The Definitive Shroud of Turin FAQ

the shroud draws you in, doesn't let go, and reveals itself gradually

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Is the Shroud of Turin Real? 

It's probably real. If we remove questions about God from the questions about the Shroud, the evidence becomes overwhelming. There is no need to appeal to miracles to explain the images. And claims that the Shroud is somehow evidence of a miracle, even specifically the Resurrection, is problematic. 

Christian faith rests mostly on a collection of stories. How literally or metaphorically we believe and interpret these stories is a personal decision; some of us believe it is grace. Wide variation is found among many traditions and within traditions. To rely on an artifact to try to confirm what we believe is probably unwise.

Philosophically, miracle causation for the images or finding in the Shroud's possible authenticity evidence of a miracle cannot be ruled out. We can only dare to cross the boundaries of science and objective history in this way with great care. We need not do so, however, for the question of the Shroud's authenticity is a scientific and historical problem. So, too, are questions about the images. Sufficiently confirmed to our own satisfaction, we can then, and only then, consider that it might be evidence that something unusual happened in that tomb where the man named Jesus was buried.

The biggest problem in deciding if the Shroud is authentic is overcoming misconceptions; for instance the notion, repeated incessantly in the press, that "believers say Christ's image was recorded on the linen's fibers at the time of his resurrection."*  That is simply wrong. Some do. But most serious researchers who think the Shroud is authentic do not think so, or at least don't voice that opinion.

In 1988, the Shroud was carbon dated. It was determined, then, that the cloth was medieval. Hence it was declared a forgery. But, twenty years later, in 2008, Philip Ball, the former physical science editor for Nature, the acclaimed, peer-reviewed, international scientific journal that published the carbon dating results, wrote an interesting piece in Nature Online. He is writing as a scientist only:

It's fair to say that, despite the seemingly definitive tests in 1988, the status of the Shroud of Turin is murkier than ever. Not least, the nature of the image and how it was fixed on the cloth remain deeply puzzling.

Ball explains why it is murky. He gives two example. One is scientific; the other historical. His reasons are correct. But is the Shroud's status just murky? This website argues that the Shroud is probably real. This website is a series of scientific and historical questions with answers. There are also a number of questions about inevitable crazy stuff, mystery, the age old quest for God and the significance of journalism in shaping perceptions.

* Quoted from an otherwise very good Associated Press story by Ariel David in November, 2009.

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