March 31, 2010— -- The History Channel revealed for the first time Tuesday night a new 3-D image that many believe to be the face of Christ, causing mixed reaction around the globe.
Artists and scientists studied the Shroud of Turin, a cloth that some say was wrapped around Jesus' face when he died, to develop the image.
"If you want to re-create 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 in New York City, which specializes in digital illustration and animation.
While some people said the image was "realistic" and what they imagined Christ looked like, others were not as certain.
"I find it questionable," one man told ABC News.
"I don't think there should be any one face," a woman said.
Another man questioned whether the Shroud of Turin was real.
"I believe it is an accurate image of whoever the shroud belongs to, but it's unclear if that shroud belongs to Jesus Christ," he said.
Others said they felt a spiritual connection to the image.
"I see love. I see compassion. I see my savior," said one woman who was at the Vatican when she saw the image.
The drive to create the image and the intense response to it are examples of the profound role that Jesus plays in so many lives.
"There's a long tradition in Christian theology and Christian history of seeking the face of Christ, of wanting to know what he was like as a man," said the Rev. Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest and author in New York City.
The centuries-old shroud contains a faint impression of the front and back of a human body, along with blood, dirt and water stains from its age.
Cutting-edge modern skills were required to pull an accurate flesh and blood face from a piece of fabric so old.
The year-long project culminated with a team of graphic artists using the newest technology to create a computer-generated image.
"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, the lead artist, said.
Ancient Shroud Provides Clues
One of the main problems -- the condition of the shroud -- provided key clues. The team realized there were distortions in the image on the shroud because the fabric had been wrapped around the body.
"The solution was to realize that the shroud wasn't hanging on the wall, it was wrapping a corpse," said Downing, who has also used computers to create images of Abraham Lincoln. "That's the crux of the problem, the face is hidden in there."
"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," he said.
After forming the blueprint, the computer artists started the recreation. Of course, there were limitations to what they could do with what they had.
"Inevitably, you do run out of information," Downing said. "You can't see the pores in a linen fabric. There are no eyebrows. It doesn't take a lot of guesswork to assign pores and skin texture to a model, to know that the man did have eyebrows and to provide them. At some point, you do have to leave the realm of actual information and use experience."