“Another Nail in the Coffin” for the Shroud of Turin?

I suppose almost everyone has heard of the famous Shroud of Turin, a relic kept in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, and allegedly used to wrap the body of a man who was crucified.

The shroud bears an eerie image which at least fits the popular conception of how Jesus Christ may have appeared — and is in fact believed by many to be an authentic image of the same.

And, while radiocarbon dating of the shroud conducted a couple of decades ago suggests it is a Medieval forgery, it still has its adherents. 

However, recent analysis of an actual burial shroud found in a tomb near Jerusalem — known as the “Tomb of the Shroud” — casts further doubt upon the legitimacy of the Turin Shroud.

According to this National Geographic News article, the Jerusalem shroud’s “patchwork of simply woven linen and wool textiles” is completely unlike the Shroud of Turin, a “single textile woven in a complex twill pattern.”  Thus, if the Jerusalem shroud is typical for burial shrouds used during the Jesus-era, it seems unlikely the Shroud of Turin could be authentic. 

On the other hand, this is only the second time a textile has shown up in Jewish burials from this period.  So, I suppose there’s still hope for those who adhere to claims for the Turin Shroud’s authenticity.      

If you like, you can read about the Tomb of the Shroud in James D. Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty:  The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity (2006).  Tabor was actually on hand when this tomb, partly despoiled by looters, was discovered by accident in 2000.  He is a professor of religious studies at UNC-Charlotte. 

Also on hand when the tomb was discovered was Shimon Gibson, an archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, who ended up excavating the site.  Readers will find much more on the Tomb of the Shroud in his recent The Final Days of Jesus:  The Archaeological Evidence (2009), where he uses an analysis of this tomb from Jesus’ time to develop conjectures about Christ’s burial.  

Another good one on a similar topic is The Jesus Family Tomb:  The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence that Could Change History by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino (2007).  I’ve actually just read this one, and, though quite controversial, the authors make — at least to this layperson — a pretty intriguing case that the tomb of Jesus’ family may well have been discovered in a place near Jerusalem called Talpiot in 1980.  By the way, James Cameron, of Avatar and Titanic fame, wrote the forward for this book.  

Other recent resources Greensboro Public Library has on the historical Jesus and early Christianity include:  How Jesus Became Christian by Barrie Wilson; Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) by Bart D. Ehrman; The Sisters of Sinai:  How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice; Digging Through the Bible:  Understanding Biblical People, Places, and Controversies through Archaeology by Richard A. Freund; The Letter and the Scroll:  What Archaeology Tells Us About the Bible by Robin Currie and Stephen Hyslop; Judas:  A Biography by Susan Gubar; Jesus:  The Missing History (DVD); A Marginal Jew:  Rethinking the Historical Jesus by John P. Meier; Who on Earth was Jesus?: The Modern Quest for the Jesus of History by David Boulton; The Masks of Christ:  Behind the Lies and Cover-ups About the Life of Jesus by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; The Jesus Mysteries:  Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy; and The Case for the Real Jesus:  A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ by Lee Strobel. 

If you’d like to read more on the Shroud of Turin, you may be interested in some of the following:  Turin Shroud:   In Whose Image?:  The Truth Behind the Centuries-long Conspiracy of Silence by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; The Resurrection of the Shroud by Mark Antonacci; The Blood and the Shroud:  New Evidence that the World’s Most Sacred Relic is Real by Ian Wilson; and Unlocking the Secrets of the Shroud by Gilbert R. Lavoie.


11 Responses

  1. The shroud, as I understand it, is an authentic wonder and sort of like a negative image effect (in the photographic sense of “negative”) created from Christ’s powerful energy.

    Here’s something sort of related, in my opinion. An interview with a woman who has a miraculous image of Jesus’ face appear on a wall in her house.

    Miracle ‘light portrait’ of Jesus appearing in a Dallas home?


  2. The author of this post fails to mention that new evidence in the 1988 carbon dating shows that these test were invalid (Thermochimica Acta (Vol. 425, pages 189-194) and that this was confirmed by John Brown at Georgia Tech, as well as the team of nine chemists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    You wrote, “On the other hand, this is only the second time a textile has shown up in Jewish burials from this period. So, I suppose there’s still hope for those who adhere to claims for the Turin Shroud’s authenticity.”

    I doubt it is possible to ever establish the shroud’s authenticity. But it is utterly ridiculous to argue that it is not authentic based on one or two pieces of cloth. Yeah, I can establish is a pattern. This is junk archaeology.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Dan.

    In response, I would first opin that the Shroud of Turin is a Catholic relic, and that the roots of Catholicism lie in a revisonist, Pauline version of Christianity which a growing body of contemporary scholarship suggests is not a reliable guide for those who seek the historical Jesus. For me, this is as much an issue as the radiocarbon dating. If you haven’t already, take a look at Tabor’s Jesus Dynasty. Though as best I can recall he makes no mention of the Shroud of Turin or Catholic relics, it will give you this perspective.

    More to the point, however, the Tomb of the Shroud was at least discovered and documented by archaeologists. But the Shroud of Turin essentially has no provenance which can link it to Jesus. So, if conjectures about textiles from the Tomb of the Shroud are “junk archaeology,” as you put it, where does that leave the Shroud of Turin?

  4. My point about junk archaeology is to argue that the shroud is probably not authentic, because it is unlike another single piece of cloth is junky thinking. Given that there was a significant textile weaving industry throughout the region, particularly in Alexandria and Damascus and given that there was a lot of trade throughout the region, it seems improbable that there was a single typical weave pattern of linen used for clothing and burial shrouds.

    Let us imagine that we found a single priestly robe in Jerusalem from the late-Second Temple period and that it was a two hop twill fabric. Would we even assume for a minute that all priests of the Jerusalem Temple wore such robes. What if an archaeologist 2000 years in the future, upon finding a pair of blue jeans from the year 2010, decides that everyone always wore blue jeans then?

    I completely agree with you that there is no certain provenance for the Shroud that links it to Jesus. I do, however, think that a strong historical case can be made that links the Shroud of Turin to the Image of Edessa. That takes it back to A.D. 544 with a high degree of certainty. With less certainty we can tie it to the third century.

    Far from being a Catholic relic, if this is the case, it is a Byzantine relic. I’m not sure I know where you’re going with this argument anyway.

    I think the Shroud is authentic. It is, at best, on my part, an inference to best explanation, nothing more. I am comfortable with that. Whatever it is that I believe about the Shroud and what I believe as a matter of my faith are completely independent of one another. I am not Catholic. I’m an Episcopalian. I have a friend who is Jewish who thinks the Shroud is real. I have another friend who is an Atheist who thinks it is real. I have Catholic friends who have their doubts. I have friends who are Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical and Presbyterian who think it is real. What in the world does a revisionist, Pauline version of Christianity have to do with any of this?

  5. Point well taken. I guess I was shooting from the hip! Thanks a lot for your informative comments!

  6. go to :
    http://holyfaceofjesus.wordpress.com TO SEE AN ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPH OF JESUS CHRIST


  7. Somebody else– I can’t recall who– made
    the following criticism, which is a killer fault to me.
    The image you show of the face is just a view from
    the forward direction, such as some medieval
    artist might have painted, whereas if the image was in some way made by a “radiation” outward from
    the actual head, the view would be panaramic,

    • The shroud does have a 3-D / panoramic view, doesn’t it? There is a recent miracle that occured a few years ago, which some think is a sign of Christ’s return into the modern world. It’s a handprint that appeared on a woman’s bathroom mirror, in Spain – not an ordinary mark though. It’s a 3-dimensional projection of a real hand…very unusual. Not to mention the unusual story related to it.

      Google “Maitreya’s hand” and you’ll see the explanation.

  8. Shroud of turin is a miracle

  9. I’ve often wondered how the smoke of the fire which the shroud was exposed to would affect the radiocarbon dating of the material with which it was made. I haven’t read extensively on the subject, but believe that the dating is based on the rate of decay of carbon based material. Wouldn’t the smoke of a carbon based fire impregnating the material skew the results of such a test showing it to be much younger? That is a question for someone much smarter than me to answer. Reflecting on the chunk of wood found on Mount Ararat and claimed to be from Noah’s Ark (I believe it was found by a Frenchman named Navarre sp.), and found by radiocarbon dating to be much younger, how would the freezing cold affect the carbon dating of an object. I’ve seen deer steaks taken from my freezer and thawed after almost a year look as if they were taken from a deer tagged yesterday.

  10. Dana, my understanding is that it would take an awful lot of smoke contamination, perhaps as much in weight as the original cloth to alter the date back to approximately the time of Christ. But then, that still wouldn’t do it because the cleaning procedures would have eliminated the vast majority of that carbon. As for the freezing cold suggestion, it should have no effect whatsoever. We are talking about radioactive decay which is not affected by temperature.

    But there are significant, completely scientific, non-religious reasons to doubt the validity of the shroud’s dating. Chemical analysis, all properly peer-reviewed in scientific journals and subsequently confirmed by numerous chemists, shows that the sample that was tested was chemically unlike the whole cloth. It is now widely believed that the sample was a mixture of older, original threads and newer threads woven in as part of a medieval repair. Robust statistical studies as well as microscopic analysis support this theory. Given all this, we must therefore admit that we do not know how old the cloth is. If the newer thread is about half of the total amount of the sample – and it seems to be roughly so – it is possible that the cloth is from the time of Christ.

    I have cross posted this to:


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