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Silent Witness of the Resurrection

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 burial custom.

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 volts).

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).

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