth only dated back to the Middle Ages — more specifically between the years 1260 and 1390.
Headlines such as: “Shroud of Turin is not a medieval forgery” were typical of what appeared across all media platforms especially on Good Friday, 2013.
Now in 2014, Professor Fanti has a new book (only in Italian at this moment) and the title translates into English as, Turin Shroud: First Century A.D.
According to the book’s press release, “The new dating methods are published in prestigious international journals and no one has yet pointed out methodological errors.”
This Shroud dating research project costing $75,000 (54,000 Euro) was funded by Padua University. The funding made it possible to “develop alternative methods of dating the Shroud based on mechanical and opto-chemical analyses after obvious calibration.”
Here is a more simple explanation of the dating methods if you are not a scientist.
The research examines the rate at which the microscopic fibers comprising linen cloth are known to decay.
Fanti studied ancient linen cloths of undisputed ages by chemically and mechanically observing the strength of their microscopic fibers. Then he compared the fiber’s rate of decay to linen known to be both older and younger than the fibers found on the Shroud of Turin.
The press releases states: “The results of these studies have produced dating all mutually compatible with a date of 33 BC with an uncertainty of plus or minus 250 years at a 95 percent confidence level.”
Since the generally accepted date of Christ’s crucifixion is 33 AD then this date range of 280 BC to 220 AD places the first part of the 1st century squarely in the middle.
That timing is also compatible with the fact that a “fine linen cloth” which was to become Christ’s burial shroud could have been produced and purchased by a ‘rich man” named Joseph of Arimathea according to the Gospel accounts in the New Testament.
If you are unfamiliar with the Shroud of Turin here is a brief “crash-course” so you can better understand why Fanti’s research is crucial, especially since his date range includes the time when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem.
The Shroud of Turin is the most sacred religious relic that exists in the world today. It is also the most studied, tested and analyzed due to a mysterious negative image of a man that appears on this 14.3 by 3.7 ft. linen cloth.
The full body image, both front and back, is that of a crucified man who was subjected to the horror of Roman crucifixion — well documented as a form of punishment during the time of Jesus.
The markings seen on the man in the cloth reveal those left by a crown of thorns, torture, scourging, nail puncture wounds of the hands/feet, bruised knees, and a side spear wound.
Is it a coincidence that every mark appearing on the man in the Shroud is consistent with the physical torments endured by Jesus Christ as described in the Bible Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John?
Additionally, the man in the Shroud does not have any broken bones. Not only was this mentioned in the Gospel accounts, but was prophesied in the Old Testament Book of Psalms, “He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” (Psalm 34:20)
The burial cloth (shroud) that wrapped the crucified body of Jesus is also mentioned in the Gospels after Christ was no longer in the tomb. These Scripture accounts make it easier for those of faith to believe that the cloth was left behind as proof of Christ’s resurrection on what is now called Easter Sunday.
Therefore, if the Shroud is scientifically proven to be Christ’s burial cloth then it would be the physical evidence of Jesus Christ’s resurrection which is the foundation of Christianity with or without any physical evidence.
That said, now you can understand why the Shroud of Turin is so controversial.
Today the Shroud is securely stored in an underground vault in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. It has been there since it was returned to Turin in 1946 after it had been removed in early 1939 to a more secure location during WWII.
The real reason given for the move as indicated by documents recently uncovered in 2010 was that Hitler was “obsessed” with the sacred relic and tried to steal the Shroud in 1943. Up until 2010, it was thought the Shroud was only moved due to potential Allied bombing of Turin. However, now we know that it was actually moved by Italian authorities more than a year before the bombing began in June of 1940 because they were wary of Hitler’s overzealous “interest” in the Shroud.
It has only been since 1983 that the Shroud has been owned by the current living pope. Wikipedia states: “The shroud remained the property of the House of Savoy until 1983, when it was given to the Holy See, the rule of the House of Savoy having ended in 1946.”
Pope Francis, by all indications is a proponent of the Shroud. Thus the cloth made its first ever, live television appearance on the Pope’s first Easter weekend in 2013. Also last year, keeping up with the times, the Shroud got an app on i-Tunes. (Shroud 2.0)
The Shroud’s last public display was in 2010 when it attracted over two million pilgrims. The next one is scheduled for 45 days in 2015 . Given Pope Francis’ popularity, interest in and ownership of the Shroud, even more believers are expected to visit Turin, Italy in 2015.
Here are some undisputed facts about the Shroud that have been proven by scientists.
Close up image of the man in Shroud showing what looks like marks from crown of thorns and scourging.
Pollen found on the Shroud cloth has been proven to be consistent with the types of plants and flowers known to have been in the area of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and used at Jewish funeral rites.
The weave of the cloth is also historically accurate for Jerusalem and the time period when Jesus is known to have lived.
There is human male blood on the Shroud and it is type AB. The blood penetrates the cloth as you would expect.
However, the blood on the cloth was there BEFORE the image of the crucified man. Moreover, the image of the man does not penetrate the cloth and was formed at a later time. “Blood first, image second” is a phrase familiar to Shroud researchers. Even more remarkable, is the man’s image can be scraped away with a razor blade because it sits on TOP of the cloth.
Scientists still do not know for sure what comprises the substance of the image. However, they all agree that paints, pigments, stains or dyes could NOT have left the image for any substance known to man would have penetrated or seeped into the cloth along with the blood.
Furthermore, and more baffling is the image of a crucified man is a photo negative and a “positive image” is only reflected when a photo is taken.
This astounding fact was discovered by an amateur photographer named Secondo Pia in 1898. Pia asked to photograph the Shroud using the “new technology” of photography and was shocked when he developed the film.
The last item in our “crash-course” comes from a 2012 study by the same Professor Fanti of Padua University. His study strongly suggested that the force which caused the man’s image to be imprinted on the cloth was radiation released in the form of an electrical discharge. In other words, a burst of light and energy.
Professor Fanti’s 2014 book also has some interesting new research about Byzantine coins bearing the actual face of Christ starting in 692 A.D. The press release states:
“It is evident that the first coins minted with the face of Christ by Emperor Justinian II, from 692 AD must have taken the Shroud as a reference model. (The coins are also six centuries older than the alleged date from the 1988 carbon-14 dating.”)
Now, since about 1995 I have developed a keen interest in the Shroud of Turin. Fortunately, I was one of those two million people who last saw it on display in 2010.
Then, as a result of first writing about the Shroud in July of 2012, I was contacted by Russ Breault who is one of the world’s experts on the Shroud and heads up the Shroud of Turin Education Project. Russ’s expertise lead him to be a consultant and appear on the History Channel’s 2010 mega-hit documentary The Real Face of Jesus? This intriguing documentary revealed a 3-D model of what the man in the Shroud might actually have looked like using “distance information” that appears on the Shroud itself.
That distance information, combined with 3D modeling and advanced relief mapping techniques developed by NASA, were all used to construct an actual face of the man in the Shroud.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Russ Breault knows the famous Professor Fanti. In fact, Russ appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America on Good Friday 2013 to explain Fanti’s breakthrough research that debunked the 1988 carbon-14 dating of the Shroud as a “Middle Age forgery” dominating the media during Easter weekend of last year.
At the same time, Russ personally explained Fanti’s research in my 2013 Easter Sunday Shroud piece that appeared on PJMedia.
Recently, Russ put me in touch with Fanti for the purpose of writing this piece. What follows is an unedited portion of Professor Fanti’s answer to my final email question, “Can you tell me any more about the Shroud?”
His answer, exclusively for my readers, beautifully summarizes the mindset of the world’s most well-known and highest regarded Shroud scientist.
From Professor Giulio Fanti of Padua, Italy to Myra Adams on March 13, 2014:
From my experience of more than 15 years on the Shroud I have understood that I have to separate as much as possible scientific aspects from religious ones. And this is what I always try to do.
Anyway there is a point at the end in which science and religion must face each other comparing their results. Well, in the case of the Shroud, as in many other cases like in biology, scientific results are perfectly compatible with the religious ones reported in the Gospels and in the Bible.
In addition scientific results add interesting information to the accounts of scourging as reported in the Gospels.
Therefore I can conclude from both the points of view.
From a scientific point of view, we see on the Shroud the signs, not reproducible up to now, of a man who suffered all the tortures described in the Gospels, who remained in that linen Sheet for no more than about 40 hours and that disappeared in a very particular way that can be explained if we think to a man who became mechanically transparent.
From a religious point of view, after 15 years of intense studies, I indeed am sure, I have recognized this Man with certainty: he is Jesus Christ who was resurrected from the dead and who left us on the Shroud his unique “photography” documenting all what He suffered for us but also indicating that there is a new Life after this life.
Finally, if you have any questions for Professor Fanti please leave them as comments and I will pass them along with his answer in the comments section at a later time.
Or, if there are enough questions, I will post a separate piece called, “ Ask Professor Fanti ” — for we know how professors love to answer questions from interested “students.”