When it comes to the debate of the Shroud of Turin being real or fake, scholars disagree with each other. One part is convinced that the shroud is a forgery from the Middle Ages, while others believe it is really the burial cloth of Christ. In this post, I have collected the arguments of both parties.
What is the Shroud of Turin?
The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth measuring over four meters long with a mysterious and blurred image of a man who was tortured and crucified. Since the Middle Ages, this cloth has been worshipped as the burial cloth of Christ. This cloth, according to the Gospel of John, had been left in the tomb after Jesus rose from the dead.
Is the shroud of Turin real?
In 1978, extensive research was performed on the Shroud of Turin. A group of scientists who called themselves Shroud of Turin Research Project (STuRP) were allowed to examine the shroud for 5 days. The only thing they were not allowed to do was a C14 examination, because this required destroying a piece of material. This group concluded that the shroud came from the Jerusalem area, that it contains the image of a crucified and martyred man, and that it could not have been painted. Therefore, it had to be authentic. Below are some of their conclusions:
- The image contains both the front and back of a man. The cloth was folded over the head to cover the front of his body. This created two images. These two life-size figures are anatomically perfect, and of the same Body.
- The likeness is a negative image; what is light appears as dark on the print and vice versa. The first time this became clear was in 1898, when the photographer Secondo Pia took a photograph of the shroud and discovered that the print on the negative gave a realistic image. Photography was unknown in the Middle Ages or before. Therefore, an artist of that time could not have known about negative images and photography.
- The image bears resemblance to Christ as He appears in many works of art: a thin, bearded man with half-long hair. This suggests that artists of previous times were familiar with the shroud and based their paintings on it.
- The wounds on the back, chest and face are consistent with the description of Christ’s crucifixion. There are reddish bloodstains at the wrists, feet and on one side of the body where the spear pierced the body. There are more smaller bloodstains around the head, in line with wearing a crown of thorns.
- Blood is of the rare AB type+. Blood plasma around the bloodstains becomes visible under UV light.
- Blood particles also reveal high levels of creatine and ferritin. This is consistent with the body’s response to extreme trauma (source).
- Above the eyes are two round dark rings, these could be coins, often placed on the eyes of a deceased person. The Jesuit Father Francis Filas claimed that he could read the inscriptions on the coins and that they were from the time of Christ. Other researchers could not confirm this.
- Pollen corresponding to the known species around Jerusalem were found.
The image is visible only on the surface of the linen. It did not penetrate the fibers.
- The blood flows and anatomical details of the crucifixion match exactly how blood behaves after torture and crucifixion.
- The feet of the Man of the Shroud have stains of real dirt, travertine aragonite, a rare calcareous mineral that matches the spectral properties of this limestone substance found in caves near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem. No other source is known.
- One of the peculiarities of the image of the Shroud is that it can only be seen at an optimal viewing distance of six to 15 meters. Closer or farther away the image fades. A painter cannot achieve this effect.
- Even the latest Bible versions tell us that Jesus was nailed in the “hands. But the image of the Shroud correctly shows us a medical truth: He was nailed through the “space of Destot” in the wrist, because a nail in the soft flesh of the hand could not support the weight of a man. The Greek word cheir can be translated as “hand,” “wrist,” or “forearm.
- A nail through Destot’s “space” in the wrist will damage the median nerve, causing the thumb to bend sharply in the palm. The man’s thumbs on the shroud were also invisible.
Recent Research into the Shroud of Turin
- The 1988 carbon dating is questioned because a ” polluted” piece of linen was used. Old pictures show that in the Middle Ages the cloth was often held by hand when displayed. The cloth was repaired after a fire in 1352, and they may have used a piece of linen precisely from part for carbon dating.
- New research from 2015 by a team of scientists concluded that the shroud dates to the time of Christ, with a margin of error of 250 years.
Is the Shroud of Turin Fake?
Just as there are scholars who are convinced that the canvas is authentic, there are others who believe we are dealing with a clever forgery. They also have good arguments to support their contention:
- Carbon dating (1988) shows that the linen dates from the Middle Ages. A piece of linen was carefully divided into three and dated by three separate institutions. According to C14 dating, all three institutions came to the same conclusion: the cloth dated from 1260-1390. Based on this conclusion, the shroud was not exhibited as a religious object anymore. (Incidentally, the method of Carbon dating has been questioned from the beginning. Recently, a book has been published by Due Benford and Joseph Marino who cast major doubt on this research).
- The likeness is a negative image and can be recreated by simply making a bas-relief.
- The likeness of Christ is that of the thin, bearded man who appears in many religious works of art shows that the medieval artist used the accepted image of Christ when creating the canvas.
- Doubts about the authenticity of the canvas date back to the 14th century. These doubts are supported by a letter from Bishop Pierre d’Arcis to Clement VII, Pope of Avignon, in which d’Arcis stated that he knew the artist who made the shroud. This letter still exists:
The pollen on the cloth can be explained by the fact that the cloth may have been in the Middle East before it was transported to Europe.
There is no mention in the Bible or early Christian writings of a large burial cloth or of an image formed at the time of the resurrection.
Bodies were not wrapped in linen in this way in the time of Christ, nor are there Biblical references to such a method. Several cloths are mentioned in John. The Bible says about this in John 20:5-7:
5 And when he stooped down, he saw the cloths lying; nevertheless he did not enter into them.
6 Simon Peter therefore came and followed him, and went into the tomb, and saw the cloths lying there.
7 And the sweatcloth which had been on his head he saw not lying with the cloths, but gathered together in another place.
- There is no historical evidence that the cloth is older than 1500.
How was the Shroud of Turin Made?
There are many hypotheses about how the shroud was made.
1. Medieval photographic technique
Nicholas Allen, an art historian, says the image on the shroud was created using a photographic method in the 1300s. Allen says those techniques predate the 14th century, as described in the Book of Optics, which was translated from Arabic to Latin during that period. This idea was used in a book by Lynn Picknett, who proposed that the shroud was made by Leonardo da Vinci.
2. Dust-transfer method
Scientists Emily Craig and Randall Bresee attempted to use the dust-transfer method to make copies of the shroud. First, they used charcoal to draw a face that looked like Jesus. The used newsprint because this resembles paper from the 13th and 14th centuries. Then they placed the drawing on a table and laid a piece of linen over it. Then they rubbed the linen hard against the newspaper with the flat side of a wooden spoon. This allowed them to make a reddish-brown drawing that resembled a real person. It looked 3-dimensional, too, and there was no sign of brush strokes. But on a microscopic level is missed the special features of the shroud.
3. Bas relief
As briefly mentioned above, Jacques di Costanzo thought the statue was made with a real three-dimensional object, such as a sculpture. However, if you put a canvas over a life-size statue, the image is distorted. If you put a cloth over a bas-relief, the image looks like the one on the shroud. Costanzo built a bas-relief of a face that looked like Jesus and draped wet linen over it to show that his theory was correct. After the linen was dry, he put a mixture of iron oxide and gelatin over it. The result was an image that resembled the shroud.
4. A Flash of Energy
The flash of energy hypothesis has been supported by J. Jackson, G. Fanti, T. Trenn, T. Phillips, J.-B. Rinaudo, and other researchers since 1930. It was suggested that the relatively high definition of image details could come from a protonic energy source. Alexander Belyakov, a scientist from Russia, came up with an idea of a flash of light that was bright and lasted only a few hundredths of a second.
4. Maillard reaction
The Maillard reaction (also called non-enzymatic browning) is the collective term for a complex series of chemical reactions that occur between reducing sugars and amino acids (for example, in proteins), whether or not under the influence of heat. This theory was used in the book The Second Messiah by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, in which they argue that the image on the shroud is that of Jacques de Molay, the last leader of the Knights Templar. Jacques de Molay was severely tortured before his burning.
Is the Shroud of Turin Real of Fake?
The more you read about this topic, the harder it is to take a stand. Phillip Ball, a former editor of the science journal Nature, wrote about this in 2019:
Meanwhile, in-depth research has been done on the 1988 carbon dating. Joseph Marino discusses this at length in his book The 1988 C-14 Dating Of The Shroud Of Turin: A Stunning Exposé from 2020. You can see a brief summary of it here:
The Shroud of Turin Challenge
In April 2022, David Rolfe wrote a contest. In his film Whocanhebe (trailer below), he demonstrates that the 1988 research is wrong.
He is so confident of the shroud’s authenticity that he has launched a competition. Any artist who can recreate the shroud will receive US$1,000,000. The conditions for winning the prize can be found below:
Should you participate and win the prize, please let us know….
We are also very curious whether the shroud is real or if it could have been faked in the Middle-Ages.