|In their article “Is the Shroud of Turin Authentic – or Is it a Forgery” Creation Ministries International (CMI) supports the theory that the Shroud of Turin is not the authentic burial shroud of Christ – it is a medieval forgery. This article refutes that theory, along with the main reasons CMI gives for rejecting authenticity.
This article relies primarily on the testimony of Shroud of Turin Research Project (STRP) members and other expert testimony to demonstrate there is a wealth of evidence CMI apparently did not consider before drawing their conclusions. This article is intended to inform the reader of those evidences and make available the testimony of the STRP members and other expert witnesses so that readers may judge for themselves whether CMI has reached the correct conclusion. It is the position of this article that they did not. The reader is encouraged to click on the links to view the referenced testimonies.
On August 15, 2019, Guillermo Gonzalez, astronomer and co-author of the “The Privileged Planet” a book and documentary on the fine tuning required for life to exist, published on The Stream (a news and commentary site) an article on The Shroud of Turin Titled “The Shroud of Turin is Back in the Spotlight, Sort of.” A day later, biologist Matthew Cserhati and geneticist Rob Carter, writing for Creation Ministry International (CMI) (one of the premiere creation defending sites in the world) wrote an article on the shroud titled “Is the Shroud of Turin authentic?” subtitled “Or is it a forgery?”
As a supporter of the authenticity of the Shroud, I read both with interest. I was pleased to discover Gonzalez supports the authenticity of the Shroud, and a bit surprised that Cserhati and Carter of CMI do not. Some might say I should not be surprised at these findings with The Stream being a catholic supporting organization (and the Shroud is of course a catholic owned and managed artifact – though the church takes no official position on it’s authenticity) and CMI being a protestant evangelical organization.
But I think that charge (of bias) is off the mark. I myself, an evangelical protestant, feel no obligation to support the traditions of the catholic church, and yet I fully support the authenticity of the shroud. Likewise, I’m confident the writers of these articles take pride in holding to the objectivity required of scientists.
While they may or may not have a stake in the outcome, there is no evidence they would be unfair or arrive at unfounded conclusions based on their individual faiths. In fact both articles are careful to point out what I will likewise point out: The Shroud of Turin is not a necessary “proof” of the Christian faith or of the resurrection, nor is it an object of worship. It is just another line of evidence. As Gonzalez puts it, “It would be the witness to the resurrection, a visual love letter from the first century.” And as Cserhati and Carter put it “Even the Apostles did not appeal to physical evidence for the Resurrection. Instead, they appealed to eyewitness testimony. Those testimonies are still with us today, in the pages of the New Testament.” The resurrection is true whether or not the shroud is authentic. The only thing we’re trying to determine is if we do indeed have another line of evidence in the shroud – another witness to the resurrection.
Denying the shroud contains encoded 3D Information?
With that in mind I asked the CMI pair via a comment about what I consider to be one of the strongest evidences that the Shroud is authentic: the fact that when analyzed by NASA’s VP8 image analyzer – a device designed for analyzing NASA photos and images from medical resources and satellites, the VP8 generates a 3D image of the person recorded in the shroud. It does that only for the Shroud, not for sketches or photographs. That evidence alone rules out a medieval forgery, because it would be easily detectable by a VP8 analysis. When I asked about that in the comments, pointing out that a medieval forger could not have encoded 3D info in the shroud, Cserhati responded, and spoke primarily about why he didn’t think it was a 3D image, and why the image could not have been on what he considers the real shroud noting:
“Where are His ears? Instead, the image of the man in the shroud looks like a two-dimensional painting of a face-on view of a man. Thus, the image could not have been produced by any draping or wrapping of the cloth around a face. “
He is apparently addressing “the image of the man in the shroud “, and not the 3D VP8 image. With that being the case, then my first question regarding how a medieval forgery could contain 3D encoding remains unanswered. Second, he uses the example of Mercator projection for creating a map as an analog as to what we should expect. But the fact is no one knows how the 3D info was encoded, and thus that analogy may or may not be correct (and based on the fourth item, it is probably incorrect). Third, as this picture of how the shroud was probably draped over the body shows, one would not expect the ears to touch the shroud. CMI also objects that the hair is visible. This article pointed out by Guillermo Gonzalez has suggestions on why the hair is visible in the image. Fourth, the image could not have been produced by any draping or wrapping anyway. The image is a perfect image. Meaning the medium the image is on – the shroud – was perfectly flat when the image was created. That is the conclusion of at least one shroud researchers that supports its authenticity.
In concluding his comment Cserhati notes: “The body-portion of the image has similar problems for the ‘3D’ hypothesis, but the face is most obvious.” Notice he calls the 3D aspect a hypothesis. The 3D characteristic of the shroud is not a “hypothesis”, it is a fact accepted by many shroud researchers including Giulio Fanti (who conducted additional tests to date the shroud – see below) who mentions the 3D characteristic in one of his write ups. In fact the 3D aspect of the shroud was the catalyst that formed STRP – the Shroud of Turin Research Project – with a goal of determining how such a unique image got on the shroud. STRP member Dr. Ken Stevenson rightfully states that many don’t understand this aspect (as clearly CMI does not), but it is a key aspect and allows an “acid test” of authenticity for the shroud. If a proposed method to create the image does not produce a 3D image under VP8 analysis, it cannot be the method used to create the original image on the shroud.
For CMI to simply reject this significant finding regarding the shroud, relegating it to a “hypothesis” that they don’t even bother to mention in their write up, makes me question my original statement assuming objectivity. I can’t help but wonder if it’s not mentioned because they know their suggested method of image formation – a maillard reaction – would fail this test. Regarding this 3D aspect and CMI, one gets the feeling like you might get when trying to prove to a flat earth supporter that the earth is a globe.
Additionally there are features in the shroud that a medieval forger (whether by painting or photo) could not replicate. But I get ahead of myself. Let’s take a step back and review the approach of this article before we get started.
This article’s approach: majoring on CMI’s major objections
A lot of ground is covered in the CMI article and it would be impossible to try to cover them in their comments section – thus this article. The CMI article makes many claims against the authenticity of the Shroud – and even so, the authors acknowledge that not all controversy concerning the shroud had been covered. My point being the topic of the shroud leads to many subject areas of interest. And since there is so much ground to cover and I’d like to keep this to one article, the approach of this article will be to take up the major claims of the CMI article against authenticity and show them to be untenable or flat out wrong.
Additionally so that each person may judge the evidence for themselves (and CMI may review and comment if they’d like) I will also include links to video clips supporting the claims I’m making from the references cited, or footnotes for written evidence and quotes as is appropriate. To keep this short as possible, I will work primarily from their summary of findings – demonstrating how the major claims they make against the authenticity of the shroud are wrong, and include links to what is evidence that apparently CMI did not consider (or edited out) that I’m referencing so that you the reader may judge for yourself.
The first piece of clearly unconsidered evidence
Before I start debunking their major claims, let me start with a factually incorrect statement made about the purpose of STRP – a scientific research team that did extensive investigation of the shroud in 1978. The CMI article states the purpose of STRP as: “They were searching for evidence to support their view that it is truly the burial Shroud of Jesus Christ.” According to STRP members themselves, that was explicitly NOT the purpose. The purpose was to determine how the image got on the cloth. You can click through to view the statements yourself from STRP members Barry Schwortz and Vern Miller here. That is just the first of many erroneous over sights -unconsidered evidence – this CMI article makes, so let’s get to it:
Summary of Major CMI Claims against Authenticity
and why they’re wrong.
Major finding: The shroud is not authentic, likely a medieval forgery. Major support: Carbon 14 dating
Main problem in CMI Theory: Nuclear chemistry
It is known (not suspected) that the Carbon 14 date is in error due to a contaminated sample used to date the shroud.
Problems with the Medieval date (1260-1390) of the original Carbon 14 test:
1. Only 1 sample was taken, and it was taken from a much handled (and thus much contaminated), previously repaired section of the cloth. (Multiple sections should have been taken and dated.
2. The section that was taken was repaired in the 16th century after it had been damaged. The repair was done by a process known as invisible weaving. Sixteenth century cotton fibers were invisibly woven into the fabric of the shroud. When tested together, the 16th century fabric along with the first century fabric produced the Carbon 14 date of between 1260 and 1390 AD for an origin of the fabric.
3. It is known the sample was contaminated because:
a) Cotton (cotton!) was found in the cloth that should be 100% linen. STRP member Ray Rogers found cotton in a sample of the shroud in his possession. This alone is proof the sample was contaminated, but there is further evidence:
b) Rogers sent a sample to Los Alamos labs for independent confirmation that the section that was taken from the shroud for carbon14 dating contained cotton. The thread sent to Los Alamos unraveled, revealing threads from two separate fabrics – cotton and linen. Thus cotton was confirmed in what should have been an exclusively linen shroud.
c) Merely inspecting with the naked eye photos of the samples of the shroud that were submitted for Carbon 14 testing reveals the samples were contaminated
d) Ultraviolet light showed different colors from the section that the samples were taken from, indicating different fabrics there, than from the main body of the shroud where the image is.
e) It is known that the main body of the shroud has no paints, dyes or unguents on it. But the portion that was tested was found to have a dye and mordant (chemical used to set dyes) on it.
f) A secret test to date the shroud was performed in 1982 on a long strand from the shroud. The test returned radically different dates from one end of the thread to the other end. The C14 test dated to 200 AD on one end and 1000 AD on the other. This is yet another confirmation of contamination of the shroud fabric by invisible re-weaving. It is also further evidence that the medieval date from the 1988 C14 test is an erroneous date.
4. Other non-radiometric tests to date the shroud conducted by Giulio Fanti yielded an average date of 33 BC. Published paper here. (The crucifixion was circa 30 AD, so that is a feasible date for the shroud.)
Other areas the CMI writers have problems with:
Bible: CMI’s biggest objection appears to be that the body was not wrapped in the shroud, the shroud merely covered the body. And the shroud is one cloth – there were not multiple clothes. They state:
“This means that, at least according to Luke and John, there were multiple pieces of cloth, contrary to the single-piece Shroud of Turin. The only other possibility is that Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth that were smeared with sticky myrrh and aloes, a cloth was placed over his face, then the wrapped body was laid on a separate linen sheet that the Bible does not mention”
At this point they seem to be uncharacteristically obscure, ignoring clear cut biblical evidence. The strips of cloth are indeed separate from the linen sheet both of which are, in fact, mentioned. These are the clothes mentioned in John’s gospel:
- The Shroud – a linen cloth – οθονιον -(othonion) though the word is used in the plural, the word “strips” is not used – that is supplied by translations like the NIV. An equally valid translation would be ” they bound him in linen”) (John 19:40) This would parallel the plural use of the word in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Bible) in places like Hos 2.5 and 2.9 where “strips” is not used: “my wool and my linen” Hos 2.5. This usage assumes the use of the binding clothes below (though in John they are not specifically mentioned in Jesus’ burial, but they are for that of Lazarus).
- The Head wrapping (σουδαριον – soudarion) – this is the piece John indicates was lying separately (John 20.7) from the οθονιον – notice the word “strips” is not used here either – even in the NIV- it’s simply “linen”. (NIV)
- The Wrapping clothes (κειρια – keiria) – The apostle John doesn’t mention these in the account of Jesus – using the verb “to bind” instead of “to wrap”, but as the CMI article points out, in the account of Lazarus, the apostle John uses this word (κειρια – keiria) – indicating Lazarus was bound in these wrapping clothes. According to John 19.40, Jesus was “bound” in the “linen” according to the “custom” of the Jews so it is reasonable to surmise that the (κειρια – keiria) clothes were also use to bind the body of Jesus.
The CMI writers have rejected the Sudarium of Oviedo as being the head piece around Jesus’ head, but that doesn’t mean the Bible indicates there was only one cloth. I agree with them the Bible mentions multiple linen clothes – including the head covering called a soudarion. That doesn’t mean the shroud cannot be one of the “linens” mentioned. In passing, other researchers support the sudarium of Oveido as also being authentic, demonstrating how it was probably wrapped, and also claim the blood stains on the sudarium match with those on the shroud – meaning it was wrapped around the same body.
But keeping our attention focused on the shroud, it is most curious in their write up is there is no mention of the other clothes that the bible says dead bodies (like Lazarus’) were wrapped in: Keiria: these are “a band, either for bed-girth, or for tying up a corpse after it has been swathed in linen” [emphasis added] According to the definition in Strong’s. So the biblical picture of how the grave clothes were wrapped that we’re given is:
First the head covering (σουδαριον) was placed over the head before the body was taken off the cross to capture the precious blood, because “the life is in the blood” (Lev 17.11) and the Jews wanted to keep the blood with the body. Once the body was down and horizontal, it was laid on a linen cloth (οθονιον – the shroud), and the cloth draped over the length of the body to cover it, then the body was wrapped and bound with the κειρια (keiria) to keep it in the linen. Further support of the keiria as the bands that were wrapped around the body is given by Leon Morris in his commentary on John. Regarding keiria, he notes:
“The word denotes “bandages” (see LS), so that we are to think of narrow strips wound round the body.”
So yes, the body was wrapped by clothes, those clothes being the keiria, not the shroud.
Further, CMI points out that Jesus was buried with seventy-five pounds of extremely sticky spices. Once again the CMI writers have not considered the evidence that botanicals, some of which can only be from the region of Jerusalem, have been detected on the shroud. And as an August 16th comment by Richard U. points out, the gospels record that the women who had followed Joseph of Arimethea to the tomb and saw where it was, “Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23.56) Meaning they would not have had a chance to apply what they prepared until Sunday – which would have been after the resurrection – so they couldn’t apply them. So it is possible that some of the spices were prepared and applied By Nicodemus and Joseph – per John 19.40 and as Avinoam Danin of Hebrew University, Jerusalem confirms – 12 or 13 botanical objects found on the shroud; but the rest of the spices may never have bee applied per Luke 23.56.
Morphology: Regarding appearance and size – their objections to Jesus’ size are mere speculation. Concerning the body not being wrapped (to revisit the topic), based on how some supporters believe the image was produced (i.e. the shroud falling through the body, or a weightless body rising and projecting the image up and down to the taut shroud) one would not expect to see some of the features the CMI writers are looking for – such as the hair falling a certain way.
Physical Chemistry: CMI questions why the blood stains remain red so long after death. CMI posits the shroud is a medieval forgery meaning they accept the shroud is at least 600 years old. So the question then becomes how does 2,000 year old blood stains on linen cloth differ in appearance from 600 year old blood stains? I’m guessing here (CMI feel free to correct me if appropriate), but unless I miss my guess, CMI has no hard scientific data on how the two differ. Meaning their argument that 600 year blood appearing too red to be 2000 year old blood is an argument from ignorance, and is not informed by the STRP evidence below. Hardly a reason to reject authenticity.
Alternately, CMI could be implying the stains are not blood. They’re not alone in wondering if what appear to be blood stains actually are. STRP member Vernon Miller initially wondered the same thing. STRP tested the stains, and determined the stains are indeed real blood stains, and further it was determined they’re human, type AB. (Same as on the sudarium by the way.) So no further need to wonder at this point. We know for a fact that what appears to be blood stains on the shroud are in fact blood stains. Perhaps this is another piece of evidence that was not considered.
Provenance: CMI is understandably wary of claims of authenticity from any relic since many fakes were produced in the Middle Ages. But notice again the bias here: they have assumed the shroud dates to the middle ages and thus appear to be quite unwilling to evaluate the shroud on its own merits since they can’t find what they deem to be the correct “paper trail.” But scholars such as Dr Albert Dreisbach, Jr. Director, Atlanta Shroud Center – traces the cloth back to at least the 4th century BC, possibly even the biblical account itself via identification with the Mandylion.
CMI rejects the image of Edessa aka the Mandylion as being the same as the shroud. But Dr Alan Whanger has conclusively shown that a sixth century painting is based on the face on the shroud. In a court of law 45-60 points of congruence are required to establish an identity. This painting – the “Pantokrator” (more on that below) – has approximately 250 points of congruence with the shroud. The painting only shows the face of Jesus – as does the Mandylion. How did we get the image of Christ that we have today? STRP member Barry Schwortz notes: “There is no doubt among experts that what is known as the Mandylion of Edessa was a prototype for all the pictorializations of Christ from that day to this.” So the Mandylion is the basis of all images of Jesus today, including the one considered to be foundational to all the others – the Pantokrator painting. And the Pantokrator is known to be based on the face in the shroud. Connect the dots. Mandylion…=…Shroud.
Supporting this chain of events, is that the STRP team found 8 folds in the shroud. When the shroud is folded into 4 along those lines, what’s left is the image of the face on the shroud – the Mandylion. CMI demonstrates how this folding is done (here) but rejects this as evidence that points to the shroud and the Mandylion being the same. If they are the same linen cloth, that is another line of evidence that takes the cloth back at least to the 4th century where it is mentioned in a Syriac codex from that period. And if you accept the account of the apostle Jude giving to King Abgar a cloth with an image on it that healed him from leprosy, that takes it all the back to the first century and the days of the disciples of Jesus.
Manufacturing: CMI gets emphatic on this point. They don’t know how it’s made (no one does), but they do know:
“At this point, we can definitely say what the Shroud is not: the biblical burial cloth of Jesus Christ.”
Their tone in this section suggests it’s not important that we know how it’s made. I disagree for two reasons.
1) One apologetic method is the process of elimination. Take for example the resurrection of Jesus. There are many theories advanced on why the resurrection wasn’t really a resurrection, but merely either the disciples’ delusions, Jesus swooning, or a mistaken body or tomb, etc. etc. (I discuss why those theories fail in a 2 part series here and here.) All these theories have been thoroughly debunked, and shown to be utterly false. Thus leaving the only possible explanation for the appearances of Jesus alive after his death being the resurrection.
The same logic applies to the Shroud. After you shoot down all the explanations for attempts at forgery or natural processes that cannot work to produce the image on the shroud (see below), what you’re left with is the conclusion that the article must be genuine.
2) It is in the very details of the composition of the image (see here and here) on the shroud – an image that is unable to be exactly reproduced even by today’s technology much less medieval technology – that make the assertion of authenticity convincing.
Given the importance of these two items, let me be equally assertive and emphatically state: there is no known human mechanism to create the image on the shroud. Put another way – the shroud was not created by any technique known and available to 21st century man – much less to a medieval forger.
Following is a list of methods tested and ruled out with regards to image creation on the shroud. And thus again let me emphatically state: the following methods absolutely cannot be the means by which the image on the shroud was produced:
The Making of the Image?
Based on the results of STRP analysis and subsequent tests to reproduce the image on the shroud, we know (yes know, not suspect, not guess, we know) the image on the Shroud of Turin cannot be the result of a medieval forgery or natural processes, or any of the following techniques:
1. It is not a painting. There are no paints, dyes, unguents or particles on the main body of the shroud. Nor would a painting have any of the other unique shroud characteristics such as: 3D image information, XRay images, the serum which is only visible under UV light, and the image which is made from degraded cellulose fibers (not paint) that do not penetrate the entire cloth, but in some places extend only 1/500th of an inch into the cloth, and are randomly distributed on the cloth. There is no known way to replicate this image.
2: It’s not a Bas- relief reproduction. The Bas-relief reproduction of Prof Luigi Garlaschelli of the University of Pavia fails visually to the naked eye, and it displays particulates under the microscope where the shroud does not. Further, the technique relies on scorching the image into the fabric. We know from tests that scorch marks are visible under UV light. The image elements of the shroud are not made of scorch marks.
3. It is not a photo. The light and dark areas on the shroud are reversed. That is to say the shroud is a photographic negative. Prompting some to posit that the shroud is the first photo created. But a photo would not have the 3D characteristics the shroud displays under the VP8 analysis. Nor would it reproduce underlying body parts hidden from view like the teeth and thumb as are visible on the Shroud.
4. It is not a Maillard reaction. Aside from failing the VP8 analysis test, it has been demonstrated that such a reaction cannot produce the type of image that is on the shroud. It’s surprising CMI even suggests this as an options since it requires a decaying body. But as the Psalms (Ps 16:10) declare and Acts (2.27, et.al.) echos a number of times, God would not allow the body of the messiah to decay. With regards to this possibility CMI suggests “This [the decay necessary for a maillard reaction] would contradict the idea that it was Jesus, the Son of God.” Which is true – if you first assume the shroud is not authentic because a maillard reaction is responsible for the image. Doing so however would be employing circular reasoning. But since a maillard reaction has been tested and shown to not create anything like the image on the shroud, the proper conclusion is that a maillard reaction did not create the image. Taken from that perspective, the need for decay with a maillard reaction is merely further confirmation that the maillard process could not have created the image.
5. It is not an imprint as suggested by de Wesselow. There is no evidence the Shroud was under the pressure needed to create such an image. Neither would it have the 3D characteristics under the VP8, nor the XRay characteristics, nor the invisible serum.
6. It is not the reaction from bacterial action. That has been demonstrated to not produce an image like the Shroud. Additionally, the image in the shroud is caused by degraded cellulose fibers in the linen, not the addition of yellowed bacteria. Bacteria on the surface would also not be able to image underlying bones (in the face, wrist, fingers, etc.)
7. It is not the work of clever artisans like Leonardo daVinci. Anything such artists could do would have failed one of the above tests – particularly the VP8 analysis. Additionally the shroud has features invisible to the naked eye – like serum visible only under florescent lamps. How would even a clever medieval artisan be able to predict technologies and truths not yet discovered so he could incorporate them in the image to be discovered 600 -700 years later? Such an artist would need to anticipate before its discovery and incorporate:
- Serum as a component of blood and how to separate it to put it on the painting
- Anticipate UV lighting will be discovered and used to make hidden serum stains fluoresce
- Figure out Blood is distinguishable from paint upon examination, so the blood couldn’t be painted on, it must be real
- Figure a clever way to keep the paint from penetrating through to all the fibers as paint normally does. (The image components on the shroud are only on the top fibers. We can’t do this today even with 21st century modern technology.)
- If you believe it to be a photo, this would predate the first known photo by hundreds of years. This would mean the artist discovered photography, then hid the technology – or it was somehow lost – for hundreds of years. A photo would still fail other features, (3D, Hidden anatomy, real blood, etc.)
- Regardless of whether you think it a photo or a painting, why would a forger include body parts hidden from view and only visible by XRay? Such parts are not normally visible, so why include them? Or did the forger also anticipate XRay technology and decide to include it on a medieval painting/photo?
- Figure out that crucified victims were nailed through the wrists instead of the hands as depicted in most paintings
- Figure out not to depict the thumbs because being nailed through the wrists activates the median nerve which causes the thumb to move under the hand
To this idea of a forger, CMI opines “There are many possible ways it could have been created, included many not mentioned here.” This is in direct contradiction to the STRP team, a group of scientists and technicians who spent hundreds of thousands of hours studying the shroud with state of the art equipment and could not determine how it was made. The scientists and technicians who examined the cloth concluded there is no known way to create the image as it is on the shroud.
Not only is this clearly evidence CMI has not considered, but for them to flippantly suggest that the image could have been created many different ways, is to me rather distressing. Because it points to either gross negligence – leaving out all the other characteristics that must be met to consider it a real duplicate; or else the statement is simply intentionally misleading, e.g. yes the image can be created, but without the other characteristics. I have too much respect for the integrity of CMI to accuse them of being intentionally deceptive, and the charge of gross negligence seems a bit harsh. So let me just leave it at this: it seems apparent that CMI did not do the research expected of one of the premier defenders of Biblical truth before making the clearly false statement that the shroud image could have been produced a number of ways. So I am left with the conclusion that they simply did not research this important matter very well. And thus this article – so you can review yourself the unconsidered evidence.
8. It is not the result of scorch marks – (burning)
STRP specifically tested to determine if the image was a scortch mark – the result of burning. Such marks fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Under UV light, the burn marks from the 1532 fire that nearly destroyed the shroud fluoresced, but the image did not. The image is not the result of scorching or burning. (This also rules out the bas – relief technique since the final step involves scorching.)
9. It is not the result of Radiation
This is the conclusion of STRP chemist Ray Rogers in his FAQ write up where he gives details on why radiation can not be the cause. (Item number 3.)
10. It is not producible by any technology we have today.
The way the image lies on only the top portion of random fibers makes it impossible for us to reproduced the same effect at the fiber level even with our most sophisticated instruments. It is also unknown how the 3D info was encoded in the shroud.
For a more technical write up of most of the assertions above regarding image formation, see STRP chemist Ray Rogers FAQ of STRP findings here.
The Unconsidered Evidence
This is the unconsidered evidence. The shroud image cannot have been created by any of the above methods. There is no known technology that can create this image of a man tortured and crucified in exactly the same manner that Jesus was. How then was it created? How would a forger know to incorporate things like hiding the thumb? Why do the blood marks on the body exactly match the Roman flagrum in use for whipping at the time Jesus was crucified? As Jesus asked his disciples (Matt 16:15), the shroud seems to silently ask: Whose body do you say I shrouded?
Points to Ponder
Some may want to argue that an inability to determine how the image was placed is not proof of authenticity. Perhaps not. But I would argue given all we know about the shroud, one can make an argument amazingly close to the way Intelligent Design advocates argue for an intelligent designer.
The Intelligent Design Connection
As I go through this evidence, I am struck by how similar arguments for the authenticity of the shroud are to arguments for an Intelligent designer, creator of the universe and all life.
Intelligent Design (ID) advocates make much of the information encoded in the DNA molecule. Information, they will tell you, has only one source: an intelligent agent.
The shroud is likewise encoded with information – information to create a 3D image of the man in the shroud. Secular scientists have no idea where the information in DNA originates. Likewise, those who deny the authenticity of the shroud have no idea how the 3D information was encoded in the shroud.
ID advocates will point out there is no internally consistent theory that obeys the know laws of science (physics, biology, etc.) that explains the origin of the universe and life. (Neither the big bang theory nor Darwinian evolution can do this.) The answer of ID advocates regarding origins: an intelligent designer.
Likewise for the shroud. There is no internally consistent way to explain all the characteristics of the shroud – from the 3D characteristics, to the XRay imaging, to the way the image is only on the top of the fibers, only on some fibers, and in some places only 1/500 of an inch thick. No only can this not be a painting, even modern technology cannot recreate the image. Deniers of the shroud’s authenticity have no idea how the image got there, yet they want to tell you somehow it’s a forgery. That’san argument from ignorance. Supporters of the authenticity of the shroud will tell you it is result of the dynamics of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (An argument from evidence.)
A 6th Century Identification of Jesus on the Shroud?
If what is believed about a special painting called “the pantokrator” is true, it points to an early (6th century) identification of the image on the shroud being that of Jesus. This documentary puts it well:
“In this Greek orthodox monastery deep in the Sinaii desert, there’s a very special painting of Jesus Christ known as the “Pantokrator”. Many researchers are convinced that it was painted while looking at the Shroud. It was painted in the sixth century.”
If experts like Alan Whanger are correct – the painting was made while looking at the shroud – then we have an interesting conjunction of connections:
- The painting is of the face on the shroud
- The painting is called the “Pantokrator”
- “Pantokrator” is the transliterated Greek πανοκρατωρ which means “Almighty”
- The word “Pantokrator” (Almighty) is how Jesus is identified in Rev 1.8:
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Pantokrator).'”
Once again, connect the dots. Here we have a 6th century identification of the face on the shroud with not just any crucified man, but the divine, almighty Jesus Christ. What is it about the shroud that made them associate that image with the divine Christ? Could it be that even without a battery of scientific tests, the shroud was so unique, even sixth century beholders of the shroud believed it to be not only unique, but the authentic shroud of the risen Christ, whose divinity was proven by the resurrection? (Rom 1.4) A resurrection that produced the special image now recorded on the shroud?
As CMI points out, there are multiple lines of evidence they did not cover; and likewise neither does this review. But let me leave you with these two items for consideration:
- This review contains many lines of evidence that supports authenticity of the shroud. As a good Berean would (Acts 17.11), I recommend you examine them yourself and come to your own conclusion.
- I’m not a person given to betting, but this matter is so clear cut in my estimation, that in this case I will make an exception. Given that STRP – the shroud of Turin research project – a group of highly qualified scientists who spent hundreds of thousands of hours analyzing the data collected after examining the shroud using state of the art scientific equipment – this group could not determine how the image was placed on the shroud. If it were a forgery, surely they could have detected and determined that.
Given that, this is hardly a matter of chance, but merely a restatement of the obvious. The fact is, there is no known human method of creating the image and much evidence to support the authenticity of the shroud. Therefore I’m willing to bet that that if CMI were ever to undertake another deeper, more thorough examination of the shroud, considering these and other evidences (hopefully this is a nudge to encourage them to do so), they will (a la Einstein) call their initial assessment that “We have no good reason to accept it as authentic” one of their biggest blunders.
One final thought: many Shroud supporters see the Shroud of Turin not only as burial cloth, but also as the record and testimony of the resurrection. As such, features you may expect from the beating he received before the crucifixion, may have been reversed (healed) during the resurrection.
A final word of caution. As I write here, evidence is for believers, not mockers. (For mockers, simply give them the testimony of the gospel.) I believe the Shroud is intended as an encouragement and another piece of evidence for believers. And I agree with CMI’s emphasis on sola scriptura to determine the doctrines of the faith. But isn’t it grand of God to give us such clear evidence of the faith? For mockers however, since no amount of evidence is sufficient, neither will any authentic relic convince them – including the shroud. So I recommend the shroud be used not as an apologetic to convince unbelievers, but primarily as an encouragement for believers. (a la John 11.42)
1. Guillermo Gonzalez, “The Shroud of Turin is Back in the Sportlight, Sort Of”, The Stream, August 15, 2019, https://stream.org/shroud-turin-back-spotlight-sort/
4. Leon Morris, “The Gospel According to John” in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI:Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971, p. 562
5. Barry Scwhortz, ref from Jesus: The Evidence, TBN documentary, Grizzly Adams Productions, 2001
6. Jesus and the Shroud of Turin, The Learning Channel Documentary 1998, Questar DVD`
Starting time mark: about 26:45
Shroud Image – Giuseppe Enrie, 1931 [Public domain]