Synopsis of argument the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ:
What is the Shroud of Turin?
The Shroud of Turin is a centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man.
Shroud of Turin, also called Holy Shroud, Italian Santa Sindone, a length of linen that for centuries was purported to be the burial garment of Jesus Christ. It has been preserved since 1578 in the royal chapel of the cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin, Italy. Measuring 4.3 metres (14 feet 3 inches) long and 1.1 metres (3 feet 7 inches) wide, it seems to portray two faint brownish images, those of the back and front of a gaunt, sunken-eyed, 5-foot 7-inch man—as if a body had been laid lengthwise along one half of the shroud while the other half had been doubled over the head to cover the whole front of the body from face to feet. The images contain markings that allegedly correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, including thorn marks on the head, lacerations (as if from flogging) on the back, bruises on the shoulders, and various stains of what is presumed to be blood
Summary of arguments on the Shroud of Turin
There’s two main views on the shroud:
A) It’s a medieval fake that was produced by some artist
B) It’s the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth
Arguments against position A:
1. It is not artwork.
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.
We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin.
b. Silence from art community on the TS
c. Silence in art journals on the TS
d. Testimony from Wesselow and Tite that it is not artwork
2. Top arguments for fake position are dubious.
b. d’Arcis memo
c. McCrone and paint particles
d. Borrini and Garlaschelli
3. There are no viable naturalistic explanations for the origin of the image dispite several attempts.
b. Joe Nickell
Arguments refuting position A and supporting position B:
1. It is the most scientifically studied artifact.
2. Features of the shroud predate the invention of scientific technologies by hundreds of years.
b. 3-D imaging
d. UV imaging
3. Image and blood have features we cannot fully explain.
b. Blood is still red
4. Features of the shroud predate the use of art techniques by hundreds of years.
5. Image is medically accurate.
6. Features depicted are contrary to artwork and instead depict how it should have actually happened.
b. Nail through wrist
c. Crown of thorns
d. No body image under blood
e. Rigor mortis
7. Image formation is not based on what we visually would see, but on how the cloth would be affected by the imaging mechanism. On the first order, things are depicted correctly, but on the second order, we see things missing as well as distortions.
8. Blood and image patterns precisely match the gospel accounts and uniqely points to Jesus of Nazareth.
9. There are additional details on the TS that are not present in the gospel accounts.
b. Whip marks
c. Shoulder abrasions
d. Herringbone weave
10. Features of the shroud point to 1st century Jerusalem origin.
b. Dimensions of cloth match Assyrian cubit
c. Side strip seam matches Masada seam
d. Banding not seen in medieval weaving, but in ancient weaving
e. Calcium particles on the feet area matching Jerusalem
f. Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS) points to first century
g. DNA analysis has more people touching the shroud from Middle East than Europe
The preponderence of scientific evidence of the shroud as noted above points to the authenticity of the shroud as the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. However, the argument above does not claim anything miraculous occurred or that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. It is through studying the body image we can conclude the body image was a result of something outside of current science.
Summary of top body imaging theories
The imaging theories can be broadly grouped into naturalistic explanations (NE) and non-naturalistic/supernatural explanations (SE).
Naturalistic explanations can be subdivided into a work of an artist (NE-art) or something that would happen naturally without any involvement of an artist (NE-nature).
NE-art would involve things like painting, scorch, dye, rubbing, photograph, and bas-relief. This is the least likely since this was the conclusion of the 1978 STURP investigation:
I’ve also argued there is virtual silence from the art community on the TS. Yet, the TS is the most scientifically studied artifact in human history. So, it makes no sense the TS is a work of art.
I’ve also addressed the proto-photograph method:
The top NE-nature explanation is the Maillard reaction, proposed by Ray Rogers. I’ve addressed that at:
Three top SE explanations are corona/electrostatic discharge, neutron emission, and cloth collapse.
I’ve addressed the corona/electrostatic discharge:
and the neutron emission:
I presented the cloth collapse here:
There are actually more theories than what I’ve presented, but most all the others are variations on the ones above.
There is no theory that fully explains all the features of the body image, but the one that explains the most is Jackson’s cloth collapse theory.
Therefore Jackson’s cloth collapse theory involving the body dematerializing best explains the body image compared to all other imaging theories.
Blood stain theories
No viable artistic method has been proposed to account for the blood stains and there has been no attempt to replicate all the blood markings. So, at this time, really the only viable explanation for the blood on the shroud is the actual burial of Jesus.
Dematerialization and resurrection
So, what could’ve caused Jesus to dematerialize? We have no naturalistic scenarios to explain this. It would be a miracle. It is not a proof of Jesus’ resurrection, but it would be a rational conclusion given all the evidence from the shroud.
The obvious point of weakness in the design argument from the Shroud is
that our evidence that weak dematerialization was the mechanism by which the
Shroud was formed, while impressive, is not conclusive. However, the conjecture
that a very powerful intelligence would be responsible for such an extraordinary
event seems highly plausible.
The design argument from the
Shroud, however, on the Jackson-Trenn theory, shows that some intelligent,
purposive, and very powerful agent has acted in a specific event in comparatively
So, what we have with the Shroud of Turin is verifiable evidence that supports the claim of the resurrection of Jesus.
On this theory, the Shroud offers evidence for two of the three crucial elements
implied by the claim that a Resurrection took place. This is an important
achievement, for two centuries of biblical criticism, much of it directed against the
Resurrection, in conjunction with increased standards of evidence as science has
been incorporated into all forms of critical thinking, have undermined confidence
both inside and outside the Church that the Resurrection ever occurred.
What is also interesting is Jesus said his resurrection would be the only evidence he would provide that he is the Messiah.
When asked by the Pharisees to show that he is from God, Jesus replied with the sign of Jonah.[Mat 12:38-40 NIV] Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
He also had said he would rebuild the temple in 3 days.[Jhn 2:18-19 NIV] 18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
Both of these are references to him being resurrected after three days.
This evidence was not only for the Jews of the first century. It is evidence for us today as well. We have the actual shroud of Jesus in our hands today that testifies to Jesus being the Messiah.