In The Resurrection of the Shroud, attorney and former law professor Mark Antonacci turns to science to establish the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Grounding his study in the intensive achievement by the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) in 1978, he seeks to discredit a 1988 carbon-dating endeavor which theorized the images of the shroud were the creation of a medieval artist. He tries to demonstrate the shroud was indeed the authentic covering of Jesus’ body at the time of his crucifixion.
This book surveys the latest discoveries and new evidence. Antonacci claims that the overwhelming majority of proof supporting the claim that the man in the shroud is Jesus Christ has only recently come to light. Some of the most astonishing aspects of it were discovered only within the past few years and most people are still completely unaware of them.
The author argues that the carbon-dating process conducted more than 12 years ago violates existing protocol. He explains that samples used were poorly chosen and compromised the results. Their accuracy is limited, especially when applied to textiles. He calls for new studies which he believes will explain the shroud's paradoxical characteristics and affirms that further investigation will prove those features resulted from extraordinary forces.
“The three-dimensional image is produced because the lightness or darkness on the image of the man in the shroud is directly correlated with how close the body was to the cloth at the time the image was generated,” writes Antonacci. “A normal photograph is created by light reflecting off many surfaces, generated from many different light sources. The human mind can imagine the contours of a face from a flat photograph because we see faces so often from so many angles, in so many lighting situations. A computer does not have this advantage.
“To a computer, a normal photo is impossible to interpret correctly. The image on the shroud, however, is not like a photograph, but is a perfect contour map of the body of the man in the shroud.”
Something miraculous occurred to the individual who was covered by the shroud, Antonacci mantains. The images on this sacred relic literally defy the laws of chemistry and physics. Antonacci asserts that scientific evidence and historical proof of the resurrection can be derived from a review of the cloth and its images.
To achieve this, he suggests that a reinvestigation take place and that a more “flexible” scientific approach be attempted which would consider hypotheses that might not be found readily in conventional modern science.
For Christians who may be profoundly drawn to the shroud but who question whether it is possible to scientifically validate basic statements of faith, two key questions might be posed at this point.
Is it possible to prove by human means the authenticity of sacred relics?
Secondly, if this were possible, in the case of the shroud would this empirically demonstrate, beyond doubt, two fundamental Christian beliefs — that Jesus died, and that he rose again?
The reader might question many aspects of the author's archeological and historical evidence intended to establish the shroud's compatibility with first-century Jewish burial practices and biblical accounts. Antonacci's work will no doubt reinforce the faith of those who already believe in the shroud, but in the end it seems unlikely that he will win any new converts from empirically minded skeptics.
Ultimately an authentic shroud isn't necessary; it would only add another historical detail to facts of Jesus, a man born in time who was also God.
Wayne A. Holst is an instructor in religion and culture at the University of Calgary.