Millions of people believe the Shroud of Turin to be the true shroud of Jesus Christ. The following excerpt from The Lawyer’s Relic discusses this possibility:
Charlie took a sip of his coffee and said, “During the 1978 exhibition, the Church gave permission to a group of American scientists with the acronym STURP to conduct a scientific study of the shroud. They found no evidence of forgery and called the shroud a mystery.”
I wagged my finger in Charlie’s face. “Yes, but a later carbon-dating test found the linen was made in the Middle Ages.”
“In 1986,” the priest said, “three labs were selected by the archbishop of Turin, pontifical custodian of the shroud, to conduct a radiocarbon dating test. When it was complete in 1988, the testers concluded that the shroud dated from between 1260 and 1390. Many in the scientific community felt that this carbon 14 testing was the final word.”
“What is carbon 14 testing?” asked Pam, confused.
“Every living thing,” said Charlie, “including fibers of the flax plant from which linen thread is made, stops absorbing carbon when it dies. We can measure the rate at which the chemical elements decay using this test. It’s very accurate.”
“So why would anyone continue to believe that this is the shroud of Christ?” I asked, throwing up my hands.
“Because,” Charlie said, “the 1988 test was flawed. It failed to take into account the microchemical tests the carbon labs were supposed to conduct. Every scientist involved in carbon 14 testing knows that a single thread in a sample from a later date can affect the entire sample date. This is called material intrusion, and textbooks are filled with these warnings.
“When the chemical tests were made, not only did they find cotton interwoven with the linen, but they also found dye not present in the rest of the shroud, and a natural polymer called vanillin was missing in the strength common to Middle Age linen.
“A highly respected chemical journal published its findings in January of 2005. They concluded that the sample had been taken from a rewoven area. Evidently, highly skilled French weavers had repaired the sample area, and this was confirmed by textile experts.”
Pam gazed into my wondering eyes with her green gems. “If modern science, with all the current tools available to it, cannot reproduce the image on the shroud, how could a forger in the Middle Ages do so?”
“By painting it?” I said.
“Nope,” said Charlie. “Too many chemical, biological, medical, forensic, and optical image questions. You cannot solve one problem without creating another in some other scientific field. Believe me; I do this for a living.”
To learn more about the shroud and other religious relics, read The Lawyer’s Relic.