journalism done well
Russ Breault was writing for his college’s student newspaper in 1980 when he was hooked by the mystery of the Shroud of Turin, and decided to write a story about it.
He went on to work in advertising, but the pull of the religious icon never left him. And he’s never found a definitive answer to its central question: Did the shroud once wrap the body of Jesus of Nazareth?
“My own personal view is, I think it could be (authentic),” the Atlanta man said Thursday while briefly stranded in Florida due to the ice storm in his home state. “Let’s explore the mystery. Let’s find out what we know, and find out what we don’t know.”
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“The mystery of the shroud is intriguing in general,” [Joe Bakken, campus chaplain] said. “Is it the burial shroud of Jesus Christ or is it a hoax?”
He said the Catholic Church has not claimed it to be either. Instead, the church calls it an object of veneration, a reminder of Jesus’ suffering, because its wearer was apparently scourged and crucified.
Breault likes that viewpoint.
“It’s in the heart of the individual believer, if you want to believe it’s authentic or not,” he said.
Breault isn’t a chemist or a forensic pathologist, but he’s familiar with their work.
He said scientific analysis has shown that the shroud belongs to someone with puncture wounds indicating its wearer was crucified, as evidenced by the blood stains.
Most tellingly to Breault, the shroud has markings consistent with the crown of thorns, the mocking punishment meted out to the man who some called the king of the Jews.
But attendees to his talk should have plenty of facts to defend whichever side they choose.
Radiocarbon dating completed in 1988 could have put these questions to rest. They have not.
Though the tests showed that the shroud originated between 1260 and 1390, the testing took one sample from a corner, Breault said. They should have taken three patches from different parts of the material. Moreover, the corner they chose is chemically different from the rest of the garment.
Further tests completed last year by a team from Padua University dated the shroud between 280 B.C. and 220 A.D.
He’s also bringing what he said is a museum-quality reproduction of the shroud.
And even if the shroud didn’t wrap the body of Jesus, doesn’t its centuries-old lineage and veneration make it an object of wonder?
Breault agrees, to a point.
“We live in a scientific, skeptical age. At the end of the day, I don’t care how religious someone is, they’d like to know whether this thing is authentic or not.”