Self Evident Apologetics- The Shroud of Turin: The “Photograph” of Jesus?
What if I told you something exists akin to an actual photograph of Jesus? You would likely have great suspicion of that statement and expectedly assume this to be impossible. A precise image of Jesus during his time here on Earth? We know with God all things are possible, as our Lord himself stated. Met with enormous investigative intrigue, doubt from believers and non-believers alike, and confidence by those in awe of the experimental outcomes associated with it, we have the Shroud. More specifically referred to as the Shroud of Turin, due to being kept in Italy, it is an ancient linen cloth that appears to have been wrapped around a Man crucified, somehow capturing his image with extraordinary clarity. What better evidence could one ask for- an actual image of the Man in question at the scene of the act, proving the event of the Resurrection of Christ? In a court of law, this is conclusive, unlike an eye witness testimony (though there were hundreds of those who witnessed Christ after his resurrection.) If your skeptical, your already waving your hand against the whole thing. Of course, with today’s technology a mere photo can be faked within seconds using countless methods. For it to be fool-proof, the image would have to be produced in a way that would be impossible to reproduce with modern technology, and of course with primitive methods from a thousand years ago. This is what makes the Shroud so amazing- though it is an ancient artifact, to this day the image found on the Shroud has been impossible to recreate. Every method attempted has failed.
The Shroud contains numerous fascinating, intriguing, and incredible complex features that make the artifact one-of-a-kind and unique in the world. Attempts to recreate the image of the Shroud and replicate all of its features remains completely elusive to this day among entire teams of world-class scientists. The claim of it being a “medieval forgery” seems absurd when considering the image cant even be reforged with modern technology and every attempt to do so has failed. This leaves one to consider the supernatural. These features are as follows: the image is a perfect photographic negative (something not done in photography until the 1800s) fully three-dimensional (allowing digital 3D facial reconstruction), only present on the outermost fringes of the shroud (containing no paint or pigments proven by X-ray fluorescence and infrared thermography tests), and contains blood wounds consistent with Roman crucifixion specific to the biblical account, including a crown of thorns (a wound unique to history), a pierced side, scourging, and nailed hands and feet. Analysis has shown it contains blood both shed alive from the one crucified and after death. A fascinating historical record of that of Robert de Clari, a 13th century crusader, details seeing something that can only be described as the Shroud on display in Constantinople. Furthermore, the image is scorch-like as if burned onto linen, yet couldn’t have been created by heat because the images do not fluoresce. No paints, dyes, or inks have been found on the image and there are no brush strokes. Additionally, the outline contains no direction which would be impossible if it were a painting. (A few random particles of paint that don’t make up the image have been found on fibers due to the practice of many artists panting replicas throughout the Middle Ages. Upon completion they would press them upon the Shroud.)
Contemporary research on the Shroud began in 1978 with a group of scientists labeled as the "Shroud of Turin Research Project" (STURP) whom concluded they did not know how the image was produced. They conducted ultraviolet, visible, and infrared spectrometry, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, microscopy, thermography, pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry, laser-microprobe Raman analyses, and microchemical testing. A brief summary of their findings can be covered here and show a fascinating level of microscopic complexity and detail (a full link to the original paper is posted below for the full reading). Some of their conclusions were: the Shroud image was not made by pressing the cloth on a “heated based-relief”, and its color resides on the outer surface of the fibers with coloration depth being extremely thin. They were in fact found to be thinner than the wavelength of visible light, or less than about 0.6 micrometers. The process by which the Shroud’s shallow coloration image was created is completely unknown. As mentioned earlier, the image was found to have three-dimensional information of the body encoded in it. Amazingly so, analysis of the blood revealed “anatomical consistency” of its serum levels with the wound affliction, correctly containing bilirubin. To purposely create this consistency through forgery would require knowledge of anatomical and forensic medicine not known until the 19th century.
Much has been made of a carbon 14-test performed in 1988 of several fibers dating the shroud to the Middle Ages, though later it was found that the fibers in question were edge pieces likely inserted to repair the Shroud during the 16th century. A paper published in Oxford University's Archaeometry by researchers describes the testing results as flawed because the shroud image itself was not analyzed- only the few edge fibers. This is consistent with statistical analysis form 2017 demonstrating a less than 1% chance of the fibers that were dated actually matching the Shroud. Skeptics tend to focus only on this singular dating event and refrain from discussing the image of the Shroud itself or any of the dating tests since performed. A dating test was conducted by Giulio Fanti of the University of Bologna involving the linen and in April of 2022, professor Liberato De Caro of the Institute of Crystallography used an X-ray dating method. Both of these placed the Shroud in the 1st century. Lastly, the University of Padua has performed two chemical tests and one mechanical test dating the shroud to the 1st century AD; Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), Raman spectroscopy, as well as a test measuring several micro-mechanical characteristics of flax fibers.
The shroud is so detailed and precise in its measurements that it was able to be used to create an exact physical representation of the man it covered following his crucifixion. “This statue is the three-dimensional representation in actual size of the Man of the Shroud, created following the precise measurements taken from the cloth in which the body of Christ was wrapped after the crucifixion,” explains Giulio Fanti, teacher of mechanical and thermal measurements at the University of Padua. His comments express his confidence that the Shroud’s extraordinary image is that of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Therefore, we believe that we finally have the precise image of what Jesus looked like on this earth. From now on, He may no longer be depicted without taking this work into account.” He goes on to describe the features of the Man in the image: “According to our studies, Jesus was a man of extraordinary beauty. Long-limbed, but very robust, he was nearly 5 ft. 11 in. tall, whereas the average height at the time was around 5 ft. 5 in. And he had a regal and majestic expression.” The Shroud having an exact three-dimensional image projected perfectly onto its body allowed even Fanti to count the number of wounds the Man had due to flagellation. “I counted 370 wounds from the flagellation, without taking into account the wounds on his sides, which the Shroud doesn’t show because it only enveloped the back and front of the body. We can therefore hypothesize a total of at least 600 blows.
There may be one answer that science can provide as to how the image was formed that coincides with biblical descriptions of the power of God. A nuclear physicist at Duke University and Harvard by the name of Dr. Thomas Phillips has stated a “miliburst of radiation”, or what is described as a “neutron flux”, “could be consistent with the moment of resurrection”. Scientist Paolo Di Lazzaro with the Italian agency ENEA were finally able to reproduce a few square centimeters of the image using ultraviolet light radiation from extremely short laser bursts. They could not reproduce the whole image, not even close, because the level of ultraviolet light necessary “exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today.” It would require “intensities of several billion watts.” Again the question is presented forth: if the most advanced technologies available in the 21st century could not produce a copy of the shroud image how could it have been done by a medieval forger? These findings support the idea that the image on the Shroud was made by a sudden flash of high-energy radiation.
“The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.” -Isaiah 30:26
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upolds the universe by the word of his power.” -Hebrews 1:3
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” -1 John 1:5
“Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” -Ephesians 5:14
“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” -Revelation 21:23