We’ll start with something for the heathens. Specifically, here’s a Jimmy Fallon Easter for you – and can you imagine Jay Leno getting into a chicken suit?
Me neither. But that’s what NBC wants, apparently.
And now for something more in line with why we celebrate Easter.
Namely, that this weekend a new book is out which claims to have proof that the Shroud of Turin, which for Catholics and other Christians serves as important evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, is contemporary to the time of Christ.
That’s a significant claim. Carbon-14 dating tests done on the shroud back in 1988 resulted in a finding that it is only 700 years old or so, which would make it a medieval forgery. But those tests have been widely criticized, because they took a slice of the shroud from a corner, and nobody can be sure if what was taken for the test wasn’t a part of the shroud which was repaired after a fire. But the new set of tests, which are “chemical and mechanical,” purport to prove that it not only had to be of a sufficient age to be the real thing but that it had to have come from the Holy Land.
And once you get through the obstacle – whether legitimate or not – that the shroud was contemporary to Jesus’ time, it becomes a very significant artifact.
The History Channel did a show in 2010 in which a team of computer graphics experts did a workup on the shroud and how it could be used to recreate Jesus’ image, and that show had a rerun yesterday as part of that channel’s Easter marathon this weekend.
There are lots of things about the Shroud of Turin which make life a bit difficult for those who refuse to believe in the resurrection.
First of all, it’s not a medieval forgery. There was no way a medieval artist could have created it.
To create a forgery such as this, you’d have to have a piece of cloth from Israel, because the shroud contains pollen from a plant which is only found in and around Jerusalem. And the warp and weave of the linen on that cloth is of Jewish manufacture, of the time of Christ – so you’d have to go to the Holy Land and find a reproduction of the cloth Jesus was buried in.
That’s unlikely enough. Something else which would have made it even harder to forge the shroud is that there is no paint or ink on it. The image on the shroud is not painted on it – it was made from the actual fibers being discolored. There are bloodstains, to be sure, and that blood is human – and there’s a lot of it, so if you were to forge the shroud you’d need to have a willing, or unwilling, victim to donate a dangerous amount of it for a forgery. But the image of the face, legs, hands, torso – that isn’t in blood. It’s imprinted on the linen without a medium.
To produce such an image can only really be done through some form of radiation. But as History’s producers noted, if you used a really bright lightbulb, or some similar source, you couldn’t get a discernible image onto the cloth from it. And if you used something more focused, like a laser, you’d get a silhouette – not what’s on the shroud. You can get something not unlike what’s on that shroud, though, by taking a mask of a human face and putting it over a desktop scanner. In other words, a moving field of light can create a record of an image not unlike what’s on the Shroud of Turin.
Obviously no medieval forger would have had access to that kind of equipment. Or even any reason to think of trying to create such an image.
What’s more, the image on the shroud is a photo negative – 500 years before photography was invented. Why would a medieval forger think to forge the shroud in such a way?
The upshot of all this is that while the Shroud of Turin might not be categorical proof of the Resurrection, and it might not provide ironclad evidence of the risen Lord Christians believe in, the mystery surrounding its existence can be explained by what we celebrate today. But so far it can’t be explained otherwise.
If you don’t believe in the resurrection, if you think Easter consists of nothing more than bunny rabbits and hidden eggs, then how do you explain the Shroud of Turin? Because nobody has been able to do it.
Sure, it’s a leap of faith to say here is this piece of linen with an image of what could be Jesus and no human way even with today’s technology to significantly recreate what’s recorded on the cloth – and it proves that Christ is risen. But if you don’t believe, then what’s your explanation for it? And aren’t you taking an even more significant leap of faith in disputing the Shroud of Turin as evidence of a resurrection when you can’t explain it away?
Those of us who believe in Christ are listening. We don’t hear a better story. And today, we celebrate the risen Christ.
For the unbelievers, though, we still have Fallon in his chicken suit. We’ve got something for everybody this Easter.