Home > Article, Press Coverage > BBC News Magazine: The Perplexing Image

BBC News Magazine: The Perplexing Image

June 19, 2015

it has to be said that the piece of cloth Pope Francis will venerate
is genuinely and stubbornly perplexing.

imageAppearing online just hours ago: How did the Turin Shroud get its image?

You’ll notice that this says nothing about its authenticity. The Catholic Church takes no official position on that, stating only that it is a matter for scientific investigation. Ever since radiocarbon dating in 1989 proclaimed the 14ft by 4ft piece of linen to be roughly 700 years old, the Church has avoided claiming that it is anything more than an "icon" of Christian devotion.

But regardless of the continuing arguments about its age (summarised in the box at the bottom of this page) the Shroud of Turin is a deeply puzzling object. Studies in 1978 by an international team of experts – the Shroud of Turin Research Project (Sturp) – delivered no clear explanation of how the cloth came to bear the faint imprint of a bearded man apparently bearing the wounds of crucifixion.

A painting, perhaps? McCrone is mentioned. Then there is this:

Another idea is that the image is a kind of rubbing made from a bas-relief statue, or perhaps imprinted by singeing the fabric while it lay on top of such a bas-relief – but the physical and chemical features of the image don’t support this.

A natural chemical process, a photograph, and energy release?

According to an international team of scientists and other interested folk called the Yahoo Shroud Science Group, hypotheses about the genesis of the shroud "involving the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be rejected". Among them, the group members write, "are hypotheses correlated to an energy source coming from the enveloped or wrapped Man, [and] others correlated to surface electrostatic discharges caused by an electric field". Since these hypotheses appear to invoke processes unknown to science, which presumably occur during a return from the dead, it’s technically true that science can’t disprove them – nor really say anything about them at all.

Some, however, are not deterred by that. Italian chemist Giulio Fanti of the University of Padua has proposed that the image might have been burnt into the upper layers of the cloth by a burst of "radiant energy" – bright light, ultraviolet light, X-rays or streams of fundamental particles – emanating from the body itself. Fanti cites the account of Christ’s Transfiguration, witnessed by Peter, John and James and recounted in Luke 9:29: "As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning." This is, to put it mildly, rather circumstantial evidence. But Fanti suggests we might at least test whether artificial sources of such radiation can produce a similar result on linen.

According Raymond Rogers, all kinds of pseudoscientific theories have been put forward that invoke some mysterious radiation, which not only made the image itself but distorted the radiocarbon dating. In general they start from the notion that the shroud must be genuine and work backwards from that goal, he said. Little has changed in the decade and more since Rogers made this complaint. But still it has to be said that the piece of cloth Pope Francis will venerate is genuinely and stubbornly perplexing.

Categories: Article, Press Coverage
  1. Nabber
    June 19, 2015 at 7:41 am

    “…its authenticity. The Catholic Church takes no official position on that…. Ever since radiocarbon dating in 1989 proclaimed the linen to be roughly 700 years old, the Church has avoided claiming that it is anything more than an icon…”

    This is absolutely untrue, as I have quoted the last 7 Popes in threads here before:

    Pope Pius XI: “… certainly not the work of any human hand.”
    Pope Pius XII: “The linen in which Joseph of Arimathea enveloped the sacred remains of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    Pope John XXIII: “This can only be the Lord’s own doing.”
    Pope Paul VI: “…The image from the Holy Shroud reveals to us the human and divine personality of Christ.”
    Pope John Paul II: “The Holy Shroud is the most splendid relic of the Passion and Resurrection.”
    Pope Benedict XVI:  “…should be seen as a photographic document of the darkest mystery of faith — that of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.”
    Pope Francis I: “By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us.”

    The RC Church is an absolute monarchy, in no uncertain terms. The Popes speak for the Church on matters of Faith. The Popes have spoken on the Shroud.

    Let the skeptics at BBC chew on that for a while….

  2. Hugh Farey
    June 19, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Good quotes, but the Pope certainly does not speak for the Catholic Church except in very rare circumstances, and although the first four Popes you quote I believe did personally believe that the shroud is authentic, I am less certain about the last three (including Pope Francis), and do not feel that that their public pronouncements are as clear regarding their personal opinions as you think. In fact, I think they have been carefully worded not to. They all, of course, thought the Shroud to be a very important artefact with significant relevance to the revelations of Christ, but that is not the same thing as pronouncing on its authenticity.

    • PHPL
      June 19, 2015 at 10:09 am

      I completely agree with Hugh. Excellent summary Mr Farey.

      • June 19, 2015 at 10:18 am

        Well it was John Paul II who authorised the publication of the radiocarbon results( according to Gove).
        One also has to remember that in earlier times any pope who ddeclared the Shroud authentic was also saying that the many other contenders were not authentic- unless you believe in the two Shroud theory. This is one reason why the popes tended to be ambivalent , allow indulgences, talk about veneration as a reminder of the Passion, etc, without actually saying this is the real thing!
        In 1460 the Holy Blood of Mantua was given an authenticity certificate by the pope . That was hardly a problem as you had lots of relics claiming to be the blood of Christ in the fifteenth century and declaring one authentic did not necessarily diminish the authenticity of the others- there was enough blood to go around. The Shroud is in a different category and the more work I do on relic cults the more I think it unlikely that the popes were prepared to go further than an indulgence, feast day, etc in line with many other sacred objects.

        • piero
          June 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

          Probably several years ago the Christian Faith told you that the heritage of original sin is universal (apart the Mother of God) … and then also the Popes are not excluded from this sad heritage.
          — —
          But such kind of arguments don’t solve our concrete problems of Materials Science.
          For example:
          Do you know what is the difference about the elastic deformation (a near instantaneous phenomenon) and the viscoelastic deformation?
          — —
          Instead I think we have to deal with degree of polimerization of cellulose, with mechanical properties of linen fibrils, etc.
          The mechanical properties of materials are determined experimentally.
          So, we have to be skilled in Applied Microscopy, in Structural Mechanics, in Applied Statistics.
          Then…
          Do you know what are the AFM controls?
          Do you know what are the “AFM bending tests”?
          Do you know what is the normal elastic modulus (Young’s modulus)?
          Do you know what is the Probability Calculus?
          — — — —
          Links:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscoelasticity

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_mechanical_analysis
          — —
          See also the interesting possibility to improve the past study by Fanti Giulio and Malfi Pierandrea:
          “A new cyclic-loads machine for the measurement of micro-mechanical properties of single linen fibers coming from the Turin Shroud”

          Link:
          http://www.aimetatorino2013.it/cdrom/cdrom_pdf_fullpaper/001200008502.pdf

          Do you know what is the Loss Factor relative to the last complete loading cycle representing the dissipated energy?
          We have read the meaning for the ratio eta where D and U are respectively the dissipated and stored energies during a whole loading cycle.

          Do you know what is the Loss Factor relative to the last complete loading cycle representing the dissipated energy?

          Then I believe you can also try to consider the ancient tapestry (…and your interesting ancient paintings…) and the proper methods for measurements of their mechanical properties during cycle loading …
          — — —
          In any case I hope you want to use the experimental paintings (see also: How to solve the problem for the choice of adequate ageing treatments?) and then you do not go to ruin ancient and valuable paintings …

          But You must keep in mind that I am always quite contrary to destructive tests. Then see also the problem: How to modify the cycles of failure used by Prof. Fanti … without breaking the material?
          Then I think we have to choose another way in order to avoid the breakings and save the precious material.

    • June 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

      HF: “the Pope certainly does not speak for the Catholic Church except in very rare circumstances”.

      This is absolutely, positively WRONG.

      Your statement only refers to the Pope speaking “ex cathedra” on matters of Church dogma, which are rare.

      “The Church’s magisterium is exercised in cases not having the solemnity of “ex cathedra” statements by Popes, in written documents such as Papal catechisms, encyclicals and pastoral letters, or orally, as in homilies. These statements are part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.”

      “the response called for from Catholics, to this ordinary magisterium, is that of the Religious Submission of Will and Intellect. This kind of response cannot be simply exterior or disciplinary, but must be understood within the logic of faith and under the impulse of obedience to the faith.”

      HF: “[the Popes’ words that] …the Shroud to be a very important artefact with significant relevance to the revelations of Christ, but that is not the same thing as pronouncing on its authenticity.”

      If the Popes’ words were “carefully worded” and “not the same thing” then how do you square the words of the last 3 Popes with that?

      Pope John Paul II: “The Holy Shroud is the Most Splendid Relic of the Passion and Resurrection.”

      Pope Benedict XVI: “…should be seen as a Photographic Document of the Darkest Mystery of Faith — that of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.”

      Pope Francis I: “By means of the Holy Shroud, the Unique and Supreme Word of God comes to us.”

      Very, very definitive except to the most blind and deaf of skeptics…..

      • Hugh Farey
        June 20, 2015 at 10:06 am

        Quite so, Nabber. Perhaps I took your words too literally. However, the ‘ordinary magisterium’ to which you refer, quite properly, calls for a response “of the Religious Submission of Will and Intellect. This kind of response cannot be simply exterior or disciplinary, but must be understood within the logic of faith and under the impulse of obedience to the faith.” This does not mean that the Pope’s pronouncements about the Shroud are the teachings of the Church, nor that any Catholic is required to believe them. As for your quotes, John Paul’s use of the word ‘relic’ would, I agree, imply that he personally thought that the Shroud was authentic, so before I go on, could you refresh my memory as to when he said it?

  3. Louis
    June 19, 2015 at 11:26 am

    When the popes speak about the Shroud it is their personal opinion and these are not ex cathedra statements. Canonisation is more important to the Church.
    The BBC report is outdated in some ways and failed to take all recent research into account. It is even biased. Only those statements by Ray Rogers that were convenient to them were cited.

    • June 20, 2015 at 9:01 am

      You are quite wrong. Read my statement about the ordinary magisterium above.

  4. Louis
    June 19, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Are “Shroudies” afraid of the dark or have found the light?
    https://www.yahoo.com/tech/s/stephen-hawking-waxes-dismal-time-134642584.html

    • June 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      I’m sure someone, not so very long ago, would have likewise thought human travel to the moon would be impossible, same for computers in our phones, or video chats with someone in real time across the globe, or 3D printers. What seems impossible today may be possible in a generation. Earth isn’t just our home, it’s our home base.

  5. Louis
    June 19, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Buland Darwaza, the “Gate of Magnificence”, the highest gateway in the world, was built by Akbar, the Moghul (Muslim) emperor of India in 1576.

    It has an inscription at the entrance, which reads:
    “Isa (Jesus), son of Mary said: ‘The world is a Bridge, pass over it, but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; but the World endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer for the rest is unseen.'”

    • Sampath Fernando
      June 19, 2015 at 5:42 pm

      Thank you Louis. I went to Agra but I couldn’t go to see this monument. One day Stephen Hawking will reincarnate. Then he will realise that there is a after life. Actually I have met 3 people who remembered their past life.

      I hope that one day Catholic Church will certify that Shroud of Turin is a genuine burial cloth of Jesus or before that scientists will confirm it.

  6. Louis
    June 19, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Sampath
    You’re welcome. Akbar had three wives, one was an Armenian Christian, and he was an “ecumenical-minded” Muslim emperor in a largely Hindu country. That is why he began mixing beliefs. These “words of Jesus” sound as though they came from an apocryphal Gospel, but they didn’t. They were probably made up after some discussion in the royal court because although “the world is a bridge, pass over it” would be in keeping with what Jesus said, “for the rest is unseen” is not.
    I’m sorry I have to disagree with you about “past lives”. In one of the courses I did in Parapsychology there was a demonstration using hypnotism. The parapsychologist was a very serious scholar, a Catholic priest who was awarded a gold medal for helping parents who had a child with down syndrome.
    He asked volunteers to come to the stage, but no one beyond 25 as heart problems could develop during the process. He chose some 7 out of the 25 volunteers after they turned their backs to him. This was done mentally, and the 7 fell on the floor in an instant. This is called regression.
    In one case he took the unconscious of a 15-year-old girl right upto her grandfather in minutes and she could “see” him sitting in the middle of trees and reading a newspaper.
    He asked her to tell him what he was reading, but she couldn’t, perhaps because a lot of mental force was required and she was very young. He then asked the audience if her parents were around and they were there. Her father confirmed that his father (and her grandfather) was a landowner and liked to read. This example is in keeping with what we learn from the Bible, not reincarnation.
    People sometimes talk about “past lives”, but they are actually mental images stored in the subconscious/unconscious. There was a very interesting discussion about this topic when Dr. C.T.K. Chari (Madras Christian College, India) challenged Professor Ian Stevenson (University of Virginia, USA), who was writing in favour of reincarnation but was suspected of “stage managing” cases in Sri Lanka.

    • June 19, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      I’ve often wondered if the ‘past lives’ phenomenon is some form of memory transferred through the genes. We inherit certain characteristics from our parents and grandparents, why not pieces of memories as well – microbits hidden in the DNA? There is so little we know about our brains, I suspect one day we’ll find these memory genes that link us more than we’d realized to our forbearers.

      • Louis
        June 20, 2015 at 7:15 am

        We inherit talents, tendencies, traits and só on from our ancestors.

    • Sampath Fernando
      June 19, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      Thank you Louis. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with you. To understand Miracles, Resurrection, Creation of image on Turin Shroud, NDE, reincarnation we need some sort of divine inspiration.

      • Louis
        June 20, 2015 at 7:47 am

        You’re welcome, Sampath. If you believe in Jesus’ resurrection it will help in your quest for the truth and also in understanding what is being saíd in the realm of Shroud studies. Reincarnation is a vast topic, we can’t discuss it here. But, surely, as a Methodist you understand that the belief is not compatible with the NT?

  7. June 19, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    What we do know is back when King Henry VIII was in charge, he wanted some changes so e got rid of the RCC and made the Ecc. This way he could easily divorce and get a new wife(s). Had that not happened, then the world would be thinking of the King as a whore monger, no a fitting title for an English King. As a non-RCC he had – – what was it – 6 different wives ?

  8. Dan
    July 11, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Best of Shroud Story.

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