Jesus Christ is one of the most talked about figures in history, even though accounts of his actual existence outside of the Bible are nowhere to be found. But it hasn’t stopped believers from making all sorts of claims. One of these is the infamous Turin Shroud, which is said to be the burial cloth of Jesus.
The relic is housed by the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, and throughout the years it has been tested rigorously by scientists and Biblical scholars. Radiocarbon dating preformed by Oxford University in 1988 suggests that the shroud is only 728 years old.
A few scientists are now working on a new hypothesis that includes earthquakes and atomic reactions. An Italian team believes that an 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the Jerusalem area in 33 AD was strong enough to release neutron particles from crushed rock.
“We believe it is possible that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on the shroud’s linen fibers, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and could also have caused a wrong radiocarbon dating,” Professor Alberto Carpinteri, from the Politecnico di Torino, said.
This flood of neutrons may have imprinted an X-ray-like image onto the burial linen. Moreover, the radiation emissions would have increased the level of carbon-a4 isotopes in the shroud, which would make it appear younger.
Scientists in the past have offered up the neutron radiation explanation for possibly creating the ghostly image of a crucified man with his arms crossed. Still, there hasn’t been any plausible explanation for the source of the radiation.
Neutron radiation is normally generated by nuclear fusion or fission by smashing atoms together in nuclear reactors or particle accelerators. It’s never been proven that earthquakes could be powerful enough to force neutrons to be released from atoms.
Mark Antonacci, president of the Resurrection of the Shroud Foundation, has written to Pope Francis and asked for permission to perform a molecular analysis of the cloth using the latest technology available. He hopes this will either confirm or rule out the radiation hypothesis.
Turin has held the shroud since 1578, but the Vatican has never said whether it believes it to be the real deal. Closest to acknowledge the shroud was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who once said that the enigmatic image on the cloth “reminds us always” of Christ’s suffering.
Before it came to its final resting place, the shroud has changed hands many times. It was first referenced in the 14th century when a French knight was said to have it in his possession in the city of Lirey.
The Shroud of Turin is a 14-foot long herringbone woven piece of cloth with a faint imprint of a man whose wounds appear consistent with crucifixion. There are those who propose the image was generated from the body itself, then there are those who believe something more divine was at foot.