Shaking up the Shroud debate

A new Shroud theory has been offered

The case of the famed Shroud of Turin took another twist in the middle of last week when a new theory for the formulation of the ghostly image on its 4.4 metre length was posited.

Offered by a team of researchers at Italy’s Politecnico di Torino, the new perspective on the shroud is somewhat novel in that it leans on the biblical record in seeking to place the mysterious cloth into an historical context while also offering a scientifically acceptable explanation.

Rowing in behind recent theories which point to radiation as a means to create the shroud image, academics at the Politecnico have speculated that an 8.2 magnitude earthquake which struck Jerusalem in 33AD may have played a very special part in making such radiation available.

According to the theory, such a powerful earthquake would have resulted in a virtual flood of neutrino particles from rocks crushed under great pressure. Such particles, the scholars conjecture, may have been enough to blast through and  ‘soak’ the figure in his burial shroud, and by reacting with nitrogen molecules in the cloth itself, result in an x-ray image on the material.

The theory is certain to be another pored over by shroud supporters and sceptics alike, such is the continuing appeal for scholars on both sides.

According to research leader Professor Alberto Carpinteri, however, there is an added element to the earthquake theory which must surely appeal to those for whom the shroud is nothing less than the burial cloth of Jesus himself.

In unveiling the new theory, Prof. Carpinteri said that while potentially satisfying the image origins question, the earthquake-radiation idea simultaneously “could also have caused a wrong radiocarbon dating”.

Here, the professor refers to the hotly disputed radiocarbon dating tests undertaken in 1988 on portions of the shroud which resulted in a claim that the shroud had been exposed finally as a medieval fake, specifically locating its origins to the period 1260–1390 – the preferred reality for those in the sceptic camp.

It is only fair to point out that the 1988 result led to claim and counterclaim and a flurry of academic papers, with little or no shift between the sides, and was followed by the (disputed) work of Prof. Giulio Fanti of the University of Padua’s Engineering Faculty, whose examinations using infrared technology dated the shroud as being at least 2,000 years old.

Such disputation and ongoing debate, it might reasonably be conjectured, will be the outcome, too, from the Politecnico di Torino theory – and it must be emphasised that it still stands as merely a theory, though representations have now been made to Pope Francis for permission for a molecular examination of the cloth. What this means is that more than a handful of scientists and amateur sleuths and experts are eagerly preparing to join the latest debate.

Unfortunately for the Polytechnic team at this point, the same apparent plank of support, that of the Bible record, may also stand as the greatest weakness, regardless of any forthcoming physical examination of the cloth.

As recorded in Matthew 27, the death of Jesus was accompanied by three phenomena – the onset of darkness, the tearing of the Temple curtain, and the aforementioned earthquake – all of which are recorded as taking place while Christ was still on the cross. Indeed, it was only “in the evening” when Joseph of Arimathea gained possession of Jesus’ body and joined cloth and corpse for the first time.

Leaving that aside, it will be quickly noted that the three other Gospel writers fail to even mention a quake, a difficulty for a team now seeking to place its 8.2 magnitude event in time with the crucifixion.

As ever with the shroud, questions lead to clues, leading to even more questions.