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A NHNE Special Article:
The Shroud of Turin
Friday, October 21, 1994
(From NHNE News Brief 1)
By David Sunfellow
© Copyright 1995 By David Sunfellow
Published By NewHeavenNewEarth / email@example.com
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"Then Pilate... took Jesus, and scourged [him]. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put [it] on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and they smote him with their hands."
"Then delivered he him... unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led [him] away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called [the place] of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst."
The Shroud Of Turin
By David Sunfellow
The Shroud of Turin is one of the most venerated, most remarkable, most mysterious, most thoroughly studied artifacts in the world today. Believed by many to be the actual burial cloth of Christ, the Shroud made its first recorded appearance in 14th century France. Housed in the Italian city of Turin since 1578, renewed interest was generated in 1898 when the first photographs were made of the relic and it was discovered that the image on the Shroud was a photographic negative! How was such an image made? And how does one explain the incredibly life-like details which are remarkably consistent with Biblical accounts of Christ's crucifixion? Historians, pathologists, linguists, biblical scholars, textile experts, chemists, physicists, photographic specialists, artists, botanists, microbiologists and other scientists from around the world have been trying to answer these important questions for decades.
Over the centuries, dozens of shrouds--some with images and some without--have surfaced claiming to be the burial cloth of Jesus. In the case of the Shroud of Turin, it has been publicly declared a forgery by both Roman Catholic Church officials and prominent scientists. In 1389 the local bishop of Troyes denounced the Shroud claiming an artist had confessed to forging it. More recently, in 1988, after three different laboratories Carbon-14 dated the Shroud and found it to be some 1200 years younger than it should have been, the Roman Catholic Church announced to the world the results of the test. As word spread that the Shroud of Turin was, after all, a medieval forgery, a firestorm was created in the Shroud community. While scores of Shroud scientists hotly challenged the entire Carbon-14 testing procedure, as well as the test results, lay people around the world had to wrestle with what appeared to be solid scientific proof that the Shroud was a fake.
So where are things at now? Is the Shroud of Turin authentic, or not? Could a medieval artist, or for that matter, any artist, have forged it? And if the Shroud is an authentic burial cloth from the first century, is the man whose crucified image appears on the Shroud actually that of Jesus Christ?
Combining ongoing discoveries about ancient Palestine with cutting-edge scientific analysis, a growing number of scientists (Christian, Jewish, agnostic and otherwise) are coming to the conclusion that the Shroud is indeed the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ. If this is true, then not only does the Shroud bear witness to the fact that a man named Jesus actually lived and died in ancient Palestine, but it may also present physical proof that some kind of miraculous event took place after his death which caused his image to be imprinted on the Shroud! What's more, we may also be able to learn something about Jesus himself: What his physical characteristics were like, what kind of Jewish traditions he adhered to and rejected, how he, and his body, faced a horribly violent death.
So what, exactly, do we know about the Shroud of Turin? Here are some of the astonishing findings that modern day science has uncovered so far:
The body that appears on the Shroud is naked. Under Roman law, criminals were whipped and executed in the nude. (These are facts that most medieval artists would not have known, or if they had known, would not have dared to publicly reproduce.) The man that appears on the Shroud was crucified with nails driven through his wrists. Although artists throughout the centuries (and even stigmatists) have traditionally thought that Christ was nailed to the cross through his palms, it is now known that crucifixion victims were nailed to crosses through their wrists. This is supported both by archeological digs that discovered crucifixion victims with spike marks on their wrists (not palms) and also by studies that were conducted on corpses which proved that nails in palms will not support the weight of a body. The life-size image on the cloth is NOT the result of pigment, stain, acid, dye, or any applied material. The image itself is confined to the top-most fibrils of the cloth's fibers. Whatever made the image did not penetrate the fibers of the cloth as all known artistic materials would. The image on the Shroud is uniquely three-dimensional. Although most scientists believe that the image was made by the body emitting a burst of energy of some kind (which caused the body's image to be lightly burned onto the Shroud), they have no idea how this could have been done. Efforts to lightly burn images into shroud-like fabrics have all failed to reproduce the extraordinarily delicate, detailed, three-dimensional effect found on the Shroud. The way the image was burned onto the Shroud is also flawlessly accurate in terms of how a body emitting energy would imprint itself on a cloth that was covering it. The image of the Shroud is absolutely accurate in both anatomical and physiological details. The anatomical and physiological details of the Shroud accurately record what would happen to a man who experienced a Roman-style crucifixion (see Robert Bucklin's pathological report at the end of this summary). The Shroud is stained by human blood that has run out of the image's wounds. The way the blood flowed, puddled and stained the Shroud are perfectly correct. Unlike the Shroud's image which only appears on the topmost fibrils of fabric, the blood on the Shroud soaked deeply into the fabric. The exact way the man was crucified closely matches biblical accounts of Jesus's crucifixion. Among other things, there are 120 lesions, the shape of dumbbells, distributed over the back and running around the front of the body--probably caused by a Roman whip called a flagrum whose thongs were tipped with bits of lead or bone. There is a deep wound on the right side of the body between the ribs which bled profusely (which is what Biblical records indicate happened when a spear was thrust into Christ's side). There are thorn-like marks on the victim's head (possibly from a crown of thorns). And the victim's legs were not broken (which is significant both because Roman-style crucifixions ended with their victim's legs being broken and because the New Testament account of Christ's death indicates that this was a Roman custom which Jesus was spared from). The beard and hair style of the crucified man were not common anywhere in the Roman Empire except Palestine. The image has semitic features, including sidelocks and a unplaited ponytail. The Shroud itself was woven with techniques common to the first century. The Shroud's distinctive weave is so rare that researchers seeking to find a control sample could not find one anywhere in the world. A dirt sample taken from near the Shroud image's feet was identified as a relatively rare form of calcium carbonate. Samples of dirt taken from Jerusalem revealed an unusually close match. This strongly suggests the man pictured on the Shroud was crucified in Palestine. 58 varieties of pollen were discovered on the Shroud. 11 of the pollen samples were from plants that do not exist in Europe, but which do exist in the Near East. The pollen samples also indicated that the fabric of the Shroud had to have been made in Palestine before circulating in Europe. Pollen samples also helped trace the Shroud's route from Palestine through Anatolia and Constantinople into Europe. Furthermore, two of the pollen samples that were discovered on the Shroud coincided with highly distinctive plants found in the region surrounding Jerusalem. The pollen study concluded that the Shroud itself was probably made near Jerusalem and that it had been in the vicinity of the Holy City for some time before being transported out of the area. Images of 28 different types of flowers, small bushes, and thorns have been detected in bunches around the Shroud image. All 28 grow in Israel, either in Jerusalem or in the nearby desert or Dead Sea area. Most of them are not found in Europe. 25 of the 28 flowers matched the pollen samples found on the Shroud. 27 of the 28 plants bloom during March and April, which corresponds to the time of the crucifixion. An image of a coin appears over the right eye of the Shroud image. This coin, a very rare Pontius Pilate lepton struck in 29 to 32 A.D., was not found until 1977. Tests which were conducted in 1993 on a piece of first century fabric similar to the Shroud's now indicate that a fire the Shroud passed through in 1532 corrupted the October 1988 Carbon-14 dates that concluded the Shroud was not authentic. According to these recent tests, which were conducted by scientists at the University of Arizona and Russian scientists in Moscow, the 1988 Carbon-14 dates were some 1200 years in error. This dates the Shroud back to the first or second century. Some historians believe the Shroud of Turin may be The Mandylion, or Edessa Portrait, a holy relic mentioned in some accounts as early as the first century. If this is so, then the Shroud can be traced, through various legends and stories, all the way back to first century Jerusalem. And finally, Robert Bucklin, deputy coroner of Los Angeles and a member of The Shroud of Turin Research Team, compiled the following pathological report concerning the Shroud:
"There is no problem in diagnosing what happened to this individual. The pathology and physiology are unquestionable and represent medical knowledge unknown 150 years ago.
"This is a 5-foot-11-inch male Caucasian weighing about 178 pounds. The lesions are as follows: Beginning at the head, there are blood flows from numerous puncture wounds on the top and back of the scalp and forehead. The man has been beaten about the face. There is a swelling over one cheek, and he undoubtedly has a black eye. His nose tip is abraded, as would occur from a fall, and it appears that the nasal cartilage may have separated from the bone.
"There is a wound in the left wrist, the right one being covered by the left hand. This is the typical lesion of a crucifixion. There is a stream of blood down both arms. Here and there, there are blood drips at an angle from the main blood flow in response to gravity. These angles represent the only ones that can occur from the only two positions which can be taken by a body during crucifixion.
"On the back and front there are lesions which appear to be scourge marks. The victim was whipped from both sides by two men, one of whom was taller than the other, as demonstrated by the angle of the thongs.
"There is a rough swelling of both shoulders, with abrasions indicating that something heavy and rough had been carried across the man's shoulders within hours of death.
"On the right flank, a long, narrow blade of some type entered in an upward direction, pierced the diaphragm, penetrated the thoracic cavity through the lung into the heart. This was a post-mortem event (it happened after the man was already dead), because separate components of red blood cells and clear serum drained from the lesion. Later, after the corpse was laid out horizontally and face up on the cloth, blood dribbled out of the side wound and puddled along the small of the back.
"There is an abrasion of one knee, commensurate with a fall; and finally, a spike had been driven through both feet, and blood had leaked from both wounds onto the cloth.
"The evidence of a scourged man who was crucified and died from cardiopulmonary failure typical of crucifixion is clear-cut."
The information in this summary was gathered from the following sources: An article called, "The Shroud of Turin" by Richard Walters, a recent interview with Paul Maloney, General Projects Director of ASSIST (The Association of Scientists and Scholars International for the Shroud of Turin), ASSIST NEWSLETTERS, an in depth story NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ran in 1980, and various news clippings. Although it seems unlikely that the Catholic Church will allow new testing to be done on the Shroud anytime soon, scientists from around the world, continue to study, test, debate and ponder the Shroud's mysteries.
For more information on the Shroud of Turin, visit Barrie M. Schwortz's SHROUD OF TURIN WEB SITE: http://www.shroud.com/. Barrie's site contains full-color pictures of the Shroud, links to other Shroud related sites and current Shroud research and news. Barrie was the Official Documenting Photographer for THE SHROUD OF TURIN RESEARCH PROJECT, INC., (STURP), the team that completed the first extensive scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin in 1978.
Other NHNE Shroud References:
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