Part of the image from the Shroud of Turin

The mystery of the Shroud of Turin, a 14-foot-long cloth that many thought may have been the burial cloth of Jesus until scientists reported radiocarbon dating established it as no older than Medieval times, is being resurrected.

John Jackson, a physics lecturer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, has convinced scientists who performed the age tests on the cloth housed in Turin, Italy, since the 1500s to consider his suggestion that those tests may have been faulty, according to a report in the Denver Post.

The cloth long has posed mysteries because of its age and its negative image of a bloodstained and battered man who had been crucified. Believers claim it to be the miraculous image of Jesus, formed as he rose from the dead.

That theory, however, took a serious blow in the late 1980s when scientists including those at an Oxford University laboratory performed the age-dating process on a fragment of the material and came up with the results that it was no older than the 13th or 14th century, more than a millennium after New Testament times.

But now Jackson, who runs the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado, a research organization, reports he has convinced Prof. Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, to test Jackson’s hypothesis that carbon monoxide contamination could have skewed the test results by more than 1,000 years, the Post said.

The new tests will not involve actual portions of the shroud, but similar samples of linen, and are to determine whether the various conditions to which the shroud has been exposed, including outdoor exhibitions and the extreme heat of a 1532 fire that left the material scorched, would have changed the results, the Post report said.

Jackson told the newspaper that even nominal contamination from environmental carbon monoxide could have affected the dating results.

“Science still has much to tell us about the shroud,” Jackson told the newspaper. “If we are dealing with the burial cloth of Christ, it is the witness to the birth of Christianity. But my faith doesn’t depend on that outcome.”

Ramsey said there simply are questions that need to be answered about the cloth.

David Rolfe, the director of a new documentary called “Shroud of Turin” told the newspaper that it either is authentic or a centuries-old hoax that today’s state-of-the art science cannot decipher.

The cloth is in the custody of the Vatican, which stores it in a protective chamber of inert gases in Turin’s Cathedral of St. John. History reveals it was exhibited in France about 1360 by Georrfrey de Charney, a French knight who owned it then. It last was shown in 2000.

Jackson led a research team in 1978 given access to the shroud and tests showed it was not painted, dyed or stained. The source of the faint brown discolorations that make up the negative image of a man never yet has been identified, he told the Post.

It wasn’t until the invention of photography centuries after the early exhibitions that a clearer positive image was revealed.

The original carbon dating at Oxford was duplicated at the same time in Zurich and at the University of Arizona in Tucson, officials said. Yet the newspaper reported Jackson has assembled evidence contradicting an age of only 800 years or so.

Among the findings he cites:

  • Bloodstains on the shroud are real, and the blood has not been degraded by heat.
  • Historians say the stains are consistent with crucifixion, including puncture wounds from thorns and scourge marks from a Roman whip.
  • A puncture wound in the man’s side is consistent with a Roman spear. And the wound marks showing nail holes through the wrists and heels are consistent with Roman crucifixion.
  • A textile restorer, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, in 2002 announced the stitching found in the material had been seen in material from only one other source: the ruins of Masada, a Jewish settlement destroyed in A.D. 74. And the herringbone weave was common in the First Century but rare in Middle Ages.

Further, the newspaper reported, historians note the shroud’s onetime owner, de Charney, was married to a direct descendant of a crusader from France who participated in the sacking of Constantinople.

On Jackson’s website, he also notes that tests have revealed pollens on the shroud from plants that grow only in the Middle East. He also addresses the carbon-dating issue.

“We presently think that the most fruitful avenue of research is that inspired by some scientists in Russia who have reported seeing major shifts in the radiocarbon date of linen samples that have been incubated at modest temperatures… This research is interesting because we know that the shroud endured a significant thermal event during a fire in 1532 while in Chambrey, France. The entire cloth has yellowed and in some places scorched and burnt.”

The research site continued, “Thus, based on the Russian studies, it is logical to suspect that the 1532 fire altered, perhaps significantly, the radiocarbon date of the shroud.”

WND reported in 2000 that evidence already was appearing calling into question the process of carbon dating on certain materials – textiles in particular.

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