Friday, March 14, 2008

Shrouded in Mystery

The Shroud of Turin, the alleged burial cloth of Jesus, has attracted a lot of attention ever since 1898 when it was discovered that the image on the cloth is a photographic negative. Scientists remain puzzled as to what exactly caused the image. Now the Shroud has gone High-Def, photographed “almost 1,300 times stronger than a picture taken with a 10 million pixel digital camera.” A BBC documentary about the recent filming etc will soon be aired on the Discovery Channel.

Back in 1988 Carbon-14 tests were done on a corner sample producing the dating between 1260 and 1390. Subsequently, most scientists dismiss the Shroud as an ingenious Medieval Latin forgery, but many questions still remain. The image on the Shroud in places is no more the 1/500 of an inch thick; modern science still has no way to replicate that. Seen through a VP-8 Imager, a photograph of the Shroud image is actually 3-D; regular photographs are not. Pollen samples as well as limestone build-up indisputably prove that the cloth existed in the Jerusalem area. Likewise, the weave of the cloth is unique to first-century Palestine textiles. How did a Medieval-Early Renaissance forger know the specific weave etc and replicate it? And then there are medical anatomical facts as well. Theories have been posited regarding how the forgery could have been pulled off, as well as theories questioning the Carbon dating results. No matter what, the Shroud proves for interesting scientific investigation. Nothing like a good mystery!

The bottom line is, the belief in Jesus Christ being the Incarnate eternal Son of God, who was crucified and resurrected, is a matter of faith, not reason. Faith and reason can and should work hand in hand; religion shouldn’t fear science. As a Catholic university, Rockhurst values both faith and reason; religion and science. Whether the Shroud is the actual burial cloth of the historical Jesus of Nazareth is not essential for Christian faith; however, ongoing scientific questions and resultant data support the idea that faith shouldn’t be summarily dismissed either. Something is going on that defies present scientific understanding.

For links about the up-coming Discovery Channel program as well as the Shroud of Turin, click below.

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