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Further testing needed for the Shroud of Turin

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Further testing needed for the Shroud of Turin


The image on the Shroud of Turin, which many believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, presents an interesting puzzle, writes C.S. Morrissey. (Image credit: Mark Antonacci)The image on the Shroud of Turin, which many believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, presents an interesting puzzle, writes C.S. Morrissey. (Image credit: Mark Antonacci)

The image on the Shroud of Turin, which many believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, presents an interesting puzzle. The image is of a scourged and crucified man. The puzzle concerns how the image became encoded onto the cloth.

The inner part of the cloth would have lain on top of the body. Yet no paints, powders, or pigments could have produced the body image that is on the cloth, at least according to those who have studied the Shroud in detail.

Mark Antonacci is an attorney who has investigated the Shroud for decades and who has authored Test the Shroud (2016) and The Resurrection of the Shroud (2000). He notes a great deal of “objective and independent evidence” is available about the puzzling Shroud image.

For example, the various details of the images of coins and flowers also encoded onto the Shroud date it to the appropriate time and place. But they do so in such sophisticated ways that it is very unlikely that any forger could have foreseen producing such results.

Antonacci and others thus contend the Shroud is not a medieval fake, but rather a sacred relic. It possesses an abundance of curious features that forgery does not explain. Multiple, convergent lines of evidence suggest instead that no technique other than radiation could have produced the image on the cloth.

This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the puzzle about the Shroud of Turin. What is the radiation source that could have been involved in the production of the image? It seems only particle radiation could account for the coin and flower images, for example.

Even more significantly, the carbon-14 dating of the Shroud done in 1988 is called into question by the particle radiation hypothesis. In particular, the release of neutrons during the radiation event would produce effects consistent with the data measured in 1988 by the laboratories in Oxford, Zurich, and Tucson.

Although those researchers concluded that it was “95% certain” the Shroud “originated sometime between the years 1260 and 1390,” their measurements could also be explained by neutron absorption.          

Moreover, the neutron absorption hypothesis is testable. That is, the hypothesis could be disproven by further tests on the Shroud. Without doing such tests, one cannot be certain that the Shroud is a medieval forgery.

The neutron absorption hypothesis points to another type of event. The possibility of neutron emission is consonant with a burst of radiation that would have happened if Jesus’s body were to dematerialize from its tomb.

Antonacci estimates two quintillion neutrons would have been emitted from Jesus’s body in the tomb from random locations in the body as it disappeared from the tomb. The image could not have been produced by a radiation source from outside the body. The source was from inside the body.

Recently, I attended a daylong seminar in which university research physicists questioned Antonacci. They had the expertise to evaluate the hypothesis that the Shroud was irradiated with neutrons. If the image on the Shroud was indeed formed by a radiation burn, then a brief burst of radiation from within the body would have to have collimated up and down to form the high resolution image.

The hypothesis is testable. The Shroud could be examined for isotope anomalies that would confirm the hypothesis of a radiation burst. Not only might this explain the carbon-14 dating results from 1988, it could also point to a unique historical event as the source of the image production.

The physicist John Jackson suggested a technical possibility, which has been developed and discussed by Thaddeus Trenn (University of Toronto) under the name of “weak dematerialization.”

In such dematerialization, the bonds between the protons and neutrons in the body of Jesus would have broken apart. As the body disappeared, the Shroud image would have been produced by the particles as the Shroud fell through them.

“The conjecture implies that the carbon-14 distributions would not be uniform on the Shroud,” says philosophy professor and Shroud researcher Phillip Wiebe (Trinity Western University). This conjecture “could be readily examined in a non-invasive way.”

Skeptics deny Jesus’s body disappeared from the tomb and then reappeared in a resurrected form. But further scientific testing of the Shroud could show definitively whether or not the puzzling Shroud image was produced by a radiation burst.

The conjecture is testable, and it offers a more intriguing possibility than assuming the image is a medieval forgery produced by an unknown method.


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