A Green Shroud of Turin Exhibition

Note the green, bold text below in this story by Chiara Santomiero of Zenit News (Zenit.org):

TURIN, Italy, FEB. 24, 2010More than a million pilgrims have made reservations to view the Shroud of Turin when it is displayed this April in the city’s cathedral.

The shroud — believed to be the cloth Christ was buried in — will be on display April 10-23 at the Turin Cathedral. The last time it was displayed was 10 years ago.

Nearly a million reservations have been made by Italians alone. Other reservations have come from Argentina, Burkina Faso, Japan and Russia.
Some 4,500 volunteers are currently training to help with the logistics. “Those who collaborate in this event do so for free,” said Maurizio Bardello, director of the Committee for the Exposition of the Holy Shroud. The organization “has been guided by criteria of sobriety and expected costs. A wide use of recyclable material is planned.”

The director added that some permanent renovations are under way, such as a remodeling of the Chiablese Palace, where pilgrims will be able to attend Eucharistic Adoration and receive the sacrament of confession.

Planning green

In addition to the use of recyclables, other environmentally friendly plans are being made.

“To reduce the effect on the city of the arrival of close to 20,000 expected buses, each one will be asked for a contribution of €30 destined exclusively to plant new trees,” said Bardello.


Why was the Shroud of Turin saved?

I keep encountering this thought.

But logic dictates, His followers did not just leave the
cloth there on the ground, to be thrown away. This was the
cloth which held the Body of Jesus.

The main reason the cloth would not have been discarded or left behind may have to do with Jewish customs pertaining to blood that was shed in death. Such spilled blood, scholars believe, should be buried with the body. But what if the tomb was open and there was no body, just an empty burial shroud stained with blood?

Modern sensibilities might suggest that the most logical course of action would be to reseal the tomb was a burial shroud inside. But is that what religious Jews in the first century might have done? We just don’t know the answer to that. If the shroud is authentic, then of course that is not what happened. For more information see Shroud of Turin Story

Mpelembe :: The Shroud of Turin – Shrouded in mystery?.

Shroud of Turin doesn’t match Bible’s words

Bloomington’s Pantagraph newspaper will absolutely has carried a recent AP story about the 1 million people would already made reservations to see the shroud of Turin in April and May of this year. One of the newspaper’s readers wrote a letter to the editor as follows:

While perusing your newspaper of Feb. 20, I noticed that you had included an article about the Shroud of Turin — always a subject of controversy, since it has not been absolutely proven that it is indeed the burial cloth of Jesus.

The idea that the church still promotes it, doesn’t make it fact. After checking with various Bible readings about the Messiah, Isaiah 50:6 states that his beard would be plucked out. Thus, that would make the shroud questionable since it shows a bearded Christ.

Carl D. Mathis, Clinton

Of course, there is always the possibility that the shroud is real and Mr. Mathis’ interpretation of a bit of prophecy from Isaiah is wrong, if not just a little bit too literal. That’s my bet.

See: Shroud of Turin doesn’t match Bible’s words

Shropshire Anglican Church to Exhibit Shroud of Turin Copy with Lecture

Being an Episcopalian, its good to see this sort of attention for the Shroud of Turin in Anglican churches. I am familiar with the full-size cotton copies (the original shroud is linen) created by Barrie Schwortz. They are excellent.

A full-size copy of the world-famous Turin Shroud, one of only six in the world, is coming to Shropshire next week.

Actually, one of only six full-size cloth copies.

The copy of what is said to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ is an image printed on cotton created by Barrie Shwortz, who was the official photographer for the Shroud Research Project in 1978. It will be exhibited in St Chad’s Church in Shrewsbury from 5pm on Wednesday until noon on March 8.

The copy will be displayed together with various artefacts from Biblical times, and a series of modern paintings by Paul Hill depicting the Stations of the Cross.

The exhibition has been organised by the Friends of St Chad’s Shrewsbury to raise funds for repairs to the tower.

The event will open with a lecture on the shroud by Pam Moon, lay minister at St Peter’s Anglican Church, Little Aston, Birmingham, where her husband is vicar.

Mrs Moon has had a lifelong fascination with the Shroud of Turin and owns the copy which is to be exhibited.

She said: “I was deeply moved when I first saw the full-length images.

“It is possible to get an idea of the shroud from television pictures, books, magazines and newspapers articles, but seeing it in its entirety is profoundly challenging.”

For more information see: http://www.shropshirestar.com/2010/02/25/turin-shroud-copy-on-display-in-county/

Leonardo da Vinci and the Shroud of Turin

Good grief, this keeps coming up.

The Man Behind the Shroud?
There is a very credible theory that Leonardo created the Shroud of Turin by a photographic technique. Could it be his face?

First of all, there are no silver or chromium-based substances on the Shroud. Chemically, it is not a photograph. Second, a photograph does create a height-field image (3D data). The image on the Shroud is a height-field. Third, Leonardo was born in 1452. The Shroud that is now in Turin was displayed in Lirey, France in 1356. Fourth, there is compelling evidence that the Shroud that is now in Turin was in Constantinople in A.D. 944 and Edessa as early as 544. (See: What is the history of the Shroud in the Greek-Byzantine Period?

Radio carbon dating of the fabric of the shroud places it a while before Leonardo’s birth so clearly in is a medieval fake as were many relicks. Leonardo wasn’t stupid; if he were to try to fake it he would have used old cloth so the dating is consistent.

I suppose that this was because he knew carbon dating was to invented 500 years later.

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa and the Shroud of Turin | World in Christ Christian Gathering Place

Anti-Catholic Site Buying Google Ads on the Shroud of Turin

This is what the ad reads:

The Shroud of Turin: The Bible says it’s a forged image
of a fake Jesus from a false church

A little bit of searching on the website finds this entry:

Controversy and debate have raged over the Shroud of Turin since it was "discovered" around 1355 in a French village. Supposed scientific examinations have argued both for and against the authenticity of the cloth. No one could explain the source of the image on the cloth until recently. But all the effort, time, and expense could have been saved. The inspired history of the Bible provides valuable facts that condemn the Shroud as a fraud. Bible Christians can rejoice in the light of Scripture!

I’m not quite sure that I know where the Bible condemns the Shroud of Turin. Read more on this site and discover that the Bible seems to condemn just about everything else. Yes, it is true, you can prove just about anything with the Bible by ignoring what it really says.

Good Shroud of Turin Quote

Hat tip to  The BlaBla Blog

Shortly before his death, Ray Rogers said:

The worst possible sample for carbon dating was taken. It consisted of different materials than were used in the shroud itself, so the age we produced was inaccurate. I am coming to the conclusion that it has a very good chance of being the piece of cloth that was used to bury the historic Jesus.

For more information on the dating of the Shroud of Turin see Shroud of Turin Story

Sacred Blood, Sacred Image – The Sudarium of Oviedo

If you searched today in Google on “Shroud of Turin” and ad pops up at the top advertising the book Sacred Blood, Sacred Image – The Sudarium of Oviedo by Janice Bennett. I remember reading it in 2001 when it was released and was favorably impressed with it. I think I shall go and reread it to see what my current opinion is. Here is the description from The Catholic Company that is advertising the book:

This is the story of the Sudarium of Oviedo, an ancient, bloodstained cloth believed to have covered the head of Jesus of Nazareth after his crucifixion. The author traces the known history of the linen, presents the up-to-date conclusions of EDICES, the investigative team that has been studying the cloth since 1989, discusses the cultural significance of crucifixion and blood in the context of first-century Jerusalem, and demonstrates the significance of the famous passage of John 20:5-7, as analyzed by some of the most important Biblical scholars of the world. 20 pages of color photographs. Many are from EDICES, and explain visually the bloodstains and wrinkles found on the cloth, its comparison with the Shroud of Turin, how the cloth was used, and its historical odyssey from Jerusalem to Spain.

Janice Bennett holds an M.A. in Spanish Literature from Colorado University, and was selected for Who’s Who in America 2002. She holds a B.A. degree in Journalism from NIU, and a certificate in Advanced Bible Studies from the Catholic Biblical School in Denver. She taught Spanish Literature for six years. She is a member of the Spanish Center for Sindonology (CES) based in Valencia, Spain. Janice is the author of the book St. Laurence and the Holy Grail.

Best News Article on the Shroud of Turin

Michael Day, writing in Britain’s fourth largest newspaper, The Independent, has written what is probably the most accurate and objective news article on the Shroud of Turin in years:

The face of Christ or a brilliant hoax? More than two million of the faithful, undecided or merely curious who are expected to converge on Turin Cathedral this spring will be able to decide for themselves when the most famous religious relic in the world goes on display for only the sixth time in 100 years.

The public viewing of the Turin Shroud, the cloth that some say bears the imprint of Jesus’s face after his crucifixion, will be the first since a painstaking restoration was completed in 2002.

Fiorenzo Alfieri, Turin’s councillor for culture, said this week that around one million people have already ordered tickets to see the relic, which will be on display in its bulletproof, climate-controlled case from 10 April to 23 May. Mr Alfieri expected more than two million visitors from around the globe.

Traditionally, the public is allowed to see the shroud every 25 years, but church officials have said they understand its "importance to the economy and employment" of the northern Italian city – hence their decision to allow the latest public display just 10 years after the last one.

The “tradition” was once every generation, which is approximately every 25 to 40 years. But it is a loose tradition. Exceptions have been made or the schedule manipulated in the past for royal weddings and coronations in the years when the Shroud was privately owned by the House of Savoy.

Whether the most-studied artifact in human history really does bear the image of Christ or merely the skilled work of medieval pranksters has been the source of debate for centuries, however. The cloth bears the faint image of the front and back of a tall, long-haired, bearded man and appears to be stained by blood of wounds indicative of crucifixion.

Independent carbon-dating tests done in 1988 by researchers at Oxford, Zurich and Tucson, Arizona, estimated that the Shroud was made between 1260 and 1390, suggesting it was a hoax.

But some scientists have argued that contamination over the ages may have skewed the results.

The most widely accepted explanation is that the single sample, divided into three parts for the three mentioned labs, was a partial reweaving, a repair made to an excised corner of the Shroud. This has been carefully analyzed an published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, One minor typographical detail: the peer-reviewed journal is Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425, pages 189-194, by Raymond N. Rogers, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of California). 

One Vatican researcher claims to have found faint traces of script in Aramaic, ancient Greek and Latin on the shroud, while two Israeli scientists said plant pollen found on the cloth supported the view that it comes from the Holy Land.

In 2005, a study, published in the scientific journal Thermonautica Acta (sic), claimed that the Shroud was between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.

It is Thermochimica Acta not Thermonautica Acta

In addition, people who believe in the relic’s authenticity say that scientists have never been able to adequately explain how the shroud’s image was made. Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the Turin archdiocese’s commission on the Shroud, said the Vatican might consider a new round of scientific tests after the public display ends, given recent developments in the field of carbon-dating.

That is absolutely true. No explanation of the image that reproduces the image’s chemical and physical attributes has been discovered.

But in April and May visitors will be able to decide for themselves if the Shroud appears realistic. Viewing – a maximum of five minutes a person – is free by reservation, which can be made online.

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit the shroud on 2 May. The Vatican itself has carefully avoided opining on the Shroud’s authenticity but has instead described it as "a powerful symbol of Christ’s suffering".

It is thought that the Shroud travelled widely before it was brought to France in the 14th century by a crusader. Nuns subsequently looked after it before it was given to the Turin archbishop in 1578 by the Duke of Savoy. The relic was then bequeathed to the Pope by former King Umberto II of Italy, upon his death in 1983.

Well written. Turin Shroud expected to attract two million visitors – Europe, World – The Independent

More on the upcoming exhibition of the Shroud of Turin

Victor Simpson of the Associated Press reports. He gives short shrift to the history (a tad bit inaccurate), but overall does a fair job of reporting.

ROME – The Shroud sells.

That seems to be the early take on how major celebrations are shaping up in the Olympic city of Turin when the archdiocese this spring displays the Shroud of Turin, revered by many Christians as Jesus Christ’s burial cloth but described by some as a medieval forgery.

At least one million reservations from around the world have already poured in to secure three to five minutes to admire the cloth that has fascinated pilgrims and scientists alike, organizers of the April 10-May 23 showing told a news conference in Rome on Wednesday.

They are hoping for as many as two million over the 44 days, with interest expected to be bolstered by the presence of Pope Benedict, who is scheduled to visit the Turin cathedral – where the Shroud is kept in a bulletproof, climate-controlled case – May 2.

Viewing is free by reservation, which can be made online.

Just how long a visitor can view will depend on how packed the cathedral, but there will be a maximum time of five minutes, organizers said.

Traditionally, the public gets a peek at the Shroud every 25 years, but the last showing was arranged after only two years in 2000 for the new millennium – a holy year for the Roman Catholic church. While they resisted a public display during the Winter Olympics four years ago, church officials "understanding the importance to the economy and employment" in the industrial city allowed the display this year ahead of schedule, said Fiorezo Alfieri, Turin’s cultural czar who heads the Shroud Committee.

"The showing represents a precious occasion for tourists intending to include Turin and Piedmont in their itineraries," organizers said.

It will also rekindle the scientific debate over the cloth that bears a faded image of a bearded man and what appear to be bloodstains that coincide with Christ’s crucifixion wounds.

A Vatican researcher recently said in a new book that she used computer-enhanced images of the Shroud to decipher faintly written words in Greek, Latin and Aramaic. But skeptics said the historian was reading too much into the markings and they stand by carbon-dating in 1988 that suggested the cloth dated to the 13th or 14th century.

In turn, those results have been challenged by some who suggest that test results may have been skewed by contamination and that a larger sample needs to be analyzed.

The Vatican has tiptoed around the issue, making no claim about the authenticity but calling it a powerful symbol of Christ’s suffering.

Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the Turin archdiocese’s commission on the Shroud, called it "an instrument of evangelization."

He said the Vatican, which owns the cloth, might consider a new round of scientific tests after the public display ends.

French crusader Robert of Clari mentioned seeing the cloth in 1203 in Constantinople at the imperial palace, but the first actual records trace it only to Lirey in France in 1354.

The shroud was bequeathed to the pope by former king Umberto II of Italy, a member of the House of Savoy, upon his death in 1983.

It will be the first public showing since it underwent a restoration in 2002.

Scientific Article on the Discrepancies in the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin

image The article in Chemistry Today  “Discrepancies in the radiocarbon dating area of the Turin shroud” by M. Sue Benford and Joseph G. Marino is now available to the general public without a subscription.

The issue is chimica oggi • Chemistry Today • vol 26 n 4 / July-August 2008.

I highly recommend the article. It is perhaps the best article on the subject of the carbon dating problems.

Link is http://chemistry-today.teknoscienze.com/pdf/benford%20CO4-08.pdf

Controversy and the Shroud of Turin

Face_on_the_Shroud_3_640x908There is more controversy among those who think the Shroud of Turin is authentic and more controversy among skeptics than  there is between the two groups. This observation is clearly demonstrated when we think about all the proposed possible ways the images might have been formed. If there is one thing we can conclude from this it is that in reality no one has the faintest idea about how the images came to be on the cloth.

Interesting Student Blog Posting on the Shroud of Turin

Student at Wooster have created a Global Catholicism in America  blog. Apparently it is only for the Spring 2010 semester. The student intend to provide a running commentary on current events dealing with Catholicism in America. If the first few posts are an indication of quality, I hope this blog lives on much longer (though they need to do some spell checking). Here is an article on the Shroud of Turin:

Debate on the Shroud of Turin’s authenticity arises again in the wake of its new exsposition (sic) in April and May of this year.

“The church has never pronounced itself in this sense. It has always left the question open to all those who want to seek its authenticity. I think it is a relic.” Pope John Paul II


Summary: The Shroud of Turin is believed by many Christians to be the burial clothe of Jesus. It is a 14 foot long cloth with what looks to be a bearded man, complete with wounds of crucifixtion, (sic) flogging and a crown of thorns. Scientists have run many tests on the shroud, including carbon-14 dating in 1988, and have come up with a date in the Middle ages.

Sceptics of the dating tecniques (sic) used have argued that the material that was tested came from a repair site and not the actual shroud. Others argue that because scientists have yet to discover, or agree on, a way the shroud’s image was created that an image like this could only be created by the divine. Pope John Paul II himself visited the shroud the last time it was on display 10 years ago and called it a “relic”. Now as the current Pope benedict (sic) XVI intends to visit Turin to see the shroud in May he must decide what to refer to the shroud as. An icon of Jesus that might not nessesarily (sic) touched him, a sign from God, or a relic of true authenticity.

A Vatican archivist by the name of Barbara Frale says that there is writing on the shroud proving it to be authentic and that of Jesus. Photographs have always been taken of the shroud as another way to study it and she claims that in older photos one can see text in three old Jerusalem languages “Jesus Nazerene”.

Class Themes: We looked at the “stuff” that Catholics have and how important these things are, relics are an important part of worship and belief. Catholics put power into objects touched by saints or the actual body parts of saints.

Questions: Is it important for  Pope Benedict XVI to agree with Pope John Paul II? Is it realistic that people still believe in the shroud even though carbon-14 dating has disproved its authenticity?

Coverage: Catholic News Service

Visit and bookmark this blog: Global Catholicism in America » Blog Archive » Sign, Icon or Relic?

Yorkshire Church Shroud of Turin Replica Display

Susan Press, of the Yorkshire Evening post:

One of the most controversial mysteries in religious history is to be explored at a church in Leeds.

St Theresa’s, in Cross Gates, is set to showcase a full-size copy of the Turin Shroud in an intriguing exhibition outlining its hotly-contested story.

For well over 100 years, believers have contended that the linen shroud is the actual cloth placed on the body of Jesus Christ at the time of his burial.

Sceptics argue that the world-famous artefact post-dates the Crucifixion by more than a thousand years.

But on Sunday, February 14, regular churchgoers and the general public will be able to carry out their own investigations with the chance to see an exact replica of the shroud.

It has been provided by Pam Moon, who is one of only four people in the world to own a copy.

Mrs Moon, who lives in Staffordshire, will also be giving two talks about the Shroud at noon and 3pm to anyone interested in finding out more.

St Theresa’s parishioner Mrs Mary Wilkinson, 65, came across the intriguing exhibit on a visit to Tamworth, where Vicar’s wife Mrs Moon resides.

She said: "Whatever people think about it, and I know there are many opinions, there is no doubt this is the image of a man who was crucified and as Lent begins that is something for all of us to contemplate."

A booklet outlining the story of the Shroud will also be on sale and people visiting the exhibition are asked to make a donation to church funds.

The original Turin Shroud is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.
The striking image which captured the world’s imagination was first observed on the evening of May 28, 1898, when amateur photographer Secondo Pia, was allowed to photograph it.

The Roman Catholic Church has never formally endorsed or rejected the shroud, but in 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with the Roman Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

The exhibition, which will be on show from 8am till 3pm on Sunday February 14, is to move on to Westminster RC Cathedral later in the year.

Full article: Turin Shroud replica on show in Leeds church – Yorkshire Evening Post

A Mere Mention of the Shroud of Turin

There is an excellent and interesting posting at the St. Athanasius Bible Institute blog. It is not about the Shroud of Turin but the mere mention of the Shroud brought me over and I am glad of it. Read the posting at St. Athanasius Bible Institute. Here is the mention of the Shroud:

If the burial Shroud of Turin is to be regarded as authentic, we have on that Shroud an image of the incarnate God left to human posterity by Jesus Christ himself on rising from the dead. . . .

Let us never take for granted Jesus Christ. He is the Second Divine Person of the most holy Trinity. He is the only-begotten Son of the Father. He became man for us and our salvation, truly and fully man — and much more so, in a sense, than are we. That is to say, his humanity was full and complete. It was perfect, whereas ours is marred, wounded, crippled and wounded by sin. In this sense he was not only fully God, but fully and perfectly man. Let us be like Thomas before the risen Jesus, and bow down before him with the words, “My Lord and my God!”

A side benefit of interest in the Shroud of Turin is discovering good article and a good blog that have a mere mention of it.

The Shroud of Turin, the Shroud of Scholarly Disputes

John Thavis has written an excellent story for Catholic News Service. There is a great deal of useful perspective on the Shroud.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Shroud of Turin, which many Christians believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus, goes on public display this spring, at a time when experts are debating new claims about the 14-foot-long piece of linen.

Pope Benedict XVI has already made plans to view the shroud during a one-day trip to the northern Italian city of Turin in early May. Many observers are wondering how the pope will refer to the cloth: as a sign, an icon or — as Pope John Paul II once characterized it — a relic.

The shroud’s last showing was 10 years ago, when more than a million people lined up to see it in the cathedral of Turin in northern Italy. Officials are predicting similar crowds for the exposition April 10-May 23, and visitors are being urged to book their visits online at http://www.sindone.org.

The pilgrims come to witness with their own eyes what they may have read about or glimpsed on TV. Most go away impressed with what they see: a faint image of a bearded man who appears to have been whipped, crowned with thorns and crucified.

Carbon-14 tests in 1988 dated the cloth to the Middle Ages, and seemed to confirm the theory that the shroud was a pious fraud. But since then, some experts have faulted the methodology of the testing, and said the tiny samples used may have been taken from areas of the cloth that were mended in medieval times.

The shroud has also been chemically analyzed, electronically enhanced and computer-imaged. So far, no one has been able to fully explain how the image was transferred to the linen cloth, although experts have put forward theories ranging from enzyme reaction to solar imaging.

The shroud has been studied from virtually every scientific angle in recent years. Its weave has been examined, pollen grains embedded in the cloth have been inspected, and red stains have been analyzed for hemoglobin properties. One particular sub-category of debate focuses on enhanced images that, in the opinion of some scientists, reveal the impression of 1st-century Palestinian coins placed on the eyes of the shroud’s figure.

The "jury" on the shroud includes hundreds of experts, some of them self-appointed. They do not split neatly into believers and skeptics, however. The latest controversy, in fact, involves a Vatican archivist who claims to have found evidence of writing on the shroud — a hypothesis that has drawn sharp criticism from other Catholic scholars.

The archivist, Barbara Frale, said in a new book that older photographs of the shroud reveal indications of what was essentially a written death notice for a "Jesus Nazarene." The text, she said, employs three languages used in 1st-century Jerusalem.
The book immediately prompted a Web site war in Italy. Several sites dedicated to the shroud ridiculed Frale’s hypothesis, saying it bordered on Dan Brown-style fantasy. Vatican Radio, however, featured an interview with Frale about her "important discovery." No doubt the world will hear more about this scholarly spat when the shroud goes on display.

It will be the first public showing of the shroud since it underwent a restoration in 2002, which removed repair patches and a large piece of linen of a later date. To prepare for the exhibit, the Archdiocese of Turin has taken the unusual step of closing the cathedral for three months. It will take that long to set up the viewing area and the informational exhibit for visitors as they wait in line.

Pope Benedict’s arrival is a big event for organizers of this year’s shroud exposition. Many Catholics look to Rome for direction on how to evaluate the shroud, as Pope John Paul II discovered en route to Africa in 1989, when he called the shroud a "relic." When excited reporters asked whether this meant it was the authentic burial cloth of Christ, the Polish pope conferred with an aide before answering more cautiously: "The church has never pronounced itself in this sense. It has always left the question open to all those who want to seek its authenticity. I think it is a relic."

Clearly, Pope John Paul was personally convinced, although when he went to see the shroud in 1998 he carefully avoided using the term "relic."

Pope Benedict has long been cautious about the value of private signs, apparitions and revelations. But he seems to consider the Shroud of Turin in a different category.

In his book, "The Spirit of the Liturgy," then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote that the shroud was "a truly mysterious image, which no human artistry was capable of producing."

In his meditations on the Good Friday Way of the Cross in Rome shortly before his election as pope in 2005, he wrote regarding the 11th station, "Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross": "The Shroud of Turin allows us to have an idea of the incredible cruelty of this procedure."

The pope then offered a kind of prayer inspired by the figure of the shroud: "Let us halt before this image of pain, before the suffering Son of God. Let us look upon him at times of presumptuousness and pleasure, in order to learn to respect limits and to see the superficiality of all merely material goods. Let us look upon him at times of trial and tribulation, and realize that it is then that we are closest to God."

CNS STORY: Shroud of Turin: Image provokes prayer, curiosity, scholarly disputes

The Gibson Study Really Says Nothing About the Shroud of Turin

Heather Pringle, writing in Beyond Stone and Bone, the weekly blog of Archaeology Magazine, asks by way of her posting title, "Who Made the Shroud of Turin?" It is a fair question, one that invites us to do some thinking. The question is prompted by a claim that new archeological evidence argues against the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. It doesn’t, as we will see. Let’s look first at what Pringle wrote in the blog:

In December [2009],  Shimon Gibson, an archaeologist and senior research fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jersualem (sic), announced tantalizing results from a new study that he and Boaz Zissu,  an archaeologist at Bar Ilan University, just completed on a 1st century B.C.  shrouded burial they excavated in a tomb in Jerusalem.  Gibson and several colleagues published the first part of the study in a paper in PLoS One on December 16th.Gibson and his colleagues radiocarbon-dated the tattered vestiges of the excavated shroud to 95 B.C.E .  And their careful examination revealed that the mourners in question employed two very different pieces of cloth to wrap the unknown dead male. They wrapped the individual’s head in linen cloth,  and his body in wool cloth–a practice that Gibson says was part of traditional Jewish burial practices at the time.   Moreover,  this practice fits with the biblical description of the two pieces of cloth that Jesus cast off after he rose from the dead.  The Shroud of Turin,  by comparison, consists of just one large piece of cloth said to have covered both the head and body of Jesus.

And Gibson and his team found another critical difference.  The tattered cloths they excavated were woven very simply,  with a two-way weave.   The  Shroud of Turin, however,  exhibits a more sophisticated weaving pattern,  known as a twill weave.

Two arguments are tendered. Both hinge on a single supposition: what has been found defines what is customary or typical relative to geography, time, culture and religion. Gibson tells us that the use of two pieces of cloth "was part of traditional Jewish burial practices" at the time and that it is consistent with scripture. That is one part of his argument. The other is that the weave was a simple "two-way" weave and not the twill pattern of the Shroud. Is it reasonable to think that two cloths used in the manner Gibson proposes is typical. And is a simple weave typical?

Moreover, we need to ask if Gibson is right in his understanding of traditional Jewish burial practices and his interpretation of scripture? He might be, serendipitously. The fact of the matter is that we really know far too little about the burial practices in the late-Second Temple era in and about Jerusalem to make such assumptions. Pringle goes on to say:

No one will be able to draw any definitive conclusions about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin based on this new study.  The comparative sample size is miniscule, and archaeologists need to see much more in the way of Jewish burial shrouds from the period in order to establish what the customs really were. . . .

I remember, somewhat vaguely, sitting in a high school history class as the teacher explained how archaeologists determined new levels of an excavation by noting the changes in pottery style. Most of us were quite happy with the explanation and made notes in our notebooks, knowing full well that we had an answer for a question that would inevitably be on a mid-term exam. But one student wasn’t happy with the simplicity of the explanation.

How did the archaeologists know that at any one level they had not come across the home of a rich family and at another level the home of a poor family, he had wanted to know. That might have been the reason why the style of pottery was different. How did they know that there weren’t other reasons? Maybe one of the clay pots was from a trade caravan bringing goods from distant cities. Might there be other reasons, as well, including religious practices or personal preferences? So how did an archaeologist know that any given pottery fragment was typical?

I don’t recall if he used the word, "typical." But that was the gist of his questions. My history teacher was well prepared to answer. It required, he told us, many samples from several places in a dig before they could say a style of pottery was typical for a given level. Exceptions, indeed, were often found; and yes, possibly for the very reason the student had suggested. Archaeologists should never draw sweeping conclusions based on a single sample.

For the very same reason, we must be leery of claims that a single fragment, dated to approximately a century before the burial of Jesus, is typical. Palestine, including Jerusalem, at the time of Jesus, had a complex multifaceted society. We know of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They had very different ideas about such things as an afterlife and we might suppose, therefore, there might have been some differences in burial practices. In fact, there is evidence that that was so. There were different family groups, as well; major families such as Hasmoneans and the Herodians and other family groupings as well. The tombs carved in the limestone outcroppings around Jerusalem is a testament to this. They were family tombs. There were also claims of ancient tribal and monarchial patrilineal descent; the Levites for example and in the case of Jesus, at least according to scripture, the House of David. There were in Jerusalem Hellenized Jews who lived a different lifestyle that was criticized by many religious Jews. There were detested Jews who were Roman citizens. Paul was one. There were political factions, such as the Zealots who wished to see Rome expelled from Judea. We must not overlook the fact that Jerusalem, because it was a significant city, was populated with Jews from other parts of the Judea. Typically, if we dare to use that word, families and lineages, people from different geographies and people of different economic and social status, develop different traditions. We don’t have direct evidence from ancient sources such as the Mishna, Talmud or Semahot to suggest that a shroud or manner of shrouding was typical. But the content of these texts does suggest that there were differences in burial practices and even debate.

Tombs varied greatly. There were large complex tombs and very simple tombs, some with burial niches and some without. Ossuaries (bone boxes) used for ossilegium (second burial) varied greatly. Some were ornately decorated and some were simple. Inscriptions varied. In fact they were sometimes in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and in one case Latin. Ossilegium, though common, was not apparently universal. There also seems to be archaeological evidence that the burial practices evolved during the brief period that Jerusalem’s carved out tombs were used.

Given all this, it is hard to believe that a single type of burial shroud or a single method of shrouding existed that could be called typical. Indeed we might suspect that simple weave cloth as well as very fine linen cloth was used if such a variety of cloth was available.

One consequence of the Roman conquest of Judea, incidentally between the time period determined for what we might call the Gibson shroud and the burial of Jesus, was the expansion of trade. The Romans built new roads and improved existing roads. Jerusalem was along the overland trade route between Egypt in the south and Syria to the north. Nearby Caesarea, formerly the Hasmonean Jewish city of Straton’s Tower, became a major Roman port city. Alexandria in Egypt and Damascus in Syria were major textile centers producing linen for clothing, temple vestments, curtains, sailcloth and burial shrouds. Fine and expensive as well as simple linen cloth would certainly have been available in Jerusalem’s marketplace.

Would this have included twill weave linen, specifically herringbone twill? Although we have no geographic specific examples from the time of Christ, it is reasonable to presume that the answer is yes. Fragments of herringbone twill have been found in the ancient Hallstatt salt mines near present-day Vienna among the mummified remains of a Celtic people dating back about four centuries before Christ. Herringbone twill cloth, made from horsehair, has been found in Ireland dating from possibly as early as the arrival of Celtic people on the island around 600 B.C. Other complicated twill patterns going back to at least 200 B.C. and probably earlier have been found with mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China. Probably, the oldest examples are from Northern Italy where a six foot long piece of twill linen cloth was found with lozenge patterns that may date to the third millennium B.C.

It should be understood that twill weaving is not a technological innovation over simple weaving. In simple weaving the weft yarn is passed over one warp thread then under one warp thread, over one, under one, and so forth. In twill weaving the weft is passed over two, three or four warps and under one, and so forth. (The Shroud of Turin is a three hop twill). This gives the cloth a diagonal wale. A good example of twill is the fabric of an ordinary pair of blue jeans. A herringbone pattern is sometimes introduced into a twill weave by, every now and then, reversing the hop so that the diagonal wale is reversed.  The resulting appearance resembles the backbone pattern of a herring, hence the name herringbone. It is an artistic technique and other artistic patterns can be created by a talented weaver.

The other argument by Gibson, as Pringle explains it, is that two cloths were used, a linen cloth over the head and a woolen shroud for the rest of the body. Pringle goes on to say:

Moreover, this practice fits with the biblical description of the two pieces of cloth that Jesus cast off after he rose from the dead. The Shroud of Turin, by comparison, consists of just one large piece of cloth said to have covered both the head and body of Jesus.

But is that what scripture really says? John’s Gospel is our source for considering this:

[The beloved disciple] bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. (John 20:5-7, NRSV)

Scholars do not agree on what this means. The late, great Anglican biblical scholar, John A. T. Robinson, thought the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head might have been a chin band used to tie his mouth closed. Other scholars think it might have been a sudarium, a dishcloth sized cloth that had been used to cover the face of the deceased prior to burial and then removed before the body was enshrouded. If the Sudarium of Oviedo (in Spain) is authentic, as many believe because blood patterns appear to match bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin, then that would explain the second cloth. Frankly, we don’t have a definitive answer on how to interpret this passage of scripture. Nothing, however, in scripture rules out a single shroud. It is simply a matter of interpretation and there is no good foundation for it. Pringle is right when she writes:

No one will be able to draw any definitive conclusions about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin based on this new study [by Gibson].  The comparative sample size is miniscule, and archaeologists  need to see much more in the way of Jewish burial shrouds from the period in order to establish what the customs really were. 

Indeed. In fact, if we are going to argue non-authenticity from a fragment of a burial shroud we must consider other evidence and other experts as well. This quotation from a PBS interview with Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, a textile expert who has been studying the Shroud since 1980 is very telling:

She first noticed that the entire cloth was crafted with a weave known as a three-to-one herringbone pattern. "This kind of weave was special in antiquity because it denoted an extraordinary quality," she says. . . . Flury-Lemberg also discovered a peculiar stitching pattern in the seam of one long side of the Shroud, where a three-inch wide strip of the same original fabric was sewn onto a larger segment. The stitching pattern, which she says was the work of a professional, is surprisingly similar to the hem of a cloth found in the tombs of the Jewish fortress of Masada. The Masada cloth dates to between 40 B.C. and 73 A.D. The evidence, says Flury-Lemberg, is clear: "The linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin does not display any weaving or sewing techniques which would speak against its origin as a high quality product of the textile workers of the first century."

So might Jesus’ burial shroud have been a high quality, perhaps not-so-typical, linen fabric? Jesus’ burial, itself, was not typical. Crucifixion victims were not buried in the sort of tombs found in the Jerusalem outcroppings, though a single exception has been found. Nor were peasants. And Jesus was both. Crucifixion victims were usually left on their crosses until their bodies rotted or were eaten by wild dogs and vultures. The remains were thrown in charnel pits. We are told in the biblical narrative that a member of the Sanhedrin, clearly someone of means and status, asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and offered a tomb for the burial. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Joseph of Arimathea bought a linen cloth and wrapped Jesus’ body in it. Might this man of means have purchased an expensive three hop herringbone linen shroud. It is perfectly plausible.

One sentence Pringle wrote warrants repeating: "No one will be able to draw any definitive conclusions about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin based on this new study." 

While Gibson’s study is intriguing and informative, it offers no evidence one way or the other about the Shroud of Turin. In fact, it is silly to even suggest any archaeological connection.

%d bloggers like this: