Monday, June 27, 2011



By John C. Klotz

"In 1929 I sold short,
In England I'm presented at court,
But you've got me down hearted,
'Cause I can't get started with you"
"I can’t Get started"
Duke/Gershwin 1936

This piece is written with a sense of irony; tongue in cheek but with a deadly serious intent. For the last 60 years or so controversy has swirled about the Shroud of Turin, the reputed burial shroud of Jesus Christ,

In 1988, carbon dating tests on a corner of it reportedly established that it was a medieval fake. However, in peer reviewed science journal articles since that time, the validity of that conclusion has been pretty much demolished. Among other things, the tiny corner of the Shroud which was taken for tests was atypical of the Shroud fabric and contained threads, some of them cotton, added by a repair using medieval invisible weaving techniques.

But before getting to the evidence of the Shroud’s authenticity, let me explain what relevance Ira Gershwin and Joe Kennedy have to this discussion. The issue is circumstantial evidence. On the basis of two circumstances in the first two lines of the verse quoted above, it is established beyond doubt that Ira Gershwin was twitting Joseph Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy in the song.

Joe Kennedy was famous for having sold short before the stock market 1929 crash, it was one of the sources of his great wealth. Selling short means that in the month prior to the crash he agreed to sell a large number of shares at prices at the then going rate at a future date. It was a bet that the market would go down. I imagine there were other short sellers although the only notorious one was Joe Kennedy. On that fact alone, you might conclude that the verse was about Joe Kennedy,

But there is second fact in the verse. “In England I’m presented at court.” They may have been other less celebrated short sellers in the fall of 1929, but I will make a safe bet that none of them were ever presented at court in England. Kennedy was. After a stint as chairman of the fledging Securities Exchange Commission, President Roosevelt appointed Kennedy as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, the English court.

Only two facts, but if it was a “money or your life bet,” you’d be pretty safe betting that Joe Kennedy was the subject of Gershwin’s verse.

Now let’s turn to the Shroud of Turin. What circumstances lead me to believe that the case is closed and the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth and quite probably proof of his resurrection. In this case, there are not two circumstances to draw a straight line, but hundreds.

A note on sources. Without footnoting every detail, I am using two primary sources which in turn are an abundant source of additional sources. One
is whose editor and founder is Barrie Schwortz. Barrie is a Jewish photographic expert who signed on as a photographer for a group examining the Shroud in 1978. Starting from an attitude of complete skepticism about the Shroud, and expecting to make quick work of debunking its authenticity, like many experts before and since, Barrie was astounded by what he saw and photographed, and over a period of eighteen years, moved from skeptic to a believer in the challenged antiquity of the cloth.

Another source is Dan Porter’s Shroud Story. It is a work in progress But it covers the whole breadth of Shroud issues with hyperlinks in for each issue.

The best proof of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is the Shroud itself. There are not dozens of physical facts about the shroud that demonstrate its authenticity, but hundreds. In sum, the Shroud is the burial cloth of a man who was crucified after receiving a merciless beating. There are many wounds that were inflicted by the beating, and they are consistent with the whips used by the Romans at the time of Christ. In addition there are other wounds consistent with a “crown” of thorns being pressed into his head. There is a wound in the side of chest consistent with the account of his side being pierced by a lance at the scene of the crucifixion. There are wounds consistent with nails having been driven through his wrists. This is only a very abbreviated partial list of coincidences between the image on the Shroud and the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion.

I am particularly intrigued by the fact that the nail holes were in the wrist. The skeptics claim that the Shroud is a medieval fake. However, until modern times’ all the known paintings of the crucifixion showed Christ hanging on the Cross with nails driven through the palms of his hands.

I attended Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse New York from 1950 to 1954. There were four years of religion classes. I can’t remember in which year it occurred, but I do remember one of my teachers noting that all the paintings of the crucifixion were erroneous because they showed nails driven through the palm of the hand and that was an impossibility because the palm lacked the substance to support the weight of the crucified body. It may have been a surprise to some that the nails were driven into the crucified man’s wrists, but to me it was an old story. And because the artistic tradition is so at odds with wrist nails, it is a compelling circumstance indicating that the image on the Shroud long pre-dated medieval times. Pollen and limestone dust indicate a Jerusalem origin for the Shroud. Then too, there are blood stains and other indicia of secretions that are compatible with what would be expected of a shroud that covered the body of a recently tortured and executed man.

But the stains are not the image on the Shroud which remains inexplicable. A History Channel special: “The Real Face of Jesus” explored among other things the question of what produced the image while using the image to create a face of Jesus, the crucified man. It’s speculation as to what created the image is off-the-chart, concluding that it was essentially created by some scanning process.

The image, the stains, and other physical evidence contained in and on the Shroud when compared to Gospel accounts circumstantially prove that the Shroud of Turin was in fact the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a reasonable supposition that solving the problem of the creation of the image will lead to another conclusion: that it is proof of the Resurrection.

For nearly two thousand years the Shroud has been among us, in one place or another. The proofs of its authenticity through science could not have been made until advances in science in the last two or three decades.

I do not believe in the supernatural. I do believe in an eternal self-consciousness of all existence that is by my definition both natural and God. What we call supernatural is simply what we, with our limited knowledge, can not explain.

For those two millennia the Shroud has been among us, waiting perhaps for our human knowledge and science to unlock its truths. I believe that science has now allowed us to prove its authenticity. If I can demonstrate from two lines in verse by Ira Gershwin that he was referencing Joe Kennedy, given the scores if not hundreds of coincidence between the Shroud and the Gospels, there ought to be no real doubt about the authenticity of the Shroud. Only one other artifact comes close to matching the uniqueness of the Shroud and that is the face cloth which covered Christ’s face which is now in Oviedo, Spain. Its blood stains match those of the Shroud and the two cloths are both mentioned in the Gospel.

Science has emerged in our times as both Christ and Anti-Christ. It has unleashed unprecedented destructive power and while one branch seeks to preserve the environment, other, better financed branches, cooperate in promoting the industries that destroy it. If we are to avoid – or win – the environmental Armageddon that now engulfs us, science will have to lead the way.

But in the authentication of the Shroud, and in the efforts to decipher the process by which the image was created, science is doing something more. It is bringing new meaning and new vitality to the Christian message.

At Mass, Catholics sometimes chant:

Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.

Perhaps when the mystery of the Shroud image is decoded, we shall chant:

“Christ has come again.”

Copyright John C. Klotz, NY, NY 2011