Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from ABC News International, January 29, 2005, with the headline, “Shroud of Turin could date to Jesus’ time. Rome. A chemist who worked on testing of the Shroud of Turin says new analysis of the fiber indicates the cloth that some say was the burial linen of Jesus could be up to 3,000 years old. The analysis by a scientist who was on the original 1978 team that was allowed to study tiny pieces of the cloth indicates the Shroud is far older than the initial findings, suggesting it was probably from medieval times, and will likely be seized on by those who believe it wrapped the body of Jesus after His crucifixion. ‘I cannot disprove that this cloth was the burial shroud that was used on Jesus,’ Raymond N. Rogers, a retired chemist from the University of California-operated Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in a telephone interview Friday from his home. ‘The chemistry says it was a real shroud, the blood spots on it are real blood, and the technology that was used to make that piece of cloth was exactly what Pliny the Elder reported for this time, about 70 AD,’ Rogers said, referring to the naturalist of ancient Roman times. ‘It’s a shroud from the right time, but you’re never going to find out through science if it was used on a person named Jesus,’ said Rogers, whose findings were published recently in the scientific journal Thermochimica Acta. Rogers wrote that in 2003, the scientist advising the Cardinal of Turin where the shroud is kept, providing him with pieces of thread taken from the radio-carbon sample before it was distributed for dating. The American chemist said he decided to analyze the amount of vanillin, a chemical compound that is present in linen from the flax fibers used to weave it. ‘Vanillin slowly disappears from the fiber over time at a calculated rate,’ he said. ‘Judging by those calculations, a medieval age cloth should have had some 37 percent of its vanillin left by 1978, the year the threads were taken from the shroud,’ Rogers said. But there was virtually no vanillin left in the shroud, leading the chemist to calculate it could be far older than the radio-carbon testing indicated, possibly some 3,000 years old.”
Tom: Dave, two questions here: number one, I’m curious to know - which side do you come down on? Was it or wasn’t it? And question number two is does it make any difference?
Dave: It’s much to do about very little, in my opinion. We know that Jesus was enshrouded in a long cloth - they wound it around Him. We know that He died for our sins, we know that He rose from the dead. We have eye witnesses to that fact, okay? We’re in touch with Jesus - we talk to Him, we’ve met Him, He’s our Savior, He’s risen from the dead.
Now, to come up with some proof that…“Oh, here is the piece of cloth,” the piece of cloth wouldn’t prove that He rose from the dead. A piece of cloth wouldn’t prove anything. If it was 3,000 years old, it could be. The cloth could have been hanging around for a thousand years before Jesus was wrapped in it, who knows? This carbon 14 dating, all of this stuff, it’s not accurate. So why persist in speculation about this? Tom, it doesn’t make sense to me. My faith does not stand upon such flimsy evidence.
Tom: But there is something in the heart of man about these kinds of things, Dave. You know, we want to know that the Ark - somehow pieces of it are still on Mount Ararat. If we could just find it, and we could just prove to the world… You know some have said the Ark of the Covenant, they know where it is, so on and so forth. We have all of these things…I mean, we get excited about archaeology to support what the Bible says, so what’s the problem with these things?
Dave: Well, I don’t know how excited I get about it. It’s nice, but my major proof of the Bible is prophecy and the fulfillment of it. When you have a prophecy that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on April 6th 32 AD, 69 weeks of years after the command to rebuild Jerusalem, for which we have the date in Nehemiah 2. It was the 20th year of Artaxerses Longimanus in the month Nisan, okay? So there we have it. Now, how many candidates are there - how many people rode into Jerusalem on that very day? We know that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that very day. So we have so many prophecies, it couldn’t happen by chance. We have a prophecy of a crucifixion 500 years before crucifixion was ever practiced on this earth. So we have so many details and prophecies fulfilled, I have 100 percent proof. I don’t have any doubt.
Now, archeology is a difficult field; it’s a bit iffy. Is this piece of pottery really what we think it is and used for what we think it was, and so forth? So I think this is a waste of time, although this is what some people engage in, like detective work, and this is what they pursue in their field of interest. So, Tom, fine! Let them pursue it.
Tom: On the other hand, we have the example from Scripture how given the heart of men and the way they do things, that they turn these things into idols. You know, I’m thinking back even from the Scriptures to the bronze serpent that the Israelites were to look upon and be healed, because of the fiery serpents that came upon them.
Dave: They worshipped it as a god.
Tom: So 700 years later, God tells - I believe it was during the reign of Hezekiah, I’m not positive about that - but anyway, the instruction was, “Destroy it,” because it had become an idol. They worshipped it as an idol, and that’s part of the problem in all of these things.
Dave: Tom, an interesting book written in the 1890’s, I think, Extraordinary Popular Delusions in the Madness of Crowds, and he just documents some of these things. He says in the Middle Ages there were enough true pieces of the real cross to build a cathedral. They even worshipped the toenails of the apostles, and this man, with a little bit of humor, he says, “The toenails of Peter were extraordinarily prolific. There were enough fragments of the toenails of Peter to fill a gunny sack.”
Now, the fact is, Tom, it’s not a matter of proof, because you can prove…we’ve got so much evidence. It’s a matter of the heart. A person is willing either to believe or not to believe, and people that saw Jesus raise the dead, saw Him feed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes, saw Him do these miracles - there was no question about it - it says, “Though He did so many miracles, yet they believed not on Him.”
So it’s not a question of proof. I mean, I love proof and I give proof, but then it’s up to the person. And Paul, we read in Acts 9 and throughout Acts, he proved from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ; some believed. The rest of them went about to slay Him, okay? They were going to kill Him! He had to escape over the wall in Damascus in a basket.
So I use proof, I use proof from the Scriptures, not from science or archeology so much, but it’s a matter of the heart. We’re either going to believe what God says and submit ourselves to Him, or we will continue to be rebels regardless of the evidence.