Science and spirituality, in the eyes of many believers and skeptics, seem to be at odds in confirming the reality of some of the world’s most cherished mythologies. It appears, however, that science and religion have discovered what may be a little piece of common ground. In the words of Jack Kilmon, from his article appearing in “The Glyph” (the journal of The Archaeological Institute of America), “The Shroud of Turn is a genuine artifact of a first century Roman crucifixion of an adult Jewish male.”
Kilmon goes into heartbreaking detail regarding the image on the Shroud. He states, “It displays the complete dorsal and frontal image of a severely abused and crucified individual of Semite characteristics who was laid on the proximal portion of the cloth with the distal portion folded over the head and extended over the body thus creating, through some as yet unexplained chemical or physical process, two head-to-head images of the back and front…. The image is of a male, almost 6 feet tall, bearded, severely abused and scourged with the distinctive dumbbell markings of a Roman flagrum. Bloodstains are evident from wounds in the wrists, feet, about the head and brow, and the left thoracic area with pooling under the small of the back and under the feet. The image of the man in the shroud also displays signs of beating about the face, swelling under the eye, and shocks of his beard having been ripped from his face (a common form of abuse to Jews by Romans).”
Initial radiocarbon dating efforts, in 1988, identified the Shroud as the work of a medieval forger. This was misleading, according to Raymond Rogers in his 2004 article “Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin” in the journal Thermochimica Acta, as the sample tested was taken from a patch applied to the Shroud by nuns between 1260 and 1390 AD following a fire. A painting medium was applied to the patched areas to purposefully match those areas to the rest of the Shroud. The stains on the original areas of the Shroud were mistakenly assumed to be painting medium as well. Further, a chemical called vanillin, which is produced by the decomposition of a chemical compound called lignin in plant material, was found in the patch sample which supported the misleading dating of the rest of the Shroud which does not contain vanillin. This is consistent with other extremely old linens such as those containing the Dead Sea scrolls.
Kilmon also describes damage that was done to the folded Shroud in the distant past by a vandal using a hot poker which left four burn holes arranged in an “L”-shaped pattern. When unfolded, this “L”-shaped pattern of four burn holes appears in four places on the Shroud. Kilmon contends that the unique pattern of “L”-shaped burn holes and the unique weave pattern of the Shroud served as the model for an illustration of an entombed Jesus in a prayer book from Budapest known as the “Pray Manuscript.” This manuscript illustration was created in 1192, well before the flawed radiocarbon dating done in 1988.
Most recently, Giulio Fanti, Professor of Mechanical and Thermal Measurement at the University of Padua, and journalist Sarverio Gaeta co-authored a book, published in January 2013, which contains the most recent series of tests on several uncontaminated threads originally taken from the unpatched area of the Shroud in 1988. According to the Huffington Post, Fanti and his research team from the University of Padua were able to date the Shroud to between 300 BC and 400 AD, “making it old enough to have been used to bury Jesus Christ,” based on two tests using infrared light and Raman spectroscopy and one test utilizing mechanical parameters related to voltage. Fanti, in an e-mail to the Huffington Post, indicated they also detected traces of soil in the sample which is “compatible with the [calcium carbonate] soil of Jerusalem.”
Finally, the video accompanying this article presents in full the History Channel’s documentary on the painstakingly analysis of the Shroud of Turin as a collection of data points to recreate the face of the man portrayed in the image. Is this the face of Jesus? Scientific evidence indicates that it is possible. Science, however, may never be able to determine the specific identity of the man in the Shroud. That may remain the realm of faith.
For residents of Columbus, Georgia, who seek a spiritual community that supports the compatibility between science and spirituality, the following five Unity churches are within driving distance:
- Unity of Albany (GA) – approximately 75 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 178 Hugh Road, Leesburg, GA. Phone: (229) 435-1001.
- Unity of Montgomery (AL) Spiritual Center – approximately 77 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 1922 Walnut Street, Montgomery, AL 36106. Phone: (334) 263-1225.
- Unity Spiritual Life Center of Central Georgia – formerly Unity in the Heart of Georgia (Byron, GA) – approximately 78 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 127 Peachtree Parkway #701, Byron, GA. Phone: (478) 737-7537.
- Unity South Atlanta Church (Jonesboro, GA) – approximately 84 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 10 a.m. on Sundays is 7541 Mt. Zion Boulevard, Jonesboro, GA. Phone: (404) 578-3033.
- Unity of Dothan (AL) – approximately 90 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 942 South Oates, Dothan, AL 36301. Phone: (334) 794-2840.
Home Study Resources for Residents of Columbus, Georgia
The following texts are available on Amazon: (1) “Il Mistero della Sindone” by Giulio Fanti and Saverio Gaeta ($23.04 in hardcover in Italian); (2) “The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence” by John C. Iannone ($14.50 in paperback); and, (3) “The Truth About the Shroud of Turn: Solving the Mystery” by Robert K. Wilcox ($11.32 in paperback).