Addressing if the Turin Shroud is a fake

Post on Quora by Jenny Hawkins on the Turin Shroud:


I first encountered this question through Spencer Alexander McDaniel’s share of his answer. I normally admire Spencer and his work. He is a college student that I like, whose intelligence I respect, and who, I believe, has a bright future ahead of him. He gives dependable answers on Greek and Roman history about which he knows a great deal.

However, whenever he strays into the field of religion, his answers aren’t of the same quality. This answer is a good example. Spencer makes half a dozen claims, and every one of them either overstates its case or is just wrong. He makes no mention of the opposing evidence—a thing he is usually careful to do in his writings on classical history—and as a result, these answers tend toward polemic. Because I like him, that distresses me. It’s a bad habit for a young person to get into.

The fact the Turin shroud is a religious relic associated with supernatural claims should be of no consequence to the question of its authenticity. Even if the shroud is determined to be an authentic first century relic, that will never prove it is Jesus Christ on the image. So that needs to be set to the side. Personal religious or anti-religious views should all be set to the side in this evaluation.

Considerations of the Shroud have frequently been marred by an intense desire to believe and an imprecise use of data among the overzealous, as well as by an insistence on impossible standards and a willful blindness to data on the part of the anti-theists.

Religious aspects—or antireligious ones— do not provide justification for employing different criteria for studying, writing or viewing the shroud differently than any other important artifact.

Authenticity should be judged on scientific and historical criteria that is no more—and no less—stringent than those applied in the usual identification of ancient city sites, royal tombs, manuscripts, and so on.

That should be the standard of all who make a claim to scholarship. I’m afraid Spencer’s answer isn’t that.

I will answer this question directly at the end, but first let me dispose of Spencer’s 6 points—well, 5 of them anyway.

“The forger who made the Shroud of Turin confessed and the earliest definitive mention of the shroud in any historical source is a record of his confession.”

This is simply not true.

There is no such record containing a confession from anyone claiming to be the shroud’s forger. We don’t know for sure if there ever was such a confession or even such a person.

What Spencer is referring to is a document from the Bishop of d’Arcis who claims there was an artist who supposedly confessed forgery to his predecessor. That makes the d’Arcis document hearsay of hearsay.

D’Arcis’ document is not generally accepted by historians as valid for multiple reasons.

First, there are extant Middle Ages documents that challenge its veracity. D’Arcis was doubted by his own peers. Modern historians also doubt that he was telling the truth. And most of all, scientific study indicates there is no paint pigment on the Turin shroud demonstrating d’Arcis claim was bogus.

In the Bishop’s words, he says:

About thirty-four years ago [about 1355] an inquest was held into the Shroud. Expert theologians [NB: not artists] concluded the Shroud was false because no image is mentioned in the Gospels. Also, the artist came forward.

The statement, “about thirty-four years ago,” suggests that the Bishop had no dated document before him, meaning there was no official record; he had no first-hand knowledge of the event or the artist, and no official second-hand knowledge of it either. The Bishop gives no name to this forger. Presumably he would have if he’d had one — if anyone had recorded it anywhere.

There is no record of who this artist might have been, or what he might have said, whether his claim was misunderstood, or what exactly he claimed—we can’t really know since we can’t examine it—because it doesn’t exist anywhere.

None of the Pope’s communiques with d’Arcis refer to such an artist, and it appears from papal records that the Pope had no knowledge of the events d’Arcis refers to—despite Spencer including a nice picture of him.

No document of Clement refers either to this ‘artist’ or d’Arcis letter.

The charges of forgery cannot be deemed credible unless d’Arcis had, in fact, remitted the document to the Avignon Antipope, Clement VII, (since the bishop would not have risked asserting a charge that might be exposed as false and slanderous by a papal investigation). If it was for publication and not submitted to the Pope, it is most highly probable that the document constitutes little more than hearsay or outright fabrication.

There are two drafts of the D’Arcis Memorandum in the Champagne collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, one very rough and the other relatively neat. The rougher draft does not provide the heading indicating the bishop’s intention to send the memorandum to the Pope. The polished draft has on the backside that this document was addressed to one “Maitre Guillaume Fulconis”, who was probably a scribe. This is highly evidential that d’Arcis hadn’t sent this draft to the professional to polish, let alone having submitted a finished memorandum to the Pope.

There is no evidence that the Pope ever ordered any kind of an investigation, or ever received D’Arcis Memorandum. In January 1390, the Pope closed any possible discussion by restating what he had said the year before about the shroud being allowed to be displayed, and he makes no reference to a forger, D’Arcis’ memorandum or any investigation.

A memorial to the bishop Pierre d’Arcis (1389) reports the furious polemics immediately following the first exposition of the Shroud at Turin. The collapse of the nave of the Bishop’s cathedral of Troyes in 1389 had resulted in the loss of its most precious relics— magnets for pilgrims and their contributions. The bishop, envious of the great number of persons that visited the exhibition, who were likewise deserting his church, declared that the Shroud was a painted fake!

Later, d’Arcis complains that he has been accused of desiring the Shroud of Turin for himself! Because of this, he says, he has become the “laughing stock” of his peers.

This gives a self-serving motive for the Bishop to lie.

So, the facts are these: The Bishop had no first hand knowledge of a forger. There is no actual record of one anywhere. There is no actual confession. There is only d’Arcis’ hearsay, which was possibly written out of jealousy and greed. His peers recognize this and ridicule him. He never actually sends the letter to the Pope.

  • The d’Arcis document is not a confession. We have no copy of any confession.
  • Historians give the d’Arcis document little weight beyond acknowledging that it exists.

  • The most important evidence against the claim the shroud was painted, comes from science.

The story of Walter McCrone and the question of paint on the shroud

When the d’Arcis document was discovered in 1895, it did indeed cause a sensation. Science has, ever since, looked for any possible evidence of paint on the Shroud.

Through much of the 20th century, under the supervision of multiple scientists of varying nationalities and different beliefs, the shroud has been studied with visible and ultraviolet spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, and thermography.

Fiber observations have been made by pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry, laser­microprobe Raman analyses, and microchemical testing.

“No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray, fluorescence and microchemistry on the fibrils preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image. Ultra Violet and infrared evaluation confirm these studies.(…)

The scientific consensus is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself.”

The image is only microns thick, existing only on the outer surface of the fibers, which do not give evidence of the capillary and meniscus characteristics of viscous liquids: penetration, matting, and cementing of the fibers as paint would.

  • All the characteristics of painted cloth are missing.

However, in the same year these results were published, (1978), Walter McCrone (deceased) became the one and only scientist among the many who have examined actual fibers from the Shroud, to claim he had found chemicals consistent with tempura paint on it.

McCrone had originally gained notoriety through his assertion that the Vinland map, believed to be a medieval Viking map from a fifteenth century manuscript, was a fake. McCrone pronounced upon the map after microscopic analysis of a very small sample of its ink. He was later proved wrong by a more in depth analysis.

In 1978, Walter McCrone, an expert in microscopy, was allowed to study 32 samples lifted from the surface of the shroud, by applying sticky Mylar tape to areas of the shroud, then pulling it up and off.

Contrary to STURP instructions, McCrone affixed all the tape samples to microscope cover glasses and then looked at them through a microscope using Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM), and some classical forensic tests for blood.

From McCrone’s citation (“…When examined on the tapes…”) and from the fact that Heller and Adler received their samples from him in this form, it is highly probable that most (if not all) of McCrone’s optical observations were performed with the samples still on the Mylar tape.

He found yellow fibers and many sub-micron small red particles that he identified as iron oxide pigments on the basis of their optical properties.

These red particles were found on the image samples, in greater amount on all blood samples, and not on the background fibers. From this, he finally concluded (after some changes in his claims) that the image was painted with iron oxide in a collagen binder and that the blood was the same material in greater amount.

Later he found that the “blood” also contains vermilion (HgS).

He published his discoveries in the journal of his own Institute: Microscope, and later in 2 peer reviewed journals.

  • McCrone would not allow peer review of his work and methods. His work has never been scientifically reproduced.

JOHN H. HELLER (MD, medical Physics and Chemistry, deceased) and ALAN D. ADLER (Chemist, specialist in blood and porphyrin chemistry, deceased) also looked at the same samples McCrone had. The samples were passed from McCrone to Heller and Adler, who looked at them under a microscope, and then performed additional exhaustive micro-chemical tests on them.

But—not before Heller noticed that the Mylar tape holding the samples was optically active.

That meant that any red particle looked as if it had two different refractive indices (birefringent) because the light had to pass through both the tape and the particle.

So Heller and Adler took a more systematic approach than McCrone had. In sharp contrast to McCrone, Heller and Adler removed all the specimens from the tapes before they were studied. Then, they removed the adhesive with toluene, and verified the final removal of the adhesive under UV irradiation (the adhesive gives a bluish-white fluorescence).

They observed through the microscope, they performed many micro-chemical tests, and they used appropriate controls.

Heller and Adler concluded that the “blood” on the Shroud was real, old blood, exudates. They published their discoveries in peer-reviewed journals and invited peer review of their work.

  • There is obviously a problem with the opposite observations of McCrone and Heller and Adler.

It turns out McCrone was wrong again— just as he had been about the Vinland map—and for some of the same reasons. It was a careless mistake to leave the tape on the samples. It has been fully demonstrated that doing so changed the measured refractive indices of the particles.

The additional refraction, caused by the tape, is what made the red particles look similar to paint pigment.

Consequently, one must be skeptical about the optical properties (birefringence and refractive indices) of the material in McCrone’s writings. And one must consider that he identified the ‘red ochre’ purely on the basis of its visual “size, shape and color” and not on chemistry.

The Becke method is the standard method to determine the refractive index of a microscopic object. McCrone confirmed this fact.

That is exactly the test Heller and Adler did, but they did so only on the objects removed from the tapes, contrary to McCrone.

They discovered there are two very different kinds of red “objects” (particles, “globs” or agglomerates, shards, incrustations and red coated fibrils) on the Shroud—something that McCrone failed to recognize.

To summarize, Heller and Adler found red coated fibrils which showed both birefringence and refractive index above 1.5 on one side versus no birefringence and refractive index below 1.5 on the other side.

  • The refractive index below 1.5 of the non-birefringent red coated fibrils definitively excludes iron oxide pigments as the origin of their red color.

There aren’t enough of the red particles to claim they are evidence of paint pigment having created the entire image plus all the blood. All totaled, they would not produce a hundredth part of the overall image. McCrone didn’t check.

There are also blues and other particles of color loose on the shroud though the shroud is not itself in color. This is probably an indication of transference from the dust of churches containing frescoes and wall paintings where the shroud spent several centuries before being placed in a protective environment.

McCrone’s claims have been convincingly refuted in several technical reports (Pellicori and Evans 1980:42; Pellicori 1980:1918; Heller and Adler 1981:91-94; Schwalbe and Rogers 1982:11-24; Filogamo and Zina 1976:35-37; Brandone and Borroni 1978:205-14; Frei 1982:5).

  • The shroud is not a painting. There is no paint pigment on it. The image is only on the surface of the fibers, and does not demonstrate any of the capillarity action (soaking up) that would indicate the presence of a liquid medium such as paint.

The picture on the Shroud of Turin is a realistic, photograph-like negative image according to the combined results of photomicroscopy, X-radiography, electron microscopy, chemical analyses, and mass spectrometry.

This remains one of the shrouds most puzzling characteristics.

No one can explain how, or why, a faker of relics in the early 1300s could have painted, or would have wanted to paint, a photographic negative before photography was invented in the 1800s. It makes the image more difficult to see, and in fact the image is only really discernible when photographed.

How the image was created remains one of its most stubborn mysteries. All of its properties have never been duplicated. Someday we will probably figure it out and be able to do so, but until then, what is definitively, demonstrably and absolutely true is, the image is not painted.

  • This alone should be sufficient to prove D’Arcis’ claim of fraud is a fraud.

Even if the D’Arcis document were genuine, it could refer to a different “shroud” that was painted about that time. The Besanton (Besancón) shroud was painted in the 14th c. and it is to this painting on cloth that the D’Arcis memo may refer. The artist may indeed have come forth.

This painting (which still exists) was likely made to substitute for the real Shroud which “disappeared” from Besanton after the fire of 1349 which destroyed its cathedral.

The perpetrator of the disappearance, it may be argued, was Jeanne de Vergy, daughter of one of the most prominent families of that city, who, about 1353 married Geoffroy de Charny, the first publicly known owner of the Shroud. One may argue that she brought that secret object, inherited from her crusader father, with her as part of her dowry to her marriage.

I must not hesitate to add that this “Besanton theory” has the expected opposing views. It’s simply a possible alternate explanation if one assumes the d’Arcis document is valid, which most historians do not.

“ … and the earliest definitive mention of the shroud in any historical source is a record of his [the forger’s] confession.”

  • The D’Arcis document is likely not the first mention of the Shroud either.

Numerous testimonials, both written and iconographic, confirm that before the seventh century in Edessa (south-eastern Turkey) there was a cloth with an impression on it of what was believed to be the image of Christ with his blood.

It possibly also appears in the lists of relics held at Constantinople in 1093 as “the linens found in the tomb after the resurrection.”

  • It is false to claim we have the forger’s confession when all we have is the historically doubted and unverified hearsay from someone other than the so-called forger.
  • Whatever the image on the shroud may or may not be, it certainly did not come from a painter’s brush. This is the conclusion reached by multiple scientists.
  • All of this together should be sufficient to refute the D’Arcis’ document as having any real weight.

“The Shroud of Turin doesn’t match the kinds of funerary wrappings used in Judaea in the time of Jesus or the description of Jesus’s own funerary wrappings given in the Gospel of John.”

This is wrong. Spencer’s exegesis is also wrong, as it so often is.

  • The Shroud of Turin does indeed match the kinds of funerary wrappings used in Judaea in the time of Jesus, and archaeology proves it.

South of the Old City of Jerusalem, located on the periphery of the village of Silwan, is one of Jerusalem’s richest concentrations of rock-hewn tombs. It was one of the main burial Necropolis during the Second Temple period, (538 BC until 70 AD) and as such, gives us knowledge of the Jewish burial customs during the time of Jesus.

Tombs at Silwan

Linen shrouds have been discovered there at burials sites dating from the Roman period. They have also been found at ‘En Gedi, Gesher Haziv, and Jericho. Imprints of textiles were found on bones and skulls; the material used was identified as linen because of an equal number of threads in the warp and the weft.

Other types of fabric were also found—the most common being wool—but linen was found more in Israel than in other Roman areas.

Shrouds were specially-prepared or freshly laundered cloths made for the purpose of wrapping a corpse. The Hebrew word for these burial shrouds, takrikim, connotes wrapping and binding more than dressing. This is also indicated by Tractate Semahot: “Man may wrap and bind men but not women, but women may wrap and bind both men and women”.

(In preparation for burial, the corpse was also ‘dressed’ with spices and incense placed underneath or upon the shroud. Under normal conditions, a year after burial, the bones were removed to an ossuary.)

Burial clothes at the time of Jesus consisted of at least three parts; a head cloth, the long rectangular shroud itself, and however many strips of cloth were needed to bind them in place. These pieces were arranged in layers (when the body was wrapped). They have been found stuck together by body fluids and decay so that it is impossible to separate them without causing damage, but there is no doubt about their composition.

Shrouds and their accompanying burial cloths were found at Nahal David and Ze’elim. The best preserved shrouds are from Roman-period ‘En Gedi (2nd-1st centuries BC). They were found in eight Jewish tombs on the southern bank of Nahal ‘Arugot and in one tomb on the northern bank of Nahal David. Over 70 fragments assumed to be shroud remnants have also been found at En Gedi.

Tomb at ‘En Gedi

There is no doubt the funerary wrappings that were customary to the time of Jesus were shrouds. It is simply incorrect to say shrouds did not appear until the middle ages.

  • The archaeological evidence is compatible with the description of Jesus’s funerary wrappings given in the Gospel of John—because that biblical record is quite imprecise.

John says of Peter that: “He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.”

The Gospels record that Jesus’ body was wrapped or folded in a fine linen sindon, or sheet. John (20:5-8) describes the body as “bound” with othonia, a word of uncertain meaning generally taken as “cloth” or “cloths.”

In the empty tomb John relates seeing “the othonia lying there, but the napkin (soudarion) which had been over the head not lying with the othonia but folded [or rolled up] in a place by itself.” (Luke describes the body as wrapped in a sindon and then relates that the othonia were seen in the empty tomb.)

Exactly how many linen wrappings did John and Peter see?

Of what shape and size?

Can you tell from this?

Of course not. I can’t. No one can. It’s not precise or specific or detailed in any way. True biblical scholars are exceedingly careful not to add to what is actually there in the biblical record beyond the needs of translation.

Most commentators identify the Shroud with the sindon and offer one of the following biblical interpretations:

(1) The othonia is the Shroud, the soudarion is either the ‘napkin’ laid on the face or the chin band tied around the head to hold up the lower jaw. It was all bound around the body with linen strips. Support for this view is in the account of Lazarus, where a soudarion is mentioned “around his face” and in the fact the Greek soudarion is a head kerchief or napkin.

(2) The soudarion is the Shroud, and the othonia are bands used to tie up the body. In the vernacular Aramaic, soudara included larger cloths, and the phrases “over his head” and “rolled up in a place by itself” suggest an item more substantial than a mere kerchief.

  • However, there is some controversy connected to the shroud that revolves around Jewish burial customs and biblical exegesis.

Many scripture scholars, based on John’s statement that Jesus was buried “following the Jewish burial custom,” insist that this means Jesus would have been washed before burial and that the shroud cannot, therefore, be an image of Jesus. The man pictured on the Shroud of Turin was not washed.

However, the gospels all say Jesus’ burial was rushed, and that the women came later, on Sunday, with the appropriate spices to ‘dress’ the corpse, so it does seem clear the full prep was not done. It’s feasible there was no time for anything but a quick wrap and no wash—but that is a possible conflict with scripture depending upon interpretation.

  • Archaeology has shown it was indeed common in Jesus’ day to use a linen shroud, a separate head cloth, and various strips or ‘cords’ to tie them on for burial.
  • To say scripture contradicts what has been discovered by archaeology and thereby proves the shroud is a fake is an error in exegesis.

“The linen of the Shroud of Turin has been securely dated using radiocarbon dating to between c. 1260 and c. 1390 AD—well over a millennium after Jesus’s death.”

This is the only really legitimate answer to this question: the carbon 14 dating points to the shroud not being a first century relic.

The problem is, no one can honestly call this ‘secure’ for a few reasons.

  • 1. Generally speaking, accurate dating requires more than C-14 alone.

“So many dates have proven to be useless, because of contamination and other causes, that one can only establish a radiocarbon chronology with some degree of confidence if several dates from the same site fall into a consistent pattern that agrees with the stratigraphic sequence.” (Betancourt et al, Archaeometry 20, 1978.

With the shroud, such a cross-comparison would be provided by the other five alternate scientific methods of dating antiquities, that have been done on the shroud, independently of each other, that have dated the Shroud’s probable age to the first century AD. For example, chemical methods based on FT-IR/ATR and Raman spectroscopy dated the Shroud to 300 BC ± 400 years and 200 BC ± 500 respectively with a 95% confidence level.

These contradictory findings need to be understood and resolved. The date can’t justifiably be called ‘secure’ until that happens.

It isn’t scientific to select only the results that favor a particular thesis and ignore the rest.

Why does a person who writes against Shroud authenticity overlook these conflicting scientific results and claim the issue is closed?

“No historian would … point to a radiocarbon date (or even a whole series of C-14 dates) and assert that this type of data … provides ultimate proof of the reliability of a certain point of contention.” (Barnard, “Radiocarbon Dates and their Significance in the Chinese Archaeological Scene” Archaeology 1980, 34).

  • 2. C-14 dating is not necessarily more dependable than other methods. In fact, it can be undependable for some very specific reasons.

“The existence of significant indeterminant errors can never be excluded from any age determination. No method is immune from giving grossly incorrect datings when there are non-apparent problems with the samples [such as contamination] … the results illustrated [in this paper] show that this situation occurs frequently.” (Paper read at International Radiocarbon Conf. at Trondheim, Norway, 1985: “Archaeological Sherd Dating: Comparison of TL Techniques with Radiocarbon Dates by Beta Counting and Accelerator Techniques.”

It is well known that the Shroud is contaminated. It’s contamination includes oil, wax, tears, incense, along with effluvia from nylon stockings and other clothing and skin and hair of millions of visitors over several centuries. Its different sites of residence have deposited dusts containing flakes of paint from frescos and paintings, as well as bacteria, molds, and pollens. Smoke from a fire in 1532 must have thoroughly saturated it with an abundance of carbon. It’s been rolled up by human hands, unrolled and displayed, and rolled up again, and thereby distributed this contamination over its full length. Much of this has, over time, formed into a hard unremovable shell around the fibers and threads of the cloth.

“Even more unique is [the Shroud’s] thermal history

[When the cathedral where the shroud was stored caught fire in the 1500s, the shroud was stored in a silver reliquary at the heart of the fire.]

The heat inside the silver reliquary must have been intense, probably reaching a temperature of 900 degrees C., the temperature of molten silver. [Contemporary reports indicate the reliquary was beginning to melt in the heat. Dripping melted silver caused the scorch marks on the shroud.]

In these circumstances, moisture in the Shroud would turn to steam at superheat, trapped in the folds and layers of the Shroud. Any contaminants on the cloth would be dissolved by steam, and forced, not only into the weave and yarn structures, but also into the lumen and molecular structure of the fibers of the flax …

Contaminants would have become part of the chemistry of the flax fibers themselves and would be impossible to remove satisfactorily by surface actants and ultra-sonic cleansing.”

John Tyrer, Textiles Professor at the University of Manchester, Shroud Spectrum 1989

  • 3. The 1988 Carbon 14 dating of the Shroud has been the subject of extensive discussion because, in the history of C-14 dating, the shroud is unique —a small, one-of-a-kind sample, a contaminated artifact, making accurate dating harder—and the dating was seemingly affected by various procedural and statistical problems.

Although Oxford had little experience in dating cloth, Oxford dated the Shroud.

They reported that a major source of error in their dating procedure was in … their methods of pretreatment of samples, i.e., in removing contamination. (Batten et al (Radiocarbon 28.2A, 1986, 571-7), quoting Oxford University List #3.)

“Despite the euphoria … directed for a decade at the AMS (C-14) technique, it remains to prove fully its capabilities in terms of accuracy … and affinity for small samples.” (Scott et al, Radiocarbon 1986, 167-9).

The shroud is a small sample. The testing samples were small samples of that small sample. C-14 has trouble with that.

Much later substances have been in contact with the ‘sample’ at elevated temperatures in a way that might make those substances impossible to remove.

In this, and in being handled for 600 years, the shroud is immensely different from objects retrieved from the ground of an archaeological dig which have been untouched for centuries and can be compared with one another.

  • 4. It’s absolutely true that after the findings of 1988, the idea of error in the carbon 14 dating began floating around. Believers were desperate. Multiple theories were put forth. Some were even supported with real science, but none were definitive enough to actually overturn the findings.

Even so, it turns out, it really is possible the C-14 date could be wrong. More testing would be required to demonstrate that however.

Still, it is important to acknowledge that contamination of a sample, and the ability to eliminate that contamination, are C-14’s Achilles heel. It’s a real issue that can, and does, cause inaccuracies in dating.

  • The 1988 carbon dating, once seen as proving the shroud was a medieval fake, is now widely thought of as suspect. Even the famous Atheist Richard Dawkins admits it is controversial.

Christopher Ramsey, the director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Laboratory, thinks more testing is needed. So do many other scientists and archeologists—and not for religious reasons.

Philip Ball, the former physical science editor for Nature when the carbon dating results were published, recently wrote: “It’s fair to say that, despite the seemingly definitive tests in 1988, the status of the Shroud of Turin is murkier than ever.”

  • If we wish to be scientific, we must admit we do not yet know, with certainty, how old the cloth is.
  • The radio-carbon dating of 1988 is not secure, but it is the only piece of authentic data that argues strongly that the shroud is not, itself, authentic.

  • Spencer references an internet blog by Dr. Steven D. Schafersman as a “debunking” of claims of error in the C-14 dating. It is one of the most sneeringly, biased, one-sided polemic of all the many blindly biased polemics ever written on this subject. It would be foolish to accept what it says at face value.
  • Before swallowing Schafersman’s bile, find out more, so you can separate what’s polemic and what’s fact. Start with a short Ted Talk by the professional photographer who was part of the team who studied the shroud:

“The figure on the Shroud of Turin does not have anatomically correct proportions and much more closely resembles figures in fourteenth-century Gothic art than a real human being.”

  • This is just wrong.

Scientific scrutiny of the Shroud image began in 1900 at the Sorbonne. A study was undertaken of the physiology and pathology of the apparent body imprint, and of the possible manner of its formation, under the direction of Yves Delage, Sorbonne’s professor of comparative anatomy at the time.

The image was found to be anatomically flawless down to minor details: the characteristic features of rigor mortis, wounds, and blood flows provided conclusive evidence to the anatomists that the image was formed by direct or indirect contact with a corpse, not painted onto the cloth or scorched thereon by a hot statue (two of the current theories).

On this point all medical opinion since the time of Delage has been unanimous (notably Hynek 1936; Vignon 1939; Moedder 1949; Caselli 1950; La Cava 1953; Sava 1957; Judica-Cordiglia 1961; Barbet 1963 ; Bucklin 1970; Willis, in Wilson 1978; Cameron 1978; Zugibe, in Murphy 1981). The Authentication of the Turin Shroud

There do seem to be visual distortions in the image to the naked eye, but these are lagely optical illusions with explainable causes. When the image is measured, it is proportional.

  • A computerized numerical analysis of the image’s dimensions has verified its proportions.

In the image below, the imprints of the man on the shroud are anatomically superimposable on a mannikin representing a Semitic man of the first century. They are, in fact, anatomically and proportionately correct.

Gothic images of humans are sometimes elongated to the point of caricature. The image on the shroud is of a man of normal height and proportion.

  • Any true anatomical assessment of the image must take into consideration two things that Spencer misses:

(1) that the image is of the corpse of a beaten, whipped, crucified, and damaged man, in rigor mortis, which produces some of what we think we see as distortions of a normal body.

And (2) distortion in the image was at least partly caused by its formation on a draped cloth— the image is mapped onto an irregular surface—and yet we observe it flattened out. Of course that creates distortions.

(1). The body image on the cloth corresponds to an approximately 30 year old man, well proportioned and muscular, seemingly accustomed to physical labor, with a full beard, mustache and long hair, who shows evidence of beating, whipping, crucifixion and rigor mortis.

Rigor mortis usually appears within 2 to 6 hours after death. It begins in the muscles of the jaw and neck and proceeds downwards in the body to the trunk and extremities.

The biblical record says Jesus died about 3 p.m. (see Matthew 27:45) when He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The body then hung on the cross until Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate, Pilate received confirmation of death from the soldiers on site, and Joseph was given permission to take the body down. By then, the gospels say, it was almost shabbat, which begins as the sun starts setting, and Joseph had to hurry. It’s clear that at least 2–3 hours had passed between death and removal of the body.

Different Front and Rear lengths

The image on the cloth shows the head bent downward and the feet extended—as if rigor mortis began while the body was still vertical. Along with the hanging head, the shoulders are curved forward— lifted up from the flat surface as if the corpse were laid in a tub—or as someone hanging forward on a cross.

With his head bent forward, the neck is not visible from the frontal image, but it is visible in the image from behind—the dorsal image—where the neck is seen as extended like someone hanging their head.

That the body is bent slightly forward is sufficient to account for the slightly different lengths of the flattened out front and back images.

“This statue is the three-dimensional representation in actual size of the Man of the Shroud, created following the precise measurements taken from the cloth…”

Fanti said the Man of the Shroud was nearly 5′ 11,” which was about six inches taller than what is believed to be average height at that time.

The Legs

The left footprint on the shroud image is less distinct than the right, as is the left calf imprint, indicating the left leg was slightly flexed with the left placed on top of the instep of the right when rigor mortis set in.

On the shroud the legs are separated, but the left leg is still slightly more bent than the right.

This accounts for it appearing slightly shorter.

The Arms

  • The arms were broken at burial in order to fold them down from the crucified position to lay them on the front of the body. The right shoulder is visibly dislocated. There is no means of fairly estimating the arm’s lengths because of that damage.
  • Spencer claims to know something that is unknowable.

The shroud gave us an anatomy lesson

The thumbs are not visible on the shroud image. According to P. Barbet, the thumbs are not visible because the tendons that run through the base of the hand at the wrist—the flexor pollicis longus tendons—get injured when large nails are driven through, and that injury automatically pulls the thumb across the palm so it isn’t visible from the front.

This was an unknown side-effect of crucifixion until the shroud led to a cadaver study of it in the twentieth century. No one from the 13th century could have known about the wrist’s anatomical connection to the thumbs. They did not know anatomy well enough.

  • Besides, an artist of the fourteenth-century would have shown the crucifixion nails passing through the palms, as do all paintings of the crucifixion from that time period, rather than the wrists where the wounds are located on the shroud.

A few examples of Gothic art all showing the wounds in the palms of the hands:

The hands have been said to be disproportionate and the fingers too long. The image does seem slightly distorted, but a close look shows that’s because of seeing the bones, as in an x-ray, and still seeing halo of the skin around them at the same time. It makes it hard to identify where the knuckles are.

The hands on the shroud are actually similar in size to the photographer’s hands in the illustrations below.

  • The effects of the damage done to the body, the effects of rigor mortis, and a flattened image, account for most of the perceived distortion of the shroud image.

(2). Any other distortion can be accounted for through the image having the qualities of a photographic negative, the cloth drape creating some wraparound distortions, and because of banding.

Quoting Spencer, let’s use these to assess the claim that in the shroud image,

“The forehead is too small and the lower part of the face too large. On a living human human, the forehead normally takes up about half the face; on the Turin Shroud, though, the forehead takes up just a little over a third of the face.”

This is our naked eye perception which is more optical illusion than fact.

The face does seem mask-like in the photo-negative original. We visually lose some of the image to the dark around the face as a result of it being a photographic negative.

Using enhancement software to lighten up the dark areas demonstrates the face on the shroud is perfectly proportional—once you can see it all.

Roger W. Basset, author of “An Artist’s Study of the Shroud Image”


In order to ensure accuracy and truthfulness in clarifying the shroud image using image enhancement tools, there were certain standards applied in relation to photographic manipulation and techniques.

The first and foremost rule was that the photographic images of the shroud should not be altered from the reality they represent, that there would be no altering of the essential shapes, only enhancement so they may be seen better; that the photo’s content, the positions and appearance of essential shapes, should never be changed or manipulated.

Enhancing the technical quality of a photograph was acceptable, but changing anything to alter the meaning was not. …

Digital tools were permitted to diminish or accentuate visual elements, but never to eliminate or create those elements entirely. The goal was to produce images that were credible and genuine.

By using computer aided enhancement, (which seems fitting to a scientific era), areas which are lost in the dark on the original photo-negative, can be made visible just by making them brighter. This does not add anything to the image that isn’t there, it simply brightens what is there, making it possible for the human eye to see it.

A comparison of the hand area with the original photo-negative of the face suggests that what appears in the original photo-negative as the dark side of the face, is really part of the front of the face. The actual sides of the face are in the area of extreme image drop-off continuing into the area of the hair as shown in the adjusted image on the right below.

One possible explanation for these particular areas of image drop-off, may include differences in the cloth drape during the time of image formation.

It is natural to assume that there was some degree of “drape” to the cloth during the time of image formation. If this was the case, then it follows that some degree of “anamorphic” distortion to the image would exist when the cloth is flattened out for us to view.

The image is also slightly distorted to the naked eye by banding.

Banding is when the transition between colors in a photograph is not smooth, which can create patterns of vertical lines. It happens in photography when there aren’t enough tones available to recreate a seamless gradation. The shroud has both horizontal and vertical bands that affect the appearance of the image to the naked eye.

There is both reflective banding and transmission banding. The banding phenomenon is very evident in the region coinciding with what appears to be the sides of the face.

Banding imparts an overall unnatural appearance to the sides of the face and consequently the entire face and its proportions in relation to the full length figure.

However, the narrow look to the face resolves itself when the areas of image drop-off are “equalized” to become a seamless transition into the other areas of the facial anatomy. The top of the head is more distinct, the hairline and chin-line become clearer, and the entire face becomes more proportionate.

There is a strip of cloth wrapped around the head from top to bottom, tied at the top of the forehead, probably to keep the jaw shut. It occludes part of the forehead. There is a row of bloody puncture wounds along the top of the forehead. These make it difficult to decide exactly where the hairline is, just as the full beard obscures the chin, and adds to the mistaken perception from the original photo-negative that the forehead is shorter than normal.

The overall size of the face in the enhanced version visually appears in better proportion to the rest of the body, especially relative to the hands.

All this required was lightening the dark areas in the image to overcome the optical illusions created by them.

Certain nuances become quite clear in the enhanced version. For example, the head is not perfectly frontal facing but is tilted downward and to its right.

The tilt of the head, not easily recognized in the original unadjusted image (above), combined with the other elements of interference, also contributes to misunderstanding the image’s features and the appearance of distortion.

The tilt of the head appears to be present on all three axis x, y and z as shown below.

Is there a “definitive” likeness of the man of the shroud? Yes.

When the entire image is made visible, it is a normally proportioned face with a full beard and mustache and curly hair.

It is a notably semitic face.

The human form that is visible on the shroud contains a depth of visual data that is far from being unclear or lacking in detail. Clarifying the image, without altering what is actually there on the shroud, makes it apparent that the image has normal proportions.

You can do a measurement for yourself by using your favorite graphic software. Download the image and use the “compass tool” (a.k.a. rule tool) and measure the number of pixels between two points. For a vertical and horizontal measurement, the length is the number of pixels multiplied by the calibration. One pixel is appr. 1.985 mm.

The measurements obtained will depend entirely upon where your estimation of chin and hairline are. It’s extremely difficult to figure with any real accuracy. The top of the mouth is obscured by the full mustache, and what looks like the hairline is actually a row of bloody puncture wounds. The hair appears to be somewhat above and behind that row of blood.

This cropped version of the face on my graphic software measures about four inches by six inches

eyes and mouth should be a third of the overall length from hairline to chin on the perfect face.

That looks right to me.

  • It is not Gothic art.

Fourteenth century Gothic art did not have the anatomical knowledge, or the drawing techniques, needed to produce the image on the shroud.

Gothic painters did not understand linear perspective and foreshortening. That’s why their paintings often seem flat and disproportionate to us. The shroud image is not flat; it has three-dimensional qualities.

If an artist of the Gothic period had produced the Turin Shroud, he would have been an original, creative genius of the first magnitude for his one-of-a-kind realistic rendering of anatomy and blood-flows, beyond anything known in Gothic art.

He would have created the first nude Christ.

His idea of a double image on a cloth would be unique in the history of Christian art.

For its realism, it would claim a place on page one of every book on the art of the Renaissance—especially since art didn’t move into realism until after the Gothic period.

  • The Shroud does not, in fact, fit in the context of any artistic style or genre.
  • The image is anatomically correct.

“The bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin are not consistent with how blood actually flows naturally and they instead appear to have been painted on.”


Spencer references Shroud of Turin Is a Fake, Bloodstains Suggest

for this one. I quote from that reference:

“The scientists applied blood — both human and synthetic — onto a live volunteer to see how blood would run in rivulets down his skin as he lay with his arms and body in various positions.”

The results of the study referenced above—and others before like it—showed that the man whose image is imprinted on the shroud would have had to first be standing vertical, then lying horizontal, for the blood flow patterns to make sense.

The bloodstains on the shroud are of two different types, and that must be taken into account:

  • 1) First there is the blood that bled out when the man was still alive, such as the blood from scourging, the crown of thorns’ wounds, and the wrist wounds, that then coagulated; much of this is in the form of blood clots on the shroud.
  • 2) Then there is also the blood that leaked out after death and moving the corpse, such as feet wounds (where lividity sent the blood while the body was upright) or the side wound where gravity pulled it after being laid out horizontally.
  • The bloodstains were formed before the body image — no image-fibers have been found under the bloodstains. Some bloodstains are in a position which is not correct in comparison with the image, demonstrating the image and the stains were imprinted on the cloth at different times, in different ways, and were not “lined up” by an artist which would be required to produce the front and back images.

(Due to the Chambéry fire of 1532, burnt blood has also been detected on the shroud.)

Quoting Spencer’s reference yet again:

For instance, two short rivulets of the blood on the back of the left hand of the shroud are only consistent with a person standing with their arms held at a 45-degree angle. In contrast, the forearm bloodstains found on the shroud [on the right arm—my addition here] match a person standing with their arms held nearly vertically. A person couldn’t be in these two positions at once.

No, a person can’t—but their arms can.

“the forearm bloodstains found on the shroud match a person standing with their arms held nearly vertically”.

Yes. On the right arm, as can be clearly seen, the blood flow goes straight down the arm and pools in the right elbow (as has been suggested in Dr. Lavoie’s experiments to explain the blood stain going off the elbow). This gives the angle of blood flow—on the right arm— suggested by Spencer’s reference: as if the hands were straight up over the head.

“two short rivulets of the blood on the back of the left hand of the shroud are only consistent with a person standing with their arms held at a 45-degree angle.”

Yes. There are two directions of blood flow on the left arm because blood can either flow on the arm itself (if the flow is slow and of low volume) or it can flow directly downwards due to gravity (if the flow is excessive and the weight of the blood becomes too much to flow parallel to the stretched arm). If the crucified man moved even once—(which was apparently impossible not to do in order to breathe)—that would have increased the blood flow from the hand for a time, and gravity would take over, then as he hung still, blood would slow again.

This “double directional flow” is only apparent on the one arm.

  • All this indicates is that the arms were not held in the same positions. I guess a Roman soldier didn’t use a yardstick to ensure the hands were evenly placed.

Violent death can cause the rapid onset of rigor mortis. The body’s blood supply suddenly stops moving around the inside of the deceased and any blood that remains within the corpse settles in direct response to gravity—in this case, toward the feet.

Lividity begins to work within thirty minutes of the heart stopping and can last up to twelve hours. Only within the first six hours of death can lividity be altered by moving the body. After six hours, lividity is fixed as blood vessels begin to break down within the body. Jesus’ body was moved within 2 to 3 hours of death.

Jesus died vertically, and the blood would have coagulated in the wounds while the body was still on the cross leaving those vertically oriented tracks and the many blood clots found on the shroud.

The body hung there for 2–3 hours and was then moved, wrapped, and laid horizontally in the grave, when gravity would have pulled the blood in a perpendicular direction from where it had been settling.

Moving dead bodies sometimes produces odd effects. A dead person doesn’t bleed, as such, but wounds can leak after death, especially if a body’s position is drastically altered, as this one was, within that first six hours.

Blood was transferred to the cloth through direct contact and by fibrinolysis (redissolving of the blood) in the humid environment of a Jerusalem’ sepulcher.

The two contributing factors to the bloodstains—pre and post death— are apparent particularly with the stain caused by the large blood and serum flow from the spear wound.

Quoting from Spencer’s reference again:

The scientists did find that the bloodstains on the front of the chest did match those from a spear wound. However, the stains on the lower back — which supposedly came from the spear wound while the body was positioned on its back — were completely unrealistic, they said.

In what way are they unrealistic? They did not say, and that seems very subjective—not a sciency science thing to say at all.

So, here’s what the stains look like. You decide if they look “realistic.”

(The black triangles are patches sewed on by the nuns after the fire destroyed part of the shroud in the 1500s. The white areas are burn and scorch marks. They are black on the shroud image—the photographic negative—and look white when a photo is taken and the image is rendered positive.)

The frontal view:

The patch covers part of the front blood stain.

Rear view of the same area:

The blood flow goes all the way across the back, but there is nothing unusual in this considering it was a mix of blood and serum which is thinner and more fluid than plain blood. The mix is apparent in the different coloring.

The stains are located in direct relation to each other, front to back, with the additional amount of staining at the back that would be expected due to gravity. The stain is clearly separated into a dense blood part and a serous part.

The stain shows the separation of blood and serum and demonstrates the effect of gravity on a corpse that was moved after death.

In what way is any of this not natural or realistic?

On the shroud there are many blood clots from many contused and lacerated wounds all along the body from head to toe, front and back. There are nearly 400 wounds in total.

The shapes of the Roman flagrum are visible on the back, the buttocks, the legs and wrapping around the arms and sides. This man was definitely whipped by Romans. The blood of these wounds is gravitational—if the man were vertically upright—like on a cross.

On the forehead, the scalp, and the back of the head, there are several pointed and round shaped wounds. A number of blood trails flow downwards from them, following gravity, again, if the man is upright when bleeding.

On both sides of the forehead there are two rivulets of blood that flowed downward—if the man is upright—that coagulated and stopped bleeding while the man was in that straight upright position.

Between these two flows on the forehead is a prominent bloodstain shaped like the Greek letter epsilon—a reversed number 3—coming from the frontal vein. According to physicians, this is consistent with blood crossing a forehead, following gravity, that is wrinkled by frowning under stress. It flows downward, if the man is upright, and congeals and stops at the left eyebrow.

There are injuries to the lips and the right eyelid, swelling across the eyebrow arch, and the right cheek looks broken and badly swollen. The nose is broken and slightly twisted.

On the right side of the chest there is an oval wound that corresponds to the size and shape of a Roman lance. The injury happened post mortem as the wound margins remain well outlined and enlarged.

On the back, there is a large bruised area along the shoulder region. The right shoulder is dislocated. It appears to have been from a violent blunt trauma on the right side of the body from behind, causing lesions to the brachial plexus. This nerve damage is why the right shoulder looks lowered, why the right eyeball seems sunk into the orbital cavity, and the position of the right hand has its fingers flattened.

This is not mentioned in the gospels—if a forger were using the gospels as a guide to paint from, this would not be there.

The left knee is scraped and abraded, as is the right but less so, as someone walking and falling down. Some soil is embedded in these wounds and the blood trails downward toward the feet. There is soil on the soles of the feet.

Blood from the nail punctures are on the left wrist and the feet. The blood flow from the wrists trails down the forearms at two angles. There is a puncture wound in one of the wrists, the other wrist is covered, but it is also believed to have a puncture wound since there is a trickle of blood flowing ‘up’ the arm—which would have been ‘down’ the arm when it was in an upright position.

A postmortem blood flow with separation of serum is seen at the back of the spear wound, around the left wrist, and more copiously at the feet, presumably from the removal of the nails after death.

  • So, the evidence shows there is blood flowing symmetrically with the body’s axis—when it is upright, and again when it is horizontal after the body was moved—all of it following gravity.
  • This all fits with modern knowledge of anatomy, death, and post mortem realities—none of which was known in the 1300s.
  • If scientists truly want to demonstrate something about the blood flows on the shroud, they will need fresh cadavers in addition to volunteers willing to hang upright for awhile.

  • The bloodstains are not paint.

The “blood” areas have been the subject of special attention from scientists for decades.

  • The yellow color forming the image is extremely superficial without any sign of the kind of the capillarity action (soaking up) that would indicate the presence of a liquid medium such as paint.
  • The properties of the blood areas are the opposite: the red to red-brown material has soaked into the entire thickness of the cloth, reaching the opposite side.
    • Many fibers are cemented together and red spots are obvious. A large number of different red particles are seen under the microscope.
    • Color photomicroscopy (Pellicori and Evans 1981:41) showed the stains to consist of red-orange amorphous encrustations caught in the fibrils and in the crevices.

Unlike body image areas, the “blood” regions exhibit the capillary and meniscus characteristics of viscous liquids, viz., penetration, matting, and cementing of the fibers—a phenomenon consistent with blood, paint, or other staining agents.

Ultraviolet fluorescence photographs (Gilbert and Gilbert 1980) revealed a pale aura around the stains at the wrist, side wound, and feet, with a fluorescence similar to that of serum.

X-ray fluorescence measurements (Morris, Schwalbe, and London 1980) showed significant concentrations of iron only in the blood areas.

Blood constituents other than heme derivatives -protein, bilirubin, and albumin – were also identified chemically (Heller and Adler 1981:87-91).

  • A total of 12 tests confirming the presence of whole blood on the Shroud are described by Heller and Adler (1981:92).
  • Fluorescent antigen-antibody reactions (Bollone, Jorio, and Massaro 1981) indicated that the blood is human blood.
  • It is absolutely and definitively proven that the blood on the shroud is not paint. The blood is blood.

“The fabric of the Shroud of Turin is made with a kind of weave that is known to have been commonly used during the Late Middle Ages, but does not seem to have been used for burial shrouds in Judaea in the first century AD.”


Examples of the 3 to 1 z-weave on linen like the Turin shroud’s have been found dating as far back as 2000 BC in the Near and Middle East—but not in Europe. There are no examples of herringbone-twill linen from France up to and including the fourteenth century. This style of weaving was imported to Europe from the Islamic empire during the crusades. Then the special weave was used for expensive silks in Europe—virtually never for linen.

What was commonly used in middle ages Europe was the 2/1 s-weave and the plain weave of wool.

Medieval linen cloths with a Shroud-like herringbone twill weave are not common, they are exceedingly rare. The British Museum’s, Dr. Michael Tite, was unable to find any medieval linen with a weave that resembled the Shroud’s to use as a blind control sample for the 1988 radiocarbon dating.

There is only one extant example of a medieval herringbone twill linen weave fabric: a fourteenth century, block-painted linen fragment with a 3:1 chevron twill weave, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

In 2018, in a grave in the Ben Hinnom Valley (Akeldama) in Jerusalem, Israeli archaeologists found a black mass of fabric and bones. The tomb had been sealed, probably because the deceased had leprosy, so there was no bone-collecting after a year for the customary secondary burial.

The textile fragments belonged to a shroud made of wool spun in a herringbone twill using the z-spin. Z-spun threads form only a small proportion of textiles in Israel and its neighboring countries in the Roman period. This suggests production outside of Israel.

The wool textile from the Ben Hinnom Valley was most likely imported from Greece or India—places where the common tradition of Z-spun had been maintained for centuries.

  • Spencer’s right in saying the Turin Shroud was probably not manufactured in the Land of Israel. It was probably imported, just as the Akeldama shroud probably was.

Trade between India and Palestine was flourishing two millennia ago, and it is therefore possible that the cloth for the Turin shroud was originally brought to Jerusalem from there.

During the late Second Temple period it became common for wealthy Jews to spend great sums on expensive shrouds. The rich grew very extravagant in this respect, securing fanciful and costly garments, and establishing a custom which became a burden upon mourners of the middle and poorer classes.

Sometime between the second half of the first century, to the second half of the second century AD, the Rabban Gamaliel inaugurated the custom of using a simple linen shroud for rich and poor alike. But in Jesus’ day, that hadn’t happened yet. Expensive imported shrouds were still coveted by wealthy Jews at the beginning of the first century, and cloth for them was still being imported.

The Shroud’s weave was expensive and rare in Palestine because of its complexity—especially in the first century when fine linen ranked in value with gold and silver. Linda Wooley of the Victoria and Albert Museum claims to know of only two linen samples in the herringbone weave from the first century, and both were found in Israel.

Importing such a “fine” burial cloth would take time and expense and would not be done for the common man, but Joseph of Arimathea was not a common man. He was known as a rich man.

  • ). Twenty one times in the Old Testament, the tradition of burying the ‘high priest’ in the finest twill linen is mentioned. It is certainly possible that Joseph followed that tradition for his ‘high priest’ and bought the best he could find.

The linen of the Turin Shroud contains some odd fibers of cotton, an indication that it was woven on a loom also used for weaving cotton, yet there is no trace of any wool impurities. European looms would have been used mainly for wool.

The use of equipment for working both cotton and linen would have been permitted by the ancient Jewish law whereas wool and linen would have been worked on different looms to avoid the prohibited “mixing of kinds.”

The cotton traces are of the Asian Gossypum herbaceum, and some commentators have construed its presence as conclusive evidence of an Eastern origin. That particular strain of cotton is believed to have originated in India but was not common in Europe until much later.

  • Spencer’s right in saying the cloth was not made in first century Israel, but it doesn’t have the characteristics of cloth spun in Europe in the middle ages either.

The thread of the Turin shroud was hand-spun and hand-loomed.

After about 1200, thread was no longer being spun by hand in Europe. Instead, thread was spun on the spinning wheel, which had spread to Europe from the Islamic world by the 1200s, over a century before the shroud appears on display in Turin Italy.

  • If the Shroud were a medieval forgery, then it seems most likely the forger, to maximize profit, would have used the least expensive linen he could find for his creation, whereas the cloth of the Shroud was expensive and rare.
  • After all, Rabbi Gamaliel had made it the tradition—after Jesus—that everyone be buried in the same simple linen.
  • Only the wealthy were buried in imported, rare, expensive cloths and everyone knew Jesus wasn’t wealthy.
  • Surely a forger would assume Jesus would have been buried in the most common linen available in his day. The Gospels do not say otherwise; they just say ‘linen.’
  • A common European linen of the 1300s would have been an s or a plain weave—not a herringbone z weave.

Obtaining a fine linen herringbone twill sheet the size of the Shroud in the 1300s would have been extremely difficult and seriously cut into a forger’s profit margin—so why would they choose that option?

  • The fabric of the Shroud of Turin is made with a kind of weave that is not commonly made in either Israel of the first century or Europe of the middle ages, but it has been found in Israel as an import. Not so in Europe.
  • Herringbone linen was never common in Europe.


From its first recorded exhibition in France in 1357, this cloth has been the object of mass veneration on the one hand, and scorn on the other.

Appearing as it did in an age of unparalleled relic-mongering and forgery and, if genuine, lacking documentation of its whereabouts for 1,300 years, the Shroud would certainly have long ago been consigned to the ranks of spurious relics (along with several other shrouds with similar claims) were it not for the extraordinary image it bears.

The Shroud of Turin has a double image—that is, a superficial discoloration on the front surface of the cloth—closest to the body—and a fainter image on the back surface of the cloth—furthest from the body. Both images correspond to each other anatomically…

However, since the image is superficial and doesn’t “soak through” the fibers, there is no discoloration on the fibers between the front surface and back surface of the cloth…. Chemical and vapor explanations of this double image are inadequate, because none of them can explain [this] ….

In order for chemicals or vapors to reach the back surface of the cloth, they would have to go through the cloth leaving an obvious residue in the process. There isn’t any.

That image is a 3-dimensional image that is distributed on parts of the cloth that did not come into contact with the corpse. It is a photographic negative, and no one knows how that could have been made 500 years before photography.

You can see inside the body, like an x-ray. The process that formed the image recorded both the inside of the hand (the skeleton) and the outside of the hand (the flesh surrounding the skeleton) at the same time.

The cloth is peppered all over in real blood.

Probably the single most significant fact about the shroud is that its image has never been fully duplicated.

Scientists and artists have worked overtime, and have shown no lack of imagination in attempting to recreate the image and demonstrate how it was done using corpses, spices, herbs, multiple kinds of paint, metal, cameras, projectors, radiation, lasers, various explosive releases of energy—the list is almost endless—yet none have ever succeded.

The technique used to make the shroud remains unknown.

In a statement which may not be as hyperbolic as it seems, Walsh (1963:8) observed: “The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic in existence… or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever, products of the human mind and hand on record.”

Clearly, every remote possibility of forgery, hoax, accident, or combination thereof must be examined before a firm archaeological/historical judgement on this artifact can be proffered.

But that includes every bit of scientific data, not just some, with all of it weighed appropriately, not chosen to support a particular point of view.

I’m afraid that eliminates most of what Spencer wrote on this subject.


  • The d’Arcis document is not a confession. We have no copy of any confession. It’s probably evidence of greed but its claim about the shroud is demonstrably false.
  • Whatever the image on the shroud may or may not be, it certainly did not come from a painter’s brush. This is the conclusion reached by multiple scientists.


  • Archaeology has shown it was indeed common in Jesus’ day to use a linen shroud, a separate head cloth, and various strips or ‘cords’ to tie them on for burial.
  • To say scripture contradicts what has been discovered by archaeology and thereby proves the shroud is a fake is an error in exegesis.


  • The radio-carbon dating of 1988 is the only piece of authentic data that argues strongly that the shroud is not, itself, an authentic first century relic.
  • The radio-carbon dating needs reconciliation with the five other methods of dating that have all dated the shroud to the first century.


  • The Shroud does not fit in the context of any artistic style or genre.
  • The image has been repeatedly demonstrated to be anatomically correct.


  • Multiple tests confirm the presence of whole blood on the Shroud. The blood on the shroud is not paint. The blood is blood.
  • Fluorescent antigen-antibody reactions (Bollone, Jorio, and Massaro 1981) indicated that the blood is human blood.


  • The fabric of the Shroud of Turin is made with a kind of weave that is not commonly made in either Israel of the first century, or Europe of the middle ages, but it has been found in Second Temple Israel as an import.
  • Herringbone linen was never common in Europe.

What factors point to the Turin Shroud being a fake?

There is really only the one—the Carbon-14 dating. It’s being questioned, but so far, it still stands.

None of rest of these that Spencer attempts to pile on are valid.

Researchers hung men on a cross and added blood in bid to prove Turin Shroud is real