The Shroud of Turin Is Not Jesus’ Burial Cloths

Tonight, CNN presented a one hour television documentary special entitled “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” I thought this title was inappropriate because the entire episode was about whether or not the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus. Thus, the title should have had “Shroud of Turin” in it or the like. CNN did some advertising of this special, so I think they were a bit deceptive about whole thing. They interviewed some scholars, including Ben Witherington III who is a friend of mine.

I am always surprised by the attention given the Shroud of Turin by many people who supposedly believe the New Testament gospels are historically authentic. If you believe what the Gospel of John says about Jesus’ burial and his disciples examining his empty tomb, then you should believe the last word in the title of this documentary, that the Shroud of Turin is a “forgery.” Thus, there is no need to do radiocarbon dating (which dates it to Medieval times) and other scientific testing of this supposed shroud of a crucified man to learn whether or not Jesus’ body could have been wrapped with it. The Gospel of John clearly reveals that it wasn’t.

The Shroud of Turin is a single, fourteen-foot long by three-and-a-half-foot wide rectangular-shaped linen cloth that supposedly was discovered, or at least first surfaced, during the fourteenth century. It seems to bear the blood stains of the body of a crucified man as well as his face. It is kept secure by the Catholic Church in Turin, Italy, and that is why it is called the Shroud of Turin. Many Christians have believed that it is the original burial cloth of Jesus, thus supposing that his dead body was wrapped with a single burial cloth. That’s why it cannot be the remains of the burial wrappings of Jesus of Nazareth, at least according to the Gospel of John. When you see these television documentaries about the Shroud of Turin, and there have been several, they invariably always avoid these biblical details.

In the NRSV, the Gospel of John says that early Sunday morning, after Jesus had been buried Friday afternoon, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb” entrance (John 20.1). Comparing the other three New Testament gospels, Mary accompanied several other women there, at least four. She then ran to tell the Apostle Peter and “the other disciple” (v. 2), who presumably was the Apostle John. She reported to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (v. 2). The “we” refers to the other women who accompanied her to the tomb. By “take” she likely means grave robbing, though they could have thought of the gardener placing the body somewhere else. Peter and John then ran to the tomb.

Comparing the other gospels, it appears that the other women had left the tomb before Peter and John arrived there. The Gospel of John then says, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in” (vv. 4-5). Since it was a hewn tomb with a tombstone guarding its entrance, Jesus’ dead body customarily would have been placed on a hewn ledge about knee high. Thus, the abandoned “linen wrappings” whould have been “lying there” on the ledge.

We next read, “Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself” (John 20.6-7). This report provides two physical evidences which clearly deem the Shroud of Turin a fake.

First, Jesus’ body had not been been wrapped with a single grave cloth, as the Shroud of Turin; rather, the Gospel of John relates four times about “linen wrappings,” which is always plural, so that even the body itself, disregarding the head, had been wrapped with multiple clothes (John 19.40; 20.5-7). The Greek text has othonion/othonia, which means “sheets.” Could they have been “strips” of cloth as the Egyptians did? It should be noted that Jews, like Egyptians, were very particular about how they prepared human corpses for burial. Jews likely wrapped such bodies with several strips of cloth, thus not a single cloth. The main reason was that they interspersed spices with layered, multiple wrappings in order to further preserve the body from decay. A single cloth the size of the Shroud of Turin with spices could not possibly have preserved a dead body as long as multiple cloths with spices could have.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus together had prepared Jesus’ corpse for burial by sprinkling 65-75 pounds (the NRSV says “weighing about a hundred pounds”) of an expensive “mixture of myrrh and aloes” among the linen strips “according to the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19.39-40). They could not have done this with such a large amount of spices with the Shroud of Turin. And such a single cloth would have been more difficult to purchase in the marketplace than much smaller sheets or strips. Plus, multiple sheets or strips would have been much easier to wrap the body with than the Shroud of Turin.

Second, Peter entered the tomb first and “saw the linen wrappings lying there” and “the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself” (John 20.6-7). This detail about the body wrappings and headcloth lying separately is most significant concerning the Shroud or Turin, but especially regarding Jesus’ resurrection.

I just finished and posted on this blog the third of a three-part review of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book entitled How Jesus Became God. Ehrman is the best-selling Jesus researcher in the U.S. He is a professing agnostic and also an apostate from evangelical Christianity, yet a professor of the New Testment and the history of Christian origins. He claims in this book that there is no evidence reported in the gospels which indicates that Jesus really did arise from the dead. He says (p. 143), “belief or unbelief in Jesus’s resurrection is a matter of faith, not of historical knowledge.” He also says (p. 173), “it is not the historical data that make a person a believer.” Not so for the “other disciple,” who was probably the Apostle John. For we next read of him, “Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20.8-9).

So, John “saw and believed.” He therefore was the first disciple to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. It is often erroneously reported that Mary Magdalene was the first disciple to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. For, soon after Peter and John departed from the tomb, the Gospel of John reports that Mary returned to the tomb and there became the first disciple to see the risen Jesus. He talked to her and gave her a message to give to his male disciples (John 20.11-18). So, she returned to the house to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (v. 18). She is therefore sometimes called “the apostle to the apostles.” That is all well and good except that she also is often perceived wrongly as the first to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. John was the first to believe.

What did John see that caused him to believe Jesus had risen from the dead? He saw what the text reports immediately prior–“the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” Recall that Mary had told Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb.” Thus, when Peter and John arrived at the tomb, entered, and looked around, they would have been thinking about the possibility of someone having taken the corpse out of the tomb. In the Roman Empire, grave robbing at that time was a crime punishable by death. But what John saw convinced him not only that no one had taken Jesus’ corpse out of the tomb, but that Jesus had risen from the dead and exited the tomb on his own. How so?

First, John probably reasoned that a grave robber or robbers would not have taken the time to unwrap the multiple, layered, linen wrappings and thereby subjected himself or themselves more readily to being noticed and perhaps arrested by Roman authorities. Furthermore, what purpose would have been served for a robber, robbers, or the gardener to remove the wrappings? And even if robbers had removed them, the robbers likely would flung those wrappings wherever, not bothering to roll up the face cloth neatly, and gotten out of there as fast as possible to avoid capture.

Second, a robber or robbers would not have taken more time to carefully roll up or fold the separate head cloth and then lay it to one side, separate from the bodily wrappings.

Third, since more attention had been given to Jesus’ condemnation and crucifixion than to a usual crucified criminal, Jesus’ bared face would have further endangered the robber(s) mission as they carried Jesus’ body away.

Such reasoning surely would have caused John to recall the three times during Jesus’ private ministry to his apostles when he told them explicitly that he would be killed at Jerusalem and arise from the dead on the third day, yet they had not understood or believed it (Matt 16.21-22; 17.22-23; 20.18-19; Mark 8.31-32; 9.31-32; 10.33-34; Luke 9.22; 9.44-45; 18.31-34).

ThirdDayBibleCodeFrontCoverI made the image on the front cover of my book, The Third Day Bible Code. I did so by first building what looked like a ledge out of a plywood sheet, covered it lightly with sand, sprayed glue on it, spray painted it, laid white clothes separated at opposite ends of the ledge, and then took studio photos of it. I then merged the best phot0 of it with a photo taken from inside a cave looking out through the cave opening. Then I merged the two photos together. The result was an assimilated Jesus’ tomb looking from atop the back of the ledge toward the tomb opening. It even turned out better than I expected it would. I have never seen any photo, painting, or drawing like it.

My main purpose for this front cover image of my book was to highlight Jesus’ separated burial clothes as substantial physical evidence indicating that he had indeed risen from the dead and it was this evidence that caused the Apostle John to be the first of Jesus’ disciples who believed in his resurrection. Thus, it happened due to this tomb evidence rather than what happened with all of the other disciples–they later believed when they saw the risen Jesus as he appeared to them on various occasions as reported in the NT gospels.

So, I think what probably happened was that Jesus came to life while lying on the ledge in the tomb. Then he would have sat up and begun removing his grave clothes. He would have first removed the head cloth and laid it aside, probably where his head had lain. Then he would have removed the body wrappings and perhaps laid them on the other side of the ledge, thus at the opposite end where his feet had lain.

Of course, this is conjecture about Jesus removing the grave cloths. When Lazarus walked out his grave, Jesus told those nearby, “Unbind him” (John 11.44), as if he was unable to unbind himself. So, we don’t know if the two angels who later appeared to the disciples at Jesus’ empty tomb had unbound Jesus themselves. (One “angel/man” in Matt. 28.2 and Mark 16.5, but two “men/angels” in Luke 24.4 and John 20.12.)

Also, the single, Johannine account of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead testifies against the Shroud of Turin being the burial cloth of Jesus (John 11.17-44). How so? Lazarus walked out of the tomb. How could he have done that if he was wrapped in a single sheet like that of the Shroud of Turin? After Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out,” we read, “The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go'” (John 11.44 NRSV). Lazarus walking out of the tomb on his own obviously indicates that his limbs were bound separately from his body, so that strips of cloth must have wound around each arm and leg, and his face was wrapped with a separate cloth from the strips around his body and limbs.

This was the customary manner in which Jews buried their dead. For, of Jesus’ body we read, “They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19.40 NRSV). So, Jesus’ body and Lazarus’ body would have been prepared for entombment in the same manner. Both walked out of their tombs while still wrapped in grave cloths.

The Shroud of Turin is a single piece of cloth that supposedly was wrapped around the entire deceased body, thus including its head, with its arms against the sides of the body. That does not correspond at all to the Gospel of John regarding the wrappings of either Lazarus or Jesus. If Lazarus’ entire body had been wrapped with a single piece of cloth similar to the Shroud of Turn, he could not have walked out of the tomb.

Similar to the Shroud of Turin, the Sudarium of Oviedo is a separate article from the Shroud, and it is kept in Oviedo, Spain. It is called “sudarium” because the word in the Greek text for Jesus’ head cloth is sudarion. The Sudarium of Oviedo is about three feet square and has what some believe are blood stains. It is purported to be Jesus’ burial head cloth that laid separately from the grave clothes in accordance with John 20.6-7. But this supposed artifact does not pass radiocarbon testing, dating back to no earlier than AD 700, and few believe it is actually Jesus’ face cloth.

In conclusion, if people would just read and believe the Bible, they would not so easily be duped by such falsely purported artifacts as the Shroud of Turin being Jesus’ burial cloth.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Connie D Cook

    I don’t feel all facts have been adressed concerning this subject. There is no way to to say either way definitively yes or no. The presentation was good but not enough was shown or stated about all the information.

    • kzarley

      How about this: Lazarus walked out of the tomb. How could he have done that wrapped in the Shroud of Turin? We read that after Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out,” “The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go'” (John 11.44 NRSV). It obviously means his limbs were bound separately from his body by means of strips of cloth, and his face was wrapped with a separate cloth from those strips. This was the customary manner in which Jews buried their dead. For, of Jesus’ body we read, “They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19.40 NRSV). So, Jesus’ body would not have been prepared for entombment any differently than was the body of his friend Lazarus, who walked out of the tomb while still wrapped in his gravecloths. The Shroud of Turin is one piece of cloth that supposedly was wrapped around the entire deceased body, including the head, of a human being. That does not correspond at all to the Gospel of John regarding the wrappings of either Lazarus or Jesus. (I will now add this to my post.)

  • Dave Corsi

    The author of this article really seems to be stretching. For one thing it has always been acknowledged that there was a Seperate head cloth, that along with the shroud, covered Jesus’s head.
    Apparently no seems to have filled him in on this little detail.

    • kzarley

      You don’t seem to know about the Shroud of Turin. It has an imprint that appears to be the face of a man. That is the primary reason people think it may have been the burial cloth of Jesus. If that imprint was indeed formed by the face of a man, and that Shroud was his burial cloth, then the Shroud of Turin does not allow for that man’s head to have been covered with a separate facecloth or kerchief as the Gospel of John says.

      • Dave Corsi

        Ok I will try it this way. You give your opinion. NO FACTS to back up your contention, simply opinion.
        The closest you come is stating facts about what the Gospel’s say about the first Easter. So far so good.
        Your point of contention then becomes the different descriptions of what they found at the tomb. Your problem seems to be how these wrappings and lines are described.
        To me that is what makes the story more believable. If they all used the exact same words, stories totally in sync I would have been more suspicious, thinking it is a setup.
        You then describe making your own model of a tomb. Good for you. You then try to imitate the Resurrection on the First Easter. At this point you sound more like a script writer for “Murder She Wrote” then a serious student of The Shroud of Turin.

        I realize you are trying to build up sales in the “conspiracy theory cottage industry” but how about using facts in your blogs to go along with your theories?

        • dlbeard

          Well said Dave Corsi.

  • Redsox_239

    You’re a Christian, right? I suggest you spend many hours studying The Shroud because it is definitely worth it. it could very well be Jesus in fact the evidence points to it being Jesus. I can’t stand reading articles like this that are misinformed and ignorant. For example, you must not know that the c-14 tests are not seen as credible today and there is much evidence that points to it being from the 1st century. You make the same mistake with the face cloth…That dating is not certain at all, but it does show the shroud likely existed before the 1300’s. Like I said, the Shroud is worth studying and the evidence is pretty compelling.

    • kzarley

      As my post reveals, I go by the Bible, and the Shroud of Turin does not correlate with it, especially the Gospel of John saying: (1) Lazarus “came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth” (John 11.44); (2) “They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with spices in linen cloths, according to the burial customs of the Jews” (19.40); and (3) both Peter and John saw the “linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself,” and John “saw and believed” (20.6-8). Notice the headcloth separate from linen wrappings, and plural “wrappings.” How does all that comport with the Shroud of Turin? None of it does. I couldn’t care less what C-14 says about the Shroud of Turin. I care what the Bible says. And it most certainly deems that the Shroud of Turin is not the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth.

      • dlbeard

        Mr. Zarley, if you “couldn’t care less what C-14 says about the Shroud of Turin”, then why did you bring up the dating. The fact that you left out the newer dating via infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – tells me that you are presenting a biased report with only one side of the story.

  • H. Davis

    The writer does not know Greek and has not done his homework. Been studying Greek (and Hebrew)all of my life.
    He makes much of the pl. used in John to describing the burial cloth of Jesus.
    But, we have in :
    Matthew 27:59 – sindoni or ‘clean/fine (all experts in ancient cloth say the Shroud was the ‘finest’ attainable cloth in the first century!) linen cloth.’ This is singular in Greek! The word is uncertain origin.
    Mark 15: 46 – sindoni a ‘linen cloth.’ Same singular!
    Luke 23:53 -sindoni’ in a linen cloth.’ Same Singular
    Nothing as to details must contradict these three inspired Witnesses!
    Translated as a ‘single linen cloth’ or sheet a young man was wearing or was wrapped (‘having thrown around himself’) around him same Greek word for ‘clean linen cloth’ we just listed above! Singular.
    Mark 14:51 sindoni ‘linen cloth’ singular in Gk.
    Mark 14:52 sindona ‘linen cloth’ Singular Gk.
    A man who has in the first century in Jerusalem had only a single linen cloth placed around him. FYI
    Without getting into a long discussion Greek words that are singular can be used as a plural and truly be plural but in certain cases due to various structures, etc., remain singular!
    Let’s say John’s ‘cloth’ is bandages or cloths. No contradiction but supplemental as a single ‘clean fine linen cloth’ or ‘shroud’ could have been wrapped or placed around Jesus’ body then strips of cloth could then be wrapped around his arms and legs as with Lazarus. Of course, we know a sweat cloth (Gk.) was placed over his head too. All this leaves the shroud as it is today minus some strips of linen missing; no surprise it’s been 2,000 years! One strip of linen has been sewn back on the shroud ! FYI
    Anyway those singulars must not be violated. The Accounts are supplemental. One or more Writers notes what other or others don’t bring out.

    • kzarley

      As I mention in my post, the NRSV translates the Greek text of John 20.6-7 correctly as follows, “Then Simon Peter came, following him [John?], and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” Thus, the linen wrappings (Gr. othonia/othonion), mentioned twice, are clearly in the plural and were lying separately from the single head kerchief (Gr. soudarion). This account furnishes this and other details about the matter whereas the synoptic accounts do not. Therefore, in order to harmonize this Johannine account with all three synoptic accounts, which clearly describe a single linen cloth, I think it has to be concluded that those accounts leave out the detail that Jesus’ body was wrapped with what had to be multiple pieces of cloth as in John 20.7-8.

  • http://www.realdiscoveries.info/ Simon Brown

    You really do need to do some ‘REAL’ research, as it is clear you have done none, and are making yourself look unintelligent.

    Here I have done some for you.
    Read 100’s of scientific papers, and peer reviewed articles, and the physical evidences of the crucifixion, death, and the ultimate Resurrection of Jesus (Yeshua) meaning Salvation, all on the Shroud of Turin. http://wwwrealdiscoveriesorg-simon.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/read-100s-of-peer-reviewed-scientific.html

    Simon Brown.
    http://wwwrealdiscoveriesorg-simon.blogspot.co.uk/
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16King James Version (KJV)