Friday, October 28, 2011

Shroud of Turin: Burial sheet of Jesus!: #5 What is the Shroud of Turin?

This is part #5, "What is the Shroud of Turin?!" and is the beginning of Section 2 of my series, "Shroud of Turin: Burial sheet of Jesus!." The series is based on a PowerPoint presentation that I am preparing to give to church and any other interested groups. For more information about this series, see parts "#1 Title Page" and "#2 Contents" .

[Click on the above image to enlarge it.]

Here are quotes on, "What is the Shroud of Turin?" (in date order-oldest first):

"We next ask, what is the Holy Shroud of Turin? It is a piece of very fine, oriental material, fourteen feet in length and about three and a half in width, on which can be traced the figure of a man, very tall and dignified in appearance, with a face of surpassing majesty ... It reveals a double figure, that is, the front and back of the same person. The back shows that he is completely naked, and the back shows also, from head to feet, the traces of a terrible scourging. It is claimed that that Shroud is the Sindon of Our Lord, in which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped His body, and that the figure we see on it is that of Our Lord Himself. Assuming for the present that this is true, I will answer the question which will naturally be asked, how came the double figure on the sheet? Our Lord's body was laid on one end of the sheet, and this portion of the sheet took the impression of His back. The sheet, let us remember, is very long, but not wide. Accordingly, it could not be folded across the body width-wise, but instead it was drawn over His head and stretched as far as His feet ...This part of the sheet took the impression of His face and the front of His body. Accordingly, when the sheet is extended to its full length, it shows two figures, front and back, head to head, of the same person ..." (Beecher, P.A., 1928, "The Holy Shroud: Reply to the Rev. Herbert Thurston, S.J.," M.H. Gill & Son: Dublin, pp.17-18).

"Turin, Shroud of. A linen cloth, which measures 14"3' by 3"7', housed at Turin, Italy. On the material is a double, head-to-head image of a man, revealing the obverse and reverse of the body. Known to exist since at least 1354, there are indications that the shroud is much older. Pollen studies point to its presence in Palestine at a much earlier date, while the weave and type of linen is compatible with first century cloth. It is also quite possible that a coin over the right eye is a lepton of Pontius Pilate, minted ca AD. 29-32. While some have raised biblical questions concerning various aspects of the shroud, such a burial is well supported. Evidence reveals that the head napkin was rolled up and wrapped around the head as indicated in the Gospel of John (11:44; 20:5-7), the Mishnah (Shabbath 23:5), and the Code of Jewish Law, `Laws of Mourning' (chs. 351-52). The lengthwise wrapping and positioning of the body is supported by Qumran burial procedures and the `Laws of Mourning' (ch. 364). The lack of bodily washing is explained by the `Laws of Mourning' in that those who are executed by the government or who die violent deaths are not to be washed. The use of several strips of linen described in John is also confirmed by the shroud, where pieces were also used. Additionally, the hasty burial recorded in the Gospels (Mark 15:42; 16:1-3; Luke 23:54-56; 24:14) explains a number of these issues. In October, 1978, the Shroud of Turin was the subject of an intense scientific investigation revolving around such questions as the nature of the bloodstains and the composition and cause of the image. It was found that the shroud is very probably not a fake of any kind. There is no sign of paint, dye, powder, or any other foreign substance on the cloth that can account for the image. Additionally, the image was found to be three-dimensional, superficial, and nondirectional, each quite an enigma to the explanation of the image. The man buried in the shroud apparently died from crucifixion, and his body is in a state of rigor mortis. The Gospels, which have been shown to be trustworthy on historical grounds, present reliable accounts of Jesus' crucifixion. A comparison of the man of the shroud with Jesus reveals that they suffered the same wounds, even in several points that were not normal crucifixion procedure. Both men received a series of punctures throughout the scalp from a series of sharp objects, a badly bruised face, a severe whipping (over 120 wounds are visible on the shroud), shoulder abrasions from a heavy object, and knee contusions. There are punctures in both wrists and both feet, the absence of broken ankles, and a postmortem chest wound with a clear flow of blood and watery fluid. Both were buried hastily individually, and in fine linens. There certainly are strong indications that the two men might be one and the same since they agree in such features and disagree in none. Most significantly, there is no decomposition on the cloth, meaning that the body exited comparatively quickly. Many of the bloodstains are intact, including the blood clots, meaning that the body probably was not unwrapped, since this would have disturbed the stains. Additionally, it is very possible that a light or heat scorch caused the image. The convergence of the data certainly indicates that the dead body appears to have left the cloth in some mysterious manner. It is still possible that the shroud is a fake, or that it is a genuine ancient shroud but simply not the burial garment of Jesus. Yet, the evidence thus far indicates the probable conclusions that the shroud is ancient (perhaps from the first century), that it does not contradict the NT accounts, and that the image is not a fake. It may well be the actual burial garment of Jesus, as indicated especially by the similarities in areas of abnormal crucifixion practice. Lastly, the image on the shroud may have resulted from Jesus' resurrection, which is complemented by the demonstrable historical evidence and reliable Gospel testimony for this event, as well. However, no absolute conclusions are possible at present concerning the shroud with regard to some of these matters. " (Habermas, G.R., "Turin, Shroud of," in Elwell, W.A., ed., 1984, "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology," Baker Book House: Grand Rapids MI, Seventh Printing, 1990, pp.1115-1116. Emphasis original).

"The `Holy Shroud' is a large, oblong linen cloth, of great but contested age, which is normally housed in a chapel built especially for it in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in the city of Turin, in northern Italy. It is displayed only on rare occasions, contained in a frame that shows the length of the cloth parallel to the ground. The cloth, marked by various blemishes and stains, measures fourteen feet three inches long and three feet seven inches wide - or, according to the measurement in use in the Middle East in the first century, eight cubits by two. Experts in the field of textiles have determined that the threads were hand-spun and the fabric hand-woven in what is known as a `three-to-one herringbone twill.' This was a type of weaving practiced in the Middle East at least as far back as two thousand years ago. The linen has a number of scratches and burn holes, as well as water stains. The features most visible to the naked eye are two dark blemishes, one on each side of the fainter body image, running parallel to the sides of the cloth. Along these streaks, on both front and back images, on either side of the shoulders and on either side of the knee, are diamond-shaped patches. These are the result of a fire that broke out in December 1532, in the chapel in France where it was housed. The patches cover holes that were burned through the folded cloth by hot metal. There some other burn marks on the fabric which are much less obvious. There is a row of three small holes with burnt edges on either side of the crossed hands on the frontal view, and similar configurations on each side of the posterior portions of the figure on the back image. No one knows the cause of this damage, which seems to have been the result of a hot poker being thrust three times through the center of the cloth. Because these holes are evident in a copy of the Shroud which dates to 1516, it is clear that they predated the damage from the fire. ... Less evident on the Shroud than the sixteenth-century fire damage are the two faint head-to-head straw-colored images of an undressed man that appear in the center of the cloth, one of the front of the body, the other of the back, with the feet of both images facing the outer margins of the fabric. There are only a few inches between the front and back images of the head. It seems as though a body had been laid on its back at one end of the cloth, which was then drawn over the front of the man, and that somehow an image was made of him. If the viewer approaches too close, he (or she) is unable to see anything except stains. Standing three to six feet away from the cloth, he will be able to discern some detail. From the frontal image the observer will be able to make out the shape of a man with long hair and a beard, with his hands folded over his pelvic area and his knees slightly drawn up. Around the head, wrists, and feet are what appear to be bloodstains, especially on the back image. Viewing the cloth with the naked eye, it is hard to make out anything else - much less determine whether the image is a painting. With its ghostly face and great owl-like eyes, it certainly does not look much like a real image of a real person." (Ruffin, C.B., 1999, "The Shroud of Turin: The Most Up-To-Date Analysis of All the Facts Regarding the Church's Controversial Relic," Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington IN, pp.12-13).

"What is the Shroud? The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth stored in a cathedral in Turin, the major city in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. It is in the shape of a large table cloth, approximately 14 ft long and 3.5 ft wide, and down the middle of the cloth, there is a faint, straw-coloured image of the front and the back of a naked man. Since this cloth exists today, it can be, and has been, subjected to numerous scientific investigations. But after decades of study, science has yet to determine how this image got on the cloth. Tradition states that the faint image represents Christ as his lifeless body laid in the tomb following his crucifixion, but alas, there is also no scientific means to test if the image is Christ. On the other hand, science has been able to determine firstly that this image is not the product of an artist, and secondly, that this image is, so far as modern science can tell, a flawless representation of a man who was crucified and buried as Christ was. Historical documents on the Shroud start in 1357 AD, and because this places the Shroud in the Middle Ages during the golden age of religious relics, many skeptics believe that the image on the Shroud was painted in order to be used as a relic to obtain funds for a struggling church. Other experts believe the Shroud to be authentic, and Wilson has provided a reasonable scenario which places the Shroud first into the hands of Jesus' disciples, then found in Turkey where it was used to impart healing, and eventually ending up with the Crusaders prior to the collapse of Constantinople at the hands of the Turks. According to Wilson, the Shroud was cared for by the Knights Templars for several centuries. The Knights Templars was a secret sect composed of knights who were crusaders or the descendants of these crusaders. The appearance of the cloth in Medieval Europe corresponds roughly to the time the Templars were undergoing severe persecution for political reasons, possibly explaining why it appeared at this point in history. ... After being moved around to a number of cities because of various wars, the Shroud came to Turin. ... For any Christian who believes the Gospels are historically accurate, it would be safe to conclude that not only did a burial cloth exist, it must have had some importance; each of the gospels describes the body of Jesus being wrapped in this linen. It is the assumption of many today that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth or linen that wrapped the body of Christ." (Chiang, R.G., 2004, "Science meets Religion: Shroud of Turin," in "Overcoming Prejudice in the Evolution Creation Debate: Developing an integrative approach to Science and Christianity," Doorway Publications: Hamilton ON, Canada. Emphasis original).

"WHAT IS THE SHROUD OF TURIN? A large piece of ancient linen, it apparently bears images of a bearded, naked, crucified man. ... It is a piece of ancient linen cloth, presumably a burial shroud, fourteen feet three inches long by three feet seven inches wide. .... It was hand woven in a three-to-one herringbone twill from fairly heavy yarn made of Near East or Mediterranean-Basin flax, and the cloth is in an excellent state of preservation. On the Shroud are indistinct images of the front and back views of a man. The two views are nearly joined at the head, as if the man's body had been wrapped in the cloth lengthwise, foot to head to foot. ... Apart from being indistinct, the body images are ... of a faint sepia color (light tan) on the off-white, yellowing old cloth. Superimposed on these body images are darker markings resembling bloodstains, that are brownish red in color. These `bloodstains' are significantly seen at the wrists and feet, which exactly correspond to the blood stigmata of a classical Roman crucifixion. There also appear to be wounds covering the top of the head, the face, and one side of the body as well as several dozen smaller wounds on the back, all of which dramatically conform to the biblical description of Jesus' wounds. On the back, or dorsal, view, a narrow configuration extends for some eight or ten inches from the long hair of the head to a point midway between the shoulder blades. Some experts feel this may be a pigtail or ponytail hairstyle, as if the hair was caught and tied at the base of the skull-a common hairstyle among Jewish males in Palestine during Jesus' time. The Man's beard seems to show the twin points of the Nazarene style of that day." (Tribbe, F.C., 2006, "Portrait of Jesus: The Illustrated Story of the Shroud of Turin," [1983], Paragon House Publishers: St. Paul MN, Second edition, pp.1,3-5. Emphasis original).

"The Shroud of Turin has been described as the single most studied artifact in history. Whether this is true or not it is certainly one of the most controversial subjects of all time. To the true believer it is the burial shroud of the crucified Christ, left in his tomb at the time of the Resurrection. ... The Shroud has given rise to its own branch of science, known as sindonology. To the sceptical it is a piece of mediaeval trickery which has been fooling the gullible for the last six hundred years or more. The Shroud itself is an ivory-coloured cloth with a herringbone weave. It measures 14 feet 3 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide. These measurements may seem a little odd. They make far more sense when converted into first-century Jewish cubits. Using a measure of 21.4 inches to the cubit, based on the Assyrian standard, the measurement of the Shroud converts to exactly 8 cubits in length by 2 cubits in width. It was made in a single piece, apart from a strip approximately three and a half inches wide running the entire length of the left-hand side of the Shroud. This strip is attached to the Shroud by a single seam. On the cloth itself is a faint image, almost shadow-like. This shows the back and front of a well-built man, nearly six foot tall, with a beard and long hair, laid out with his hands crossed in front of him. He appears to be dead, and somehow there is a peacefulness and serenity about his features.... There is no visible outline of the image; it melts away into the fabric. It can only be seen clearly from a distance; when viewed from close up it almost seems to disappear. Also apparent on the Shroud are what seem to be bloodstains. There are flows from several points on the upper forehead as well as from the back of the head; flows from the wrists and the feet; and a copious flow from an elliptical-shaped wound on the left side of the body. The Shroud material is disfigured by stains and by fire damage. One night in December 1532 a fire broke out in the Sainte Chapelle, Chambery, in south-eastern France, where the Shroud was then being kept. ... a drop of molten silver fell on to the linen inside the casket, resulting in scorching of all forty-eight folds of the Shroud. This was then doused with water, which resulted in further stains. Almost as if by a miracle the image itself was scarcely touched." (Oxley, M., 2010, "The Challenge of the Shroud: History, Science and the Shroud of Turin," AuthorHouse: Milton Keynes UK, pp.3-4).

I don't necessarily agree with every part of the above quotes. But read together they help provide a comprehensive answer to the question, "what is the Shroud of Turin?" As explained previously, these quotes both help to illustrate my points in this post, and will be a resource base for helping me answer questions at the Q&A session at the end of each of my presentations.

The previous post in this series was part #4 "The Shroud's image is a photographic negative!"and the next is part #6 "An old, yellowed, rectangular, linen sheet about 4.4 x 1.1 metres."

Stephen E. Jones, BSc., Grad. Dip. Ed.
My other blogs: CreationEvolutionDesign Jesus is Jehovah!


Anonymous said...

In the Gospel accounts, there are two different Greek words referring to what covered Jesus' body after the crucifixion.
The one word is 'sindon (σινδόν) and the other is 'othonia' (οθόνια), in their various conjugations.

Sindon-i means a SHEET of linen. Even today, it's how they call a bed sheet in Greece.
Othonia means narrow linen strips, used to wrap a dead body.

MATTHEW: 27:59 “And when Joseph (of Arimathea) had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,” sindoni in the Greek text.

MARK: 15:46 “Then (Joseph of Arimathea) bought fine linen (sindona in the Greek text), and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen.”

LUKE: 23:53 “Then (Joseph of Arimathea) took (the body) down, wrapped it in linen (sindoni in the Greek text...”

JOHN: 19:40 “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes (othoniois in the Greek text) with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”

JOHN 20:5, 6, 7 "And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes (othonia in the Greek text) lying; yet went he not in....."

Simple reading of the Gospels with a good Greek dictionary shows that Jesus' body was wrapped in a linen SHEET upon taking him down from the cross and carrying him to the tomb, and then, was wrapped in narrow linen STRIPS impregnated with about 100 liters of the myrrh and aloe mix that Nicodemus had brought.

Common sense says that his body must have been quickly sponged clean of blood and dust and sweat, by one of his loving companions, before they wrapped it with the perfumed narrow linen strips.

Also common sense and lots of CSI says that a dead body stops bleeding, as the heart does not pump blood anymore.

The Shroud is one continuous sheet of linen with blood stains, which can only be the sheet they wrapped him in when they took him down from the cross and hurriedly carried him to the tomb.

His friends obviously would not sit at the foot of the cross to wrap him in narrow linen strips and pour perfume on them, and they were rushing, because the Sabbath was starting.

So the blood-stained big linen sheet was surely saved by a reverent follower, and the hurriedly-cleaned body of Jesus was wrapped in narrow linen strips with the perfumes, his face covered with the traditional 'soudarion', (linen napkin), which was found together with the linen strips, when the tomb was visited after his resurrection (John 20:7).

So any scenario where Jesus was BURIED in the shroud, cannot be true. Not only the Jewish custom demanded linen strips, but the New Testament also says so.
The Shroud can only be the large sheet they wrapped him in, as they took him down from the cross.

Whether the figure and blood on the shroud are his, how they were formed, is another matter.

It is very surprising that observations such as the above are not present in any article I have read.... Also interesting is that at least one of the dating tests was financed by an Italian agnostic/atheist group.....

Stephen E. Jones said...


Thanks for your comment. Because of its length, I will respond to it in a separate post.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Stephen!
This is one of the times that I'm grateful for the Ancient Greek I was forced to learn for 6 years in school in Athens, thinking then "What do I need to study a dead language for??"

But now...being able to read the New Testament in its original language with all its beauty and fine nuances, is a great joy, and I can't stop silently thanking the school system that made it possible (it changed, and younger students don't have the opportunity anymore ...).

Personally, I do believe the Shroud is genuine, as the large sheet that wrapped Jesus when they took him down from the cross.

My mind is unable to think that the outward signs of the cosmic event that took place on that cross, i.e his blood, sweat, and tears, would be the same as any other person's and would decay with the passage of time as any other person's.

And too, my mind is certain that the cloth that his martyric death stained thus, would be reverently saved and carefully kept by someone very close to him, perhaps John initially, to whom Jesus from the cross had entrusted his mother.

Stephen E. Jones said...


Thanks for your comment.

>And too, my mind is certain that the cloth that his martyric death stained thus, would be reverently saved and carefully kept by someone very close to him, perhaps John initially, to whom Jesus from the cross had entrusted his mother.

Agreed. This is a point that I have made in other posts. The disciples would not just throw away Jesus' empty graveclothes, or leave them for grave-robbers, but would have kept them, notwithstanding they were bloodstained and therefore unclean to Jews.

And having kept them, they would have been preserved down to this day, unless they were deliberately destroyed.

Yves Delage, the agnostic Professor of Anatomy at the Paris Sorbonne, and one of the first scientists to accept that the Shroud was Jesus', based on the scientific evidence, made the same point:

"I recognize Christ as a historical personage and I see no reason why anyone should be scandalized that there still exist material traces of his earthly life.'" (Walsh, J.E., "The Shroud," Random House: New York NY, 1963, p.107).


Stephen E. Jones said...


I have read some articles regarding the Shroud and the debate over whether carbon dating proved that the shroud is old enough to be Christ's original burial cloth or not, or if the carbon dating was performed on the Shroud, or a section that was repaired, or mold or other substances covering the area where the sample was taken from. I believe there was also discussion over what caused the images on the cloth and that it was not a painting and that the images were computer mapped and showed a 3-D image that an artist could not have possibly done by painting on a cloth. Anyone that believes that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Christ should realize that the cloth was exposed to supernatural powers and energies at the moment of the resurrection that defy time, space, and anything known to man and could have (by accident or design)altered any of these properties of the cloth and anything on the cloth, and for any man to pass judgement on the authenticity of the Shroud based on our meager understanding of God and the universe is folly.

Stephen E. Jones said...

I had deleted this comment because it seemed to be saying that because the image on the Shroud was "supernatural" it is "folly" to "pass judgement on the authenticity of the Shroud."

While I agree that the image had a supernatural cause, the resurrection of Jesus, the image is in the natural realm and so can be profitably studied.

But I was wrong to delete this comment as "substandard" (which I have here re-posted) because I didn't agree with it, and I apologise to the commenter.

Stephen E. Jones
MY POLICIES Comments are moderated. Those I consider off-topic, offensive or sub-standard will not appear. Except that comments under my latest post can be on any Shroud-related topic without being off-topic. I normally allow only one comment per individual under each one of my posts.