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How a Baptist Pastor Went from Shroud of Turin SKEPTIC to DEFENDER

Is there enough evidence to prove that the Shroud of Turin is real? Prestonwood Baptist Church apologetics pastor Jeremiah Johnston used to be a skeptic. But once he did a deep dive into the history of the Shroud, he became a “total defender” of the Shroud’s authenticity. This Easter Week, Pastor Johnston joins the Glenn Beck Program to lay it all out from a scientific perspective. Plus, he explains why you don’t need to be Catholic to believe the Shroud is truly the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

TranscriptBelow is a rush transcript that may contain errors

GLENN: Yesterday, we had Jeremiah J. Johnston on. He was the author of a book, called Body of Proof. He has his doctorate. But so do I.

I know I'm a doctor of humanities. And I didn't even study for the test. But he's also the president of Christian thinker society, Prestonwood Baptist Church, and we were talking yesterday about the Shroud of Turin, which surprised me. Because a lot of people, especially in the south Baptist, and even evangelicals. They don't necessarily hold to the traditions of the Catholic Church. And I -- I think we all have unbelievable pieces of the puzzle, and one of those pieces, I think as -- is the Shroud of Turin. And I didn't know what to think about it, until a few years ago. He's writing a whole book on the Shroud of Turin. So we thought we would bring him back today. This is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, that's what it's purported to be. The burial cloth. And it is a -- a reverse negative. It is almost like when his body came back to life. This is the way I view it.

When his body came back to life. It's like the burial cloth was like a film. And it printed in a burst of light. It printed the negative of his body in that cloth.

And nobody really knows how it was made, if it was fake. Jeremiah, welcome to the program.

JEREMIAH: Glenn, it's great to be back with you. And I'm sure we have people that right now, that are like Thomas Didymus. Remember Thomas the twin, that he said in John 20:25, hey, look, you can say Jesus is God. Good for you. But unless I see his nail-scarred hands. Unless I can put my hand in his side, I won't believe. Well, guess what we're going to do on the Glenn Beck Program? You'll actually be able to see the nail-pierced hand of Jesus, thanks be to the Shroud of Turin.

GLENN: Okay. Explain the history of the Shroud of Turin. Of where it came from. Of when we think it first appeared.

JEREMIAH: Absolutely. And let's make sure we situate this. Because you bring up a really important point. There's been a pejorative vibe towards the shroud, by anyone who isn't Catholic. I want to remind our audience, the Catholic Church, they're the largest landowners on church. Did you know that? They actually have a lot of land. They have a lot of assets and property. And guess what, it turns out they have some excellent artifacts for the Christian faith. C.S. Lewis. We've all heard of C.S. Lewis. I love Lewis. I lived in Oxford for three years. Glenn, I didn't know it until this year. Jack Graham, my pastor and I, went to Oxford on an inspirational summer trip, and then we went and did some golfing at St. Andrews. We literally went to Lewis' home, and I look up on Lewis' home. I don't know if you can see this, but for the benefit of our audience, I'm holding it right up to my face. I look up, C.S. Lewis kept a picture of the Shroud of Turin in his bedroom, next to his bed, where he slept. And the reason he did that, Lewis said, I needed a reminder every morning and every evening, that my God has a face. And so we're not talking about something weird or frisure, even C.S. Lewis took it seriously.

GLENN: So when did it first appear on the scene?

JEREMIAH: This is what's remarkable out of the Shroud of Turin, goes back far beyond the radio carbon dating. And as you point -- because some people hear shroud, they're like, what is that? As you pointed out, this is a burial garment for Jesus. All four gospels say that Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin. Remember, if the Sanhedrin condemned a criminal to death, it was according to the Mishna. The Sanhedrin had to bury the condemned criminal. What do we see in the juridical procedure of Jesus?

Two members. Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus. They take Jesus, and they wrap his body in a burial garment. And they bury him in Joseph of Arimathaea's tomb.

GLENN: And it's not like when you think of wrapping a body. You think of like a mummy. But this is actually like a very long tablecloth, very, very long.


GLENN: And it's -- they laid it down, then put the body in. And then where the head is, they took and they pulled the rest of the fabric down to his feet. So it's a double image of the back, then a space, then the front of this body.

JEREMIAH: Exactly. Exactly. And that is not unusual. If you were in the Jewish burial traditions, you would do that. You might say, oh, Glenn. Jeremiah. There's no way that a burial shroud could last for 2,000 years. Give me a break. Well, actually, when you're a student of history, you can see, we even have a Tarkan dress linen shirt, and guess what, Glenn. It's 3,000, 200 years older than the Shroud of Turin. It's 5,000 years old.

So given the right set of circumstances, linen will last forever. So you're exactly right. It's 14 feet long. It's about 4 feet wide. Longer than our studio table here at Mercury Studios. And what's fascinating is, something occurred. And I have the top five reasons why I went from skeptic. Glenn, I was a total skeptic, until I went and wrote Body of Proof.

Did the video series for the Bible study, Body of Proof in Jerusalem. Went to the shroud exhibit, had private access.

Exhibited all -- looked at all the artifacts. And then I came out with top five reasons, that utterly took me from skeptic to total defender now of the shroud.

GLENN: Okay. So let's share those.

JEREMIAH: Number five. Let's do a countdown. You like countdowns, Glenn?

GLENN: Sure.

JEREMIAH: The Shroud of Turin is the most studied artifact of the archeological world, there's not a close second. And the second thing I want to say, is it's almost the most lied about artifact in the archaeologically world.

GLENN: Okay. Wait. Let's start with the first one. Which is the most studied. How do you know that, and what's been done with it?

JEREMIAH: Because I've read all the peer-reviewed journals that you don't have to, Glenn.

GLENN: Go ahead.

JEREMIAH: There's been an amazing evidential history of the Shroud of Turin. In 1978, the Sturkin (phonetic), this is the Shroud of Turin research project team. Went to Italy. They thought it would be a free trip to Italy. They were all having drinks in the lobby of the hotel. Giggling that the on the Catholic Church's dime, they would have a free trip to Italy. They only had two days to prove that it was a hoax. And guess what, nobody was giggling two days later. They had approximately a hundred twenty hours to examine this very ancient shroud, which has a very unique history.

I mean, Hitler tried to steal it. They had to save it from Hitler's hands during World War II. The history of the shroud is just remarkable. So these were not Bible scholars. These were not -- as far as I know, they were outside of the priests, that were kind of security overlooking the shroud, while it was being looked at.

These were all weapons scientists. Barry Schwartz, who you interview, that I encourage everybody to go back and watch the Glenn Beck interview with Barry Schwartz. He was a nominal Jew. His only bias was, he thought it was a hoax and a joke when he went there. And now he's utterly convinced, that it's not only not a hoax. Because as we'll talk about in a minute, you cannot -- if it's a hoax, it's never been repeated. He's convinced that it's an authentic burial shroud of Jesus, so it's the most studied cross-disciplinary practice in the world.

GLENN: And the -- in 19 -- the 1970s, when Barry was part of this. As you said, they all went in as skeptics.

And I believe it came out, at the time, that it was possible. But radio carbon data was saying, no. It's like a thousand years later. Or something.

But something was wrong. And I don't remember what it was. Maybe you do.

Barry said, it was only until later, when technology changed.

JEREMIAH: Right. Right.

GLENN: That they realized, oh, my gosh, this is that old.

JEREMIAH: Yeah. And 1978, you have the original research project. And they come out. What they say, it's not a hoax. There's no pigment. There's no ink. There's no dye. The shroud has survived three fires. It's been doused in water twice. If there was dye, if there was paint, it would have bled out. It would have smeared. Essentially, they came out and said, it's not a hoax. We don't know what it is. Ten years later, 1988. This is point number three in the countdown, which we'll get to. The 1988 carbon dating was done. So about ten years after that original research project.

GLENN: Okay. All right.

JEREMIAH: And this is when all the headlines came out, Glenn, that said, this is a total hoax. The carbon 14 dating -- dated it to the late 13th, early 14th century. There's huge problems with that, and we'll discuss that.

GLENN: Okay. So number four.

JEREMIAH: Number four. Science today.

This is what really arrests my attention. Cannot explain how the image is in the cloth.

Now, Glenn, you've seen the shroud.

I mean, it's stunning.

The energy it would have taken.

GLENN: I never actually -- I never actually have seen it in person.

I was going to go to Turin. I wanted to go this summer to Turin, just to see it. Because talking to Barry Schwartz has totally changed my mind on it. You can't see it. Because it's protected.

JEREMIAH: It's under a vault. They bring it out every few years. It's that same John the Baptist Cathedral in the Piedmont District of Northern Italy, as you say in Turin, Italy. By the way, if you go to Jerusalem, there's an incredible Shroud exhibit there that shows every aspect of the Shroud.

And I'm talking not just scientists in general. Rocket scientists. Republican scientists.

Chemical scientists. Cannot explain how the image is in the Shroud.

If it was a forgery, if it was a hoax, it's never been able to be repeated.

I mean, this is unbelievable. These aren't Bible theologians or commentators saying it. They're scientists saying, we cannot explain how there's an image. And here's the fascinating thing, Glenn. Do you know if you get closer than 8 feet, the image vanishes. You actually have to stand back from it, 8 feet, to be able to see the image.

It's very unique.

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