The following is part #1 of my response to a comment under my "Shroud News-January 2008." The commenter's words are bold.
[Above: Perfect fit of Sudarium of Oviedo (right) to the face on the Shroud of Turin (left), in Bennett, J., 2001, "Sacred Blood, Sacred Image: The Sudarium of Oviedo: New Evidence for the Authenticity of the Shroud of Turin," Ignatius Press: San Francisco CA, p.122]
In my humble opinion, the Shroud of Turin is a hoax. As I mentioned in my introductory post to this blog, that is what my "opinion" was before January 2005. Prior to then I knew very little about the Shroud of Turin, and being a Protestant, had just dismissed it out of hand as another fake Roman Catholic relic. However as I related on my then Yahoo discussion group in January 2005, I had recently seen Stevenson and Habermas' Verdict on the Shroud in a secondhand bookstore. I knew one of the authors, Dr. Gary Habermas, was an eminent Christian philosopher, so if he thought the Shroud of Turin was authentic, I put aside my prejudices and bought and read the book. And, as I wrote back then:
"... I was astonished for the evidence that points to it being the burial shroud that covered the crucified Jesus and through which he was resurrected ... based on the evidence that "Stevenson & Habermas present, I provisionally accept that the Turin shroud is the actual burial shroud of Jesus and the unique nature of the image, is indeed additional `Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ'!"
Having since then read a lot more about the Shroud, I am even more persuaded by the evidence, that the Shroud of Turin is the very burial sheet of Jesus Christ.
Regarding the Shroud being a "hoax," then it would be the only one that has withstood decades of the most intensive scientific testing. Indeed, "The Shroud of Turin is now the most intensively studied artifact in the history of the world. Somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 scientific man-hours have been spent on it, with the best analytical tools available" (Heller, 1983, p.219). Chemist Ray Rogers, who was a member of the scientific team (STURP) which studied the Shroud intensively for about a week in 1978, typified the expectation of many (if not most) members that, it would take only about "twenty minutes" to show that the Shroud was a fake (Stevenson & Habermas, 1990, pp.120-121).
But Nature, arguably the world's most prestigious scientific journal, admitted in 2005, that "It is simply not known how the ghostly image of a serene, bearded man was made." (Ball, 2005). And, "if anyone had come up with a convincing solution as to how and by whom the Shroud was forged, they would inevitably have created a consensus around which everyone sceptical on the matter would rally. Yet so far this has not even begun to happen" (Wilson, 1998, p.235).
That's not to say it doesn't represent a great act of faith and in spite of itself hasn't become a religious relic anyway. It actually requires a greater "act of faith" to believe that the Shroud is a hoax. In addition to modern scientific analysis being unable to determine how the image on the Shroud was made, and there being no alternative explanation that has created a consensus around which Shroud sceptics have rallied, the fact that the bloodstains on the Shroud, exactly match that of the Sudarium of Oviedo, which is known to have existed since at least 1075:
"The most striking thing about all the [Sudarium of Oviedo] stains is that they coincide exactly with the face of the image on the Turin Shroud" indicating that "both cloths covered the same face" (Guscin, 1998, pp.27-28).
"Perhaps the most obvious fit when the stains on the sudarium are placed over the image of the face on the Shroud, is that of the beard; the match is perfect. ... from the right hand side of the man's mouth. ... the same stain is present on the Shroud, and the shape of the stain coincides perfectly with the one on the sudarium" (Guscin, 1998, p.28).
"The comparative study of the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo shows that the frontal stains on the sudarium have seventy points of coincidence with the Shroud ... both cloths covered the face of the same person" (Bennett, 2001, p.84); "The frontal stains on the sudarium show seventy points of coincidence with the Shroud, and the rear side shows fifty. The only possible conclusion ... is that the sudarium covered the same face as the Turin Shroud ... it is impossible to deny that the sudarium has been in Oviedo since 1075 ..." (Guscin, 1998, p.32).
"All the studies on the sudarium point to its having covered the same face as the Shroud did, and we know that the sudarium was in Oviedo in 1075. ... If the sudarium did not cover the same face as the Shroud, there are an enormous number of coincidences, too many for one small piece of cloth. ... The only logical conclusion from all the evidence is that both the Oviedo sudarium and the Turin Shroud covered the same face." (Guscin, 1998, pp.64-65).
"... the sudarium... shows that the fourteenth century date for the Shroud obtained by the carbon dating must be mistaken. All the tests carried out on the sudarium show that it must have covered the same face as the Shroud did, and as the sudarium has been in Oviedo since 1075, the Shroud cannot possibly date from the fourteenth century." (Guscin, 1998, p.110).
"Based on the marked similarity between the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo, it can be said the probability that they did not cover the same person is extremely small. ... what probability exists that both formations of stains, generated by chance and at different times with different subjects, would be able to demonstrate this much similarity? ... one would be left with only one explanation: that both linens were placed on the same person, and that that person was Jesus of Nazareth ...." (Bennett, 2001, p.86).
So, if these two cloths, had not each covered the same face of Jesus, there would have to be two hoxes by two forgers. See Guscin, 1998, p.84 for all that would be required for this to be true. But as Guscin concludes, "Such a story, even without the embellishments, is more incredible than the Shroud's authenticity." (Guscin, 1998, p.87)!
Continued in part #2.
"The scientific study of the Turin shroud is like a microcosm of the scientific search for God: it does more to inflame any debate than settle it. Believers' ability to construct ingenious arguments is more than a match for the most exhaustive efforts of science.... And yet, the shroud is a remarkable artefact, one of the few religious relics to have a justifiably mythical status. It is simply not known how the ghostly image of a serene, bearded man was made. It does not seem to have been painted, at least with any known historical pigments." (Ball, P., "To know a veil," Nature news, 28 January 2005).
"The comparative study of the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo shows that the frontal stains on the sudarium have seventy points of coincidence with the Shroud, according to the image overlay technique used by Dr. Alan Whanger. He has concluded that both cloths covered the face of the same person. It should be remembered that the first person to notice the similarities of both cloths was Monsignor Ricci." (Bennett, J., 2001, "Sacred Blood, Sacred Image: The Sudarium of Oviedo: New Evidence for the Authenticity of the Shroud of Turin," Ignatius Press: San Francisco CA, p.84).
"Based on the marked similarity between the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo, it can be said the probability that they did not cover the same person is extremely small. According to EDICES [Investigation Team of the Spanish Centre for Sindonology], what probability exists that both formations of stains, generated by chance and at different times with different subjects, would be able to demonstrate this much similarity? If one adds to the physical and geometrical similarities those such as the similarities in how long it took the stains to form, as well as historical considerations, one would be left with only one explanation: that both linens were placed on the same person, and that that person was Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew crucified at noon in Jerusalem during the rule of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and who died three hours later." (Bennett, 2001, p.86).
The most striking thing about all the stains is that they coincide exactly with the face of the image on the Turin Shroud. The first fact that confirms the relationship between the two cloths is that the blood on each belongs to the same group, AB. If the blood or each cloth belonged to a different group, there would be no sense in pursuing the comparative investigation, and little meaning in any further points of coincidence. This test is the starting point for all the others, and the results are positive. Blood of the group AB is also very common in the Middle East and rare in Europe. According to Monsignor Ricci's method of numbering the stains on the sudarium, the main group, corresponding to the liquid which came out of the nostrils, receives the number 13. The length of the nose which produced this stain has been calculated at eight centimetres, just over three inches, which is exactly the same as the length of the nose on the Shroud. In a case like this, it is very easy for sceptics to say that the investigators have just come up with the measurement they needed, but this is not a scientific or rational argument. The only to be expected, if, as seems obvious, both cloths covered the same face. Nobody would be surprised, for example, if we had two gloves that belonged to Napoleon, and the size of the hand that used each one was calculated to be the same. This would be the obvious measurement." (Guscin, M., 1998, "The Oviedo Cloth," Lutterworth Press: Cambridge UK, pp.27-28).
"Perhaps the most obvious fit when the stains on the sudarium are placed over the image of the face on the Shroud, is that of the beard; the match is perfect. This shows that the sudarium, possibly by being gently pressed onto the face, was also used to clean the blood and other fluids that had collected in the beard. Stain number 6 is also evident on all four faces of the sudarium. If stain 13 is placed over the nose of the image on the Shroud, stain 6 is seen to proceed from the right hand side of the man's mouth. This stain is hardly visible on the shroud, but its existence has been confirmed by Dr John Jackson, who is well known for his studies on the Shroud using the VP-8 image analyser. Using the VP-8 and photo-enhancements, Dr Jackson has shown that the same stain is present on the Shroud, and the shape of the stain coincides perfectly with the one on the sudarium. The gap between the blood coming out of the right hand side of the mouth and the stain on the beard is mapped as number 18. This gap closes as the stains get progressively more extensive on faces 1, 2, 3 and 4 while at the same time they are less intense. Stain number 12 corresponds to the eyebrows of the face on the Shroud. As with the beard, this facial hair would have retained blood and this would have produced the stains on the sudarium when it was placed on Jesus' face. There is also blood on the forehead, which forms stain number 10 on the sudarium" (Guscin, 1998, p.28).
"Dr Alan Whanger has studied the points of coincidence and relationship between the Shroud and hundreds of Byzantine paintings and representations of Christ, even using coins, from the sixth and seventh centuries. This was done using a system called Polarised Image Overlay Technique. His conclusion was that many of these icons and paintings were inspired by the image on the Shroud, which means that the Shroud must have been in existence in the sixth and seventh centuries. This coincides with Ian Wilson's theory that the Shroud was `rediscovered' in Edessa just before this. Dr Whanger applied the same image overlay technique to the sudarium, comparing it to the image and blood stains on the Shroud. Even he was surprised at the results. The frontal stains on the sudarium show seventy points of coincidence with the Shroud, and the rear side shows fifty. The only possible conclusion, according to this highly respected scientist, is that the sudarium covered the same face as the Turin Shroud. If this is so, and taking into account that it is impossible to deny that the sudarium has been in Oviedo since 1075, it casts a great shadow of doubt over the results of the Shroud's carbon dating." (Guscin, 1998, p.32).
"We are faced with a choice. There are two irreconcilable conclusions, one of which must be wrong. All the studies on the sudarium point to its having covered the same face as the Shroud did, and we know that the sudarium was in Oviedo in 1075. On the other hand, the carbon dating specialists have said that the Shroud dates from 1260 to 1390. Either the sudarium has nothing to do with the Shroud, or the carbon dating was wrong - there is no middle way, no compromise. If the sudarium did not cover the same face as the Shroud, there are an enormous number of coincidences, too many for one small piece of cloth. If there was only one connection, maybe it could be just a coincidence, but there are too many. The only logical conclusion from all the evidence is that both the Oviedo sudarium and the Turin Shroud covered the same face. As we have already seen from the Cagliari congress, there are also many inherent reasons why the Shroud cannot be fourteenth century, reasons that nobody has been able to disprove, and only one that suggests a medieval origin-carbon dating. Those who believe in the carbon dating have never been able to offer any serious proof or evidence to explain why every other scientific method practised on the Shroud has given a first century origin as a result, most have not even tried. It can hardly be considered rational or scientific to blindly accept what conveniently fits in with one's own personal ideas without even taking into consideration what others say. And after all, carbon dating is just one experimental method compared with dozens of others, and it stands alone in its medieval theory. If both the sudarium and the Shroud date from the first century, then the carbon dating must be mistaken, and it is the duty of those who believe in the dual authenticity of the cloths to show why carbon dating has shown the Shroud to be first century. Those who have attempted this can be broadly divided into two bands, those who think that the particular process of the Shroud's carbon dating was a fake, a deliberate deception by the scientists involved, and those who believe that the whole process of carbon dating is not as reliable as it is made out to be, and is far from infallible" (Guscin, 1998, pp.64-65).
"However, let us suppose for a while that the results obtained from the carbon dating of both the sudarium and the Shroud are accurate, and neither cloth ever touched the body of Jesus. In that case, the following story would have to be true. Sometime in the seventh century, in Palestine, after reading the gospel of John, a well known forger of religious relics saw the opportunity of putting a new product on the market - a cloth that had been over the face of the dead body of Jesus. This forger was also an expert in medicine, who knew that a crucified person died from asphyxiation, and that when this happened, special liquids fill the lungs of the dead body, and can come out through the nose if the body is moved. The only way he could get this effect on the cloth was by re-enacting the process, so this is exactly what he did. He crucified a volunteer, eliminating those candidates who did not fulfil the right conditions - swollen nose and cheeks, forked beard to stain the cloth, etc. When the body was taken down from the cross, he shook it around a bit with the help of a few friends, holding the folded cloth to the dead volunteer's nose so that future generations would be able to see the outline of his fingers. He even stuck a few thorns in the back of the dead man's neck, knowing that relic hunters would be looking for the bloodstains from the crown of thorns. Being an eloquent man, he convinced people that this otherwise worthless piece of cloth was stained with nothing less than the blood and pleural liquid of Christ, and so it was guarded in Jerusalem with other relics, and considered so genuine and spiritually valuable that it was worth saving first from the invading Persians and later from the Arabs. A few hundred years later, some time between 1260 and 1390, another professional forger, a specialist in religious relics too, decided that the time was ripe for something new, something really convincing. There were numerous relics from various saints in circulation all round Europe, bones, skulls, capes, but no, he wanted something really original. Various possibilities ran through his mind, the crown of thorns, the nails from the crucifixion, the table cloth from the last supper, and then suddenly he had it - the funeral shroud of Jesus! And not only that, but he would also put an image on the Shroud, the image of the man whom the Shroud had wrapped! The first step was difficult. Being an expert in textile weaves, (one of his many specialities, the others being pollen, Middle East blood groups, numismatism of the years of Tiberius, photography, Roman whips, and electronic microscopes) he needed linen of a special kind, typical of the Middle East in the first century. Once this had been specially ordered and made, he folded it up before starting his work, as a neighbour had suggested that such a cloth would have been folded up and hidden in a wall in Edessa for a few hundred years, so the image would be discontinuous on some of the fold marks. Leaving the cloth folded up, he travelled to Oviedo in the north of Spain, where he knew that a forerunner in his trade had left a cloth with Jesus' blood stains. On obtaining permission to analyse the sudarium, he first checked the blood group - AB of course, common in the Middle East and relatively scarce in Europe - then made an exact plan of the blood stains (carefully omitting those which would have already clotted when the sudarium was used) so that his stains would coincide exactly. After his trip to Oviedo, he went on a tour of what is now Turkey, forming a composite portrait of Jesus from all the icons, coins and images he could find. After all, he needed people to think that his Shroud had been around for over a thousand years, and that artists had used it as their inspiration for painting Christ. He didn't really understand what some of the marks were, the square box between the eyes, the line across the throat, but he thought he'd better put them on anyway. He didn't want to be accused of negligence, because he was an internationally famous forger and had a reputation to maintain. Once he was back home, he somehow obtained some blood (AB, naturally) and decided to begin his work of art with the blood stains, before even making the body image. Unfortunately, he miscalculated the proportions, and the nail stains appeared on the wrist instead of on the palms of the hands, where everyone in the fourteenth century knew that they had been. `Well', he thought, `it's just a question of a few inches, nobody will notice.' Now, even the omniscient author is forbidden to enter in the secret room where the forger `paints' the image of Christ, a perfect three dimensional negative, without paint or direction. His method was so secret that it went to the tomb with him. After a few hours, he opened the door, and called his wife, who was busy preparing dinner in the kitchen. `What do you think?' `Not bad. But you've forgotten the thumbs' `No, I haven't. Don't you know that if a nail destroys the nerves in the wrist, the thumbs bend in towards the palm of the hand, so you wouldn't be able to see them?' `But didn't the nails go through the palms?' `Well, yes, but I put the blood on first, and didn't quite get the distance right' `Oh, in that case ... and what about the pollen?' `What pollen?' `Well, if this Shroud has been in Palestine, Edessa, and let's suppose it's been in Constantinople too, it's going to need pollen from all those places.' Our forger loved the idea, got the pollen from all the places his wife had indicated, and delicately put it all over his Shroud. And then, the final touch. Two coins from the time of Christ, minted under the emperor Tiberius, to put over the man's eyes. Our man had a sense of humour too - he decided that the coins would be included in the image in such a way that they would only be visible under an electronic microscope. Such a story, even without the embellishments, is more incredible than the Shroud's authenticity." (Guscin, 1998, pp.84-87).
"The Shroud is larger and contains much more than the sudarium, but this cloth too is valuable and contributes to our knowledge about the death of Jesus. It confirms that he died in an upright position with his head tilted to one side, and it confirms that he died from asphyxiation. It shows that he was taken to the tomb with his face covered, and it shows that someone was pressing the cloth to his face. As a historical document, it confirms many of the details contained in the gospels. More importantly, it shows that the fourteenth century date for the Shroud obtained by the carbon dating must be mistaken. All the tests carried out on the sudarium show that it must have covered the same face as the Shroud did, and as the sudarium has been in Oviedo since 1075, the Shroud cannot possibly date from the fourteenth century. This, perhaps, is the most valuable testimony of the sudarium. All the arguments in its favour are purely scientific, not depending in any way on faith. The investigations have had a cold, twentieth century approach, and the results point to its being genuine." (Guscin, 1998, p.110).
"The Shroud of Turin is now the most intensively studied artifact in the history of the world. Somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 scientific man-hours have been spent on it, with the best analytical tools available. The physical and chemical data fit hand in glove. It is certainly true that if a similar number of data had been found in the funerary linen attributed to Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, or Socrates, there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that it was, indeed, the shroud of that historical person. But because of the unique position that Jesus holds, such evidence is not enough." (Heller, J.H., 1983, "Report on the Shroud of Turin," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, p.219).
"`Give me twenty minutes and I'll have this thing shot full of holes,' testified STURP chemist Ray Rogers. [Rogers, R., in Murphy, C., "Shreds of Evidence," Harper's, November, 1981, pp.42-65, p.61] Bill Mottern of Sandia Laboratory, another STURP scientist, said, 'I went in as a doubting Thomas.' [Mottern, R.W., in Murphy, 1981, p.47] Heller reported that, `For numerous reasons, Adler and I had been assuming all along that the Shroud was a forgery.' [Heller, J.H., "Report on the Shroud of Turin," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, 1983, p.201] Testimonies like these could be multiplied. Many STURP scientists thought that the Shroud was simply a fake to be exposed by scientific testing. But in the 1981 meeting at New London, Connecticut, the scientists reported: `No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray fluorescence and microchemistry on the fibrils preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image. Ultraviolet and infrared evaluation confirm these studies.' ["Text," The Shroud of Turin Research Project, Press Release, 8 October 1981]. Ever since then, several STURP scientists have continued to report that forgery could not be the cause of the Shroud's image. [Murphy, 1981, pp.61-62] Heller notes: `At the end of months of work, we had pretty well eliminated all paints, pigments, dyes, and stains.... the images were not the result of any colorant that had been added.' [Heller, 1983, p.198] Heller points out that fraud can be checked by at least two scientific methods- chemistry and physics. Concerning the first means, he said, `Adler and I had reached the conclusion that the image could not have been made by artistic endeavor.' [Ibid., p.207] The second method revealed no forgery either: `The conclusion of the physical scientists was that the Shroud could not be the result of eye/brain/hand.' [Ibid., p.209]" (Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., 1990, "The Shroud and the Controversy," Thomas Nelson: Nashville TN, pp.120-121).
"Indeed, if anyone had come up with a convincing solution as to how and by whom the Shroud was forged, they would inevitably have created a consensus around which everyone sceptical on the matter would rally. Yet so far this has not even begun to happen. Realistically, to date there has been only one genuinely satisfying, albeit still only partial, replication of the Shroud's image, that by Professor Nicholas Allen. And that demands so much ingenuity and advanced photographic knowledge on the part of someone of the Middle Ages that it may actually represent rather better evidence for the Shroud's authenticity than for its forgery." (Wilson, I. , 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, p.235).