By Robert K. Wilcox


                      5 Mar 2015 - If you watched closely the premier episode of CNN’s new series, “Finding Jesus,” which examined the Shroud of Turin, the alleged burial cloth of Christ, you basically left with the right idea: The shroud is still a mystery – that despite suspect carbon 14 dating which deemed it a medieval fake and media ignorance and bias against what the relic might purport.
                      The somewhat badly-acted docudrama did try to give both sides - and in that vein was mostly even handed. The problem was that the episode omitted key facts and mysteries about the cloth which has images of a crucified corpse on it matching the wounds of Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion. The phrase “the devil is in the details” comes to mind. But in this case, the missing details might reveal God or at least the historical Jesus.
                      They are that important.
                      Here is what “Finding Jesus” left out:
                      First, there is a strong and logical history to the shroud taking it back to the tomb outside Jerusalem prior to its arrival in France in 1354 where “Finding Jesus” begins the cloth’s history. There are gaps in this circumstantial walk back but it is supported by documents, artifacts, and logic. It involves the early Christians understandably saving the cloth, its subsequent incredible survival and display through floods, fires, massacres, Moslem-Christian warring and sacking, and its rescue by the Knights Templar, fierce Crusader-monks who are believed to have smuggled it to France. 


                      Significantly missing in terms of the shroud’s mystery was the nature of the image itself. “Finding Jesus” made a fleeting reference to the image being made of “individually colored fibers” then forgot it. But how the complex image was created is the central scientific mystery of the shroud. Despite over 100 years of study of the relic by mostly scientists - not religionists - not one person has ever satisfactorily explained how the images formed in terms of known and accepted science. 
                      “Finding Jesus” dutifully gave a significant section of its episode to South African art historian Nicholas Allen’s “camera obscura” theory. The first ever camera, a crude 16th Century device, he says, created the images. How? The shroud image can’t be duplicated today. It is so unique that using precise mathematical values read from the image by a computer, scientists can make a three-dimensional hologram of the man-in-the-shroud. That’s a picture that can be viewed and manipulated in space from all angles. No surface image on earth can give that kind of information – not photos. drawings or paintings. They are all two-dimensional.
                      And what happened to this miracle machine and artist? If it could do something not even doable today, it was certainly a gold mine then. But it disappeared, as did the artist. Why had he done it? To make money? To prove he had an authentic Jesus shroud? Then his depiction would have followed convention. But the shroud image defies convention. The nails are in the wrists, not in the hands. The crown is not a conventional wreathlet as shown in “Finding Jesus” but a full cap or miter, like actually used in the Middle East. Bloodstains on the head show this. The man-in-the-shroud is naked, although his hands cover embarrassment. Anyone hoping to impress the Medieval faithful would not have created a naked Jesus.
                      There are so many other important details like this that defy the idea that a Medieval forger made the image – too many to get into here. (Read my latest book on the shroud, ). Perhaps most significant recently are the startling details of those “individually colored fibers” glossed over in “Finding Jesus.” What scientists who have studied the actual cloth say is that it is unquestionably not a painting. There is not a hint of brush stroke and anyway no artist could have brushed in the images. The “coloring” is not really color per se but a strange “change” in each individual fiber. Each is changed on the outside but not inside as a liquid would do. And they are changed in exactly the same way. It is this precision that allows a computer to make a hologram. The change is akin to what might happen if heat was applied.


                      The show also did not do justice to the controversy over the 1988 Carbon 14 tests. They made it seem the tests were definitive and objections were only by die-hard faithful. That’s not true. Former skeptics like Los Alamos scientist Ray Rogers reversed his quite vociferous condemnation of Carbon 14 deniers when he did his own tests on a piece of the shroud, surreptitiously gotten, that the testers had used. He believed with a growing number of others that the reason the test showed a Medieval date was that the piece taken from the shroud was from a Medieval patch sewn into it.
                      There were other valid objections too. Bacteria and centuries of pollutants contaminated the cloth. The labs themselves, it has been charged, did not maintain “blind” protocol, as is required in such tests. These are all very valid criticisms of the Carbon 14 tests which absolutely are in question.
                      To its credit, “Finding Jesus” ended with throwing the whole question back into mystery by featuring the little known Oviedo, Spain, cloth. This purports to be a cloth mentioned in the New Testament that draped over Jesus’s face after the crucifixion. It has a documented history all the way back to early centuries after Christ. What is so impressive about it is that the many blood stains on it precisely match the blood stains on the face and head of the man-in-the-shroud. This has the potential to positively date the shroud to around the 5th or 6th Century.
                      Won’t that liven up the debate?