Shroud of Turin Research Paper

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Shroud Turin

Few pieces of cloth have garnered as much attention as the so-called Shroud of Turin, a piece of linen cloth allegedly containing the image of Jesus Christ. The shroud of Turin measures 4.4 meters in length and about one meter wide (about fourteen feet by three feet). Both the front and the back appear to have an image of a man "who had been scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified with nails, and stabbed by a lance in the side," (Fanti, Botella, Crosilla, Lattarulo, Svensson, Schneider and Whanger 1).[footnoteRef:1] Traces of blood, fire, and water have also been identified on the shroud (Fanti, et al.; Heller & Adler). Because of the way the imagery on the shroud corresponds with the Biblical story of Jesus of Nazareth, it has been speculated that the shroud was the burial cloth of Jesus before the body was put into a tomb. [1: Fanti, Botella, Crosilla, Lattarulo, Svensson, Schneider and Whanger. 1]

The first recorded mention of the shroud was in medieval Europe, in 1355, when it was found in Lirey, France by a former crusader named Geoffrey de Charny. In fact, the imagery of the man on the shroud seems to correspond with "some characteristics of the Christ reproduced in some Byzantine coins of the 7-13th century," suggesting that the shroud had been known about before the Middle Ages. There is a strong connection between the shroud of Turin and Turkey. According to a recent CBS report, a drawing from around 1190 found in Edessa, Turkey, as well as one found a century earlier in 944 in Constantinople, resemble the shroud ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:2] Moreover, a French knight working during the peak of the Christian crusades apparently "wrote about seeing such a cloth in Constantinople before the city was sacked," in the year 1204 ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:3] Geoffrey de Charny led the sacking of Constantiople and would have been able to bring it back to Lirey, France where it was first displayed in public ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:4] In 1578, the shroud was taken to Turin, and has remained in a cathedral in the Italian city since. [2: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin"] [3: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin"] [4: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin"]

Indeed, many have claimed that the Shroud of Turin was actually created in the Middle Ages and is not the burial cloth of Jesus Christ at all. Scientists studying the shroud in the 1980s ran radiocarbon testing and drew the controversial conclusion that the shroud could not have been the one used to wrap the corpse of Christ. NASA and the Smithsonian Institution conducted research using accelerator mass spectrometry in three separate laboratories in three distinct and blind trials using a control material for greater internal validity and accuracy. The researchers conclude unanimously that the tests offer "conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval," (Damon, Donahue and Gore, et al., 611)[footnoteRef:5]. The presumed date of the shroud's creation was placed between 1260 and 1390 ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:6] Proponents of the idea that the shroud was a genuine relic of Christ decried the research and demanded further inquiry. Some insisted that the NASA/Smithsonian trials were inherently flawed because the test was performed on a "patch" of the cloth that had been "added" or sewn on in the Middle Ages to repair the cloth after a fire damaged it (Milstein 1; Wilkes).[footnoteRef:7] [5: Damon, Donahue and Gore, et al., p. 611] [6: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").] [7: Milstein 1; Wilkes]

One of the claims made in favor of the shroud being "real" is related to the fact that the image on the shroud is not painted on but somehow imprinted like a photographic negative. In 1898, the first photographic images were taken of the shroud. Secondo Pia was the first to reveal that the shroud was actually a negative image itself. Given that the concept of negative imagery was not commonly known in medieval Europe, it seems unlikely that the creation of the shroud would have been as sophisticated as it is. In 1978, a group of researchers attempted to recreate a shroud just like the shroud of Turin, and they failed ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:8] [8: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin"]

Researchers working with the hypothesis that the shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus have suggested the image was created by "a chemical reaction between the decomposition products on the body and the carbohydrate deposits on the cloth," ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:9] In other words, the decomposition of the body creates a chemical reaction that can "burn" a piece of linen. If this were the case, then there should be more shrouds like it, of ordinary people as well as saviors. [9: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin"]

The presence of blood on the cloth has many Christian believers claiming that substantiates its authenticity. In 1980, "spectroscopic and chemical tests (conversion of heme to a porphyrin)," were used on the cloth and the researchers "identified the presence of blood in the alleged blood areas of the Shroud of Turin," (Heller & Adler, 1980).[footnoteRef:10] Art historians also point out the differences between representations of Christ in medieval painting and the presentation of Christ on the shroud. Unlike paintings of Christ crucified, which have been common throughout the history of art, the shroud shows a man who was crucified with nails penetrating the wrists. Paintings usually depict Jesus with nails through the palms of his hand, in the stigmata tradition. If the motif of the stigmata was prevalent during the Middle Ages, then it would make sense for a medieval artist to create the shroud in the same style. Moreover, the crucifixions would have been performed using nails through the wrists because the palms would not have held up the whole body (Wilcox).[footnoteRef:11] [10: Heller & Adler, 1980] [11: Wilcox]

Further research has lent a high degree of credibility to the claim that the cloth is not from medieval Europe but indeed, from the Levant. Pollen samples taken from the cloth correspond with pollen samples that are located in Jerusalem and Turkey, lending credence to the notion that the cloth was made in Palestine and traveled to Europe via Turkey during the Middle Ages ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:12] Similarly, a high definition image of the cloth allowed researchers and archaeologists to compare the stitching to stitching techniques used in ancient Israel; the stitching patterns are indeed the same ("Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin").[footnoteRef:13] Another set of data from 2009 completely contradicts the stitching finding. A burial shroud was unearthed in Jerusalem in 2009, tested and evaluated specifically with regards to how it would correspond with the shroud of Turin. The burial cloth found in 2009 was contemporary with the time of Christ. However, it has "a patchwork of simply woven linen and wool textiles," whereas the Shroud of Turin "is made of a single textile woven in a complex twill pattern, a type of cloth not known to have been available in the region until medieval times," (Milstein 1)[footnoteRef:14]. Added to that, burial shrouds themselves were very rarely used in ancient Jerusalem (Milstein)[footnoteRef:15]. [12: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin"] [13: "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin"] [14: Milstein 1] [15: Milstein]

One of the more outlandish studies on the shroud of Turin has Italian scientists claiming that "supernatural flashes of light," "something akin to ultraviolet lasers," or "a huge burst of energy accompanying the Resurrection of Christ" caused the image to be imprinted on the cloth (Wilkes 1).[footnoteRef:16] The scientists, using jargon not typical for their profession, suggest the possibility that "a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin," (cited by Wilkes 1).[footnoteRef:17] The electromagnetic wave theory is appealing for the pseudoscience set, because it adds a seemingly scientific dimension to what remains an untenable and supernatural hypothesis explaining the phenomenon of the shroud. As Wilcox puts it, such explanations "can sound more outlandish than the miracles" of Christ (xii)[footnoteRef:18]. [16: Wilkes 1] [17: Wilkes 1] [18: Wilcox xii]

Even the Vatican will not commit to saying whether the shroud actually belonged to Jesus, saying that regardless of whether it is real that "it helps to explore the 'darkest mysteries of faith,'" (cited by Wilkes 1)[footnoteRef:19]. The Vatican squarely accepted the NASA/Smithsonian report from the 1980s that stated the shroud was a medieval creation and not from ancient Jerusalem. Pope Benedict visited the shroud in 2010 and claimed "Pope Benedict called it "a burial cloth, which wrapped the body of a man crucified in…[continue]

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