Evidence for the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth, over 14’ long and over 3’ wide. It bears the faint imprint of the front and back of a man with wounds corresponding to the Gospel accounts of Our Lord’s suffering.

Some people claim it is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. I am one of those people.

Reason Number 1 - The image on the Shroud becomes more compelling under closer scrutiny and as more technology is applied to its examination.

The Shroud was first photographed in 1898. When the negative of the image was viewed it appeared to be the photograph of a majestic man, showing wounds consistent with the suffering of Our Lord before His death. The visible image of the Shroud is much less distinct. In fact, it can only be clearly seen by the naked eye if viewed from over 10 feet away. Black and white photographs of the Shroud are more distinct than the visible image, but not so much as a photographic negative. The photographic negative is so distinct that the photographer was accused of fraud and not vindicated until years later when the Shroud was again made available for public view and again photographed.

The whip marks on the shroud match with wounds that would have been caused by a Roman whip, typically bone or metal tipped. This would have been a pointless detail for a forger to replicate for a medieval relic. Additionally, ultraviolet examination of these wounds show images surrounding the wounds consistent with images that would be formed by blood serum residue.

The nail holes are through the wrists, not the hands. This is different than conventional wisdom now and during medieval times. Subsequent testing with fresh cadavers has shown that hands would not support the force on the arms of a crucified individual.

Bloodstains on the face of the shroud do not match ideally to the image. They do match ideally if one assumes that the blood stains were the result of contact between a three-dimensional body and the image was from a projection of that body perpendicular to a plane passing through the body, cutting it in half, front to back. This is supported by the fact that there is no image beneath the bloodstains. This supports the theory that the bloodstains were caused by direct contact with the dead body, and the image was formed later. If such a relic were forged it would not make sense to put the blood on before the image, just as when drawing a portrait it would not make sense to draw some small detail and then fill in the rest of the face around the detail. Also, it does not make sense to place bloodstains on the body in such a manner as to make them appear improperly located without careful examination. There are other bloodstains that only appear properly located if one assumes the three-dimensional body that is projected by the image of the Shroud.

Despite the detection of some paint on the shroud (possibly caused by artists touching their copies to the Shroud over the years), chemical and spectroscopic analyses confirm the blood is blood. Additionally, the image was not painted, but formed by the dehydration and de-oxidation of selected fibers. Basically, these fibers exhibit the characteristics of aging. Such aging can be caused by exposure to radiation or reaction with an acid.

The blood on the Shroud is loaded with bilirubin. Bilirubin is produced in a living human when the blood is physically damaged—as during a severe beating.

The wounds on the head appear to have been caused by a cap or clump of thorns, not a circlet of thorns as is typically depicted in paintings of the crucifixion. At first glance this seems inconsistent, but upon reflection it makes more sense. I can hardly imagine a group of Roman soldiers taking the time to weave a circlet of thorns just to taunt a prisoner. Also, with so many of the little details being effectively replicated, why wouldn’t a forger have been able to get such a simple detail right?

Reason Number 2 - The image on the Shroud has the characteristics of being formed by whole body radiation.

When a photograph of the Shroud is viewed through a machine (VP-8 analyzer) that converts the difference in shading to a three-dimensional relief a very close approximation of a three-dimensional image of a man is seen. This phenomenon does not happen with photographs. Such an image would only be created if the original image was either formed by a process whereby image intensity was related to the thickness of the body perpendicular to the cloth (such as whole body radiation) OR to the distance of the body from the cloth.

The three-dimensional image does appear too flat and has some distortions when compared with a real three-dimensional image of a man. These distortions disappear if the shroud was draped over a body when the image was formed and the image was only “projected” perpendicular to a plane running through the body separating front and back. These distortions become irrelevant if one believes the image was crafted in such a way so that it would appear realistic when viewed as both a photographic negative and as a three-dimensional relief—if God had deliberately imposed the image on the cloth.

Dr. August Accetta, a medical practitioner conducted an interesting experiment to compare the image formed on the shroud with that formed by a “radioactive” human body—with striking results. Dr. Accetta injected himself with technetium 99, a radioactive isotope used to produce photographs of diseased bones. This element is absorbed into the flesh from the blood stream, but slowly moves to the bones. He took the image created by the radiation emanating from his body and viewed it in a VP-8 analyzer. There were some interesting similarities between that image and the one of the Shroud. One similarity involved the fingers on the upper hand—the hands are crossed over one another. Instead of a perfect three-dimensional image, the fingers on the upper hand “crash down,” appearing to be sticking out of the side of the lower hand on both images. On the x-ray image this is caused because the intensity of the image is proportional to the amount of flesh and bone present. The fingers appear to be sticking out of the upper hand because there is only an air gap beneath them at the point they are no longer above the lower hand. Since the image on the Shroud crashes down at exactly the same point for each finger, this is strong evidence that the image was formed similarly by radiation emitted from a body. Since all four fingers crash down at the point that the lower hand is no longer below the fingers, a coincidental change in shading is unlikely.

Reason Number 3 - There is a relic in Oveida, Spain with a well-documented history that helps confirm the validity of the Shroud.

This relic is claimed to be the cloth that was wrapped around Our Lord’s head when he was removed from the cross and brought to the tomb for burial. There is no image on this cloth. The confirmation comes from the fact that some of the blood stains match perfectly with some on the Shroud. There is not a perfect match between all of the bloodstains, but the perfect matching of some complex patterns is evident. I viewed these matching blood patterns myself. Furthermore, the blood on both cloths is of type AB. I don’t feel the blood tests are conclusive, because of the great age of the samples, but the patterns of the blood stains are.

Reason Number 4 - There is strong evidence showing the Shroud was in the Middle East before its arrival in Europe.

There are legends of a cloth arriving in the city of Edessa in the first century. This cloth is credited with the spread of faith in that area. It is described as having an image, not made by earthly means, appearing to be formed by moist secretions, not pigments, an image not made by hands. This cloth was hidden in Edessa during the persecution of Christians until 525 AD, when it was rediscovered. Edessa was attacked by the emperor of Constantinople in 944 AD and the cloth was taken. Before the sixth century artistic renderings of Our Lord varied considerably. In fact, many depicted him as beardless. From the sixth century on Eastern Church painters of icons have used artistic renderings of this holy image of Edessa as the basis for drawings of Our Lord. Pictures of Christ have become more uniform since then. Images copied from the holy image of Edessa bear a strong resemblance to the image on the Shroud. In 1204 AD Constantinople was sacked during the fourth Crusade and the cloth of Edessa disappeared from history. It is possible that it was taken back to Europe as part of the spoils of war. There is evidence that a wealthy secretive group of men, the Knights Templar, took possession of the cloth. The father of Geoffrey de Charney (the first recorded owner of the Shroud) was a member of the Knights Templar and a crusader, Dr. Max Frei, previous head of forensic science for the Swiss police examined pollen found on the surface of the shroud. He found pollen grains from 12 plants of European origin. He also discovered pollen grains from 9 species of plants indigenous to the region of Turkey around Istanbul or Constantinople. He also discovered pollen from 8 species of plants from the vicinity of Jerusalem. These results have been recently confirmed by scientists at the Hebrew University in Israel.

What about the challenges?

The only significant evidence against the validity of the Shroud is the Carbon-14 dating that was done. Carbon 14 dating placed the origin of the Shroud in the middle ages. (Carbon 14 dating is used to determine the date when what was living matter had died. It can be very accurate, provided the once living material did not undergo significant reactions involving carbon replacement following its death. Fires and bacterial growth can cause significant replacement of carbon atoms.)

Several facts show this evidence is not strong.

Measurements were taken from three samples from one location. This location is immediately adjacent to a section damaged severely in a fire in medieval times (1532 AD). Scientists involved with the project strongly urged the Vatican to allow samples from three different locations, and that none of these samples be from fire damaged areas. This was necessary to confirm that the dates determined were consistent over different locations and limit the error introduced by more recent chemical reactions. The Vatican did not follow this advice.

The three laboratories did not work independently of one another and they did not test the samples blind. Both of these practices are usually employed to provide confirmation that results were independent and unbiased.

Microscopic photographs of cross-sections of individual fibrils show that at least some of the fibrils, which are typically hollow, were filled with bioplastic residue from still growing bacteria. This residue is harder than the fibrils themselves and would not have been removed by cleaning. The jury is still out on whether this condition had an impact.

The results of the testing show the samples used for dating were not homogeneous. For the dating to be accurate the samples must be taken from areas that are representative of the entire Shroud. If the actual dates determined are viewed along with their location they show a linear progression of obtained dates. The closer the individual sample is to the fire damage, the younger it was dated.

A later sample was carbon dated, yielding a date for the Shroud in the first century.
Statistical review of the data used to determine the medieval date for the Shroud seems to indicate that there was too much difference in the dates obtained by the three laboratories for the results to be conclusive, regardless of where the samples were taken.

For more information on the Shroud of Turin, please visit the following Websites.

http://members.aol.com/turin99/shroud.htm> - Shroud of Turin Center (location of the conference)

http://www.shroud.com/> Shroud of Turin Website (a resource for further research on the Shroud of Turin)

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