Shrouded in Mystery

by M-Rebeiro

The image on the left is what the human eye actually sees while the image on the right is a negative of a photo taken of the Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth that bears an image that is generally believed to be that of Jesus Christ. It’s name is derived from the fact that it has been kept in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy for more than 600 years. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all state that Jesus Christ was wrapped in a linen cloth before he was placed in a tomb after his crucifixion. Although many people believe in the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin the Catholic Church has never proclaimed it as fact. It’s historical origins are unsubstantiated and its recorded history can only be dated to the 14th century. Its mystery has made it one of the most studied and controversial funereal artifacts in human history.

The full shroud is a full-length, front and back view of a naked man with wounds consistent with the description of Jesus Christ’s death by crucifixion. Most details are only visible, surprisingly, as photographic negatives instead of on the cloth itself, which is especially strange since the cloth and the image originate long before the advent of photography that would make a negative image possible. It was not until 1898 when Seconda Pia, an Italian lawyer and amateur photographer, was allowed to take a picture of the shroud that it became famous. As he was developing the pictures he was shocked to see the clear picture of a man’s face in the reverse plate during the developing process that had been invisible to anyone viewing the shroud in person.

Tests on the shroud have been undertaken for many years especially in recent years as scientific testing methods have expanded. In 1998 radiocarbon dating tests were carried out on the shroud which placed its age between the years of 1260 and 1390 however other scientists have concluded that the samples used in the testing may not have been representative of the entire shroud as only a corner of the fabric was used. Textile experts have disagreed over the date of origin of the cloth. One expert says the weave of the cloth doesn’t match the era while another says a seam in the cloth is representative of the era. Dirt particles from the shroud have been matched to limestone particles from ancient tombs in Jerusalem and even the way the cloth was originally folded has been studied with reference to historical data.

Testing on the stains has confirmed that it is blood and type AB but scientists were unable to confirm whether the blood was from a man or woman or from what part of the world the person was from. Through digital image processing methods NASA researchers were able to uncover impressions left by two coins on the eyelids with markings that indicate the coins were minted in the years 29 and 30 under Pontius Pilate. Others have dismissed their findings saying that it was not a Jewish custom to put coins on a dead person’s eyes to keep them closed. Images of letters were also detected near the face on the shroud that translated mean “Jesus”, “Nazarene” and “you will go to death” although some linguists debate the translations.

The mystery of the shroud remains a topic of heated debate today, albeit one more highly scientific than the hearsay debates of the past. But all that anyone knows, after all the years of scientific testing is that the image on the Shroud of Turin cannot be completely explained nor reproduced by science.

Read more:

The Shroud of Turin Website

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