The Significance of The Turin Shroud

 In 1357 the Turin Shroud was gifted to a small church in Lirey, France,by the local lord, Geoffrey de Charny. How he acquired it is not recorded

 In 1357 the Turin Shroud was gifted to a small church in Lirey,France,by the local lord, Geoffrey de Charny. How he acquired it is not recorded

If the Turin Shroud is genuine, what does it tell us about Jesus and the origins of Christianity? Curiously, although many believe that it would provide vital proof of the truth of the religion, others argue that it would actually undermine some of its central tenets.

Although the Shroud was endorsed as the genuine article by Popes in the 15th and 16th century, more recently the Catholic Church has been careful not to pronounce on it one way or the other, the official line being that, genuine or not, it is a fit object for meditation on Christ's Passion. The Vatican has refused to accept the results of the 1988 carbon dating. Although Pope John Paul II is known to personally believe that the Shroud is genuine, he has never said so officially.

For most believers in the Shroud's authenticity, the cloth and its image are a "fifth gospel" that bears witness to the New Testament accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. The wounds suffered by the man on the Shroud are exactly those described in the Gospel accounts, which (they argue) shows that those accounts are accurate and reliable. Sceptics, however, counter that an intelligent faker would have made sure that the image matched the Biblical details.

Not only is the Shroud a souvenir of the most important moment in Jesus's life, as it wrapped his body as it lay in the tomb and therefore at the moment of his Resurrection, but it is also stained with the blood that, according to Christian theology, he shed to save humanity from its sins

 In 1464 the future Pope Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere) wrote the first book championing the Shroud's authenticity

In 1464 future Pope Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere) wrote the first book championing the Shroud's authenticity

More dramatically, some propose that the Shroud is not just proof of the crucifixion, but also of the Resurrection, the key event in Christian dogma. This comes from the theory that the image was formed by an intense burst of radiation emanating from the body of Jesus, the radiation that regenerated his body and brought him back to life. Promoters of this view include former USAF physicist Dr John P.Jackson.

A totally opposite view is taken by researchers who argue that the Shroud image proves that the Resurrection never happened. They claim that it shows that Jesus was still alive when taken down from the cross, and that the Resurrection was, in fact, simply a recovery from coma. Proponents of this view point out that the blood appears to be still flowing, showing that the man was alive when placed in the Shroud. Those who uphold the theory that the image was caused by a chemical reaction between Jesus's body and the cloth say that, as all chemical reactions need heat, the body must have still been warm as it lay in the tomb.

 Firemen rescuing the casket containing the Turin Shroud during a fire at Turin Cathedral on the night of 11-12 April 1997

Firemen rescuing the casket containing the Turin Shroud during a fire at Turin Cathedral on the night of 11-12 April 1997

Some adherents to this view, such as Rodney Hoare, the former Chairman of the British Society for the Turin Shroud, do not feel that this clashes with their Christian beliefs. Others, however, believe that it calls into question the very foundation of the Christian religion.

This idea first surfaced in the 1940s, when one Hans Naber claimed that Jesus had appeared to him in a vision, and told him that the Resurrection had never happened and that the Shroud was proof of it. More recently, the same line was taken by German researchers Holger Kersten and Elmar Gruber, who also claim in their 1992 book The Jesus Conspiracy that this is why the Vatican ensured that the 1988 carbon dating would show that the Shroud is a fake.

Proponents of this theory also suggest that events such as the 1997 arson attack on Turin Cathedral were attempts to destroy the Shroud before its secret could be revealed.

All these ideas, of course, assume that the Shroud is genuine

 

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