The Shroud of Turin was really the burial cloth of Christ, and it was responsible for making the Apostles believe Christ had risen from the dead, according to a new book.
The Daily Telegraph reports that historian Thomas de Wesselow makes these controversial claims inside "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection."
The shroud was declared a forgery using carbon dating in 1988, but de Wesselow insists that examination was "deeply flawed," according to The Guardian. That puts him in interesting company as an agnostic, since even the Vatican has accepted the results of the 1988 tests, the paper says.
Perhaps the more startling assertion made by de Wesselow is that it was the sight of the Shroud after the crucifixion, and not actually an encounter with a resurrected Christ, that made the apostles believe Jesus came back to life. In other words, the disciples mistook the image on the Shroud for the real body of Christ.
In a statement sent to The Huffington Post, de Wesselow asserts that he proves why Christianity was able to "take over the world so quickly and convincingly after the death of Jesus."
"Did the earliest Christian followers really see the Risen Christ, or did they see an image of him emblazoned on a linen burial cloth, which they thought of as miraculous?" de Wesselow writes. "Was that what sparked the faith needed to launch the religion that in a few centuries would take over the world for thousands of years? I believe it was, and I believe I prove that in The Sign."
In a piece about the new book The Guardian's Peter Stanford admits he's troubled by the "exact nature of the Resurrection."
"Was it physical, against all the laws of nature as the Church claims, or was it “symbolic”, as the Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, famously suggested in 1984?" Stanford wonders.
But the Catholic Herald's Francis Phillips calls Jenkins assertions, "heretical and unedifying ramblings." Phillips goes on to say, "Don’t you yet realise that the whole point of God is that he is not bound by 'the laws of nature?'”
As far as the Shroud itself goes, de Wesselow is not the only academic who believes in its authenticity.
In December, researchers from Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development announced that their findings undermine previous theories that the shroud was faked in the medieval period.
The Catholic Herald also disputes that the Catholic Church has not unreservedly accepted the 1988 carbon-dating as fact.
"... Let me reassure readers that the Church has always maintained a neutral stance as to the Shroud’s authenticity, though she does commend it as an article of devotion," writes Phillips.
What remains to be seen is how Christians around the world, who are about to celebrate Holy Week and Easter, will respond to de Wesselow's assertion that the bodily resurrection never happend.