This very fine linen is allegedly the burial cloth that was wrapped around the dead body of Jesus Christ. It has been studied intensely by many scientists since 1978. There has been much controversy and many misunderstandings. So why is this artifact so important? First of all, it would validate the Biblical account of Jesus being scourged, tortured, beaten, and finally crucified – giving much credibility to the Biblical story with physical evidence. Secondly, it also would provide physical evidence toward validating a supernatural event – the resurrection of his body and how he mysteriously disappeared from his tomb. It strengthens the faith for many people when we actually have physical evidence to confirm the details of such Biblical stories.
Luke 23, verses 50-53, describes the body of Jesus being wrapped in a fine linen shroud from the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea – who had also donated a wonderful tomb for the body. This exquisite “dining table cloth” measures 14.3 inches long by 3.7 inches wide – or exactly four cubits by one cubit in the ancient method of measurement for that time period. It was considered a table cloth because of its dimensions and the drip patterns found on one side. Jewish custom had people recline at the table on one side as they were to be served from the other side (as pictured in the Last Supper painting). Textile experts established that its distinct “triple herringbone weave” is consistent with fine, first century weaving. (77:10) Some researchers even theorize that since the drip patterns of sauce or wine had not been cleaned from it yet, that, perhaps, this was the dining cloth from the Last Supper. In any case, it was definitely one of the finest and most expensive linens of its day. (76)
Researchers reveal that the man’s image on the cloth indicates that he was 5’11” tall, about 175 lbs., and approximately 30-35 years old. Due to the publicized Carbon 14 dating test performed in 1988, many began to believe instead that this was some kind of medieval artistic creation — since the test suggested that the shroud was no older than 1290-1360 A.D. However, that carbon-dating analysis failed to pass peer-review of fellow scientists and was never published in any scientific journals due to serious flaws in the testing procedure (The results were actually published, instead, in Nature Magazine). Here are the reasons that scientists listed for questioning, challenging, and rejecting this Carbon 14 testing: (76)
- Proper sampling of the material was to have three postage-stamp size pieces removed from three different areas of the shroud. This protocol was violated as all three pieces were taken from a single site – a site that was later found to be a rewoven and repaired section of the shroud not typical of the rest. (76)
- On January 20, 2005, a paper by Ray Rogers, published in “Thermochimicaacta,” a highly-respected, peer-reviewed, scientific journal concluded: “The combined evidence from chemical kinetics, analytical chemistry, cotton content, and pyrolysis/mass spectrometry proves that the material from the radiocarbon testing area of the shroud is significantly different from that of the main cloth. The radiocarbon sample was thus not part of the original cloth and is invalid for determining the age of the shroud.” (77:22)
- In August of 2008, Robert Villarreal and a team of eight researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory analyzed Roger’s samples and corroborated all of Roger’s conclusions. (77:23)
- The shroud survived three fires over the centuries. The most intense fire in 1532 reached 920 degrees centigrade and melted the silver casket that contained the shroud. The melting silver burned holes in the linen. Since intense heat could affect the results of a carbon-dating process, Russian scientists set out to determine how much it could throw off test results. Simulating the heat intensity from that 1532 fire, the Russians determined that carbon-dating tests could be in error by as much as 700 to 1,300 years!
- Studies examining the burial linens of mummies found a strange anomaly. Despite being the same age as the mummy, carbon-dating suggested that the linens were anywhere from 300 to 600 years younger.
- Microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi found on the shroud could also throw off the carbon testing results by as much as 300 years.
- Because the image appears to be oxidized or “burned into” the fibers, this, too, would affect the linen and subsequent carbon-dating tests. (76)
It is important to understand those serious flaws and potential contaminations for any carbon-dating test. That was the only scientific test in over thirty years that cast any doubt upon the shroud’s authenticity. Sadly, it seems to be the most publicized because it suggests a hoax and gave skeptics and atheists the “evidence” they desired. However, the above facts are certainly more than enough reasons to discard the infamous 1988 carbon-dating tests – and thus eliminate the only known challenge presently to the shroud’s authenticity.
On May 28, 1898, Secondo Pia photographed the shroud and was stunned to see a positive, three-dimensional image on the negative plate in his darkroom. Until the technology of photography had reached this level, nobody knew that this was a negative image. In the 1960’s Leo Vala, a professional London photographer, was also impressed by the three-dimensional, negative image:
“I have been involved in the invention of many complicated visual processes, and I can tell you that nobody could have faked that image. Nobody could do it today with all the technology we have. It’s a perfect negative. It has a photographic quality that is extremely precise.” (78:198)
In the late 1970’s an electronics engineer, Peter Schumacher, developed a sophisticated topographical device for NASA’s space program called the Interpretation Systems VP-8 Image Analyzer. It translated a monochromatic tonal scale of the photographed surfaces of planets into layers of vertical relief. In other words, it could examine a flat photograph of a three-dimensional object and convert it into a three-dimensional image. When a regular photograph is analyzed, it “collapses and distorts.” But when Dr. John Jackson analyzed the shroud image with the VP-8 device, it was consistently and uniquely three-dimensional:
“The results are unlike anything I have processed through the VP-8 Analyzer before or since. Only the Shroud of Turin has ever produced these results. One must consider how and why an artist would embed three-dimensional information in the grey shading of an image when no means of viewing this property of the image would be available for at least 650 years. Would an artist produce this work before the device to show the results was even invented? No method, no style, and no artistic skills are known to exist that can produce images that will induce the same photogrammatic results as the shroud does …” (78:199)
Other details validate this image as truly being the image of Jesus Christ: (76)
- Max Frey, a Swiss criminologist, found 58 species of pollens on the shroud. 45 of them could have come from the Jerusalem area; 18 of them could ONLY come from the Holy Land and from flowers blooming in early April — around Passover / Easter!
- Scientists have found no pigments, paints, dyes, stains, or brush marks to suggest an artist’s creation. The image color would not dissolve with the 25 solvents tested.
- Ultraviolet light tests reveal blood serum halos for each scourge mark and the wound in his side from when a spear lanced his side after death. These “invisible” details are further proof that a hoax is unlikely; what artist would add invisible attributes?
- A visible wound in his side between the ribs correlates with the scripture’s reporting of a Roman guard’s lancing his dead body to verify death. The blood stains from this wound confirm that the wound was inflicted post mortem. Present also are stains from a clear bodily fluid such as pericardial fluid or fluid from the pleural sac or pleural cavity. These findings indicate that the man was stabbed near his heart after he died.
- Common to crucifixions are the breaking of legs to hasten death. Jesus reportedly died too quickly for that to happen, and the shroud image indeed shows that no leg bones had been broken.
- From the angles of the blood stains the forensic experts have determined that this blood flowed while the man was upright with his arms angled like the hands of a clock at ten and two – as in a crucifixion on a cross.
- Fifteen puncture wounds encircling the top of the head correlate with the crown of thorns reportedly jammed onto the head of Jesus Christ. Thorns in that region were most likely from two to four inches long. No other crucified men were known to have worn a crown of thorns.
- The visible shoulder abrasions are consistent with injuries sustained while carrying the cross piece of the cross. The tip of his nose as well as his knees were scraped badly. These injuries would be consistent with falling face first while carrying the cross.
- The soldiers had struck blows on Jesus’s face; the shroud reflects blows to the forehead, brow, right cheek (swollen), right upper lip, jaw, and nose.
- We believe that the reported scourging of Jesus was horrible. Jewish law only allows 39 lashes, but it was the Romans who did the torture. Approximately 120 scourge marks are present on the shroud’s image of his body, indicating that two Romans were striking him, one on each side, according to the directionality of the lash-marks.
- The shroud depicts clear nail holes in his wrists and one through his feet. The wrist holes would have severed the median nerve, causing the thumbs to draw inward. The shroud depicts the thumbs as drawn in, hidden behind the other fingers.
- The wound in his side is between the 5th and 6th ribs and measured on the shroud as one and a half inches long and ¾ of an inch wide – the exact size and dimensions of a Roman lance. There was no swelling – which is consistent with a post mortem wound.
- Frederick T. Zugibe noted that travertine aragonite dust taken from the bloody foot area of the shroud was a very high and significant match to Jerusalem dirt samples when using a scanning ion microprobe of high resolution. (77:18)
- As there are no signs of decomposition or decay with the shroud image, the body was still in a state of rigor mortis – which lasts only for about 48 hours. All bodies would be expected to be still wrapped at that time, but the body of Jesus departed in some fashion on Sunday morning about 40 hours after his death. The image depicts his feet still angled downward as if still nailed to the cross. He “left” the shroud before his body could begin decaying.
- The 3-D imaging analysis also revealed other images on the shroud. Hundreds of flower petals and leaves are evident around his body – and match the blooming flowers of springtime in the Holy Land. Coins had been placed on his eyes. Through computer analysis, polarized image overlays of ancient coins found an exact match – the Lepton, produced around 29 A.D. under Tiberius Caesar and Pontius Pilate!
Were the blood stains real human blood or added later by artists? Pathologists and scientists all agree with the following summary:
“Microchemical, fluorescence, and spectrographic tests reveal that the stains are human blood, type AB. They resulted from real bleeding from real wounds of a real body that came into contact with the linen. The distinctive forensic signature of clotting (red corpuscles around the edge of the clot and a clear yellowish halo of serum) is clearly present. Some of the blood flow was venous and some was arterial. Most of the blood flowed while the man was alive, and it remained on his body. Some, however, clearly oozed from a dead body.” (78:200)(77)
All of these scientific and medical facts present overwhelming evidence to suggest that this is indeed the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. But the Shroud of Turin also documents a supernatural event that confirms the foundation of the Christian faith – the Resurrection of the Son of God. If the Bible story is valid, then the Shroud MUST provide clues to this supernatural event. Here are what the scientists discovered: (76)
- They cannot determine, despite all of their scientific studies, exactly how the image was created on the linen cloth. Efforts to recreate such an image with chemistry and physics on old linen cloths have all failed. Science cannot explain how the image exists.
- It is not burned as there is no evidence of scorch marks – as if the linen was subjected to a heated, three-dimensional statue. The material does not fluoresce under ultra-violet illumination.
- Scientists have determined that the top layer of linen fibrils have been oxidized to a depth of only six microns – half the thickness of a human hair. They theorize that a brief blast of energy like radiation could cause such a reaction. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the shadows of the vaporized residents were imprinted on the side of any building left standing – as if a dark image on negative film had been created from this burst of radiation.
- In the 1980’s a chemist at Michigan University, Dr. Giles Carter, discovered that the shroud displayed properties shared with long wave X-rays. A skeletal structure of bones, hands, and two rows of teeth were uncovered. Even the thumbs which were drawn in from the piercing of the median nerve in the wrist can be seen through the other parts of the hand. What kind of energy would produce a negative image with X-ray quality on this cloth?
- This was not just a contact phenomenon between the body and the shroud. Parts of the body not in contact with the linen (and as far away from contact as several inches) still show up in the imprinted image. It is like the body has passed through the cloth.
- The lack of any blood smears on the shroud suggests that the body made a very strange exit from within the shroud. Lifting the shroud off the body would have smeared the blood in areas where it had collected, possibly reopening wounds. To state it simply, the man disappeared from within the wrapped linen. The apostles Peter and John found the burial cloth “flattened” – and “they saw and believed.” The current theory is that His glorified body passed through the cloth, and it collapsed on to itself – which would have been an incredible sight to behold afterwards. The apostles would have seen the linen still in a wrapped position, but now emptied. Luke 24: verse 12: “he saw the linen cloths positioned alone, and he went away, wondering to himself about what had happened.” Like a magic trick, the body vanished from within the shroud without the linen being unwrapped from the body. Remember that it was reported later in the scriptures that Jesus’s glorified body also passed through solid walls and doors to meet with his apostles.
- Another bizarre finding that scientists determined was that the image depicts “a weightless body” because there are no marks of pressure on certain parts of the shroud when the image was made. If the body had had weight at the time of the light burst, then the image would have appeared differently with pressure points. Instead the image is “evenly photographed” by the flash without obvious pressure points.
- It was also determined that at the time of the light burst, the man was in an upright position with his long hair falling straight down due to gravity. If he had been lying down, his shoulder-length hair would have fallen back and away from his shoulders.
- Many tests were run to precisely determine what direction this light source was coming from that illuminated his body in a totally dark tomb. Assuming from the evidence that he was upright and probably suspended slightly above the ground, the light would have been coming from directly overhead. This was confirmed by numerous photographic tests to determine the direction of the light source that created this image blast onto the shroud like a photo negative. (76)
What kind of supernatural light appears in a totally pitch-black tomb? How does anybody disappear from within a wrapped linen without unfolding it and smearing blood everywhere?
Matthew 28: verses 2-4: “For an Angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and as he approached, he rolled back the stone and sat down on it. Now his appearance was like lightning, and his vestment like snow. Then, out of fear of him, the guards were terrified, and they became (immobilized) like dead men.”
The majority of the scientists involved with all of the testing and analyses with the Shroud of Turin were generally atheists or agnostics. According to Father Francis Peffley, by the time their research ended, 95% of them had become Christians. (76) And yet, there is still another artifact that validates the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin …