The Shroud of Turin
Part 1 of 2
First impressions of the Shroud:
First impressions of the shroud:
There are a many curious features of the shroud that appear to support the "painted
14th century" theory rather than the belief that the shroud was an actual
burial cloth from first century CE Palestine. Note that
this does not necessarily imply that the shroud is a forgery. It might have been
created as a religious icon.
|The shape of the shroud: |
|John 19:40 refers to Jesus body being wrapped in two linen cloths
-- one for the face and another for the body. This was the customary
Jewish practice at the time. 1
|John 20:5-7 describes how
Peter and the beloved disciple saw "othonia" -- Greek for multiple linen cloths -- lying in the tomb. |
Yet, the shroud is one continuous piece
||Finger length: Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have found that the relative length
of fingers predict a person's sexual
orientation. Heterosexual men tend to have a short index finger (the one
next to the thumb) compared to the ring finger (the one next to the little
finger). Gay men have an even shorter index finger. Since the relative size of
a person's fingers is determined before birth, these findings imply that a
person's sexual orientation is at least partly decided before birth, not chosen at
puberty as many social and religious conservatives believe.|
The man in the image has the fingers of his left hand wrapped around the right
wrist, so that the length of the fingers on the left hand are not visible. But the fingers of
the right hand are extended. The index finger is long relative to the ring
finger - a configuration not seen in normal men. Even stranger, the index and
middle fingers are of the same size.
The man's index finger is at least five inches long -- a very rare length
today. It would have been even more unusual in the first century CE.
2 Portrayal of the top of the man's head:
There are two images on the sheet, showing a man's back and front. That is because this burial shroud was apparently wrapped from the the man's toes, up the front of his body, over his head, and down his back to his heels. As seen at the top of the above digitally enhanced photograph, the front and back images of the head are separated by a gap of less than 1 cm (less than a half inch).
Some investigators have suggested that the image on the shroud was caused by some form of radiation emanating from the body, perhaps at about the time of death. This leads immediately to what might be called the "top of the head" problem.
If radiation from the head created the two two images on the shroud, then there seem to be only two possibilities:
1) There was similar radiation from the top of the head. It would have left an image of the top of the victim's head on the shroud. However, there is no such image. Only a tiny gap is seen.
2) There was no radiation from the top of the head. This would result in a dark gap of perhaps 12 cm (almost 5 inches) between the top of the front of the head and the top of the back of the head. No such gap is visible.
Thus the radiation theory seems to fail because it does not match the image.
That still leaves the possibility that the Shroud is some form of image intentionally created -- either as a painting by an artist or by some form of photographic technique.
This leaves two possibilities:
1) The shroud was created as a forgery that was to be "sold" to the public as Jesus' shroud. This seems improbable because the "top of the head" problem would immediately point out that this is not a real 1st century shroud.
2) The shroud was created by a human as a type of icon to be venerated. This seems to be the more likely possibility.
||Portrayal of the man's arms and hands: There are two problems
||The body is shown in a relaxed state. Yet his hands reach and cover
his genitals. In reality, a man's hands can only reach his genitals if his arms are stretched downwards. This would
have happened if the
body had been tightly wrapped with a long narrow strip of fabric. However, this shroud is a long, wide covering that was simply laid over and under the body -- not wrapped tightly around it.
||The right forearm also appears to be several inches longer than the
left. This makes sense if the image were painted by an artist in order
to cover the genitals and preserve the modesty of the image. But it makes no sense if the image was made by a real body. They tend to be quite symettrical.
Portrayal of the man's face: Portrayals of Jesus gradually
evolved over the centuries. Various details can be used to roughly date an
image of Jesus. The picture on the shroud shows a forked beard, hair parted
in the middle with loose strands of hair on the forehead. These details
identify the image as having been created in medieval times. 3
The shape of the head looks strange. The face is about twice as high as its width.
||Portrayal of other parts of the body: The body's navel and
genitals do not appear on the image. Since this is definitely not an image produced by Adam, the absence of a navel is surprising. The body's buttocks, chest, toes "are
defined poorly or not at all." 4 This is consistent with the image being a medieval work of art, but not with
the body generating its own image.
The man's height: Various experts have estimated the man's image to be 5' 11½" to 6' 2" tall. Jews
who lived in the 1st century were much shorter than this.
"According to a medieval writer, [the Jewish historian]
Josephus described Jesus as an old-looking man, balding, stooped, with joined
eyebrows and approximately 135 cm (4 ft. 6 in.) tall." 5
Harwood was apparently referring to the writings of the eighth century archbishop of Crete, Andreas Hierosolymitanus, who quoted a description of Jesus Christ which (he said) could be found in a version of Josephus extant at that time. This was based on the standard 46 cm. long regular cubit -- an ancient unit of distance. Using the 53 cm. special cubit, Jesus' height would have been about 156 cm (5 ft. 1 in.).
However, it is likely that the archbishop confused the description of Jesus with that of Paul found in the "Acts of Paul and Thecla" by a resident of Iconium named Onesiphorus. He described Paul as, "a man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked." 6 Although Josephus does refer to Jesus, his surviving writings do not contain a physical description.
An analysis of skeletons from 1st century CE
Palestine has shown that the 5 ft. 1 in. figure is typical. Harwood also
makes the point that if Jesus were really 6 feet high, his height would
have been so remarkable that he would certainly have been described as a
giant in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) The image on the
shroud is about a foot too tall for Jesus, using the best data available.
Certainly, if Jesus was about six feet tall, there would have been no
reason for the Temple leaders to have paid Judas to identify Jesus at
his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus would certainly have stood out among the disciples.
||The man's eyebrows: As mentioned above,
Josephus apparently believed that Jesus' eyebrows were joined. The image of
the man shows separate eyebrows.
||Proportions of the man's face: A
person's eyes are typically very close to the midpoint between the top of
their head and the bottom of their chin (with the possible exception of Jay
Leno). But close-up photographs of the image on the linen shows the eyes
much closer to the top of the head than is normally seen in people.
||Blood stains: There are a number of irregularities exhibited by
the red stains on the shroud that some believe are blood stains, and others
believe are red-oxide paint. They preclude the possibility that the stains
were caused by blood:
||Blood from a fresh wound is red in color and quickly changes to a
brownish color due to oxidation. But the stains on the shroud are red --
not what one would expect from blood deposited there in the first or
even the 14th century CE.
||During the fire of 1532 CE, the shroud was exposed to significant
temperatures: about 900 degrees Celsius at the top of the container in
which it was stored, to 200 degrees at the bottom. Organic substances
such as blood would have "decomposed, changed color or volatilized at
different rates." 7 But the stains remained bright red and otherwise similar in appearance
from top to bottom.
||The stains are very clear and precise in outline. If they were
caused by blood from a crucified person, they would have been smeared as
a result of handling and wrapping the body. Robert Wild commented: "...we
must also suppose...that the nails were pulled from Jesus' hands and
feet and that his body was then taken down from the cross, carried some
distance to the tomb, and laid upon the linen shroud, all without
smearing or rubbing the bloodstains! This, it seems to me, stretches
credulity to the breaking point."
||Many of the stains flow down the forehead, the arms, and other
places on the body as if the body was oriented vertically at the time
that the shroud was stained. But the body would have been horizontal at
the time that it was wrapped and laid in a tomb.
||John 19:39-40 states that large quantities of spices were wrapped
with the burial garments around Jesus' body. These materials would have
badly smeared the stains if they had been caused by blood.
None of these factors are insurmountable arguments against the shroud being
that of a crucified man of the first century CE. It can be argued that no energy
rays were emitted from the top of the man's head. Perhaps an unusual fabric had
been woven for Jesus' shroud. Josephus' description of Jesus may be inaccurate.
The medieval writer might have been mistaken when he quoted Josephus. If one
allows for the existence of miracles, then all bets are off. Blood would be able
to flow uphill; the body could be extensively handled without smearing the
This topic continues in Part 2 with a more detailed examination of the shroud.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Joe Nickell, "Claims of Invalid “Shroud” Radiocarbon Date Cut from Whole
Cloth," Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
Paranormal, at: http://www.csicop.org/
- Digitally processed image of the face from the Shroud of Turin, Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shroud_of_Turin
- N.D. Wilson, "Father Brown Fakes the Shroud: Start with a piece of glass
and some white oil paint," Books & Culture, 2005-MAR/APR. See: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
- Robert Wild, "Art, Artivice or Artifact? Supposed burial shroud probably made in 14th century," in Molly Meinhardt, Ed.,
"Mysteries of the Bible: From the Garden of Eden to the Shroud of Turin," Biblical Archaeological Society, (2004), Page 183. Read reviews or order this book
- William Harwood, "Mythology's Last Gods," Prometheus Books,
(1992), Page 263, Footnote 5. Read reviews or order this book savely from the Amazon.com online bookstore
- "What is the height of Jesus Christ?," Mormon apologetic & discussion board, at: http://www.mormonapologetics.org/
- M.M. Baden, Article, Medical World News, 1980-DEC-22.
Copyright © 1999 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-NOV-18
Latest update: 2015-APR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson