This Article is taken from THE CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT
Image: THE TELEGRAPH
People view The Shroud of Turin on display at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Turin, Italy, in this 26 April 2010, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
Image: THE CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT
27 March 2015.
“One of my favorite testimonials as to the authenticity of The Shroud,” says Barrie Schwortz, an expert on The Shroud of Turin, “actually came from my Jewish mother.”
The Author of this Article in THE CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT
is Jim Graves
The Shroud, which is a 14.5’ by 3.5’ linen cloth, bearing the image of the front and back of a man who has been scourged and crucified, has been kept in Turin since 1578. Barrie Schwortz is one of the world’s leading experts on The Shroud. In 1978, Schwortz, a technical photographer, was invited to participate in the first ever in-depth scientific examination of The Cloth, known as The Shroud of Turin Research Project (STRUP). A non-practicing Jew at the time, he reluctantly agreed to be part of STRUP, fully expecting the team to prove that The Shroud was a painted image from The Middle Ages. But, after many years of study and reflection, he came to believe in its authenticity.
Troubled by frequent inaccurate media reports on the subject, in 1996 Schwortz decided to launch his own Web-Site, to share the true story of The Shroud and scientific research that had been performed on it. Two decades later, he still makes Shroud Presentations in the Media and to a variety of groups, including Seminarians in Rome.
Schwortz recently spoke with THE CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT
CWR: What are some of the most compelling arguments that The Shroud is authentic?
Barrie Schwortz (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
For seventeen 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 seventeen years before, but I guess I wasn't ready for the answer back then.
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.
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 Mediaeval 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 forty-four-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 that 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.
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 centre of the Palm, but an inch closer to the Wrist. For a Roman Soldier Crucifying twenty 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.
CWR: Was He stretched out on The Cross, so that His Arms were dislocated? And, had part of His Beard been plucked out ?
Schwortz: The forensic evidence tells us that He could have been stretched, so that His Arms were dislocated. And, we do observe a V-notch in His Beard, indicating that it could have been plucked.
In the end, the forensic evidence indicates that the Gospel account is an accurate depiction of what happened during The Passion of Christ.
Schwortz: Oh, yes. People see coins, flowers, and all kinds of other things that may or may not be there. Regarding the coins, on our STRUP team we had a NASA Imaging Scientist — a good Catholic, in fact — who indicated that the weave of the Linen was too coarse to pick up the inscription of a coin. What we’re certain of is that we see an image of a man, and isn’t that what is important ?
CWR: From your study of The Shroud, what kind of physical description of Christ can you offer us?
Schwortz: He was a well-built man; what we might describe as buff, today. He had a strong upper body, a deep chest and good-sized shoulders. This makes sense, as He was a Carpenter. At that time, you’d have to go out and fell a tree, cut it up and carve it, all things which would require a lot of physical strength.
CWR: Did he have a ponytail ?
Schwortz: It certainly looks like it. Orthodox Jews of the period wore their hair long.
CWR: What can you tell us of the Cloth, itself ?
Schwortz: It was a high-quality Cloth that a man of high stature would have owned. It was probably made in Syria, and brought to Jerusalem on the back of a camel. Since it was imported, it would have been expensive. This is consistent with the Gospel account, which indicated that Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man. He probably owned it and had been planning to use it for himself.
CWR: Your Web-Site just celebrated its Nineteenth Anniversary.
Schwortz: Yes. In 1995, I was talking to a friend, and he said, “You know that Shroud thing you've been studying ? It was a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.” I asked him where he got that information. He said, “My wife and I were at the grocery store, and we saw it in a tabloid at the check-out.”
Now, Leonardo da Vinci was a pretty good artist, but we have documentation about The Shroud dating back 100 years before he was born. No one is that good ! I remember writing myself a note: “Consider building a Web-Site.” I did, and I’ve been overseeing and adding to it ever since.
I realised long ago what a great privilege it was to be in that room in Italy with STRUP in 1978. But, with that privilege came a responsibility. As I tell my audiences, I wasn’t in that room for me, but for you. I don’t know why God picked me to be there, but what better witness than a sceptic ? I had no emotional attachment to, or interest in, the subject, at the time.
Schwortz: We arrived a week early with eighty crates of equipment, which was seized for five days by Italian Customs. We had a limited time to implement a sixty-seven-page Test Plan, and, as we had lost five days of preparation, we weren't certain we could run all of our Tests.
The Catholic Church, itself, had very little involvement. The Church, in fact, didn't own The Shroud, at the time. King Umberto, Duke of Savoy (the former Ruling Family of Italy), whose Family had owned The Shroud for six Centuries, gave permission for us to study it. The Church in Turin was merely the custodian of the artifact.
We initially asked for ninety-six hours to study it, but we were allowed to see it about 120 hours. We were there to collect data, not draw conclusions. We were there to answer one simple question: How was the image formed ? In the three years following, we produced Papers that were submitted to Peer-Reviewed Journals. In the end, we could only tell how it did NOT get there. It was NOT a painting, it was NOT a scorch, and it was NOT a photograph.
I told him I didn't know much about Jesus, but I did know he was a Jew. He asked, “Don’t you think he’d want one of The Chosen People on our team?” He told me to go to Turin and do the best job I could, and not worry about being a Jew.
Schwortz: There is nothing like it.
CWR: What effect have you seen The Shroud have on people ?
Schwortz: I've observed a broad range of responses. Some have no reaction, but for many others it revives their faltering Faith. But, in the end, Faith is not based on a piece of Cloth, but is a Gift of God stirred in the hearts of those who look upon it.
Jim Graves is a Catholic writer, living in Newport Beach, California.