«The Shroud of Turin: A Cumulative Case for Authenticity Peter S. Williams The Shroud of Turin is an ancient linen sheet1, approximately 4.36 metres ...»
The Shroud of Turin: A Cumulative Case for Authenticity
Peter S. Williams
The Shroud of Turin is an ancient linen sheet1, approximately 4.36 metres long by
1.10 metres wide (which corresponds to a standard measurement of 8 x 2 cubits in use
in first century Palestine), and which bears the as yet scientifically unexplained image
– front and back - of a man who died from crucifixion. The shroud is thought by
many people to be the burial cloth in which Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus draped the body of Jesus before they laid him in the tomb.2 Dr. Kenneth E. Stevenson and Dr. Gary R. Habermas report that ‘The Roman Catholic Church... has never claimed that the Shroud is genuine.’3 Indeed, some medieval bishops were sure that the Shroud was a painting; but a painting is one thing that scientists who have studied the Shroud are now sure it is not.4 In fact, it is true to say that: ‘Now... some scientists accept the Shroud’s authenticity more readily than medieval Christians did.’5 This is because, as Stevenson, who served as official spokesperson fort the Shroud of Turin Scientific Research Team, writes: ‘The Shroud of Turin was an unexceptional relic until people began to examine it with modern scientific instruments.’6 Scientific Examination of the Shroud Scientific examination of the Shroud began in 1898, when it was first photographed and the image was found to be a photographic negative – it’s light and dark values were reversed when it was ‘printed’ on a piece of film.
The resulting image was far more life-like than the faint original.
(Above: negative shroud image on the left, positive image revealed in photographic negative on right).
Then, in the 1970’s, microscopic examination of the cloth failed to find anything an artist would have used to paint the image.
In 1976, a NASA image analyser connected to a computer discovered that the Shroud image contained ‘three dimensional’ information: ‘a wholly astounding and unexpected discovery, and one which still has no convincing explanation.’7 (Left: 1970’s 3D image made using NASA image analyser.
Above: Modern 3D computer image.) The Shroud is perhaps the most intensely investigated artefact in history, and has
come under the scrutiny of a diverse group of scholars and researchers including:
historians, archaeologists, chemists, physicists, botanists, engineers, doctors, forensic pathologists and experts in painting, photography, textiles, as well as philosophy, theology and apologetics.
Hasn’t carbon dating proven that the Shroud of Turin is Medieval?
Scientists compared those who still thought the Shroud was authentic to flat-earthers.
While a headline in the New York Times read: ‘Test Shows Shroud of Turin to be a Fraud’, this conclusion does not necessarily follow. The evidence indicates that the Shroud is a genuine burial cloth, a cloth that once wrapped a dead (Jewish) male who died by crucifixion. That is, the image on the Shroud does not appear to be an artistic fraud (whether by painting or photography). If the Shroud is mediaeval, it must therefore have once wrapped the body of a mediaeval dead Jewish man who died by crucifixion! However, the improbable correspondence between the sufferings of the Man in the Shroud and the unusual sufferings of Jesus as reported by the Gospels would indicate that the Shroud is a non-artistic fraud produced by the beating, scourging, crowning with thorns, crucifixion and stabbing to death of a mediaeval Jewish man, a murder carried out in such a way as to purposefully reproduce the sufferings of Christ as described in the gospels! Such a scenario is perhaps in itself so unlikely as to cast some doubt upon the mediaeval date produced by the 1988 carbon dating.
The evidence of the carbon dating test is only one piece of evidence among many that must be taken into account when attempting to determine the antiquity of
Touted far and wide as proof that the Shroud is a hoax, this late addition to Shroud investigation is not all what it is cracked up to be. In short, the C-14 data flies in the face of all the other data and... most scientists will readily admit that C-14 is not infallible... On the other hand, multiple fields of research indicate scientific evidence, including pollen, coins, mites, and textile data, to support the Shroud’s antiquity and its Middle Eastern origin.8 Gilbert Raes, a professor at the Ghent Institute of Textile Technology in q Belgium, concludes from an examination of threads from the Shroud that the weave of the linen was of a type common in the Middle East in the first century AD.9 Swedish textile expert Dr Mechthild Flury-Lemberg discovered a sewing seam q at the back of the Shroud during a recent restoration project: ‘There have been attempts to date the shroud from looking at the age of the material,’ says Flury-Lembereg, ‘but the style of sewing is the biggest clue. It belongs firmly to a style seen in the first century AD or before.’10 ‘In 1982, Dr. Joseph Kohlbeck, Resident Scientist at the Hercules Aerospace q Centre in Utah, with assistance from Dr. Richard Levi-Setti of the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, compared dirt from the Shroud to travertine aragonite limestone found in ancient Jewish tombs in Israel. The particles of dirt on the Shroud matched limestone found in the tombs.’11 John Jackson and Eric Jumper, the physicists who discovered the ‘threeq dimensional’ information contained in the Shroud, observed the faint trace of objects placed over the eyes of the Man in the Shroud, which they suggested might be coins (which would fit with first century Jewish burial customs12). If so, they noted that the coin was the same size as the ‘lepton’ of Pontius Pilate, which was only minted before 37 AD. Francis Filas, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, says the images are coins, and that the coins are leptons. According to Filas, computer enhancement and analysis of the images reveals that the objects have a number of coincidences ‘fitting only a coin issued by Pontius Pilate between 2 and 32 AD.’13 Below Left: comparison of a lepton and the shroud, showing the astrologer’s staff, Pilate’s emblem.
Below Right: Close-up of a Jewish bronze Pontius Pilate lepton dating from 29 -31 AD.
Historical evidence points towards an identification of the Shroud of Turin q
with the so-called ‘Edessa Cloth’:
Hence, while the documented history of the Turin Shroud as such begins in the 14th century, an application of Occam’s Razor (i.e. ‘don’t multiply entities beyond necessity’) would suggest the economical hypothesis that the Shroud of Turin and the Edessa cloth are one and the same, with a documented history that can be traced back to the sixth century.
In 1973, Swiss criminologist Max Frei, a botanist by training, identified spores q from forty-nine plants in samples taken from the Shroud. While some of these spores came from Europe, thirty-three of them came from plants that grow
only in Palestine, the southern steppes of Turkey, and the area of Istanbul:
‘These studies have recently been confirmed by Avinoam Denim, the director of the Botanical Institute in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.’15 Since the Shroud has never left France since its appearance in Lirey in 1357, this data suggests that the Shroud was exposed to the open air in Palestine and Turkey at some point prior to 1357. Indeed, these findings correlate with the history of the Shroud one would expect if it were genuine (starting in Jerusalem and ending up in Spain) and with the history obtained by its identification with the Edessa Cloth. Moreover: ‘Professor Danin has identified the pollen particles..
. of three plants that are found only in Jerusalem. One of them, gondelia turnaforte, was present in extraordinary numbers. It’s the same plant that scholars believe may have been used as the crown of thorns worn on Jesus’ head.’16 Historian Ian Wilson hypothesises that a common set of facial characteristics q in artistic depictions of Jesus only became the norm in the sixth century because of the discovery of the Edessa Cloth, previously concealed in the city’s walls, in 544 CE. These common characteristics (known as ‘Vignon markings’ after French scholar Paul Vignon who first noted a set of common characteristics visible in many early artistic depictions of Jesus in the 1930’s) all appear on the image of the Shroud, a fact suggesting once again that the Turin Shroud and the Edessa Cloth are one and the same, and that the Shroud is the common, originating source for the (thereafter) ‘standard’ image of Jesus. Art historians have argued that ‘Medieval crucifixes... underwent evolutionary changes as the Christian world became increasingly aware of the crucifixion details evinced by the sindonic image. By identifying significant revisions to the crucifix and to crucifixion art, it is possible to discover the historical path taken by the Shroud as it travelled... from place to place.’17 The Shroud of Turin has an L shaped series of q small burn holes: ‘Because there are four matched mirrored repetitions of the holes showing progressive levels of burn penetration so that each pattern has four burn marks or holes, it appears that the cloth was folded in half lengthwise and then width-wise when the burns were made.’18 However these burn holes came about (and there are a number of plausible theories, including being burnt by incense), they happened before 1516, ‘because a copy of the Shroud, the Lierre Shroud painted in 1516, possibly by Albrecht Durer or Bernard van Orley, clearly shows the burn holes.’19 The Budapest National Library holds an ancient codex, commonly known as the ‘Hungarian Pray Manuscript’, named after György Pray (1723-1801), the scholar who made the first detailed study of it: ‘Written between 1192 and 1195, the codex includes an illustration, one of five in the manuscript, showing Jesus being placed on his burial shroud, a shroud with the identical pattern of burn holes found on the Shroud.’20 Moreover, ‘The artist drew the very unusual herringbone weave on the shroud and a number of other graphic characteristics consistent with the Shroud.’21 For example: ‘Jesus is shown naked with his arms modestly folded at the wrists... and there are no visible thumbs. (There are no thumbs visible in the images of the man of the Shroud either.) Forensic pathologists tell us that this makes sense since nails driven through the wrist would likely cause the thumbs to fold into the palms.
In the drawing, there is also a clear mark on Jesus’ forehead where the most prominent 3shaped bloodstain is found on the forehead of the man of the Shroud.’22 In light of these similarities: ‘There can be little question that this illustrator of the Pray Codex, far removed from France, working at a time before the sacking of Constantinople by French knights, before the time given for the Shroud by carbon 14 testing... knew about the Shroud.’23 The many points of coincidence between the ‘Sudarium of Ovideo’ (see q below) and the Shroud of Turin also support the case for viewing the shroud as a pre-medieval artefact, because the Sudarium has a reliable history, confirmed by pollen studies, that can be traced back until at least the seventh century AD.
The results of the 1988 carbon dating tests do not necessarily trump the combined weight of all the other dating evidence. Indeed, given the totality of available evidence, it seems reasonable to suggest that the Carbon 14 data is simply incorrect.
Carbon 14 Tests Skewed by Contamination There are in fact a number of reasons for thinking that the 1988 carbon dating test results were flawed: ‘there is now serious evidence that the samples cut from the
Shroud and provided to the laboratories were contaminated’, reports Daniel R. Porter: