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A death certificate was therefore glued to the burial shroud to identify it for later retrieval, and was usually stuck to the cloth around the face. This had apparently been done in the case of Jesus even though he was buried not in a common grave but in the tomb offered by Joseph of Arimathea.
Dr Frale said that many of the letters were missing, with Jesus for example referred to as "(I)esou(s) Nnazarennos" and only the "iber" of "Tiberiou" surviving. Her reconstruction, however, suggested that the certificate read: "In the year 16 of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius Jesus the Nazarene, taken down in the early evening after having been condemned to death by a Roman judge because he was found guilty by a Hebrew authority, is hereby sent for burial with the obligation of being consigned to his family only after one full year". It ends "signed by" but the signature has not survived.
Dr Frale said that the use of three languages was consistent with the polyglot nature of a community of Greek-speaking Jews in a Roman colony. Best known for her studies of the Knights Templar, who she claims at one stage preserved the shroud, she said what she had deciphered was "the death sentence on a man called Jesus the Nazarene. If that man was also Christ the Son of God it is beyond my job to establish. I did not set out to demonstrate the truth of faith. I am a Catholic, but all my teachers have been atheists or agnostics, and the only believer among them was a Jew. I forced myself to work on this as I would have done on any other archaeological find."
The Catholic Church has never either endorsed the Turin Shroud or rejected it as inauthentic. Pope John Paul II arranged for public showings in 1998 and 2000, saying: "The Shroud is an image of God's love as well as of human sin. The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one's fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age." Pope Benedict XVI is to pray before the Shroud when it is put on show again next Spring in Turin.
Nov. 24, 2009 -- The latest claim by Vatican researcher Barbara Frale that faint writing on the Shroud of Turin proves it was the burial cloth of Jesus has roots which date back 30 years.
The first person who said to have seen faint letters on the controversial linen was the Italian Piero Ugolotti in 1979. Using digital image processing, he reported the existence of Greek and Latin letters written near the face.
"My research begins where that of the French researchers ends," Frale, a researcher in the Vatican secret archives, told Discovery News. "Marion and Courage were not paleographists [experts in ancient scripts] and could not make much sense out of those words."
According to Frale, who has published her findings in the book La Sindone di Gesu Nazareno ("The Shroud of Jesus of Nazareth"), the letters scattered on the shroud are basically the burial certificate of a man named "Yeshua Nazarani."
"At the time of Christ in a Roman colony such as Palestine, Jewish burial practices established that a body buried after a death sentence could only be returned to the family after been purified for a year in a common grave," Frale said. A death certificate stuck to the cloth around the face was thus necessary for later retrieval of the corpse.
As with a puzzle, Frale reconstructed the death certificate by deciphering fragments of Greek, Hebrew and Latin writing. These could be explained with the polyglot nature of Greek-speaking Jews in a Roman colony, according to Frale.
Here is her interpretation of the letters appearing in Marion's image above:
5. pez(o) "I execute"
There are apparently more letters on the linen, such as the word "iber," which Frale identified as referring to Emperor Tiberius, who reigned at the time of Jesus' crucifixion.
Piecing together the ancient multilingual puzzle, Frale came to this final reconstruction:
"In the year 16 of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, Jesus the Nazarene, taken down in the early evening after having been condemned to death by a Roman judge because he was found guilty by a Hebrew authority, is hereby sent for burial with the obligation of being consigned to his family only after one full year."
The certificate ends with a sort of signature: "I execute".
Shroud skeptics already dismissed Marion and Courage's claim when it was presented at a conference in 1997. They argued that the existence of the letters wasn't proven and even if real, those letters did not make enough grammatical sense.
Meanwhile, a harsh debate has opened up over Frale's theory.
"There is no evidence that those letters do exist. Many have seen faint writings on the cloth. Rather than a shroud it looks like an encyclopedia," Bruno Barberis, director of the International Center for Shroud Studies of Turin, told Avvenire, a daily Catholic newspaper.
Image: Courtesy of Barbara Frale, from her book "La Sindone di Gesu Nazareno," published by Il Mulino.
Sunday, November 22, 2009 3:48 AM
ROME -- A Vatican researcher has rekindled the age-old debate over the Shroud of Turin, saying that faint writing on the linen proves it was the burial cloth of Jesus.
Experts say the historian might be reading too much into the markings, and they stand by carbon-dating that points to the shroud's being a medieval forgery.
Barbara Frale, a researcher at the Vatican archives, says in a new book that she used computer-enhanced images of the shroud to decipher faintly written words in Greek, Latin and Aramaic scattered across the cloth.
She asserts that the words include the name "(J)esu(s) Nazarene" -- or Jesus of Nazareth -- in Greek. That, she said, proves the text could not be of medieval origin because no Christian at the time, even a forger, would have mentioned Jesus without referring to his divinity. Failing to do so would risk branding the writer a heretic.
"Even someone intent on forging a relic would have had all the reasons to place the signs of divinity on this object," Frale said Friday. "Had we found 'Christ' or 'Son of God' we could have considered it a hoax, or a devotional inscription."
The shroud bears the figure of a crucified man, complete with blood seeping from his hands and feet, and believers say that Christ's image was recorded on the linen's fibers at the time of his Resurrection.
The fragile artifact, owned by the Vatican, is kept locked in a protective chamber in a Turin cathedral and is rarely shown. The shroud, which measures 13 feet long and 3 feet wide, has suffered severe damage through the centuries, including from fire. The Catholic Church makes no claims about the cloth's authenticity.
Although faint letters scattered around the face on the shroud were seen decades ago, serious researchers dismissed them because of the results of the radiocarbon-dating test in 1988 that showed the cloth was made in the 13th or 14th century, Frale said.
But when she cut out the words from enhanced photos of the shroud and showed them to experts, they concurred that the writing style was typical of the Middle East in the first century -- Jesus' time.
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI confirmed his intention to visit the Shroud of Turin when it goes on public display in Turin's cathedral April 10-May 23, 2010.
Cardinal Severino Poletto of Turin, papal custodian of the Shroud of Turin, visited the pope July 26 in Les Combes, Italy, where the pope was spending part of his vacation. The Alpine village is about 85 miles from Turin.
The cardinal gave the pope the latest news concerning preparations for next year's public exposition of the shroud and the pope "confirmed his intention to go to Turin for the occasion," said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, in a written statement July 27.
The specific date of the papal visit has yet to be determined, the priest added.
The last time the Shroud of Turin was displayed to the public was in 2000 for the jubilee year. The shroud is removed from a specially designed protective case only for very special spiritual occasions, and its removal for study or display to the public must be approved by the pope.
The shroud underwent major cleaning and restoration in 2002.
According to tradition, the 14-foot-by-4-foot linen cloth is the burial shroud of Jesus. The shroud has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death.
The church has never officially ruled on the shroud's authenticity, saying judgments about its age and origin belonged to scientific investigation. Scientists have debated its authenticity for decades, and studies have led to conflicting results.
A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters.
A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio July 26 that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago.
She said that in 1978 a Latin professor in Milan noticed Aramaic writing on the shroud and in 1989 scholars discovered Hebrew characters that probably were portions of the phrase "The king of the Jews."
Castex's recent discovery of the word "found" with another word next to it, which still has to be deciphered, "together may mean 'because found' or 'we found,'" she said.
What is interesting, she said, is that it recalls a passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, "We found this man misleading our people," which was what several Jewish leaders told Pontius Pilate when they asked him to condemn Jesus.
She said it would not be unusual for something to be written on a burial cloth in order to indicate the identity of the deceased.
Frale, who is a researcher at the Vatican Secret Archives, has written a new book on the shroud and the Knights Templar, the medieval crusading order which, she says, may have held secret custody of the Shroud of Turin during the 13th and 14th centuries.
She told Vatican Radio that she has studied the writings on the shroud in an effort to find out if the Knights had written them.
"When I analyzed these writings, I saw that they had nothing to do with the Templars because they were written at least 1,000 years before the Order of the Temple was founded" in the 12th century, she said.
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