Monday, April 4, 2016

The Shroud of Turin Is The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ

            The Shroud of Turin was believed to have been wrapped around Jesus Christ as a burial cloth when HE was taken down from the cross. The shroud is a 14½ foot long and 3½ foot wide linen cloth bearing the image of a crucified man. The image is widely believed to be that of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The shroud is the single most studied religious artifact ever.1

            Controversy rages over this shroud. Many scientists and evangelical Christians dispute the historical veracity of the shroud. They claim it is a medieval forgery or a hoax perpetrated by the Church.

            Are there reasonable evidences to indicate that the image of the man in the shroud is that of Christ? If so, the shroud should be the burial cloth of Christ.


            Some detractors of the shroud claim that there is no historical data of the shroud prior to the 13th century. If this claim is true, the chance that the shroud was the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth is rather slim.

            But Professor Gary Habermas cites a number of historical references to the shroud prior to the 13th century:2

            1. There are records of a second century historical citation of the shroud by St. Braulio of Seville, a sermon about the shroud by a church official, and painting of Jesus’ face based on the shroud.

            2. An early Christian tradition asserts that a mysterious cloth with the imprint of Christ’s face was carried by Christ’s disciple Thaddeus to Edessa, the modern day Turkey, subsequently this cloth was moved to Constantinople and then to Turin.

            3. At least 6 species of pollen was found by Swiss Botanist Max Frei in the cloth which was limited exclusively to Israel.

            4. The images of coin placed over the eyes of the man in the shroud, a Jewish practice in the first century, were identified as the lepton (coin) of Pontius Pilate, minted from AD 29-32.

            5. The linen material and the weave have been dated by the textile experts as being from the time of Jesus (plus or minus 100 years).

Radiocarbon Dating

            The shroud’s website disputes the claim of the radiocarbon dating in 1988 that declared the shroud as a fake, “Although substantial scientific data now exists that indicates the sample chosen for dating was anomalous and not representative of the main cloth, most of the world and the media still ignore the massive amount of published science that points to the Shroud's authenticity and accepts instead that single dating test as proof of the Shroud's medieval origin. What very few people know about are the events that occurred behind the scenes that further disqualified the 1988 results. Two new videos that reveal just that are now available online from David Rolfe and Francesca Saracino that deal specifically with those issues and we thought they were important enough to let you know immediately via this Special Update.”3

            A video titled “A Grave Injustice” on the website, reveals that the C14 labs (that determined the shroud as fake) were themselves severely flawed in their dating protocols. 

Jewish Burial Practice & the Gospels

            If the Gospel account of Christ’s burial contradicts that of the shroud, then the shroud cannot be the actual burial cloth of Jesus. Gary Habermas offers insights into this aspect to assert the authenticity of the shroud.4

            Some object that the facial image in the shroud could not be that of Jesus since there would have been a napkin placed flat over the face of Jesus during HIS burial. Hence, the image of Jesus’ face would be on the napkin and not on the shroud.

            But careful investigation reveals that the napkin was folded up and tied around the head to keep the jaw closed (cf. John 11:44 & John 20:7). Interestingly, the image of the man in the shroud reveals that he had a cloth tied around his jaw!

            The man in the shroud was not washed before the burial, hence there were blood stains. Was not Jesus washed before the burial? If Christ was washed before HIS burial, how could there be blood stains on the shroud?

            The code of Jewish law states that people killed by the government would not be washed before burial so to allow the blood to remain on the body as a payment for the person’s acts against the state. John 19:40 states that Jesus was buried according to the Jewish burial customs; hence HE could not have been washed.

            Furthermore, the gospels speak of Jesus buried in more than one strip of linen; the gospels speak of graveclothes in both the singular and the plural. But the shroud is just one piece of cloth, if so, how could the shroud be that of Christ’s?

            Scientific testing of the shroud indicates that the man buried in the shroud was buried in at least four strips of linen. Apart from the single piece of shroud cloth, his head was wrapped around in a napkin as well as having his wrists and ankles tied together (cf. John 11: 44).

            Therefore, the gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial, the Jewish law and the Mishna do not contradict with that of the man in the shroud.

Identity of the Man

            The image of the man in the burial cloth reveals amazing data that’s so remarkably similar to the suffering of Jesus Christ:5

            1. The man in the shroud was beaten severely by the Roman flagrum. There were number of blows to the face, large bruises on the cheeks, twisted nose, one eye swollen half shut and a cut upper lip. He suffered more than 120 whipping wounds.

            2. The large rub marks in the shoulder blades of the man in the shroud indicates that he was forced to carry a heavy object (cross) across his shoulders. There are five major wounds associated to death by crucifixion – puncture wounds through the wrist and through the top of both feet, and a pierce wound in the right side of the chest.

            Therefore, we cannot be absolutely certain that the man in the shroud was Jesus, but we can reasonably infer that this burial cloth is probably that of Jesus, for there are many minute points of agreement and the absence of contradictions.

Evidences for Christ’s Resurrection

            The shroud provides strong evidences for resurrection, asserts Dr. Gary Habermas, who is an expert in the study of Christ’s resurrection, “The man buried in the shroud did not remain in it for more than a few days, since no decomposition is present. Yet the body was not removed or unwrapped because, among other reasons, the blood clots and borders of the stains are intact. And as a grand climax, there is a probable burst of radiation from the dead body. What makes all of this data even more exciting is that it is empirical, scientific evidence that is repeatable.”6

Extent of the Shroud’s Relevance

            Should the authenticity of the Shroud validate Christianity, the Bible, and Christ’s historical existence? No!

            Alternatively, if the shroud is authentic, would the Bible be deemed infallible? No!

            The Bible is inspired, inerrant and infallible. However, the authenticity of the shroud is not a necessary factor to validate the Bible. The Bible and Christ’s existence are validated by other means. The garments or the vessels that Christ used are neither the validating factors of the Lord’s existence nor that of the Bible.  


            The shroud is a fascinatingly miraculous artifact.

            Absolute certainty is impossible when we contend with historical data. If we need absolute certainty of any historical event, we ought to take a time-machine, go back in history to ascertain the validity of that event. But we cannot go back in time. So we can only be reasonably certain about any historical event with the evidences at hand.

            Was the shroud Christ’s burial cloth? Given the plethora of evidences why should we not believe that the shroud belongs to Christ? The shroud is consistent with the biblical data. It is also highly probable that the man in the shroud is Jesus. Furthermore, the shroud has been preserved in history as that of Christ’s burial cloth.

            Given the availability of the evidences, we can be reasonably certain that the shroud was the Lord Jesus’ burial cloth.









Ken said...

FYI: here is a list of 205 texts which references Jesus dating from pre 70 AD to 200-250 AD:

Raj Richard said...

Thanks much for the wonderful insight, Ken. Remain blessed.