The man on the Shroud
Copyright © Stephen E. Jones
This is part #13, "The man on the Shroud: Non-traditional," of my series, "The evidence is overwhelming that the Turin Shroud is authentic!" See the Main index for more information about this series.
- The man on the Shroud #8
- Non-traditional #13
Introduction. The image of the man on the Shroud is non-traditional.
[Above (enlarge): "Man of Sorrows," c. 1347, by Naddo Ceccarelli (c. 1330–60), in Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. Although this work was painted in 1347, before the Shroud's first undisputed public exposition at Lirey, France, in 1355, Jesus' hands are crossed, the right over the left, with an awkward crossing point at the wrists, as on the Shroud. So even though this 14th century artwork reflects a prior knowledge of the Shroud, it still retains traditional medieval Christian art conventions: Jesus is not naked but wearing a loincloth; the crown of thorns is a circlet, not a cap; and the nails were through the palms of His hands, not the wrists (as we will see).]
Naked. The man on the Shroud is entirely naked) (see also part #9). Although the man's hands cover his genitals, the tip of his penis seems to protrude below his fingers, and there are extensive scourge marks around his genital area (see future below). Moreover, his back is completely nude, showing his buttocks. This is consistent with all four gospels which state that just before His crucifixion, Jesus' clothes were taken by His Roman soldier executioners (Mt 27:35; Mk 15:24; Lk 23:34; Jn 19:23-24). However, in medieval Christian art, the crucified or dead Jesus was almost never depicted completely naked, but wearing at least a loincloth (see above and below). A claimed exception is the Holkham Bible. But there the figure of Jesus is cartoon-like and he doesn't have genitals (see part #9)! Other than the Shroud, the only depiction of Jesus' completely naked back that I am aware of is the second century Roman Alexamenos graffito which depicts Jesus naked from the rear, on a cross, with the head of a donkey (see below).
[Above (enlarge): The Alexamenos graffito mocks Alexamenos, a second century Christian Roman soldier or slave, who is depicted raising a hand in worship of a naked Jesus with a donkey's head, on a cross from the rear, under the caption: "Alexamenos worships [his] God" This earliest known depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus, dated c.200, was found in 1857 scratched on a wall in an excavated building under the Palatine Hill, Rome. The nude back view of Jesus was presumably designed to be especially shocking and degrading.]
Crown of thorns. (see also my 08Sep13). In mockery of Jesus' confirmation to Pilate that He was the King of the Jews (Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2, Lk 23:3, Jn 18:33-37), the Gospels record that the Roman soldiers guarding Jesus twisted together a crown [Gk. stephanos] of thorns and put it on His head (Mt 27:29; Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2). The shape of the crown cannot be determined from the Greek word for "crown" (stephanos), which means "primarily, that which surrounds, as a wall or crowd (from stepho, to encircle)"; "to put round ... a crown (with which the head is encircled)". So traditional Christian art has depicted Jesus wearing a wreath or circlet crown of thorns, down to the present. But the pattern of puncture marks all over the scalp of the man on the Shroud indicate that his crown of thorns was a "cap" or "helmet" (see below).
[Above (enlarge): "Helmet" of thorns in the permanent exhibition of the Shroud of Turin in the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.]
including by some who have copied the Shroud. However, as Paul Vignon (1865-1943) had pointed out, and surgeon Pierre Barbet (1884–1961) proved experimentally on cadavers, that when a man's body is suspended on a cross by only a nail through the palm of each hand, the nails would tear through the fleshy palms and the crucified would fall off his cross. However Barbet also proved experimentally on other cadavers that a nail through the wrist (as on the Shroud-see next) of each hand would support a suspended man's body without tearing through the bony wrists. On the Shroud only the nail wound in the left hand is visible, its counterpart in
[Above (enlarge): Nail exit wound on the back of the Shroud man's left wrist, showing trickles of blood from that wound and the inferred wound in the right hand, both of which trickles ran down each forearms when the hands were raised above the head on the cross].
the right hand being covered by the left hand. The existence of a corresponding nail wound in the right hand can be inferred from the trickles of blood down the right forearm, similar to those on the left forearm. This is consistent with the Gospels because the New Testament Greek for "hand" [cheir] included the wrist and in fact the hand, wrist and arm up to the elbow, because the Greek words for "arm" [ankale and brachion] did not include the arm from the elbow to the hand (i.e. the forearm).
Problems for the forgery theory. (see previous three: #10, #11 & #12). Jesus completely naked. It is highly unlikely that a medieval artist/forger would have depicted Jesus naked, when He was usually represented wearing robes or at least a loincloth. But the supposed forger must have intended to stress Jesus' nudity because hr not only depicted Jesus fully naked from behind showing even His buttocks (as in the
[Above (enlarge): Scourge marks on the Shroud man's buttocks (rotated 180°). According to the forgery theory the medieval forger not only depicted Jesus completely nude from behind without even a loincloth, but he deliberately emphasised Jesus' complete nudity by placing scourge marks over them.]
The Alexamenos graffito is also known as the "graffito blasfemo," or blasphemous graffito. A completely naked depiction of Jesus would have been sacrilegious and blasphemous to the medieval mind, and the usual punishment for blasphemy in medieval Europe was death by burning at the stake. So no medieval European forger would have dared to depict Christ naked realistically, as the man on the Shroud is . Therefore the complete nudity of the image on the Shroud is a further proof of its authenticity!
The crown of thorns is a cap. That the crown of thorns on the Shroud is a cap (see above) is evidence that the Shroud is authentic and so is a problem for the forgery theory. In the East the traditional crown of kings was a mitre which covered the entire head like a cap. But a European medieval forger would be unlikely to know this and even if he did, he would most likely still have depicted Jesus wearing a circlet, not a cap, crown of thorns as on the Shroud. That is because even after the Shroud had first appeared in undisputed history at Lirey, France in 1355, European
[Above (enlarge): "Christ Carrying the Cross as portrayed by El Greco [1541–1614], 1580.". Note that even in 1580, more than two centuries after the Shroud had indisputably first appeared at Lirey in 1355, this leading European artist was still depicting Jesus wearing a traditional circlet, or wreathlet, crown of thorns.]
artists continued to depict the crown of thorns on Jesus' head as a Western circlet crown, not as an Eastern mitre (cap) crown, as on the Shroud.
Nails in the wrists, not palms. A medieval artist/forger who who intended his shroud to be accepted, would not have contradicted the traditional iconography, showing only only one full hand on the Shroud and therefore only one nail wound, in the wrist, not the palm. It was not until the 17th century, and therefore likely influenced by the Shroud, that a minority of artists, notably Van Dyck, began depicting
[Above (enlarge): "Crucifixion," 1622 by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), was one of the first depictions of Jesus crucified by a nail in each wrist, albeit well past the Middle Ages (5th-15th centuries).]
Jesus crucified, suspended by a nail in each wrist (see above). A medieval forger would certainly have placed the hand nail wound in Jesus' palm, as he would have had to conform to traditional norms, if he wanted his false shroud to have been accepted. Medieval tradition demanded that the nail-wound in the left hand be in the centre of the palm, and in a forged relic such independence from tradition would not have been tolerated. A medieval forger would have depicted two nail wounds in the centre of Christ's two hands, not one nail wound in one wrist, because in the Middle Ages the wounds of Christ had intense devotional interest and were always conventionally depicted. And because Christ's wounds were considered profoundly meaningful and were a focus of devotion in the Middle Ages, if the Shroud were a medieval forgery, the wounds in the hands (plural) would have been clearly marked. Since crucifixion had been abolished across the Roman Empire (including Europe) in 337, by Emperor Constantine the Great (c. 272–337), a medieval forger would be most unlikely to know enough about Roman crucifixion to contradict the unanimous view of medieval Christianity, that nails had been driven through the middle of Jesus' palms. So either an unknown medieval artistic genius had a unique insight into the practice of Roman crucifixion, or the Shroud genuinely documents this ancient torture!
Conclusion A medieval forger of the Shroud would have wanted his forgery to be accepted by his contemporaries, so he could sell it for a higher price. His forgery would therefore have conformed to traditional norms shared by his contemporaries.
The forger would not therefore have depicted Jesus completely nude, but would have added at least a loincloth. He certainly would not have shown Jesus' buttocks and added scourge marks around Jesus' genital area and buttocks. Indeed if a known medieval forger had done that he would have been burned at the stake for blasphemy!
Which incidentally is another reason to believe that Bishop Pierre d'Arcis (†1377-1395) was wrong in his 1389 memorandum's claim that the image on the Shroud had been "cunningly painted" and one of his predecessors, Bishop Henry de Poitiers (†1354-1370), had "discovered ... the artist who had painted it". That known artist would have been arrested, charged, tried, found guilty of blasphemy, and burned at the stake. In which case there would have been a record of his trial and execution, and its details, including the forger's name would have been cited by Bishop d'Arcis, who had been a lawyer. That d'Arcis did not cite the name of the forger, or details of his trial and execution, shows that there never was a forger, and d'Arcis was at best misinformed, or at worst lying.
A medieval forger would have depicted the crown of thorns, not as a cap, as the Shroud man's is, but as a circlet, as did all medieval and most later artists who depicted Jesus having been crowned with thorns, including some who copied the Shroud (see right). Even if the forger had somehow (given that crucifixions had ceased in Europe more than a thousand years before 1355) known that Eastern kings were crowned with a cap not a circlet, his contemporaries would not have known that.
[Right (enlarge): Copy of the Shroud dated 1516, kept in the Church of St. Gommaire, Lier, Belgium, showing Jesus naked, but His crown of thorns is a circlet, and He has two hands visible with a nail wound in each palm. So it would have been easy for a forger to have depicted Jesus' two nail wounds while His hands covered His genital area, as the artist of this copy - probably Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) - did.]
A medieval forger of the Shroud would not have shown only one of Jesus' hands in full, and therefore only one of His hand nail wounds, because the wounds of Christ were very important in medieval Christian devotion. And a medieval forger would have shown the nail wounds in the centre of each of Jesus' hands, that is, His palms, as traditional medieval Christian art did, even those who copied the Shroud (see above).
These three non-traditional major features of the Shroud image are three more problems for the medieval forgery theory and three more reasons why the Turin Shroud is authentic! That is, the actual burial sheet of Jesus Christ, bearing the imprint of His beaten (Mt 26:67-68; 27:30; Lk 22:64; Jn 18:22; 19:3), scourged (Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Lk 23:16; Jn 19:1), crowned with thorns (Mt 27:29; Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2,5), crucified (Mt 27:35,38,44; Mk 15:24-27,32; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:16-18), dead (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37,39; Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30), legs not broken (Jn 19:32-33), speared in the side (Jn 19:34), wrapped in a linen shroud (Mt 27:59; Mk 15:46; Lk 23:53; Jn 19:40), buried in a rock tomb (Mt 27:59-60; Mk 15:46; Lk 23:53; Jn 19:38-42) and resurrected (Mt 28:1-6; Mk 16:1-6; Lk 24:1-6; Jn 20:1-9) body!
Continued in the part #14 of this series.
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Posted: 13 April 2016. Updated: 29 October 2016.