Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Dimensions: The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Sheet of Jesus! #12

The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Sheet of Jesus!
© Stephen E. Jones

This is "Dimensions," part #12 of my online book, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Sheet of Jesus!" For more information see the Cover #1, Contents #2 and Preface #3, of this series. See also 04Feb15 & 10Jul15.

[Contents #2] [Previous: Colour #11] [Next: First undisputed appearance was in c.1355 #13]

  1. A linen cloth #10
    1. Dimensions #12

The lineal dimensions of the Shroud are about 4.4m long by 1.1m wide[2] (14 ft 5 in. by 3 ft 7 in.). The thickness of the cloth is approximately 0.343mm[3] (about one hundredth of an inch[4]), which is a little heavier than shirt cloth[5]. The cloth weighs approximately 2.45 kgs or 5½ lbs[6].

From photographs of the Shroud taken during the 1931 exposition by Giuseppe Enrie (1886-1961), the cloth was estimated to be 14 ft 3in. long by 3 ft 7 in wide[7] (4.34m by 1.09m) and these dimensions of the Shroud were those most commonly cited for the next six decades[8]. Then in 1998 Swiss textile conservator Mechthild Flury-Lemberg (1929-), preparing the Shroud for the 1998 Exposition, determined that the lineal dimensions of the Shroud are approximately 437 x 111 cms[9] (14 ft 4in. x 3 ft 8 in.).

[Above (original): From left to right, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, Sister Maria Clara Antonini of the Poor Clare nuns and Turin diocese's Don Giuseppe Ghiberti (1934-), preparing the Shroud for the 1998 exposition[10].]

In 2002 the Shroud underwent a major restoration by a team led by Flury-Lemberg[11]. The work included removing the Holland cloth backing which had been sewn on by Chambéry's Poor Clare nuns in 1534 as part of their repairs of the extensive damage to the Shroud from by a fire in 1532[12]. The removal of the Holland cloth backing enabled the Shroud to be laid flat and measured accurately[13]. Bruno Barberis, Director of the International Centre of Sindonology in Turin and Gian Maria Zaccone, Scientific Director of the Shroud Museum[14], measured the Shroud's two long sides as 441.5 and 434.5 cms (average 438 cms = 14 ft 4 in.) and the two short sides as 113.0 and 113.7 cms (average 113.35 cms = 3 ft 9 in.)[15].

In 1989 it occurred to Ian Dickinson (-2015) of Canterbury, England[16], that these linear measurements of the Shroud seemed odd[17]. Dickinson asked himself whether they would seem odd if the Shroud cloth had been cut to measurements common in first century Jerusalem, namely a cubit[18].

[Right (enlarge)[19]: Shroud photograph with an 8 x 2 grid overlay showing that the Shroud divides evenly into 16 squares, each 438/8 = 54.75 cm (~21.6 in.) by 113/2 = 56.5 cm (~22.2 in.). The slightly greater (1.75cm = 0.7 in.) width unit is readily explained by the attachment of the sidestrip (see future below). These units are too close to the Assyrian cubit of Jesus' day: 21.4-21.8 inches (see below) to be a coincidence.]

After considering a variety of cubits in use in Jesus' day[20], Dickinson, an expert in the early Syriac language[21], tried the Assyrian cubit[22], which he found in the writings of the 19th century archaeological pioneer, Sir Flinders Petrie (1853–1942)[23] and later revised by other archaeologists to 21.6 plus or minus 0.2 inches[24]. This was in fact the international standard lineal measurement in Jesus' time[25]. Dickinson converted the Shroud's most accurate then (1989) known dimensions of 14 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 7 inches into 171 by 43 inches[26]. Then dividing these inch dimension of the Shroud by 21.4, the lower end of the Assyrian cubit's range, resulted in 7.99 by 2.01, or 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits[27]!

Dividing Barberis and Zaccone's 2002 more accurate averages, 14 foot

4 inches = 172 inches x 3 feet 9 inches = 45 inches, by the middle 21.6 inch Assyrian cubit value, results in 7.96 by 2.08 cubits (see Fig. 1 above), which again is approximately 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits.

Problem for the forgery theory
The cubit was not a medieval unit of length[28]. While one side of the Shroud being a multiple of a first-century Middle Eastern cubit could barely be explained away as a coincidence, two sides could not[29]. Although cubits are mentioned in the Bible, both in the Old Testament (Hebrew `ammah) and the New Testament (Greek pechus)[30], as measurements of length (e.g. 1 Samuel 17:4; 1 Chronicles 11:23; John 21:8 & Revelation 21:17), these are too vague to derive their precise value. The word "cubit" comes from the Latin cubitum "elbow" and was based on the length of a man's forearm, from 18 to 22 inches[31].

The length of the Assyrian cubit was discovered only in the 19th century by archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie (1853–1942) and Assyriologist Julius Oppert (1825-1905), who measured buildings in ancient Babylon (which had been annexed by Assyria in the 9th century BC[32]) and derived that cubit's length to have been 21.6 inches[33].

So a medieval forger would not have known the value of the Assyrian cubit[34], to cut the Shroud cloth to equal 8 by 2 of them. Shroud sceptics could resort to the fall-back position of Walter McCrone (1916-2002), that "a first century cloth could have been found and used by a 14th century artist to paint the image"[35]. But it is exceedingly unlikely that a medieval forger could find and then use a rare and expensive first century 8 by 2 cubits (4.4 x 1.1 metres) herringbone twill fine linen sheet upon which to commit his forgery. And that would be to concede as wrong the twin pillars of anti-authenticism: the 1389 claim by Bishop Pierre d'Arcis (r. 1377-1395) that the Shroud had been painted in 1355[36], and the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud as 1260-1390[37]! Both of which are wrong, as we shall see.

Continued in part #13 of this series.

1. This post is copyright. I grant permission 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 hyperlink back to this page. [return]
2. Adler, A.D., 1999, "The Nature of the Body Images on the Shroud of Turin," in Adler, A.D. & Crispino, D., ed., "The Orphaned Manuscript: A Gathering of Publications on the Shroud of Turin," EffatĂ  Editrice: Cantalupa, Italy, 2002, pp.103-112, 103. [return]
3. Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., 2000, "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O'Mara Books: London, p.68. [return]
4. Guerrera, V., 2001, "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, p.62. [return]
5. Wilson. & Schwortz, B., 2000, p.68. [return]
6. Iannone, J.C., 1998, "The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence," St Pauls: Staten Island NY, p.1. [return]
7. Vignon, P., 1937, "The Problem of the Holy Shroud," Wuenschel, E.A., transl., Scientific American, March, pp. 162-164, 6. [return]
8. For example: Wuenschel, E.A., 1954, "Self-Portrait of Christ: The Holy Shroud of Turin," Holy Shroud Guild: Esopus NY, Third printing, 1961, p.23 & Oxley, M., 2010, "The Challenge of the Shroud: History, Science and the Shroud of Turin," AuthorHouse: Milton Keynes UK, p.3. [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. Brkic, B., 2010, "Hitler had designs on the Shroud of Turin; Indiana Jones fans are not surprised," Daily Maverick, 8 April. [return]
11. Oxley, 2010, p.8. [return]
12. Zugibe, F.T., 2005, "The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry," M. Evans & Co.: New York NY, p.184. [return]
13. Fanti, G. & Malfi, P., 2015, "The Shroud of Turin: First Century after Christ!," Pan Stanford: Singapore, pp.8-9. [return]
14. Fanti & Malfi, 2015, p.9. [return]
15. Zugibe, 2005, p.185. [return]
16. Antonacci, 2000, p.115. [return]
17. Dickinson, I., 1990, "The Shroud and the Cubit Measure," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 24, January, pp.8-11, 8. [return]
18. Dickinson, 1990, p.8. [return]
19. Extract from Latendresse, M., 2010, "Shroud Scope: Durante 2002 Vertical," [return]
20. Dickinson, 1990, p.9. [return]
21. Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, p.181. [return]
22. Dickinson, 1990, p.10. [return]
23. Petrie, W.M.F., 1877, "Inductive Metrology: Or, The Recovery of Ancient Measures from the Monuments," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, Reprinted, 2013, p.67. [return]
24. Dickinson, 1990, pp.9-10. [return]
25. Ibid. [return]
26. Dickinson, 1990, p.8. [return]
27. Ibid. [return]
28. Clift, M., 1993, “Carbon dating - what some of us think now,” British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 33, February, pp.5-6, 6. [return]
29. Clift, 1993, p.6. [return]
30. Wiseman, D.J., “Weights and Measures,” in Douglas, J.D., et al., eds., 1962, “New Bible Dictionary,” Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester UK, Second edition, 1982, Reprinted, 1988, p.1247. [return]
31. “Cubit,”, 2012. [return]
32. Dickinson, 1990, p.10. [return]
33. Dickinson, 1990, p.10. [return]
34. Wilson, 1991, p.181. [return]
35. McCrone, W.C., 1999, “Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin,” Prometheus Books: Amherst NY, p.141. [return]
36. 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.126. [return]
37. Damon, P.E., et al., 1989, "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16th February, pp.611-615, 611. [return]

Posted: 8 April 2020. Updated: 29 August 2022.

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