The Shroud Of Turin

What is the Shroud of Turin?

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man that some believe to be Jesus Christ, who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, from which it derives its most common name.

Some believe the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus and that his image was recorded on its fibers at his resurrection. The question of its true origins continues to be the subject of intense debate among some scientists, believers, historians and writers.

The Shroud of Turin is rectangular piece of linen cloth, measuring approximately 4.4 x 1.1 m. It has been kept in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, since 1578. The Shroud of Turin is also known as the "Holy Shroud" (in Italian, Santa Sindone). Some believers in the miraculous origins of the shroud refer to its study as sindonology, from the Greek word used for Jesus' burial cloth in the New Testament.

The nature of the shroud

The shroud is woven in a herringbone twill and is composed of flax fibrils entwined with cotton fibrils. It bears the image of a front and rear view of a naked man with his hands folded across his groin. The two views are aligned along the midplane of the body and pointing in opposite directions. The front and back views of the head nearly meet at the middle of the cloth. The views are consistent with an orthographic projection of a human body.

The "Man of the Shroud" has a beard, moustache, and shoulder-length hair parted in the middle. He is well proportioned and muscular, and quite tall (5'7" or 1.75 m) for a man of the first century (the time of Jesus' death). Dark red stains are found on the cloth, showing various wounds:

at least one wrist bears a large round wound, apparently from piercing (The second wrist is hidden by the folding of the hands.)

in the side, again apparently from piercing

small wounds around the forehead

scores of linear wounds on the torso and legs, apparently from scourging

On May 28, 1898 an amateur Italian photographer, Secondo Pia, took the first photograph of the shroud and was startled by the resulting undeveloped negative. The negative seemed to give the appearance of a positive image, which implies that the shroud image (which is primarily brownish-yellow on off-white) is itself effectively a negative of some kind.

Observers often feel that the detail and heft of the man on the shroud is greatly enhanced in the photographic negative, producing an unexpected effect. Pia's negative intensified interest in the shroud and sparked renewed efforts to determine its origin.

The Roman Catholic Church is the current owner of the Shroud of Turin. It was given to the Church by the House of Savoy, the owners of the shroud since 1453, in 1983. Some have suggested that the identity of the Shroud with the Image of Edessa and if this were to be definitively proven, the Church would have no moral right to retain it, and would then be compelled to return it to the Ecumenical Patriarch or some other Eastern Orthodox body, since it this case, it would have been stolen from the Orthodox at some time during the Crusades.

Some Russian Orthodox consider that with the fall of Byzantium, the title of "emperor" passed on to Russia, so that they would have sole rights to the shroud over all the other Orthodox. The shroud not publicly displayed except on rare special occasions. It is next scheduled to be displayed by the Catholic Church in 2025.

Timeline of the Shroud of Turin

History of the Shroud of Turin

There are numerous reports of Jesus' burial shroud, or an image of his head, of unknown origin, being venerated in various locations before the 14th century. 

The Image of Edessa was reported to contain the image of the face of Christ, and its existence is proven since the sixth century. Some have suggested a connection between the Shroud of Turin and the Image of Edessa. That image was reported reliably since the middle of the sixth century. No legend connected with that image suggests that it contained the image of a beaten and bloody Jesus, but rather it was said to be an image transferred by Jesus to the cloth in life. This image is generally described as depicting only the face of Jesus, not the entire body. Proponents of the theory that the Edessa image was actually the shroud, led by Ian Wilson, theorize that it was always folded in such a way as to show only the face.

Three principal pieces of evidence are cited in favor of the identification with the shroud. John Damascene mentions the image in his anti-iconoclastic work On Holy Images, describing the Edessa image as being a "strip," or oblong cloth, rather than a square, as other accounts of the Edessa cloth hold.

Shroud proponents cite an illustration in a 12th-century Hungarian manuscript as evidence for the shroud's existence before the 14th century, noting an L-shaped patch near the hands, which would correspond to four burn holes in the relic. Also, the weave of the cloth in the lower panel suggests to them the unusual weave of the shroud.

On the occasion of the transfer of the cloth to Constantinople in 944, Gregory Referendarius, archdeacon of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople held a sermon about the artifact. This sermon had been lost, but was rediscovered in the Vatican Archives and translated by Mark Guscin in 2004. This sermon says that this Edessa Cloth contained not only the face, but a full-length image, which was believed to be of Jesus. The sermon also mentions bloodstains from a wound in the side. Other documents have since been found in the Vatican library and the University of Leiden, Netherlands, confirming this impression. "[Non tantum] faciei figuram sed totius corporis figuram cernere poteris" (You can see [not only] the figure of a face, but [also] the figure of the whole body). (Cf. Codex Vossianus Latinus Q69 and Vatican Library Codex 5696, p. 35.)

In 1203, a Crusader Knight named Robert de Clari claims to have seen the cloth in Constantinople: "Where there was the Shroud in which our Lord had been wrapped, which every Friday raised itself upright so one could see the figure of our Lord on it." After the Fourth Crusade, in 1205, the following letter was sent by Theodore Angelos, a nephew of one of three Byzantine Emperors who were deposed during the Fourth Crusade, to Pope Innocent III protesting the attack on the capital. From the document, dated 1 August 1205: "The Venetians partitioned the treasures of gold, silver, and ivory while the French did the same with the relics of the saints and the most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection. We know that the sacred objects are preserved by their predators in Venice, in France, and in other places, the sacred linen in Athens." (Codex Chartularium Culisanense, fol. CXXVI (copia), National Library Palermo)

Unless it is identical with the Shroud of Turin, as some claim, the location of the Image of Edessa since the 13th century is unknown.

The known provenance of the Turin cloth dates to 1357, when the widow of the French knight Geoffroy de Charny had it displayed in a church at Lirey, France (diocese of Troyes). In the Museum Cluny in Paris, the coats of arms of this knight and his widow can be seen on a pilgrim medallion, which also shows an image of the Shroud of Turin.

During the fourteenth century, the shroud was often publicly exposed, though not continuously, since the bishop of Troyes, Henri de Poitiers, had prohibited veneration of the image. Thirty-two years after this pronouncement, the image was displayed again, and King Charles VI of France ordered its removal to Troyes. The sheriffs were unable to carry out the order.

Despite the pronouncement of Bishop D'Arcis, Antipope Clement VII (first antipope of the Western Schism) prescribed indulgences for pilgrimages to the shroud, so that veneration continued, though the shroud was not permitted to be styled the "True Shroud."

In 1418, Humbert of Villersexel, Count de la Roche, Lord of Saint-Hippolyte-sur-Doubs, moved the shroud to his castle at Montfort, France to provide protection against criminal bands, after he married Charny's granddaughter. It was later moved to Saint-Hippolyte-sur-Doubs. After Humbert's death, canons of Lirey fought through the courts to force the widow to return the cloth, but the parliament of Dole and the Court of Besançon left it to the widow, who travelled with the shroud to various expositions, notably in Liege and Geneva.

The widow sold the image in exchange for a castle in Varambon, France in 1453. Louis of Savoy, the new owner, stored it in his capital at Chambery in the newly-built Saint-Chapelle, which Pope Paul II shortly thereafter raised to the dignity of a collegiate church. In 1464, the duke agreed to pay an annual fee to the Lirey canons in exchange for their dropping claims of ownership of the cloth. Beginning in 1471, the shroud was moved between many cities of Europe, being housed briefly in Vercelli, Turin, Ivrea, Susa, Chambery, Avigliano, Rivoli and Pinerolo. A description of the cloth by two sacristans of the Sainte-Chapelle from around this time noted that it was stored in a reliquary: "enveloped in a red silk drape, and kept in a case covered with crimson velours, decorated with silver-gilt nails, and locked with a golden key".

In 1532 the shroud suffered damage from a fire in the chapel where it was stored. A drop of molten silver from the reliquary produced a symmetrically-placed mark through the layers of the folded cloth. Poor Clare nuns attempted to repair this damage with patches. Some have suggested that there was also water damage from the extinguishing of the fire. In 1578 the shroud arrived again at its current location in Turin. It was the property of the House of Savoy until 1983, when it was given to the Roman Catholic Church.

On May 28, 1898, amateur Italian photographer Secondo Pia took the first photo of the shroud. It was observed that the images on the shroud seem to resemble photographic negatives rather than positives.

In 1988 the Catholic Church agreed to a Carbon 14 dating of the relic, for which a small piece from a corner of the shroud was removed, divided, and sent to laboratories. Another fire, possibly caused by arson, threatened the shroud in 1997, but a fireman was able to remove it from its display case and prevent further damage. In 2002 the Holy See had the shroud restored. The cloth backing and thirty patches were removed. This made it possible to photograph and scan the reverse side of the cloth, which had been hidden from view.

The most recent public exhibition of the Shroud was in 2000 for the Great Jubilee. The next scheduled exhibition is in 2025.

Evidence and Analysis of the Shroud

In the last century, a variety of tests and observations have been made on the Turin Shroud, which have been interpreted in various ways. Following is a summary of the primary observations made on the shroud by scientists and others.

Crucifixion technique

The piercing of the wrists rather than the palms contradicts traditional Christian iconography, especially in the Middle Ages, but many modern scholars suggest that crucifixion victims were generally nailed through the wrists. A skeleton discovered in the Holy Land shows that at least some were nailed between the radius and ulna, but this was not common knowledge in the Middle Ages. Proponents of the shroud's mystical origins contend that a medieval forger would have been unlikely to know this operational detail of an execution method almost completely discontinued centuries earlier.

Blood stains 

There are several reddish stains on the shroud suggesting blood. Chemist Walter McCrone identified these as simple pigment materials and reported that no forensic tests of the samples he used indicated the presence of blood. Other researchers, including Dr. Alan Adler, a chemist specializing in analysis of porphyrins, identified the reddish stains as type AB blood.

Normally, whole blood stains discolor relatively rapidly, turning to a black-brown color, while these stains in fact range from a true red to the more normal brown color. Supporters of the shroud counter that the stains were not from bleeding wounds, but from the liquid exuded by blood clots. In the case of severe trauma, as evidenced by the Man of the Shroud, this liquid would include a mixture of bilirubin and oxidized hemoglobin, which could remain red indefinitely. Adler and John Heller  detected bilirubin and the protein albumin in the stains.

Israeli researchers also detected outlines of various flowering plants on the cloth, which they say would point to March or April and the environs of Jerusalem, based on the species identified. In the forehead area, corresponding to the crown of thorns, they found traces of Gundelia tournefortii, which is limited to this period of the year in the Jerusalem area.

Sudarium of Oviedo 

In the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, there is a small bloodstained piece of linen that is also revered as one of the burial cloths mentioned in the Gospel of John. John refers to a "sudarium" (σουδαριον) that covered the head and the "linen cloth" or "bandages" (οθονιον—othonion) that covered the body. The sudarium of Oviedo is traditionally held to be this cloth that covered the head of Jesus.

The sudarium's existence and presence in Oviedo is well attested since the eighth century and in Spain since the seventh century. Before these dates the location of the sudarium is less certain, but some scholars trace it to Jerusalem in the first century.

Forensic analysis of the bloodstains on the shroud and the sudarium suggest that both cloths may have covered the same head at nearly the same time. Based on the bloodstain patterns, the Sudarium would have been placed on the man's head while he was in a vertical position, presumably while still hanging on the cross. This cloth was then presumably removed before the shroud was applied.

A 1999 study by Mark Guscin, member of the multidisciplinary investigation team of the Spanish Center for Sindonology, investigated the relationship between the two cloths. Based on history, forensic pathology, blood chemistry (the Sudarium also is said to have type AB blood stains), and stain patterns, he concluded that the two cloths covered the same head at two distinct, but close moments of time. Avinoam Danin concurred with this analysis, adding that the pollen grains in the sudarium match those of the shroud.

Coins over the eyes 

Using techniques of digital image processing, NASA researchers Jackson, Jumper and Stephenson report detecting the impressions of coins placed on both eyes after a digital study in 1978. The coin on the right eye was reported to correspond to a Roman copper coin produced in AD 29 and 30 in Jerusalem, while that on the left resembles a lituus coin from the reign of Tiberius. 

The Gospel of John states, "Nicodemus ... brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury" (Jn 19:39-40, KJV). 

Artistic style 

Many viewers of the cloth are struck by the anatomically correct depiction of the Man of the Shroud, which is often described as having a three-dimensional appearance. Since the presentation of perspective in two dimensional artwork was a relatively late development, some conclude that it could not have been a medieval forgery. 

The depiction of Jesus corresponds to that found throughout the history of Christian iconography. For instance, the Pantocrator icon at Daphne in Athens is strikingly similar. Skeptics attribute this to the icons being made while the Image of Edessa was available, with this appearance of Jesus being copied in later artwork, and in particular, in the Shroud. In opposition to this viewpoint, the locations of the piercing wounds in the wrists on the shroud do not correspond to artistic renditions of the crucifixion.

Theories of the Shroud's Origin

The Shroud of Turin is the subject of intense debate among some scientists, believers, historians and writers. Several theories have arisen regarding where, when and how the shroud and its image were created.

Miraculous or Supernatural Explanations 

Many believers consider the image to be a side effect of the resurrection of Jesus, sometimes proposing semi-natural effects that might have been part of the process. Some have suggested that the shroud collapsed through the glorified body of Jesus. Supporters of this theory point to certain x-ray-like impressions of the teeth and the finger bones. Others suggest that radiation caused by the miraculous event may have burned the image into the cloth.

Carbohydrate layer 

A scientific theory that does not rule out the association of the shroud with Jesus involves the gases that escape from a dead body in the early phases of decomposition. The cellulose fibers making up the shroud's cloth are coated with a thin carbohydrate layer of starch fractions, various sugars and other impurities. This layer is very thin (180 - 600 nm) and was discovered by applying phase contrast microscopy. It is thinnest where the image is and appears to carry the color, while the underlying cloth is uncolored. This carbohydrate layer would itself be essentially colorless but in some places has undergone a chemical change producing a straw yellow color. The reaction involved is similar to that which takes place when sugar is heated to produce caramel.

In a paper entitled "The Shroud of Turin: an amino-carbonyl reaction (Maillard reaction) may explain the image formation,"  R. N. Rogers and A. Arnoldi propose this natural explanation (which does not rule out a supernatural invocation or enhancement of a natural process). Amines from a human body will have Maillard reactions with the carbohydrate layer within a reasonable time, before liquid decomposition products stain or damage the cloth. The gases produced by a dead body are extremely reactive chemically and within a few hours, in an environment such as a tomb, a body starts to produce heavier amines in its tissues such as putrescine and cadaverine. These will produce the color seen in the carbohydrate layer. But it raises questions about why the images (both ventral and dorsal views) are so photorealistic and why they were not destroyed by later decomposition products.


The Shroud of Turin

Genuine artifact or manufactured relic?

No single artifact of the past has so exemplified the interface between science and religion as the Shroud of Turin. What are the facts and how do we separate the facts from both religious and scientific bias and agenda-based conclusions? First, we must separate the shroud from that which is responsible for bias, namely that it is the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth and investigate it instead as a putative artifact of a first century crucifixion and burial. The shroud has been subjected to numerous scientific tests over the years culminating in 1988 with a radiocarbon measurement and dating procedure. The testing of the shroud and the conclusions reached lie basically in two areas, the physical shroud itself and the very unique image on the shroud.

Physical Examination of the Shroud

FACT: The shroud is a linen cloth measuring 4.6 x 1.1 meters corresponding to a standard measurement of 8 x 2 Philetaric cubits in use in Palestine during the first century. (see Whiston, W., Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, Winston. Chicago, p. 1008-1009)

FACT: The shroud is a herringbone twill with a 3:1 weave, of probably 1st century Syrian design. The flax fibrils contain entwisted cotton fibrils from a previous work of the loom. The cotton is Gossypium herbaceum, a Middle Eastern species not found in Europe. (Raes, G.: La Sindone, 1976; Tyrer, J. Textile Horizons, Dec, 1981)

FACT: The shroud contains pollen grains from 58 species of plants, 17 indigenous to Europe where the artifact has been for 7 centuries and the majority being plants indigenous, some exclusively, to the area of the Dead Sea and Turkey. These include Nyoscyamus aureus, Artemisia herba-alba and Onosma syriacum. (Frei, M., La Sindone, Scienza e Fide, Bologna, 1983; Frei, M., Shroud Spectrum International 3, 1982)

Conclusion: The linen of the shroud was manufactured and woven in the Middle East, most probably Syria, and is a design used in the 1st century, albeit uncommon and expensive.

Image on the Shroud

The shadowy image on the shroud is, of course, its most unique and enigmatic feature. It displays the complete dorsal and frontal image of a severely abused and crucified individual of Semitic characteristics who was laid on the proximal portion of the cloth with the distal portion folded over the head and extended over the body thus creating, through some as yet unexplained chemical or physical process, two "head to head" images of the back and front. The ghostly, sepia colored image is nearly imperceptable close-up but discernable at a distance. It was not until the first photographs were taken of the shroud in 1898 by Turin Councillor Secondo Pia that the negative plates revealed the startling "positive" of the clear picture of the "man in the shroud." The image is of a male, almost 6’ tall, bearded, severely abused and scourged with the distinctive "dumbell" markings of a Roman flagrum. Bloodstains are evident from wounds in the wrists, feet, about the head and brow, and the left thoracic area with pooling under the small of the back and under the feet. The image of the "man in the shroud" also displays signs of beating about the face, swelling under the eye and shocks of his beard having been ripped from his face (a common form of abuse to Jews by Romans). The debate on the authenticity of the shroud focuses on whether this image was transferred to the linen by some means from a real corpse or whether it was artificed by a clever forger.

Chief among the proponents of the image as a "painting" was W. C. McCrone, one of the most respected names in particle analysis. McCrone reliably detected iron-oxide particles throughout the shroud using only optical technique and attributed it to the base of artist’s paint. (McCrone, W. C., The Microscope, 29, 1981, p. 19-38; McCrone, W. C., Skirius, C., The Microscope, 28, 1980, pp 1-13.) Particular attention in this regard was given to the purported "bloodstains" of the image.

FACT: The shroud linen contains particles of iron-oxide.

The debate on the authenticity of the shroud became centered on whether the reliable presence of iron oxide was relevent to the shroud image and the "bloodstains" on the cloth and the precise nature and origin of the iron oxide. A part of the answer to this was provided by x-ray fluorescent analysis performed by STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project) scientists R. A Morris, L. A. Schwalbe and J. R. London which determined there was no relevence between concentrations of iron oxide particles and the varying densities of the image. (Morris, R. A., Schwalbe, L. A., London, R. J., X-Ray Spectrometry, Vol 9, no. 2, 1980, pp 40-47; Schwalbe, L. A., Rogers, R. N., Analytica Chimica Acta 135, 1982, pp 3-19)

FACT: Iron Oxide is not responsible for the image on the cloth.

These findings stimulated additional attention to the bloodstains on the cloth. Were these genuine bloodstains or were they "painted" with some form of iron-oxide containing red pigment? This issue was addressed by experts in blood analysis, Dr. John Heller of the New England Institute and Dr. Alam Adler of Western Connecticut State University. Drs. Heller and Adler went far beyond the mere optical examination of McCrone. Applying pleochroism, birefringence and chemical analysis, they determined that, unlike artist’s pigment which contains iron oxide contaminated with manganese, nickel and cobalt, the iron oxide on the shroud was relatively pure. They discovered, through research into the procedures of flax preparation and linen manufacture, that pure iron oxide is normal to the process of fermenting (retting) the flax in large outdoor vats of water.

FACT: The iron oxide, abundant on the linen of the shroud is not the remnant of artist’s pigment.

Dr. Adler then proceeded to apply microspectrophotometric analysis of a "blood particle" from one of the fibrils of the shroud and unmistakeably identified hemoglobin in the acid methemoglobin form due to great age and denaturation. Further tests by Heller and Adler established, within scientific certainty, the presence of porphyrin, bilirubin, albumin and protein. In fact, when proteases were applied to the fibril containing the "blood," the blood dissolved from the fibril leaving an imageless fibril. (Heller, J. H., Adler, A. D., Applied Optics, 19, 1980, pp 2742-4; Heller, J. H., and Adler, A. D., Canadian Forensic Society Sci, Journal 14, 1981, pp 81-103)

FACT: The bloodstains on the cloth are not artist’s pigment but are real blood.

FACT: The bloodstains were applied to the cloth prior to the formation of the image.

Working independantly with a larger sample of blood containing fibrils, pathologist Pier Baima Bollone, using immunochemistry, confirms Heller and Adler’s findings and identifies the blood of the AB blood group. (Baima Bollone, P., La Sindone-Scienza e Fide 1981, 169-179; Baime Bollone, P., Jorio, M., Massaro, A. L., Sindon 23, 5, 1981; Baima Bollone, Jorio, M., Massaro, A. L., Sindon 24, 31, 1982, pp 5-9; Baima Bollone, P., Gaglio, A. Sindon 26, 33, 1984, pp 9-13; Baima Bollone, P., Massaro, A. L. Shroud Spectrum 6, 1983, pp 3-6.)

It is significant that analysis of the blood of the cloth demonstrated high levels of bilirubin consistent with the severe concussive beating suggested by the image of the "man of the shroud."

The 1988 Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud

Radiocarbon dating is the use of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) to measure the amount of C14, a radioactive isotope of carbon. Plants take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as part of the process of photosynthesis and incorporate the carbon in the plant tissues. Animals absorb C14 into their tissues by eating plants. When the plant dies, no further C14 is absorbed and the C14 that accumulated in life begins to decay at a known rate. The half life of C14 is calculated at 5,730 years. Measurement of the C14 present in the remains of the plant or animal is a method of determining when the plant or animal died. The procedure is valuable for dating organic material later than 50,000 years before the present time. When first used, the procedure required larger samples of the test material, consequently the custodians of the Shroud of Turin were unwilling to permit the destruction of large portions of the shroud. The advances in the procedure has gradually decreased the amount of sample required and permission was finally obtained to test 12 small samples of the non-image bearing portion of the shroud linen. Linen is made from flax, therefore an assessment could be made on when the linen was manufactured. Samples of the shroud were excised and given to three different radiocarbon dating laboratories in Zurich, Oxford and Arizona. The results of the tests were published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, 1988, titled "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin." The following results were published on the samples tested. The figures are uncalibrated "before present," i.e. 1950 CE. (P. E. Damon, etal., Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin, Nature 337:6208, 16 February 1989, pp 611-615)

Sample dates from Arizona:

591 +/- 30 yrs

690 +/- 35 yrs

606 +/- 41 yrs

701 +/- 33 yrs

Sample dates from Oxford:

795 +/- 65 yrs

730 +/- 45 yrs

745 +/- 55 yrs

Sample dates from Zurich:

733 +/- 61 yrs

722 +/- 56 yrs

635 +/- 57 yrs

639 +/- 45 yrs

679 +/- 51 yrs

The linen of the shroud was manufactured, according to these results, sometime between 1260 CE and 1390 CE with the mean value placing the manufacture of the linen in the 14th century! The results were startling and fueled the opinion that the shroud is a forgery manufactured by a clever medieval artist. Are these results conclusive? A final conclusion on the authenticity of the shroud as an artifact of the first century should be based on a totality of the scientific evidence rather than on one procedure alone. That’s just good science, yet the results of this one procedure is totally oppositional to the many other procedures conducted and the use of radiocarbon dating of textiles has been shown to be problematic in the past. (ACS, Advances in Chemistry #205, Archaeological Chemistry III, American Chemical Society, 1984, Radiocarbon Dating by Particle Accelerator, an Archaeological Perspective). Having said this, let me make it clear that this article is not an indictment of AMS measurement which is an extremely valuable tool for archaeology. Like any new discipline, however, there are still many things to learn about extrinsic factors that may alter accurate measurement. The science of dendrochronology has been invaluable in "calibrating" AMS results. There is still much to learn about natural processes that may incorporate extrinsic carbon into testable substrates.

The "margin of error" claimed by radiocarbonists (within 95% confidence limits) is based strictly on hypothetical statistics. This is reflected in variable results by different testing laboratories on samples of known date. Some examples have been:

Organic materials involved in the Akrotiri volcanic eruption has produced results ranging from 1100 +/- 190 yrs to 2590 +/- 80 yrs, a difference of 1400 years.

The "Lindow Man" body from a peat bog in Cheshire dated conventionally to 300 BCE produced results of 5th century CE (Harwell) to the 1stcentury CE (Oxford).

Highlighting the problematic results of radiocarbon dating of textiles is the dating of mummy 1770 in the British Museum where the bones of the mummy dated 800 to 1,000 years earlier than the textile in which the mummy was originally wrapped.

Three areas of continuing research may explain how the radiocarbon dating of the shroud linen may have been affected by factors other than the true age of the artifact.

On December 4, 1532 The chapel at Chambery, France, where the shroud was housed, caught fire which raged around the silver reliquary where the shroud was kept. The heat was so intense that some of the silver melted and dripped onto the folded shroud. The shroud was rescued from the fire and doused with water but the burn holes are still visible.

FACT: The shroud was subjected to intense heat at low oxygen in 1532.

Dr. Dimitri Kouznetsov of the Sedov Biopolymer Research Laboratory in Moscow has conducted experiments on the accuracy of radiocarbon dating of samples previously exposed to intense heat. Dr. Kouznetsov acquired an ancient linen cloth with origin in Israel, radiocarbon dated to 200 CE. The cloth was exposed to intense heat in the presence of silver, after which it radiocarbon dated 1400 years later! Dr. Kouznetsov attributes this to biofractionalization and the chemical bonding, under heat, of extrinisic C14 to the linen. I will qualify that there are those who question Dr. Kouznetsov's scientific expertise and methodology.

Another source of extrinsic C14 incorporation in the linen of the shroud has been proposed by Researchers J. Mattingly and L. Garza-Vermes at the University of Texas in San Antonio, experts on the biogenic varnishes deposited on archaeological artifacts by bacteria and fungi. Upon examination of the shroud by Dr. Garza, heavy contamination was found. The radiocarbonists who tested the shroud samples also measured the C14 of the bacteria, fungi, and the bioplastic varnish deposited as a result of the symbiosis between the two organisms. The 1988 radiocarbon dating is the result of an averaging of the remaining C14 of the original linen with that of the microorganisms Lichenothelia and Rhodococcus and their resultant calcium carbonate varnish.

It is significant that the biopolymer coating can make up the most substantial portion of the fibril. The Texas team also duplicated the cleaning process used by all three radiocarbon labs, even increasing the strength of the solution. This process had absolutley no effect on the biopolymeric coating but instead dissolved some of the flax cellulose. This resulted in less C14 from the shroud itself and even more from the contaminating bioplastic varnish.

See Dr. Garcia-Valdes' Abstract to the Texas Medieval Association at:

FACT: The shroud of Turin is contaminated with the C14 containing bioplastic varnish of microorganisms still multiplying and present on the artifact.

FACT: The bioplastic varnish undoubtedly present on the shroud's fibrils, and incorporating significant amounts of younger and recent C14, is not effected by the cleaning procedure utilized by the three radiocarbon labs.

In addition to the heat of the 1532 fire and the established biocontamination of the shroud linen, one must also consider the possible effect of centuries of tallow candle smoke and incense.

Is there other evidence for the shroud being older than the radiocarbonists dating of the 14th century?

It is very suggestive that the face of the "man of the shroud" and its unique features has been depicted on iconography dating as early as the 6th century CE. Superimposition of the shroud face with the 6th century icon from St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai shows 170 points of congruity (Whanger, A. Applied Optics 24, no. 16, 1985, pp 766-772) as does the shroud face with the gold solidus of Justinian II (692 CE). Although this is very suggestive, one could pose that much of the iconography of the Byzantine period had some, now unknown, model and if the shroud was an artifice of 14th century Europe, an icon could have been used as a model. This would be a valid scientific counter-point. What would be required would be a depiction of what would be unmistakeably the shroud in a document or icon that pre-dates the 14th century date offered by the radiocarbon results. Such a representation would have to feature some unique characteristic of the shroud. Such a representation does indeed exist.

Sometime in the distant past, the folded shroud was subjected to abuse with a "hot poker," perhaps as an act of vandalism to a "Christian relic" or a "test of fire" by a zealous Christian. When folded, the four burn holes are arranged in an "L" shaped pattern. The unfolded shroud displays four sets of these four burn holes symetrically on both the dorsal and frontal halves of the shroud, evidence of the "hot poker" having penetrated the folded layers of the cloth. These burn holes are unique to the Shroud of Turin.  In the Byzantine Christian era, the "gamma" and notched bands of Jewish talitoth were used as decorations on tunics and altar cloths.  The Christians who adopted these patterns apparently were unaware that the band and the gamma were used on tunics of men (band) and women (gamma) respectively. See Yigael Yadin, Bar Kochba 1971, Random House, Chapter 7 "The Wardrobe" Pp 66-85.  During the Byzantine period, around the 5th and 6th centuries, just at the time the "Image of Edessa" was rediscovered in the city wall, the "gamma" marking was used on altar cloths which were called "Gammadia."  Did some overzealous Christian or vandal have this in mind when he burned the "gamma" shaped figure into the folded cloth?

An illustration of the entombed and enshrouded Jesus of Nazareth is found in a prayer book from Budapest known as the "Pray Manuscript." The illustration not only depicts the unique "L" pattern of burn holes but also the unique weave pattern of the shroud. There can be no mistake that the Pray Manuscript of 1192 was modeled from the Shroud of Turin. So much for the 14th century date claimed by the flawed radiocarbon dating and certainly support for Drs. Kouznetsov, Mattingly and Garza.

Conclusion. The Pray Manuscript of 1192 illustrates what can only be the Shroud of Turin, predating the earliest possible date of manufacture calculated by the AMS testing.

All of what I have explained above can be found in the voluminous scientific and popular literature on the shroud of Turin. At this point, I would like to offer a different paradigm for assessing the accuracy of the 14th century date and the resulting claim that the shroud is the work of a 14th century forger. Again, this article is not addressing the issue of whether or not the Shroud of Turin was the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth and its value as a "relic" of Christianity. It addresses only whether the shroud is a genuine archaeological artifact of a 1st century crucifixion. This paradigm assumes that the radiocarbonists’ claim that the Shroud of Turin is a 14th century forgery is correct. It is based on what that conclusion tells us about the forger. It tells us that:

1. The forger first painted the bloodstains before he painted the image.

2. The forger integrated forensic qualities to his image that would only be known 20th century science.

3. The forger duplicated blood flow patterns in perfect forensic agreement to blood flow from the wrists at 65° from vertical to suggest the exact crucifixion position of the arms.

4. The forger "painted" the blood flows with genuine group AB blood that he had "spiked" with excessive amounts of bilirubin since the forger knew that severe concussive scourging with a Roman flagrum would cause erythrocyte hemolysis and jaundice.

5. The forger "plotted" the scourge marks on the body of the "man in the shroud" to be consistent under forensic examination with two scourgers of varying height.

6. The forger also duplicated abrasion and compression marks on the scourge wounds of the shoulders to suggest to 20th century forensic examiners that the "man in the shroud" had carried a heavy weight following the scourging.

7. The forger, against all convention of medieval artistry, painted the body he was "hoaxing" as Jesus of Nazareth, nude to conform to genuine Roman crucifixions.

8. The forger, as the forensic genius he was, illustrated the nails of crucifixion accurately through the wrists rather than the hands as in all other conventional medieval representations. He also took into account that the thumbs of a crucified victim would rotate inward as a result of median nerve damage as the nails passed through the spaces of Destot.

9. The forger was clever enough to "salt" the linen with the pollens of plants indigenous only to the environs of Jerusalem in anticipation of 20th century palynological analysis.

10. The forger was an artist who surpassed the talents of all known artists to the present day, being able to "paint" an anatomically and photographically perfect human image in a photographic negative manner, centuries before photography, and be able to do so without being able to check his work, close up, as he progressed.

11. The forger was able to paint this image with some unknown medium using an unknown technique, 30-40 feet away in order to discern the shadowy image as he continued.

12. The forger was clever enough to depict an adult with an unplaited pony-tail, sidelocks and a beard style consistent with a Jewish male of the 1st century.

13. The forger thought of such minute details as incorporating dirt from the bare feet of the "man in the shroud" consistent with the calcium carbonate soil of the environs of Jerusalem.

14. This forger was such an expert in 20th century biochemistry, medicine, forensic pathology and anatomy, botany, photography and 3-D computer analysis that he has foiled all the efforts of modern science. His unknown and historically unduplicated artistic technique surpasses all great historical artists, making the pale efforts of DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli appear as infantile scribblings.

If the Shroud of Turin is a forgery of the 14th century, as the radiocarbonists claim, and not a genuine artifact of the 1st century, all of these qualities of the purported medieval "forger" must be accepted.  If the Shroud was "forged" it would have to have been painted.

It is an irrefutable fact that there is NO paint or pigment on the Shroud of Turin leaving the only explanation of the technique of the forger to have used "photography" to manufacture the relic in the THIRTEENTH CENTURY!! Some authors have gone so far as to suggest exactly that.  This is patently absurd!


The Shroud of Turin is a genuine artifact of a first century Roman crucifixion of an adult Jewish male. The radiocarbon dating placing the manufacture of the linen in the 14th century was flawed by extrinsic C14 accumulated over centuries of fungal growth, candle smoke and the intense heat of the fire of 1532. There is NO paint on the linen of the shroud and is not the artifice of a forger.


We are not saved by any works of the flesh or attempts and efforts to reach out to God. Neither are we saved by any religious system nor any other belief. It is purely and only on the merits of and by trusting in the gospel that we are saved.


While we will focus on the significance of the event in the next point, it is important to point out that assertion necessarily implies incarnation. Being divine, the Son could not die. So, He emptied Himself of prestige and privilege3 and was clothed with flesh, bone and suffering, being born of the virgin and living a perfect and obedient life until He breathed His last.


He bore our sins and the wrath of His Father as our perfect sacrifice. This is substitutionary atonement; that Jesus died for our sins and in our place. He took the curse which was ours and made it His own. He was our substitute. Though we deserved to die, yet He died.


He was not taken by surprise and neither was this plan some last minute insertion into God’s redemptive program. From all eternity Christ was appointed and willingly chose to submit Himself to death.


His burial represents to us His actual death to assure us that the price has adequately been paid. Done away with is the claim that perhaps He merely escaped from the cross and reappeared. He truly died and lay in a tomb for three days.


Being fully God, death could not hold Him. Our payment being rendered in full, He rose victorious over death and sin. We have evidence of divine satisfaction. God’s wrath was fully spent.


This is not some contrived narrative to make us feel good. Rather, those who witnessed to His resurrection attested to it not only in word, but by choosing gladly to face death. Such confidence on their part inspires subsequent confidence in those of us who have not seen with our own eyes.