New Book by Cambridge Professor Links Turin Shroud to Resurrection of Christ

The Turin Shroud has baffled scholars through the ages but in his new book, The Sign, Thomas de Wesselow reveals a new theory linking the cloth to the Resurrection.

Art historian Thomas de Wesselow has devoted much of his career to studying the Shroud of Turin. He believes it is the shroud of Jesus, and that the vivid image of a man on the burial cloth convinced Christ's disciples that he was still alive. Photo: Holly Hayes/Flickr

A sensational new theory about the Turin Shroud claims to destroy the core belief of of Christianity – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

“The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection” by Thomas de Wesselow is the latest book to take a controversial angle on the world-famous religious relic.

For centuries the Turin Shroud, regarded by some as the burial cloth of Jesus, by others as the most elaborate hoax in history, has inspired extraordinary and conflicting passions, tells The Telegraph.

But the Cambridge academic Thomas de Wesselow insists that the image on the cloth fooled the Apostles into believing Christ had come back to life, and the Resurrection was in fact an optical illusion.

However, The Irish Times writes, de Wesselow completely accepts its authenticity. “The evidence of the image itself – blood, everything – points to this being a real burial-cloth from first-century Palestine,” he says.

In 1988 radiocarbon dating test put its age at between 1260 and 1390. Since that time many have just assumed the Shroud, which is held in the Royal Chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, northern Italy, is a medieval forgery, tells Daily Mail.

“As far as most people are concerned,” begins chapter 13 of The Sign, “the 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud was a definitive test that proved the cloth to be a product of the Middle Ages.” But carbon dating, de Wesselow points out, can be wrong.

“The carbon dating indicates a date in the 14th century, so something went wrong,” he says. “The shroud is a piece of cloth that has been handled for 2,000 years.”

“That doesn’t provide the perfect conditions for a carbon dating. The fact is that archeologists are used to getting rogue carbon dates. It happens quite frequently. What you do is, you send another piece of cloth to the lab and do the test again.”

De Wesselow’s theory is that in the mind of a person 2,000 years ago, the image on the Shroud would have been astonishing – far beyond their normal experiences and truly unsettling.

“Throughout most of history images have been viewed as mysterious, metaphysical beings… Before the Enlightenment, images of gods, sains, spirits and ancestors were routinely credited with power, not only affecting the emotions of those who looked at them, but also influencing the course of events. In the premodern world images were perceived to be, in some sense, alive,” he writes in his book.

“The Shroud’s envelopment of Jesus’s body would have fostered the idea of the transference of his soul from flesh to cloth… Christ’s clothing (like Peter’s shadow) contained or conveyed something of his spiritual presence. The Shroud, which clothed Jesus in the tomb, would surely have been infused with similar power – a power focused and increased by its “miraculous” image,” ‘The Sign’ says.

The author, who claims to be agnostic, has spent eight years on ‘The Sign.’ “For my part I come from a standard Church of England background,” says de Wesselow. “Church was a familiar, likeable institution but it hasn’t impinged on my life too much.”

The shroud, whose existence is first confirmed in the 14th century, is currently held in its own chapel at Turin Cathedral, where it has been since 1694. In 1983, it became the property of the Vatican, which has not proclaimed on its authenticity.

It is only occasionally exhibited to the public; the last time was in 2010, with the next date for its public display currently set as 2025, to coincide with the next Holy Year of the Catholic Church.

The book is to be released in the U.S. on April 3rd.

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