- Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 7, 2012

Shrouded in mystery

Expert testifies of controversial cloth's validity

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

NEW WILMINGTON — The message of the mysterious linen cloth that may have been used to bury Jesus Christ is not shrouded to those who wish to believe, according to an expert.

Russ Breault presented his acclaimed "Shroud Encounter" at Westminster College to a filled Wallace Memorial Chapel on Nov. 7 about the Shroud of Turin, which he has researched and lectured about for over 25 years.

"We all have to answer this question: 'Who do you say that I am?'" said Breault, quoting Jesus speaking to his disciples in the Bible's gospel accounts, including Matthew 16:15 and Mark 8:29.

"I think this is what the shroud is asking us tonight," Breault added.

He believes the shroud can help confirm Christ's divinity, but isn't required to believe in Jesus.

The shroud is a single linen cloth made of flax that measures 14-by-3.5 feet that has an image of a bearded man with bloodstains and wounds on his body.

The cloth is determined to be consistent with Jewish burial practices of the first century and the Bible's account of Christ's crucifixion, Breault said.

The shroud has been preserved in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy since 1578. Prior to that, it was in France for 200 years, starting in 1356.

The royal Savoy family owned it from 1450 to 1982 until the death of Italian King Humberto II, who willed it to the Catholic church, which was the official custodian of the shroud for the Savoys. It has been taken out for public displays for more than 650 years. 

In 1980, microscopist Walter McCrone analyzed fibers of the shroud and believed it to be painted; however, his findings were dismissed. The following year, a team of scientists with the Shroud of Turin Research Project who studied the cloth for three years concluded that the image came from a scourged, crucified man and the blood stains were human.

In 1988, three labs in Oxford, Zurch and Arizona used  carbon-14 tests on a cut sample of the shroud and concluded that it was dated from 1260 to 1390; therefore, from the Medieval period, and not used to bury Jesus.

However, in 2005, thermal chemist Ray Rodgers took thread samples from the 1988 sample and from other parts of the shroud. The 1988 sample  had been part of a section in the corner edge of the cloth that Rodgers believed was reweaved during the Medieval period. The shroud was damaged by various fires during its lifetime and many scientist today are  coming to believe that the piece is much older than Medieval times, Breault added.

Critics have asserted that before its time in France, the shroud doesn't have a clear history; therefore, untraceable to the time of Jesus.

However, Breault showed numerous slides, and spoke of more current scientific evidence to prove his theory that the shroud spans much farther back in time to the days of Christ.

An important document surface in 1993 - called the Hungarian Pray Manuscript of 1192 - which confirms the shroud was in Constantinople and stolen by crusaders during the fourth Crusade.

"Some say it was in possession of the Knight's Templar," Breault said; however, the document bridged a gap between 1204 and 1356 when it was unknown where the shroud was located.

It was also a huge discovery, Breault added, because it validates the "Image Not Made by Hands" of 544 discovered in Edessa - which is now southern Turkey - that since changed all Byzantine and Orthodox images of Jesus.

"Many believe the shroud and Edessa image are one in the same," noted Breault, who also offered historical references of the shroud from the sixth to eleventh centuries to give it more authenticity.

A legend of King Abgar possibly brings the cloth to the first century, which tells the story of a cloth sent from Israel to Edessa with an image of Jesus.

Interestingly, when the shroud was photographed for the first time in 1898, scientists were shocked that the image itself is a negative - which became positive in the photograph - gaining world-wide interest.

"The blood is first on the cloth, then the image," Breault said. Many have tried to copy the shroud, but "an artist can't replicate it ... (especially) when you consider the resurrection."

The shroud has since been photographed with more advanced equipment, he added.

In the 1970s and 1990s, pollen samples taken from the cloth show numerous species of plants and flowers indigenous only to Constantinople, Edessa, Israel and Jerusalem.

And the list goes on, Breault stated.

The carbon dating tests of 1988 were not in line with scientific standards, he added.

Ignoring the caution of archeologists, the researchers took one sample of the shroud - instead of three - from the corner where it was handled for centuries in public exhibitions and had the most potential for being damaged, contaminated and rewoven throughout the years.

For instance, the Savoy family would give samples of the shroud as royal gifts, and bring it out to bless royal weddings, Breault said.

Today, most believed the 1988 tests to be a debacle, he noted.

Last year, Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development, published a report weighing the authenticity of the shroud after five years of experiments and studies.

Scientists tried to replicate the depths of the coloration seen on the shroud, which couldn't be reproduced with any normal UV source built today. The best method scientists used were laser pulses that lasted less than 50 nanoseconds, Breault said.

Could it be the "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye" verse quoted in I Corinthians 15:52 in the Bible, referring to the return of Christ? He questioned.

The shroud was last brought out to the public in 2010, and is expected to come out in 2025.

There's talk of the church allowing new samples to be cut from the cloth to challenge the 1988 carbon dating tests with more advanced scientific methods, said Breault, who has seen the shroud during its last three public exhibits in Turin.

"There's definitely a resurgent interest in the shroud," he said. "Is this God's way of bringing all this out now for this generation of skeptics to believe?"

Published Nov. 17, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201A Erie St., Grove City.