Like many archaeological findings, researchers disagree over authenticity, age and other matters of science. Jesus’ Holy Shroud is no exception. According to an October 24 Newser report, British historian Charles Freeman claims the Holy Shroud of Turin is not a hoax, but is likely not evidence of Jesus Christ’s burial cloth. Instead, he said based on carbon dating and historical records, the Turin Shroud containing the face of Jesus is likely a prop used during an Easter ceremony from medieval times.
One theory about the Turin Shroud is that it is merely a forgery, not physical evidence of a discarded cloth belonging to God’s Son found after the Resurrection. In 1988, a group of Italian scientists from Oxford University used C-14 dating methods and determined the linen cloth was only 728 years old, and could not be linked to the Biblical Messiah.
However, earlier this year, another group of researchers from Italy countered the previous claim from Oxford with new information on two fronts: An earthquake likely created the image of Jesus Christ on the Holy Shroud in AD33, but the violent forces from the temblor likely distorted resultant data from carbon dating. Professor Alberto Carpinteri, from the Politecnico di Torino weighed in on the new findings.
“We believe it is possible that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on the Shroud’s linen fibers, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and could also have caused a wrong radiocarbon dating.”
Freeman, author of Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe, looked at history to determine if there are traces or written accounts of the Shroud of Jesus prior to its discovery. His research involved delving into not only Christ’s purported burial cloth, but the history surrounding its discovery in the 1500s. Taken aback by the lack of research into the Holy Shroud, Freeman focused on areas beyond dating and instead looked at what wasn’t apparent.
Freeman said that most of the depictions of the Shroud of Turin from earlier times are absent today in the relic housed In Italy. His doubts of the current claims are based on a number of areas often overlooked or missed altogether.
One such piece that refutes the authenticity of the Holy Shroud of Turin involves the cloth itself. Freeman learned that the three-in-one herringbone weave was prominent during medieval times, and the loom needed for such intricate patterns wouldn’t have been created during Christ’s time.
Another suggestion is that the written record of Jesus’ entombment didn’t include a bloody Christ. Instead, when his body was prepared for burial, it was cleaned and free of blood residue. The staining and streaks on the shroud is not consistent with a body in a supine state.
And another critical piece of evidence that allegedly refutes the existence of the Christ Shroud involves paint. According to Freeman’s research, the image claimed to be Jesus, appears to have been painted on, not enmeshed from a decaying body. Research in 2005 concluded that the “blood” on the linen cloth did not contain potassium, a vital component of human blood. Pigments found were more consistent with rabbit-skin glue, which was used during the medieval period. Also, evidence of red ochre, used to depict blood in paintings, was found on the Holy Turin Shroud.
“There will be an exposition of the Shroud in Turin during the spring of 2015, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of St Don Bosco, ‘Father and Teacher of Youth’. Two million pilgrims are expected to visit this most elegant of Italian cities. The Catholic Church continues to offer the Shroud as the focus for meditation on the Passion of Christ and doubtless most of the faithful will be participating in this tradition of more than six centuries of veneration, which probably originated with the miracles associated with the Shroud in the 14th century. However, perhaps now they will be joined by those moved to see what may well be a rare survivor from the most joyous of the medieval liturgies, that commemorating the Resurrection of Christ at Easter. It will be a dramatic development in the fascinating history of this medieval linen cloth.”
It’s unknown how Christians and Catholic leaders at the Vatican will react to the latest news about the Holy Shroud. Nonetheless, Freeman’s research leaves room for further research and interpretation.