OK, I know, I know. You are saying “Here goes.” You saw the title and have now identified me as one of those people, the weirdos who always talk about the Shroud.
I hope to disappoint you. I am not a typical Shroud believer. Far from it. However, as I related in my previous post, my Christian friend Ray has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet, and I must now justify what I believe, or die trying. And, you see, Ray knows me very well. He knows that I have studied the issue of the Shroud deeply. So far, I have read a lot of books on the Shroud of Turin, as well as watched some video. All of this material falls into three categories:
- The rapidly Christian stuff, which is by and large useless and full of junk science. And example of this is The Shroud of Turin by Bob and Penny Lord. These books and videos are written from an entirely Christian perspective, and thus approach the Shroud from a position of faith. This is actually not helpful at all. The Shroud creates huge challenges to traditional Christian faith, as we will see later in this blog, and this approach entirely hides those insights.
- Some New Age stuff which is actually not too bad; at least it is grounded in science. It is pretty weird though. My favorite example is The Truth About the Shroud of Turin: Solving the Mystery by Robert K. Wilcox. Wilcox is a bit, well, odd, but his conclusions are not manifestly wrong, indirect though his path may be.
- The rapidly anti-Christian stuff which attempts to either debunk the Shroud, or blame the entire Christian religion on it. An example of this claptrap would be The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection by Thomas de Wesselow. Wesselow theorizes that the entire Christian movement occurred as a result of the viewing of the Shroud by various folks, including St. Paul, of course! The fly in the ointment is the Shroud itself: Wesselow attempts to dismiss it as a vaporgraph, which is quite frankly physically impossible. I will not bore you with the physics, but suffice it to say, I am certainly not convinced by Wesselow here.
After wading through a bit of this soft of thing, I have come to some conclusions about the Shroud.
First of all, the Shroud is either the genuine burial cloth of the historical figure we refer to as Jesus Christ, or there was more than one person crucified in almost (but not quite) precisely the manner described in the Gospels, and that person was crucified in the early 1st century in Jerusalem. The likelihood of more than one person being crucified in exactly this manner, especially considering the unusual circumstances surrounding these events, is highly remote. Therefore, I believe that I can state with reasonable confidence that the Shroud of Turin is in fact the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. Certainly, this is what I believe, and I have given the matter a lot of thought and study.
The Shroud is a many layered thing, with various images on it, but the most important part of the Shroud problem for our present discussion is the negative holographic image which is present on both the face up and face down portions of the Shroud. The following image has them placed conveniently side-by-side:
There are several problems with the existence of this image. We cannot create this image even today with any technology we presently possess. It is too fine an image. It consists of an almost single-molecule thick layer of darker colored fibers in the linen cloth out of which the Shroud was made. Although it was made in the 1st century (the stupid 1988 carbon 14 dating has been completely debunked at this point), it contains a negative photographic image. That makes this the earliest photographic image in human history, so far as we know, and it was created approximately 1,800 years before the invention of photography.
And not only does it have a negative image, but that image contains holographic data, making the likelihood of a natural explanation even more unlikely.
Many highly competent and revered scientists have looked at the Shroud, but most have now stopped trying. It is considered a career killer. The Shroud simply cannot be explained by rational means.
Thus, my final conclusion: I don’t know what went on in that tomb, but it must have been some seriously gnarly stuff, that’s for sure! And that’s basically what I know. Apparently, Jesus was very important somehow, at least to the extent that an extremely inscrutable event surrounded His death.
In my next post, I will deal with the notion in Ray’s email that the evidence of the Shroud (which largely corroborates the Gospel accounts, with a few notable exceptions) means that we should give the New Testament a special break with respect to the Word of God thing. More later.