The Shroud of Turin: Hoax or Holy Relic?
By: Pastor Brian Chilton
The Shroud of Turin is one of the most enigmatic artifacts of all-time. The Shroud of Turin is a 14.3′ by 3.7′ linen cloth held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. The cloth bears a faint image of a crucified man with blood stains which matches the depiction of Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. For some, the cloth is nothing more than a medieval hoax. Some have purported that it may have been from the genius mind of Leonardo da Vinci. But for many others, the Shroud depicts the actual image of Jesus Christ and is considered the most holy relic of all time. But which is it; an ingenious hoax or the ultimate holy relic? Ultimately, you must be the judge. So for your consideration, we present to you the reader some facts that must be considered in regard to the Shroud of Turin.
Carbon Dating of 1988
In 1988, a group of scientists took a fragment of the Shroud in order to test the Shroud’s date. The test results came in and showed the Shroud to date in the 1300s. The world was stunned as the results apparently showed that the Shroud was a medieval forgery. However, doubts existed as to the accuracy of the test results from the beginning because the Shroud was known to have caught fire in the same time-frame that the tests showed the Shroud was created. Were the tests be inaccurate?
In 2009, Ray Rogers of the STURP team, the Shroud of Turin Research Project, concluded that the 1988 carbon-dating tests were inaccurate. Rogers found that the fragment taken for the test was selected from one of the worst sections that could be tested and was in fact one of the patches used by the nuns of the 1500s to repair the linen Shroud. The carbon dating of 1988 has been the only drawback to the Shroud. Now, with the carbon dating shown to be flawed, the searcher for truth must ask, “Are there any other things that point to the Shroud’s authenticity?”
Pollen Grains Found on Shroud
Throughout the Shroud, plant grains are embedded in the Shroud. Avinoam Danin, a botanist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem held a conference in 1999 and showed that these plant grains dated from before the 8th century AD and was found in the Jerusalem area only around March and April…the time of the crucifixion of Christ (perhaps Friday, April 7th, 30AD). Further research has shown that some of the plant flora found on the Shroud is primarily found in Jerusalem. What about the red marks on the Shroud? Are they simply drops of paint?
Actual AB Hemoglobin on Shroud
One thing that is prominent on the Shroud, in addition to the burn marks and the light tan stains, are the red marks of blood found on the Shroud. Niels Svensson and Thibault Heimburger found that the red stains found on the cloth are actual AB hemoglobin. The blood has a high amount of bilirubin which would be expected with the type of tortures that a crucified man would have endured. The dumbbell markings on the back match the flagrums used for whipping by the Romans in the first century. The blood stains on the head match those of one who had massive head trauma from thorns being placed on the head…identifiable with Jesus of Nazareth’s crown of thorns that were placed upon His head. The crown of thorns is a distinction in the crucifixion of Jesus from other crucifixions of the time. In addition to this, a bizarre type of imagery appears on the Shroud.
3D Imagery on Shroud
The Shroud has an amazing three-dimensional imagery of the man on the Shroud. Although some claim to be able to make a duplicate of the Shroud on a linen cloth, no one has been able, and probably never will be, to produce a three-dimensional image that is found on the cloth. Recent researchers from Italy have noted that only a high energy source would be able to produce this kind of image…power which is not found on earth. Another element that must be considered is the fact that the Shroud depicts an accurate display of crucifixion, especially that which happened to Jesus of Nazareth.
Accurate Display of Crucifixion
One of the most intriguing things about the Shroud is the accurate depiction of what the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth would have been like. Blood stains are found around the hairline of the head matching what would have been found as Jesus had the crown of thorns placed around His head. Also, the nail wounds in the hands and feet match that of Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion. Actually, scholars have learned that the Shroud depicts the accurate location of nail wounds in the hand. Instead of a person being nailed in the palms of the hands, the person would be nailed through the wrists as the Shroud depicts. If a person were nailed through the palms, the skin would tear dropping the crucified victim as weight was applied. However, the wrists have been proven to have the capacity to hold up the body of the crucified victim. Also, the dumbbell shaped marks on the back match the flagrums used by the Romans in the first century during scourgings. Finally, the spear mark in the side also matches what the Bible tells us about the crucifixion of Jesus. With these points taken together and matching that of the crucifixion of Jesus, Gary Habermas wrote,
Because of these and other unusual points that both Jesus and the man of the shroud have in common, a number of scholars have studied the data and have concluded that it is highly improbable that the crucifixions of two different men would agree so closely. In other words, Jesus and the man buried in the shroud are very probably the same person.
The reason that many scholars have arrived at very high figures is that the improbabilities of each of these unusual but common points would have to be multiplied individually in order to arrive at a total improbability that Jesus is different from the man of the shroud. To my knowledge, the most conservative figure published to date was the conclusion of two University of Turin scientists, Tino Zeuli, and Bruno Barbaris. After an in-depth study, they concluded that there was one chance in 225 billion that Jesus and the man of the shroud were different persons. 21 Official scientific spokesman Kenneth Stevenson and I attempted a very skeptical figuring of these improbabilities and we still arrived at a one-in-83- million probability that the two men are not the same.
With this in mind, Jesus of Nazareth clearly matches the identity of the man in the Shroud. But, is there a chain of command back to the time of Jesus?
History of Shroud Dating to the First Century
Although admittedly sketchy, the Shroud of Turin can be traced back to the first century AD. Since the Shroud is documented in medieval times, let us move back from what we know from medieval times to the first century AD. The following information is given by shroud2000.com which we shall document at the conclusion of the list. In 1578, the Shroud of Turin was moved to Turin, Italy. It still remains to this day in the St. John the Baptist Cathedral. In 1534, the Shroud was repaired by the Poor Claire Nuns from a fire which nearly destroyed the Shroud in 1532. It was from these patches that the team in 1988 took to carbon date. The Duke of Savoy purchased the Shroud from the DeCharney family who had previously owned the Shroud in 1452. Geoffrey DeCharney, a leader of the Knights Templar had possessed the Shroud and was burned at the stake along with Jacques DeMolay in 1307 for “worshipping a mysterious image.” Apparently, the DeCharney family possessed the Shroud afterwards. From the 1200s to the 1350s, the Knights Templar secretly kept the Shroud along with other items of great value. In 1204, Constantinople was raided during the Fourth Crusade. It was then that the Shroud was kept in secrecy by the Knights Templar. In 944, after the Byzantine Imperial Army invaded Edessa to retrieve the Shroud from invaders, Gregory the Arch Deacon of the Hagia Sophia referenced the Shroud in a sermon brought in that year. In the message, he points to various attributes of the Shroud assuming the Shroud to depict the image of Jesus. In 525, Edessa was destroyed by a flood. During this time, Christianity was freed to worship in public. It was revealed that the Shroud, then called “The Image of Edessa” or the “Mandylion,” displayed the true likeness of Jesus Christ. In 70, the “Legend of King Abgar” depicted the king of the region being healed of leprosy after gazing upon the Shroud. If we consider the words of John, “And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.” The linen wrappings would have included the interior wrappings and the outer shroud. It is the outer shroud which is the Shroud in which we speak.
Even if the Shroud of Turin is not the actual burial cloth of Jesus, it still serves a great resource to the Christian and biblical scholar because it gives great details to the crucifixions done in the first century. The Shroud of Turin is not necessary to prove the resurrection of Christ which we have sought to do in the past five articles posted on this site. However, in light of all the facts presented (which, let the reader know, are not all the facts that support the Shroud’s authenticity), it is this writer’s belief that the Shroud of Turin bears the actual image of Jesus Christ. If this is true, then God has left all of humanity with the image of His Son. We will all find out for sure one day as we will all see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. As Paul writes, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Next Article: “Do We Know the Location of Jesus’ Tomb?”
Habermas*, Gary, “The Shroud of Turin and its Significance for Biblical Studies.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 24:1 (1981): 47-54. Accessed March 31, 2013.
http://digitaljournal.com/article/316570, December 23, 2011. Accessed March 31, 2013.
http://shroud2000.com/FastFacts.html. Accessed March 31, 2013.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
Svensson, Niels and Thibault Heimburger, “Forensic aspects and blood chemistry of the Shroud Man,” Scientific Research and Essays Vol. 7(29), 30 July, 2012, pages 2513-2525, accessed March 31, 2013.
 Niels Svensson and Thibault Heimburger, “Forensic aspects and blood chemistry of the Shroud Man,” Scientific Research and Essays Vol. 7(29), 30 July, 2012, pages 2513-2525, accessed March 31, 2013.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 20:6–7.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Php 2:9–11.