Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Shroud of Turin: 3.5. The man on the Shroud and Jesus were crowned with thorns

This is part 23, "3.5. The man on the Shroud and Jesus were crowned with thorns," of my series, "The Shroud of Turin." My previous post was part 22, "3.4. The man on the Shroud and Jesus were beaten." For more information about this series see part 1, "Contents."

© Stephen E. Jones

Introduction The man on the Shroud was crowned with thorns[1], as the Gospels record that Jesus was[2].

The man on the Shroud was crowned with thorns The man on the Shroud has numerous puncture wounds around his scalp[3]. These wounds differ from those caused by the scourging (see part 21) and so were separately inflicted[4]. There are at least eight independent blood streams, but some have further divided[5]. Of those divided streams, only one has flowed nearly vertical, at least seven have veered to the left and three to the right[6], consistent with the man tilting his head in various positions while on a cross[7]. These streams have been halted at the nape of the neck along a convex downwards line where thorn-branches would had been secured by a circular band of some kind[8] to the back of the head[9]

These puncture wounds are marked on the frontal image of the man on the Shroud by blood flows in the hair on the front of his head, on his forehead, and on the sides of his face[10].

[Above: Bloodstains around the front top of the head of the man on the Shroud, consistent with a cap of thorns: Shroud Scope: Enrie Negative Vertical. Note that the `reversed 3' bloodflow on the man's forehead appears to be the shape of a normal `3'. That is because Enrie's photograph is a negative (see part 3) and so it laterally inverts the actual positive image (see below). ]

The most prominent of these crown of thorns bloodflows is on the man's left forehead[11] and is shaped like a reversed `3'[12], or the Greek letter epsilon (ε)[13]. Ian Wilson quotes the following from unpublished notes of the late physician, Dr David Willis:
The most striking of these flows is one in the shape of a reversed three and repays detailed study, so true to life is it. It starts just below the hairline to the left of the midline from a single wound; the flow then moves down to the medial part of the arch above the left eye following a meandering course obliquely and outwards. As the stream descends it broadens and alters course twice, finally building up and spreading out horizontally to the mesial line. Immediately below but separate is a "tear" of blood close to the eyebrow, which is presumably part of the same flow, or possibly from an independent wound. The reason for the meandering course of this vivid mark indicates that it met some obstruction in its downward course, and most likely this was due to the reflex contraction of the muscles of the brow from the pain of the wounds, furrowing the surface[14].

These thorn wounds, particularly the one shaped like a reversed numeral three, is entirely faithful to scientific and physiological detail[15] Physicians have pointed out that this bloodflow is characteristic of venous blood[16] and its reversed `3' shape is consistent with the muscles of the brow having contracted and formed ridges under intense pain[17]. The bloodflows above the eyes, on the other hand, are characteristic of arterial blood[18]. Moreover, the reversed `3' shaped bloodflow begins exactly over the site of the frontal vein[19] and the origin of one of the arterial flows corresponds with the location of the frontal branch of the superficial temple artery[20].

[Above: Close up of the `reversed 3' bloodstain on the left forehead of the man on the Shroud, and showing the round puncture wound from which the blood originated: Shroud Scope: Durante 2002: Face Only Vertical. Note that in this positive photograph of the Shroud, that bloodflow is in the shape of a `reversed 3' or Greek letter epsilon (ε).]

On the dorsal (back) image, blood is visible throughout the hair at the back of the man's head[21]. However, as there is no imprint of the summit of the head[22], it cannot be known whether it was similarly injured[23].

[Above: Bloodstains around the back top of the head of the man on the Shroud, consistent with a cap of thorns: Shroud Scope: Enrie Negative Vertical (inverted). Note how the bloodflows at the back of the head all end in a concave line, suggesting they were halted by a circular band which held the thorn branches in place.]

The pattern of puncture wounds is consistent with a cap of thorns rather than a circlet crown[24]. While in the European West a crown was typically of a circlet type[25], in the East a crown typically was a mitre, a cap-like structure which encloses the entire skull[26]. A learned French priest, St. Vincent of Lerins (d. 445), wrote that the crown of thorns was, "in the shape of a pileus, so that it touched and covered His head in every part"[27], and a pileus was a Roman semi-oval head-dress made of felt, which enveloped the head[28].

[Above: "Helmet" of thorns in the permanent exhibition of the Shroud of Turin in the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center[29].]

The thorns were probably from a plant of the Zizyphus spina-christi species, which are approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) long[30]. The more than thirty different wounds about the head of the man on the Shroud would have caused far more agony than a typical crucifixion[31].

[Above: A branch of a Zizyphus spina-christi shrub showing its long, curved and sharp thorns[32].]

Jesus was crowned with thorns The Gospels record that Jesus was crowned with thorns[33]:

Mt 27:27-31. 27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 30And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Mk 15:16-20. 16And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18And they began to salute him, "ail, King of the Jews!" 19And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

Jn 19:1-5.1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him." 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!"

The soldiers had placed a purple robe on Jesus and put a reed in his hand, pretending to address him as king, bowing down to him in mock homage[34]. Then, to further scoff at him, they made a crown out of thorns and forcefully placed it on his head[35]. The form of the crown is not described but the soldiers must have woven it roughly of thorn branches with no artistic aim[36]. Their aim rather was of cruel mockery of Christ's claim to be the King of the Jews (Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3; Jn 18:33-36; 19:19-21)[37]. The soldiers took the reed and kept striking him on the head[38]. Note that the crown of thorns was still on Jesus' head when He was brought back before Pilate after His scourging. Therefore Jesus may have worn the crown of thorns on the Cross[39].

[Above: An artist's impression of how Jesus would have appeared after His crowning with thorns[40].

The forehead, temple, and scalp contain a major network of highly sensitive nerves[41]. These nerves are tributaries of the Trigeminal Nerve and the Greater Occipital Nerve, which conducts pain perception from the front half of the head, and the back half of the head, respectively[42]. These major nerves in turn divide almost infinitesimally throughout the skin of the scalp[43]. Stimulation or irritation of branches of these two major nerves causes intense pain[44]. For example, irritation of only one of the tiny branches of the trigeminal nerve which supply the teeth can result in a very painful toothache[45]. A clinical condition associated with irritation of the trigeminal nerve is called Trigeminal Neuralgia[46]. This condition causes paroxysmal bouts of pain to the face, which sufferers describe as "knifelike stabs," "electric shocks," or "jabs with a red-hot poker"[47]. Trigeminal neuralgia is among the worst pain a human can experience[48].

[Above: The major nerve pathways of the head (yellow), including the Trigeminal Nerve and Greater Occipital Nerve[49] which would have conducted the additional agony that a cap of thorns would have caused the man on the Shroud to experience.]

The soldiers filed past Jesus, taking the reed from Him and striking it down on the crown of thorns (Mt 27:30)[50]. A cap of interwoven thorn twigs would have placed a large number of thorns in contact with the entire top of the head: front, back, and sides[51]. The blows from the reed on the cap of thorns would have directly irritated the nerves bringing on severe pains resembling a hot poker or electric shock[52]. The traumatic shock from scourging (see part 21) would have been enhanced by the paroxysmal pains across Jesus' face[53]. The throbbing bolts of pain would have recurred along the way to Calvary and would have been triggered by walking and falling, the pressure of the thorns against the cross, and from the shoves and blows by the soldiers, and during the crucifixion itself[53].

Crowning with thorns was not part of Roman crucifixion procedure[54]. Nor was crowning or capping with thorns ever a part of any other culture's penal procedure throughout human history[55]. The only mention of a crowning with thorns in all of ancient literature is that found in the Gospel accounts of the passion of Jesus of Nazareth[56]. No other crucifixion victim but Jesus is known to have been crowned with thorns[57]. Hence the crowning with thorns of the man on the Shroud is signatory that he is Jesus[58].

More problems for the forgery theory Problems for the forgery theory due to the crown of thorns include:

• No medieval or earlier artist had depicted Jesus wearing a cap of thorns[§23]. Where traditional Christian art depicted Jesus wearing a crown of thorns it was a circlet type of crown[59]. A cap of thorns would therefore be non-traditional and non-European and so would offend the sensibilities of medieval Europeans rather than impress them[60]. Moreover, this information would not be common knowledge to a medieval forger for centuries to come[61].

[Above: The medieval idea of a circlet crown of thorns is exemplified by this crown of thorns bought by King Louis IX (1214-1270) of France from Emperor Baldwin II (1217–1273) of Constantinople in 1238, and preserved today in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris[62]. The circlet is made of plaited rushes[63]. As we saw above, the bloodflows on the back of the head of the man on the Shroud were halted by a circular band, so it is possible that this actually was part of Jesus' cap of thorns. While it is now only a circlet of rushes, it originally had many thorns which were distributed as relics[64]. The location of many of these thorn relics is known and they have identified as from the plant Ziziphus spina-Christi[65]. This "Crown of Thorns" (as its official name is) was transferred from Jerusalem, where it had been documented since at least the 6th century[66], to Constantinople in about 1063[67]. In 1238 Baldwin II (1217–1273), the Emperor of Constantinople, offered to sell the Crown of Thorns to his cousin King Louis IX of France(1214–1270)[68]. It was then held by Venetian moneylenders as security for a large loan made to Baldwin[69]. Louis redeemed the Crown of Thorns for the huge sum of 177,300 livres[70], a livre being equal to one pound's weight of silver[71]. In 1239 the Crown of Thorns was brought from Venice to France[72] by St. Louis (as he was also known)[73] and in 1241 it was installed in the Sainte Chapelle which Louis had built for it[74]. Today the Crown of Thorns is kept in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris[75].

• No medieval artist has approached the physiological realism of the cap of thorns bloodflows on the Shroud[§24] Only a modern artist who has a thorough knowledge of the physiology of coagulation could portray the `reversed 3' bloodflow[76]. Even then, some mistake would betray it as a work of his imagination[77]. Let alone a hypothetical medieval forger imagining all the minutiae of the reversed `3' bloodflow[78]. So the `reversed 3' bloodflow alone is enough to prove that the Shroud is Christ's and yet it is but one such proof among many others[79]. As the French biology professor, artist and sindonologist Paul Vignon (1865-1943) observed of the reversed `3' bloodflow, "No painter, in his most elaborate work, has ever risen to such exactitude":

Let us turn now to another wound, the reproduction of which would have required even greater ingenuity and skill. We allude to the large drop of blood visible on the forehead above the left eyebrow. This drop springs from a definite point, indicated by its darker colour ... This dark point corresponds to one of the wounds made by the crown of thorns. The blood which has flowed therefrom has met in its course the two wrinkles of the forehead, and has, by this slight opposition, been forced to spread itself out, forming two small horizontal pools; thence it continued to flow, until it ended in a tear of blood close to the eyebrow, and having thus flowed, it dried upon the skin. Now any drop of blood, drying thus, upon a substance into which it does not penetrate, takes, when coagulated, a sort of basin-like shape, a section of which we give here ... The border or brim of the basin is formed by the fibrine of the blood, containing the red corpuscles in its coagulum; the centre is composed of the serum, which in drying takes a dull brown tint. Here, as the liquid part of the serum evaporates, the convexity of the centre is depressed. The contour of the drop of blood preserves, however, the same shape as it had when it was fresh. Now this description applies exactly to the blood-drop on the forehead. In the parts where the blood has flowed, and where it has accumulated in sufficient quantity, it is bordered by a dark edge. The centre of the little stream, and the centre also of the terminal tear, are of a lighter tint. This drop of blood is reproduced not only with the greatest minuteness and delicacy, but with entire faithfulness to scientific detail. No painter, in his most elaborate work, has ever risen to such exactitude, as a glance at any of the numerous representations of Christ, Crowned with Thorns, will show us[80].

• The cap of thorns bloodflows on the Shroud reveal a knowledge of the distinction between arterial and venous blood, which did not exist until the 16th century[§25] As seen above, if the Shroud were a medieval or earlier forgery, the forger would have had to know the difference between arterial and venous bloodflows[81]. But that difference was not discovered until 1593, more than 230 years after the Shroud appeared at Lirey, France in the mid-1350s [82], by Andrea Cesalpino (c. 1524-1603) [83].

• Some of the bloodflows at the back of the man on the Shroud's head match exactly those on the Sudarium of Oviedo[§26] The stains on the back of the man on the Shroud's head correspond exactly to those on the Sudarium of Oviedo[84]. But the Sudarium has been in Spain since the 6th century[85]. This will be covered in more detail in "7. The Sudarium of Oviedo."

Conclusion Both the man on the Shroud and Jesus were scourged with a Roman flagrum (see part 20), crowned with thorns, and as we shall see, underwent a Roman crucifixion. But there is no record of any other Roman crucifixion victim but Jesus having been crowned with thorns, nor any reason why any other would have been. As the agnostic art historian Thomas de Wesselow, who accepts that the Shroud is authentic, but not that Jesus rose from the dead, wrote:

The bloodstains on the head, then, are traces of a crown of thorns, removed from the head of a man who was crucified in the Roman manner and buried according to the custom of the Jews. Historically, we know of only one Roman Jew who was crucified wearing a crown of thorns: Jesus. The implication is that the Shroud is the very cloth in which Jesus was wrapped for burial[86].

1. Guerrera, V., 2000, "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, p.38. [return]
2. Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., 1990, "The Shroud and the Controversy," Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville TN, p.85. [return]
3. Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., 1981, "Verdict on the Shroud: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Servant Books: Ann Arbor MI, p.122. [return]
4. Stevenson & Habermas, 1981, p.122. [return]
5. Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus?," Image Books: New York NY, Revised edition, p.36. [return]
6. Wilson, 1979, p.36. [return]
7. Wilson, 1979, p.37. [return]
8. Wuenschel, E.A., 1954, "Self-Portrait of Christ: The Holy Shroud of Turin," Holy Shroud Guild: Esopus NY, p.42. [return]
9. Wilson, 1979, p.37. [return]
10. Stevenson & Habermas, 1990, p.85. [return]
11. Wuenschel, 1954, p.42. [return]
12. Wilson, I., 1986, "The Evidence of the Shroud," Guild Publishing: London, p.20. [return]
13. Antonacci, M., 2000, "Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical, and Archeological Evidence," M. Evans & Co: New York NY, p.26. [return]
14. Wilson, 1979, p.37. [return]
15. Ibid. [return]
16. 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.33. [return]
17. Wilson, 1998, p.33. [return]
18. Wilson, 1998, p.33. [return]
19. Antonacci, 2000, p.26. [return]
20. Antonacci, 2000, p.26. [return]
21. Stevenson & Habermas, 1990, pp.85-86. [return]
22. Wilson, 1979, p.36. [return]
23. Wuenschel, 1954, p.42. [return]
24. Bucklin, R., 1982, "The Shroud of Turin: Viewpoint of a Forensic Pathologist," Shroud Spectrum International, Issue #5, December, p.8. [return]
25. Tribbe, F.C., 2006, "Portrait of Jesus: The Illustrated Story of the Shroud of Turin," Paragon House Publishers: St. Paul MN, Second edition, p.99. [return]
26. Antonacci, 2000, p.102. [return]
27. Cruz, J.C., 1984, "Relics: The Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, the Blood of Januarius. ..: History, Mysticism, and the Catholic Church," Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington IN, p.34. [return]
28. Barbet, P., 1953, "A Doctor at Calvary," Earl of Wicklow, transl., Image Books: Garden City NY, Reprinted, 1963, p.93. [return]
29. Danin, A., 2010, "Botany of the Shroud: The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin," Danin Publishing: Jerusalem, Israel, p.59. [return]
30. Bucklin, R., 1970, "The Legal and Medical Aspects of the Trial and Death of Christ," Medicine, Science and the Law, Las Vegas, Nevada, January. [return]
31. Antonacci, 2000, p.33. [return]
32. "Ziziphus spina-christi," 2008, Flora of Israel Online. [return]
33. Stevenson & Habermas, 1990, p.85. [return]
34. Stevenson & Habermas, 1981, p.122. [return]
35. Ibid. [return]
36. Wuenschel, 1954, pp.41-42. [return]
37. Wuenschel, 1954, p.42. [return]
38. Wuenschel, 1954, p.41. [return]
39. Barbet, 1953, p.95. [return]
40. Ricci, G., 1981, "The Holy Shroud," Center for the Study of the Passion of Christ and the Holy Shroud: Milwaukee WI, p.83. [return]
41. Antonacci, 2000, p.33. [return]
42. Zugibe, F.T., 2005, "The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry," M. Evans & Co.: New York NY, 2005, p.33. [return]
43. Ibid. [return]
44. Ibid. [return]
45. Ibid. [return]
46. Zugibe, 2005, p.34. [return]
47. Ibid. [return]
48. Ibid. [return]
49. "The nerves of the scalp, face, and side of neck," (extract), Wikipedia, 23 January, 2007. [return]
50. Zugibe, 2005, p.36. [return]
51. Ibid. [return]
52. Ibid. [return]
53. Ibid. [return]
54. Ricci, G., 1977, "Historical, Medical and Physical Study of the Holy Shroud," in Stevenson, K.E., ed., 1977, "Proceedings of the 1977 United States Conference of Research on The Shroud of Turin," Holy Shroud Guild: Bronx NY, p.67. [return]
55. Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, p.44. [return]
56. 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.85. [return]
57. Ricci, 1977, p.67. [return]
58. Wilson, 1979, p.52. [return]
59. Robinson, J.A.T., 1978, "The Shroud and the New Testament," in Jennings, P., ed., 1978, "Face to Face with the Turin Shroud ," Mayhew-McCrimmon: Great Wakering UK, p.78. [return]
60. Wilcox, R.K., 1977, "Shroud," Macmillan: New York NY, pp.170-171. [return]
61. Wilcox, 1977, p.171. [return]
62. "Crown of thorns," Wikipedia, 10 July 2013. [return]
63. Barbet, 1953, p.94. [return]
64. Cruz, 1984, p.34. [return]
65. Cruz, 1984, p.35. [return]
66. Ibid. [return]
67. Ibid. [return]
68. Crispino, D., "1204: Deadlock or Springboard?," Shroud Spectrum International, Vol. I, No. 4, September 1982, p.27. [return]
69. Cruz, 1984, p.35. [return]
70. Sox, H.D., 1988, "The Shroud Unmasked: Uncovering the Greatest Forgery of All Time," Lamp Press: Basingstoke UK, p.10. [return]
71. "French livre," Wikipedia, 10 June 2013. [return]
72. Cruz, 1984, p.35. [return]
73. Currer-Briggs, N., 1984, "The Holy Grail and the Shroud of Christ: The Quest Renewed," ARA Publications: Maulden UK, p.81. [return]
74. Cruz, 1984, p.35. [return]
75. Ibid. [return]
76. Barbet, 1953, pp.96-97. [return]
77. Barbet, 1953, p.97. [return]
78. Ibid. [return]
79. Barbet, 1953, p.97. [return]
80. Vignon, P., 1902, "The Shroud of Christ," University Books: New York NY, Reprinted, 1970, pp.29-30. [return]
81. Wilson, 1986, p.20. [return]
82. Antonacci, 2000, p.26. [return]
83. Tribbe, 2006, p.99. [return]
84. Guscin, M., 1998, "The Oviedo Cloth," Lutterworth Press: Cambridge UK, p.31. [return]
85. Guscin, 1998, p.15. [return]
86. De Wesselow, T., 2012, "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection," Viking: London, p.132. [return]
§23, §24, §25, §26. To be further examined under "9. Problems of the forgery theory". [return]

Continued in part 24, "3.6.The man on the Shroud and Jesus were crucified."

Posted: 8 September 2013. Updated: 26 Sepember 2020.


Stephen E. Jones said...


If you like this my The Shroud of Turin blog, and you have a website, could you please consider adding a hyperlink to my blog on it? This will help increase my blog's Google PageRank number and so enable those who are Google searching on "Shroud of Turin" to more easily discover my blog. Thanks.

Stephen E. Jones

Anonymous said...

Great site Stephen. Check out this great book on the Shroud.

Stephen E. Jones said...


>Great site Stephen.


>Check out this great book on the Shroud.

"The Linen God," the title of which I don't like, is one of many fictional novels on the Shroud. I haven't read the book, so I cannot vouch for it. The publisher's review of it says:

"The Shroud of Turin is the most studied and controversial religious relic in human history. The ancient linen cloth bears the image of a man, alleged to be that of Jesus of Nazareth. What if it were real? What if it contained a secret powerful enough to alter the course of human history? And what if it fell into the wrong hands? Manny Lusum is convinced the Shroud is the genuine article and obsessed with proving it scientifically. Grace Barden is not only Manny's best friend, but she's also secretly in love with the physics student and soon-to-be Catholic priest. Across the globe, three grisly murders and the theft of a secret manuscript thrust Grace and Manny into a generations-old conspiracy of biblical proportions. From New York to Rome to the inner sanctum of the Vatican, they struggle to untangle a bizarre mystery surrounding the controversial artifact. In a dramatic confrontation between faith and the ultimate evil on the world stage, Grace and Manny are pushed to the edge of an abyss, balanced between heaven and hell.

Stephen E. Jones