Copyright © Stephen E. Jones
This is "Dimensions," part #3, of my series, "The evidence is overwhelming that the Turin Shroud is authentic!"
- Introduction #2
- Dimensions #3
[Above (enlarge): Shroud Scope photo with my 8 x 2 grid overlay showing that the Shroud divides evenly into 8 squares, each 437/8 = ~54.6 cm (~21.5 in.) x 111/8 = ~55.5 cm (~21.8 in.) [See below that the Shroud's true dimensions are 437 x 111 cms.] And as we shall see, the length of each square, ~54.6 cm. or ~21.5 in., is only 0.3 cm. or 0.1 in. less than the standard Assyrian cubit of ~54.9 cm or ~21.6 in. And the width of each square is only ~0.6 cm. or ~0.2 in. more than that Assyrian cubit. But the width of the Shroud has probably been increased slightly more than 2 cubits by the cutting and rejoining of the sidestrip.]
Ian Dickinson: 14 ft 3 in. x 3 ft 7 in. = ~8 x 2 cubits! In 1989, an expert in early Syriac, Ian Dickinson, of Canterbury, England, realised that these measurements of the Shroud were approximately 8 x 2 of the Assyrian standard cubit of between 21.4 and 21.6 inches, which was the common unit of lineal measurement in Jesus' day:
"Along these same lines has been a study of the shroud's dimensions as recently made by an expert in early Syriac, Ian Dickinson, from Canterbury, England. Curious at the shroud's, by British units of measurement, anomalous 14 foot 3 inch by 3 foot 7 inch overall size, Dickinson wondered if these dimensions might make more sense if converted to the cubit measure as prevailing in Jesus's time. Establishing that the first-century Jewish cubit was most likely to the Assyrian standard, reliably calculated at between 21.4 and 21.6 inches, Dickinson found that if he chose the lower of these measures there was an astonishing correlation, accurate to the nearest half-inch:
Length of Turin shroud 14 feet 3 inches 8 cubits at 21.4 inches 14 feet 3 inches Width of Turin shroud 3 feet 7 inches 2 cubits at 21.4 inches 3 feet 7 inches
Such conformity to an exact 8 by 2 Jewish cubits is yet another piece of knowledge difficult to imagine of any medieval forger. It also correlates perfectly with the `doubled in four' arrangement by which we hypothesized the shroud to have been once folded and mounted as the `holy face' of Edessa [see Tetradiplon and the Shroud of Turin], for the exposed facial area of this latter would have been an exact 1 by 2 Jewish cubits".
The Standard Assyrian cubit was 21.6 inches. During the 19th century the archaeological pioneer, Sir Flinders Petrie (1853–1942) and Assyriologist Julius Oppert (1825–1905), from many measurements of ancient buildings in Babylon, found the length of the Assyrian cubit to
be almost 21.5 inches, since refined by other archaeologists to be 21.6 ±0.2 inches. According to page 67 of Petrie's book above, he himself accepted 21.60 inches as the mean length of the Assyrian cubit.
Mechthild Flury-Lemberg: 437 x 111 cms. In 1998, ancient textiles conservator, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, determined the true
[Right: From left to right: Swiss textiles expert Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, Sister Maria Clara Antonini of the Poor Clare nuns and Don Giuseppe Ghiberti, Turin diocesan official in charge of the 1998 Shroud exposition, finish preparing the Turin Shroud on April 16 for display to the public on Sunday April 19, 1998.]dimensions of the Shroud to be 437 x 111 cms, i.e. 172 x 44 in. or 14 ft 4 in. x 3 ft 8 in.:
"The first speaker was Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, a former curator of the Abegg Foundation textile museum, Switzerland, whose theme was 'The Shroud fabric, its technical and archaeological characteristics'. It was Dr. Flury-Lemberg who, immediately prior to the 1998 exposition, had the task of preparing the Shroud for its display and housing in the new three ton Italgas container constructed for it, working side by side with Sister Maria Clara Antonini of the Poor Clares. Because the plate for the new container had been made slightly too small, Dr. Flury-Lemberg gained permission to remove the blue surround that had been sewed on in the 19th century. The intention behind this surround had been to save the Shroud from the repeated handling at the edges to which they had been subjected throughout the long centuries when it was the custom to hold it up before the populace. However, the surround had ever since prevented examination of the same edges, thereby hindering totally accurate calculation of its dimensions. Now the dimensions have been authoritatively determined by Dr. Flury-Lemberg as 437 cm long by 111 cm wide."
[Above: Table showing that the 1998 437 x 111 cms true dimensions of the Shroud are even more exactly 8 x 2 Assyrian standard cubits of 21.6 inches than the 14 ft 3 in. x 3 ft 7 in. pre-1998 measurements were.]
And again, the Assyrian standard cubit was the international measure of commerce prevailing in Jesus's time, including among the Jews:
"So there were cubits for Temple use, and various other applications, but it is a particular cubit of the market place that is connected with the Shroud, the cubit that is known as the Assyrian cubit: the widely used, indeed, international standard of that time for merchants of the Near East, and had been so for centuries. This cubit of commerce was carried with the lingua communis, the language of trade and diplomacy that stretched from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, the tongue that had become the common language of the Jew. Aramaic: the same language which Jesus spoke. Aramaic had been the communication medium of the Assyrian Empire and Israel had been a subject of Assyria."
"During the 2002 restoration, various length measurements of the Shroud were taken by Karlheinz Dietz and Gian Maria Zaccone: 441.5 cm for the right length, and 442.5 cm for the left length. The bottom width is 113.0 cm and the top width is 113.7 cm. These values were reported in Sindone 2002, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, 2003, editor ODPF [Opera Diocesana Preservazione Della Fede]... "But despite this being claimed by non-/anti-authenticists as evidence against my statement in my post, "Dimensions of the Shroud: Turin Shroud Encyclopedia," that, "The Shroud measures 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits," Dietz & Zaccone's 2002 measurement does not materially (pun unintended) change the fact that, when right and left, top and bottom, sides of the Shroud are averaged, which is presumably what Flury-
[Above: As can be seen in the table above, when Dietz and Zaccone's separate right and left, top and bottom, dimensions of the Shroud are averaged, to the nearest centimetre, the Shroud's dimensions are still the equivalent of 8 x 2 (8.06 x 2.07) Assyrian cubits!]
Lemberg did, to the nearest centimetre, the Shroud still measures the equivalent of 8 x 2 Assyrian cubits!
Problem for the forgery theory. This is another (see #1) major problem for the medieval (or earlier) forgery theory since a medieval artist/forger would be most unlikely to know the length of the standard cubit of Jesus' day, as this was only discovered by archaeologists in the 19th century (see above). Although the Bible mentions cubits (e.g. Gn 6:15; Ex 25:10; Mt 6:27, etc) it does not say how long they were. For example, three of my pre-19th century Bible commentaries, written by very learned scholars, commenting on Genesis 6:15, the first mention of "cubit" in the Bible:
"And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits."evidently didn't know that a standard cubit was 21.6 inches. Adam Clarke (c.1760-1832) thought that "the cubit [was] ... 18 inches ...". Matthew Poole (1624–1679) also thought a cubit was a "foot and a half". And John Calvin (1509–64) admitted, "But what was then the measure of the cubit I know not ...".
And it is also unlikely that such a forger would bother trying to obtain a first century Syrian or Palestinian fine linen sheet of those dimensions, when his contemporaries would not appreciate his diligence and would be satisfied with far less:
"Also is it not rather incredible that this unknown individual [the medieval forger] should have gone to so much trouble and effort to deceive in an age in which, as twentieth-century journalists have reminded us, a large proportion of the populace would have been very easily duped by a feather of the Archangel Gabriel or a phial of the last breath of St Joseph?"And that is assuming that a medieval forger could obtain an 8 by 2 cubit first-century Syrian-Palestinian fine linen sheet, with a rare and expensive three-to-one herringbone twill weave which the Shroud is (see future "Weave"). As Ian Wilson, with typical English understatement, noted above:
"Such conformity to an exact 8 by 2 Jewish cubits is yet another piece of knowledge difficult to imagine of any medieval forger."And as Dr. Michael Clift, Acting Editor of the BSTS Newsletter also pointed out, the Palestinian (i.e. Assyrian) cubit "was not in general use in the fourteenth century" and while a side in one direction having an exact whole cubit measurement might be a coincidence, a side in the other direction also having an exact whole cubit measurement could not plausibly be:
"But let them not forget the cubit. As Ian Dickinson has shown us the Shroud measures exactly two by eight of the Palestinian cubit, which was not in general use in the fourteenth century. One might accept a coincidence if the whole number of cubits was in one direction, but surely not in both?"
Moreover, to claim that a medieval forger forged the Shroud's image on a 1st century cloth would mean admitting that the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud was wrong in its claim that:
"... the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval ... AD 1260-1390 ...".
So even the dimensions of the Shroud are evidence beyond reasonable doubt of its authenticity!
Continued in Weave part #4 of this series.
1. This post is copyright. Permission is granted to quote from any part of this post (but not the whole post), provided it includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date, and a link back to this post (if posted on the Internet). [return]
2. E.g. Wuenschel, E.A., 1954, "Self-Portrait of Christ: The Holy Shroud of Turin," Holy Shroud Guild: Esopus NY, Third printing, 1961, pp.22-23; Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus?," , Image Books: New York NY, Revised edition, p.21; Drews, R., 1984, "In Search of the Shroud of Turin: New Light on Its History and Origins," Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham MD, p.11. [return]
3. "convert foot, inch to centimeters; centimeters to foot, inch," ManuelsWeb.com, 2009. [return]
4. Dickinson, I., 1990, "The Shroud and the Cubit Measure," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 24, January, pp.8-11. [return]
5. Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, p.181. return]
6. Petrie, W.M.F., 1877, "Inductive Metrology: Or, The Recovery of Ancient Measures from the Monuments," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, Reprinted, 2013. Google books. [return]
7. Dickinson, 1990, p.10. [return]
8. Brkic, B., 2010, "Hitler had designs on the Shroud of Turin; Indiana Jones fans are not surprised," Daily Maverick, 8 April. [return]
9. Wilson, I., 2000, "`The Turin Shroud - past, present and future', Turin, 2-5 March, 2000 - probably the best-ever Shroud Symposium," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 51, June. [return]
10. Dickinson, 1990, pp.10-11. [return]
11. Latendresse, M., 2006, "Length Measurements on the Shroud of Turin." [return]
12. Clarke A. & Earle R., ed., "Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Entire Bible," , Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Single volume edition, 1967, p.28. [return]
13. Poole, M., "Commentary on the Holy Bible: Volume I: Genesis-Job," , Banner of Truth: London, 1968, reprinted, p.18. [return]
14. Calvin, J., "A Commentary on Genesis," , Banner of Truth: London, 1965, reprint, p.257. [return]
15. Wilson, I., 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, pp.59-60. [return]
16. Wilson, 1991, p.181. [return]
17. Clift, M., 1993, "Carbon dating - what some of us think now," BSTS Newsletter, No. 33, February, pp.5-6, p.6. [return]
18. Damon, P.E., et al., 1989, "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16th February, pp.611-615, p.611. [return]
Posted: 10 July 2015. Updated: 20 October 2015.