imageRECOMMENDED POSTING: From Ask the atheist on this glorious Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday morning, April 21, 2011:

Question from Peg:

I am an agnostic and skeptic. I am curious and confused about the Shroud of Turin and wondered if you know anything about it. I have heard that the carbon dating that was done was incorrect in that the piece of cloth cut for the dating came from a re-sewn area from when the shroud was in a fire, so another carbon dating has to be done.

Also, the person who said he re-created the shroud was proven inaccurate as well. Evidently, it was not exactly the same as the shroud. From the documentaries I have watched on this, it seems the experts are at a loss to know how it was done. They even went so far as to say that the image could have been made by a “light”.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Answer by SmartLX:

Sometimes you don’t have to know how a hoax was achieved to know it’s a hoax, and the Shroud may well be one example of this.

Fair enough. But to know it’s a hoax still requires a sound argument. The responder went on to write:

In 2010 Gregory S. Paul published a study of what the markings on the shroud imply about the position and dimensions of the body it would have been shrouding. Most significant (but not alone) among his findings is the fact that the corpse’s head would have been abnormally small relative to the body. The fact that no likely method of fabrication or duplication has yet been found hardly matters when the end result is apparently the imprint of a seriously deformed man. (I find it interesting, but not surprising, that no Christian has attempted to answer this study by supposing that Jesus really was deformed, for example by microcephaly.)

May I refer you to the Computerized anthropometric analysis of the Man of the Turin Shroud by Giulio Fanti, Emanuela Marinelli and Alessandro Cagnazzo. It is perhaps the most comprehensive and statistically correct analysis of the body dimensions found on the Shroud of Turin. The points Gregory S. Paul makes are in fact fully addressed in this and other scientific papers. The above mentioned paper is 15 pages of detail. There are other studies, as well. See the comprehensive bibliographies at

That no likely method has been found does matter. If we allow for the possibility that the image was created onto the shroud from an enveloped human body (Jesus or someone else, in theory), we must wonder what distortions are caused by the posture of the body (foreshortening), the draping of the cloth, and the image-forming method. (This, by-the-way, is one of the reasons I do not think that light was involved in the creation of the image – but that is another matter).



Meanwhile Dr Raymond Rogers, the man who concluded that the earlier carbon dating was of a newer patch of cloth, has given his own estimate. (Scroll down in this article, but read the stuff on the way there if you like.) He places it in the period between 1000 BC and 1700 AD. This estimate does include the time of Jesus but is broad enough to include the entire Medieval era and many others besides. In fact, it includes every period anyone has ever suggested as the origin of the shroud, and is therefore useless for purposes of elimination or deduction. Assuming that we can now identify which parts of the shroud are original and which are not, a new carbon dating analysis of the original material would be nice to see.

I believe that everyone agrees, at least in principle.  Will the church allow it any time in the foreseeable future? I doubt it, but it is not out of fear of the results. They really don’t have a vested interest, something that non-Christians sometimes don’t understand – for instance, there are many Catholics and other Christians who do not believe it is real. Some objections to more tests will be out of an abundance of caution in this time establishing proper protocols. There is also a growing sentiment against additional destructive tests. I understand that even though I am one who thinks we should do new radiocarbon dating. This time we should do so with public protocols, outside observers and full test results transparency.

And to wrap up, SmartLX writes:

To speak more generally, the two points you bring up are instances where people debunked apparent evidence that the shroud is not that of Jesus. That’s very different news to the discovery of positive evidence that the shroud is that of Jesus, which hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen.

I agree. While I believe that it is the real deal because I find enough evidence to infer authenticity, I don’t think we can prove it.  Either way, we should strive to find evidence and follow that evidence wherever it leads. And we should continue civilized discussions.

Full posting without my annoying comments: Piercing the Shroud – Ask the atheist.