This article was published in the year 2000. Since that time Shroud research has continued. My Second Exodus Apostolate has also become much more active since then, so I no longer have time to keep up with sindonology. However, the recent research I have seen continues to support my original conclusion that the Shroud is the authentic burial cloth of Rabbi Yeshua.
More Recent Research
Father Robert J. Spitzer S.J.
A Remarkable Relic of the Resurrection
Is the Shroud of Turin Real?
The Original Article
For now it is called the Shroud of Turin, because Holy Mother Church carefully regards it only as a venerable relic. But as the evidence accumulates, it is becoming clear that this linen cloth, with its light brown chiaroscuro image of a crucified man whose wounds are consistent with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s passion, will one day be called the Shroud of Calvary, no longer named for the place it is kept but for the place where it became a photograph of Christ risen from death.
In ordinary circumstances, the overwhelming evidence for the Shroud would easily persuade most neutral observers that it is the Jewish burial wrapping in which Jesus of Nazareth was entombed. However, many faithful Catholics believe that we are living at the end of an extraordinary century in salvation history. Pope Leo XIII in 1884 received a vision of the twentieth century as a time in which Satan would try to drag the world to hell. In 1917 the Blessed Virgin warned three children at Fátima, “The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father.” These warnings are consistent with the sudden and unprecedented worldwide disappearance of Christianity from public life during the past half century, as well as the equally sudden and unprecedented worldwide increase in persecution and martyrdom of Christians. A phalanx of spiritual resources is committed to discrediting all objective evidence of God’s existence and glory.
When Rabbi Yokhanan Hamatbil sent two men to Rabbi Yeshua asking, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Rabbi Yeshua answered, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up” Lk 7:22). We are to open our eyes, see what is going on around us, and draw appropriate conclusions. Recognizing the hostile spiritual resources committed to discrediting the Shroud, as well as the significant number of human persons who reflexively attack evidence of God’s authority, let us look at this astonishing relic.
St. John Paul II on the Shroud
St. John Paul II visited the Shroud during a pastoral visit at the Cathedral of Turin on May 24, 1998, the day on which his pontificate became the longest of the twentieth century, suggesting his personal reverence for the Shroud. There he presided at a brief Liturgy of the Word. After the Gospel reading (Jn 20:3–8) the Holy Father said, § 2,
“Since it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions. She entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate, so that satisfactory answers may be found to the questions connected with this Sheet, which, according to tradition, wrapped the body of our Redeemer after he had been taken down from the cross. The Church urges that the Shroud be studied without pre-established positions that take for granted results that are not such; she invites them to act with interior freedom and attentive respect for both scientific methodology and the sensibilities of believers.”
The Holy Father was clear: The Shroud’s physical authenticity is for science to determine.
He continued, § 3:
“For the believer, what counts above all is that the Shroud is a mirror of the Gospel. In fact, if we reflect on the sacred Linen, we cannot escape the idea that the image it presents has such a profound relationship with what the Gospels tell of Jesus’ passion and death, that every sensitive person feels inwardly touched and moved at beholding it. Whoever approaches it is also aware that the Shroud does not hold people’s hearts to itself, but turns them to him, at whose service the Father’s loving providence has put it. Therefore, it is right to foster an awareness of the precious value of this image, which everyone sees and no one at present can explain. For every thoughtful person it is a reason for deep reflection, which can even involve one’s life.”
The Holy Father was clear again, § 3: “It is right to foster an awareness of the precious value of this image, which everyone sees and no one at present can explain.” After he left the Cathedral, the Holy Father spoke to a crowd waiting outside. He spoke of Christ’s “mysterious face which is revealed to the eyes of the faith.”
The Shroud is comparable to a private revelation approved by the Church. Since its authenticity is not affirmed by Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition, the Church cannot formally confirm that the Shroud is a genuine relic of the Resurrection. However, it passes the applicable tests for a private revelation in that it is completely consistent with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and also that it leads us to reflect not on itself but on Christ’s eternal love for us. As the Holy Father remarked after his Gospel reading, § 5:
“The Shroud is also an image of God’s love as well as of human sin. It invites us to rediscover the ultimate reason for Jesus’ redeeming death. In the incomparable suffering that it documents, the love of the One who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” Jn 3:16 is made almost tangible and reveals its astonishing dimensions. In its presence believers can only exclaim in all truth: “Lord, you could not love me more!”, and immediately realize that sin is responsible for that suffering: the sins of every human being.”
The Case for the Shroud
A Jewish Burial Cloth
The Shroud of Turin is consistent with Jewish burial customs of Rabbi Yeshua’s time. The standard measure was the cubit, originally the distance from elbow to fingertips but by then standardized at 21.7 inches. The Shroud was woven to cubit measure, eight cubits long and two cubits wide. In English measure it is about 14 feet 3 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide.
During the first century one of every eight Egyptian residents was Jewish. In Alexandriamore than half the population was Jewish. Consequently, many Jews were buried according to Egyptian customs. The ancient Egyptians believed that the deceased could take worldly possessions with them into the world to come; consequently they were buried with gold, silver, or precious stones in shrouds sewn with golden threads.
Wherever the Christian gospel is proclaimed demonic activity increases. When RabbiYeshua arrived on earth there was a whirlwind of demonic activity. In the entire Old Testament there is not even one exorcism, yet St. Mark’s Gospel records many exorcisms. One result of all this demonic disturbance was that many Romans began pillaging graves for gold. Since tampering with the body is abhorrent to Jews, the rabbis responded by emphasizing simple burial procedures that would remove the financial incentive for desecration. The takhrikhim, wrappings, were to be of inexpensive white linen without pockets.
St. Matthew says Rabbi Yeshua’s body was wrapped “in a clean linen shroud.” (Mt 27:59) St. Mark says Joseph of Arimathea; bought “a linen shroud.” Mk 15:46 St. Luke says Joseph “wrapped [Rabbi Yeshua] in a linen shroud” Lk 23:53. St. John, however, says that they “bound [Rabbi Yeshua’s body] in linen cloths” Jn 19:40. In Greek, the three synoptics use the word sindon, or shroud, but St. John uses othonia, which indicates the linen cloths used in a Jewish burial: the primary linen shroud, the linen bands used to tie hands and feet together, and the sudarion or jaw-band.
When Peter entered the empty tomb, “… he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on [Rabbi Yeshua’s] head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.” Jn 20:6f Lazarus emerged from his tomb, “…his hands and feet wrapped in bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth” Jn 11:44. Most scholars take the “napkin” to be the jaw-band prescribed in Mishna Shabbat 23:5.
A linen cloth called the Sudario, in Oviedo, Spain, venerated as the sudarion of RabbiYeshua since the ninth century, measures 2 feet 9 inches by 1 foot 9 inches. Dr. Alan Whanger and his wife Mary have observed sufficient correspondence between bloodstains on the Sudario and those on the Shroud to indicate that both covered the same bleeding body. However, there is no image on the Sudario, and the Sudario has bloodstains that do not appear on the Shroud. Alan and Mary Whanger believe that the Sudario was removed before enshroudment; it may have been used to cover the face of the Man of the Shroud while his body was carried from the cross to the tomb.
A Remarkable Tablecloth
Dr. St. John Jackson and his wife Rebecca believe that the Shroud may have been the tablecloth used during the Last Supper.
It is an interesting hypothesis. We know that Joseph of Arimathea bought a shroud, but we do not know when. He may have helped the apostles prepare for the Last Supper. Jesus died on the cross at 3:00 pm, about three hours before the Sabbath was to begin. Since noon there had been “…darkness over all the land” Mt 27:45. Jewish shopkeepers always close well before the Sabbath. When the sky darkened they probably closed their shops and hurried home, wondering whether God had brought the Sabbath early. At the moment Jesus died, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” Mt 27:51f. In this wild confusion, as the Sabbath drew near, Jewish shopkeepers would surely have closed and hurried home. Joseph of Arimathea would also have been caught up in the confusion. It was evening when he summoned his courage and asked Pilate for the body Mk 15:42f. Pilate then called in the centurion to certify that Jesus was dead, which took more time. By the time Joseph of Arimathea knew that he needed a shroud the Sabbath was very near. No Jewish shopkeeper would still have been open. Desperate to find a shroud, Joseph of Arimathea may well have settled on the tablecloth used at the Last Supper. A linen cloth covering a dinner table for thirteen men would have been exactly the right size for a shroud.
Rebecca Jackson, raised an Orthodox Jew, points to the dark red spots that occur at thirteen consistent intervals on one side of the cloth, and sometimes nearer its center. She believes that these stains are charoset, a sweet mixture of chopped apples, nuts and wine. During the Passover seder Jews dip karpas, lettuce, in the mixture and then bring it to their mouth and eat it. Some of the charoset inevitably drips onto the tablecloth.
The stains appear on only one side of the Shroud, suggesting the popular image of the Last Supper in which all the apostles are seated on the same side of the table. Jewish men have long respected women’s formidable powers of attraction. In Orthodox Jewish synagogues to this day men are seated on one side and women on the other. During the seder in Jesus day, the men sat at table while women served the meal. The men did not want to have women hanging over them as they served because they would have been too close. They all sat on one side so the women would have plenty of room to serve from the other side. Jewish men had good reason to resist temptation; the penalty for adultery was death Lev 20:10.
Jesus had told the apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me” Lk 22:19. There is an Eastern Rite tradition that after Jesus rose from the dead St. James celebrated the first Mass on His shroud, which seems appropriate for the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
There are also burn marks on the Shroud that pre-date the fire of 1532. Incense for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is placed in a censor heated by burning charcoal. Evidence of hot charcoal accidentally spilled on the Shroud suggests that Mass had at some time been celebrated on it. By ancient Roman tradition the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is always celebrated on a linen cloth that represents Christ’s burial shroud.
The Shroud Survives
Halakha, Jewish law, has traditionally provided four circumstances in which the tahara, ritual washing of the body, is prohibited:  The deceased died a violent death or blood flowed uninterrupted at the time of death,  the deceased was executed for a religious crime,  the deceased was an outcast, or  the deceased was killed by a non-Jew. Jesus’ crucifixion met these criteria; we would expect bloodstains on his burial cloth. The apostles, observant Jews, would have been uncomfortable that the Shroud was bloodstained and could not undergo tahara. They knew that if the Shroud ever fell into the hands of the Sanhedrin it would immediately have been desecrated and destroyed. Since the apostles were always eager to preserve relics of the martyrs, Jesus above all, they evidently decided to send the Shroud away from Jerusalem to a place where its use as a burial shroud would not be known.
Apgar V was a king in the city of Edessa, now Urfa in southern Turkey, during the years AD 13-50. There is a shadowy story that Apgar invited Jesus to come to Edessa and heal his leprosy. It is said that Jesus declined, but that after he ascended to heaven Thaddeus traveled the 180 miles from Jerusalem to Edessa bringing Apgar a cloth bearing a miraculous imprint that healed Apgar. The story continues that Apgar converted the city to Christianity and revered the cloth. When Apgar’s son became king he returned to paganism and persecuted the Christians of Edessa. In AD 57 the miraculous cloth disappeared. Historians believe the persecuted Christians, desperate to protect the cloth, sealed it in a city wall niche where it was forgotten.
Several apocryphal manuscripts, including the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Mysteries of the Acts of the Savior, both from the second century, suggest that Peter arranged for preservation of the Shroud and that miraculous healings were associated with its image. These legends would explain why the Christians of Edessa might have sealed their cloth in a city wall niche.
A cloth called the Holy Mandylion (Arabic: veil) or Edessa Cloth, said to bear the true likeness of Christ, was discovered about AD 525 in a wall niche above a city gate in Edessa, exactly when artists began to depict the conventional likeness of Jesus’ face. A text from that time described the cloth as a tetradiplon, doubled in four. If the Shroud is folded in half lengthwise, then folded in half twice more and mounted in a frame, the face appears disembodied in the same manner as the earliest surviving copies of the Mandylion. Dr. Jackson has found marks on the Shroud consistent with its having been folded exactly that way. Dr. Max Frei, head of the Zurich Police Scientific Laboratory for 25 years and a pioneer in the forensic use of pollens, found more pollens on the face than other parts of the cloth, suggesting that the face was more exposed to the open air than other parts of the Shroud.
St. Augustine wrote during the early fifth century, “We do not know of [Jesus’] external appearance.” Artists during the first five centuries after His incarnation depicted him in many ways, often with short hair, no beard, and Roman features. Then, suddenly, in the sixth century, immediately after the Mandylion was discovered in the wall niche, artists began to portray Jesus according to the Shroud image.
Alan and Mary Whanger developed a polarized overlay technique in which two images are projected through polarizing filters at right angles to one another so that they are exactly aligned on the same screen. The observer views the images through a third polarizing filter. As the observer rotates the third polarizing filter he can see one image fade into the other. As he does it is possible to observe locations at which both images are identical, called points of congruence. In most jurisdictions, 60 points of congruence are enough to satisfy a court of law that an accused is the person depicted on a photograph. The Whangers compared the Shroud image with a photograph of Christ the Pantocrator, said to have been produced in Edessa in AD 550 and given by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai, and found over 200 points of congruence. It is certain that the artist had direct access to the Mandylion face image and considered it authentic. Justinian II during his first reign produced Jesus-image gold solidus coins between 692 and 695; two that the Whangers examined had respectively 145 and 188 points of congruence. The Mandylion remained in Edessa until 944, when it was carried to Constantinople. Immediately, solidus coins produced by Constantine VII began to reproduce the Mandylion face of Christ with up to 90 points of congruence.
In 1147 King Louis VII of France came to Constantinople to venerate the Mandylion. There it remained until 1204 when the city was destroyed by crusaders from Western Europe. The Mandylion, with many other holy Christian relics, disappeared.
Historian Ian Wilson’s reconstruction of the Shroud’s “lost history” speculates that the Knights Templar, a Christian military order founded in Jerusalem in 1118, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries worshiped the image of a bearded male head. After King Philip of France suppressed the Knights Templar in 1314, two Templar Grand Masters were burned at the stake: Jacques de Molay, whose name is associated today with a Masonic order for youth, and Geoffrey de Charny. The bearded male head appears on a Templar painting discovered in 1951 in Templecombe, England, which bears a striking resemblance to the Shroud image.
In 1353 the Shroud of Turin appeared in Lirey, France, at the home of another Geoffrey de Charny, a French knight killed in battle in 1356. The de Charny family never explained how they got the Shroud. If they somehow obtained it from Geoffrey de Charny of the fierce Knights Templar, their silence would have been prudent.
From then on the Shroud’s existence has been meticulously documented. It still had to survive two trials by fire, one in 1532 in the Sainte Chapelle (Holy Chapel) of the Savoy Castle in Chambéry, France, and the other in Turin Cathedral in 1997. In 1983 Umberto of Savoy bequeathed the Shroud to the Holy See, formally making it at long last physical property of the Catholic Church.
The Image on the Cloth
The Shroud body image consists of yellowed surface fibrils, no more than one or two fibrils deep. The body image fibrils are individually colored. All the yellowed fibrils are the same color. Darker areas have more yellow fibrils per inch than lighter areas. Yellowing of body image fibrils usually does not extend the length of a thread, as it would if liquid pigment had been applied. When a thread passes under a crossing thread in the weave its yellowing is interrupted, which does not occur with stains, dyes or acids. The fibrils are not cemented to one another, no capillary action has occurred, and there is no material in the spaces between threads. The evidence suggests that the Shroud image came from energy radiating from a human body over which the Shroud was draped.
Physicist John Jackson and aerodynamics engineer Eric Jumper discovered that the closer the body was to the draped cloth, the darker the image. Jackson and Jumper used a VP-8 image analyzer to reconstruct a lifelike three-dimensional surface from the Shroud image. This also suggests that the Shroud image was formed by radiant energy from the body itself. A normal painting, drawing or photograph does not use light and dark areas to represent distance from the observer, and so appears distorted when viewed through a VP-8 image analyzer.
The areas that appear bloodstained are entirely different. These stains penetrate the entire depth of the linen cloth and cement the fibrils to one another. Most of them are crimson, though some vary from dark brown to light orange. A colorless fluid, apparently serum, separated from the bloodstains before transfer to the cloth, surrounds some of the bloodstains.
But Was It Jesus?
The Man of the Shroud has a distinctively Jewish appearance. The close eye-nose correlations and the protuberance on the left side of the nose are typical of Semitic ancestry. The hair, straight at the root and becoming more curly toward the ends, is common among Jews, as are the high cheekbones. The Man of the Shroud’s beard and pais (forelocks) are traditional even today among some Orthodox Jews in obedience to God’s command, “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard” Lev 19:27.
The Risen Rabbi Yeshua told doubting Thomas, “See my hands” Jn 20:27. The Jewish “hand” includes the wrist and lower forearm; when Jews ritually wash their hands they include these. The Greek word usually translated as “hands” also includes the wrist and lower forearm. Artists depicting the crucifixion from that time through the medieval period invariably placed the wounds in Jesus’ palms; Bolognese artists of the sixteenth century were the first to recognize that using the palms was anatomically impossible. Dr. Pierre Barbet’s experiments showed that nailed hands will not support the weight of a man. Many stigmatists have experienced their wounds in the palms, but the varied locations and depths of the stigmata are clear evidence that God gives stigmata for their mystical value, not as literal replicas of Christ’s wounds. However, Dr. Barbet discovered that a nail driven into the fold of the wrist easily enters into an area called the Space of Destot. The wrist wounds in the Shroud image are consistent with these findings. A nail driven into the Space of Destot would not fracture any of the carpal bones. God had commanded of the paschal lamb, “You shall not break a bone of it” (Ex 12:46. Again God commanded, “…nor break a bone of it …” Num 9:12. King David prophesied of the Messiah, “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken” Ps 34:20. St. John told us, “When they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs” Jn 19:33. However, the nail would damage the median nerve, which would immediately pull the thumb under the palm. The Shroud image has no visible thumbs.
“Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him” Jn 19:1. The Romans scourged with a whip containing two or three leather thongs, called a flagrum. At the end of each thong was a pair of barbed lead balls or sheep bones. When the whip was applied to the victim’s skin with a flicking motion the balls or bones would rip out pieces of flesh, leaving deep lacerations and substantial blood loss. A video, The Silent Witness 2:31, shows the late Msgr. Giulio Ricci fitting a flagrum romano precisely to the scourge contusions on the Shroud image.
The crowning with thorns was a torture created specifically for Rabbi Yeshua. Moreover, St. John’s phrase “crown of thorns” Jn 19:2 suggests to most readers a circle of thorns that would surround the head but leave the top untouched. The Shroud image indicates that a clump of thorns was pressed down onto the top of the man’s head. Evidently, the “crown” was part of the soldiers’ mocking, “Hail, King of the Jews” Jn 19:3. A forger would have followed convention in depicting the crown of thorns.
Artists have generally depicted Rabbi Yeshua as carrying his entire cross, but it would have been far too heavy. The stipes, or vertical bar of the cross, was a permanent fixture outside the city gates. The condemned man carried the patibulum, or horizontal bar, which weighed about 100 pounds, balanced across the back of the neck and shoulders, tied to his arms. When they arrived at the place of crucifixion the Roman soldiers nailed the cross together. St. John informs us, “So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross” Jn 19:17. The Shroud image shows a wound on each shoulder which pathologists generally recognize as skin torn away or worn away due to the friction of a heavy object rubbing on an already damaged area. St. Matthew adds, “As they were marching out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross” Mt 27:32. Rabbi Yeshua, scourged and crowned with thorns, was too weak to carry his cross all the way to Calvary. Tradition informs us that he fell three times along the via crucis, and the knees of the Man of the Shroud bear several contusions and excoriations. As we recite the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, we might reflect that a man whose arms are tied to a crossbeam cannot put his hands forward to break a fall. Each time he fell, arms out as if already crucified, Rabbi Yeshua’s face and body slammed into the stony road. The Man of the Shroud bears the appropriate wounds. The Shroud reminds us how often we fall as we carry our cross towards him.
Crucifixion was designed to produce slow torture leading to death. Left alone on the cross, most victims could last several days. So, when the Roman soldiers were ready to go they would break the legs of their victims to bring asphyxia and death within a few minutes. Rabbi Yeshua, exhausted by his ordeal, died after three hours. “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” Jn 19:34. The Man of the Shroud had on his right side, between the fifth and sixth ribs, an elliptical wound 1¾ inches long and just less than half an inch wide, the exact dimensions of excavated Roman lances.
That wound area shows a visible separation of blood and a clear liquid. There is too much clear liquid for it to be entirely serum. Some researchers think the clear fluid came from the pericardial sac, others from the pleural sac, and still others from the pleural spaces surrounding the lungs. All agree that the blood and clear fluid came from a puncture wound that pierced the Man of the Shroud’s heart after he died.
We know that Rabbi Yeshua was buried on a Friday because the Jews asked Pilate that they might be killed and taken away “…to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath…” Jn 19:31. We know also that the resurrection had been accomplished before dawn on Sunday morning. “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark” Jn 20:1. The Shroud image was evidently formed between 24 hours (the time required for observed blood clot separation) and 40 hours (when decomposition would have begun) after the Man of the Shroud died. If we take Rabbi Yeshua’s death on the cross as Friday afternoon at the traditional 3:00 pm and add 28 hours we get Saturday at 7:00 pm, after sunset at that time of year and approximately the time we celebrate Easter Vigil Mass, which was already Sunday on the Jewish calendar. If instead we add 38 hours we get to Sunday at 5:00 am, still before dawn. The Shroud image is completely consistent with Gospel narratives of Christ’s resurrection.
The Blood Type Match
In Lanciano, Italy, in 751 AD, a Basilian monk was celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, although his own faith in the Real Presence had failed. The monk’s faith was instantly restored when he saw, at the moment of consecration, the bread and wine become Christ’s Body and Blood in appearance as well as substance. Both have remained intact without preservatives to this day.
The divine origin of the blood from Lanciano is virtually irrefutable. In 1574 the Church approved tests on the Flesh and Blood. Even at that time, very accurate balance scales were available. Although the five pellets of coagulated blood are different shapes and sizes, any one pellet, or any combination of pellets, weighed the same as the total of all five. Since the Catholic Church has always taught that even the smallest quantity of the Blood of Christ is Christ whole and entire, and that a much larger quantity is still the same Christ, Holy Mother Church saw the weight findings as miraculous confirmation.
The bloodstains on the Shroud and the Sudario appear to be type AB, the same type AB blood that we find in the Miracle of Lanciano. Less than 5 percent of Europeans or Asians have type AB blood. The probability that AB blood would appear at random in both places is less than .05 x .05, or 1 in 400, resulting in a better than 99.75 percent probability that they had the same origin.
The Pollen Tests
When an object has been exposed to the open air, airborne pollens often fall on it. Pollens remain unchanged for thousands of years. Moreover, each plant species produces pollens with a unique size and shape, so that an expert can tell where an object has been by identifying the pollens on the object and discovering where those plants grow.
Dr. Frei in 1973 and again in 1978 was given permission to apply sticky tape to the clear, or non-image, parts of the Shroud. He found 58 species of pollens, about three-quarters of them from the Middle East and one-quarter from Europe. 16 species were halophytes, desert plants that grow only in Palestine near the Negev region or the Dead Sea. Most of their pollens are carried by insects, not wind. Dr. Frei’s experiments proved that the pollens originating in Palestine could not have been carried on the wind to southeastern Turkey, Constantinople, or northern Syria, from which he also found pollens, and certainly not to Europe. Dr. Frei concluded that the Shroud must have been exposed to the open air at some time of its existence in or near Jerusalem, the one place it must have been if it was the authentic burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth.
Alan and Mary Whanger recently discovered images of 28 different types of flowers on the Shroud. Twenty of these flower types grow in Jerusalem and the other eight within 12 miles of Jerusalem. Most do not grow in Europe. 27 of the 28 types bloom during March and April, when Rabbi Yeshua was crucified. 25 of the 28 types are consistent with Dr. Frei’s pollen discoveries. These flower images are so faint that their observation required image-enhancement techniques. However, they were accurately copied in icons and other artistic renditions of Christ, including those on Byzantine coins between the third and tenth centuries. Evidently they were much more visible in the earlier centuries, which suggests that the flower images were imprinted by a process other than short-duration radiant energy from the body.
The Case Against The Shroud
St. John Paul II and St. Thomas Aquinas always expressed their adversary’s case better than the adversary himself did before demolishing it with their own arguments. The straw man technique, in which a writer destroys a caricature of his adversary’s case, is inept argument. I had hoped to present a balanced case for and against the Shroud. However, I found the case against it so tatterdemalion that I have withheld the names of the “researchers” as an act of charity. Nonetheless, the case against it always gets a respectful hearing in the popular press.
The d’Arcis Memorandum
The earliest known case against the Shroud was made in 1389, after Pope Clement VIIallowed Geoffrey de Charny’s son to display the Shroud. The Bishop of Troyes, Pierre d’Arcis, wrote to Pope Clement VII charging that his predecessor, Bishop Henry of Poitiers, had spoken with an artist who had reproduced the Shroud and thought it was a painting. However, Bishop d’Arcis did not name the artist. He also did not cite a documented confession. One would expect such primary evidence to be part of a bishop’s formal appeal to a pope. Bishop d’Arcis may well have been angered because de Charny bypassed him and went directly to the pope for approval. In any event, the document is a rough draft and there is no record that it was ever sent to the pope, suggesting that the bishop may have reconsidered the spiritual consequences of sending such an unsubstantiated charge to the Vicar of Christ.
The Carbon Dating
Six centuries later, another foray was made against the Shroud. The Vatican’s Secretariat of State had opposed carbon dating tests in 1988 after having received information that such tests are not reliable. However, the academic community demanded such tests so vociferously that the Vatican felt it necessary to allow them.
To assess the reliability of carbon dating, we need to know how it works. In the upper atmosphere, when cosmic rays hit nitrogen 14, a very small amount of it becomes carbon 14 (C14), a radioactive isotope of the element carbon. Less than one part per billion of atmospheric carbon is C14. Living organisms, such as flax plants, absorb this atmospheric C14 as well as C13 (1.1% of atmospheric carbon) and C12 (98.9% of atmospheric carbon). After the organism dies it stops taking in C14. The C14 decays at a constant rate: after 5,730 years half of it reverts to nitrogen 14. Since the amount of C12 remains constant, comparing the ratio of C14 to C12 reveals the age of the organism.
In 1988 Oxford University, the University of Arizona at Tucson, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology carbon dated the Shroud. It is generally accepted that the tests accurately measured the samples that the laboratories had received. All three institutions reported an identical 95 percent probability that the Shroud was woven between 1260 and 1390. The news media gave these findings intense coverage.
Obviously, accuracy in carbon dating depends on a very clean and pure sample. Anything that mixes carbon atoms of recent origin (higher C14/C12 ratio) with carbon atoms from the original substance (baseline C14/C12 ratio) will give the test sample an artificially high C14/C12 ratio, which the laboratory computer will interpret as an artificially recent date of origin.
The three linen samples were cut from the lower left corner of the frontal portion of the Shroud, where church authorities over the centuries always held it during exhibitions, leaving on it proteins and lipids from human sweat and oils. Since these organic substances were of more recent origin than the Shroud itself, they artificially increased the C14/C12 ratio. Moreover, the sampled location was heavily scorched during the fire at Chambéry, France, in 1532, further increasing the C14/C12 ratio. The sampled location was the most contaminated part of the Shroud. The news media kept this contamination quiet.
Drs. Dimitri Kouznetsov and Andrey Ivanov at Moscow’s Sedov Biopolymer Research Laboratory in 1994-1995, based on the widely held estimate that during the fire of 1532 the Shroud’s temperature had been raised to about 200° centigrade, theorized that that exchange between carbon in combustion products resulting from the fire and carbon in the Shroud, aided by the catalytic action of molten silver and steam at that temperature, greatly increased the C14/C12 ratio to produce an artificially recent date. Drs. Kouznetsov and Ivanov took a linen cloth from the Dead Sea area of Israel that had been carbon dated as 2,175 years old and subjected it to the same heat and chemical environment as the fire of 1532. Then they again sent it for carbon dating. This time the sample was dated as 800 years old. Evidently, after compensating for the carbon exchange, the Shroud dates approximately to the time of Christ. The news media kept the Moscow findings quiet.
In 1996 a research team led by Dr. Stephen J. Mattingly and Dr. Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, with extensive experience studying how various microbes can coat objects with biogenic varnishes (plastic-like coatings synthesized by bacteria or fungi), used a microscope to examine samples from the Shroud and found biogenic varnishes on their samples. They then subjected their samples to infrared and mass spectropic analysis and discovered that the samples were not pure cellulose. The Shroud samples harbored microbes that grow in natron, a bleaching agent that may at some time have been used on it. The 1988 tests had evidently been done on a mixture of the original linen and the much more recent varnish, which would also produce an artificially recent date. Although the varnish problem would occur on all carbon-dating of ancient textiles, the news media kept the Texas findings quiet.
In 1997 John Jackson presented to the Symposium on the Shroud in Nice, France, an equation model based on the theoretical physics of the Shroud linen’s atomic structure. His model showed that during the fire atmospheric C14 physically replaced C12 atoms in the Shroud linen, which greatly increased the C14/C12 ratio, causing the artificially recent dating. Dr. Jackson proved his model by using it to explain both the Kouznetsov-Ivanov findings and those of a University of Arizona study that had sought to negate Dr. Kouznetsov’s work. The media kept Dr. Jackson’s findings quiet.
In addition to the contamination problem, there is evidence that the test protocol itself was sabotaged. In 1986 a rigorous test protocol was drafted, stipulating that seven samples would be taken, each from a different site on the Shroud, excluding sites charred by the 1532 fire. Each sample would be sent to a different laboratory. No record remains of how the 1986 protocol was replaced by a protocol calling for one sample from a contaminated area cut into three pieces. But the sabotage went further. When a researcher sends, say, a linen cloth sample of unknown age for carbon dating, he normally sends another linen cloth sample of known age. That way, if the laboratory reports the wrong age for the control sample, the researcher knows that the test has gone awry and dismisses the result. In this case the certificates, sent to the three laboratories with the specimens, clearly identified the sources and dates of the control cloths. Since the weaves of the control samples were different from one another and different from the Shroud, the labs could easily identify them.
Such pressure for a test that would foreseeably produce a false date for the Shroud, together with sabotage of the protocol, is consistent with the overall effort to discredit all evidence of God’s existence and glory. The principalities and powers evidently saw to it that these tests were the only ones whose results were widely publicized.
The remaining anti-Shroud case consists of several inconsistent theories as to how the Shroud image was imprinted. When covering the Shroud, the media usually present the claims of these “researchers” as if they represented scientific consensus.
One “researcher” says the body image and bloodstains were all painted with a dilute pigment solution, another that it is an iron-oxide rubbing of a bas-relief, and a third that putative pigments were washed away or rubbed off, leaving degraded cellulose fibers. STURP disproved these hypotheses twenty years ago. Microscopic analysis, the easiest test to replicate, shows that the Shroud image is composed of randomly oriented markings. A painting or rubbing always shows directionality. The reader can easily verify this by looking at his own wrist watch through a standard jeweler’s loupe. If the watch has been in daily use for some time, the loupe will reveal a myriad of tiny scratches in every direction and of varying length and depth. A reader sufficiently interested to purchase a cheap watch and try to reproduce the effect will discover that, using the loupe, he can tell the difference with a moment’s observation.
STURP also found that X-ray fluorescence revealed no difference in elemental composition between image and non-image areas. Ultraviolet fluorescence revealed no aromatic dyes or aromatic amino acids that might have been expected from animal proteins or other collagen binders. X-radiography indicated no density discontinuities associated with the body image. Photoelectric spectrophotometry showed none of the spectral characteristics of normal stains, dyes, or pigments. Finally, STURP observed that neither scorch marks nor water stains from the 1532 fire distorted the image or changed its color, as we would expect if organic dyes or stains, or inorganic pigments, had been present on the cloth.
Two researchers at the University of Tennessee, trying to overcome these shortcomings, recently offered a theory of “carbon-dust drawing.” However, their technique falls far short of the Shroud image’s sharpness and clarity.
A German student of theology imagines that Rabbi Yeshua did not die on the cross, and reasons therefore that the Shroud is a forgery. The young student claims to know how it was done, having reconstructed the process by covering himself with ointments and wrapping himself in a linen cloth. He reports that, “The marks left on my linen were amazingly similar to those of the Shroud of Turin.” The Gospel evidence that RabbiYeshua died at Calvary is secure. Longinus made sure Rabbi Yeshua was dead by piercing His side with a lance. The chief priests were convinced Rabbi Yeshua was dead. A centurion (commander of a century, 100 soldiers) experienced at crucifixion reported to Pilate that Rabbi Yeshua was dead. Moreover, the post mortem blood and already-separated serum from the crucified man’s side, as well as the complete immobility of the body with no displacement whatever in the imprinted image or the coagulated blood, testify that the Man of the Shroud had died.
Finally, two English researchers claim that the Shroud was the work of Leonardo da Vinci. The de Charny family had the Shroud since 1353, a century before Leonardo’s birth on April 15, 1452. In fact, the Shroud was conveyed to the Savoy family on March 22, 1453, less than a year after Leonardo’s birth.
Rabbi Yeshua calls us to “… walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Cor 5:7. He did not leave absolute proof for us to discover. Many unanswered questions remain, such as why the hands appear as metacarpal bones going all the way back to the wrist bloodstain as if they were an X-ray image. But he did leave us overwhelming evidence. Had the Shroud of Turin come with the same scholarly authentication in the fields of science and culture but bearing the image of any other man of the same era, every museum curator in the world would instantly have accepted it into his collection. Indeed, most artifacts in the world’s great museums have far less authenticating evidence.
Rabbi Yeshua left us a Shroud with clues that, like His parables, would not become visible until the time for them had come. It is no coincidence that the technology by which we could analyze the Shroud as never before has arrived during a crucial stage in the spiritual war when Christianity is rapidly disappearing from public life, when worldwide persecution of Christians has risen to unprecedented levels, when Mother Angelica receives a miraculous healing witnessed by millions on her Global Catholic Network.
Either the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, or a forgery. The affirmative traditionally has the burden of proof, but the evidence supporting the Shroud is so coherent that the burden has shifted. The thesis that the Shroud is a forgery requires a leap of faith that far exceeds anything the affirmative asks of the neutral observer. The doubters have to explain how a fourteenth century forger could have  had a twentieth century knowledge of human anatomy and physiology,  put the same type AB blood on the Shroud and the Sudario as was found in the Miracle of Lanciano centuries before blood typing was developed,  imprinted the body image using a technique that even today’s most advanced scientists cannot duplicate, and  encoded depth information retrievable only by computer analysis, centuries before anyone had heard of computers. The doubters have to explain why a forger would apply such formidable knowledge and skill for this work and no other, and not tell anyone what he had done.
Scientists have certified authenticity in other areas where the objective balance of evidence is considerably less favorable than it is here. However, no Shroud researcher has proclaimed the Shroud authentic. Part of that is natural conservatism appropriate to the most sacred Christian relic on earth. But I believe part is supernatural conservatism, an act of the Holy Spirit. If the Shroud were proclaimed authentic during this stage of the spiritual war the big media would put the nay-sayers prominently on every television channel and newspaper in the country. This can be seen every January 22 when the media give approximately equal coverage to 100,000 abortion protesters on the Mall in Washington DC and a counter-demonstration of maybe a dozen people. Such wildly distorted coverage would make the Church itself, not just the Shroud, appear to lack credibility.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church § 675–677 informs us that before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.” Many faithful Catholics believe that we are already entering the final Passover.
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….” Jn 16:12–13. Portuguese newspapers during the early twentieth century were virulently anti-Catholic until the Miracle of the Sun at Fátima on October 13, 1917. From that day forward they treated the Faith with awe. We may hope that our own prodigal news and entertainment media will follow. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” Ec 3:1–7. The time to speak will come. Rabbi Yeshua will use his burial shroud to teach many who now depend more on science than on faith to understand God’s creation, and to teach us more than we ever knew about his awesome death and resurrection. In that bright time we will venerate an astonishing image of Rabbi Yeshua’s Body and Blood, a photograph of Rabbi Yeshua risen from death called the Shroud of Calvary.