Program to Reveal 'Real Face of Jesus'

For the first time, computer graphic artists have recreated the face of Jesus based on the Shroud of Turin.

It took six months, cutting-edge technology and a team of computer artists to create the 3-D image. The computer-generated image uses the Shroud of Turin, the fabric many believe to be Jesus' burial cloth, as the blueprint.

"If you want to recreate the face of Jesus and you want to get the actual face of Jesus, you have only one object and that's the shroud," said computer artist Ray Downing of Studio Macbeth, the group that created the image, in the History Channel special chronicling the journey. "It is the only object that can actually purport to be the actual image of Jesus with any kind of credibility whatsoever."

The Shroud of Turin is not without controversy. Though many believe it is the cloth used to wrap the body of Jesus after his death, others assert that the shroud is from the medieval period and is not the precious relic that some claim.

Negatives of the Shroud of Turin reveal the image of a bearded man with pierced wrists and feet indicating he was crucified. The man also has a bloodstained head and bloodstains on his side, leading some to conclude that was where the soldier pierced the side of Jesus with the spear. The body is also covered in scourge marks, supposedly numbering 120, which is thought to be the wounds from whips.

Downing, the lead artist, said an important factor in recreating the face in the Shroud of Turin was to consider that the cloth wrapped the body and the face. Computer artists needed to take into account this distortion when recreating the face.

"By imitating those distortions we could take the image and put it back into that shape and figure out what the face looked like … it gave us a blueprint," Downing said.

He admits the group was limited on information in some areas, such as on eyebrows and skin texture, while recreating the face.

"At some point, you have to leave the realm of actual information and use experience," he said.

However, Downing noted it does not take a lot of guesswork to figure out the man's skin texture and that he probably had eyebrows.

"I have a lot of information about that face and my estimation is we're pretty darn close to what this man looked like," Downing said.

The History Channel recorded the technical journey of the graphic artists in recreating the face of Jesus from the Shroud of Turin. The special program "The Real Face of Jesus?" will air Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET. People who have watched the pre-screening of the program say the final image of the face does not resemble the popular images of Jesus.