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Shroud of Turin

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Written on 6:15 AM by Mrudula

The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. It is believed by many to be the cloth placed on Jesus of Nazareth at the time of his burial

The image on the shroud is much clearer in black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color. The striking negative image was first observed on the evening of May 28, 1898 on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral. According to Pia, he almost dropped and broke the photographic plate from the shock of seeing an image of a person on it.[2][3]

The shroud is the subject of intense debate among some scientists, people of faith, historians, and writers regarding where, when, and how the shroud and its images were created. From a religious standpoint, in 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with the Roman Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, celebrated every year on Shrove Tuesday. Some believe the shroud is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was placed in his tomb and that his image was recorded on its fibers at or near the time of his alleged resurrection. Skeptics, on the other hand, contend the shroud is a medieval forgery; others attribute the forming of the image to chemical reactions or other natural processes.

The image on the cloth has many peculiar and closely studied characteristicsPDF (114 KiB), for example, it is entirely superficial, not penetrating into the cloth fibers under the surface, so that the flax and cotton fibers are not colored; the image yarn is composed of discolored fibers placed side by side with non-discolored fibers so many striations appear. Thus the cloth is not simply dyed, though many other explanations, natural and otherwise, have been suggested for the image formation. Alone among published researchers, McCrone believed the entire image to be composed of pigment. However, this hypothesis was disproved after closer inspection showed that there was no more pigment particles on the image area than on the non-image area of the shroud.[citation needed] Other results have shown the image to be a discoloration, not a "coloration."

 The shroud, however, has many defenders who believe they have demonstrated that the cloth is not a forgery, dates from the time of Christ, is of miraculous origin, etc. It is claimed that there is type AB blood on the shroud. Skeptics deny it. Blood has not been identified on the shroud directly, but it has been identified on sticky tape that was used to lift fibrils from the shroud. Dried, aged blood is black. The stains on the shroud are red. Forensic tests on the red stuff have identified it as red ocher and vermilion tempera paint. Other tests by Adler and Heller have identified it as blood.* If it is blood, it could be the blood of some 14th century person. It could be the blood of someone wrapped in the shroud, or the blood of the creator of the shroud, or of anyone who has ever handled the shroud, or of anyone who handled the sticky tape. But even if there were blood on the shroud, that would have no bearing on the age of the shroud or on its authenticity.

It is claimed that the cloth has some pollen grains [pdf format] and images on it that are of plants found only in the Dead Sea region of Israel. Avinoam Danin, a botanist from Hebrew University of Jerusalem claims he has identified pollen from the tumbleweed Gundelia tournefortii and a bean caper on the shroud. He claims this combination is found only around Jerusalem. Some believers think the crown of thorns was made of this type of tumbleweed. However, Danin did not examine the shroud itself. His sample of pollen grains originated with Max Frei who tape-lifted pollen grain samples from the shroud. Frei's pollen grains have been controversial from the beginning. Frei, who once pronounced the forged "Hitler Diaries" to be genuine, probably introduced the pollen grains himself or was duped and innocently picked up pollen grains another pious fraud had introduced (Nickell).

Danin and his colleague Uri Baruch also claim that they found impressions of flowers on the shroud and that those flowers could only come from Israel. However, the floral images they see are hidden in mottled stains much the way the image of Jesus is hidden in a tortilla or the image of Mary is hidden in the bark of a tree. The first to see flowers in the stains was a psychiatrist, who was probably an expert at seeing personality traits in inkblots (Nickell, 1994)

Danin notes that another relic believed to be the burial face cloth of Jesus (the Sudarium of Oviedo in Spain) contains the same two types of pollen grains as the Shroud and also is stained with type AB blood. Since the Sudarium is believed to havethe Sudarium of Oviedo existed before the 8th century, according to Danin, there is "clear evidence that the shroud originated before the eighth century." The cloth is believed to have been in a chest of relics from at least the time of the Moorish invasion of Spain. It is said to have been in the chest when it was opened in 1075. But, since there is no blood on the shroud of Turin and there is no good reason to accept Danin's assumption that the pollen grains were on the Shroud from its origin, this argument is spurious.

In any case, the fact that pollen grains found near the Dead Sea or Jerusalem were on the shroud means little. Even if the pollen grains weren't introduced by some pious fraud, they could have been carried to the shroud by anyone who handled it. In short, the pollen grains could have originated in Jerusalem at any time before or after the appearance of the shroud in Italy. This is not a very strong piece of evidence.

Moreover, that there are two cloths believed to have been wrapped around the dead body of Jesus does not strengthen the claim that the shroud is authentic, but weakens it. How many more cloths are there that we don't know about? Were they mass produced like pieces of the true cross, straw from Christ's manger, chunks of Noah's ark? That cloths in Spain and Italy have identical pollen grains and blood stains is a bit less than "clear evidence" that they originated at the same time, especially since there is clear evidence that the claim that they have identical pollen grains and blood stains is not true. But, even if it were true, it would be of little value in establishing that either of these cloths touched the body of Jesus.

- Munnu

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