“Finding Jesus” – the Shroud of Turin – A Review

The first episode of the new CNN Series “Finding Jesus – Faith Fact Forgery” uses selective evidence to support the unwarranted conclusion that the Shroud of Turin is a forgery.

Sunday night CNN launched a new documentary series on the Christian faith titled “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery”.  The first episode, “The Shroud of Turin” was, as the title implies, a re-examination of the highly venerated, highly questioned burial cloth of Jesus. The question is, of course, is the cloth authentic? Is it really the cloth of which the gospel writer Mark records:

“So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
Mark 15.46

… or is it a forgery? Based on the title, the producers want to draw a sharp line of demarcation between what is faith (that which science can neither affirm nor deny); what is fact, and what is unwarranted faith (that which science can attempt to either affirm or deny and if denied, declare a “forgery” or false). Based on the first episode, the producers want to remove any scientific basis for faith – even when such evidence is overwhelming. This is clearly the case because of the wealth of evidence that exists concerning the authenticity of the well studied, well researched Shroud that the producers chose to ignore. I say chose to ignore, because as producers of a documentary on the well known relic, they are responsible for being aware of such public domain information and should surely  know about these evidences which contradict their theories. And if they don’t know, they are not qualified to be doing a documentary on it. This first episode (and thus presumably the rest of the series) is clearly biased against evidence that confirms the veracity of Christian claims.

In an apparent effort to cover their bias, the documentary is overall respectful of the faith – providing a traditional retelling of the events leading up to the burial of Jesus.  In my previous article Physical Evidence Jesus Existed I list 6 evidences of authenticity for the Shroud; 3 of which are not mentioned in the documentary, the others are either ignored or outright denied. Below is further exposition and clarification on some of those evidences, and the addition of new evidence from an effort to date the Shroud apart from Carbon dating. Obviously a documentary cannot be expected to present every piece of evidence, but certainly some of the well established evidences – especially those which contradicts your proposed theory – should be presented – if the goal is to present a fair and balanced piece of journalism. Of course if you’re not interested in fair and balanced reporting, then liberal usage of the fallacy of suppressed evidence is a viable course, and the route which they have obviously chosen for this episode, and presumably the series. 

So what is the theory that they resort to suppressing evidence to protect? The theory is not that the Shroud is a painting (even their expert1 states that’s impossible); no they suggest it is a medieval photograph with blood hand-painted on it to depict the bleeding (since they are not claiming the photographer actually crucified a person to create the picture) and thus it is not the actual burial cloth of Jesus. The obvious problem with that theory is that any photographic means – modern or ancient camera obscura – would not leave blood stains on the shroud. To address that problem the expert advancing the Shroud-as-a-photograph theory, professor Nicolas Allen states this:

“To turn this into the Shroud of Turin image, you would have to add blood to it. You’d simply take a paint brush, and you would artistically paint your stigmata onto the image. In my opinion, this is the oldest sample we have of a phenomenon we now call photography.”2

Problems with the “Shroud as a medieval photograph with-hand-painted blood” theory

Following are a number of inconsistencies and problems with Professor Allen’s shroud theory:

1. The 2D Shroud image contains real 3D information

3D image created by the VP-8 image analyzer from a 1931, 2D photo of the Shroud NASA developed the VP-8 image analyzer to analyze images from satellites and medical resources. The VP-8 plots the light and dark areas of an image onto a three dimensional grid. When an image of the Shroud is sent to the analyzer and projected on a 3D screen, the result is a real 3D image like the one to the left.3
(Simulated) 3D image created by the VP-8 image analyzer from a 1931 2D photo of the Shroud

Tests with 2 dimensional images when analyzed by the VP-8 return either noise (useless information – no picture at all) as did a line drawing (self portrait)of Leonardo da Vinci;  or incorrect depth information (as did a modern picture of a face).

The photo of a crew member “was not rendered with real height or depth.”4  All other facial photos analyzed by the VP-8 yield the same distorted result. Only the 2 Dimensional photo image of the Shroud returns a true 3D result from the analyzer with true 3D dimensions. The image of the face on the Shroud is the only known 2D facial image
that somehow has true 3D info encoded in it. “The Shroud is a very unique image – the only one of its kind in the whole world. Nothing else like it.”

The 3 dimensionality of the Shroud image and the fact that no other photographs from the carbon 14 determined time period (14th century) exist, make this theory of the Shroud as a medieval photograph laughable.  

2. The Testimony of the blood stains

Professor Allen claims the Shroud is essentially the earliest known photo. Examination of the Shroud has determined that some of the stains in Shroud are blood stains. Since a photograph would not result in actual blood stains, which Allen acknowledges, to account for them he suggests the blood was painted on after the photo was taken. But there are problems with that theory that he and the producers are either unaware of, or elected not to present.

Consider the following testimony:

“When someone is tortured, as the Bible tells us Jesus was during his crucifixion, red blood cell walls are ruptured releasing hemoglobin into the body. The hemoglobin is quickly broken down, creating high levels of bilirubin, and the wounds begin to clot.

STRP’s [Shroud of Turin Research Project] analysis shows the stains on the Shroud were these blood clot secretions, with extraordinarily high levels of bilirubin exactly consistent with the trauma of crucifixion.”6

Additionally serum (the liquid component of blood) stains which were invisible to the naked eye, were revealed under ultraviolet florescent photography.

Thus professor Allen must explain:

1. How a 13th century medieval painter knew about the high levels of bilirubin that would be produced as a result of crucifixion, when bilirubin  wasn’t discovered until the 19th century

2. How a 13th century medieval painter who didn’t know about serum or ultraviolet photography, knew how and where to hide serum stains for later discovery

3. How the medieval painter knew where to paint clumps of red blood cells and where stains of bilirubin should be placed to match actual clotting and flow patterns from the wounds

4. The blood, serum and bilirubin stains on the Shroud were real. How would a 13th century painter produce components of blood he didn’t know existed?

These are questions professor Allen either can’t answer, or didn’t consider. Either way the documentary doesn’t explore any of the evidence from the blood that  professor Allen claims was painted on by a medieval forger. Clearly neither he nor the producers thought that one through.

3. Wounds a Medieval Painter wouldn’t Know about

It has also been pointed out that the Shroud displays evidence of wounds that the average person (including medieval painters) wouldn’t know about such as:

The nail is not in the palm of the hand
Research has shown the weight of the body can’t be supported by nails there. You’ll note in most early depictions of the crucifixion (see here), the nails are through the hands, not through wrists as depicted in the Shroud. Why would a medieval photographer creating a fake vary from the expected depiction and risk  rejection of his work as a forgery for what would be considered an obvious mistake?

The position of the thumb
The position of the thumb as depicted in the Shroud – under the hand – is consistent with the piercing of the median nerve by the nail.  The effect – to flex the thumb against the palm so it is not visible – is depicted in the Shroud.7
Again, how would a medieval forger know this?

4. The Radio Carbon Date used a contaminated sample from the Shroud

The CNN special didn’t bother to mention that the dark splotches on the Shroud are due to damage from a fire in 1532 at the Chapel in the Alps where the Shroud was being stored. Subsequent to the fire, a repair was made in France with a technique called invisible re-weaving. Independent researchers Sue Benford and her husband Joe Marino examined photos from the 1978 STRP analysis. They noted the herringbone weave of the Shroud from where the sample was taken for Carbon 14 dating is misaligned. Based on this they suspected the sample given for Carbon dating was from a section of the Shroud repaired with 16th century cloth after the fire. It was mixed with the original cloth via a technique called French re-weaving – which is invisible to the naked eye.8 Thus the Shroud sample that was tested was a contaminated one, causing the carbon dating to be grossly inaccurate.

Ray Rogers was an original STRP team member who had determined the Shroud contained no pigments, dyes or binding agents of any type; and thus the Shroud was not painted or dyed. In an attempt to prove Benford and Marino wrong, he re-examined the fibers and wound up concurring with them that the sample contained two different fibers. He ordered a separate test to determine if the test sample could be a composite. When the sample was tested, the thread turned out to be two separate pieces woven together just as Benford and Marino predicted.9

But this powerful, conclusive evidence contradicts the medieval date – and the idea of a medieval painting, and so the produces elected to exclude this critical piece of evidence.

5. Other techniques  Date the Shroud to the time of Jesus

Giulio Fanti, a professor of engineering at University of Padua also suspected the Carbon 14 Dating was incorrect due to a contaminated sample. With approval from the Vatican (the guardian of the Shroud), he was supplied with a fiber which he hoped would be from a non-contaminated part of the Shroud to perform date testing. Using methods other than Carbon 14 dating, he dated the fiber. He used three different tests -a Load bearing test, and two tests using an infrared spectrometer and a laser. Fanti came up with an age of the linen cloth of 33 BC.10 This means the Shroud is old enough to be in existence when Jesus was crucified around 30 AD.

Author and Shroud research Michael Minor states:

“There are literally thousands of pieces of scientific data which support the conclusion that the shroud is not a fake or forgery. However, only one piece of evidence – the Carbon 14 dating – indicates the shroud is of medieval origin.”11

And that date has been proved to be in error, skewed by a contaminated sample.

Near the end the documentary appears to offer a little hope for the faithful, throwing us a bone with mention of the Sudarium of Oveiedo, a separate cloth that covered the face of Jesus. (John 20.6-7)  Mark Guscin, an authority on the Shroud, states the blood on the Sudarium matches the blood on the Shroud, and thus:

“…we can conclude that the two clothes were used at the same time for the same event to cover the same body.”12

But this evidence is not much help, because they go on to state that carbon dating on the Sudarium is inconclusive, and the earliest record they have, places the Sudarium in Jerusalem 500 years after the death of Jesus, which makes it 700 years older than the Shroud, but not nearly close enough to the crucifixion (c. 30 AD) to draw conclusions about the authenticity of either one. So it’s a bone to chew on, while the meat of the evidence above is kept hidden.

For those interested in the truth, there is plenty of evidence to easily draw the conclusion that the Shroud is genuine.  For those interested in hiding the truth, they should know they will eventually be discovered, either in this world or the next, as Jesus says:

For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.
Mark 4:22

Duane Caldwell | posted 3/4/2015 | printer friendly version

Related content:
Is the Shroud of Turin Authentic? The Unconsidered Evidence
Physical evidence Jesus existed


1 Their expert, former USAFphysicist of the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado John P. Jackson,

“The fibers themselves are all individually colored. So there’s no evidence of something that you would expect say from a paint medium. We don’t see that. It doesn’t penetrate through the thickness of the cloth. It lies just on the very surface. The question is why is that?”

Referenced from: Finding Jesus, Faith Fact Forgery, Episode 1 “The Shroud of Turin” CNN Documentary, 2015

This concurs with what original Shroud Researcher and STRP member Ray Rogers determined.


2  Professor Nicolas Allen of the North-West University, south Africa, referenced from Finding Jesus


3 Image: Behold the Man: The Shroud of Turin, TBN Documentary, 1985


4 Narrator, Unwrapping the Shroud: New Evidence, Discovery Documentary, 2008


5 Peter M. Schumacher – former VP8 technician, Referenced from Unwrapping the Shroud


6 Narrator, Unwrapping the Shroud


7 Referenced from Unwrapping the Shroud


8 Referenced from Unwrapping the Shroud


9 Ray Rogers sent a sample to Bob Villarreal of the Los Alamos Laboratory. Villarreal confirmed the sample contained 2 separate threads held together by a mordant – a substance used to set dyes. This provided proof positive the sample used for Carbon dating was contaminated, containing both the original un-dyed Linen fiber, and a dyed cotton fiber, woven together with French re-weaving as Benford and Marino had proposed.

Ref – Unwrapping the Shroud


10 Referenced from Secrets of the Bible, “The Turin Shroud” documentary 2014



11 Michael Manor, author A Lawyer Argues for the Authenticity of the Shroud of Turin
referenced from Jesus the Evidence documentary, 2001



12 Mark Guscin of the Spanish Center of Sindonology referenced from Finding Jesus


Image Credits:

Finding Jesus – CNN Documentary “Finding Jesus, Faith Fact Forgery”

3D Shroud image – “Behold the Man: The Shroud of Turin”

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