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from issue no. 06/07 - 2008

The data found on the Shroud and the testimony of John

Small indications of the Resurrection of Jesus

by Lorenzo Bianchi

More than a century of scientific research on the Turin Shroud appears to confirm, with a very high set of probabilities (as already acknowledged in 1902 by the agnostic biologist Yves Delage of Académie des Sciences de France), that the Turin Shroud is the cloth which wrapped the body of Jesus in the tomb. This result seems incontestable given the correspondence of the data that the various experimental sciences provide, down to the smallest detail, with the story of the Gospels and with what is known of the customs and environment of first century A.D. Palestine. So the analysis of the cloth shows us the signs of the passion, death on the cross and deposition in the tomb of Jesus. But the scientific research on this unique and particular object opens up for reason another horizon: in fact traces appear on it that also enable one to intuit the Resurrection of Jesus. Science cannot demonstrate the miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus. But since “physical resurrection” (Paul VI) is involved, science can observe eventual indications.
The negative image imprinted on the Shroud – an image that according to scientific research itself is not attributable to human hands – is the effect of a physical phenomenon that appears not fully explainable nor reproducible, despite several experimental attempts, with the knowledge and means currently available. It has been ascertained that it is due to the yellowing of individual surface fibrils of the linen fabric that have dehydrated and oxidized without external substances being put on. The different intensity of color, both on the front and back, reflects the distance of the cloth from the body, the figure is a vertical projection of the body on a horizontal plane, has three-dimensional character and was not caused by simple contact of the body with the cloth. Finally it is not present below the bloodstains, which clearly when it was formed acted as screen, and therefore is certainly later than the wrapping of the body in the Shroud. Among the various hypotheses that have been made to explain the formation, the most probable for the outcome that can be seen on the cloth seems theoretically to be the one – backed in particular by Giulio Fanti, professor of Mechanical and Thermal Measurement at the University of Padua – that suggests a very special radioactive phenomenon, from the body outwards, with intense and instantaneous transmission of energy, even if it is a physical phenomenon today reproducible in the laboratory only in very limited fashion. This theory, however, would still only lead us to an understanding of the process of formation of the negative. But all the set of investigations of the bloodstains on the Shroud adds much more. They are clear, well defined, they have no breaks in the crusts nor smudges from moving or dragging, something that would be absolutely impossible if someone had unwrapped the cloth and extracted, albeit with the greatest delicacy, the body contained in it. Whereas we know, on the other hand, that the body’s contact with the sheet lasted no longer than thirty-six hours and there is in fact not the slightest sign of putrefaction. So scientific research seems to suggest only one explanation – that goes beyond the scientific knowledge itself – as compatible with the data: that the body wrapped in the shroud abandoned the wrapping that contained it and simply disappeared, or that the body became mechanically transparent, passing through and leaving empty the intact wrapping.
And so, empty but intact, Peter and John saw it. The correspondence between the objective and physical data and what we find written in the Gospel of John, who was an eyewitness, is stunning. Let us follow John’s account: “It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,’ she said, ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’ So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first” (Jn 20, 1-4). “[John] bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter, following him, also came up, went into the tomb, saw the bandages lying on the ground and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but folded in another place. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed”. Taking our cue from the suggestion of Don Antonio Persili (Sulle tracce del Cristo risorto. Con Pietro e Giovanni testimoni oculari [On the track of the Risen Christ. With Peter and John as eyewitnesses], Tivoli 1988), who in his turn partly follows Francesco Spadafora (La Risurrezione di Gesù [The Resurrection of Jesus], Rovigo 1978), let’s attempt to understand what the two apostles actually saw.
The term ta othonia keimeva (in the Latin version linteamina posita), which is translated as “the bandages lying on the ground,” (that is, we may agree, the long cloth winding sheet – the Shroud – that folded above and below the body of Jesus, wraps Him, and the bands that tie it on the body, got from the same linen cloth) literally “lying”, namely “lowered horizontally”, “slumped”, “flattened”; the Latin posita also has this sense. The difference is essential.
So John bends down and, without going in, “sees the linen cloths lying” in their place, on the tomb stone, and not on the ground. Peter instead enters the tomb, “observes the cloths lying, and also the cloth that had been over his head”, that is the handkerchief that had been placed on the head of Jesus on top of the cloth of the Shroud – the bands that tied the Shroud came up to shoulder height – “not lying with towels, but on the contrary, wrapped [the translation “folded” does not correspond to the sense of the Greek term and is an unjustified forcing] in a unique position”, namely “to itself” while some translations say “another place”). Persili comments: “The sentence must be translated so as to render the idea that the cloth for the head was in a different position from that of the bands for the body, and not in a different place. Peter contemplates the bands spread on the stone and, on the same stone, also contemplates the shroud that, unlike the bands, which are spread, is in a wrapping position, although no longer wrapping anything”.
So the cloth and bands that have wrapped Jesus are still in their place, but have dropped to the stone, because what they wrapped, the body of Jesus, is no longer there; the handkerchief is also in its place, in the position in which it was put. And everything is obviously untouched.
“Then the other disciple [John] who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed”. They are the same exact words that Jesus used to define blessed those who, not having seen Him risen, by noting, like the beloved apostle, small indications, believed (Jn 20, 29).

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