This is my response to the latest Easter sensationalist report about the Shroud of Turin, this time by Shroud sceptics (i.e. true believers in the Shroud's non-authenticity), Matteo Borrini and Luigi Garlaschelli, that the Shroud reveals that Jesus was crucified on a Y-shaped cross, reported in an article: "Shroud of Turin depicts Y-shaped crucifixion," New Scientist, Linda Geddes, 2 April 2014.
First, it would not affect the authenticity of the Shroud, or indeed the truth of Biblical Christianity, if Jesus was crucified on a Y-shaped cross. The Gospels do not describe the shape of Jesus' cross. But having said that, the evidence is against Jesus' cross having been Y-shaped.Artists have depicted Jesus crucified on a Y-shaped cross, such as this one in the Iglesia de Santiago church in Puente la Reina, Spain.
But as can be seen, a Y-shaped cross would be structurally weak if it was made from three pieces of timber. It would be stronger if made from a two-branched tree (as above), but the Gospels record that Jesus' cross was carried, first by Jesus:
Jn 19:17. Carrying his own cross, he [Jesus] went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).and then by Simon of Cyrene:
Mt 27:32. cf. Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.While a crucifixion victim, weakened by scourging, as Jesus had been (Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15) could have with difficulty carried his horizontal crossbeam (patibulum), there is no way he could have carried a Y-shaped section of tree, or a three-piece Y-shaped cross.
Moreover, while the Romans probably would occasionally have used an in situ tree, living or dead, to crucify victims (which didn't apply to Jesus who carried His cross), there is, as far as I am aware, no evidence that the Romans used a Y-shaped cross made out of three pieces of wood. The 16th-17th century Belgian-Dutch scholar, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) depicted the different types of crosses that the Romans used, and the nearest to a Y-shaped Roman cross was an
[Left: X-shaped cross in Volume III of Lipsius' Opera Omnia, page 649: Photo taken by me in 2008 at the Victorian State Library in Melbourne.]
X-shaped cross (crux decussata or St. Andrew's cross). This would have been structurally strong, but it clearly would have been impossible for a scourged crucifixion victim to carry to the site of his execution.
[Above: Bloodflows on the arms of the man on the Shroud: Shroud Scope]
him having been alternately in a slumped and then briefly raised positions on either a traditional †-shaped Roman cross (crux immissa) or a T-shaped cross (crux commissa), but not an X-shaped cross (crux decussata), nor a Y-shaped cross (crux furca?).
[Above: Bloodflows on the left arm of the man on the Shroud, flipped horizontally and then rotated 90 degrees, showing how the blood dripped off the arm vertically under gravity. Because of the limitations of my software, the main bloodflows are not exactly vertical, as they would have been in reality.]
As reported by Ian Wilson, according to Pierre Barbet and other expert medical opinion, the bloodflows on the man on the Shroud's arms are consistent with a raised position of 55 degrees and a slumped position of 65 degrees, both from the vertical (see illustration below):
"We are now drawn to the wounds of the crucifixion itself. First we must establish that we can be quite confident we are dealing with a crucifixion victim. The principal evidence for this lies in the flows of blood from the wound in the left wrist. One of the most important aspects is the angle of the two streams of blood closest to the hand, flowing toward the inner border of the forearm. Other, interrupted streams run along the length of the arm as far as the elbow, dripping toward the edge of the arm at angles similar to the original flows. The first two flows are about ten degrees apart, the somewhat thinner one at an angle of about fifty-five degrees from the axis of the arm and the broader one closer to the hand at about sixty-five degrees. This enables us to do two things: (1) to compute that at the time the blood flowed, the arms must have been raised at positions varying between fifty-five and sixty-five degrees from the vertical, i.e., clearly a crucifixion position; (2) to compute that because of the ten-degree difference the crucified man must have assumed two slightly different positions on the cross, that at sixty-five degrees representing full suspension of the body, that at fifty-five degrees a slightly more acute angle of the forearm produced by flexing the elbow to raise the body. We are enabled to deduce then that the crucifixion forced on the victim an up-and-down or seesaw motion on the cross-perhaps, according to one school of thought, in order to breathe, the arms in that position taking a tension equal to nearly twice the weight of the body, inducing near-suffocation if there was no crutch support; perhaps, according to another school of thought, by the victim attempting to relieve himself of one unbearable agony, the pain in his wrists, by raising himself, at the price of yet more pain, on the living wounds in his feet." (Wilson, I., 1978, "The Turin Shroud," pp.25-26).
"The angle of the arms at crucifixion, deducible from the Shroud by determining the path of the blood flows in following the course of gravity. The main angle appears to have been 65 degrees, but there is evidence that at some stages the forearms were at 55 degrees, indicating that the man of the Shroud sought to raise himself; probably continually, during crucifixion." (Wilson, I., 1978, "The Turin Shroud," p.50L).
Other reasons why Borrini and Garlaschelli's Y-shaped cross claim is wrong, include:
• Christian tradition has from the earliest times depicted Jesus' cross as a Roman cross (†). For example, one of the earliest (if not the earliest) examples of a Christian cross yet found, is that which is part of a rock sculpture of a fountain in ancient Edessa (modern Sanliurfa), and is
[Above: A stone lion, the symbol of the Abgar dynasty, over which is a tradition †-shaped Christian cross, in Sanliurfa (ancient Edessa), which must have been erected before the end of Edessa's Abgar kings' Lion dynasty in AD 215: Wilson, 2010, plate 15b.]
clearly a Roman crux immissa (†), which must be dated no later than AD 215:
"A third nugget is an archaic-looking sculpted stone lion (p1. 15b) that stands forlornly in the open-air, outdoor section of Sanliurfa's present-day museum, typically with no accompanying explanatory information. Judging by the hole drilled in the animal's mouth it clearly once served as a city fountain; but our interest is in what stands on top of its head: an unmistakable sculpted Christian cross, an all-too-rare sight in present-day Sanliurfa. In Syriac, the word for `lion' is aryu - the name of Edessa's ruling dynasty. This fountain has to have stood in Edessa when the city was ruled by a Christian king of the Abgars' Aryu dynasty, a line that ended for ever when the Romans took over in AD 215. We can therefore say with some confidence that Christianity arrived in Edessa while the city was ruled by members of the Abgar line, that one of these kings definitely adopted Christianity, and that this most likely happened before AD 192, because of the Abgar VIII/Commodus coin. But was Abgar VIII the first or the second of his dynasty to adopt the new religion? That is, was the Abgar of the story of the Image of Edessa's arrival in the city Abgar VIII, for whose acceptance of Christianity we have some definite supportive evidence, or was it Abgar V, Jesus's direct contemporary, as attested by Eusebius and the Doctrine of Addai manuscript, but otherwise unsubstantiated? Strongly favouring the latter is the fact that the known circumstances of Abgar VIII's reign and its immediate aftermath simply do not `fit' the Doctrine of Addai's account of events after the `wonderful vision' episode and King Abgar's conversion." (Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," pp.119-120).
• The charge was placed "over his [Jesus'] head" (Mt 27:37) which best fits a Roman †-shaped cross, but not a Y-shaped cross.
• Garlaschelli, at least, claims that the Shroud is a medieval forgery:
"An Italian scientist says he has reproduced one of the world's most famous Catholic relics, the Shroud of Turin, to support his belief it is a medieval fake, not the cloth Jesus was buried in." ("Scientist re-creates Turin Shroud to show it's fake," CNN, Richard Allen Greene, October 7, 2009).But a medieval forger would have depicted the traditional Roman cross (†) not a non-traditional Y-shaped cross, amongst other things:
"The forger working in France or thereabouts around or before 1350 would have to have been either an overzealous monk whose piety got the better of him or an arrogant swindler who wanted to make a bundle in the underground relic market. Both of these possibilities strike me as unlikely, since the portrayal of Jesus on the shroud is nontraditional, non-European; details like the cap or miter of thorns, the nails through the wrists instead of through the palms, and the nakedness of the loins would not inspire the devotional or artistic sensibilities of fourteenth-century Europe; rather they would have gotten the forger burned at the stake. Moreover, the accuracy of details like these would not be common knowledge to a potential forger for centuries to come." (Wilcox, R.K., 1977, "Shroud," pp.170-171).