The Turin Shroud never touched Jesus Christ — it was just a prop for medieval Easter celebrations, according to British scholar Charles Freeman. Freeman’s theories are in line with the carbon dating analysis that puts the shroud’s creation at about the 14th century, which challenges the wide-spread speculation that it is the real deal.
The 14-foot-long, 3-foot-wide brown cloth stained with the impression of Jesus Christ is one of the most scrutinized artifacts in the modern world. If real, the cloth gives indisputable proof that Jesus Christ was a real person.
But scientific evidence points to the Turin shroud being a fake. In 1988, three laboratories used carbon dating to determine that the cloth was created sometime between 1260 and 1390, a date that matches with the first medieval references.
According to The Guardian, Charles Freeman goes one step further to say that the shroud was a prop used to celebrate Jesus Christ in medieval Easter rituals, using ancient descriptions of the cloth to put its history together.
The first reference to the Turin Shroud came in 1355, when it was in the chapel in Lirey near Troyes in France. The House of Savoy then got the cloth in 1453, and from that point forward, the history of the shroud was well recorded — as far medieval record keeping goes.
Aside from claiming that Jesus Christ was never wrapped in the cloth, one of the more shocking revelations from Freeman’s research is that the shroud appears to have changed.
“Astonishingly, few researchers appear to have grasped that the shroud looked very different in the 16th and 17th centuries from the object we see today.”
Freeman turned up a little-known, meticulously-made engraving by Antonio Tempesta emphasizing Jesus’ blood and scourge marks, traits that are reinforced by ancient descriptions, but are not apparent today. The blood and scourge marks are more consistent with the earlier medieval depictions of Christ, and naturally makes for a better stage prop.
The theatrical ceremony Freeman believes the shroud was used in is called the “Quem quaeritis?” or “whom do you seek?” According to the researcher’s explanation, it may have been a bit creepy.
“On Easter morning the gospel accounts of the resurrection would be re-enacted with ‘disciples’ acting out a presentation in which they would enter a makeshift tomb and bring out the grave clothes to show that Christ had indeed risen.”
Despite the thorough explanation and historical references for the shroud, it seems likely that believers will continue to believe the cloth is the actual death shroud of Christ. Some scientific theories have said there is a possibility that the carbon dating tests were inaccurate.
According to The Huffington Post, a team from the Politecnico di Torino said that an earthquake in 33 AD could have been large enough to release radiation into the area and skew any potential for carbon dating. Other experts don’t buy that possibility, and so the debate goes on.
Freeman’s research will no doubt be another footnote for the ongoing debate over the death shroud of Jesus Christ/stage prop.
[Image Credit: Dianelos Georgoudis/Wikimedia Commons]