It has been controversial for centuries.
The Shroud of Turin, a 4.3-metre linen cloth bearing the hidden image of a crucified man, is held by some to be the burial cloth that covered Jesus – and by others to be an elaborate medieval hoax.
Now a special exhibit at Trinity Western University in Langley will allow local believers and skeptics alike to learn more about the mysterious artifact.
A replica of the shroud will be on display along with 30 museum boards and numerous replicas of the items used in Roman crucifixions.
For Dr. Phillip Wiebe, Trinity Western philosophy professor and shroud expert, the exhibit provides an opportunity to bring together the spiritual and intellectual aspects of his faith.
“We shouldn’t tell people to ‘just believe,'” he said.
“The questions raised by popular culture about faith are legitimate.”
And the shroud raises further questions.
The real Shroud of Turin has been housed in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, for about 500 years.
It is shown to the public just a few times each century and is next scheduled for display in 2025.
The debate over its origin ranges from theories about Jesus to others about Leonardo da Vinci and the Knights Templar, in addition to numerous scientific theories that some critics say have never truly explained the strange markings on the cloth.
In Wiebe’s office at Trinity Western, the seven-foot-tall replica looms over a room laden with books. But its weighty presence pales in comparison to the professor’s life-changing experience when confronted with the real thing.
Wiebe had been lecturing about the shroud for about 20 years before he actually went to view it in 2000.
Standing in awe before the artifact, he heard a voice tell him: “The resurrection is real, Phillip.”
The moment trumped his doubts and led him into deeper belief.
But Wiebe is adamant that intellectual questions about its authenticity must be discussed.
“I insist on not separating the intellectual aspects from the way it touches people,” he said.
“Questions need to be allowed. If we just believe, it produces an inner conflict between the intellect and the heart . . . I feel there’s room for both.”
The display can be viewed at Trinity Western from March 10 to 14. The exhibit belongs to the Vancouver Shroud Association, of which Wiebe is a founding member. A series of lectures on the shroud’s authenticity and significance is also planned.
By Glenda Luymes, The Province, Canada