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Normally, I'd refrain from discussing any sort of religious mystery. Just like religion itself, they're a hotbed for arguments. However, due to the readership of this blog being roughly five or so people, I feel that I'm safe to discuss what has become known as The Shroud of Turin.
The Shroud is a simple item: a length of linen cloth. What separates it from other pieces of cloth is what's on—or perhaps in—it. You see, the Shroud bears a negative image of a man that some believe to be Jesus Christ of Nazareth. While we may see Him in our toast or dreams, the vividness of what's in or on the Shroud has swayed the hearts and minds of millions upon millions of Catholics and Christians around the globe. As a result, it's believed that the cloth is the real burial shroud that Jesus was wrapped in after the Crucifixion.
The first historical records of the Shroud come from 1390—the date that radiocarbon dating places the Shroud itself as being from. Some other dates it go as far back as 1353, but for the sake of this blog entry, we'll assume that the Shroud is, indeed, from 1390.
This causes a minor issue. Namely, that there's no definitive record for the Shroud being present at this date.
You see, the prior to 1390, there were similar images to the Shroud such as the Pray Codex. However, that image has crosses on a single side, along with a step pyramid pattern that interlocks together on the other in place of the alleged image of Jesus. What does this have to do with anything?
The Codex doesn't mention the image of Jesus.
So if radiocarbon dating places the Shroud's creation date at 1390, where is it? Well, some place it in Lireh, France. It here that, on 1390, Bishop Pierre d'Arcis wrote that Pope Clement VII stated it was a forgey and that the artist had confessed. This clashes with the claim that the record that, between the years 1353 and 1357, there was a shroud with the image of a crucified man that was in the possession of a French Knight by the name of Geoffroi de Charny. He later died at the Battle of Poitiers.
And yet, despite that, there's a claim there was a similar shroud dating back to 1204 in Constantinople. Subsequently, it went missing when the city was sacked.
The history to the Shroud is fuzzy at best. It's a relic that has a history that's as mysterious as its image. So, without any definitive origin, what's the history of it now? Well, that's easy: it's on display. It's not something that's exactly thrilling. The Shroud has even been live streamed.
So with the riveting history out of the way, what about its authenticity? That's the million dollar question and it's one that's ridiculously hard to answer.
The first theory is that it's, naturally, the Burial Shroud of Jesus. It's worthy noting this claim isn't unique to the Shroud of Turin. At least four churches in France and three in Italy claim to have pieces of Jesus’ burial shroud. However, none have gotten quite the recognition of the Shroud of Turin. With such a crystal clear image seemingly imprinted into it, this has led many to believe it to be the real deal, right?
Well, that's debatable. Although the Shroud may seem authentic to some, it's not exempt from scientific analysis. In fact, it's been analyzed many times over the years. So much so that I can't list them all off as I'd be here far longer than I wish to be here; I want these blogs to be as brisk as possible. So, I'll go over two before ending this off.
Theory number two is that it's a forgery; a fake—and most likely a painting. As stated before, radiocarbon dating has placed the Shroud between the 13th and 14th centuries with 95% accuracy. Jesus was crucified in AD 33—which makes the Shroud just a wee bit too young for it to be the good Lord's burial shroud.
The problem here is there's never been any pigments ever found on the Shroud. Sure, while Pope Clement VII may have said the artist confessed, that isn't the be all, end all when it comes to the truth. Whatever his motivation was to believe the man, nobody can say. Perhaps he duped the Pope, perhaps the Pope lied. Whichever is to be believed, Clement evidently didn't account for anyone checking the shroud down the like. Oops.
Paint pigments aren't the only sort of pigments that one has tried though. Acidic Pigmentation is another theory folks have thrown around. In fact, National Geographic showcased it in a documentary in 2010. The end result—while similar to the Shroud's face, had nowhere near the same level of detail or its uniformity.
As has been the case with the two theories in favor of debunking the Shroud, nearly every other theory lauded against the Shroud has fallen short of fully proving it fake. Some do get closer than others—and some may even convince one to believe it to be a fraudulent work of art.
However, at the same time, none of that proves it to be the real Burial Shroud of Jesus. Radiocarbon dating does place it around the 13th and 14th centuries. At the earliest, it came to be in the 11th century. This is way, way after Jesus died. Unless the Shroud descended or manifested itself from Heaven, it's not feasible to have been buried with Jesus.
So if it's neither provable or debunkable, then what is the Shroud of Turin?
The Catholic inside me believes the Shroud is the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in after the crucifixion. The skeptic inside of me remains skeptical. Overall though: the Shroud of Turin is one of the few mysteries that actually has some possibility of being solved as technology marches on. When it will be solved is anyone's guess. Until then, it remains of the very few mysteries that's divided by belief and skepticism.