The Turin Shroud is always a subject of hot debate, and being a Roman Catholic relic, is usually rejected by the evangelical church as being the actual shroud provided by Joseph of Arimathea for burying Jesus. But in 1978 a team of 30 American scientists used every available scientific test to evaluate its authenticity, and Ian Wilson’s excellent Book, The Blood and the Shroud (1998) recounts in detail what these scientists found. Here is a brief list, from which the reader may be able to make a rational judgment as to the Shroud’s origin, and the identity of the human figure imprinted on it.
The Shroud measures 14 ft. 3 inches by 3 ft. 7 inches, and is of a linen weave known as “three-to-one herringbone chevron twill”. This would have been an expensive cloth, known to have been woven and used in the first century AD. Clearly it was a burial cloth. But why should anyone steal such a cloth from a corpse, if that was its origin?
The image of a man shows as scorch marks such as one may find on a well-used ironing board cover. No solid particles, such as a painter might use, were found. The origin of the image is best understood by comparison with the scorch marks found in Hiroshima after the nuclear explosion in 1945.
Blood flows suggest a hurried burial. No attempt had been made to clean the body, which would have been the normal procedure. The body was laid on the cloth, then folded over the head and brought down to the level of the feet. The man would have been just under 6 feet in height, weighing probably 11 – 12 stone, and by facial appearance could have been a Sephardic Jew or a Noble Arab of the first century. A face cloth, known as the Soudarion, was used to prevent the jaw from hanging open. This cloth, known as “The Oviedo Cloth”, has been the subject of extensive tests as well. (See Mark Guscin’s book of this title, 1998)
There are clear marks of crucifixion. The nails were driven through the wrists in “the space of Destot” so that the flesh would not tear under stress. Romans never drove the nails through the palm of the hand. One nail passed through the feet. The left foot was placed over the right.
There are eight blood flows on the head as from some puncture marks, which could have been the result of a crown of thorns. A wound to the right side, made by a Roman lance, measures 4.5 cm by 1.1 cm. The blood flow from this is a mixture of blood (crassamentum) and watery serum from a ruptured heart. The direction of the blood flows on the man’s arms indicate he was crucified on a cross, not an upright beam, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain.
Pollen grains from the cloth are of 49 different types, from which the subsequent localities of the cloth can be determined by knowledge of the species. However, one particular type, known as Gundelia Tournefortii, a tumbleweed, is only found in an area around Jerusalem in the months of March and April.
Over 100 marks to the back and buttocks indicate scourging. Two soldiers applied this torture, one on each side of the man as he stood upright. Serious abrasions to both knees indicate that whilst carrying the cross-beam (Patibulum) he must have fallen headlong. There is also evidence of a broken nose.
The haunting look on the face is not in fact due to the eyes, which would have been closed, but from small coins placed in the sockets, according to usual practice at that time. One researcher claims to have identified one of these coins from the time of Pontius Pilate.
Finally, radio-carbon dating of the cloth was carried out by three laboratories, all of which gave AD 1260 – 1390. The Daily Telegraph reported on the front page of its 14th October 1988 edition, “Turin Shroud is a forgery, says Catholic Church”. But it has since been learned that the samples provided by the Church for these tests were cut from a side-strip on the edge which Poor Clare Sisters in the 14th century had sewn onto the shroud, thereby rendering the evidence meaningless. How did this happen? Who was responsible? Why wasn’t this checked at the time? What was the motive?