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The Shroud as Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection

imageThis morning, a new posting by Andrew Dalton, Probing the Shroud for Reasons to Believe at Formation Toolbox, a Catholic resources website:

Is faith in the resurrection a blind leap into the dark, or do we have reasons to believe that Christ rose from the dead?

We may point to many signs of Christ’s historical resurrection (the empty tomb, the initial disbelief of the disciples followed by the sudden conversion of thousands, their subsequent martyrdom in defense of that faith, the steady flourishing of Christian communities despite violent and sustained persecution, the transfer of the day of worship to Sunday, etc.). This line of argument is perennially valid and often necessary, but when dealing with modern man, with his penchant for the empirical, it may be handy to call his attention to the Shroud of Turin, which substantiates the Gospel in an utterly unique way.

The best science on the Shroud today points to its authenticity. Forensic experts report precise details about the physical sufferings of a crucified man. Indeed, reason—not faith—brings us beyond the simple affirmation of a burial cloth of any old crucified man.

Who but the controversial “King of the Jews” could have been treated with such cruel and distinctive tortures—beaten, scourged, crowned with thorns, made to carry his cross, nailed to the wood, pierced in the side with a spear (and we find evidence for these on the Shroud)—and then so tenderly cared for after crucifixion, even wrapped in a pricy linen and positioned respectfully in a tomb? Besides, as one Jewish woman concluded, “Of course, it’s Jesus! Whose burial cloth but his would be vigilantly preserved and venerated down through the centuries?”

But reason carries us further still. Why are there no signs of decomposition on a cloth that clearly covered a cadaver? If rigor mortis eventually gives way to putrefaction, why is the body seen in that rigid state? Why exactly 30 to 36 hours after its initial contact with the Shroud did the blood suddenly stop soaking into the fibers? If the linen were later peeled off of Jesus’ dead body by some natural means, why do the bloodstains show no smearing whatsoever?

The mysteries continue to crescendo. Why does the image appear at all when no other corpse has ever been known to leave a mark remotely similar? Why is the ancient image a “photo-negative” best viewed with technology that would not surface until the nineteenth century? Why is three-dimensional information encoded in a centuries-old image? Finally, if even the most advanced modern technologies cannot reproduce the same effect, what in the world is the image doing there at all?

Shroud science leads me to affirm that belief in Jesus’ resurrection actually offers the most reasonable solution to this enigmatic image. That’s a conclusion worth sharing with friends.

It’s a neat summary. I just don’t like to use the shroud quite so much for propping up faith. Or is it at some point unavoidable?

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