The Shroud of Turin: Relic or Forgery?

New study claims an ancient earthquake can shed light on the Shroud of Turin

Purported to be Jesus’ burial cloth, the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin has long been debated. A recently published study claims that an ancient earthquake can explain why radiocarbon dating tests conducted on the shroud may not have been accurate. Photo: Vernon Miller.

Is the Shroud of Turin real or fake? Its authenticity has long been questioned. Radiocarbon dating tests conducted in the 1980s concluded that the shroud dated to the 13th–14th century. A recently published study in the journal Meccanica, however, claims that an earthquake that hit Jerusalem in 33 C.E. may have increased the shroud’s carbon-14 levels—putting into doubt the accuracy of the original radiocarbon tests.

The shroud is purported to be Jesus’ burial cloth. Front and back images of a man who seems to have been crucified can be seen on the 14-by-3.5-foot linen cloth.

As described by Vaughn M. Bryant, Jr., in the November/December 2000 issue of BAR, the tradition of Jesus’ burial shroud and the cloth now known as the Shroud of Turin has had a long and complicated history:

Eusebius reports that in 30 A.D. a certain Thaddeus, one of Jesus’ disciples, gave “a cloth with an image on it” to King Abgar V, whose palace was in Edessa (in modern Turkey). Abgar was severely ill with what scholars now believe may have been leprosy. However, after Abgar touched the cloth, he was miraculously healed. The news of his cure spread rapidly, and soon many pilgrims were flocking to Edessa to see and touch the cloth. More than 900 years later, in 944, the emperor of the Byzantine Empire, Romanus I, wanted to obtain the “magic” cloth, which by then had become known as the Mandylion, or “Little Handkerchief.” The city of Edessa refused to give up its sacred relic, so Romanus I laid siege to the city until the people surrendered the Mandylion. The cloth was then taken to the Byzantine capital of Constantinople.

According to Byzantine historians, the Mandylion bore only the facial image of Jesus. Some believers today say that the Mandylion was the shroud, folded into eighths to make a small square, leaving only the face visible. (This may be why—if the Mandylion and the shroud are one and the same—historians did not record that the Mandylion contained a full-body image. But why they wouldn’t realize its true size is hard to fathom.) In 1204 Knights of the Temple of Solomon (an order of monk-knights, also known as the Knights Templar) of the Fourth Crusade reportedly took the cloth—whether the Mandylion or the shroud—to France. It remained in France until sometime during the early 1300s, when it was removed to England for safekeeping after King Philip IV of France destroyed and confiscated properties owned by the Knights of the Temple of Solomon. After about half a century in England, it returned to France, and in 1357 a French nobleman, Geoffrey de Charmy, displayed a cloth to the public in Lirey, France, as the “true burial shroud of Jesus.” However, he never revealed where the shroud came from nor how he acquired it. This is the first verifiable reference to the object now called the Shroud of Turin. In 1453 that cloth was given to the King of Savoy. For more than a century, it remained in a castle belonging to the House of Savoy in Chambéry, France. After surviving a fire in the castle in 1532, the shroud was eventually brought to Turin, where it has remained since 1578, in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

 


 
In the free eBook Real or Fake? A Special Report, find out whether several famous objects are actually fakes, how can they be tested, and whether they should even be studied by scholars.
 

 

In this contrast-enhanced photo, details of the Shroud of Turin become more clear. It has been suggested that the white marks on the forehead are blood stains, perhaps caused by the crown of thorns said to have been placed on Jesus’ head in the Biblical accounts. Photo: Vernon Miller.

Numerous scientific studies—from radiocarbon dating to x-ray and pollen analysis—have been conducted over the past century, and numerous theories have been put forth. The Shroud of Turin has been regarded as a relic, a forgery and even a work of art.

A research team led by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy hypothesized in a newly published study that an earthquake that hit Jerusalem in 33 C.E. may have been strong enough to cause neutron radiation. This phenomenon in turn may have created the images on the shroud through radiation imagery as well as corrupted the radiocarbon testing conducted on the shroud in the 1980s. It may therefore be possible that the shroud is older than the 13th–14th dates originally suggested by the 1980s radiocarbon dating studies.

The study by Carpinteri and his team has been met with some criticism. As Christopher Ramsey, director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, told LiveScience:

One question that would need to be addressed is why the material here is affected, but other archaeological and geological material in the ground is not. There are huge numbers of radiocarbon dates from the region for much older archaeological material, which certainly don’t show this type of intense in-situ radiocarbon production (and they would be much more sensitive to any such effects).

Carpinteri’s research—on piezonuclear fission—has courted so much controversy that in 2012, the Italian research minister conceded to a call by over 1,000 scientists from Italy and abroad to take a closer look at the research program.

Read more about Carpinteri’s hypothesis on the Shroud of Turin.
 


 
Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.
 

 

Learn more about the Shroud of Turin in the BAS Library:


Vaughn M. Bryant, Jr., “Does Pollen Prove the Shroud Authentic?” BAR, November/December 2000.

Gary Vikan, “Debunking the Shroud: Made by Human Hands,” BAR, November/December 1998.

Suzanne F. Singer, “Has the Shroud of Turin Been Dated—Finally?” Bible Review, April 1989.

Joseph A. Kohlbeck and Eugenia L. Nitowski, “New Evidence May Explain Image on Shroud of Turin,” BAR, July/August 1986.

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  1. Shawn says

    The only problem I have ever had regarding this shroud is the reference in John 20:7 which reads:

    “And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.”

    Jesus’ head was wrapped separately from his body. The shroud shows the entire figure on one sheet. How does one explain the discrepancy between what we are told by God in scripture and what we see in the shroud?

  2. Skip says

    The cloth wrapped around the head would be the Sudarium of Oviedo. This is a cloth 84 x 53 cm which was folded in two and then wrapped around the head during transportation of the body to the burial site. This was done to avoid the “uncleanliness” of viewing the face of a dead person. At the burial site the cloth would have been removed and ( logically ) folded and set aside. The Sudarium is totally compatible with the Shroud ( same blood type, overwhelming forensic evidence ) and can be traced positively back 1400 years. In John’s account the disciples entered the tomb, saw the cloths and believed. What convinced them ? Could it have been the image on the Shroud ? Everybody has their opinions, but after more than 40 years of study, I, personally, am convinced that God gave us a photograph of the resurrection in the form of the Shroud of Turin.

  3. Mary says

    There is another artifact in Spain since the 6th century ( Oviedo Spain) whose blood stains match up with the blood markings on The Shroud of Turin. This is most probably the head covering you are seeking information on.

  4. wayne says

    interesting that I heard the radio carbon dating were done on a piece of repaired cloth, repaired after a fire or damage of some sort. I doubt that this is jesus but this only proves men are like sheep, we will worship Jesus’ underwear if we had the chance rather than the true God. When God comes back to get his people, he’s not going to put the shroud, chalice or anything else in a museum as we will just worship that and ignore Him. Jesus will destroy it all as He doesn’t need it, and neither do we.

  5. Brian says

    I’m in accord with Skip. Nicely stated…

  6. JeffreyR says

    In ancient times a burial cloth was ritually unclean. In addition, the image of the one worshiped as a bloody, tortured body was also unacceptable in those times. These may be the reasons that the 14 ft. burial linen of the Jewish Messiah was folded up so that only the face was visible (ref I. Wilson.) This abridgement in turn leads to the various legends of the artist/messenger from Edessa who attempted to paint the Rabbi’s portrait and that of Veronica’s cloth as explanations.
    In the gospels we see the rather cryptic reference by Rabbi Yehoshua to a “Sign of Jonah” that would be the “only sign” given to an entire “generation.” For something to be a “sign” it has to be witnessed. Such miracles as the walking on water or the transfiguration are not signs for any large number of persons since only a few witnessed them. But there is one miracle (in that research and analysis is unable to explain it) that has been and continues to be witnessed by generations. And that, of course, is the image of the Shroud, aka Holy Mandylion, which is the Sign of Jonah.

  7. Joseph says

    Mentioned above, but also have seen reference several times in documentaries on the shroud to the possible carbon dating “contamination” resulting from nuns repairing the cloth after the fire of 1532 noted in the article. I believe there has also been evidence found in the shroud of a Jerusaleum origin due to microscopic spore evidence that is indigenous to that area only.

  8. Stanley says

    I beleave it to be a real meriacel. The rush to have Jesus beried before sundown caused many shot cuts in the procedure. When the soul reentered the body it caused infinite heat instantly. The picture was developed when the chapel burned And the heat melted the silver box it was kept in.

  9. Mike says

    Whatever its origins, date, intentions, and subject, the shroud is a painting.

    Rub your face with paint. Wrap a towel around your head. Press.

    Unwrap. The resulting image does not look like a human face.

  10. BHD says

    First, the Shroud clearly shows the head of the body in the fold of the cloth so the face was not exposed. It was the custom to place an additional cloth tied about the head. The one thing no one addresses is how anyone in the 13th, 14th century, no matter how talented, could have created the Shroud. 1. it is a photographic negative, this property was discovered in the 20th century because there was no photography in the 13th 2. It is historically accurate and shows the nail holes in the wrists instead of the palms of the hands unlike all the artworks of the 13-14th centuries which had the nails in the palms; the wound in the side matches the configuration of Roman spears; and the flail marks show the dumbell like tips of Roman flails, examples still exist in museums. 3. It is forensically analizable by 20th century methods, the analysis of the flail marks show two beaters on either side, one taller than the other. 4. There is actual blood on the cloth (type AB – I personally find this amusing because that is “universal recipient” – type O – “universal donor” would be more theologically consistant) Whatever the Shroud is, it is NOT a fake, forgery or artwork. This piece of cloth once held a body that was crucified by Roman methods. The pool of blood under the small of the back indidcates that the heart began beating after internment or perhaps was never intirely stilled – corpses don’t bleed. This is a snapshot of an NDE – near death experience. We have had lots of those occur and not just because we have superior methods of resucitation – it happens – he just didn’t write the book about it, other people did.

  11. robert says

    BHD wrote: “There is actual blood on the cloth (type AB – I personally find this amusing because that is “universal recipient” – type O – “universal donor” would be more theologically consistant)”

    - That was my first thought too, but then I realized that Jesus was THE ULTIMATE UNIVERSAL RECIPIENT – He RECEIVED the penalty for the SINS OF THE WORLD in our place upon the cross when He GAVE His life blood for us! So He is BOTH Universal Recipient and Donor!

  12. John says

    Interesting but the show I seen on the history channel said that the very corner that was used to test. In many previous paintings ect that corner was the corner used to hold and it was a 13 century repair. I am confused how an earth quake got involved.

  13. Krzysztof says

    1 Cor 11: 14 proves it is a fake. A Jew at that time had a short hair.

  14. Bob says

    Artwork only…enjoy as you would any.

  15. steve says

    There is very much a longing to see our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in our hearts. One day we shall see Him face to face and be filled with joy!!!

  16. Hannu says

    Shouldn’t today’s dna technology be able to come up with the thruth. ;?) The sample being from a male means that you are able to tell his mother line and father line, which should be something that they never before have found?

  17. Paul says

    The Vatican proved recently that the most recent test confirmed its ancient origin. How disingenuous to leave that fact out.

  18. Betty says

    From what I have read, the napkin was tied around the head, under the chin to hold the mouth closed. It would still have been considered to be “around” the face.

  19. Nathan says

    Jesus was beaten so badly that he was severely disfigured , he was not recognizable. Case closed people let it go

  20. Varghese says

    Good point Nathan!
    Here are the verses that prove your point:
    “I gave my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not turn away my face from insults and spitting.” Isaiah 50:6
    “Just as many were astonished at you—so was he marred in his appearance, more than any human, and his form beyond that of human semblance” – Isaiah 52:14
    “they made his grave with the wicked, and with rich people in his death, although he had committed no violence, nor was there any deceit in his mouth yet the LORD was willing to crush him, and he made him suffer. Although you make his soul an offering for sin, He will see his offspring, and he will prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will triumph in his hand” – Isaiah 53:9-10

  21. pk says

    PK says:
    Some of the doubting Thomas’es (sp?) out there owe it to themselves to do a little more homework on topics like long hair (which scripture predict “the Nazarene will know no razor” as were the customs for that region in the 1st century I believe…so it is important to exame all scriptures equally.

    As far as the above quoted scripture concerning any “disfigurement” goes, again a little additional study will explain a lot. The Roman Flagram used to scourge Jesus was designed to inflict internal-wounds- (note the mini iron “bar-bells attacd to the ends of the 4-?-6 teathers the Roman Centuran used to whip him). Now imagine the black & blue bruising, swelling, blood…. Put all that in context with the fact that even the Romans didn’t scourge AND crucify people- this was a Fist-Historically had never been done- so it ws extremely barbaric even for them! Also do a word study on the translated word “disfigured”…there is room for interpriration.Most people being crucified just hung on a cross- they were not beat to h*ll and “scourged” with a iron tipped Flagram like Jesus (129 strike points are identified ). Si please don’t throw the baby out wirh the bath water until you have the opportuinity to contemplate all the evidence.

    P.S. A certain amount of divine healing would have taken place during the Resurrection , too– Otherwise he would have still looked black & blue when He appeared to the others….so I have no trouble considering something like swelling (that distorts). as a possible explination in this instance. Just a thought.

  22. Jean says

    This sure has my mind going

  23. mary says

    It’s absolutely impossible for it to be the face of Jesus. He was so brutally tortured and beaten it says he didn’t even resemble the looks of a human. The best description to give of him is to have a pile of hamburger meat. He was covered in grave clothes, with a hundred pounds of ointment applied to it. A small face cloth was put over him, again, it would not show any details of a nice looking face. This is a scam and people will do anything they can to find something like this and worship it. Read the bible, and let God explain, not people.

  24. AngelWynton says

    The Shroud is REAL!!
    Its still do miracles, didn’t Jehoshua said I am the live and the water
    you never get thirsty on? Yes he said that..and the Painting of
    Ray Downing is downstairs on the egde of the couch near
    my Fishtank. And believe me the tank was so full of dirth
    more like a swamp above water, and 3 malawi’s left in there.
    When I woke up and put the light on, I coudnt believe my eyes
    the whole fish tank was as clean as it could be, no dirth also
    the elements clean, and the water 100% pure. I have reumatics
    and a 250 liter tank to clean, every day it whas time out I will
    clean it tommorow. Fact is, that even the print of Ray Downing
    heals people, help people, Jehoshua is the way and the living water
    as clear as can be. Believe me 3 days ago tears role over my face
    of joy and happiness and believe and of cause to share with all of you.

  25. Shaula says

    Why would Father break His Word by leaving us some image as a catalyst for faith in His Messiah? Even Yshua/Jesus said to Thomas His discipled, “blessed are those who dont see [some physical evidence] yet believe.” Israel got led astray running after an icon from Gideon. We are commanded not o make any images to worship, so why would God allow this to create confusion? We are warned about ‘false christs’ & not to follow after things that diverge from the scriptures or cause bickering. The evidence of salvation is a tangible response to a Living Savior not belief inspired by an ancient rag..


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