In the 14th century, Geoffrethe y Charny, a French soldier, claimed that he possessed the Shroud of Jesus. Since then, there has been controversy among scholars and believers concerning this Shroud, which is currently preserved in Turin, Italy.
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The first critic to dispute Charny’s assertion was the Bishop of Troyes in 1389 who in his writing told the Pope that the image purported to be the face and figure of Jesus Christ in the Shroud was imprinted.
Although the preservers rarely display the Shroud to the public, it has been an object of research since the 1970s.
Different scientific techniques have established that the Shroud is a linen piece of material with a faint face and figure of a man. The methods further show that the man appears crucified on a cross, just like Jesus.
Nevertheless, scholars have questioned the accuracy of the carbon dating technique used in determining the age of the Shroud to ascertain the authenticity of claim s that, the Shroud is indeed the one that wrapped Jesus on the cross.
Researchers have condemned Charny’s claims as a medieval forgery. While it is a dream of every believer to see if not touch the Shroud at one of its rare displays in Italy, researchers are seeking to answer many questions on Charny’s assertion.
The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to evaluate the contributions of various scholars and researchers in unveiling the truth about the assertion.
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The paper will also highlight the inaccuracies of the 1988 carbon dating and justify that the carbon dating of the cloth is unreliable and that Charny’s assertion is true.
Shroud of Turin
The work of the Australian researcher, Ian Wilson and Barrie Schwartz, an American photographer, clearly outlines the issues surrounding the Shroud of Turin.
Those against the assertion of Charny argue that the material making the Shroud of Turin did not exist during the medieval period; that is, AD 1260-1390. According to Wilson and Schwartz, the Shroud appears “437cm long and 111cm wide made of linen in a tight herringbone weave” (2).
Archeologists such as Edward Hall notes that linen did not exist during the medieval age. Research further shows that the weave is a silk material.
Historically, silk was only found in Egypt during the time of Jesus’ death and since there was no connection between Egypt and Europe, particularly France, there was no way silk could have been available to make the controversial weave that Charny is accused of making.
Even though the stitching is not attributed to any particular period in history, it resembles the Jewish style in AD 73. From this fact, therefore, Charny’s assertion is justifiable.
Researchers in Arizona, Oxford, and Zurich carried fascinating studies. Despite the persistent criticism they received, their revelation of the ghostly image strongly influenced believers of that time.
Although opponents argue that the original custodian of the Shroud could have forged the image, it is clear that such convoluted forgery could not have been possible during the medieval period.
The 1978 studies by Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) into the image established that such creativity was impossible to medieval artists. Again drawing such an image to emulate Jesus on the cross has proved difficult to the modern scientists even with their sophisticated technologies.
How could then a medieval man draw it? This image is the mystery surrounding the Shroud of Turin, which proponents to Charny’s assertion strongly uphold to support their grounds.
The partial unstitching of the Shroud by STURP in 1978, gave results in compliments of the carbon dating of 1988. STURP established that there was no pigment soaked into the linen material. This discovery disapproved the argument that Charny could have forged the image.
Analyses on the bloodstains of the cloth have significance to the determination of the age of the Shroud. As Rogers and Arnold note, the Shroud’s image appears to have “blood flows in the appropriate positions” (1).
Biblically, there was blood flow during Jesus’ death on the cross, and therefore, the blood in this image underscores this situation. It is not possible however to determine whether the blood on the image came from the body that lay on the Shroud.
Further studies reveal that the “pollen stains of a Jordan-based plant species, zygo-phylum dumosum, could have stained the cloth similarly” (Wilson and Schwartz 1). Research by STURP in 1979, revealed that there were wooden traces on the back and head of the image.
To opponents of the Charny’s assertion, the medieval forgers could have constructed the faint image with tiny wooden traces. On the hand, proponents argue that the wooden traces are the fragments of the wooden cross.
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Another significant aspect that supports Charny’s assertion is his role as a soldier. How could a poor French soldier forge such a classic image? This question lingers in the mind of many, both the proponents and the opponents to the Turin Shroud as the ‘wrapper of Jesus’.
It was even impossible for soldiers to have time to design such a creative idea; they were ever in battle. Charny died in the Poitiers War in 1356. As a soldier, there could be a possibility for Charny to collect the Shroud, especially in the battlefields during the wars.
Proponents such as Ian Wilson however, argue that before Charny, shrouds existed. He then provides an example of “cloth miraculously imprinted with Jesus’ face in 944” (Wilson and Schwartz 2).
On this basis, researchers argue that clothes printed with Jesus’ face have been in existence even before Charny and therefore Charny’s Shroud should not be so special.
Inaccuracies in the Carbon Dating
The fire attacks of 1532 and 1997 greatly damaged the Shroud of Turin. Archeologists’ state-of-art modification to restore its originality, has significantly contributed into inaccuracies of the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud.
How could one be sure that during the modification of the Shroud in 1352 that there was no alteration of carbon content in the material? As Oxley observes, this had “altered the overall date of the sample to make it appear more modern than the original Shroud material” (2).
Although the report by STURP recommended carbon dating like the ideal method to determine the age of the Shroud, it is uncertain whether the carbon in the present Shroud of Turin is the one in Charny’s shroud. Therefore, 1988, carbon dating of Oxford, Arizona, and Zurich should not be conclusive.
Prof William Meacham developed a methodology, which became widely accepted by STURP as ideal for carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin. In his research, Meacham widely consulted among the most competent archeologists in Europe.
To overcome the uncertainties brought about by the fires of 1532, William proposed, “at least five samples should be taken from the Shroud for testing, to minimize such potential errors” (Oxley 2).
Unfortunately, the radiocarbon tests carried out in 1998 in Arizona, Oxford and Zurich used either one or two samples. STURP attempt’s to date the Shroud had failed because of the weaknesses that William corrected in his formulation of the methodology.
By using one sample, therefore, errors dogged the shroud dating in Arizona, Oxford, and Zurich.
The size of the sample used in various carbon dating experiments has been a question on the accuracies of the carbon dating for the Shroud. In Arizona for example, there are no existing records to show the original size of the samples.
Initially, Prof. Donahue, the archeologist who led the testing of the sample in Arizona, “provided masses of the original samples as 12, 39 mg, 13,86 mg, 11,83mg and 14,27mg” (Oxley 7). However, he provided contradicting figures of the same sample later.
This insight evidences the scientific inaccuracies in the carbon dating of Arizona. According to archeologists, a standard dating sample should weight between 5mg and 10mg.
This, therefore, reveals that the carbon dating in Arizona did not adhere to the standard procedures of carbon dating and therefore, the studies were subject to errors and inaccuracies.
Other studies have found that researchers in Oxford, Zurich, and Turin deployed similar procedures of carbon dating the Shroud.
Inaccuracy is evidenced by the contradicting information provided by different researchers undertaking similar tests. In Arizona for instance, Professors Damon and Donahue differed openly on the records of the samples used in the carbon dating.
While Prof. Donahue maintained that there “did not exist any record for their samples and procedures, his counterpart Damon, insisted that all the processes in Arizona carbon dating were captured in a videotape” (Oxley 7).
Why did such high profile professors differ in such an important matter? This reflects the extent of dispute even to the procedures of the dating.
In such disputes, the researchers could not achieve precision in their tests, which proves that the processes of carbon dating of 1988 were marred by inaccuracies.
Various scholars and researchers have contributed in several ways in unveiling the truth of the Charny’s assertion. In their book, Ian Wilson and Barry Schwartz highlighted the major issues that researchers have to focus on to provide sufficient result on the matter.
These issues include the material of the Shroud, the nature of the ghost image, bloodstains on the Shroud and the Charny’s role. The formation of STURP in 1978, laid the basis for subsequent carbon dating of the Shroud.
Prof William Meacham developed an ideal methodology for the Shroud dating, which researchers in Arizona such Professor Donahue and Damon partially deployed in their 1988 tests.
Major inaccuracies of the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin are the results of insufficient scientific precision during the dating process. Conclusively, the research findings by these scholars provide a basis for further investigation into the Charny’s assertion.
Therefore, to this date, Charny’s assertion that Jesus’ shroud was in his possession remains true because of not enough evidence to fault the claims. The only evidence used to disapprove this claims is dogged with controversy to the extent of causing public differences amongst the researchers.
Oxley, Mark. “Evidence is not Proof.” Evidence in not Proof: a Response to Prof Timothy Jull, 2011. Web. 28 March 2011. <http://web.emerald.com>
The article written by Mark Oxley is one of the recent peer reviewed articles on the Carbon Dating findings on the Shroud of Turin.
This article was a direct response to Professor Timothy Jull, a researcher from the University of Arizona who was part of the 1988 team of scientist during carbon analysis.
Mr. Oxley dismisses past evidence that the Shroud of Turin was not contaminated during analysis of the Shroud as professor Jull previous reported.
Rogers, Raymond, and Arnold, Anna. “Scientific Applied to the Shroud of Turin.” The Shroud of Turin, 2002. Web. 28 March 2011. < http://proquest-shroud.com>.
Raymond Rogers attended Arizona State University and became an expert in thermal analyst. This peer reviewed article s thirty-eight pages however, a very well written thesis that describes the Shroud of Turin and its beginnings conception to present.
The descriptive explanations of scientific inaccuracies are manageable without getting lost with hard science terminology. A source that should not be omitted if conducted research on the Shroud of Turin.
Wilson, Ian, and Schwartz, Barrie. “The Turin Shroud.” History Today, March 2000. Web. 28 March 2011. <http://web.ebscohost.com>.