Proofs of the Resurrection

Author: ks. Mieczysław Piotrowski TChr

Christ’s resurrection is a fact. His principal witnesses were the apostles, but He has left for our times two substantial pieces of evidence, which modern science can study. These are:
1) the impress of the Crucified Body of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin; 2) the Face of the Rising Christ on the Veil of Manoppello.


Historical fact


The truth of Christ’s resurrection rests on an historical fact, which also transcends history. When the women informed the apostles on the third day after the Crucifixion that Jesus had risen from the dead, “their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). The Risen Lord then appeared to them and established personal contact with them. With their own senses they could experience His presence and assure themselves that this was no mere apparition but the Lord Himself in His glorified body. They could see Him, speak with Him, touch Him, and even eat with Him (cf. Luke 24: 37-43). The apostles were convinced that Jesus had risen in the very same body in which He had been crucified; yet this body was no longer subject to physical constraints. They could recognize His voice, His hair, His features, his hands and side along with the marks of His wounds. (cf. Jn 20:27).

 Those who acquaint themselves honestly with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection need have no doubt that we are dealing here with a fact that really took place. Encountering the Risen One transformed the apostles totally. It gave them such inner strength and courage that all of them except for John died a martyr’s death defending the truth that Christ had indeed risen and was God Himself. It was precisely this fearless manner in which the apostles preached the truth about Christ’s resurrection that gave rise to Christianity with its indestructible vigor, zeal, and joy in life—this in a situation in which, from a purely human standpoint, it would seem that Jesus—in dying on the cross—had suffered ultimate defeat.

Christ’s resurrection is a fact. His principal witnesses were the apostles, but He has left for our times two objective pieces of evidence, which modern science can study. These are: 1) the impress of the Crucified Body of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin; 2) the Face of the Resurrecting Christ on the Veil of Manoppello.


The empty tomb


When the apostles Peter and John learned of the empty tomb from the women, they ran to the burial site. Finding the tomb open, they went inside and saw only the burial cloths, without the body. At that moment, seeing the cloths untenanted and undisturbed, John believed in the fact of Christ’s resurrection. “He saw and he believed”—he writes in his Gospel account (Jn 20:8).

What was it about the disposition of the burial cloths that convinced him that Jesus had risen from the dead? The original Greek text of John’s Gospel (20:6-7) states that the burial linens were keimena, that is, spread out, empty of contents, yet undisturbed, unwrapped, intact. The author of the text implies that they lay flat, for the body of Jesus was no longer there to support it. Before that, they have been raised, supported by the body. When John saw the sunken Shroud with its broad lateral bands (othonia) still unbound, he took this as a clear sign that no one had removed Jesus’ body from the Shroud; that in some mysterious way His body had passed through the linen—and thus that Jesus had risen from the dead.

John also writes about a napkin, which had been laid over Jesus’ head (20:7). This cloth, used for wiping off sweat (sudarion), had probably been placed over the head along with another napkin made out of a precious gauze-like fabric known as byssus. Modern exegetes of the original text of John 20:7 take the evangelist’s meaning as follows: that in the tomb he had seen both the Shroud, which was empty and thus lying flat, and the napkin, which had been placed over the head—and this, by contrast, was in a raised position. The biblical translator and exegete Persili understands the Greek text alla choris entetyligmenon (Jn 20:7) to mean that the napkin which had been placed over Jesus’ head was not lying flat as was the Shroud with its lateral bands still unwrapped, but upraised, as though it still lay over the face. At the moment of the Resurrection the body of Jesus passed through the burial linen, which now being empty, sank to the ground. The lighter napkin, on the other hand, since the aromatic oils impregnating it had quickly evaporated, retained its original convex shape, as if still covering the face. Only the mysterious passage of Jesus’ body from death to life, to another timeless dimension of existence transcending all laws of physics, could account for the undisturbed state of the burial cloths. And so, seeing this as a visible sign of the resurrection, John set down his famous words, “He saw and he believed” (Jn. 20: 8).

 The resurrection of Jesus is a great mystery. It marked His passing from death into a divine state of existence. The event left material artifacts, intelligible signs, which we can examine and study even today. They are: the Shroud of Turin in which the dead body of Jesus was wrapped and on which we can see the mysterious imprint of His whole body; the byssus Veil preserved at Manoppello, on which we can see the Face of the Resurrecting Christ; and the blood-soaked napkin (sudarion)—the so-called Napkin of Oviedo. Studies confirm that the blood-drenched napkin preserved in the Cathedral of Oviedo (in northern Spain) originates in the time of Christ and the disposition of the bloodstains on it correspond strikingly to the imprint of the Face on the Shroud of Turin.


The Shroud of Turin


The image imprinted on the Shroud (Jesus’ burial cloth) constitutes a unique kind of “snapshot” of a crucified Man who had undergone an untold number of torments including blows, beatings with a rod, Roman scourging, the imposition of a crown of thorns, falls, penetrations by nails into the wrists, and a spear-thrust in the side. This enduring image of torment imprinted on the linen conforms with the Gospel accounts of the Passion and Death of Christ down to the last detail.

The blood soaked deep into the structure of the linen, leaving clearly visible dark stains, while the image of the body is seen only on the surface of the fibers and is pale-colored. The blood clots are undisturbed and intact. Thus Jesus’ body could not have been removed from the Shroud. No signs of tearing are visible on the linen. The body must have passed mysteriously through the linen enveloping it and left its imprint in the form of a photographic negative. Only faith can tell us that this occurred at the moment of the Resurrection.

In 1978 the Shroud underwent a comprehensive battery of tests at the hands of a team of experts, mostly American, as part of STURP (The Shroud of Turin Research Project). For this they made use of state-of-the-art instruments weighing several tons brought over from the United States especially for the purpose. For over 120 hours the artifact was subjected to the minutest scrutiny. Among other things it was photographed under direct artificial light and powerful floodlights. Use was made of X-ray fluorescence analysis, ultraviolet spectophotometry, visible and infrared spectroscopy, macro- and microphotography. The tests confirmed that: 1) the Shroud bears the blood of a man of the AB group; 2) the image was definitely not painted; 3) the Shroud shows traces of numerous lesions resulting from scourging (many of these are visible only under ultraviolet light); 4) the Shroud contains plant pollens on both outer and inner surfaces. (Max Frei, the Swiss criminologist, found flower pollens that existed only in the region of Lake Galilee in the time of Christ; thus the Shroud must have spent some time there); 5) the image was caused by the oxidation of the outer fibers and is found only on the surface of the fabric. The decreasing oxidation of the fibers resulted in a three-dimensional image. Only the fibers closest to the surface bear the coloration that produces the image—the result of the oxidizing of an extremely thin layer measuring 180 - 600 nanometers, that is, less than the thickness of a bacterium (1 nanometer = 106 mm.) (By comparison an average human hair has a diameter of 100 000 nanometers.) The coloring cannot be removed even with the aid of chemical solvents; it is also proof against the action of the sun’s rays. The image did not form around the blood clots. Wherever there are bloodstains there is no coloration of the surface of the fibers that create the image. The imprint of the body is translucent yellow in color; no trace of paint or pigment has been found. The image took shape on the fabric that wrapped the Body, and yet despite this it is perfectly flat in the photographic negative. There is no deformation. In optical terminology the phenomenon is known as “parallel projection.” Science is at a loss to account for the mechanism by which the image was transferred from the Body onto the linen. Thus the American scientist, John Jackson, observes: “Based on the physical and chemical processes that are known to us today, we have grounds to say that the Shroud image ought not to exist; and yet it is real, even though we are unable to explain how it came into existence.”

Computer technology has contributed greatly to the study of the Shroud. Thanks to this science we have obtained digital photographs of the highest resolution. Thus details have been discovered which could never have caught by the naked eye. Through three-dimensional editing of the image, scientists have identified two small coins, which had been placed over the eyes of the Man of the Shroud. Covering the right eye was the lepton lituus, a coin minted between 29 and 32 A. D.—that is, in the time of Pontius Pilate. Over the left eye was a coin minted in 29 A.D. by Pilate in honor of Julia, Tiberius’ mother. Here, then, is more evidence linking the Shroud to the time of Jesus Christ.

The Shroud image is characterized by the varying subtlety of coloration that creates it. The image is formed by the decreasing intensity of the yellow coloring at different levels, thus providing three-dimensional information which STURP experts were able to observe and measure during their tests of 1978.

 NASA experts Eric Jumper and John Jackson obtained the first three-dimensional photographs of the Shroud using NASA’s VP8 image analyzer. Dr. Giovanni Tamburelli of the University of Turin obtained still better 3D images. In 2002 the Shroud underwent a thorough restoration. It was a perfect occasion on which to carry out a detailed study of this extraordinary relic—this time the reverse side as well. The entire surface of the Shroud—front and back—was digitally scanned. While examining this scanned material, two specialists from the University of Padua, Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, made a stunning discovery. It turned out there was a faint image of the face on the reverse “hidden” side of the Shroud in exact alignment with the frontal image. (Fant and Maggiolo published their findings in the April 14, 2004 issue of the Journal of Optics of the Institute of Physics in London.) Visible on the outer surface of the back of the Shroud were details of a nose, eyes, hair, beard and mustache. The image on the back side of the linen bore the same characteristics as the one on the front side. It was a photographic negative, formed by a mysterious coloration on the fiber surfaces; moreover, it was three-dimensional. The images on the front and back of the Shroud conformed with each other in dimension, shape, and position. There was no direct contact between the images on the front and reverse sides of the Shroud. The inner surface of the Shroud’s backside had no coloration. The Shroud, then, bears two images of the face—one on the front side and another on the reverse side. This amazing discovery of two images on the Shroud is further proof that no known human contrivance could have created them. Modern science is unable to replicate them; nor could they have arisen as a result of natural processes.

Common sense and reason tell us that in this instance we must accept with deep faith and humility the fact that the mysterious appearance of the image on the Shroud occurred at the moment of the Resurrection. It was the Resurrecting Lord who preserved for posterity the shocking image of His Passion and Death, thereby providing us with an item of solid evidence of His Resurrection—and this so that we might not be unbelievers, but believers.


The Veil of Manoppello


On a piece of sheer fabric known as byssus measuring 17 by 24 centimeters, there stands on the main altar of the church at Manoppello an image of the face of the Risen Christ.

Studies conducted on the artifact are at a loss to account for its provenance. Digital scanning of the highest resolution confirms the absence of any deposit of color between the tissue fibers. The tissue shows not even the slightest trace of paint or pigment. Its most striking feature is its transparency and the fact that the image can be seen perfectly well from either side—like a photographic slide. If one varies the light, the Face changes as if it were alive. If one looks at it under a bright light, one cannot see it, for it becomes transparent. It has the qualities of a painting, a photograph, and a hologram; and yet it is none of these things. The shading is so subtle as to be beyond the capability of even the greatest masters. Quite simply, it is as tradition claims, acheiropoietos, that is, “not made by the hand of man.”

 The image is imprinted on a valuable piece of ancient fabric called byssus, a tissue woven out of silk threads spun by a species of sea mussel. The material is as fire-resistant as asbestos and entirely unsuited for painting on; oil or watercolors will not adhere to the fine tissue.

Studies have led to the stunning discovery that the dead Face of the Shroud of Turin and the living Face of the Veil of Manoppello represent the very same person. When the one is overlaid the other, the faces conform perfectly—graphic proof that the two images represent one and the same Person. There can be no doubt that in structure and dimensions the faces imprinted on the Veil and the Shroud constitute a 100% perfect match. So striking is their conformity that we can rightly speak of mathematical proof.

There can be no doubt that the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello are the greatest enduring miracles in the world. From the scientific point of view, neither artifact has a right to exist. Only the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears comparison with them.

Everything points to the fact that the Veil of Manoppello covered the face of Jesus in the tomb. It therefore stands as a special “witness” of the Resurrection, the more so as it bears a “snapshot” of the face of Jesus caught at the very moment He passed from death into life. The true God, who out of love for us became true man so that by His Passion, Death, and Resurrection he might open for us the way to heaven, left us two extraordinary images: one imprinted on the Shroud of Turin and the other on the Veil of Manoppello. They represent a record of the most important moment in human history—the moment that saw the final defeat of Satan, sin, and death. By becoming true man, the Son of God was able to take upon Himself the sins and sufferings of all men who have lived or will ever live. (He can do this because in God there is no time, only an everlasting “now.”) “It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured” (Is 53:4). Being without sin, He experienced in His passion and death on the cross the effects of the sins and sufferings of all mankind. While experiencing the greatest desolation and suffering at the moment of death, He offered Himself and all of us to His Father in heaven. In this way He conquered sin and death and received from His Father the gift of resurrected life.

The image of the Holy Face on the Veil of Manoppello and the imprint of the Body on the Shroud of Turin came into existence as a result of God’s intervention at the moment of Resurrection. In them we have a miraculous record of the stages in which the humanity of Jesus was glorified. The Shroud of Turin captures a glimpse of His dead body at the very onset of the process of his glorification. The body had already begun to emanate that mysterious energy which caused it to be projected with such precise detail onto the cloth in the form of a photographic negative.

The Veil of Manoppello, on the other hand, bears a positive print of Christ’s living face. The process of glorification is not complete, for the face is still marked by bruises and swellings. The splendor of the Risen Jesus is infinitely beyond imagining. Only in heaven will we be able to gaze on it to our fullest satisfaction. The Face of Manoppello is the face of the Rising Christ at the moment of His passage from death into life, the moment marking the transformation of the mutilated body of the One “from whom men hide their faces… and [whom] we held in no esteem” (Is 53:3). The image on the Veil of Manoppello captures the Face an instant before “the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality” (1 Cor 15: 53).

God left us a visible image of the truth of His Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection. By this sign He made it clear to us that He did indeed become true man, that He took upon Himself all our sufferings and sins, and that He did indeed die and rise from the dead in order to free us from sin and death and lead us to full happiness in heaven.

The Divine Face of Manoppello is substantial proof of the Resurrection of Jesus. It calls each of us to convert and to form a personal loving relationship with our Risen Lord in daily prayer and, especially, in the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. The Crucified Jesus truly rose, lives, and embraces every sinner in His boundless mercy. He entreats us to make a regular confession and receive Holy Communion frequently: “How I desire the salvation of souls! (...) I wish to pour out my divine life into human souls and sanctify them, if only they would be willing to accept my grace. The greatest sinners would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in my mercy. The very inner depths of my being are filled to overflowing with mercy, and it is being poured out upon all I have created. My delight is to act in a human soul and to fill it with my mercy and justify it” (St. Faustina, Diary, 1784).

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world….Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6: 51; 53-55).


Fr. M. Piotrowski, SChr


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