There is strong evidence that the Shroud of Turin was Jesus' actual burial garment, a minority member of the scientific team that studied it argues in a new book.
In fact, the shroud's "evidence for the Resurrection is so strong that if it is not Jesus' actual burial garment, then Christians might have to consider the possibility that someone else rose from the dead," say authors Kenneth Stevenson, a computer engineer from Dallas, and his co-author, Gary Habermas of Lynchburg.
However, physicist Dr. Lawrence Schwalbe of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who wrote a cautious foreword for the book, said yesterday that he disagrees with its conclusion.
He said he thinks most of the 40 members of the group who three years ago formed the Shroud of Turin Research Project would disagree, too.
All the group has concluded, he said, is that the stains on the long-venerated shroud are blood and were not painted, a contention often made by skeptics.
"We concluded," he added, that the image of what could be a crucified individual "is a cellulose degradation, an alteration in the cloth's chemical structure. But we don't know how the image got there," and the evidence does not indicate whether it was Jesus' shroud or whether it was a burial shroud at all.
"It may have been real," he said. "It may have been faked in some way we haven't thought of yet."
The group's conclusions are about to be summarized in an article in Harper's magazine. Excerpts are to be printed Sunday in The Washington Post Outlook section.
The Stevenson-Habermas book will be issued Oct. 15 by Servant Publications, an Ann Arbor religious publishing house.
Stevenson was described in one report as spokesman and Habermas, a philosopher, as a consultant for the scientific group. Schwalbe said Stevenson was spokesman for a while but is no longer, and "I had never heard of Habermas" before the end of June.
Stevenson and Habermas say scientific conclusions about complex phenomena are usually "judgments of probability," and the "probabilities strongly favor" the shroud's authenticity "as evidence for Jesus' death and Resurrection."
They computed the probabilities, and concluded that the chances were 83 million to 1 that the shroud belonged to Jesus. They compared the shroud and the scientists' observations with the time, place, wound marks and manner of death in the Biblical record.
To support their view that "there is no practical possibility that someone other than Jesus was buried" in this shroud, they say: tests found no evidence of decomposition, though pathologists thought the man it contained was dead; facts indicate that the body was not removed by human means, since the bloodstains are intact and anatomically precise, where they would have been smeared or broken had the shroud been removed normally; the way the human image reached the cloth is uncertain, but the most probable cause is some "extraordinary" rather than natural means.
In the Harper's article, author Cullen Murphy says, "While there is a certain amount of circumstantial evidence supporting the proposition that the linen cloth upon which the image of a crucified man appears is about 2,000 years old," the scientists' group "regards the evidence as suspect by its very nature. Because the crucial authorities in Turin have yet to permit carbon-14 dating of the fabric, the age of the shroud remains an open question."
And one member of the scientists' team is quoted as saying that "speaking as a scientist, I'm not sure the matter will ever be solved to anyone's satisfaction."