John Jackson stood next to two life-sized figures in contorted poses as cameras rolled. Red blotches were at the wrists, ankles and torso of the Styrofoam bodies.
“These are the death positions (of Jesus) on the cross, according to the shroud,” said Jackson, who along with his wife, Rebecca, operates the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado Springs.
A Russian film crew was in Colorado Springs this week to shoot interviews with the Jacksons for a 52-minute Shroud of Turin documentary to be broadcast around Easter on Channel One Russia, a Moscow-based broadcast station with an estimated audience of 150 million.
For John Jackson, the shoot was familiar territory.
The Shroud of Turin bears imprints of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma. Some believe it is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
Over the years, Jackson has appeared in numerous documentaries, including one on the History Channel, to present evidence for the shroud’s authenticity.
Jackson knows the routine. He makes his case in manageable sound bites, followed by documentarians editing in interviews of experts who believe the shroud is a forgery.
The rebuttals to Jackson’s theories are not always polite. In one recent documentary, Jackson is lambasted by a skeptic.
“I don’t care (about the criticism),” said Jackson, a devout Catholic. “I don’t do this for acclamation. I work for (Jesus).”
Before arriving in Colorado Springs, the five-member Russian team shot shroud footage at the radiocarbon lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson. It has also shot footage and interviewed experts in Italy, Russia, France and Israel.
“It’s not a documentary for just the religious or for scientists,” said production team leader Alexander Zamyslov. “It’s for everybody.”
The team got an eyeful this week at the Colorado Springs Shroud Center, which is open to the public only by appointment.
Along with the Styrofoam figures, the center has cardboard displays depicting a man wrapped in burial cloth and copies of Christian paintings from the early Middle Ages that Jackson says show evidence of the shroud’s existence in the early centuries.
A back-lit display of a blown-up photograph of the shroud takes up an entire wall.
Jackson, a 64-year-old physics professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, has been researching the shroud for 37 years. In 1978 he led a team that examined the shroud at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.
In 1988, radiocarbon testing by three different university labs dated the shroud to between 1260 and 1390. Many scientists concluded that the shroud was one of many relic forgeries created during this period.
But Jackson and some other scientists argue that the shroud can’t be carbon dated accurately because it’s been exposed to too much carbon monoxide. He’s gathering evidence through Christian art, writings and liturgies of the early centuries that he says shows the shroud existed before the radiocarbon dates.
He’s planning a book in coming years to lay out his argument.
“What propels me is the possibility that we have here an archaeological site on cloth of how Christianity began,” Jackson said.
For information on the Shroud Center’s plan to offer classes on the relic, go to my blog, The Pulpit, at www.thepulpit.freedomblogging.com.