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The DNA of God? Hardcover – March 16, 1999
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Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, a San Antonio pediatrician, has an unusual hobby: archaeomicrobiology. Garza-Valdes's hobby would likely be of interest only to other scientists who work on the carbon dating of ancient textiles, if it weren't for his obsession with an artifact that obsesses many people of faith around the world: the Shroud of Turin. In The DNA of God?, Garza-Valdes describes his lifelong interest in the Shroud, and his discovery that it has an organic "bioplastic coating" that has distorted many previous attempts to date the relic. The DNA of God? suggests that the Shroud almost surely dates from the time of Jesus, and, further, reveals Garza-Valdes's shocking discoveries that the Shroud bears traces of blood that contain a man's DNA; wood that may come from the cross on Golgotha; and bacteria that produce vinegar (which may be traces of the vinegar offered to Jesus as he died on the cross). Garza-Valdes's potentially explosive revelations are delivered with absolute clarity and appealing humility. He says he has believed in the Shroud's authenticity since he was a boy, but, as a scientist, he refuses to "offer judgment on a matter for which there is no evidence, that is, whether the Shroud is without doubt the burial cloth of Jesus." Instead, he carefully describes what science has learned about the Shroud, reminds readers of elements of the gospel stories that mention physical substances he has found on the relic, and leaves us to make our own decisions. --Michael Joseph Gross
From the Inside Flap
In 1988, radiocarbon dating showed that the Shroud of Turin--long regarded as the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth--could not be from the time of Jesus but was of a more recent origin. What scientists did not know at that time, but what author Dr. Leoncio Garza-Valdes came to discover, is that bacteria produce an organic coating (what he calls a "bioplastic coating") over time on ancient textiles, textiles including the Shroud itself. This coating, which the author first discovered on Mayan artifacts, so distorts the carbon dating process that objects on which it is found (such as the Shroud) are actually significantly older than the data show. The scientific community has hailed Dr. Garza-Valdes's findings since this new knowledge is of significance for archaeologists around the world. For those interested in the mysterious history of the Shroud, it is again possible to regard this artifact as originating in the first century--and consequently as being the burial cloth of Jesus.
But Dr. Garza-Valdes's amazing discoveries did not end with this breakthrough. His examination of pieces of the Shroud under a microscope has revealed incredible clues consistent with the Scriptural accounts of the death of Jesus. Bacteria that produce acetic acid (vinegar) were isolated from the Shroud. Do they belong to the vinegar offered to Jesus before his death on the cross? Could human blood remnants that contain a man's DNA be traces of the blood of Jesus? Does it contain the DNA of God?
The DNA of God? is the fascinating story of this microbiologist's journey of discovery and of the earthshaking secrets he has revealed about the Shroud of Turin.
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Shroudies, devoted followers of the Shroud, were disheartened. Here were some of the most respected scientists in the world telling them their devotion was to a medieval forgery.
Who would have guessed that a pediatrician with a love for Mayan artifacts would be the one to prove these scientists wrong. It was through his studies of two ancient Mayan artifacts that Dr. Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, author of The DNA of God?, first came in contact with the Shroud. His journey began after buying two jade pieces in 1970. When two "experts" in pre-Columbian art informed him they believed the pieces were fake, Dr. Garza-Valdes decided to find out for himself.
Dr. Garza-Valdes embarked on a series of tests to determine the true age of the artifacts. In his studies he discovered bacteria and fungus on the pieces which formed an organic "bioplastic" coating. This coating, it turns out, is the cause of an anomaly in the carbon dating process. Since the bacteria and fungus are alive and growing, the older the object gets, the newer it will seem to carbon dating tests.
He found this same bioplastic coating on the Shroud of Turin - it's what gives it its "sheen" that so many speak of when they see the Shroud. To confirm his findings, Garza-Valdes tested other objects as well, including an ancient Egyptian Ibis mummy. Each time the results were the same: Carbon dating proved inaccurate on ancient linens that were contaminated with the bioplastic coating. In the case of the Ibis mummy, the difference was 550 years between the wrappings and the bones of the ancient bird.
If the errors of earlier attempts to date the Shroud were the only findings presented that would be explosive enough. But we find out more. Further tests showed blood on the Shroud, determined to be that of a man, still contained human DNA. The blood, taken from the area behind the head of the Man on the Shroud, is type AB. Although only 3.2% of the human population have type AB, it is 600% more common in Jews from Northern Palestine.
So is this, in fact, the DNA of God Himself? Valdes-Garza makes it very clear that there is no direct evidence that the blood on the Shroud comes from Jesus of Nazareth. Here, as throughout the book, he only presents conclusions that he can back up with scientific fact. But that does not prevent him from offering his personal opinion. He believes the blood on the Shroud comes from none other than Jesus of Nazareth. If it is true, as the Council of Chalcedon or Fourth Ecumenical Council stated, Jesus Christ was "truly God and truly man," and if the blood on the Shroud is that of Christ, then we do have the DNA of God.
Garza-Valdes also investigates the origin of the image on the Shroud. Scientific research has never been able to explain how the image came to be on the shroud in the first place although many theories have been suggested and subsequently disproved. After dismissing the possibility that the image was painted on, Garza-Valdes proposes his own theory. Relative deposits of the bioplastic coating, he believes, formed the image. The areas on the Shroud that are darker on the positive image have a greater concentration of deposits. In the area of direct contact with the body, the bacteria had more to feed off - sweat, salt, oils, blood.
Wisely, despite personally believing in the authenticity of the Shroud, Garza-Valdes does not come to the definitive conclusion that the Shroud is in fact the burial cloth of Christ. As he points out, his conclusions simply demonstrated that the Shroud is much older that the medieval date ascribed by skeptics. Much of the other information only confirms some of what we read in the Gospels.
The DNA of God? is a very quick read. In fact, the actual text of the book ends at page 99. The next 200 are appendices and endnotes. For technical types you can even find a information dedicated to the "betaglobin gene segment from the occipital area blood glob":
TCCTAAGCCA GTGCCAGAAG AGCCAAGGAC AGGTACGGCT
It continues for over a page, but you get the main idea. If you really want to know the specifics of the tests performed on the Shroud, the information is there for you.
The layman would still be interested in Appendix A, however. It provides some valuable background on the image on the Shroud, particularly on some of the trials the Man on the Shroud went through. There is even a forensic pathology report as prepared by a deputy coroner and forensic pathologist with the Los Angeles County Hospital.
But even with all the scientific proof and analysis, doubters will remain. The Gospels tell us that even after seeing the miracles of Jesus, there were unbelievers. So, in the final analysis, faith is the only real answer as to the mysteries of the Shroud.
If God were to give us definitive physical proof that would be far too easy. Can you really look at the wounds of the Man on the Shroud and not turn you eyes toward Christ? In the end, that is all the proof you need.