The following article is reprinted by permission from
Connection, The Good News Magazine, April 2001

Is This The Image of Jesus?

History, science, and theology have blended together to make the enigma of the Shroud of Turin one of the most intriguing and thoroughly studied artifacts in history.
by Michele A. Yowler


Many Believe the Shroud of Turin does indeed bear the image of Jesus.

The Shroud of Turin, believed to be an ancient burial cloth, measures approximately 14 feet in length and 3 feet in width. It reveals the image of the frontal and dorsal sides of a male corpse, an apparent victim of torture and crucifixion. David Onysko, an employee of the Cleveland Board of Education has discovered a myriad of facts that shine the light on the mystery of this ancient shroud.

David Onysko, who has an avid interest in Sindonology, the study of the Shroud of Turin, is a local expert who has put together an informative and inspiring multimedia presentation that he takes to churches and public gatherings. Onysko augments his presentation by displaying full-body reproductions of the shroud along with many replica items. On his personal quest to discover the truth about the shroud, Onysko has attended several international conferences, in addition to belonging to organizations that promote its theological and scientific study. Onysko's dream of viewing the cloth in person came true in 1998, when he traveled to Turin for a rare viewing of the Shroud.

Personally convinced it is the ancient burial cloth of Jesus Christ, Onysko, never the less, leaves the final conclusion to his audience. He tells those present what people think it is. He gives them evidence he has discovered, provides scientific data, reads scriptural verses relating to the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and lets his audience draw their own conclusions.

Although there are gaps in the history of the shroud, there is speculation, theory, and postulation, which David thinks lend enough viability to encourage even the most skeptical person to ponder the possibility. Relating the hypothesis about the shroud, Onysko stated that "it was initially hidden (from the Jewish leaders) because to show it would have branded them as heretics. Yet they knew it was something special because it had the image... on it and so they took it with them."

Supporting this hypothesis is an ancient Syriac text dating back to a king during the time of Jesus, named Abgar. According to this text King Abgar hears that Jesus is a healer and a king. Abgar invites him to Edessa, Turkey, which is now Istanbul. He invites him to come and heal him, and to share and rule in his land as well, because he hears that Jesus is a persecuted king. This legend goes on to state that one of Christ's disciples, Thomas, the doubter, his name was Addi, also known as Thaddeus, goes to Edessa around 50AD, bearing with him a cloth which has an image of a face, called "the image not made by human hands". In Greek, it is referred to as the mandylion, and is purported to be in a trellis-like frame. The text continues, asserting that Abgar became a Christian and the city became a Christian city. After the death of Abgar, the cloth is bricked up in the wall surrounding the city, because one of Abgar's sons was a pagan, and he proceeded to persecute the Christians and destroy Christian artifacts and relics that were in the city. After this account, the mandylion disappears from history for nearly 500 years. The historical records say that in 525AD the city of Edessa was washed away in a flood. During the rebuilding of the city the cloth was discovered in a leather sack hidden in the wall.

In 944AD, the Byzantine army went to Edessa, which was in Muslim control, and demanded that this Christian artifact be released to the Christian empire. They took it to Constantinople where it remained from 944AD to 1204.

Then in 1204, during the 4th crusade, a band of French knights, known as the Knights Templar, roved around the countryside demanding, under penalty of death, any Christian artifacts and relics. The Knight Templar then went to Constantinople, overran the city and absconded with the artifacts. They intended to take them back to Jerusalem, the Holy City where the knights believed they rightly belonged.

For the first time in history, a chronicler from France named Robert DeClaire stated in a church in Constantinople, the full figure image of the crucified Lord on a long cloth. At the same time the shroud emerges, the face cloth, the mandylion, disappears from any more historical records. Historians speculate that some time between 944AD and 1204 the Byzantine Empire removed the cloth from the frame and discovered that it was a full-length cloth folded up.

In 1353, a French knight named Geoffrey DeCharne was given the Sydoine, for his honor and valor in battle. His family had possession of it for over 100 years. However, in 1497, his great-granddaughter, Margaret, an old, destitute widow, agreed to exchange the shroud that she inherited for real estate and money. She sold it to the House of Savoy, a ruling French monarchy which also ruled over parts of Italy, including Turino, known today as Turin. In 1532, the shroud was exposed to a fire. Folded up in a silver reliquary, or chest, the heat from the fire was so intense that the molten silver, which adorned the reliquary, began to melt and a drop fell inside and burned a corner of the shroud. In 1534, patches were sewn into the shroud as well as a backing to strengthen it. In 1578, the House of Savoy moved the shroud to Turino where they built a church called San Juan Batiste (St. John the Baptist). It has been in Turin, Italy ever since.

During World War II, the last reigning king of Italy, a man named Emberto, who was king for only a few months, was exiled to Portugal. When he died in 1983, he willed the shroud to the Catholic Church. Although the Roman Catholic Church was the custodian of the shroud for centuries, they have had sole ownership only since 1983. In 1997, the shroud escaped an arson's attempt to destroy it when it was involved in another fire. These historical accounts of the shroud's journey make it rich in eminence to many people, including historians, scientists, and theologians.

In 1898, the first photography was taken of the shroud. It was at this time, that science really got involved. They recognized the image as a photographic negative, and they pondered the question of how that could be, since photography wasn't invented until the mid 1800's. If it was in fact, a forgery, it was created hundreds of years before the invention of photography.

The image is awe inspiring; it is a superficial one, which does not go all the way through the cloth. They believe the image was caused by a unique oxidation and dehydration of the fiber. This observation rules out the argument that the image was created using blood, paint, or another substance which would likely have taken on the characteristics of capillary flow, penetrating throughout the cloth. Scientists speculate that a heat/light source of energy was released to create the image. It would have had to be an energy source greater than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet expended in just a millisecond of time; a duration any longer would have consumed the cloth along with the surrounding countryside.

In addition to height and width information available through standard photography, a process using a VP8 Image analyzer has provided three dimensional depth information. The VP8 Image analyzer is normally used to provide depth information in space. It measures the light from the sun as it is reflected off the surface being analyzed to determine depth. Using the image analyzer, scientists have been able to determine such things as the distance of the eye socket from the cloth and the distance from the nape of his neck to the cloth. These findings are unique to the shroud image. No other photograph produces this three dimensional data.

Scientists were given access to the shroud in 1978 to perform non-destructive testing on it. The following is a list of some physical evidence uncovered by scientific study. Computer enhanced measurements indicate the man stood about 5-10, weighed about 180 pounds, and was in his 30s; The material itself is consistent with what was woven and used as a burial cloth in the 1st century although it is much better preserved than other specimens of that era; The man in the image had a full head of hair consistent in the style of 1st century Nazareth; There is evidence of 100 to 200 scourge marks on the man's back; The man was wearing a helmet of thorns, minuscule pieces of which were discovered on the linen; Deep wounds exist in the man's wrists and feet; A spear wound exists between the fifth and six ribs; Blood and dirt samples indicate the body was unwashed before burial; More than 50 pollen samples are present, including more than two dozen that are prevalent in the Middle East in early spring. Specialized testing was done to lift blood, pollen, and other botanical element samples from the cloth. These observations all indicate evidence of a man who was brutally scourged and tortured, wore a helmet of thorns, was crucified, was pierced in his side, died and was buried. History confirms that these traits are specific to the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Independent radiocarbon-dating tests were performed on samples from the cloth in 1988 by scientists in Switzerland, the US, and the UK. The results indicated that the linen dates from between 1260 and 1390. These findings are approached by scientists who have studied the cloth with circumspection. They believe the testing is invalid because the portions of approved for testing are believed to have come from a section of the shroud that was sewn onto it in the 1500's. In addition, the cloth's fibers are coated with bacteria and fungus that may have contaminated the linen and skewed the testing. There is also discussions that point to the heat/light source that created the image possibly altering the atomic molecular structure of the material. Adding credence to their doubts is the fact that death by crucifixion was outlawed since the third or fourth century.

The compelling records of history, the impressive findings of science, and faith-based theology, all lend credence to the feasibility of this shroud, referred to by many as the "Fifth Gospel", being the ancient burial cloth of the resurrected Christ. Onysko stated that the shroud might be a physical testimony remaining for the 21st century doubting Thomas. Just as the disciple Thomas required physical proof before he could believe, the shroud exists to encourage those who would believe. Some people question: "What if it isn't what many believe it to be?"

What if it is?

 

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