Reasons to doubt the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin:
- There is no mention of a
miraculously imaged Shroud in the New Testament or any early Christian
writings. Surely, given the desire for miraculous proof of the divine
nature of Jesus, such a relic would have rated a mention.
- The cloth is incompatible
with New Testament accounts of Jesus' burial. John's gospel (19:38-42,
20:5-7) specifically states that the body was "wound"
with "linen clothes". Still another cloth (called "the
napkin") covered his face and head. In contrast, the Shroud of
Turin represents a single, draped cloth (laid under and then over the
- The clear implication of all
three synoptics is that the material was bound tightly round the body, yet
the Shroud of Turin shows an image made by simply lying a linen shroud on
top of the front of the body, over the head and down the back.
- The shroud contradicts the
Gospel of John, which describes the body being wrapped with "a
hundred pound weight" of burial spices (myrrh and aloes) -- not a
trace of which appears on the cloth, or any biochemicals known to be
produced by the body in life or in death (from STURP's final report,
- John 19:40 indicates that the
burial was a normal one, following the Jewish traditions. Thus, Joseph of
Arimethea would have washed the body. The body shown in the Shroud of
Turin was not washed.
- No examples of the shroud
linen's complex herringbone twill weave date from the first century, when
burial cloths tended to be of plain weave in any case. The weave was
used in Europe in the Middle Ages.
- The shroud has no known
history prior to the mid-fourteenth century, when it turned up in the
possession of a soldier of fortune who cannot or will not say how he
acquired the most holy relic in all of Christendom.
- The shroud surfaced in France
exactly at the height of the 'holy relic' craze. Not one such relic has
ever been proved to be genuine, and the faking of relics was rife at this
time. There were between 26 and 40 "authentic" burial
shrouds scattered throughout the abbeys of Europe, of which the Shroud of
Turin is just one.
- The earliest written record
of the shroud is a Catholic bishop's report to Pope Clement VII, dated
1389, stating that it originated as part of a faith-healing scheme, with "pretended
miracles" being staged to defraud credulous pilgrims.
- The bishop's report also
stated that a predecessor had "discovered the fraud and how the
said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the
artist who had painted it".
- In 1390, Pope Clement VII
declared that it was not the true shroud but could be used as a
representation of it, provided the faithful be told that it was not
- As St. Augustine lamented in
the fourth century, Jesus' appearance was [and still is], completely
unknown, and the shroud image follows the conventional artistic likeness.
That is, the resemblance of the figure to medieval depictions of Jesus,
and the image of Jesus in medieval Gothic art.
- There is a lack of
wrap-around distortions that would be expected if the cloth had enclosed
an actual three-dimensional object like a human body. Thus the cloth was
never used to wrap a body. If the image had been formed when the cloth was
around Jesus' corpse it would have been distorted when the cloth was straightened
out. The image would be wider and you would have an imprint of the sides
of the body, not just the front and back. The hair hangs as for a
standing, rather than reclining figure, and the imprint of a bloody foot
is incompatible with the outstretched leg to which it belongs.
- There are serious anatomical
problems with the image. Jesus' face, body, arms, and fingers were
unnaturally thin and elongated (like figures in Gothic art), his left
forearm was longer than his right, and his right hand is too long. The man
is impossibly tall, being 6ft 8in (2.03m). The head is disproportionately
small for the body, the face unnaturally narrow and the forehead
foreshortened, and ears lost. The front and back images, in particular of
the head, do not match up precisely, and the back image is around 2 inches (5cm) longer
than the front. The back of the head is wider than the front of the head.
The Shroud image is, in fact, so unusually very long and narrow that one
pro-Shroud pathologist suggested that Jesus must have had Marfan's
- The alleged blood stains are
unnaturally picture-like. Real blood spreads in cloth and mats on hair,
and does not form perfect rivulets and spiral flows. Also, dried
"blood" (as on the arms) has been implausibly transferred to the
cloth. It is absolutely certain that in the hour or so that passed before
the removal from the cross, any blood which remained on the head, the back
and the forehead, dried up and was congealed, because this is the natural
behaviour of blood which leaves the body and is exposed to air. The blood
remains bright red, unlike genuine blood that blackens with age. All the
wounds, though according to the Gospel accounts made at different times,
appear as if still bleeding, even though blood does not flow after death.
A corpse does not bleed. There are also problems in explaining how the
blood flows transferred to the cloth while retaining their perfect detail.
- There is no blood on the
Shroud: all the forensic tests specific for blood have failed (although
some investigators unrigorously concluded that blood was present after
conducting numerous forensic tests for iron, protein, albumin, etc., which
came up positive because these materials are indeed on the Shroud in the
form of tempera paint).
- "Blind" microscopic
analyses show significant traces of paint pigment on image areas, thus
proving the pigment red ocher was a component of the image. The
"blood" was actually tempera paint. Real blood does not contain
red ochre, vermilion, and alizarin red pigments.
- Subsequently, the
distinguished microanalyst Walter McCrone identified the "blood"
as red ocher and vermilion tempera paint and concluded that the entire
image had been painted.
- The "bloodstains"
are redder than other parts of the image. Bloodstains do not remain red
over time. They turn black or dark brown. These "bloodstains"
also have a chemical composition matching paint which was used in medieval
- It is true that there are
higher concentrations of iron and protein, as are found in blood, in the
areas of the "bloodstains". But iron and proteins are also found
in pigments. Iron oxide is often used as a red colouring. Iron oxide fades
to yellow when dehydrated so much of the iron oxide has now faded to
- There is also significant amounts
of mercuric sulphide, which is a well-known pigment called vermilion - a
- There is no trace of sodium,
chlorine or potassium, which blood contains in high amounts and which
would have been present if the stains were truly blood.
- Porphyrins are present in the
area of the "bloodstains". These are found in blood, but they
are also found in other animal and plant products, such as those used to
make artists' pigments.
- Claims that the blood in the
"bloodstains" is type AB "are nonsense", according
to Ray Rogers, a retired research chemist and member of STURP (Rogers
- Evidence of human DNA in a
shroud "blood" sample is meaningless. The scientist at the DNA
lab, Victor Tryon, told Time magazine that he could not say how old
the DNA was or that it came from blood. As he explained, "Everyone
who has ever touched the shroud or cried over the shroud has left a
potential DNA signal there." Tryon resigned from the new shroud
project due to what he disparaged as "zealotry in science".
Even the Archbishop of Turin and the Vatican refused to authenticate the
samples or accept any research carried out on them.
- The theory that the image was
caused by contact with oils and spices can be discounted since these were
not found on the shroud, also a cloth wrapped around the body would
produce an expanded image of the body when flattened out. The image would
also be blurred as the oils soaked into the cloth.
- The theory that the image was
caused by the projection of body vapours can also be rejected since
vapours don't travel in straight lines, but disperse, so once again the
image would be blurred, which it isn't.
- The most popular theory by
the pro-shroud groups is that the image was caused by a short burst of
radiation caused by the resurrection, which also altered the C14 ratio,
causing an erroneous carbon dating result. This too has been discredited
because the fibres in the image areas show no additional degradation than
the non image areas. Radiation would cause visible damage to the fibres (when
viewed microscopically) and this is not evident. Radiation would also
cause the image to penetrate the cloth, unlike the superficial shroud
image that is observed. Also to receive the exact amount of radiation
required to alter the date of the cloth to the medieval date of its first
documented appearance would be a remarkable coincidence.
- The Shroud image is NOT a
true photographic negative but only an apparent one -- a faux-photographic
negative. As with a true negative, light features such as skin are dark on
it and light on the positive and shadows are light on it and dark on the
positive. Unlike a true photographic negative however, dark features like
the beard, moustache, hair, and blood are dark on it and light on the
positive. The "positive" image shows a figure with white hair
and beard, the opposite of what would be expected for a Palestinian Jew in
- It is likely that the Shroud
was constructed using a rubbing technique on a bas-relief model. Joe
Nickell demonstrated this using a bas-relief and the pigments and tools
available in the Middle Ages (image on right).
After experimenting with various techniques, the Shroud artist prepared a
suitable mixture of pigments and tempera binder, moulded a wet linen sheet
over the bas-relief he had constructed, and used a dauber (also termed a
pounce or tamper) to apply the mixture to the surface of the linen.
Methods for creating similar images are known and these methods were
widely known in the Middle Ages. The statement that we cannot make such an
image is simply false propaganda. Faux-negative images are automatically
produced by an artistic rubbing technique. The July 2005 issue of Science
& Vie (Science and Life) magazine also documents the making of a
shroud by these medieval techniques.
- The claims of pollen from
Palestine supposedly found on the Shroud have been discredited as
"fraud" and "junk science." The person who originally
claimed to have found the pollen on the Shroud, Max Frei, a Swiss
criminologist, once pronounced the forged "Hitler Diaries"
genuine. The pollens were very suspicious, as pollen experts quickly
pointed out - first of all, they were missing the most obvious pollen you
would expect, which would be olive. There's not any! 32 of the 57 pollens
allegedly found by Frei are from insect-pollinated plants and could not
have been wind-blown onto the exposed shroud in Palestine. Similar samples
taken by the Shroud of Turin Research Project in 1978 had comparatively
few pollens. Cloth was often brought to medieval Europe from Palestine, so
there is no strong support from the pollen anyway.
- The claim that the image
contains unique 3D information producing a perfect 3D image has been
disputed by other mathematical modellers. However, since the image was
probably produced from a 3D object, such as a bas-relief, 3D coding is
completely natural and this claim adds nothing to the authenticity debate.
- The shroud cloth was
radiocarbon dated in 1988 to circa 1260-1390 CE by three separate
laboratories. The date is consistent with a fourteenth-century bishop's
report to Pope Clement VII that an earlier bishop had discovered the
forger and that he had confessed.
- The suggestions that modern
biological contaminants were sufficient to modernise the date are also
ridiculous. A weight of 20th century carbon equalling nearly two times the
weight of the Shroud carbon itself would be required to change a 1st
century date to the 14th century. Besides this, the linen cloth samples
were very carefully cleaned before analysis at each of the carbon-dating
- The expression is strangely
composed for someone tortured to death, and the hands are neatly folded
across the genitals. A real body lying limp could not have this posture.
Your arms are not long enough to cross your hands over your pelvis while
keeping your shoulders on the floor. To achieve this the body can not lie
flat, yet Jewish burial tradition did not dictate that a body must be
hunched up so as to cover the genitals before wrapping in the shroud. The
claim that rigor mortis had set in and thus caused the legs not to be
straight is ridiculous, since the arms should also be contracted, plus the
timing is all wrong for rigor mortis. The most obvious answer is that the
artist knew the image would be displayed, and didn't want to offend his
audience or have to guess what the genitals of Jesus would look like. It
is also suspicious that Jesus is depicted assuming a pose that
medievalists refer to as the venus pudica pose. This pose is associated
with nudity and loss of innocence.
- The Shroud is a 14th-century
forgery and is one of many such deliberately created relics produced in
the same period, all designed to attract pilgrims to specific shrines to
enhance and increase the status and financial income of the local church.
There were countless crucifixion nails, crowns of thorns, and lances. And
there were burial shrouds. There were between 26 and 40 'authentic' burial
shrouds scattered throughout the abbeys of Europe, of which the Shroud of
Turin is just one. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, fragments
supposedly cut from the True Cross were available in almost every church
in Europe. A church in St. Omer claimed to have bits of the True Cross, of
the Lance that pierced Christ, of his Cradle, and the original stone
tablets upon which the Ten Commandments had been traced by the very finger
of God! Three churches in France each professed to have a complete corpse
of Mary Magdalene. Jesus' foreskin was preserved in at least six churches.
Vials of Jesus' tears, vials of Jesus' mother's milk. One catalogue from
that time includes the following: "A fragment of St. Stephen's
rib; Rusted remains of the gridiron on which St. Lawrence died; A Lock of
Mary's hair; A small piece of her robe; A piece of the Manger; Part of one
of Our Lord's Sandals; A piece of the sponge that had been filled with
vinegar and handed up to Him; A fragment of bread He had shared with His
disciples; A tuft of St. Peter's beard; Drops of St. John the Baptist's
Blood." Many churches vied to become known for the number and
importance of their relics. As early as 1071 the cathedral at Eichstatt
possessed 683 relics, while by the 1520s the Schlosskirche at Wittenburg
had 19,013 and the Schlosskirche at Halle boasted more than 21,000 such
objects. "About 1200, Constantinople was so crammed with relics
that one may speak of a veritable industry with its own factories".
Blinzler (a Catholic New Testament scholar) lists, as examples: "letters
in Jesus' own hand, the gold brought to the baby Jesus by the wise men,
the twelve baskets of bread collected after the miraculous feeding of the
5000, the throne of David, the trumpets of Jericho, the axe with which
Noah made the Ark, and so on. . . " During the Middle Ages
particularly, relic-mongering was rampant; and of course, there were no
scientific means to test things, so all manner of things were sold as
authentic. Including shrouds of Jesus.
- The church conducts secret
tests and suppresses unfavourable results: In 1969 the Archbishop of Turin
appointed a secret commission to examine the shroud. That fact was leaked,
then denied, but "At last the Turin authorities were forced to
admit what they previously denied." The man who had exposed the
secrecy accused the clerics of acting "like thieves in the
night." More detailed studies -- again clandestine -- began in
1973. The commission included internationally known forensic serologists
who made heroic efforts to validate the "blood," but all of the
microscopical, chemical, biological, and instrumental tests were negative.
The commission's report was withheld until 1976 and then was largely
suppressed, while a rebuttal report was freely made available. Thus began
an approach that would be repeated over and over: distinguished experts
would be asked to examine the cloth, then would be attacked when they
obtained other than desired results.
- The group most famous for
claiming the authenticity of the shroud is STURP (Shroud of Turin Research
Project), now disbanded. Unfortunately almost all of these were deeply
religious, most of them were Roman Catholics; in fact, the leaders of the
group, Jackson and Jumper, served on the Executive Council for the Holy
Shroud Guild, a Catholic organisation that advocated the "cause"
of the supposed relic. So having this group investigate the Shroud was a
little bit like having the Flat Earth Society investigate the curvature of
the Earth. STURP was comprised of 40 US scientists, made up of 39 devout
believers and 1 agnostic. Knowing that the proportion of believers to
agnostics is much different in scientific circles than it is in the
general population, it has been calculated (Debunked! by Georges
Charpak and Henri Broch) that the odds of selecting a group of 40
scientists at random and achieving this high ratio of believers is 7
chances in 1,000,000,000,000,000. In other words, the formation of this
group is stacked and very biased towards authenticating the shroud, and
therefore you must take their claims with an extremely large grain of
- From an historical
perspective, many scholars have shown that there is no evidence that Jesus
of Nazareth ever existed. Other than the New Testament of the Bible, there
exists no other written document that mentions Jesus as an historical
figure. The writings of Josephus and Tacitus that mention Jesus have been
shown to be clear forgeries by the early church. At the end of an article
by Frank R. Zindler - Did Jesus Exist? - he
lists 38 other Jewish and pagan historians and writers who lived during
the time, or within a century after the time that Jesus is supposed to
have lived. If Jesus really did do all these miraculous things that the
Bible attributed to him, it's surprising that none mentioned him. You
can't crucify a man that doesn't exist, so even if the shroud did contain
a crucified man, it wasn't Jesus.
Recommended reading on an historical Jesus:
'The Jesus Mysteries' by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy
'The Pagan Christ' by Tom Harpur
'Did Jesus Exist?' by G A Wells
- The church has never claimed
the shroud as an authentic relic, however it has not discouraged the myth.
Father Mike Mahler from 'Cornell United Religious Works' states:
"The Vatican has never made a statement about the
authenticity of any relic, including the shroud. It is also highly unlikely
that it will ever do so. Further information is found in the New Catholic
Encyclopedia, Volume 13, and Volume 18, page 476. The latter article raises
many good points which create serious doubts about the authenticity of the shroud
as Jesus' burial cloth, even if the shroud originated in the first
Yet the Vatican has no problem verifying miracles. In 2002 the
Vatican recognised the 1998 after-death-miracle on Monica Besra which has been
attributed to Mother Teresa. This has been very controversial, with the doctor
who first diagnosed Besra saying the church should not push Besra's case
because it was medication, not a miracle that cured her. Her husband also
supports the doctor's version of events. Doctors that are on record saying that
it is a miracle did so anonymously and can not be traced. Besra's medical
records containing sonograms, prescriptions and physicians' notes have been
seized by the church. Besra is a 30-year-old tribal woman from Dulidnapur
village. She is illiterate and speaks her tribal mother tongue only. Until
recently she has not been a Christian, yet her statement is written in fluent
English and shows familiarity with details of Catholic belief. It is obvious
that the text has not been written or dictated by her. But Besra cannot be
questioned, she has vanished.
It is very damming that the Vatican will authenticate such a controversial
case, contrary to medical advice, yet won't pass the same authority on the
Shroud of Turin.
- Even if the linen was produced
in the 1st century CE, or if it did contain human blood and pollen from
Palestine, and even if it had wrapped a crucified man, this in itself
proves nothing about it being the burial cloth of Jesus. Everyone agrees
that linen was common in 1st century CE Palestine, as was blood, pollen
and crucified men. Claiming more than this is as silly as that claim from
apologists that a 1st century CE boat has been excavated near the Sea of
Galilee, reasoned that Jesus would have ridden in a boat like this, therefore
this was "evidence" that Jesus existed! The most pro-shroud
advocates could ever do is show that it was an authentic 1st century CE
burial shroud of a crucified man. However, as shown above, Biblical
details would still indicate that it didn't belong to Jesus. Unless of
course, the Bible is wrong.
I will end
with a quote from Joe Nickell, author of Inquest on the Shroud of Turin:
"We should again recall the words of Canon Ulysse Chevalier,
the Carbolic scholar who brought to light the documentary evidence of the
shroud's medieval origin. As he lamented, "The history of the shroud
constitutes a protracted violation of the two virtues so often commended by our
holy books: justice and truth."
Please note that much of the information contained in this essay
is obviously not my original work, and has been sourced from numerous books and
articles examining the controversy surrounding the Shroud of Turin.
recommend The Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal by Lynne Kelly, and not
just for her chapter on the shroud. The entire book is enlightening and well
science and scholarship have demonstrated that the Shroud of Turin is not the
burial cloth of Jesus but instead a fourteenth-century forgery, shroud devotees
continue to claim otherwise.
medieval Europe alone there were more than forty “True Shrouds,” although the
Turin Cloth uniquely bears the apparent imprints of a man, crucified like Jesus
in the gospel narratives. Unfortunately, the alleged “relic” has not fared well
in various scientific examinations—except those conducted by Shroud partisans
like those of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), whose leaders
served on the executive council of the pro-authenticity Holy Shroud Guild. The
following facts have been established by various distinguished experts and
The shroud contradicts the Gospel of John, which describes
multiple cloths (including a separate “napkin” over the face), as well as “an
hundred pound weight” of burial spices—not a trace of which appears on the
No examples of the shroud linen’s complex herringbone twill
weave date from the first century, when burial cloths tended to be of plain
weave in any case.
The shroud has no known history prior to the mid-fourteenth
century, when it turned up in the possession of a man who never explained how
he had obtained the most holy relic in Christendom.
The earliest written record of the shroud is a bishop’s report
to Pope Clement VII, dated 1389, stating that it originated as part of a
faith-healing scheme, with “pretended miracles” being staged to defraud
The bishop’s report also stated that a predecessor had
“discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the
truth being attested to by the artist who had painted it” (emphasis added).
Although, as St. Augustine lamented in the fourth-century,
Jesus’ appearance was completely unknown, the shroud image follows the
conventional artistic likeness.
The physique is unnaturally elongated (like figures in
Gothic art), and there is a lack of wraparound distortions that would be
expected if the cloth had enclosed an actual three-dimensional object like a
human body. The hair hangs as for a standing, rather than reclining figure, and the imprint of a bloody foot is incompatible
with the outstretched leg to which it belongs.
The alleged blood stains are unnaturally picture-like.
Instead of matting the hair, for instance, they run in rivulets on the outside
of the locks. Also dried “blood” (as on the arms) has been implausibly
transferred to the cloth. The blood remains bright red, unlike genuine blood
that blackens with age.
In 1973, internationally known forensic serologists
subjected the “blood” to a battery of tests—for chemical properties, species,
blood grouping, etc. The substance lacked the properties of blood, instead
containing suspicious, reddish granules.
Subsequently, the distinguished microanalyst Walter McCrone
identified the “blood” as red ocher and vermilion tempera paint and concluded
that the entire image had been painted.
In 1988, the shroud cloth was radiocarbon dated by three
different laboratories (at Zurich, Oxford, and the University of Arizona). The
results were in close agreement and yield a date range of a.d. 1260–1390, about the time of the
reported forger’s confession (ca. a.d.
who defend the shroud as authentic offer explanations for each damning piece of
evidence, but these often veer toward pseudoscience and pseudohistory. For
example, they offer various objections to the radiocarbon date, suggesting that
it could have been altered by a fire in 1532, or by microbial contamination, or
by imagined medieval repair in the sampled area—even by a burst of radiant
energy from the Resurrection! However, none of these claims has merit. Clearly
beginning with the desired answer, shroud enthusiasts work backward to the
evidence, picking and choosing and rationalizing to fit their belief—a process
I call “shroud science.”
researchers have even claimed to see—Rorschach-like in the shroud’s mottled
image and off-image areas—a plethora of objects that supposedly help
authenticate the cloth. These include “Roman coins” over the eyes, “flowers of
Jerusalem,” and such crucifixion-associated items (c.f. John, ch. 19) as “a
large nail,” a “hammer,” “sponge on a reed,” “Roman thrusting spear,” “pliers,”
and other hilarious imaginings including “Roman dice.”
reportedly discovered were ancient Latin and Greek words, such as “Jesus” and
“Nazareth.” Even shroud author Ian Wilson (The Blood and the Shroud, 1998, p.
242) felt compelled to state: “While there can be absolutely no doubting the sincerity
of those who make these claims, the great danger of such arguments is that
researchers may ‘see’ merely what their minds trick them into thinking is
contrast, the scientific approach allows the preponderance of objective
evidence to lead to a conclusion: the Shroud of Turin is the work of a
confessed medieval artisan. The various pieces of the puzzle effectively
interlock and corroborate each other. In the words of Catholic historian Ulysse
Chevalier, who brought to light the documentary evidence of the Shroud’s
mid-fourteenth-century origin, “The history of the shroud constitutes a
protracted violation of the two virtues so often commended by our holy books,
justice and truth.”
Joe Nickell, Ph.D.,
is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of
Claims of the Paranormal. He is author of numerous investigative books,
including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (Prometheus Books, 1983, 1998) and
Detecting Forgery (University Press of Kentucky, 1996
Medieval Radiocarbon Date
Without question, the most spectacular refutation of the
authenticity of the Shroud of Turin was the determination that the linen on
which the image lies dates from approximately 1325. The Shroud was sampled and
the dates determined by the most scrupulous and scientifically-valid techniques
and procedures that are possible. Sampling was carefully conducted and
witnessed, the samples were properly cleaned and prepared, and three different
laboratories performed the 14C
dating using blind control samples in addition to the Shroud samples. All the
dates were consistent among the labs. Since Robert E. M. Hedges has reviewed
the radiometric dating analyses and results in this journal24, I
need not repeat them here. I merely want to state that the quality of the
radiometric data are so rigorous that no objective, rational person can
reasonably deny them.
Naturally, believers in the Shroud's authenticity have thrown
up numerous criticisms that are variously ludicrous, vacuous, and without
merit. Contrary to pro-authenticity advocates, the linen samples were not
deceptively switched, not taken from the wrong part of the Shroud
material, not improperly cleaned and prepared, did not have a
bioplastic coating, were not contaminated by modern bacteria and fungi
that were not removed, the carbon-14 content of the cloth was not
altered by the fire of 1532, the final results were not deliberately
falsified by a conspiracy of anti-religious scientists, and so forth. As has
been pointed out by others, modern material of approximately twice the mass as
the Shroud samples would have to be added to the samples to bring authentic
first-century linen up to radiocarbon dates of the fourteenth-century, and this
would have been just too obvious to go unnoticed by so many independent
investigators. Once again, the ad hoc excuses, criticisms, and counter-arguments
of the radiocarbon dating by Shroud enthusiasts were put forward to preserve
appearances at any cost, a classic characteristic of pseudoscience. In real
science, legitimate and reliable data that falsify one's most treasured
hypotheses and beliefs are accepted, and lead one to abandon one's former
beliefs. But sindonology is a pseudoscience, not real science.
History, Artistry, and Iconography
Unlike many shrouds of Jesus known from the Middle Ages, the
Shroud of Turin was pronounced by a contemporary fourteenth-century Catholic
bishop in France to be a fake, since his predecessor as Bishop of Troyes,
"after diligent inquiry and examination, discovered the fraud and how the
said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist
who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not
miraculously wrought or bestowed." I don't understand how such credible
contemporary written evidence can be dismissed so lightly by supporters of the
Shroud's authenticity, but they do. They believe the Shroud of Turin is
authentic, but presumably not the other two dozen shrouds of which historians
are aware. If letters from medieval Catholic bishops attesting the fraudulence
of these other shrouds were in our possession today, would present-day Shroud
believers then believe that the other shrouds are authentic, too?
In 1982, I was the first to point out that the image of Jesus
on the Shroud had a number of physical abnormalities.25 Jesus' face,
body, arms, and fingers were unnaturally thin and elongated, and his left
forearm was longer than his right. Either Jesus was horribly deformed, or the
image of Jesus was characteristic of medieval Gothic art. I defended the latter
conclusion, but it seems my observations spawned, much to my amusement, a
number of typical counter-explanations from pro-authenticity Shroud supporters
about possible diseases that Jesus might have had, such as Marfan's Syndrome
(F. Zugibe), or the idea that the elongation is an expected distortion created
by cloth-to-body drape (J. Jackson).26. Once again, such suggestions
to preserve appearances at all costs border on the comical (but only border,
since they were proposed seriously).
Finally, many Shroud supporters have made much of the fact
that the face of Jesus on the Shroud is very similar to the many Byzantine
images of Jesus that are known. I agree that this observation of similarity is
valid. From this, however, the pro-authenticity supporters illogically conclude
that the Byzantine artists must have seen the Shroud and copied their images of
Jesus' face from it. The much more obvious and logical explanation is that the
Shroud artist had seen one or more of the Byzantine representations of Jesus,
and copied it or them. Crusaders returning from the Holy Land by way of
Byzantium probably brought such representations to France with them.
There are many more arguments and appeals to evidence I could
make that would demonstrate the validity of my conclusions. But I and other
writers, especially Walter McCrone and Joe Nickell, have already published
these analyses, and I do not want to repeat them here. The references are now
widely available on the World Wide Web at http://humanist.net/shroud/,
the Skeptical Shroud of Turin Website, and on the new website of Approfondimento
Sindone at http://humanist.net/appro-sindone/,
to which I refer all readers.
All empirical evidence and logical reasoning concerning the
Shroud of Turin will lead any objective, rational person to the firm conclusion
that the Shroud is an artifact created by an artist in the fourteenth-century.
Arguments to the contrary by pro-authenticity supporters are tendentious and
marked by appeals to specious reasoning and misinterpreted or fraudulent
evidence. There are no valid reasons to perform any more scientific tests or
examinations on the Shroud, for the ones already performed are more than
adequate to demonstrate its true nature. Sindonology is a pseudoscience whose
adherents will stop at nothing to preserve the appearance of authenticity,
irregardless of the illogical, ad hoc, and scientifically-invalid arguments
they must use to prop up their beliefs. To all sindonologists, I say: Get a