More scientific research on the Shroud of Turin? Why?

A reader writes pithily:

More scientific research on the Shroud? Why? No, really, why? And then why?

I assume then why means something like why applied the answer. And then some.

23 thoughts on “More scientific research on the Shroud of Turin? Why?”

  1. If the image purported to be a pharaoh or any other character from history, academics and scientists would have not slept until they had answered every question and written every thesis about it to satisfy their curiosity and further their careers. But this man? What are they afraid of?

  2. This was also one of the things the late Daniel Raffard de Brienne told me and there is nothing to defend the academics and scientists who refuse to tackle the TS. It appears that God is now sort of out of fashion in much of the the academic world and beyond it. Even Pope Francis has recognised this and called for dialogue with atheists in the letter he wrote to the Italian daily “La Repubblica” this week. But when academic careers are involved it is a different thing…

  3. Academia as such has not a good track record when it comes to taking the TS seriously, ever since the time of Yves Delage in 1902. It has been mainly left as a field for individual scholars who had sufficient enthusiasm for it. When it comes to the wider religious aspect, there seems to be a dichotomy. For example, most New Zealand universities have a Religious Studies department, and there are opportunities for obtaining a major, and post-graduate qualifications. I suspect most of these tend to be studied on a phenomenological basis in their general approach. However I also suspect that enrolments in the RS departments are probably fairly small, and would have little influence within the wider university campus. Back in the 1980s I obtained a RS major from Massey University in Palmerston North, which I found to be particularly broadening and enlightening. Both Auckland and Otago Universities offer courses in Biblical Studies for a B Theol degree, and again there are opportunities for post-graduate studies. The various church seminaries also have their curricula of course, but these would usually have vocational and ministerial objectives, rather than academic. The general university approach in our present age has tended to become in my view far too compartmentalised and narrow, diected at specific occupational training, and truly educated people with a broad range of knowledge and understanding have now become a rarity. I have cited the NZ experience, which is what I know, but I dare say the situation is not much different in other westernised countries.

  4. Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer’s book, mentioned in a previous comment, was not written from the point of view of faith and is a must read for Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish scholars. In his review, Father Daniel Harrington, another famous American Jesuit scholar, explains how the book is a thorough study of the concept of “Messiah”.

    But it seems that many in the world are involved in soul-searching, unwilling to read scholarly books about the Bible, and go beyond what Boteach and Boyarin or even Fitzmyer have said. That was the case with Laura Schlessinger, criticised by Boteach. Go to the link

    http://forward.com/articles/7887/dr-laura-loses-her-religion/

  5. shroudenigma :
    If the image purported to be a pharaoh or any other character from history, academics and scientists would have not slept until they had answered every question and written every
    thesis about it to satisfy their curiosity and further their careers. But this man? What are they afraid of?

    I agree that a disparity appears to exist between the drive to investigate other artifacts from persons of historical significance versus the Shroud, associated with the most famous man who has ever lived. I do believe that whatever God has planned for the Shroud in the future, it will occur. This will happen irrespective of the most meticulous and detailed blueprints of investigation or the total inertia in the progress of our understanding of the cloth. If the Shroud is intended to be a unique message for this or the next generation(s), it will be. On the other hand, if the cloth is to be “hands off” and remain as a mystery for now, for the future, it will. As in all things, God is in charge-in His way, in His time table, He’s got it covered.

  6. Kelly Kearse :

    shroudenigma :<br
    If the image purported to be a pharaoh or any other character from history, academics and scientists would have not slept until they had answered every question and written every
    thesis about it to satisfy their curiosity and further their careers. But this man? What are they afraid of?

    I agree that a disparity appears to exist between the drive to investigate other artifacts from persons of historical significance versus the Shroud, associated with the most famous man who has ever lived. I do believe that whatever God has planned for the Shroud in the future, it will occur. This will happen irrespective of the most meticulous and detailed blueprints of investigation or the total inertia in the progress of our understanding of the cloth. If the Shroud is intended to be a unique message for this or the next generation(s), it will be. On the other hand, if the cloth is to be “hands off” and remain as a mystery for now, for the future, it will. As in all things, God is in charge-in His way, in His time table, He’s got it covered.

    I would add that I believe film production could certainly be a catalyst included in such plans

  7. question why was the stone rolled back from the tomb of Jesus. answer the physical body of Jesus was resurrected in its physical form and for the body to leaves the tomb the stone needed to be moved. Maybe there was no great burst of energy or radiation or any visible event that could be detected at the instant of resurrection but just the movement of the body coming back to life.

    1. Paul, I’ve previously mentioned fairly recently, that it is common for rocks to be displaced from cliff faces and other ground discontinuities, by the release of the shock wave of an earthquake from the cliff face, and hurled some tens of metres away. I’m personally aware of several instances in New Zealand and such incidents are typically found in Earthquake Engineering journals. One of the evangelists (John, from memory) even attributes movement of the stone to the EQ, but includes an angel in the story. My personal view is that the story of the EQ is not intended as a mere literary device, but was an actual event. It provides a “naturalistic” explanation for the movement of the stone. It’s also possible that the EQ may have had a role in forming the image, such as by the release of radon gas which commonly occurs during EQs, and also possibly by concurrent variations in the geo-magnetic/electric fields. We’re in the realm of educated guesses here, but it’s certainly credible.

      1. Isn’t it strange that this is the ONLY example in the entirety of human history where this has happened? The search for naturalistic answers is a waste of time, since mathematical probability discounts the chances into the untold billions. How much radon gas, exactly, would you need to create an image thru limestone rock, 5 or more feet thick? In a damp tomb? Onto a cloth? Without a light source? The academic community has no shame in advancing the most outlandish, never-happened-in-known-history, can’t-verify-it kind of armchair theorizing because the implications of the Man are too terrifying for them to contemplate. If the learned doctors, or whatever they are, really believe that ‘concurrent variations in the geo/magnetic gobbledy-gook’ could account for the image of the Man, then reproduce it in a laboratory. Then we will see how ‘certainly credible’ they are. THEN let them explain how this happened w/o the benefit of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the 1st century. Frightened children climb under the blankets and repeat ‘the boogyman’ doesn’t exist, daddy says so.’ But they still shake and pee their nightshirts in fear, when they feel the hand on their shoulder..and its only Father trying to comfort them with His presence. How sad.

  8. Response to Josie:
    We don’t know whether or not other burial cloths have images, nor whether it is a normal occurrence or not. The TS happens to be one of the very few burial cloths that no longer contain human remains. Clearly the image formed before corruption set in. Are images that form soon after death then eradicated by corruption products. We do not know, because no-one has ever looked, and it has never been researched.

    It is not necessary to believe that the TS image was caused by naturalistic means, nor is it necessary to believe it was caused by some supernatural agency. However, before asserting that the image was created by some miraculous means, then one ought to eliminate the possibility of it being caused by some as yet unknown natural process. To date this has not been done.

    There are very many amazing cures, such as at Lourdes, and other various wondrous events. However only a very few of those that are examined are eventually declared to be miraculous. The Medical Councils at both Lourdes and at the Vatican Causes of Saints exercise extreme caution in attesting that examined events have no natural explanation, and only a small percentage are so validated. That is not to say that other unattested cures may also be miraculous. The TS, arguably the most important relic in Christendom, needs to be approached with similar caution, before making any rash assertions about it.

    Concerning the role of earthquakes in forming the image. I did not say that radon gas caused the image, only that it may have had a role. This has been researched by Giovanna De Liso in the seismically active area of Piedmont over a period of 12 years. Her efforts are one of the very few cases where I have seen any naturally caused images that appear at all persuasive. She used variously treated cloths, measured the various effects of radon gas, atmospheric conditions, variations in the magnetic and electric fields and so on. It seemed that the presence of iron-bearing rocks were important. She claimed that images only formed under very specific circumstances. She produced images of a snake and a metallic key. Her paper has sometimes been criticised, because these were only small objects. You can find her paper at:

    Click to access DeLisoWeb.pdf

    I am personally inclined to the view that the TS image is what I call a second-order miracle. That is, Providence so arranged matters that the very many necessary rare conditions that would produce an image, came together at the same time. It may not have required that the Laws of Nature be suspended for it to happen. However, for all we know, it may not be as rare as we might imagine. We need to remember that the image is not that of a glorious resurrected Christ, but is that of a very dead corpse. To my mind that would seem to rule out the likelihood of the image being caused by the Resurrection event.

  9. I must admit you lost me. “It is not necessary to believe the image was caused by naturalistic means, or miraculous means.” Are there any other possibilities? If there are, could you suggest some? I mean, maybe I don’t quite “get it” but if it did not happen by forces in nature, or out of nature, then what are we left with? I think the TS has been approached by the most sophisticated scientific equipment and the soundest methods available to modern man, for upwards of forty years now. I have been following events concerning the TS since the STRP team in the 1970’s. “We don’t know if any other burial cloths contain images,” archeological evidence has never produced any, has it? “We need to remember that the image is not of a glorious resurrected Christ, but of a very dead corpse. That would seem to rule out etc.” I am sincerely looking forward to your sharing your unique insights on the mechanism of the Resurrection. I had always believed that, barring the information given in the Gospels, this constituted a mystery known only to the Almighty. Christ’s physical body did, indeed, die. Without his complete, utter, physical demise, the whole idea of the Resurrection kind of collapses. Experiments attempting to re-create artificially an event that you freely admit occurred providentially would only seem to preclude an accidental occurrence. In fact, you don’t have to look that far. Any photograph produces a negative, doesn’t it? But who knew how to “treat’ a linen cloth in the first century? Has anyone found any chemicals on the TS that would produce such an effect? By me, go ahead, study TS all you want. But all you need to know is right before your eyes. I mean, it would have been truly great to get an image of the Lord smiling, waving “toodle loo” or giving the “thumbs up” sign. But that would preclude the need for any faith at all.

    1. Josie all the proofs that point to the authenticity of the Shroud were uncovered by men and women who used science as their measuring stick. It is scientific investigation and not merely the waving of a fairy faith wand that has led credence to the claims of authenticity. You mock the very thing that gives you such certitude.

      That you can come on here and ridicule others who wish to use reason and science to further understand this mystery is to insult the One who gave us curiousity and reason to begin with.

      It is no disrespect to Christ to seek to understand how such a sign came to be — reason and faith are not at odds here.

      But if the desire to use science to play with mystery offends you, perhaps you should give this blog a pass. Most of what you read here will only frustrate you.

  10. Sir, if I, or any other Christian, needed an artifact, however hallowed, to bolster my “fairy faith,” I assure you my certitude would be small indeed. In the Gospel, Jesus Himself derided and mourned over the generation that expected “signs and wonders” to prove His sovereignty over the natural and spiritual world. Perhaps you should read my posting with a little more critique and a little less prejudice. I have no problem with scientists of any discipline investigating the TS. What could it hurt? But perhaps you could explain how Mr. Daveb of Wellington NZ can ascribe the production of the TS to neither the natural, or the supernatural. My clear, and I believe, very fair question was, to what other agency could one ascribe the production of the TS, or indeed the production of any object? Does it not have to be one or the other? Not knowing which is one thing, and I assume that could be the object of scientific inquiry. But it came from one or the other, and a course of investigation must start somewhere. The scientific method demands the formation of an hypothesis. “Neither” does not cut the mustard. My second concern is how does one spend decades creating the exacting conditions needed to produce an artifact so unique as to merit world-wide scientific attention, and then ascribe its creation to accident and happenstance? My third, and I believe most overriding concern, is the how Mr. Daveb can assert with any expertise whatsoever that we can “rule out the formation of the image to the Resurrection.” If Mr. Daveb has some knowledge as to the exact, or even approximate, circumstances surrounding the events of Easter Sunday 33 C.E. I would hope he would share them on this blog. My point is, how can he even begin to theorize about what evidence constitutes, or does not constitute, evidence of the Resurrection or the effects of the same on the ST?And my favorite quote so far?”It might not be as rare as we imagine.” If in the history of scientific inquiry or archeological discovery the like has been found, I don’t know of it. I would call it rare, sir. Finally, thank you for your heartfelt concern for my frustration levels. Not that you sounded condescending or anything. The simple, the lumpen, and the hoi polloi have as much interest in the progress of Syndonology as those in the exalted and rarified realms of academia. Perhaps more so, because He is our Love Eternal. In the more direct words of St. Severinus the Truculant: “Thou are not the boss of me.”

    1. You didn’t understand DaveB when he said it is not necessary to believe it was the supernatural or the natural. He meant one doesn’t have to choose a side. One can be agnostic about how the image was formed.

      This is a blog where people ask a lot of questions because they don’t have the answers. As you appear to have those answers, or see no purpose in asking them, why bother posting here?

  11. I don’t recall noticing the name of Josie L Tyner previously in the nearly two years that I have been working this blog most days, so I find her comments that I should share my views somewhat gauche and impertinent. She seems to be a lady who has only just discovered all the answers that everyone else discovered some many years ago, readily jumping to conclusions that others must be so ignorant. I did her the favour of responding to her queries, which at the time I imagined to be sincere, but with little thanks. I don’t think I owe her any more of a response!

  12. I think Josie raises some valid points. If one accepts the resurrection as a miraculous inexplicable event then it is entirely logical to conclude that the image on the shroud that covered Jesus is similarly inexplicable, being created by an inexplicable event! If you can accept that science will never explain the resurrection, then it is then logical to assume that science will never explain the by-product of that inexplicable event.
    I am more than happy for people to speculate on the causation of the shroud image, and indeed find it quite interesting, However ultimately I believe that speculation will prove futile, as it has proven for the past 40 years.

    1. Matthias: I would be prepared to allow that the Shroud image may have been some kind of by-product of the Resurrection process, whatever that might have been. However I see a strong objection to that hypothesis in that the image is that of a corpse. The gospels refer to the appearances of Christ after the Resurrection, St Paul records his own experience of the risen Christ, and in John’s Revelations, the images of Christ are of a triumphant Son of Man in glory. None of that is consistent in my mind with the image displayed on the Shroud. One of the reasons why there has been such little progress in arriving at a decision on the origins of the image over the last 40 years, is the inaccessibility of the Shroud to scientific enquiry. In 1978, the nature of the image was quite unknown, apart from a few properties such as the negativity of the image and its apparently 3-D properties caused by its variations in brightness. This last is I think strongly suggestive of a possibly naturalistic cause. In 1978, it was not even known if the image was a product of painting or not. Since then, the Shroud has been largely inaccessible to further enquiry. Investigations have since been confined to very small samples of threads only. I mentioned De Liso’s investigations above, which I think demonstrate that a naturalistic cause may be feasible, and there have been a few other suggestive although less successful attempts as well. As previously mentioned, I’m inclined to consider that the image may be what I have called a seond-class miracle, in that Providence so arranged matters, that the particular circumstances that would produce a naturally caused image combined to do so. We do not even know if in fact whether it is normal for images to form on burial cloths or not, only to be obliterated by subsequent corruption, because no-one has ever bothered to research it. There are one or two other cases, not as spectacular as the Shroud image, where images were known to form by deceased persons. The image on the Shroud is not perfect, and there a few gometrical distortions. This would tend to argue against a miraculous cause of the image, which one would expect to show a high level of perfection if it were indeed miraculous.

  13. “Matthias: I would be prepared to allow that the Shroud image may have been some kind of by-product of the Resurrection process, whatever that might have been. However I see a strong objection to that hypothesis in that the image is that of a corpse. ”

    Fair point. However, this is my way around that problem…
    Perhaps the image on the shroud was recorded from the first moments of the resurrection process, perhaps just as the body was commencing dematerialisation. Somehow – I don’t know how, and I am not concerned with that absence of knowledge given the unknowable mystery of the miraculous resurrection – the image is recorded, then the body dematerialises. The shroud is left behind, with its image which I might add in my very subjective view is serene in expression rather than tortured, almost expressing a knowing expression of His coming glorified transformation.

    Jesus then rematerialises in a spiritual bodily form, and that is his resurrection.

    So in this way of thinking, the shroud image is a last snapshot of Christ’s mortal body immediately prior to his dematerialisation and then rematerialisation (ie. resurrection). It is the physical record of Christ’s human mortality, which complements the historic record (the bible) and the spiritual record (his immortal presence) of his glorified resurrection

    So we have been left with physical, intellectual (the written word) and spiritual confirmation of his status. ;

    1. You may believe it if you so wish, and you may offer it as an opinion, and you may even be right. However, you may not assert it, because a naturalistic process cannot yet be excluded.

  14. Indeed. I did not assert it, merely proposed it, as suggested by the “perhaps….
    I still wouldn’t dismiss a 14th century origin either (after all the carbon dating shows that, even if there are question marks), nor do I outrightly dismiss a naturalistic.explanation. It’s just on balance I think the most likely scenario is a first century origin of supernatural genesis.
    What I find frustrating is those who outright dismiss THE POSSIBILITY of a supernatural origin, especially when they are Christians who believe in the resurrection, not as a metaphor, but a literal historical event!

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