Opinion

Shroud of Turin: New Test Concludes 1988 ‘Medieval Hoax’ Dating Was a Fraud

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Posted: Jul 21, 2019 12:01 AM
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Shroud of Turin: New Test Concludes 1988 ‘Medieval Hoax’ Dating Was a Fraud

Source: Face on the Shroud: How it appears on the cloth, and as a photo “negative” that is a “positive.” ©1978 Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA, Inc. Reprinted by permission.

Important news about the Shroud of Turin, believed by millions to be the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ, has been flagrantly under-reported.

Nevertheless, the lack of mainstream media interest does not diminish landmark new research contesting the results of the controversial 1988 radiocarbon test that dated the Shroud between the years 1260 and 1390. 

Immediately after those dates were cited three decades ago, and to this day, the Shroud has been tainted, maligned, disparaged and denigrated while wedded to the descriptions “not authentic,” a “forgery” or “medieval hoax.” 

Meanwhile, the medieval date range is still continuously questioned and debunked by scientists and experts. The chief complaint is that the three small Shroud test samples were cut from the same outer edge on a piece of the cloth long thought to have been added later in the Middle Ages. This would have been part of a repair or reweave on a corner that had become worn and frayed due to frequent handling when the Shroud was held up for public exhibition. In fact, this theory was proven correct in 2005 by American chemist Raymond N. Rogers.

Thankfully now there is a new chapter in the 1988 dating debate. Raw data and documents from the original test that were “unavailable” (many scientists and researchers would say deliberately “hidden”) were obtained in 2017 by Tristan Casabianca, a French researcher.

In March, after two years of tests and analysis, Casabianca and his team of scientists published their results in the scholarly journal Archaeometry.

This month, in an interview with the French publication L'Homme Nouveau (Google translates into English), Casabianca discusses how he obtained the documents, his team’s methodology, and conclusion. Here is an excerpt:

“In 1989, the results of the shroud dating were published in the prestigious journal Nature: between 1260 and 1390 with 95% certainty. But for thirty years, researchers have asked the laboratories for raw data. These have always refused to provide them. In 2017, I submitted a legal request to the British Museum, which supervised the laboratories. Thus, I had access to hundreds of unpublished pages, which include these raw data. With my team, we conducted their analysis. Our statistical analysis shows that the 1988 carbon 14 dating was unreliable: the tested samples are obviously heterogeneous, [showing many different dates], and there is no guarantee that all these samples, taken from one end of the sheet, are representative of the whole fabric. It is therefore impossible to conclude that the shroud of Turin dates from the Middle Ages.” 

Here is why Casabianca’s conclusions are important to someone like me.

Since the 1990s, I have been a proponent of the study of the Shroud of Turin — a 14.5- by-3.5-foot linen cloth, and indeed believe it is the authentic burial shroud of Jesus Christ. 

Meanwhile, the Shroud continues to be the most studied and analyzed artifact in the world, with its numerous unexplained properties continuing to baffle modern science. Chief among the mysteries is what “caused” a linear, front to back, anatomically correct, blood-stained image of a tortured, crucified man — with bodily markings that perfectly align with all the Biblical accounts of Christ’s suffering and death — to appear on the cloth. 

The Shroud also possesses photographic-negative properties first discovered in 1898,  that on the “positive image” clearly show every gruesome, agonizing, torment endured by the “man.”  

Additionally, the Shroud displays three-dimensional “distance information” resembling a topographical map but within the cloth’s two-dimensional image of the man. 

Furthermore, the image depth measures only two micro-fibers with no variation (such consistency is a feat impossible with human hands). And more unusual, the image does not penetrate the cloth but sits on top.

I could go into vast detail about many more fascinating facts, but the big takeaway is that the more you learn about the Shroud’s mysteries, the more you believe in its authenticity.

Shroud scientists and other experts who have never accepted the 1290 – 1360 date range are applauding Casabianca and his team who are calling for rigorous new testing to end the absurd notion that the Shroud is a medieval hoax.

Not only did those dates defy logic because of circumstantial evidence such as art, artifacts, and coins that mirror the Shroud face as early as AD 692, but the 1988 tests diminished the conclusions of the equally famous 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project known as STURP. As the first and last comprehensive research project authorized by the Vatican, STURP employed 40 esteemed scientists using 1970s-state-of-the-art equipment and given access to the Shroud for 120 hours. Here is the concluding paragraph from STURP's final October 1981 report:

“Thus, the answer to the question of how the image was produced or what produced the image remains, now, as it has in the past, a mystery. We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The bloodstains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”

Barrie Schwortz, a world-renowned Shroud expert who was a STURP photographer and later founded Shroud.com, the most visited Shroud site, told me what happened in 1988: 

“As soon as the dating results were leaked to the press, the world of the Shroud came to a complete and sudden halt. Many researchers took this as the final word and disengaged completely. The years of hard work by the STURP team and the many papers they published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature was immediately disregarded and ultimately, forgotten. These were indeed the bleak years of Shroud research.”

But now the Shroud is experiencing a renaissance. 

Besides Casabianca’s breakthrough research, there are two new Shroud museums, a site for Shroud evangelization, a famous collection of Shroud photography now available online, much Shroud activity, and generally a renewed interest in the cloth.  

I am proud to be a part of this movement by helping lead a team of Shroud experts to raise the $2.5 million needed to showcase the cloth’s mysteries in a unique exhibition at the popular and prestigious Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. 

Of course, the Shroud will not be present at the museum because it does not travel. Since 1578, it has been housed in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy  —  except during the Second World War when it was hidden from Hitler — but the Shroud will be there in spirit!

After the funds are raised, our team will assist the museum in producing the world’s most high-tech, creative exhibit, utilizing state-of-the-art display technology. The Shroud’s unexplained properties will be brought to life, leaving visitors spellbound. 

Targeted for early January 2021, the exhibition will be open in time for the presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol, only three blocks from the museum.   

The Museum of the Bible’s planned exhibit is part of a great Shroud awakening. Why do I believe that this is happening? The answer is the same as I have written before:

For those who insist that the burial Shroud of Jesus is fake, then we must counter with the question, “What if it is real?”