The DNA of God

Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, Author
Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, Author Doubleday Books $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-48850-1
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
In 1988, a group of scientists declared that the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be Jesus' burial shroud, could not have originated in the first century A.D. but was most likely a medieval forgery. These scientists based their conclusions on radiocarbon dating, a common method of dating ancient artifacts. Since then, the dating of the Shroud to the Middle Ages has been accepted. Texas pediatrician Garza-Valdes is one of the many recent scientists whose experiments on the Shroud have attempted to reverse the 1988 conclusion. In a book that is part detective story, part medical thriller and part memoir, Garza-Valdes recalls the steps that led him to examine the Shroud scientifically and determine its possible date and purpose. Through a series of tests, the physician made two important discoveries that led him to believe that the Shroud could be dated to the first century and that it could have been Jesus' burial cloth. First, he found that the cloth itself was covered in an organic ""bioplastic coating, a type of clear encasing invisible to the naked eye but composed over time of millions of living microbial organisms."" Such a coating, which he had first witnessed in his study of ancient Mayan artifacts, distorts radiocarbon dating and skews the results of such tests to indicate an origin later than the actual origin. Second, through tests upon bacteria found in the blood stains found on the Shroud's fibers, Garza-Valdes discovered that they contained acetic acid, or vinegar. This evidence indicates that the person buried in the shroud would have been exposed to vinegar, much like Jesus at his crucifixion, at his death. This finding, coupled with ""infinitesimal splinters of hard wood found near the wound areas,"" and the human male DNA found in the blood stains, led the author to ask whether this cloth was indeed the burial shroud of Jesus. While Garza-Valdes admits that he is not yet prepared to say definitively that Jesus was buried in the Shroud of Turin, he is convinced by the scientific evidence that we are getting much closer to an answer to that question than we have ever been. Appendixes contain some of the more complex scientific theories on which Garza-Valdes bases his ideas. (Feb.)