Barbara Frale, a Vatican researcher, claims to have discovered Christ's 'death certificate' on the Turin Shroud.
By Nick Squires in Rome -Nov 2009
The historian and researcher at the secret Vatican archive said she has found the words "Jesus Nazarene" on the shroud, proving it was the linen cloth which was wrapped around Christ's body.
She said computer analysis of photographs of the shroud revealed extremely faint words written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin which attested to its authenticity.
Her claim was immediately contested by scholars who said that radiocarbon dating tests in 1988 showed the shroud to be a medieval forgery.
Dr Frale asserts in a new book, The Shroud of Jesus the Nazarene, that computer enhancement enabled her to detect the archaic script, which appears on various parts of the material.
She suggested that it was written by low-ranking Roman officials or mortuary clerks on a scroll or piece of papyrus to identify Christ's corpse. Such a document would have enabled the relatives of a dead person to retrieve a body from a communal morgue, she suggested.
It would have been attached to the corpse with a flour-based glue and the ink could have seeped through into the cloth below, leaving a faint imprint.
Scholars first noticed that there was writing on the shroud in 1978 but when the radiocarbon tests a decade later suggested that the shroud was a forgery, historians lost interest in the script, Dr Frale said.
She claimed she had been able to decipher a jumble of phrases written in three languages, including the Greek words (I)esou(s) Nnazarennos, or Jesus the Nazarene, and (T)iber(iou), which she interprets as Tiberius, the Roman emperor at the time of Christ's crucifixion.
The text also mentions that the man who was wrapped in the shroud had been condemned to death, she believes. The hidden text was in effect the "burial certificate" for Jesus Christ, Dr Frale said.
"I tried to be objective and leave religious issues aside," she said. "What I studied was an ancient document that certifies the execution of a man, in a specific time and place."
But other experts were sceptical. "People work on grainy photos and think they see things," said Antonio Lombatti, a church historian who has written books about the shroud. "It's all the result of imagination and computer software