A Happy New Year to my readers!
2013 Favs: New Tests Date the Shroud from the Time of Christ, Patheos, December 30, 2013, Rebecca Hamilton. This blog post by Oklahoma State Representative Rebecca Hamilton (right) is about her favourite item of Shroud news in 2013, being the "tests [which] indicate that the Shroud of Turin was created somewhere between 300 BC and 400 AD." Ms Hamilton's words are in bold to distinguish them from mine.
She is evidently referring to the tests by University of Padua researchers led by Prof. Giulio Fanti, which paraphrasing the words of the 1989 Nature paper "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," provided conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is NOT mediaeval, but is dated "33 BC ±250 years":
The new tests carried out in the University of Padua labs were carried out by a number of university professors from various Italian universities and agree that the Shroud dates back to the period when Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. Final results show that the Shroud fibres examined produced the following dates, all of which are 95% certain and centuries away from the medieval dating obtained with Carbon-14 testing in 1988: the dates given to the Shroud after FT-IR testing, is 300 BC ±400, 200 BC ±500 after Raman testing and 400 AD ±400 after multi-parametric mechanical testing. The average of all three dates is 33 BC ±250 years. The book’s authors observed that the uncertainty of this date is less than the single uncertainties and the date is compatible with the historic date of Jesus’ death on the cross, which historians claim occurred in 30 AD." ("New experiments on Shroud show it’s not medieval," Vatican Insider, 26 March, 2013, Andrea Tornielli)See my posts, "New experiments on Shroud show it's not medieval" and "New tests by Prof. Giulio Fanti show the Shroud of Turin could date from the time of Christ."
This started me thinking of posting my own Shroud highlights of 2013, but I decided that I could do no better than comment on Rep. Hamilton's post.
Recent tests indicate that the Shroud of Turin was created somewhere between 300 BC and 400 AD. No. "300 BC ±400" is 700 BC-100 AD, "200 BC ±500" is 700 BC-300 AD and "400 AD ±400" is 0 BC-800 AD (I realise that there was no year 0 BC). That is a range of 700 BC - 800 AD.
This places its origin within the time of Christ. Indeed, the death of Christ between 30 and 33 AD is well within that range.
That does not mean that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Christ. The evidence already was overwhelming that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial sheet of Jesus. The only remaining evidence against the authenticity of the Shroud was the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud which claimed that:
"The results provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval. ... AD 1260-1390" (Damon, P.E., et al., 1989, "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16th February, pp.611-615)But that claim had been increasingly doubted, even by Professor Christopher Ramsey, Director of Oxford's radiocarbon dating laboratory, who was a signatory to that 1989 Nature radiocarbon dating paper, but who had since admitted:
"There is a lot of other evidence that suggests to many that the Shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow and so further research is certainly needed. It is important that we continue to test the accuracy of the original radiocarbon tests as we are already doing. It is equally important that experts assess and reinterpret some of the other evidence. Only by doing this will people be able to arrive at a coherent history of the Shroud which takes into account and explains all of the available scientific and historical information." (Ramsey, C.B., "Shroud of Turin Version 77," Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, 23 March, 2008)These three different scientific tests, added to the late Ray Rogers' tests in 2005 which found the Shroud doesn't have enough vanillin for a medieval linen cloth, and that it had been patched with younger cloth which had been dyed to make it look old:
"Rogers has pursued another objection. ... the suggestion that the carbon-dated fragment was taken from a patch repaired in the sixteenth century did not look promising. The shroud was indeed damaged by fire and patched up in 1532, but those patches, called the Holland cloth, are obvious. Rogers thought that he would be able to `disprove [the] theory in five minutes'. But he now says that there is something in it. Luigi Gonella, the Archbishop of Turin's scientific adviser, provided Rogers with a few threads from the piece cut for dating, which he compared with the samples he collected during the Shroud of Turin Research Project. The radiocarbon sample, but not other parts of the shroud, seems to have been dyed with madder, a colorant not widely used in Europe until after the Crusades, Rogers writes in Thermochimica Acta [Vol. 425, 2005, pp.189-194]. This suggested that the fabric could have been inserted during repair, after being dyed to match the original, older cloth. Well, maybe. Perhaps more compelling is that most of the shroud lacks vanillin, a breakdown product of the lignin in cotton fibres. There is vanillin in the Holland cloth, and in other medieval linen. Because it decomposes over time, this suggests that the main body of the cloth is considerably older than these patches. By calculating the rate of decay, Rogers arrives at his revised estimate of the shroud's age." (Ball, P., 2005, "To know a veil," Nature news, 28 January.)are four nails in the coffin of the 1988-89 "medieval ... AD 1260-1390" radiocarbon date.
So we are back to the situation before the radiocarbon dating of 1988, when, as Classics Professor Robert Drews (who did not then, and presumably does not now, think the Shroud was authentic), wrote in 1984:
"In short, it is quite improbable that anyone, whether in the Middle Ages or in antiquity, whether a Christian or an opponent of Christianity, created the Shroud's image in order to simulate the image of Jesus' crucified body. Nor is there any statistical probability at all that the Shroud bears a nonintentional, or `natural,' image of a body other than Jesus' body. We must therefore conclude that, if the Shroud is indeed ancient, as it seems to be, it is very likely that the image on the Shroud is that of Jesus' body. Should a carbon test [or any other scientific dating test, let alone four-my interpolation] indicate that the Shroud itself dates from around the time of Jesus, the probability will be overwhelming that what we have on the Shroud is the vera imago of Jesus." (Drews, R., 1984, "In Search of the Shroud of Turin," p.30).
But it does mean that it could be. I would put is a lot stronger than that: It is almost certain (as certain as any historical fact can be) that the Shroud of Turin is the very burial sheet of Jesus!
I am not a scientist, so I can’t evaluate the tests which have given us these dates. Rep. Hamilton sells herself short. I am not a working scientist but I do have a Bachelor of Science degree and am a relief high school teacher who teaches Science amongst other subjects, and I can assure her that an intelligent layperson, as she undoubtedly is, can evaluate what the scientists who did these tests, because: (a) it is not quantum physics; and b) they wrote their papers to be read by layperson and by other scientists who are not specialists in those respective fields, and hence are effectively laypersons.
I can’t read the original documents written by the scientists who performed the tests because they are in Italian. The report of Prof. Fanti's ENEA (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) group's tests can be translated into English using by Google Translate. See the instructions at "Translating the whole ENEA report into English with Google." I have done that, but it is not necessary since the Vatican Insider article mentioned above faithfully summarises in English the main points of Prof. Fanti's group's Italian ENEA report.
What I can do is tell you that I have read that the tests were performed on the same strands taken from the Shroud for the 1988 carbon dating tests that concluded the Shroud originated in the Middle Ages. Yes, Fanti et al.'s tests were done on linen strands which were part of the `reserve sample' kept back by Prof. Giovanni Riggi, who cut the sample from the Shroud which was then subdivided between the three radiocarbon dating laboratories, Oxford, Tucson and Zurich.
Scientists who performed the more recent tests which yielded the dates of origin for the Shroud that place it in the time of Christ say that the original samples were contaminated and that this is why they gave inaccurate results. The agnostic art historian Thomas de Wesselow (right), who believes the Shroud was Jesus' but does not believe in Jesus' resurrection, considers this to be a possibility:
"So, what could have gone wrong? ... Essentially, though, there are three possibilities. The first is that the Shroud sample given to the laboratories was contaminated in some way or chemically altered, so that the C-14 levels they detected were greater than they should have been. In the vast majority of cases, when carbon-dating tests yield suspect results, it is because some natural process has interfered with the regular ticking of the radiocarbon clock. The most obvious explanation for the dubious carbon-dating result is that some form of contamination was present or that the level of C-14 in the material was otherwise enhanced. As noted above, the measurement errors caused by such processes can be spectacular - in the range of thousands of years. There is evidence that tests on linen are particularly prone to distortion. In the late 1970s Dr Rosalie David of the Manchester Museum had samples from an Egyptian mummy carbon-dated at the British Museum, only  to find that the bandages were dated 800 to 1,000 years younger than the body. [Wilson, I., 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud," p.193] She didn't believe the mummy could have been re-wrapped, and she had received other anomalous results as well. In 1997 David coauthored an article (along with Harry Gove and others) in which new experiments conducted on ancient Egyptian ibis mummies were reported. It was found that 'there was a very significant discrepancy, an average of 550 years, between the dating of the mummy's linen wrappings and the mummy itself'. [Wilson, 1998, p.229] Two reasons have been suggested for the anomalous linen results: either that the porosity of the fibres makes them particularly susceptible to contamination, or that, because crop plants have a short life span, they reflect short-term fluctuations in the C-14 levels. The samples used in the 1988 test were cleaned using standard methods, but, as Gove remarks, 'One of the problems with small samples is that one never knew when the cleaning procedure was sufficient.' And he also makes the following point: 'All of the labs used the same cleaning technique, and if there's some kind of contaminant that was not taken care of, it would give the same answer to all three labs, and all three would be wrong.' [Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," pp.160, 291] Various suggestions have been made regarding potential sources of contamination. An early suggestion was that some form of C-14 enrichment took place in 1532, when the Shroud was scorched and burnt. [Kouznetsov, D., et al. 1996; but see Jull, A., et al., 1996] An alternative argument, popular in some quarters, is that the Resurrection was a radioactive event which converted some of the C-12 in the cloth into C- 14. [Antonacci, M., "Resurrection of the Shroud," 2000, pp.159-64] Another theory is that developed by Dr Leoncio Garza-Valdes, a Texan microbiologist, who believes that the Shroud sample was covered with a `bioplastic coating', i.e. a transparent, natural varnish produced by bacteria and fungi. [(Garza-Valdes, L.A., 1998, "The DNA of God?," pp.2-3] Some of these theories are more plausible than others, but none has gained widespread acceptance, let alone been proven. Without access to the Shroud, it is difficult to see how any further progress can be made in this type of investigation." (de Wesselow, T., 2012, "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection," pp.168-169).
De Wesselow considers it to be also a possibility that the corner of the Shroud from which the radiocarbon sample was cut, had been invisibly repaired with younger cloth:
"The second possibility is that the cloth cut from the Shroud was not actually part of its original fabric but was a careful repair made during the late Middle Ages or Renaissance. This idea has been vigorously promoted by two amateur researchers, Sue Benford and Joe Marino. [Benford, S. & Marino, J., 2002, "Historical Support of a 16th Century Restoration in the Shroud C-14 Sample Area."; Benford, S. & Marino, J., 2005, "New Historical Evidence Explaining the `Invisible Patch' in the 1988 C-14 Sample Area of the Turin Shroud."] The basic claim is that the relevant corner of the Shroud was repaired 'invisibly' using a technique known as 'French weaving', which even textile experts cannot necessarily detect by eye. ... the repair hypothesis has recently received a shot in the arm from Ray Rogers, whose meticulous investigation of various Shroud samples, published in Thermochimica Acta shortly before he died in 2005, lends it a measure of support. Studying threads obtained from both the Raes sample and the adjacent carbon- dating sample, Rogers found that they were coated in a gum containing alizarin and red lakes - in other words, a dye. None of the threads he examined from the main body of the Shroud shared this dye. `The presence of alizarin dye and red lakes in the Raes and radiocarbon samples indicates that the color has been manipulated,' he wrote. 'Specifically, the color and distribution of the coating implies that repairs were made at an unknown time with foreign linen dyed to match the older original material.' [Rogers, R.N., 2005, "Studies on the radiocarbon sample from the Shroud of Turin," Thermochimica Acta, 425, p.192]. At the very least, Rogers's observations constitute evidence that the carbon-dating sample was taken from a suspect corner of the Shroud." (de Wesselow, 2012, pp.169-170).
De Wesselow even considers it a possibility (as I do) that the "medieval ... AD 1260-1390" date was the result of scientific fraud, especially since "AD 1260-1390" is 1325 +/- 65 years, which by "a remarkable coincidence ... tallies so well with the date always claimed by sceptics as the Shroud's historical debut":
"The third possibility is that a fraud was perpetrated, that genuine Shroud samples were deliberately swapped with cloth of a later date. Arguments to this effect have come from quarters as diverse as members of an ultra-conservative Catholic Counter-Reformation group, who think there was a Masonic plot to discredit the Shroud, and the 'heretical' German writers Holger Kersten and Elmar Gruber, who believe that the Catholic Church rigged the result, fearful that the Shroud might prove Jesus did not die on the cross. [Kersten, H. & Gruber, E.R., 1994, "The Jesus Conspiracy: The Turin Shroud and the Truth About the Resurrection"] Most sindonologists regard these fraud theories as plainly incredible. Some, like Ian Wilson, refuse to contemplate such `unworthy' accusations. [Wilson, 1998, pp.8, 11, 186, 219] However, scientific fraud is by no means unknown, as the editors of science journals are well aware. ... One important consideration weighs in favour of the possibility of deception. If the carbon-dating error was accidental, then it is a remarkable coincidence that the result tallies so well with the date always claimed by sceptics as the Shroud's historical debut. But if fraud was involved, then it wouldn't be a coincidence at all. Had anyone wished to discredit the Shroud, '1325 ± 65 years' [McCrone, W.C., 1999, "Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin,", p.1] is precisely the sort of date they would have looked to achieve." (de Wesselow, 2012, p.170).
Because as an art historian, de Wesselow points out that the claim the Shroud was made in the 14th century, is the equivalent of a claim that "the Shroud was deposited in medieval France by aliens"!:
"Given credence, the carbon-dating result effectively raises the Shroud to the status of a miracle, an object that defies, if not a law of nature, a law of culture. ... As far as I am aware, no one has yet argued that the Shroud was deposited in medieval France by aliens ... [but] ... There is no better explanation, though, for a fourteenth-century Shroud." (de Wesselow, 2012, pp.167-168).
They also say that the technology employed in these new tests yields more accurate results than that used in 1988. It wasn't that the AMS (Accelerator mass spectrometry) method used to radiocarbon date the Shroud is not accurate per se. The problem is that, as archaeologist William Meacham pointed out, two years before the 1988 tests, that "radiocarbon dating rests upon a number of assumptions which cannot be subjected to laboratory proof":
"Listening to the tapes of the recent symposium at Elizabethtown, I was struck again by nearly all the speakers' repeated references to the eventual C14 date as `scientific proof of the Shroud's age' or `proof of the disauthenticity of the Shroud if it is not First Century', etc. These statements are seriously in error. We must bear in mind that C14 will not prove or disprove the Shroud's authenticity or its true age, because radiocarbon dating rests upon a number of assumptions which cannot be subjected to laboratory proof-the most important assumption in this instance being that the carbon now present in the sample is indeed the carbon present at the time the sample died (i.e., the harvest of the flax used in making the linen). As a method of dating, C14 is usually accurate, but there are exceptions." (Meacham, W., 1986, "On Carbon Dating the Shroud," BSTS Newsletter, No. 14, September. Emphasis original).
Linen has been found to be particularly difficult to carbon-date because its underlying flax fibrils have an enormous total surface area and are porous, which means that younger carbon can over time become an integral part of the linen which no pretreatment can remove:
"In sum, it should be obvious to the non-specialist, as it is to most archaeologists and radiocarbon scientists, that possible contamination always represents an element of uncertainty which no amount of laboratory pretreatment or measurement can totally efface. ... The fact that significant discrepancies do often result from contamination in best sample materials from optimum archaeological conditions has major implications for C14 measurement of the Shroud. ... The main contamination possibility is that of carbon from organic materials deposited in the porous cellulose structure long after the Shroud was manufactured. One source would be mold, mildew or other fungal growths which are encouraged in linen by high humidity environments. Hydrocarbons could be deposited in the pore spaces and cell walls, gradually displacing the original cellulose of the linen as it degraded. With frequent handling, stretching, creasing, etc. the Shroud may have been more subject to hydrocarbon entrapment than would a buried specimen undergoing natural decay. Bacterial or insect residues and fine particles of carbonates could similarly become locked in the cellulose structure. Substances introduced by man over possibly 2000 years constitute another category of contaminants, and some of these may have interacted with the cellulose. Penetration of the pore spaces may have occurred and a water-soluble, carbon-bearing solute deposited therein. The bound water of hydration may have been penetrated by other substances; lipids and proteins may have been deposited among the fibrils; smoke may have left free carbon deposits within the pores...Whereas all radiocarbon laboratories advise against placing a paper label in contact with the sample for the few weeks in transit from field to lab, the Shroud has had a backing cloth for 450 years!" (Meacham, 1986).
After carefully evaluating the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, de Wesselow concludes (and I agree) that it "will probably go down in history as one of the greatest fiascos in the history of science" and "In the meantime, we can safely ignore it":
"The carbon dating of the Shroud will probably go down in history as one of the greatest fiascos in the history of science. It would make an excellent case study for any sociologist interested in exploring the ways in which science is affected by professional biases, prejudices and ambitions, not to mention religious (and irreligious) beliefs. And it should certainly serve as a warning to practitioners of any discipline tempted to - see their work as more important and 'fundamental' than any other. ... Carbon dating may still make a valuable contribution to sindonology, if the Catholic Church ever allows further tests, and if those tests are integrated into a full, interdisciplinary research programme, as Professor Ramsey recommends. In the meantime, we can safely ignore it and concentrate on more productive avenues of research." (de Wesselow, T., 2012, "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection," p.172)
If all this is true - and it has been published widely on various media - then it leaves us with the proposition that the Shroud is either genuine, or it is an extraordinary fake. Which is what I call, "The central dilemma of the Shroud", based on Walsh (1963):
"Only this much is certain: The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Jesus Christ in existence-showing us in its dark simplicity how He appeared to men-or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever, products of the human mind and hand on record. It is one or the other; there is no middle ground." (Walsh, J.E., 1963, "The Shroud," pp.xi-xii).
Which means that those who deny the Shroud is authentic, are (whether they realise it or not) committed to a version of the forgery theory. So as I proceed through my series, "The Shroud of Turin" I am collecting as I go along all the problems of the forgery theory, which I will post in section "9.Problems of the forgery theory." It will then be seen that the problems of the Shroud authenticity theory are nothing compared to the problems of the forgery theory.
The questions that come to mind are how someone of this era could have managed to fake something like the Shroud and why, since Christianity was a persecuted sect during much of the latter half of this time, would they do it? I don't follow the first part of Hamilton's question. Christianity was not "a persecuted sect" in the fourteenth century, and indeed had ceased to be persecuted from AD 313, when the Roman Emperor Constantine issued his Edict of Milan. But the last part of her question, "why would they do it"? has no satisfactory answer. Prof. Drews considers and rejects the theory that an opponent of Christianity would create the Shroud to mock Christianity:
"Could, then, the image have been created in late antiquity by a pagan, hostile to Christianity and not above desecrating Jesus' passion by making a grotesque facsimile of his burial shroud? This is a possibility (a graffito has survived that satirizes the crucifixion), although one remote enough that we need not long consider it. What purpose such an anti-Christian might have had is not easy to imagine. A reasonably perceptive pagan should have had the sense to foresee that the image would serve only to verify, for Christians, the entire tradition of Jesus' passion, burial, and resurrection." (Drews, 1984, pp.29-30)
Is the Shroud the burial cloth of Christ? Was the image on it created by the Resurrection? I don’t know and I don’t think anyone now living does. Rep. Hamilton asks two different questions but gives only one answer. To her first question, "Is the Shroud the burial cloth of Christ?" the evidence is so overwhelming that it is, that even agnostics like Prof. Yves Delage (1854-1920), Rodney Hoare (1927-1997) and Thomas de Wesselow found they had no alternative but to accept that it is.
To her second question, "Was the image on it created by the Resurrection?" I am persuaded by the evidence that that is the best explanation which fits all the facts (see my post, "John P. Jackson, `An Unconventional Hypothesis to Explain all Image Characteristics Found on the Shroud Image' (1991)"). But there is disagreement among those who answered "yes" to the first question, about whether the answer is "yes" to the second question. Although probably the vast silent majority who believe the Shroud to be authentic believe that, as Wilson put it, the imprint of the man on the Shroud is "a literal `snapshot' of the Resurrection" of Jesus:
"Even from the limited available information, a hypothetical glimpse of the power operating at the moment of creation of the Shroud's image may be ventured. In the darkness of the Jerusalem tomb the dead body of Jesus lay, unwashed, covered in blood, on a stone slab. Suddenly, there is a burst of mysterious power from it. In that instant the blood dematerializes, dissolved perhaps by the flash, while its image and that of the body becomes indelibly fused onto the cloth, preserving for posterity a literal `snapshot' of the Resurrection." (Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin,", p.251).
But as for whether anyone "knows" the answer to those two questions depends on Rep. Hamilton's definition of "know". Do we "know" (in an absolute sense) anything? Yet our Western legal systems have sent to prison (up to and including for the rest of their lives) and even executed, countless millions of accused individuals, on far less evidence than there is for the Shroud being authentic. I have been a member of a jury which found an accused person not guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but none of us knew, in an absolute sense, whether or not he committed the crime for which he was charged. And we could have found him guilty if the evidence against him was stronger, but then we still would not have known, in an absolute sense, that he was guilty.
[Above: Jesus on the cross scene from "The Passion of the Christ": Testimonies of Heaven and Hell Christian Wallpapers]
Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" only scratched the surface of Jesus' incredible suffering for our sins:
2Cor 5:21. "For He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus, God the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
as revealed on the Shroud.
Whether it received the imprint of the body of Our Lord at the moment of His resurrection, or it is just an incredible and utterly unique piece of art that was created by unknown means, the testimony it gives is still a compelling witness to Passion and death of Our Lord. Agreed in one sense. But as I wrote in my post, "Shroud of Turin News, October 2013:
"But if the Shroud is a deliberate fraud, then it would almost certainly be a work of Satan, and no Church that calls itself Christian should be promoting a deliberate fraud (much less a work of Satan)!"
So I for one do not believe that the Risen Lord Jesus, who sits at the Father's right hand and controls everything (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62; Lk 22:69; Acts 2:33, 5:31;7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; 1Pet 3:22) would allow such a convincing fake as the Shroud would then be, to exist.
So 2013 was a great year for the Shroud. I look forward to what the Lord has in store for us Shroud pro-authenticists in 2014?