On August 15, 2019, Guillermo Gonzalez, astronomer and co-author of the "The Privledileged 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:
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 CMI apparently 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.
Other areas the CMI writers have
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 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,
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.
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
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.
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:
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?
3. It is not a photo. The light
and dark areas on the shroud are reversed. That is to say the shroud is
photographic negative. Prompting some to posit that the shroud is
the first photo created. But a photo would not have the
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.
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
9. It is not the result of Radiation
It is not producible by any technology we have today.
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
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
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:
If experts like Alan Whanger are correct - the painting was made while looking at the shroud - then we have an interesting conjunction of connections:
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:
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)
Duane Caldwell | August 23, 2019
1. Guillermo Gonzalez,
"The Shroud of Turin is Back in the Sportlight, Sort Of", The Stream,
August 15, 2019,
6. Jesus and the
Shroud of Turin, The Learning Channel Documentary 1998, Questar DVD`