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The Holy Shroud

The Holy Shroud of Turin by Dr. Aziz A. Chaudhh It is called the Shroud of Turin. Until recent years few had heard of it outside Italy. It is venerated by millions, many of whom think that this is the very linen cloth in which Jesus was buried. It is well-known now, due to intense scientific investigation which reads like a mystery story. The modern detectives probing the mystery include art historians, pathologists, linguists, biblical scholars, textile experts, chemists, physicists and photographic specialists. Since its first appearance in Europe in 1350, it has been condemned by many as a fraud. In the opinion of scientific experts, all the markings on the cloth conform to accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus and burial as recorded in the New Testament. It has been displayed to the public three times in this century, the last, in the fall of 1978 which drew more than three million people to the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista of Turin, where it is kept with utmost security. It is the most important relic in the whole of Christiandom. The shroud measures 14 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 7 inches. It is a linen cloth with ivory colour due to age. There is a remarkable image on the shroud itself, pale, ghostly, life-size, of an unclothed bearded man with long hair. The hands are crossed over the loins. One half of cloth bears the front image of a man and the other half, back image. The man of the shroud bears obvious marks of crucifixion as practiced in the Roman Empire. There are flows of blood which encircle the head, which are more on the back of the head than on the front, probably from biblical crown of thorns. Significantly a nail wound is on the wrist which contradicts the artistic tradition. There are blood flows on both fore-arms. One large flow of blood is on the left side of chest which was actually on the right side due to reversal of the image. This recalls the thrust of a centurion’s lance during Christ’s crucifixion. This blood flows to the small of the back as seen on the back image. On the body there are also scourge marks which resemble the pattern inflicted by a flagrum, a multi-thonged Roman whip tipped with lead or bone. Mirror-image burns and watermarks date from a 1532 church fire when molten silver from the shroud’s storage case fell on corners of the folded cloth. Fortunately the image itself was mostly spared. Burn holes were repaired with triangular patches and a backing cloth was sewn on for protection. One characteristic of blood-stains is that the blood-flows are clean and free-flowing. The blood marks are darker than body image and appear distinct. 9 THE HOLY SHROUD In 1898 the first photographs of the shroud were taken by Secondo Pia. To his great excitement he saw that instead of the usual negative photograph, he had a clear positive image. Highlights and shadows were reversed from those on the cloth and were far more lifelike and realistic. They showed details never before seenonthe shroud which was now revealed as a negative image. Thus the shroud image is a sort of photographic negative. This has always intrigued the observers and lends support to the shroud’s authenticity, as no artist could have conceived of a negative portrait hundreds of years before invention of photography. Another set of better photographs were taken in 1931 by Giuseppe Enrie revealing the same quality of photographic nature of the shroud. One of the amazing things is that the image of the face on the shroud bears marked resemblance to portraits of Jesus in traditional church art. This resemblance can be traced back as far as the 6th century. A striking photo of the face of Jesus while he lay in the tomb can be seen in the negative photograph of the shroud. There is no known pigment on the cloth and no artist or anyone else has been able so far to duplicate the shroud image by mechanical or natural means. In 1902 Yves Delage, the Sorbonne’s professor of comparative anatomy who had studied Pia’s photographs, gave a lecture to the French Academy of Sciences and pronounced, “The man of the shroud was Christ.” The academy was outraged and refused to print his statement. He considered the shroud image to be of Christ created by special physio-chemical process while he lay in the tomb. The main interest of medical men has been due to the anatomical accuracy of the image and totally life-like character of blood stains. Turin Commission of 1909 confirmed that the shroud image was not the work of human hands. In ’73 Max Frei, a Swiss criminologist was permitted to take samples of dust and other particles by pressing sticky tape on the shroud for laboratory analysis. By microscopic examination he found 48 samples of pollen, which can survive for centuries. Among his samples he found a number from plants in France and Italy. In addition, there were seven from halophylic (salt loving) plants found in saline areas such as the Dead Sea and others from Palestine and Turkey. This science of pollen analysis is called Polynology. His findings suggested that the shroud had been in the Holy Land at some time in its history. Not all scientists, however, are ready to accept this evidence uncritically. Two small fragments and a number of threads were snipped from the shroud in 1973 and were examined by internationally known textile expert, Professor Gilbert Raesof University of Ghent, Belgium. Some of testile indications seem to point to the Holy Land and to great antiquity. The material is linen, commonly used in ancient Palestine for grave clothes. Raes found that it had traces of a cotton of middle east variety. The weave is a herring-bone twill, a pattern not unknown to ancients. The thread appears to be hand spun. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 10 A Brief History of the Shroud One of the baffling questions concerning the shroud’s authenticity is its history before mid-fourteenth century when it made its public appearance in France in the possession of Geoffery de Charny, a famed Knight of Lirey. A British author, Ian Wilson has written the history of the shroud tracing it all the way to Jerusalem. There are gaps in its history and Ian Wilson has given ingenious solutions containing numerous conjectures and suppositions which seem reasonable to the most part. There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence including history of art. He gives the theory that the shroud is identical with Mandylion — that famed relic of Eastern Orthodox Church which was kept at Constantinople by Byzantine emperors from 944 to April 1204. He gives history that the shroud was folded and made into a portrait in the time of the Apostles and sent to King Abgaf V of Edessa (now Urfa, in Eastern Turkey). The incident cured him of a disease and he converted to Christianity. In the reign of Manu VI, second son of Abgar V, he reverted to paganism and cruelly persecuted Edessa Christians. The portrait or shroud disappeared. For safety sake it was hidden in a niche above Edessa’s west gate. For centuries the shroud’s existence remained completely unknown while it rested in a hermetically sealed condition. In 525 during work on rebuilding the walls, the cloth was discovered and was found to have been impressed with an image of Christ. This shroud cloth was subsequently known as Mandylion. The Byzzintine army besieged Edessa under instructions from Emperor Romanus Lecaperus in 993 and the next year Mandylion was recovered and sent to Constantinople. It was greatly revered but not exhibited to the public in general. Robert de Clari, a French crusader described seeing the shroud at Constantinople in 1203. Next year the Crusaders ransacked Constantinople causing much destruction and Mandylion or the shroud disappeared. Wilson hypothesises that it passed into the hands of the rich and powerful order of Knights Templars. On orders of French King Philip the Fair, Knights Templars were severely persecuted and their order was destroyed. Knight Geoffery de Charny appears to have inherited the shroud from Knights Templars. Margaret de Charny daughter of Geoffrey II de Charny inherited the shroud. She was childless and without heirs. For the safety of the shroud and other reasons, she gave her prized possession to Louis, Duke of Savoy in 1453. From that day to now the shroud has belonged to the House of Savoy. Duke Louis built a special church at Chambrey, the Sainte Chapelle, where the shroud was enshrined with honors from the Pope and pilgrims alike. In 1578, the Duke of Savoy moved the shroud across the Alps to his new capital, Turin, in Italy’s northwest region of Piedmont. Except for a period during World War II, it has been there ever since. It is miraculous that this ivory coloured cloth should have survived since Joseph of Arimathea placed it under and over the body of Jesus in a rock-cut tomb near Golgotha about 2000 years ago. 11 THE HOLY SHROUD Modern Research on the Shroud In October 1978, after the exposition, the shroud was examined for five days by a group of scientists including Italians, a Swiss expert and about three dozen Americans. Exhaustive, non-destructive tests were carried out. About their investigation and findings, we quote below from an article, “The Mystery of the Shroud” in the June, 1980 National Graphic by Kenneth F. Weaver (Page 750-752). 1. “Perhaps never before had an object of art or archaeology been subjected to such exhaustive examination. The scientists bombarded the relic with ultra-violet radiation and X-rays and watched for fluorescence. They measured variations in the way the image, “the blood”, and the back- ground emitted or reflected energy across a wide range of electro-magnetic spectrum. In infra red, visible light, ultraviolet and X-rays, fluorescence for example can detect iron and potassium in blood, or heavy metals usually found in paints.”. 2. “What is the nature of the image? Under magnification, the scientists report the fibres from the image area show a light yellow colouring that lies only on the very top-most surface of the threads, has not run down the sides of threads, and has not left deposits between threads as one would expect if pigments had been painted or rubbed on.” 3. “In the light of these facts, the group of scientists have settled on one far-reaching conclusion. Chemist Ray Rogers of the Los Almos National Scientific Laboratory sums it up: “Nearly all of us now believe that the shroud is not a painting. Except for a small amount of iron oxide, we find no pigment, and we do not think that either liquid or vapour could have produced the image we see.” 4. “One other team member, spectroscopist Samuel Pellicori of the Santa Barbara Research Centre, proposes still another hypothesis: The image, he suggests was formed by the darkening over the course of time of body oils, sweat or spices such as myrrh. It is, in that case, an image formed by contact. Spectroscopic evidence seems to support his idea, but, as other team members point out, such an image would have no three-dimensional qualities. Moreover, the image shows details in the face where a cloth would not have touched.” 5. “Is the blood really blood? It has long been clear that the “blood” stains and the image are quite different. Secondo Pia discovered this fact when he looked at his negative plates. The “blood” areas showed white on the negative, proving that those stains on the shroud are positive while the body image, as we have seen it, is negative.” REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 12 The scientific team at Turin found another significant difference between the blood and the image. When they loosened the backing cloth, they saw that a viscuous liquid in the “blood” area had penetrated all the way through the linen. Yet the body image is irreversible from the back. Obviously, the two areas were produced in some completely different way. No test so far decrees that the “blood” is not blood. On the other hand, a number of tests suggest that it could be. The stains under X-rays and ultra- violet radiation behave very much as does blood. In addition, X-ray tests show the correct percentage of iron in the blood. Finally, Dr. John Heller, of the New England Institute, has found in the debris on the tapes, a tiny crystal that he considered to be a form of haemoglobin much altered by age. He believes the crystal is blood. Other team members are divided on the question and await further tests.” So far, to our knowledge, Radio-carbon dating to determine the age of fabric has not been done; permission for it has not been granted as some material has to be destroyed in the process. Now, new techniques are available which require only one square centimetre of cloth to determine age and it is hoped that eventually permission for Radio-carbon dating will be granted. Many scientific tests suggest that the image on the shroud is like a faint scorch. What scorching mechanism could have produced the delicate image is still not determined. An hypothesis can be offered that the image by whatever process it was formed was less visible or invisible but later became fixed or visible due to scorching heat of a fire in which it may have been involved which also caused circular burn marks on the shroud which pre-date the sixteenth century fire burns. Thus, the mystery of the shroud continues. Shroud Shows That Jesus Was Alive One question of paramount importance is, what evidence there is on the shroud that the body it wrapped was a dead body or, one which was still alive. Due to religious beliefs, it is assumed the shroud was a burial cloth of Jesus who had died on the Cross. As a result, adequate attention has not been given to this question. We have already examined the New Testament account in this regard. If it is accepted as reasonable or probable that the shroud is the very cloth which wrapped the body of Jesus in the tomb, we offer the following points which favour the view that there is enough evidence on the shroud proving that Jesus did not died on the Cross and was still alive when wrapped within it. 1. According to the gospel of John, “The two men took Jesus’s body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices according to the Jewish custom of preparing a body for burial.” 19:40. Thus it is obvious that in preparation for burial they washed his body in accordance with Jewish custom of 13 THE HOLY SHROUD preparing the body for burial. It is inconceivable that following Jewish customs they should not have done so. Joseph of Arimethea was a wealthy and influential secret disciple of Jesus. Nicodemus was a physician. Jesus was not a common criminal in their eyes. He was their revered spiritual master. Spices were used probably for anointing. Ian Wilson2 who thinks that the body was not washed, says: “What of spices? St. John tells us that Nicodemus assisting Joseph of Arimathea, brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. He also tells us that these were wrapped with the body in the burial linen. Had such spices been used for anointing, it would have been requisite in Jewish ritual and indeed in that of any other culture to wash the body first.” There is a long tradition of the church that Jesus was washed. In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, the faithful revere to this day a reddish coloured stone on which he is said to have been laid to be washed and anointed before burial. This stone, which has been known since Byzantine times is specifically called the “Stone of Unction.” In the body which had been washed and wrapped in the shroud, the presence of blood marks on it proves that the body was not dead and circulation was intact with the result that fresh blood was oozing out of the wounds and its flow left their marks on the shroud. The blood marks on the shroud are clean, flowing, distinct, complete and life-like. This shows that even though Jesus had been mistaken as dead, his heart had not stopped and blood circulation was intact, proving that he was still alive. If we suppose that it was an unwashed dead body, blood on the body would have clotted and would not have left such life-like marks of its flow which seeped through the linen cloth. If, on the other hand, it was a dead body which had been washed, it would have left no blood marks on the shroud. It is a point for us to ponder. 2. Shroud image confirms the gospel account that the legs of Jesus were not broken. Medical opinion is divided over significance of leg-breaking as a cause of death. One view holds that the victim is unable to push himself upward to breath and this causes asphyxia. Additional factors may be severe pain, and hemorrhage due to injury to blood vessels of legs. 3. The blood-mark on the right side of the chest is presumably from lance piercing. The blood overflow to the small of the back in horizontal fashion is seen in back image on the shroud. This is more likely to occur when the body is lying recumbent rather than vertical on the Cross. Some writers have assumed that the soldier’s lance was a deep thrust and had penetrated the heart. It is an idle speculation because the soldiers object piercing him was to check whether he was dead or alive and was not to kill REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 14 him. Blood flowed out from the wound showing that he was still alive, though he was unconscious and in shock. Later, in the tomb, blood flowed out of this wound along with others leaving marks on the shroud confirming his life. 4. On the shroud image of hands, both thumbs are not present. It has been postulated that this was due to stimulation of median nerves by nail penetration of wrists causing contraction of thumbs. This situation could hardly exist after death. If this is a correct appraisal of absence of thumbs, it is another sign of life. 5. In the above discussion we have assumed that Joseph of Arimethia and Nicodemus thought mistakenly, that Jesus was dead and they were trying to bury him by wrapping him in the shroud. There are rare examples when people who are in a state close to death, are mistaken as dead. He was unconscious and in shock due to crucifixion trauma. The other possibility, which is more likely, is that they were aware that Jesus was alive and by wrapping him with the linen cloth impregnated with aromatic spices and possibly other medicines, they were trying to revive him. Ointment of Jesus has already been discussed earlier. This will explain the use of linen cloth instead of clothing, specifically white garments which Jews wore for festivals and were used for burials. References 1 IAN WILSON, The Shroud of Turin (Doubleday and Company, Inc. 1978). 2 IBID, p.41. 3 KURT BERNA, Christ Did Not Perish on the Cross (Exposition Press, Hicksvillc, New York 1975). Divine Decrees and Determination It should be remembered that though everything has been determined by Divine decree, yet this does not exclude science and knowledge as everyone has to acknowledge that the use of appropriate medicines, through the grace and mercy of God Almighty, benefits the patient. In the same way everyone who is bestowed comprehension of the Divine has to acknowledge as the result of experience that prayer has a relationship with acceptance. This is a mystery which has been demonstrated through the experience of millions of the righteous and our experience has demonstrated the hidden reality that our prayers have a magnetic quality which attracts the grace and mercy of Cod, though we may not be able to convince others of this verity through logical reasoning. (The Promised Messiah).