For years, the scientific consensus about the Shroud of Turin was that it was a medieval forgery. Former NR senior editor Jeffrey Hart was a dissenter from that view — for a variety of reasons, he believed the Shroud was authentic. Now comes news that scientists at the University of Padua have established that the Shroud does in fact date back to the first century.
Of course, science cannot establish the identity of the person who is depicted on the Shroud, nor a fortiori can it prove that the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection are true. But this news is nonetheless very important, because it disproves the single most important alternative theory about the Shroud, that it was created in the Middle Ages to encourage faith. I also note that is much more imaginable that powerful religio-political authorities in the Middle Ages would have perpetrated such a hoax — either to encourage religious belief per se, or to make money — than that the ragtag, persecuted band of Jesus followers of the first century would have had the time, the inclination, or the ability to do so.
The walk of faith is a difficult one. In a world that denies God — a world of cruelty, brutality, violence, oppression of the weak by the strong, and persecution of those who stand up for the weak — it is often hard to hold on to the existence of a benevolent God. But God nonetheless gives people faith in Him, to each person according to His own design and measure; and we should be grateful for any hint He sends us that the accounts of Him are true. Of course, the Shroud of Turin is not proof of the Christian Faith. But — in this week, Holy Week, even more than usual – this news gives believers some encouragement.
For which I am very, very, thankful: If the world is right, Jesus was just a troublemaker who ran afoul of the authorities, and paid the price that troublemakers often do. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to hold on to the faith and hope that He was and is much more than that. Somebody once said that God’s absence is not that of a cruel and indifferent landlord, but closer to that of a loving father playing peek-a-boo with his toddler. Perhaps what we heard from Padua today was just such a peek-a-boo.