Reasons to doubt the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin


The following list is basically a summary ...a compilation of arguments, observations and quotes sourced from numerous books and articles examining the shroud controversy.

1. There is no mention of a miraculously imaged Shroud in the New Testament or any early Christian writings. Surely, given the desire for miraculous proof of the divine nature of Jesus, such a relic would have rated a mention.

2. The cloth is incompatible with New Testament accounts of Jesus' burial. John's gospel (19:38-42, 20:5-7) specifically states that the body was "wound" with "linen clothes". We're told that on reaching the empty tomb, they 'saw the strips of linen lying there'. Still another cloth (called "the napkin") covered his face and head. In contrast, the Shroud of Turin represents a single, draped cloth (laid under and then over the "body").

3. The clear implication of all three synoptics is that the material was bound tightly round the body, yet the Shroud of Turin shows an image made by simply lying a linen shroud on top of the front of the body, over the head and down the back.

4. The shroud contradicts the Gospel of John, which describes the body being wrapped with "a hundred pound weight" of burial spices (myrrh and aloes) — not a trace of which appears on the cloth, or any biochemicals known to be produced by the body in life or in death (from STURP's final report, 1981).

There is an additional problem with the matter of spices on the body. Both the gospels of Mark and Luke state that Joseph merely wrapped the body, and that the women had prepared spices for the body and were going to apply them when they noticed the body missing. Yet John's gospel states that Joseph not only wrapped the body, he added spices. In John's gospel there is no mention of the women preparing spices, obviously since it had already been done. So according to John's account the shroud should have traces of spices, but according to Mark and Luke, there should be no trace of spices. So whether spices are found or not, a passage in the Bible will support either stance. This blatant contradiction means that any argument regarding spices can not be resolved or used for support.

5. John 19:40 indicates that the burial was a normal one, following the Jewish traditions. Thus, Joseph of Arimethea would have washed the body. The body shown in the Shroud of Turin was not washed.

6. No examples of the shroud linen's complex herringbone twill weave date from the first century, when burial cloths tended to be of plain weave in any case. The weave was used in Europe in the Middle Ages.

7. The shroud has no known history prior to the mid-fourteenth century, when it turned up in the possession of a soldier of fortune who cannot or will not say how he acquired the most holy relic in all of Christendom.

8. The shroud surfaced in France exactly at the height of the 'holy relic' craze. Not one such relic has ever been proved to be genuine, and the faking of relics was rife at this time. There were between 26 and 40 "authentic" burial shrouds scattered throughout the abbeys of Europe, of which the Shroud of Turin is just one.

9. The earliest written record of the shroud is a Catholic bishop's report to Pope Clement VII, dated 1389, stating that it originated as part of a faith-healing scheme, with "pretended miracles" being staged to defraud credulous pilgrims. The bishop's report also stated that a predecessor had "discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it".

10. In 1390, Pope Clement VII declared that it was not the true shroud but could be used as a representation of it, provided the faithful be told that it was not genuine.

11. As St. Augustine lamented in the fourth century, Jesus' appearance was [and still is], completely unknown, and the shroud image follows the conventional artistic likeness. That is, the resemblance of the figure to medieval depictions of Jesus, and the image of Jesus in medieval Gothic art.

12. There is a lack of wrap-around distortions that would be expected if the cloth had enclosed an actual three-dimensional object like a human body. Thus the cloth was never used to wrap a body. If the image had been formed when the cloth was around Jesus' corpse it would have been distorted when the cloth was straightened out. The image would be wider and you would have an imprint of the sides of the body, not just the front and back. The hair hangs as for a standing, rather than reclining figure, and the imprint of a bloody foot is incompatible with the outstretched leg to which it belongs.

13. There are serious anatomical problems with the image. Jesus' face, body, arms, and fingers were unnaturally thin and elongated (like figures in Gothic art), his left forearm was longer than his right, and his right hand is too long. The man is impossibly tall, being 6ft 8in (2.03m). The head is disproportionately small for the body, the face unnaturally narrow and the forehead foreshortened, and ears lost. The front and back images, in particular of the head, do not match up precisely, and the back image is around 2 inches (5cm) longer than the front. The back of the head is wider than the front of the head. The Shroud image is, in fact, so unusually very long and narrow that one pro-Shroud pathologist suggested that Jesus must have had Marfan's syndrome!

14. The alleged blood stains are unnaturally picture-like. Real blood spreads in cloth and mats on hair, and does not form perfect rivulets and spiral flows. Also, dried "blood" (as on the arms) has been implausibly transferred to the cloth. It is absolutely certain that in the hour or so that passed before the removal from the cross, any blood which remained on the head, the back and the forehead, dried up and was congealed, because this is the natural behaviour of blood which leaves the body and is exposed to air. The alleged blood remains bright red, unlike genuine blood that blackens with age. All the wounds, though according to the Gospel accounts made at different times, appear as if still bleeding, even though blood does not flow after death. A corpse does not bleed. There are also problems in explaining how the blood flows transferred to the cloth while retaining their perfect detail.

15. There is no blood on the Shroud: all the forensic tests specific for blood have failed (although some investigators unrigorously concluded that blood was present after conducting numerous forensic tests for iron, protein, albumin, etc., which came up positive because these materials are indeed on the Shroud in the form of tempera paint).

16. "Blind" microscopic analyses show significant traces of paint pigment on image areas, thus proving the pigment red ocher was a component of the image. The "blood" was actually tempera paint. Real blood does not contain red ochre, vermilion, and alizarin red pigments.

17. Subsequently, the distinguished microanalyst Walter McCrone identified the "blood" as red ocher and vermilion tempera paint and concluded that the entire image had been painted.

18. The "bloodstains" are redder than other parts of the image. Bloodstains do not remain red over time. They turn black or dark brown. These "bloodstains" also have a chemical composition matching paint which was used in medieval times.

19. It is true that there are higher concentrations of iron and protein, as are found in blood, in the areas of the "bloodstains". But iron and proteins are also found in pigments. Iron oxide is often used as a red colouring. Iron oxide fades to yellow when dehydrated so much of the iron oxide has now faded to yellow.

20. There is also significant amounts of mercuric sulphide, which is a well-known pigment called vermilion — a red pigment.

21. There is no trace of sodium, chlorine or potassium, which blood contains in high amounts and which would have been present if the stains were truly blood.

22. Porphyrins are present in the area of the "bloodstains". These are found in blood, but they are also found in other animal and plant products, such as those used to make artists' pigments.

23. Claims that the blood in the "bloodstains" is type AB "are nonsense", according to Ray Rogers, a retired research chemist and member of STURP (Rogers 2004).

24. Evidence of human DNA in a shroud "blood" sample is meaningless. The scientist at the DNA lab, Victor Tryon, told Time magazine that he could not say how old the DNA was or that it came from blood. As he explained, "Everyone who has ever touched the shroud or cried over the shroud has left a potential DNA signal there." Tryon resigned from the new shroud project due to what he disparaged as "zealotry in science". Even the Archbishop of Turin and the Vatican refused to authenticate the samples or accept any research carried out on them.

25. The theory that the image was caused by contact with oils and spices can be discounted since these were not found on the shroud, also a cloth wrapped around the body would produce an expanded image of the body when flattened out. The image would also be blurred as the oils soaked into the cloth.

26. The theory that the image was caused by the projection of body vapours can also be rejected since vapours don't travel in straight lines, but disperse, so once again the image would be blurred, which it isn't.

27. The most popular theory by the pro-shroud groups is that the image was caused by a short burst of radiation caused by the resurrection, which also altered the C14 ratio, causing an erroneous carbon dating result. This too has been discredited because the fibres in the image areas show no additional degradation than the non image areas. Radiation would cause visible damage to the fibres (when viewed microscopically) and this is not evident. Radiation would also cause the image to penetrate the cloth, unlike the superficial shroud image that is observed. Also to receive the exact amount of radiation required to alter the date of the cloth to the medieval date of its first documented appearance would be a remarkable coincidence.

28. The Shroud image is NOT a true photographic negative but only an apparent one — a faux-photographic negative. As with a true negative, light features such as skin are dark on it and light on the positive and shadows are light on it and dark on the positive. Unlike a true photographic negative however, dark features like the beard, moustache, hair, and blood are dark on it and light on the positive. The "positive" image shows a figure with white hair and beard, the opposite of what would be expected for a Palestinian Jew in his thirties.

29. The claims of pollen from Palestine supposedly found on the Shroud have been discredited as "fraud" and "junk science." The person who originally claimed to have found the pollen on the Shroud was Max Frei, a Swiss criminologist. However the pollens were very suspicious, as pollen experts quickly pointed out — first of all, they were missing the most obvious pollen you would expect, which would be olive. There's not any! 32 of the 57 pollens allegedly found by Frei are from insect-pollinated plants and could not have been wind-blown onto the exposed shroud in Palestine. Similar samples taken by the Shroud of Turin Research Project in 1978 had comparatively few pollens. Cloth was often brought to medieval Europe from Palestine, so there is no strong support from the pollen anyway.

30. It is likely that the Shroud was constructed using a rubbing technique on a bas-relief model. ...

31. The claim that the image contains unique 3D information producing a perfect 3D image has been disputed by other mathematical modellers. However, since the image was probably produced from a 3D object, such as a bas-relief, 3D coding is completely natural and this claim adds nothing to the authenticity debate.

32. The shroud cloth was radiocarbon dated in 1988 to circa 1260-1390 CE by three separate laboratories. This date is consistent with the earliest documentary evidence of the shroud's existence. It is also consistent with a fourteenth-century bishop's report to Pope Clement VII that an earlier bishop had discovered the forger and that he had confessed.

33. The suggestions that modern biological contaminants were sufficient to modernise the date are also ridiculous. A weight of 20th century carbon equalling nearly two times the weight of the Shroud carbon itself would be required to change a 1st century date to the 14th century. Besides this, the linen cloth samples were very carefully cleaned before analysis at each of the carbon-dating laboratories.

34. The expression is strangely composed for someone tortured to death, and the hands are neatly folded across the genitals. A real body lying limp could not have this posture. Your arms are not long enough to cross your hands over your pelvis while keeping your shoulders on the floor. To achieve this the body can not lie flat, yet Jewish burial tradition did not dictate that a body must be hunched up so as to cover the genitals before wrapping in the shroud. The claim that rigor mortis had set in and thus caused the legs not to be straight is ridiculous, since the arms should also be contracted, plus the timing is all wrong for rigor mortis. The most obvious answer is that the artist knew the image would be displayed, and didn't want to offend his audience or have to guess what the genitals of Jesus would look like. It is also suspicious that Jesus is depicted assuming a pose that medievalists refer to as the venus pudica pose. This pose is associated with nudity and loss of innocence.

35. The Shroud is a 14th-century forgery and is one of many such deliberately created relics produced in the same period..

36. The church conducts secret tests and suppresses unfavourable results: In 1969 the Archbishop of Turin appointed a secret commission to examine the shroud. That fact was leaked, then denied, but "At last the Turin authorities were forced to admit what they previously denied." The man who had exposed the secrecy accused the clerics of acting "like thieves in the night." More detailed studies — again clandestine — began in 1973. The commission included internationally known forensic serologists who made heroic efforts to validate the "blood," but all of the microscopical, chemical, biological, and instrumental tests were negative. The commission's report was withheld until 1976 and then was largely suppressed, while a rebuttal report was freely made available. Thus began an approach that would be repeated over and over: distinguished experts would be asked to examine the cloth, then would be attacked when they obtained other than desired results.

37. The group most famous for claiming the authenticity of the shroud is STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project), now disbanded. 'Unfortunately, almost all of these were religious believers, most of them were Roman Catholics', and the scientists were all selected by the Holy Shroud Guild; in fact, the leaders of the group, John Jackson and Eric Jumper, 'served on the Executive Council of the Holy Shroud Guild, a Catholic organisation that advocated the "cause" of the supposed relic. So having this group investigate the Shroud was a little bit like having the Flat Earth Society investigate the curvature of the Earth'. STURP was comprised of 40 US scientists, made up of 39 devout believers and 1 agnostic. Knowing that the proportion of believers to agnostics is much different in scientific circles than it is in the general population, it has been calculated (Debunked! by Georges Charpak and Henri Broch) that the odds of selecting a group of 40 scientists at random and achieving this high ratio of believers is 7 chances in 1,000,000,000,000,000. In other words, the formation of this group is stacked and very biased towards authenticating the shroud, and therefore you must take their claims with an extremely large grain of salt.

by John L Ateo and Rachel C


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