Some time ago I came across a 2019 piece from The Remnant about new scientific tests on the Shroud of Turin. These are not a repeat of the much debated Carbon-14 ones which indicated a date from the later thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries but ones using spectroscopy which indicate a time frame of somewhere in the period 300BC to 400AD. The report can be seen here
Discussion of the scientific tests can become forceful and quite - or very - heated, as these two linked reports from The Independent from July and August 2018 show: Scientists prove Turin Shroud not genuine (again) and Believers hit back in almighty row over whether the famous Turin Shroud really did contain Jesus' body
I experienced something of this in the comments on a post I published about the Shroud in 2012 at The Shroud of Turin
My own interest in the Holy Shroud began with a chance discovery of a book about it in a shop on my hometown many years ago. Ian Wilson’s The Turin Shroud was a fascinating and stimulating book to read in Lent on two occasions and remains an excellent study and survey of the evidence.
Last year in Lent, and before lockdown intervened in our lives, the Oxford Oratory hosted a travelling exhibition about the Turin Shroud. This was an excellent and very informative display, including the latest research and there was also a good and well-attended lecture one Saturday by the organiser, Pam Moon, and entitled “The Cross, the Resurrection and the Shroud of Turin.” In addition there was a handsome and splendidly presented illustrated booklet on sale which summarised the story of, and case for, the Shroud.
The website for this touring exhibition is www.shroudofturinexhibition.com, and hopefully as things open up again, the exhibition will be once more available for others to see.
I have thought, and said, for years that the Holy Shroud and its image, is actually a terrifying object. If it really is what it is claimed to be, what one believes it to be, then it challenges us as individuals, as Christians, as a society, as humanity, to take it seriously... very seriously. If churchpeople do not, then what does that say about their belief? Is their Faith challenged ironically by that which might make it empirically true?
That is not to say that the Turin Shroud provides a “proof” that the Gospels and a lived Christian life do not. It is rather to say that here in an age that relies so much on physical demonstrations of facts there is, it would seem, such a piece of complementary evidence can not only exist, but that only since the development of photography and other analytical methodologies has it been made manifest.
Yet I am aware there are practising Catholics who seem to cling to a belief in the absolute truth of Carbon 14 testing which had “confirmed” that the Turin Shroud is a medieval forgery. Telling them that distinguished archaeologists these days are sceptical about it as a technique cuts no ice. Science has “proved” the Shroud to be a fake for these people and no other evidence or argument is therefore admissible.
Science can prove some things, Faith can prove other things, Historians can prove yet others. In the kaleidoscope of our understanding we need to align the various images we are presented with.
There is an excellent case for the authenticity of the Shroud - not least its unique nature and its preservation - never mind the unresolved matter of how it came to be, and the extreme unlikelihood of it being a medieval forgery. No-one can come near to reproducing how it might have been made by human hands, let alone at the time when it might have been created as a forgery. We can never “know” with absolute 100% scientific and historical certainly that this was indeed the actual burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth - but not accepting that there is an extraordinarily good case to believe that it is in fact genuine seems to me very sad.
It seems an appropriate subject to ponder on today, the day the Gospel at Mass is the story of Doubting Thomas.