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Jubilee exhibition of the Shroud of Turin has closed after the longest public exhibition of the artifact in this century. During the 10 weeks that the ancient linen, carrying a mysterious image of a crucified man, has been on display in Turin, Italy, millions of believers and skeptics alike have gazed on the tortured figure that some claim is Jesus of Nazareth.
Scientific debate over the authenticity of the Shroud continues amid new reports of the carbon-14 confirmation on the relics of St. Luke the Evangelist in Padua, Italy.
At the heart of the Shroud controversy is the validity of the carbon dating performed on three samples snipped from the Shroud in April 1988. The samples were taken from the front foot area of the14-foot-long linen, on which the faint image is laid out in a head to head, dorsal and frontal view. Three international laboratories were selected to run the newly refined accelerated mass spectrometry (AMS) method of carbon dating: Oxford University’s Research Laboratory for Archeology and the History of Art, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona at Tucson. On Oct. 13,1988, the long-awaited press conference revealed that all three labs concurred: The Shroud was dated 1260-1390 AD.
Many in the academic and scientific community were stunned. Earlier scientific examinations, medical and historical studies had placed the Shroud in the first century. Some called into question the integrity of the samples — had they been cut from an area charred during a fire in 1532, thus compromising the carbon testing? Others even questioned whether there were hidden motives among the lab researchers — after all, the dates were suspiciously close to the historical date when the revered linen was first discovered in Europe during the 1350s in the sleepy hamlet of Lirey, France.
In the decade since that carbon dating threw Shroud research into a new whirl of studies, additional evidence now calls into question the process of carbon dating on certain materials — textiles in particular.
A fascinating finding comes from Dr. Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes of the University of Texas. The author of
“The DNA of God,” Garza-Valdes notes that a biopolymer coating manufactured by bacteria and fungus is notoriously difficult to clean. This calcium carbonate varnish-like substance compromises any accurate dating of the linen fibers that are coated with the material. Garza-Valdes claims the coating continues to be produced on the surface of the Shroud. Some scientists have objected to his findings, although the inventor of AMS, Dr. Harry Gove, concurs.
Those researchers whose own disciplines point to the Shroud as an authentic artifact of the first century call into question a near religious fervor for the accuracy of carbon dating. Famous and often hilarious examples are cited that credibly argue that carbon dating may be among the least accurate methodologies for assessing the age of the Shroud.
An example comes from the Swiss lab that participated in the carbon-14 dating on the Shroud. Dr. Wolfli, head of the lab, ran a C-14 test on his mother-in-law’s 50-year-old tablecloth. The results of the C-14 test set the age of the textile at 350 years old! Dr. Wolfli theorizes that soaps were the compromising factor. The University of Arizona lab has had its own C-14 gaffs. It dated a Viking horn as a “back to the future” anomaly: 2006 AD.
Dating debates aside, some that would debunk the Shroud as a medieval fraud claim that it is a painted image — a claim that is quickly dispatched by simple investigations. The mystery of how the Shroud image was created lies elsewhere. The reddish oxide found on the Shroud is not paint, according to x-ray fluorescent analysis. Famous artists have attempted to paint in a manner that re-creates the 3-D effect seen on the Shroud, all to no avail. The linen has no brush strokes, no pigments.
Furthermore, forensic evidence confirms that the red stains are blood, type AB, and that this blood has elevated levels of bilirubin, presumably caused by the trauma of scourging. Drs. John Heller of the New England Institute and Alan Adler of Western Connecticut State ran a series of blood studies. Pathologists employing immunochemistry confirmed their work.
Modern medical investigations yield a vast amount of physiological information that was unknown in the Middle Ages. The medical studies on the image of the “Man of the Shroud” reveal a bloody and brutal death. Careful review of the angles of the flow of blood from certain wounds indicates an impossible accuracy for a painted, flat image. Clearly, the image is derived from a real body. Enhanced magnifications of the wounds on the back uncover dumb-bell shaped pellet marks, consistent with the scourging whips used by Roman soldiers, wounds that fall in precise relationship to the contours of the body, over the shoulders and around the sides.
Most startling for a layman is the anatomical accuracy of the “disappearing thumbs.” On the Shroud image, the victim lies with his hands crossed over the lower abdomen. The natural position would expose at least one thumb. However, when a spike is driven through median nerve of the wrist the thumb jerks back into the palm. French surgeon Pierre Barbet, an early researcher, asks, “Could a forger have imagined this?”
Some skeptics have argued from the scriptures that the Shroud cannot be that of Jesus of Nazareth because the linen is not typical of the burial cloths used in first century Jewish custom. The gospel of John, in describing Lazarus, says, “The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings … ” (John 11:44). However, the gospels indicate that Joseph of Arimathea “took the body down, wrapped it in a linen sheet … the Sabbath was about to begin. … The women … went back home and prepared the spices for the body” (Luke 243: 53-56). Exegetes point out that because the Sabbath was upon them, the body of Jesus was not finished according to custom, which is why Mary Magdalene returned early on Sunday (Luke 24:1) — to dress the body according to custom.
Believers point to St.Luke himself, confirming from the grave as it were, that some mysteries of faith have been left to the modern secular era. The relics of the Greek physician, Luke, have been reposing in the Basilica of St. Justina in Padua, Italy. The body of the evangelist was taken to Constantinople during reign of the emperor Constantius in the fourth century. Crusaders are credited with moving the relics to Padua.
Archbishop Antonio Malttiazzo of Padua commissioned a study of the remains of the skeleton two years ago. In a report released this week, scientists and historians, geneticists and biologists, assembled in Padua at an international congress on St. Luke to review their findings.
“Science, of course, will not be able to tell us with absolute certainty about its credibility,” the secretary-general of the congress, Father Gianandrea di Donna, remarked. “However, we can say that the results obtained, thanks to this scientific study, do not deny the secular tradition regarding the saint’s remains,” he said.
The scientists’ carbon-14 testing dated the skeleton to the first century of the Christian era.
Mary Jo Anderson is a contributing reporter to WorldNetDaily.