Catholic World Report's Jim Graves recently interviewed Barrie Schwortz, an expert on the Shroud of Turin, and the result is a fascinating read:
CWR: What are some of the most compelling arguments that the Shroud is authentic?
Barrie Schwortz: Thirty-seven years ago, when I went to Italy with STRUP to examine the Shroud, I assumed it was a fake, some sort of medieval painting. But after 10 minutes studying it, I knew it was not [a painting]. As a professional photographer, I was looking for brush strokes. But there was no paint and no brush strokes.
For 17 years I refused to accept that the Shroud was authentic. The last argument holding me back was related to the blood. The blood on the Shroud is reddish, but blood on a cloth, even after just a few hours, should turn brown or black. I had a conversation with Alan Adler, a blood chemist, on the phone and I shared my reservation. He got upset and asked, “Didn’t you read my paper?”
He had found a high content of bilirubin on the Shroud, which explains why the blood on the Shroud is red. When a man is beaten and has had no water, he can go into shock and the liver starts pumping out bilirubin. It makes the blood stay red forever. It was the last piece of the puzzle for me. I had nothing left to complain about. Sometimes I wonder why I hadn’t asked Alan Adler that question 17 years before, but I guess I wasn’t ready for the answer back then.
Although this was the final evidence that convinced me, it is no one particular piece of evidence that proves the Shroud is authentic. The entirety of evidence indicates that it is.
One of my favorite testimonials as to the authenticity of the Shroud actually came from my Jewish mother. She was originally from Poland, and had only a high school education. She heard one of my lectures, and afterwards we were driving home. She was quiet for a long time—you have to worry when a Jewish mother is quiet—so I asked her, “Mom, what did you think?” She said, “Barrie, of course it’s authentic. They wouldn’t have kept it for 2,000 years if it wasn’t.”
Now that was an excellent point. According to Jewish law, a blood-soaked shroud would have had to have been kept in the grave. To remove it, in fact, you would have been putting yourself at risk because you were violating the law.
The most plausible explanation to me for the Shroud, both because of the science and my own personal background as a Jew, is that it was the cloth that was used to wrap Jesus’ body.
CWR: What are some of the common falsehoods about the Shroud?
Schwortz: It would take hours to compose such a list. There seems to be a constant cacophony of nonsense being put out about the Shroud. One involves a medieval artist creating it by using three different photographic exposures and his own urine; I call that the “Shroud of Urine” theory. Now why would someone go to all that trouble when they simply could have painted an image?
The Shroud is a complex object, and a six-page article or 44-minute documentary—which must be entertaining—can’t do it justice. That’s why I created www.shroud.com so that people can review all the data and come to their own conclusion based on the facts.
CWR: What does the Shroud tell us about the physical sufferings of Christ?
Schwortz: It is literally a document of the Passion and the torture Jesus suffered. His face was severely beaten, and was particularly swollen around the eyes. I’m a fan of professional boxing; the facial image on the Shroud reminds me of a boxer who’s just lost a match.
The man has been severely scourged. Not only do we observe the wounds on the back, but the thongs wrapped around the body and hit the front as well. Forensically speaking, the image on the Shroud is more accurate than common depictions we see in art.
He has a spear wound on his side. His legs are not broken, as was typically the case with men who are crucified. His head and scalp are covered in wounds. Again, in art, we often see the Crown of Thorns depicted as a small circle resembling laurel leaves around Christ’s head. But that is not realistic. The soldiers actually took a thorn bush and smashed it down on his head.
We see the back of one hand, which indicates that the nails were driven not through the center of the palm, but an inch closer to the wrist. For a Roman soldier crucifying 20 or more people at a time, that makes sense. It’s the perfect place to drive a nail that will hold, and then you can move on to your next victim.
Regarding the feet, it’s impossible for us to judge if a single nail held both feet, or if nails were driven in each one. We have the actual remains of two crucifixion victims, and two nails were used in their feet.
There's much more, all of it captivating.
With props and thanks to Mark Shea for the find, who adds:
Not that Catholic faith rests on the Shroud. Millions of Christians have lived and died never so much as having heard of, let alone seen, it. But such grace notes are kindnesses from a God who, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions and despite advice from the finest ideologues money can buy, does whatever he feels like.