Although the birth of Jesus is “the reason for the season,” his death and resurrection are the foundational reasons we celebrate Christmas. And the ancient artifact that illustrates Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection is the Shroud of Turin — a linen cloth measuring 14 feet by 3.5 feet with a faint image of a crucified man that millions believe is Jesus Christ.
The Shroud has survived over two thousand years and is the world’s most analyzed artifact. Yet, due to its numerous unexplained properties, it remains a mystery. But the Shroud’s authenticity is controversial, mostly stemming from the infamous 1988 C-14 carbon dating test, which concluded that the cloth dated between 1260 and 1390 A.D. However, since 1988 those test results have been repeatedly disputed and debunked by many scientific experts.
Among those experts is Joe Marino, a former Benedictine monk and Catholic priest who has studied and written about the Shroud for 43 years. Marino’s newest book, “The 1988 C-14 Dating of the Shroud of Turin – A Stunning Expose’” details all that went awry with the 1988 tests, scientifically and politically.
Given my keen interest in the Shroud, I have written numerous Townhall articles and several specifically about the C-14 dating controversy. Therefore, I am familiar with Joe Marino’s standing as a world-renowned Shroud expert and pleased that he agreed to answer some questions about his new book.
Myra Adams: What prompted you to write an 800-page book about the 1988 C-14 dating of the Shroud of Turin?
Joe Marino: When the results of the C-14 Shroud dating test were announced in 1988, I immediately knew something was wrong. Dating the linen cloth between the years 1260 and 1390 did not correspond with the extensive scientific evidence gathered before 1988. Most notably, the medieval dates conflicted with the “gold standard” of Shroud studies — the Vatican authorized 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) with its stunning conclusion that “there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image.”
Subsequently, when I sifted through all the Shroud writings questioning the 1988 results, it became apparent that the C-14 testing was severely flawed. Then in 2016, I wrote a 175-page article titled “The Politics of the Radiocarbon Dating of the Turin Shroud.” After retiring in 2018, I expanded that article, which grew into an 800-page book.
MA: You have said that the book “points to irrefutable proof that politics – along with personal agendas – was the main theme of the C-14 dating of the Shroud.” Can you explain your quote?
JM: Initially, the C-14 test was to have been one of 26 multi-disciplinary tests. The process was then marred by enormous problems, including eliminating the multi-disciplinary tests, constant protocol changes, Machiavellian-type actions by members of the C-14 labs, and a complete lack of rigor in the science. All of that was accentuated by Catholic Church leaders making poor management decisions while authorizing and overseeing the C-14 dating.
Interestingly, in 1985, Cardinal Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005) initially approved that the 1978 STURP team could perform various dating tests on the Shroud, including C-14. But one of the C-14 scientists was convinced that STURP was composed of religious fanatics. A total falsehood dispelled by STURP’s team list and the prestigious U.S. government labs where most of them worked. Ultimately, a person or group overruled Ratzinger’s decision and eliminated all but the C-14 test along with the entire STURP team! THAT was politics.
MA: What do you say to readers who think the Shroud is a medieval forgery?
JM: Those who think the Shroud is a fraud should start asking why the C-14 test is the only major piece of scientific evidence to make that assessment. Then people must do some research (read my book) and quit making knee-jerk pronouncements about this mysterious cloth with properties still unexplained by 21st-century science.
MA: If the crucified male image on the Shroud was not thought to be Jesus Christ, how would the C-14 testing have been different?
JM: I’m convinced that because the Shroud is associated with Jesus, psychological factors impacted how the testing was performed. Some people have trouble trying to integrate science and religion. Suppose the image was thought to have been someone other than Jesus, no doubt that a routine scientific dating of the cloth would have been performed. But, because it is believed to be Jesus, many additional and detrimental factors were introduced into the C-14 dating process.
Consequently, because of massive amounts of Shroud scientific evidence (primarily from STURP), including the fact that no one has been able to duplicate the totality of the image characteristics (despite what some skeptics claim), most people expected the cloth to be dated to the 1st century, the time when Jesus of Nazareth lived. Therefore, if the 1260-1390 dates are correct, then it can’t possibly be the cloth used at his burial. But now, there is overwhelming evidence proving the 1988 dating results cannot be taken at face value.
JM: The world is in a dire mess right now, and many people are looking for answers and spiritual comfort. And just when faith in Jesus is most needed, there has been a glut of “Jesus never existed” articles and books. Unfortunately, we can never prove 100% that the Shroud wrapped Jesus because we do not have his DNA. Yet, the longer scientists are unable to disprove the Shroud’s authenticity increases the chances that the Shroud is exactly what it is purported to be — the cloth that wrapped the historical Jesus — who lived, died, was buried, and left his body image on his burial Shroud at the moment of His Resurrection. That is very significant!
My wish is that the Catholic Church would basically stop keeping the Shroud stored away in Turin, Italy, for I believe the burial cloth belongs to the world. Science and technology have grown by leaps and bounds since STURP’s 1978 “hands-on” research concluded with the following statement about the male image on the cloth: “It is not the product of an artist.” New technology offers humankind the opportunity to learn much more about this mysterious cloth and the “man’s” image displayed on its surface.
MA: Do you believe that the central mysteries of the Shroud will ever be solved?
JM: We will continue to learn more about the Shroud, despite its relative lack of availability, but I don’t think we will ever solve all of its mysteries. If the Shroud of Turin truly wrapped Jesus, it will likely produce even more questions than answers. However, it might help some people answer the one all-important question posed by Jesus:
MA: Joe, on behalf of Townhall readers, thank you for this interview.
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: [email protected] or Twitter @MyraKAdams.