Christian Worldview

Holy Relics, Batman!

For years, scientists and scholars have been debating whether the Shroud of Turin is indeed the burial cloth of Christ or a medieval forgery. A just-published book by historian Ian Wilson, called The Blood and the Shroud, provides exciting new evidence that the shroud may indeed be the burial cloth of Christ. The subject fascinates Christians not only because it concerns what is possibly a critically important relic, also because it forces us to think about what our faith is based on and what our view of historical artifacts ought to be. Ten years ago a group of scientists, using carbon-14 dating methods, declared the shroud to be a medieval forgery. Wilson had been studying the shroud for 30 years, and he wrote a book declaring its authenticity in 1978. So you can imagine that the carbon-14 findings initially distressed him. But he was convinced he had not been mistaken, and he kept digging. What he eventually found is powerful evidence that the shroud is indeed authentic after all. For starters, the image on the cloth wasn't made with paint, ink, or dye, so how did it get there? Despite extensive electron microscope analysis, nobody knows. Then there's the evidence of the nail holes. Medieval scholars believed the nails were placed in the palm of the hands. Only recently have scholars come to believe that the nails were more likely placed into the wrist. And on the shroud, that's just where the images of the nail holes are. Recent tests also indicate that pollen on the cloth comes from plants growing around Jerusalem. Perhaps most important of all, Wilson says, there are numerous factors that might very well have skewed the carbon-14 tests themselves. And these tests, in his mind, now seem dubious. These are just a handful of the questions Wilson explores in fascinating detail in The Blood and the Shroud. And the shroud's authenticity is just one more example of mounting evidence that confirms the historical accuracy of the scriptural accounts. For example, until recently, there was no extra-biblical evidence that someone named Caiaphas had ever been the head of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. This led some historians to doubt that Caiaphas ever existed. Imagine their surprise, then, when a tomb bearing the name Caiaphas was recently excavated in the Holy Land. Scholars now believe that this may very well be the Caiaphas mentioned in the Bible. Or take the Hittite Empire: Liberal historical scholars disbelieved any such empire ever existed since the only historical reference was in Scripture. Then the remains were found. And today at the University of Chicago, there is the Hittite vocabulary. No scholar denies the Empire's existence any longer. Paul Johnson, the eminent British historian, argues that by any standards of historical analysis, the Bible is the most highly dependable historical document. But here is the important thing to remember. Confirmations of our faith are reassuring and provide wonderful apologetic evidence. But they must be kept in perspective. God has revealed to us everything we need to know about Him and our salvation in Scriptures—His Word, which you can depend on. Our real hope is in Christ Himself, the One who went to the cross for us, the One who lives today.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary