By Father MieczysЕ‚aw Piotrowski TChr,
Love One Another! 1/2003 → The main topic
No one actually witnessed the moment of Christ’s resurrection. Before His body was laid in the tomb, it had been wrapped in a linen cloth, about thirteen and half feet long and four and a quarter feet wide. This burial shroud was also a kind of cover, sheet or napkin (sodara). The body was laid lengthwise along one half of it, while the other half covered the front of the body from the face to the feet.
Various specialists have been conducting meticulous scientific
research on the Shroud of Turin for over a century. Overwhelmingly,
this research points to its authenticity. As a result, the Holy
Shroud has become the world’s most famous Christian relic,
which continues to astound science by its “real life”
portrayal of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. According
to the scientists, the impression appearing on it was made by
the real body of a crucified man. The image of the body is a photographic
negative, while the bloodstains appear as a positive print. Having
survived the passage of time, the priceless relic is now preserved
in Turin, Italy.
J. Jackson and E. Jumper, two American physicists at the U.S.
Air Force Academy, discovered that the image on the Shroud is
three-dimensional. Repeated, detailed tests have confirmed that
modern science is unable to reproduce such an image. It is quite
beyond the skills of any sculptor. No paintbrush can produce such
an image, or any other technique for that matter. In fact, it
is not the work of man at all, for it bears no traces of directionality,
which characterizes every visual piece of art.
The impression on the Shroud is transparently yellowish in color,
which is difficult to explain since no traces of any pigments
or paints have been found. Only the surface of the fabric bears
the impress of the image. Of the more than 100 fibres constituting
the thread, only two or three at the surface are yellow-colored.
Thus, the image did not penetrate the cloth.
Efforts to remove the color from certain threads by applying
25 different laboratory paint removers and solvents have proved
ineffective. Thus it has been scientifically demonstrated that
the image is indelible.
Three-dimensional editing of the image has helped the scientists
to identify two small coins, which had been placed over the eyes
of the Man of the Shroud. Covering the right eye was the “lepton
lituus”, a coin minted between 29 and 33 A.D., in the time
of Pontius Pilate. Over the left eye was one minted in 29 A.D.
by Pilate in honor of Julia, Tiberius’ mother. Here, then,
is more evidence linking the Shroud to the time of Jesus Christ.
Coins placed over a dead person’s eyes reflect an old Jewish
There are many things about the Shroud that continue to astound
scientists. Even though it was used to wrap a body, the impress
on the cloth is completely flat. There is no deformation. In optical
terminology this would be called “parallel projection”.
Some scientists believe that this indelible photographic negative
of the crucified body resulted from a mysterious explosion of
energy inside the Shroud. Such an explosion could have been strong
enough to cause a sort of “searing” of the surface
of the cloth fibers (and thus an imprinting of the image) by infrared
energy or exposure to proton particles accelerated to approximately
1 Mega electron volt (this is the energy used by a proton particle
traveling between two poles with a potential difference of 1 million
Science is incapable of explaining just how the whole figure
of the body was stamped onto the cloth. For this reason, J. Jackson
observes: “Given the modern physical and chemical processes
known to us, there is every good reason to claim that the image
should never have happened, and yet it is real, even though we
are unable to explain how it happened.”
Scientific research has also ruled out the possibility of the
Shroud being a forgery. Only the corpse of a crucified man, a
Jew of the first century A.D., executed by Roman soldiers in exactly
the manner described in the Gospels, could possibly have created
this shocking photographic negative.
Thus, the scientific data support our belief that we are in possession
of Jesus Christ’s authentic burial cloth. K.E. Stevenson
and G.R. Habermas maintain that the probability of the body stamped
on the Shroud not being that of Jesus is 1 in 82,944,000. To better
explain this, they make use of the following analogy. Suppose
we have 82,944,000 one dollar bills placed side by side. The distance
covered would be three times as long as the distance between New
York and San Francisco. One of these banknotes bears a special
mark, and a blindfolded man can take only one stab at retrieving
it. The probability of his success is exactly 1 to 82,944,000.
Hence, we can conclude that the Shroud is indeed the burial cloth,
which was used to wrap the body of Jesus Christ. The conclusion
is borne out by strong scientific findings (see Verdetto sulla
Sindone. Brescia. 1982, p. 146).
Y. Delage is right in claiming that it is not only ideologically
minded people (i.e. those prone to “shelving their intellects”)
that find such arguments incontrovertible and compelling.
Experts in forensic medicine, applying the results of blood coagulation
processes to the study of the Shroud, have been able to conclude
that Jesus’ body was wrapped in the cloth about two and
a half hours after his death, and that he remained in it for about
36 hours. There are no traces of decomposition of the body. What
is more, the body could not have been removed from inside the
wrapping, since there are no traces of tearing, and the blood
clots remain intact. This cannot be scientifically explained or
replicated in the laboratory.
How could the body have passed through the linen without damaging
its structure? What made the mysterious impression of the body
on the Shroud? Only faith provides answers to these questions.
Our Christian faith tells us that all this took place at the moment
of the Resurrection.
In a homily given in Turin, John-Paul II said: “In line
with the findings of numerous scientists, we may consider the
Holy Shroud of Turin to be an exceptional witness of the Paschal
Event: the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is a silent yet telling witness!” (April 13, 1980).
Science discovers who the Man of the Shroud is, and faith leads
us to know Him. This most precious of relics provides us with
a graphic reminder that Christ really did suffer, die on the cross
and rise from the dead for our salvation. Can we be indifferent
in the face of such boundless love?
“To a believer – says John Paul
II – what is most important is that the Shroud provides
a mirror to the Gospels (...) By contemplating it, every sensitive
person experiences an inner movement of the heart and a deep shock
(...) the Shroud is truly an extraordinary sign, referring us
back to Jesus, the true Word of the Father, and calling upon us
to follow the example of Him, Who gave Himself up entirely for
us all (...)” (Turin, May 24, 1998).