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Ridiculous ‘Shroud is fake’ article at Suite101.com

September 11, 2008

An absolutely ridiculous article appears at Suite101.com. The title is “The Shroud of Turin Debunked: A Forged Christian Relic.” There are two clues: 1) It cites a piece from a 2004 issue of Skeptical Inquirer which accused Public Broadcasting System (PBS) of burying the truth about the shroud and 2) it deals only with selective evidence.

Resting in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy is a fourteen-foot-long linen cloth whose long history has been rife with controversy. Though believers in the shroud’s authenticity are undeterred by skeptics’ arguments, the bulk of the evidence indicates that the shroud is certainly a medieval forgery.

Well, let’s look at that evidence:

Biblical and Historical Evidence

Joe Nickell, in an article from the July/August 2004 issue of Skeptical Inquirer entitled “PBS ‘Secrets of the Dead’ Buries the Truth About Turin Shroud,” points out several facts that call the shroud’s authenticity into doubt. First of all, the Bible itself, specifically the Gospel of John, explicitly states that the crucified body of Jesus was wrapped in several cloths, including a separate cloth covering the face.

That is true, but totally irrelevant. Because there were several cloths, according to the Gospel of John, does not in any way rule out that one of those cloths might have been saved. There is no logic to such a statement. Moreover, this is selective use of gospel narrative by someone who also, elsewhere, debunks biblical narratives.

Second, the figure of Jesus on the shroud conforms to artistic representations of him from the fourteenth century; the body is elongated, as was common in Gothic art, and bears a striking resemblance to other depictions of Christ from that period.

Actually, that is a real stretch. The visual arts (paintings and sketches) of that period were very primitive and lacked anatomical precision found in the shroud. Moreover, at the time no artists would have painted the hand wounds in the wrists (they were always in the palms) or painted the body naked.

Third, and most damningly, there is no mention of the shroud in historical records at all until 1389. In that year, in a report to Pope Clement IV, a bishop openly admits the shroud was “cunningly painted” to perpetrate a “fraud” involving “pretended miracles.”

By the way, not 1389 but 1349.

Good grief! Most artifacts from antiquity lack written records that go back to their provenance. And as historians and archeologists well know, there are always gaps in records. In fact, there is a drawing of a shroud from 1192 in the Pray Codex found in the Budapest Museum (nearly a century earlier than the earliest carbon 14 date) that is clearly identifiable from particular features as the current Shroud of Turin. It is well known that a cloth with an image believed to be of Jesus existed in Edessa as documented by Eusebius of Caesarea in the early 4th century. According to Eusebius (and this must be considered legend) the cloth was brought to Edessa by the apostle Thomas or the disciple Thadeus. In 544 a cloth with an image thought to be of Jesus was found concealed above a gate in the city walls of Edessa. That cloth was transferred to Constantinople on August 14, 944. It was, at that time, described as a full-length burial cloth with an image of Jesus and bloodstains.

In 1204, following the sacking of Constantinople, it became the property of Othon de la Roche, the French Duke of Athens and Thebes. He sent it to his home in the town of Besançon, France in 1207. At Eastertide, it was removed from his castle and displayed in the Besançon Cathedral until the cathedral was destroyed by fire in March of 1349. Any records that might have existed may have been burned in that fire as all church records were destroyed (not an uncommon problem for historians). In that same year, Geoffroy de Charny, a French knight married Jeanne de Vergy, a grand-niece of Othon de la Roche, and delivered a/the shroud to the canons of Lirey, thereby creating the earliest extant record in Western Europe.

As for the memorandum of Pierre d’Arcis, the Bishop of Troyes, the letter is a draft piece and is believed by historians to refer to a painting that was made of the shroud and not the shroud, itself.

General Physical Evidence

The figure of Jesus has other unusual properties. For one thing, the image is not distorted, as it would be if it were the impression of a three-dimensional body wrapped in cloth; one has only to smear a napkin with mustard and press it against one’s face to see that the resulting two-dimensional image looks nothing like the figure on the shroud.

Actually, that presumes that the image is a contact image. Given that no one knows how the image was formed, the statement is not helpful. In fact, no one believes that the image is a contact image.

Christ’s hair hangs downward, like that of a standing person, and the suspiciously bright red “blood” on the shroud appears to be painted on top of the hair rather than saturated within it.

Image analysis shows that the hair does not hang down. There are two dark bands on each side of the face (that are not part of the face but run upward and downward beyond the face) and these create something of an optical illusion of hair hanging down. Nickell knows this but chooses to ignore it.

In addition, the cloth itself is a 3:1 herringbone twill, of which no examples have been found from the first century, when the shroud was supposed to have originated.

No have any sample of 3 over 1 herringbone twill been found in the medieval era.

Scientific Tests

Pieces of the shroud were carbon-dated in 1987 by three separate laboratories. All three — at Oxford, Zurich, and the University of Arizona — produced a date of origin circa 1260–1390, which is consistent with the time the shroud turned up in the historical record.

Actually the correct date is 1988, not 1987. All three labs ran the same tests on pieces of a single sample. No, all three labs did not arrive at the same date range. That is a statistical combination of the results from the three labs.

However, tests recently conducted at the Los Alamos National Laboratory by a team of nine scientists under the direction of Robert Villarreal confirm what chemist Raymond Rogers found and published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Thermochimica Acta (Jan. 2005): The tested sample was not representative of the shroud’s cloth. Rogers’ findings had also been confirmed by Georgia Tech’s materials forensic chemist John L. Brown.

This is part of the problem in basing an article mostly on a single 2004 article. Research would have reveal this.

Tests of the “blood” were carried out by microanalyst Walter McCrone over a period of years, and the findings were consistent with the image being created with tempera paint.

Actually that statement is completely false. Walter McCrone did conclude that the bloodstains, and indeed the images, were painted, but it was not over a period of years. He wrote his conclusion in the same year that he carried out his microscopic inspection of fibers taken from the shroud.

However, Mark Anderson, who worked for McCrone, examined the fibers using laser microprobe Raman spectrometry and found that what McCrone thought was (inorganic) paint was in fact an organic substance. Previously, the shroud (and not just fibers) had been observed with visible and ultraviolet spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, and thermography. No paint was found. Later, pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry tests conducted at the Mass Spectrometry Center of Excellence at the University of Nebraska, on fibers examined by McCrone, were unable to detect any paint particles or painting medium.

Moreover, immunological, fluorescence and spectrographic tests, as well as Rh and ABO typing of blood antigens, reveal that the stains are human blood.  Many of the bloodstains have the distinctive forensic signature of clotting with red corpuscles about the edge of a clot with a clear yellowish halo of serum. The heme was converted into its parent porphyrin, and the spectra examined. The bloodstains are blood. Microchemical tests for proteins were positive in blood areas. Much of this work is published in peer reviewed scientific journals including Archeological Chemistry: Organic, Inorganic, and Biochemical Analysis (American Chemical Society), Applied Optics and the Canadian Society of Forensic Sciences Journal.

Now, here we get slightly more current.

There has been enormous controversy over the scientific testing, with some authenticity advocates like the late Ray Rogers (writing in the May/June 2005 issue of Skeptical Inquirer) insisting that the carbon dating samples were contaminated. However, in light of the mountain of evidence pointing to forgery, and considering the fact that at least one modern artist has produced a comparable fake, it seems clear that the shroud, while a splendid artistic object, is nonetheless not the burial shroud of a savior that its believers wish it to be.

Actually, it is much more than Rogers. It is Brown and Villarreal and his team and Benford and Marino, etc. A good set of references for a current, carefully researched article would include material published in 2008.

  • Peer reviewed scientific journal: Chemistry Today (Vol 26, Num 4, Jul/Aug 2008), “Discrepancies in the radiocarbon dating area of the Turin shroud”,  Benford M.S., Marino J.G.
  • Peer-reviewed conference paper (Aug 2008), “Analytical Results on Thread Samples Taken from the Raes Sampling Area (Corner) of the Shroud Cloth” Robert Villarreal (Paper and video presentation awaiting publication, see Ohio State University Shroud of Turin Conference Press Release)
  • Peer reviewed scientific journal: Thermochimica Acta (Vol 425, Jan 2005) “Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin”, Rogers, R.N.

You don’t need to believe it is real or that it is fake. But you have to do the research and use real facts in writing an article such as this.

Source: The Shroud of Turin Debunked: A Forged Christian Relic

  1. Maria da Glória Gonçalves Barroso
    September 11, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    No matter if the person who writes about the Shroud is religious or non believer , should be careful about information sources and always seek the truth.
    Everybody knows Joe Nickell is an old anti-shroud authenticity and his arguments are indeed predictable- he mixes little relevant information with misleading one and conceals important data.
    I agree totally with your rebuttal but I´d like to add some stuff
    It´s totally false that Gospels don´t mention a burial cloth : you just have to read Matthew , Mark and Luke , all of them mention a cloth that wrapped Christ´s body.
    If Joe Nickell knew the meaning of « othonia » he wouldn´t take John´s gospel as an argument , and besides he ignores the existence of a tenth century document relative to Edessa cloth which corroborates the evidences that it was indeed the Shroud folded in a way to show only the face – obviously I’m takking about « Codex Vossianus Latinus» kept in Leyden University Lybrary.
    It´s also ludicrious to say that the image should have distortions , who says that ignores that scientific image studies concluded that whatever made the image acted in an orthogonal way paralell to the gravity line to impress «every surface area point » on the cloth; he also ignores the amazing work of Mario Latendresse explaining why the present distorsions are meaningless.
    And at last , to finish my long comments just a few words about the so called modern fake- I guess it was Nathan Wilson´s Shadow Shroud whose image is completely different from a physical and chemically aspect and although his author claimed 3D encoding , such claim was debunked by Christophe Mignot a scientist not a Shroud researcher whose expertise is 3D image analysis ( in http://www.suaire-science.com )
    I recall Dan Porter´s sentence «Science cannot rule out a miracle but it can and does rule out fakery » . And till now science didn´t rule out the Shroud as a fake.


    Maria da Glória

  2. May 23, 2009 at 12:21 am

    ehh. 10x.

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