The Shroud of Turin
Part 2 of 2
A more detailed analysis of the Shroud:
This topic is continued from Part 1
Detailed analysis of the linen:
Ever since the shroud was first photographed in 1898, it has generated
considerable interest in the scientific community:
|Carbon -14 dating: In 1988, pieces of the
linen cloth were sent for destructive Carbon-14 testing in three separate
laboratories in three countries. The individuals who were measuring the age of the samples were
aware of the source of the material, and were thus aware of the two most
likely dates that the shroud was made: 1st and 14th
centuries CE. Listed are results, in terms of the number of years before 1950 CE, followed by the 94%
confidence limits in brackets:|
|| 679 (51)
After further computation, the results date the fabric to between 598 and 728 years before the time of the measurements. That is, between 1260 and
1390 CE. 3
This means that the flax from which the linen was made was growing in the
ground about 1325 CE when it was harvested. The date of the image itself is
unknown; the test could only estimates the age of the fabric.
If one assumes:
||that the shroud was painted in the mid-14th century, and
||there was a two year interval between the flax growing in the field and
the completion of painting, and
||the painting was finished shortly before its the earliest firmly known
date of the shroud's existence, (1353 CE)
then the flax was alive circa 1350 CE. That is very close to the average of
the laboratory estimates. These results were a deep disappointment to the
people who had faith that the cloth was the burial shroud of Jesus.
believers have since developed reasons why they felt that the dating was in error:
One theory is that the event that caused the image to be imprinted on
the cloth might have been related to Jesus'
resurrection. It it happened, it was
a miracle that might have involved forms of energy which are currently unknown to
humanity. Those energies might have changed the molecular structure of the
carbon in the linen, thus introducing a 1300 year error into the Carbon-14
analysis. This could produce an estimated date approximately equal to the
time when the existence of the shroud was first firmly documented.
Another theory is that there exists various forms of contamination on
the linen samples that were presented to the testing laboratories. Although
the samples were cleaned prior to testing, the task might not have been done
thoroughly at all three labs. Alternatively, standard methods of cleaning might have
This argument does not hold water. In order to increase
the apparent date of the samples from 30 CE to 1350 CE, the sample would
have had to be about one third linen and two thirds contamination (by
weight). That is, about 40 pounds (18 kg) of contaminant (mold,
mildew, bacteria, etc) would have had to accumulate on the original
20 pound (9 kg) shroud to make a total current shroud weight of 60
pounds (27 kg). 9 One need
only to look at the cloth to realize that this is not the case. However,
this is a widely circulated belief.
A third theory is that the extreme temperatures that the shroud
experienced in the 1532 CE fire might have influenced the results. In addition,
the shroud was subjected to centuries of intermittent exposure to candle
smoke and incense. Sebastian Sparenga of the McCrone Research Institute
"The suggestion that the 1532 Chambery fire changed the
date of the cloth is ludicrous. Samples for C-dating are routinely
and completely burned to CO2 as part of a well-tested purification
||Finally, some believers suggest that the samples which were
carbon dated were not of the linen burial cloth itself. They came
from a cloth patch that had been used to repair the shroud. Thus,
the age measurement indicates the approximate date when the repair
work was done, not the date at which the flax was harvested to make
the shroud. To take a sample from a patch rather than from the
shroud itself would require an extremely high degree of
incompetence or deception. Both seem highly improbable.
The man's fingers: One unexpected feature
of the image is that the man's thumbs are not shown. One would expect all five
fingers to be shown on both hands. However, during a crucifixion, nails are
passed through the wrist. This forces the thumb out of position, so that it
would not be seen in an image of the corpse. It is very unlikely that
physicians and artists in the 14th century would have know this. If
the shroud is really a forgery or icon, one would have expected the painter to
have shown all five fingers on the man's hand.
The man's wrists: The gospels record that
Jesus' hands were pierced by nails. But this is impossible; the palm pierced
by a nail would not be capable of supporting the full weight of the man; the
flesh and ligaments would simply tear. The Romans pierced the wrist with a nail,
or tied the arm to the cross piece. Physicians and artists in the Middle Ages
assumed that the gospels were right and that Jesus was nailed through his
palm. (Luke 24:39, John 20:24, John 20:27) The crucifixion paintings of the
era showed this. Some modern paintings do as well, out of ignorance or a sense
of tradition. The first episode of the TV program "AD" that was broadcast in 2015-APR portrayed the crucifixion. It showed nails being placed on the actor's wrist. If the shroud is really a forgery or icon, the painter would be
expected to have drawn a palm injury. The shroud actually shows a hole in the
Pollen: Pollen are very fine microspores
that are used by plants for propagation. Max Frei reported that he discovered
many species of pollen grains on the shroud. Some news sources reported that
he positively identified pollen which came from plants that only grew in
Palestine during the 1st century CE. In fact, he reported that
he found pollen from desert halophytes - "salt plants" which grow
only in very saline desert soils such as those in the Jordan valley. 4 Frei was described by Joe Nickell
as a "freelance criminologist" 5 and by the media relations and publications department of the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem as a "forensic scientific expert..." 6Frei is probably best known for
having pronounced the forged Hitler Diaries as genuine.
He used tape to lift
samples of pollen from the linen. They were then extracted and embedded in
glycerin jelly so that they could be examined from all directions in a
microscope. He reported, before his death in 1983, that many of the pollen
samples from the shroud were from species of plants that were unique to the
Middle East and not found in Europe. Nickell implies that Frei's sampling
procedure might have been faulty. He mentions that the tapes "had very few
pollens -- although one bore a suspicious cluster on the 'lead' (or end),
rather than on the portion that had been applied to the shroud."
Blood on the man's forehead: Dr. M. M. Baden commented that the
image on the shroud shows blood having trickled from the scalp, presumably
due to the wounds created by the crown of thorns mentioned in the Gospels.
He noted that blood from a scalp wound does not flow in rivulets, but
rather mats the hair. 7
||The head on the reverse side of the
shroud: An image has been found on the reverse side of the shroud
which is a near duplicate of the one on the front. Some suggest that
this is evidence that the shroud is a forgery. It has been speculated
that "any paint or liquid used by forgers to make a print on the
cloth would have soaked through" to the reverse side. However, there
are two problems with this theory: the images on the front and reverse
sides of the shroud only appear on the surface layers of the linen;
there is no image in the middle of the cloth. Also, the two images are
One possible explanation is that the shroud was created
as a forgery or religious icon by an artist who first painted a practice
image on one side of the linen, to perfect their technique. Then they
painted a second image on the front of the linen for public viewing.
Unfortunately, there is a key piece of missing information: are the two
images directly on top of each other. If they are perfectly aligned,
then the practice image theory is unlikely to be true. If they are
offset, then the opposing theory that the front image was generated by
special rays associated with the resurrection is likely to be false.
More measurements on the shroud would be necessary to resolve the difficulty.
Disagreement about the implications of the
The linen in the Shroud of Turin is
woven with a 3:1 herringbone pattern; other linen has a simpler 1:1 weave. We
have not been able to resolve differences among experts about the significance
of the weave:
According to Joe Nickell, a Senior Research Fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry:
"... no examples of its complex herringbone weave are known from
the time of Jesus when, in any case, burial cloths tended to be of
He cites three references:
Joe Nickell, "Inquest on the Shroud of Turin: Latest Scientific Findings," Prometheus Books., (1998), Page 35.
Ian Wilson, "The Blood and the Shroud," The Free Press, (1998)
David F. Brown, Interview with H. David Sox, New Realities, 4:1 (1981), Page 31.
A Wikipedia article states: According to master textile restorer
Mechthild Flury-Lemberg of Hamburg, a seam in the cloth corresponds to a
fabric found only at the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea, which dated
to the first century. ... Flury-Lemberg stated, 'The linen cloth of the
Shroud of Turin does not display any weaving or sewing techniques which
would speak against its origin as a high-quality product of the textile
workers of the first century'." 16
That article continues: "The weaving pattern, 3:1 twill, is consistent
with first-century Syrian design, according to the appraisal of Gilbert Raes
of the Ghent Institute of Textile Technology in Belgium." 16
G.A. Wells, "The historical evidence for Jesus," Prometheus Books,
(1988), Page 190.
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
P. E. Damon, et al. "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of
Turin." Nature, 337:6208, 1989-FEB-16, Pages 611 to 615.
- G.A. Wells, op cit, Page 185
Joe Nickell, "Blooming 'Shroud' Claims," Skeptical Inquirer
magazine, 1999-NOV/DEC issue, Page 22-23.
G. R. Lavoie, "Unlocking the Secrets of the Shroud," Thomas More,
Read reviews or order this book
- M.M. Baden, Article, Medical World News, 1980-DEC-22.
Charles Arthur, "Scientists find another face on reverse side of
Turin shroud: Scientists debate meaning and origin of image on little-see
back surface of shroud," The Independent. Online at:
"The Shroud of Turin," McCrone Research Institute, at:
"Amounts of modern biological contaminant required to raise the date
of a 36 A.D. shroud," McCrone Research Institute, at:
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 180.
Read reviews or order this book
- Ibid, Page 181 - 182.
- Ibid, Page 183.
Joe Nickell, "Claims of Invalid “Shroud" Radiocarbon Date Cut from Whole
Cloth," Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
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:
"Shroud of Truin" Wikipedia at:
"What is the height of Jesus Christ?," Mormon apologetic & discussion board, at: http://www.mormonapologetics.org/
Copyright © 1999 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-NOV-18
Latest update: 2015-APR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson