The Shroud of Turin is possibly the most remarkable relic in human history. Presented as the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, it has been studied by some of the most respected scientists on the globe. An estimated one-quarter million hours have been put into its examination, not including the work of archeologists, historians, pathologists, botanists, and physicians working outside the main group.
Confirmation of the Gospels
What does the scientific evidence tell us about the Shroud?
We know that the man in the Shroud was a Jew approximately 5’9” in height, and that he was crucified. Judging from the clear abrasions left on his shoulders, we know that he probably carried a beam of nearly one hundred pounds. We know that he was scourged by two Roman soldiers using flagrums that left over one hundreds wounds on his front and back, and that he fell numerous times, leaving dirt and abrasions on his nose, knees, and feet.
The pollen and flower imprints on the Shroud tell us that he lived in Palestine, and that his crucifixion occurred in April or May. We know that he was beaten about the face and head, and that he sustained some thirty blood staining wounds, similar to what might have been left by a crown of thorns.
We know that a spike was driven through both feet and into the cross, and also through each of the wrists. We know that, like all crucifixion victims, it was impossible for him to exhale unless he repeatedly straightened himself upwards to release the stress on his arms, resulting in the image’s over-enlarged chest area.
We know that the man in the Shroud died, and that rigor mortis set in, while he was still on the cross. Contrary to other crucifixion victims, this man’s legs were not broken to stop his upward movements and hasten his death. We know that after his death, his side was pierced by something similar to a Roman lancet, and that blood and water flowed from this wound.
We know that this man was prepared hurriedly for burial by Jewish custom and placed in the Shroud in the Jewish manner. We know that he was allowed to be buried alone, (unusual for a Jewish crucifixion victim), rather than in a mass grave. Traces of limestone on the Shroud indicate that the body was probably placed in a limestone cave near Jerusalem.
We know that while the Shroud and body were in the cave the body did not decay, and that the body did not remain in the Shroud for more than 2-3 days. We know that the body was not manually moved from the Shroud, or the bloodstains would have smeared.
Yet within that time, the body in the Shroud vanished and in the process imprinted a 3-dimensional negative image in a manner never before created in human history.
Until very recently, the Shroud’s history was only partly known. It is now strongly suspected that an ancient picture of Christ, known as the “Mandylion,” or “Image of Edessa,” was actually the Shroud folded into eighths and placed in a rectangular frame showing only the head.
It is believed that Thaddeus, one of the apostles of Jesus, took the Mandylion to Edessa, (now Urfa, Turkey), and with it cured King Abgar between 13-50AD.
In 944 the Byzantines took it to Constantinople, where it was captured in the Fourth Crusade.
Accusations of fraud
Three different theories have the Shroud finally making its way to Livey, France sometime between 1204 and the 1350s, where for the first time it was displayed, full length, as the burial cloth of Jesus.
By 1578, the Shroud was sequestered in Turin by the Savoys, the first royal family of Italy, where it resides to this day. At the time, most men of science generally accepted that the Shroud was fraudulent, merely a painting.
The first glimmerings of scientific interest in the relic emerged in 1898 when Seconda Pia, a respected photographer of his time, was allowed to photograph the Shroud. Seen with the naked eye, the straw-yellow image on the Shroud lacks clarity and tends to blend into the background linen, especially when viewed close up.
The Shroud is a “negative!”
Upon developing his film, Pia, who had expected to see a negative, was startled to see a detailed positive image, and one so distinct that the crucified man’s features, posture and wounds were clearly visible. Since it is an accepted scientific principle that a negative of a negative always results in a positive, it became apparent that the body image seen with the unaided eye was itself a “negative.”
These developments undermined the idea that the Shroud image was the work of a medieval forger: photo-negativity was unknown before the 19th century.
A perfect contour map
Then, in 1976, a breakthrough occurred. Two scientists decided to process a photo of the Shroud with a VP-8 Image Analyzer, a device used in space probes to acquire accurate 3-dimensional images of celestial objects.
If the VP-8 is used on a normal photograph, or on a drawing by an artist versed in how the VP-8 works, the resulting image lacks true 3-dimensionality. To the scientists’ utter astonishment, the VP-8 image of the Shroud was a perfect, 3-dimensional rendering—a contour map of the body.
Respect for the Shroud deepens
Intrigued, the scientific community took action and in 1978 organized the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). Members of the team—world-renowned scientists, physicists, and pathologists from highly prestigious institutions—were given permission to examine the Shroud scientifically. For the first time in history there was unprecedented access to the relic.
Most scientists thought that, under this scrutiny, the cloth would not live up to its traditional claims. But as the 1980s progressed, and mountains of findings were published in scientific journals, respect for the Shroud deepened.
The researchers concluded that the Shroud was not a painting, vapograph, block print, or scorch. Nor was it an imprint of body heat or funeral anointing. It was not produced by the rubbing of dry compounds. Nor was it formed by any known means of draping a cloth over a human body, statue, or bas-relief.
It was found also that the Shroud image was imprinted only on the uppermost surface fibers of the threads in the fabric. Were the image a painting or drawing, the materials would have penetrated more deeply and caused the fibers to mat and bind.
Evidence from bloodstains
The analysis of the blood on the Shroud, its flows and staining characteristics, chemical composition, and anatomical positioning were all as they would have been on the crucified Jesus. The analysis showed that the blood was that of a human, that it flowed “downward” as it would on an upright cross victim, then “back-wards” as it would on someone later lain in a supine position, and that the stains were on the Shroud before the image was created.
STURP member John Heller expressed his own frustration and that of his fellow scientists when he stated, “If you were to give me a budget of $10 million, and told me to make a replica of [the Shroud], I would not know how to do it.”
Still, the image looks back at us. How did it get there?
The dematerialization of the body
Mark Antonacci, in his book, The Resurrection of the Shroud, puts forth his “Historically Consistent Method,” which comes closest to matching all the evidence gleaned thus far. A key component of this approach is the idea that the Shroud might have undergone something similar to “nuclear disintegration,” a theory first proposed by Dr. Kitty Little, a retired nuclear physicist.
According to her theory, the energy that held the atoms of the Shroud body together was somehow released, causing a dispersal of radiation and atomic particles (electrons, neutrons, protons, etc.) Some of these particles turned the linen fibers a straw yellow and created the image of the crucified man.
Little’s theory may account for another Shroud feature—its durability. The neutrons, electrons, and gamma rays would act as a kind of preservative, making the Shroud more supple and resilient. Researchers have found the Shroud to be in amazingly good condition.
Antonacci’s overall theory also seriously challenges the 1988 carbon-dating tests, which suggested that the Shroud dated to 1260-1380 AD. These findings are now repudiated by most scientists because of fatal errors in the testing process, and the use of a fabric sample contaminated by smoke, wax, and patching.
But objections to Antonacci’s “Historically Consistent Method” continue to be voiced, so the controversy continues. Perhaps the planet must move more fully into Dwapara Yuga before science will be capable of understanding exactly how the Shroud image came into existence.
Ken Atwell lives at Ananda Village and oversees the Village water system.
What Is a Miracle?
by Swami Kriyananda
What is a miracle? It is simply a phenomenon waiting to be explained. Television would have been a miracle to the people in medieval times. For that matter, the fact that it doesn’t seem miraculous to us now isn’t because most of us understand it. We accept it because it is commonplace.
There is no such thing, really, as a bona fide miracle. There are only different workings of cosmic law.
Science will never be able to trace the genesis of the universe to its ultimate source, for it is obliged by its own disciplines to approach reality from its periphery, not from its center. Creation, on the other hand, is like a living tree: It is a radiation outward from its center in Pure Consciousness.
The mysteries of cosmic creation can be solved only by people who, in deep meditation, succeed in penetrating to the core of their own being—which, they find, is the center of Being everywhere.