Q: What's the significance of the Shroud of Turin?

A:Do we have the very cloth that wrapped Jesus' body when God raised him from the dead? For many Christians, that potential tangible connection to the greatest moment of history drives them to fascination with—even devotion to—the Shroud of Turin. The shroud (pictured here) is a centuries-old piece of linen that measures 14'3" by 3'7". Visible down the length of the fabric is a double, front-and-back likeness of a man apparently reposed in death. He has suffered injuries associated with crucifixion: a beaten face, freely bleeding head lacerations, more than 100 whipping wounds, punctured wrists and feet, as well as a bloody wound in the side of the chest.

For one week in Turin, Italy, in 1978, about three dozen researchers and assistants took thousands of photographs and x-rays and collected other data from which they performed a range of nondestructive tests. Their conclusions: the cloth apparently draped a real body (or body image), the blood was most likely real, and the image was only superficially present—meaning that it was only located on the very uppermost thread fibers. No paint, dye, or other foreign substance could account for the image. Three-dimensional analysis of the photographs revealed that the image was present even in areas that did not actually touch the body.

Before these tests, Swiss botanist Max Frei had detected several pollens on the shroud that in ancient times were found nearly exclusively in Palestine, even though the cloth had not been out of western Europe since the fourteenth century. And objects over the eyes appeared to be coins. Image enhancement of the right eye showed what some believe ...

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