If the Shroud was just an old piece of linen - something of little value - then continued research would be a waste of time and effort. But because the potential meaning of the Shroud is so enormous, it compels continued focus until this “riddle of the ages” is finally solved. It’s like a puzzle with lost pieces or a mystery with missing clues. It beckons us to press on until all the pieces are found and its mystery fully revealed. Yet it is the mystery itself that makes it a “cool topic” for study.
The people involved in Shroud research; the historians, biblical scholars, art experts and scientists; are not just wishful thinkers. They have good reason to continue their quest for answers. With scant evidence of paint, ink, dye, pigments or stain to account for the body image, there is almost nothing to indicate that it is the work of an artist. On the other hand, there is solid chemical evidence showing that the bloodstains are real and from actual wounds. The scientific possibility of the Shroud’s authenticity is far more than just a fanciful notion. In fact, even among those who claim it is bogus, the image remains a complete mystery after more than 500,000 hours of scientific research.
Now, with mounting evidence coming from pollen
and plant images indicating that the cloth originated in Israel, and legitimate
scientific reasons to doubt the credibility of the 1988
C-14 tests, it cannot be dismissed as though it were irrelevant. New evidence now shows that the sample cut for dating was taken from a location on the shroud that was repaired in the 16th century and therefore does not represent the main body of the cloth. Other evidences in support of authenticity
are numerous and come from a variety of credible scientific disciplines and
THE ULTIMATE “WHAT IF?”
The Shroud represents the ultimate “What If?” question. What if it really is authentic? It would be nothing short of the greatest archaeological discovery the world has ever known. If what the Bible says is true, it would be the cloth that wrapped God when he became a human being in the person of Jesus! With such profound implications, the very possibility that it could be authentic makes it worthy of our continued study and research.
Ironically, if it turns out to be the work of some unknown medieval artist-genius, the message doesn’t change! The linen cloth, bloodstains and body image still represent every fundamental truth known to biblical Christianity. The man on the Shroud was a 30 to 40 year old Semitic Jew. He was beaten, whipped, stabbed and nailed by his hands and feet to a cross. He bled profusely. He died from asphyxia. He was placed in a burial shroud and buried according to the Jewish tradition of the time. Flowers were placed around the body. Coins were placed over the eyes. He rose from the dead in a powerful and unexplainable resurrection before the body began to decay (putrefaction). Whether it is authentic or not, this is what the Shroud represents. The message doesn’t change; it remains the same.
One of the early books on the subject was titled, “The Fifth Gospel”. It is easy to see why. The Shroud is a picture that speaks every language. It speaks to the simple and the sophisticated, to the illiterate and the intellectual. In a sense, it is scripture in a picture! When Christian educators focus on the message of the Shroud instead of being preoccupied with whether it is authentic or not, the Shroud becomes a powerful way of presenting the Gospel message while fascinating audiences with its mystery.
It is because of this fact that the primary position statement of The Shroud of Turin Education Project, Inc. (STEP) is; “EXPLORE THE MYSTERY…ENCOUNTER THE MESSAGE.” Meaning simply - as one investigates the Shroud for either academic or personal reasons - one will ultimately encounter the message. What is that message? It is the message of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels. There is no difference. They are identical, and the conveyance of that message does not hinge on the Shroud’s authenticity.
As with so many things in life, it is not the destination that is all that important, but rather the journey itself. So it is with the Shroud. If we ever finally prove it one way or the other, it would be far less interesting. The mystery would be gone. Even if it were proven authentic and found to be first century after all, would the world suddenly believe the claims of Christ? Doubtful indeed. That’s why it will probably always remain a mystery. Why? Because that’s how God works…in mysterious ways. The great truths of God are all mysteries that are revealed only to the individual who invests the time and effort to discover them. God purposely hides himself and is found by those who indicate more than just a casual or occasional interest.
The same holds true for the Shroud. The world passes by and says, “Oh, wasn’t that proven to be a fake?”…and they give it not another thought. In the same way the world passes by the Church and decides it is irrelevant in our modern culture. But for those who would take a moment to investigate the Shroud or the message of Christ as found in the Bible, that moment could change the direction of their lives forever. It is the message that matters and the message of the Shroud is the message of the Gospel.