Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Replicating the Shroud

Is it or isn't it?

Carbon dating tests by multiple laboratories in the late 80s caused a sensation. For skeptics, it was proof positive that the Shroud of Turin was a medieval hoax (fabricated somewhere between 1260 and 1390). This was the period when it was common for people to collect sacred artifacts, such as the supposed nails or pieces of wood from the cross. This may seem silly to us today, but back then, it was big business. And what could be better than a claim that you had the actual burial cloth of Jesus?

Others claimed that the carbon results were inconclusive because of a bad sample. Of course, scientists could run more carbon 14 tests, but that would mean taking a bigger sample. Taking a bigger sample would mean cutting off a larger piece of the so-called sacred object. Some people might not be too happy about that.

Scientists have struggled, however, to come up with some kind of explanation for how the image was left on the cloth. Now an Italian scientist says he has reproduced the full-sized shroud using materials and techniques that he believes would have been available in the middle ages. Garlaschelli reproduced the full-sized shroud using materials and techniques that were available in the middle ages.
He placed a linen sheet flat over a volunteer and then rubbed it with a pigment containing traces of acid. A mask was used for the face. The pigment was then artificially aged by heating the cloth in an oven and washing it, a process which removed it from the surface but left a fuzzy, half-tone image similar to that on the Shroud. He believes the pigment on the original Shroud faded naturally over the centuries. He then added blood stains, burn holes, scorches and water stains to achieve the final effect.
Here's the short version of what I think about the Shroud: Who cares? Appealing to the Shroud of Turin as a compelling "evidence" for Christianity is weak. It sounds really sensational to think that we have the actual burial cloth of Jesus, but in my opinion, Christians would be much better served to focus their attention on those evidences which rest on more solid ground.

UPDATE 9/20/2009 - Reasons To Believe has now posted a short podcast discussing the Shroud.

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