The Shroud of Turn: the Burial Cloth of Jesus?
There has been much controversy about the famous Shroud of Turin. I doubt that anyone could argue that it is a most remarkable cloth – there is nothing like it anywhere.
- Mature in age, about 6′ 2″” in height
- With shoulder length hair, a beard, a moustache and a ponytail
- Who has undergone a great deal of physical injury…There is evidence of blood marks and punctures about the head
A cheek appears to be swollen
The image shows evidence of a wound at the side
The entire figure, both frontal and dorsal sides, shows evidence of scourging
Nail wounds are apparent in the wrists
Certainly this does seem to be the image of Jesus. But is it genuine? Or a fake? Could some medieval artist have painted this image on a piece of ancient cloth, hoping to deceive believers? Or is it perhaps some other tortured figure from long ago who just happens to bear the same wounds as Jesus? Let’s look at the evidence. Because only two possibilities exist: either this is one of the sinister, most cleverly conceived and executed forgeries of all time, or it is the most important ancient relic of all time.
What is The Shroud, and Where Did it Come From?
All the controversy is over a piece of long linen cloth. Its about 14 feet 3 inches long, and about 3 feet 7 inches wide. It gets its name from the city where it has been stored since the middle ages – Turin. The Shroud of Turin came into popular view at the advent of the 20th century, about the time photography was making its debut. An Italian photographer by the name of Secundo Pia took the first photographs of the Shroud in 1898. Upon developing the negatives, he noticed that the negatives themselves actually portrayed a superior image of the man on the Shroud — in other words, the Shroud was itself a negative image, and the photographic negative was in fact a positive image of the man on the Shroud.
Subsequent to this discovery of these fantastic images, a team of French scientists embarked on a study of the images. They concluded that the image was that of a dead male, and that the image could not be attributable to paint – that it had to have been created as a result of direct and indirect contact with the body1. The scientists presented their case to the French Academy of Science, who admitted, after hearing the evidence and examining the plates, that the images on the Shroud could not have been created by an artist. Unfortunately at that time, the academy was composed of a great number of skeptics who had other interests, and so a request for further examination of the Shroud was declined. Seventy five years would pass before renewed interest in the Shroud of Turn would surface once more.
First In-depth Scientific Examination: STRUP, 1978
It wasn’t until 1978 that an esteemed group of scientists, who called themselves the “Shroud of Turin Research Project (STRUP)”, began to examine the Shroud once again. The group formed when they noticed that a 3-D image could be realized from the image on the two dimensional cloth. In October of 1978, the group assembled in Turin to begin a 120 hour continuous examination of the ancient relic. Using space age technology and the latest scientific techniques, they conducted a series of tests on the shroud in an effort to determine the true nature of the Shroud.
- It was illuminated, photographed, magnified and thermographed
- Subjected to infrared, ultra-violet, and x-rays
- Examined in microscopic detail
- The image on the Shroud was not painted on or artificially produced. It is not a painting, and could not have been the work of a medieval artist
It is not the result of draping a cloth over a human body, or a statue for that matter
It was not the product of scorching
- The wounds depicted on the Shroud match very closely with the sufferings of Jesus as documented in the Bible
Facial and head wounds show evidence of beating, as well as pointed objects about the crown of the head.
His cheeks appear swollen, and on the right cheek there is a triangular wound. The nose shows evidence that it may have been broken. Close examination reveals that scratches and dirt are in the nose. The areas above and below the eyes appear to be swollen.
Numerous blood flows are apparent on the top, middle and sides of the head. As many as 30 heads wounds have been identified. And around the top of the head, inter-leaved with hair, one can observe a pattern of head wounds that appear to have been made with sharp pointed objects.
Hand and arm wounds reveal pierced wrists, and evidence of crucifixion
The wrists have been pierced. Blood flows on the arms show evidence that the man had been crucified (the blood flows run from the wrists to the elbows, exactly what one would expect to find on a man who had been hanging on a cross with arms raised).
The legs of the man were not broken.
If indeed this is the image of a crucified man, once would expect to see evidence of broken legs (it was normal for the Romans to break the legs of their crucified victim to hasten death). No such evidence is apparent from the image.
There are over 100 scourge marks on the man’s front and back.
These marks are more prevalent in the back side, and run in groups of two and three. The marks run horizontal and diagonal, and vary in intensity from light contusions to deep punctures. Medical examiners believe these marks are evidence that the scourging was caused by a whip or cord-like device.
There is a large chest wound.
The right side of the man’s chest reveals evidence of a large chest wound, accompanied by a pool of blood. The blood appears to have oozed out by a force of gravity, rather than being pumped out – hence medical examiners believe it to be post-mortem in nature. There is also evidence that the stain is not entirely composed of blood – a clear watery material is also present. The size and shape of the wound (4.4 cm by 1.1 cm) also match what would have been caused by a Roman “lancea”, and instrument used by foot soldiers of the Roman militia.
Shoulder Injuries show evidence of scraping against a heavy rough object.
The dorsal side of the shroud show scourging marks as well as abrasions along the back sides of the shoulder blades, as from carrying a heavy rough object.
Foot wounds are the result of piercing.
Two large blood marks are apparent on the feet, and medical experts agree that these are the result of piercing to the feet.
- Actual human blood is present on the Shroud
During the 1978 testing by STRUP, sample fibrils were removed from several blood stained areas of the shroud. Numerous tests run by the team confirmed that real human blood is present on the shroud, even identifying it to as blood type AB.2 Further tests in 1997 identified ancient DNA present in the blood samples. Both x and y chromosomes were detected, confirming that the blood was from a human male. The DNA was also in a very degraded state, which is consistent with ancient DNA.
- Pollen on the Shroud traces its origin to Palestine
Dust samples were taken by means of sticky tape, from between the threads of the shroud. Upon examination, the STRUP team found pollen grains from seven different kinds of plants. Noteworthy is that these plants are common in Palestine and neighboring countries, but NOT in France or Italy. Furthermore, ALL of the non-European pollen species, except three, grow in Jerusalem. And the flowering period ? March or April.
- The size of the Shroud reflects the standard unit of measurement of the time of Jesus
The size of the shroud – 14’3″ x 3’7″ – may seem odd to some, until one measures the shroud using the standard unit of measurement in place at the time of Jesus – Assyrian Cubits. When using this measure, the shroud is precisely 8 cubits by 2 cubits – strong evidence that this was the measure used to cut the cloth.
What About the Carbon 14 Dating the Shroud to the Middle Ages?
In 1988 Carbon 14 dating was performed on samples from the Shroud, with the intent of showing precisely how old the cloth was. The tests were conducted by several laboratories, but by many accounts the management of the testing was mishandled, and the tests conducted improperly. The conclusion of the testing body was that the shroud dated from the Middle Ages. Many who heard or read about these conclusions from the 1988 testing concluded that the Shroud was a fake, probably created by a Medieval painter.
But as we have already observed, the Shroud could not have been produced by a painter. And, as many know, Carbon 14 dating can be accurate (if done properly), or can be grossly misleading if done incorrectly. In the case of the shroud, testing was not performed correctly3.
- Carbon 14 dating is accurate if and only if the tiny trace amount measured accumulated there by natural processes. If the measured C-14 got on the object any other way, the dating will be incorrect. Is there evidence to believe that the C-14 on the shroud was contaminated – add to or subtracted in some way? Consider the following potential sources of contamination:
The shroud barely escaped a fire in 1532 — as a result, burn marks are present on the shroud (where molten silver dripped on the cloth). Smoke from the fire could be a contaminant.
The unique image encoding event that took place to form the image on the shroud. The image was not painted, scorched, or other wise burned on the shroud. But it is there – on the surface of the fibers. The vent responsible for encoding the image could have contaminated the level of C-14 on the shroud.
The sample given to the labs to test was taken from the worst location on the cloth. As critical as it is to select a sample that is not contaminated, it is hard to believe that the sample taken for the 1988 test was taken “from the edge of a water stain in the midst of a scorch mark”4.
Repairs were done in the Middle Ages subsequent to the fire to repair some of the damage caused by the dripped silver. This being the case, its not unlikely that some of the cloth in the vicinity of the burn marks dates to the Middle Ages. If the sample was taken from a repair area (which it may have), this would explain the dating arrived at.
- If the sample being tested by the labs was in fact contaminated (we believe it was), and the labs all used the same cleaning and testing techniques (which they did), then the conclusions from all three labs would be wrong (they were).
We must conclude from the evidence that the Carbon 14 dating was bungled, and therefore dating the shroud to the Middle Ages is invalid. What are the chances of another opportunity for testing and dating the shroud? Slim. The author of “The Resurrection of the Shroud” is lobbying to get another examination underway, but the Catholic Church, who now oversees the shroud, is a bit reluctant to do any more testing. Which is understandable, but a shame. If done properly, correct C-14 dating could show the shroud to date from the time of Jesus, further corroborating the STRUP evidence collected in 1978 that this indeed may be the burial cloth of Jesus.
Sources and Further Information:
1. “The Resurrection of the Shroud”, by Mark Antonacci. See also a link to his web site in our Resources section.
2. Ibid, Page 25-28.
3. Ibid, Page 155.
4. Ibid, Page 168.