The Shroud of Turin is the Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ

It’s not an article of faith, but it is the most obvious and sensible synthesis of all the evidence we actually have.  To hold that opinion is not an article of faith, but a rational opinion based on evidence–like thinking Oswald shot Kennedy.  I don’ t think that evidence will be overturned.  But if it turns out to be a fake, no biggie.

  • Dustin

    I always found it curious how the face on the shroud seemed so similar to traditional artistic representations of Jesus. Since there are no known contemporary images or descriptions of him (and probably never were), I always thought that was a point against the Shroud’s authenticity: “Look, here’s a picture of Jesus, just like the ones we already have!”

    I have the Wikipedia article “Depiction of Jesus” open in another tab. “The oldest known portrait of Jesus, found in Syria and dated to about 235, shows him as a beardless young man of authoritative and dignified bearing. He is depicted dressed in the style of a young philosopher, with close-cropped hair and wearing a tunic and pallium – signs of good breeding in Greco-Roman society. From this, it is evident that some early Christians paid no heed to the historical context of Jesus being a Jew and visualised him solely in terms of their own social context” as Christians would continue to do through the ages, showing him as a fair-skinned European, an olive-skinned Palestinian or even African.

    I’m not levying a case against, here. I find the new research fascinating. I can’t say one way or another what the thing actually is.

    • http://www.math.sc.edu/~nyikos/ Peter Nyikos

      I saw a film that said that the pictures of Jesus changed drastically around the 4th century with the veneration of the Image of Edessa, and for the first time were like the picture on the shroud. These images have since become the basis for most portraits of Jesus.

      If this is correct, your objection becomes a case of putting the cart before the horse, Dustin.

  • Imp the Vladaler

    The biggest problem that I have with the Shroud is that if the two-dimensional cloth ever covered a three-dimensional face, the image would be distorted, just as a Mercator projection distorts the shape of a globe. If the image was made by contact with a face, the image of that face should be wider than normal human proportions.

    • Harpy

      Imp – actually, I think you are off base a little there. This resource (among several) addresses your concern: http://www.sindonology.org/papers/latendresse2005a.pdf

    • The Deuce

      That would be the case if it was some sort of naturalistic contact process that created the image, where the cloth had to be pressed tightly into the face to make contact everywhere. If the image was formed miraculously, of course, that wouldn’t have to be the case.

      Either way, though, we can tell for absolute certain that the Shroud was formed by a 3D object, because the shading on it is actually a very detailed 3D elevation map (the lighter parts correspond to lower elevation, and the darker parts to higher elevation). Nobody could have, or would have, drawn the image that way when there was nobody who could see it and no way to even check their work for hundreds of years. So this is an issue for forgery theories that try to deal with the 3D problem, as all of the ones that wish to even attempt to be remotely credible do (eg. by hypothesizing a statue being used or something).

      • Imp the Vladaler

        God of the Gaps. You talk a good science game in here at places, but when something doesn’t align… it’s a miracle!

        • The Deuce

          Of course. *All* claims of miracles are so-called “gaps” claims, and are based on things not aligning with the usual natural order. The same is true of the resurrection itself. You could make the same argument even if you’d seen the resurrection happen right in front of you. There’s a “gap” problem here either way, whether you admit it as a miracle, or whether you hold out for some highly improbable “natural” explanation to fill the gap.

      • Imp the Vladaler

        the shading on it is actually a very detailed 3D elevation map (the lighter parts correspond to lower elevation, and the darker parts to higher elevation) Nobody could have, or would have, drawn the image that way when there was nobody who could see it and no way to even check their work for hundreds of years.

        Nobody could have, or would have, drawn the image that way… except for everybody who did. Take a look at the Mona Lisa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouched.jpg). The parts of her face with the highest elevation are the lightest. The parts further back are darker. You could do a 3D map of any accurately shaded face portrait and get the same result. There’s nothing special about the 3D map created from the Shroud.

        • The Deuce

          What are you talking about? It’s obvious just on a casual glance that that’s not the case. For instance, the lighting on the front of her left cheek is about the same as that on the front of her right cheek, even though the right cheek is further away in the picture. The bottom of her chin and nose are heavily shaded, even though they’re closer than her right cheek. The painting is done with a light source apparently above, in front, and slightly to the right of the woman, and is shaded accordingly.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          Though the image on the shroud is not drawn on at all. Not even painted. It’s scorched onto the outer layer of the fabric, as if by some kind of heat or energy. So any comparison to paintings or sketches is irrelevant; it just wasn’t produced that way.

  • Dustin

    However, the image has the nail wounds through the decedent’s wrists rather than palms, as crucifixions were historically carried out, contra Velázquez et al. A solid point in its favor.

    • The Deuce

      He’s also got a forked beard and a short pony tail on the Shroud, which aren’t part of the popular depictions of Jesus per se. There are theories (which I think are probably correct) that the Shroud was the cause of the switch to depictions of Jesus’ general appearance as a bearded man rather than a result.

  • http://gladius-spiritus.blogspot.ca/ bear

    I’ve always loved the conundrum of the shroud. It can’t possibly be real, and it can’t be fake, either.

  • http://www.windweavingstories.com Mike Doyle

    Imp,
    That would depend on the nature of the process (which is unknown) that put the image on there and how it was bound around the face.

    • Imp the Vladaler

      It’s a real shame that we don’t have an contemporary account of how Christ’s body – and specifically his head – were covered or wrapped in cloth at the time of his burial. I mean, if we had something like that, we’d be able to consult that account to see if a cloth was gently draped over the body (which the image on the cloth requires), or if the head was wrapped in a separate cloth or something.

      Too bad we don’t have anything like that.

  • The Deuce

    I’ll just link to a comment I left at Fr. Longnecker’s recently. What’s especially interesting about the Shroud is that the seemingly miraculous properties of it were completely undetectable until less than 100 (or in some cases, less than 20) years ago. So a critic who wants to attribute it to a forgery not only has to explain how a forger was able to forge these features so perfectly with medieval technology when we still can’t figure out how reproduce them with modern technology, he has to explain how the forger did it completely by accident, without even knowing that he had done it!:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2013/03/ten-questions-for-shroud-skeptics.html#comment-52490

    • Imp the Vladaler

      Let me take your first three:

      1) The Shroud’s photo negative quality, such that the image only becomes fully visible and detailed in negative, with “correct” lighting, was discovered in 1898, and so could not have possibly have been intended by any putative medieval artist.

      So what if it wasn’t “intended”? Intent to create a negative is not what causes a negative to be created from a positive image.

      2) The fact that the image on the Shroud is only 200nm thick was only discovered in the last couple of decades or so, and certainly could not have been intended by any medieval artist.

      So?

      3) The fact that the image on the Shroud is actually an elevation map, where darker parts correspond to higher elevation on a 3D image of a man, was only discovered, and demonstrated with imaging software, in the past few decades.

      It’s not “an elevation map.” An elevation map can be created from the image by mapping the shade to an elevation. But the same can be said for any monochromatic image if the lighting is uniform.

      • The Deuce

        So what if it wasn’t “intended”? Intent to create a negative is not what causes a negative to be created from a positive image.

        Not sure what you mean here. Certainly when a photographer takes a picture, the negative isn’t directly created by him intending for a negative to exist. However, cameras produce negatives because they are intended to work that way. Any Shroud skeptic theory has to account for how the image was formed in negative without using something intended to produce a negative.

        So?

        So any Shroud skeptic’s theory has to explain how the forger not only made an image that is uniformly 200 nanometers thick on a cloth using medieval technology, it has to explain it in such a way that it was done completely by accident, without the forger even knowing he’d done it.

        It’s not “an elevation map.” An elevation map can be created from the image by mapping the shade to an elevation. But the same can be said for any monochromatic image if the lighting is uniform.

        Perhaps you don’t understand what’s meant by “elevation map.” Yes, you can take any monochromatic image (or any image, actually) and map the shade to level of elevation. However, it won’t map to the actual 3-dimensional shape of the objects in the picture under normal conditions. In the case of the Shroud, when you map the shade to level of elevation, the result is the actual correct shape of a body, with the parts that would by higher up (on a body lying down) higher up, and the parts that would be lower down being lower down.

        You don’t have to call it an “elevation map” if you don’t want to, but any skeptic’s theory still has to explain how the Shroud ended up with such a feature accidentally (and the photo negative, and 200nm thickness).

        • Imp the Vladaler

          The image wasn’t “formed in negative.” All the features you see in the positive are there in the negative. They’re just easier to make out in negative. It’s like playing around with the contrast in Photoshop. You’re not adding or subtracting any information. You’re just changing its value to make it easier to see.

          • The Deuce

            I’m sorry, but you’re just being dense on purpose, and are playing semantic games. It’s true of any negative image, including the Shroud, that the information is there but is difficult to make out. That’s entirely my point. The “information” entailed in these bizarre features of the Shroud were always there, but they were impossible to even see, much less create on purpose, in the middle ages when critics purport that it was forged.

  • Patrick

    I think it takes far more faith to still believe that Oswald shot Kennedy than it does that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus.

    • Mark Shea

      Nah. My thought after visiting the confined space of Dealey Plaza was, “Heck. I could have done that.” (Not that I wanted to, of course, but it just wasn’t that hard to do and Oswald’s behavior afterward in killing Office Tippit screams “Guilty.”

      • thomas tucker

        Oh, he shot Kennedy alright. The real question is who put him up to it. FWIW- do you know who Jack Ruby had dinner with the night before he killed Oswald?

  • http://irenist.blogspot.com Irenist

    I’d be delighted to believe in the Shroud, but all the explanations put forward for why the 1988 tests that carbon-dated the Shroud to the Middle Ages were improperly conducted always read like distressingly ad hoc motivated reasoning to me. Anyone care to tell me why I’m wrong? I’d be grateful to be wrong on this.

    • An Aaron, not the Aaron

      Raymond Rogers, formerly a chemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (now deceased), was able to confirm that the Shroud sample used for the carbon-dating was mixed with more modern materials (thought to be part of a repair job that no one noticed in the early years of study by the STURP team), which skewed the dates. He published his findings shortly before his death in 2005 in the journal Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425, Issues 1–2, 20 January 2005, Pages 189–194). By the way, he thought the repair theory was absurd until he took a good look at it.

      This and the fact that of the more than 200 tests conducted on the Shroud, only the carbon-dating even remotely suggests it has medieval origins.

  • Imp the Vladaler

    If the Shroud is real, then it is and always was the most important relic in all of Christianity. Hands down. Nothing else even comes close. Not the True Cross. Not the Holy Grail. And yet it doesn’t show up in any definitive accounts until well into the second half of Christianity.

    What do we say about Protestant arguments that showed up in the late Middle Ages or early Renaissance and purport to be the Hidden Truth? Right, we say they’re garbage.

    • The Deuce

      There aren’t any *definitive* accounts of it, though there are accounts of things that sound like they might have been it (the popular identification is with the Image of Edessa).

    • The Deuce

      And also, like I said, until quite recently there wouldn’t be any accounts of the Shroud of Turin with the features we know it for today, because until quite recently it just looked like a cloth with some faint, barely perceptible discoloration in the vague shape of a human body on it. It took the invention of photography (and hence photo negativity) together with contrast-enhancement to be able to see the highly-detailed image that’s actually encoded on it, and that it’s now famous for.

    • An Aaron, not the Aaron

      A couple of thoughts on your theory. First, the Eucharist has always been far more important than any relic in the eyes of the Church. Her focus rightly would be there. Second, relics are prone to being lost or destroyed, so the more important the relic the more likely it would be hidden in times of persecution or conflict (of which there were many in that first millennia). If hidden, it may only appear in history through vague references and legends, like the Image of Edessa, the Abgar Legend and the Mandylion, for example.

      To compare an artifact that, you know, actually exists today, and is referenced throughout history both in writing and strikingly similar artwork to, say, the Baptist’s Trail of Blood, is a bit of a stretch.

  • James

    The Bible is clear on “images” and us not worshiping them! READ IT. Why would Jesus leave an image of Himself on a cloth, knowing that it would be worshiped? Also, there is no mention of this image on the cloth left behind in the Bible. If it was that important for us to know or believe, why did God leave it out of His word? This cloth has been proven to be a fake every time they are allowed to test it so why would the new pope declare this the truth? The whole teaching of this church is misleading and false. I am no long a catholic!

    • http://www.2catholicmen.blogspot.com Ben @ 2CM

      I just finished reading Mark’s book called “By What Authority? an Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition” You’d love it!!!

    • An Aaron, not the Aaron

      “This cloth has been proven to be a fake every time they are allowed to test it”

      Um, no. The state of the science is that it dates from the first century. The vast majority of scientists who study the Shroud now believe it is authentic (by authentic, I mean that it dates from the right period).

      Read Mark’s book Ben recommends to learn about the Catholic Church and the Bible, then head on over to http://www.shroud.com to learn about the Shroud.

    • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

      Know anyone who worships the Shroud?

      You’ll be a Catholic if you wanna be, and not a Catholic if you don’t. Why blame the Shroud?

  • Newp Ort

    Can’t reproduce it means it ain’t fake, bit of a fallacy? Absence of evidence not evidence of absence, re materially created fake.

    I heard the radioactive dating was off, too

    Two pro-authenticity shroud experts were on Drew Mariani show on Relevant Radio a couple years ago. They said reason dating was shorter than 2000 years was the miraculous restoration of life to Christ’s body could have emitted radiation that altered the resulting radioactive dating results to indicate lesser age. That’s a bit of a reach, I’d say.

    Like Mark said, no biggie either way. Belief in shroud not required of the faithful, fake shroud does not detract from truth of the faith.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    “I’ve always loved the conundrum of the shroud. It can’t possibly be real, and it can’t be fake, either.”

    A lovely definition of reality.

    • Bill M.

      Gustave Thibon: “Contradiction is the criterion of reality.”

  • Eric Hefty

    And how do you surmise that the image made on the shroud was of Jesus? I don’t believe the Shroud of Turin was Jesus’ because it would be just too convenient. Even if many miracles were made for the devotees of this particular image, it could be anyone on there. It could be a Saint, or there could be a simpler explanation. To me, this is the same lack of prudence in faith that lead to the “God of the gaps” theory.

    • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

      We don’t know if it is Jesus. We don’t know it isn’t. So it is what you make of it.

    • An Aaron, not the Aaron

      If you know anyone who experienced what the man on the Shroud experienced, other than Jesus, speak up. Only one person that we know of went through all of that in the first century. The man on the Shroud fits the description of Jesus and His Passion, and no one else.

      • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

        Why do you put me in the position of affirming or denying the identity of the person on the Shroud? Who am I to say?

        • An Aaron, not the Aaron

          I was responding to Eric, not to you, Pavel. My point is that it is not only reasonable to conclude that the man on the Shroud is Jesus, but it is in fact the most reasonable conclusion, based upon the evidence.

  • Michael Matthew

    By no means am I a carbon dating expert. Please correct me if I am wrong. My understanding is that exposure to high heat may affect the carbon dating of a substance and that it makes it appear younger. It is well documented that the shroud was exposed to intense heat and was almost lost in a fire. To this day, the cloth has quite visible scorch marks. This means that the shroud was de natured by the heat and theoretically, thereby altering the accuracy of the carbon dating. Also, as mentioned above, the carbon dating is highly dependent upon the area of the cloth where the sample for dating was taken. My understanding is the samples taken were near an edge of the cloth that was affected by the fire. This is a reasonable explanation as to why the carbon dating was off but I would love to hear from someone with more knowledge about carbon dating.

    • An Aaron, not the Aaron

      I don’t think this theory is favored at the moment. For one thing, it seems a rather substantial amount of heat would have to be generated to create the alterations necessary here. To my mind, the best theory to explain the anomalous carbon-dating results is the repair theory confirmed by Dr. Rogers (I referenced it somewhere else on this thread).

  • Zeke

    To believe that the shroud is authentic, you have to believe the following:
    - the STURP team who planned the test protocols for years, under the eyes of the Church, somehow incompetently chose a sample of the shroud that was repaired “invisibly”
    - that the radiocarbon dating that places its origin at the time when the Church historians first mention it is an incredible coincidence
    - that the gospel accounts of how Jesus was wrapped when he was buried are wrong
    - that the early Church chose not to mention such an amazing relic until the 14th century
    - that Giulio Fanti, a Catholic, has performed reliable and unbiased analysis of the shroud that disproves STURP
    Hardly sounds like a rational opinion based on evidence to me.

    • An Aaron, not the Aaron

      You don’t have to believe any of this, actually.

      “the STURP team who planned the test protocols for years, under the eyes of the Church, somehow incompetently chose a sample of the shroud that was repaired ‘invisibly’”

      It wasn’t the STURP team’s protocol that was followed. The STURP protocol called for three samples taken from three different areas of the Shroud. The protocol that was actually used directed that only one sample be taken and split into three parts. The section it was taken from was an oft-handled, dirty, water-stained corner that the STURP team didn’t really bother to investigate because of its condition.

      “that the radiocarbon dating that places its origin at the time when the Church historians first mention it is an incredible coincidence”

      This isn’t evidence, its argument (and not very good argument at that). In light of the actual evidence, “it’s an incredible coincidence, therefore it is a forgery” is about on par with “it’s an incredible coincidence therefore the carbon-dating results must have been fixed to fit the history.” I reject both.

      “that the gospel accounts of how Jesus was wrapped when he was buried are wrong”

      I assume you’re referring to the account in the Gospel of John that notes a “napkin” and “burial cloths.” The napkin could be the Sudarium of Oviedo. The location of the blood stains on the Sudarium matches the locations of those on the Shroud. As to the plural “cloths,” how do you suppose the Shroud was secured to the body? Magic? It is likely that other cloth was used to tie the body around the Shroud. If you’ve ever wondered how the crimp line at the throat of the image was formed, you may want to consider that was one location where other cloth was secured around the body. The other cloth may simply have been lost over time. No, there is no reason to think the Gospel accounts are wrong.

      “that the early Church chose not to mention such an amazing relic until the 14th century”

      I’m not sure you understand how the Church functions. She doesn’t regularly catalogue every relic that exists in Christendom. However, there have been plenty of references to the Shroud throughout history, if you know what you’re looking for. The Abgar Legend, the Image of Edessa, the Mandylion, the 12th century Hungarian Pray Manuscript and the 6th or 7th century Christ Pantocrator from Mount Sinai immediately come to mind.

      “that Giulio Fanti, a Catholic, has performed reliable and unbiased analysis of the shroud that disproves STURP”

      Fanti’s work hasn’t been thoroughly vetted yet, as far as I know. I’ll withhold judgment on his conclusions until that happens.

  • bob

    I haven’t read every comment, this might be a repeat. As far as I’m aware, no one has ever reproduced this kind of image. If there were I’d expect it to be mentioned every time the shroud is. That alone is remarkable. I’d assume any number of skeptics would make it their business to show how any common faker of 100-1500 (2000?) years ago could whip up a similar effect with very easily obtainable materials. I never see it.

  • FW Ken

    There was a show on the It-ain’t-History Channel some time ago that purported to demonstrate a method of creating the shroud by etching the image on large sheets of plate glass then letting the sun scorch linen cloth beneath. As the sun travels across the sky, it scorches the cloth so that a three dimensional image is formed. Aside from the question of whether large pieces of plate glass existed in the 14th century, the method doesn’t answer some of the other anomalies in the case. For that matter, are there are clothes that might have been made like this in that time period? In other words, are there comparable “relics”?

    At any rate the carbon-dating was challenged not by partisans, but by a member of the original team investigating it.

    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1301829.htm

    For the record, I don’t believe the shroud IS the burial garment of Jesus, but I do believe it might be.

  • Trevisa

    One thing I never quite understood about the Shroud debate is the complete dismissal of the Shroud as an object of interest based on the carbon dating results.

    If the Shroud is medieval then surely it’s still important in terms of cultural history. It suggests that certain areas of historical knowledge (e.g. nails-through-the-wrist being the norm for crucifixion) and artistic knowledge (e.g. the highly naturalistic image) were far in advance of what we tend to think when we consider medieval culture. The negative image and the lack of anything like brushmarks suggests that the most likely way for this image to have been made is by a process akin to modern photography – an insight that would also change the way we think about the middle ages.

    For myself, I simply don’t know. Reading up on the Shroud debates has given me an insight into first-century crucifixion practices that certainly helps in contemplating Our Lord’s Passion, but that’s the same sort of help something like this http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341bfbfe53ef01538e0c0352970b-800wi gives me. Like others have said, it doesn’t really change our faith either way. And as Ian Wilson pointed out in one of his books on the Shroud, even if we can prove a first-century date for the Shroud, there isn’t a scientific test for ‘Christ-ness’ by which we can prove precisely which of the many individuals tortured and crucified by the Romans in that period is depicted on it.


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