Everyone has heard of the Turin Shroud. Throughout this century it has continually been the source of academic in-fighting, religious bigotry, and intensive research. Having read widely on this subject, I should like to make a statement of belief based on what I have learned. I am aware that Evangelicals look askance at the Shroud simply because it is “A Romish Relic”, as they would say, and they will have no truck with relics of any kind. I am also aware that the Roman Church looks upon its “relic” with strange duplicity, sometimes doubting its authenticity, sometimes accepting it, but always ready to “venerate” it regardless. But I wish to approach this subject ONLY from the viewpoint of scientific evidence found thus far, and not from any religious bias. Why should one have a bias anyway, unless it is towards establishing truth?
What I should like to do is to present factual information determined by various scientists, each an expert in his or her own field, information that can be relied on, and which should form the basis for making a sensible conclusion as to the origin of the Shroud. It is as follows.
1. The Shroud is a piece of linen measuring 14 ft 3 inches by 3 ft 7 inches. An additional side strip just over 3 inches wide has been sewn onto this linen, but does not run the full length. The linen weave is a “three-to-one herringbone chevron twill”. This type of cloth would have been costly. Experts have shown that it was available at the time of Christ, but there is no definitive evidence from the cloth-type as to its age.
2. From the evidence of the image found on the linen, this cloth was used for burial. So why should it now be available AT ALL? Surely all such shrouds should have remained with their bodies. Why should anyone have stolen such a cloth from a dead body?
3. The image resembles the scorch marks found on a well-used ironing board cover. Solid particles, as used by an artist, are entirely absent. The image only becomes clear and lifelike as a photographic negative. From a careful and exhaustive examination of the cloth and the image the following facts emerge.
4. Blood flows present indicate that the body was not washed before being wrapped in the cloth. The body was laid on the cloth, which was then brought over the head and down to the feet without any further treatment. Evidence from other ancient burials suggest that in this case the procedure was only partially completed, in a hurry, before being left.
5. The jaw was brought up from hanging open, as it invariably does after death, by the use of a cloth (Soudarion) wrapped round the head, in addition to the main shroud.
6. The man’s image shows that he was 5 ft 11 inches tall, weighing probably 12 stone, of a powerful and well-proportioned physique. His face bears the image of that of a Sephardic Jew or a noble Arab of the time of Christ, aged between 30 and 40 years.
7. There are many wound-marks visible.
(a) Clear evidence of crucifixion. The nail mark found in the wrist is consistent with what is now known of crucifixion, that only by nailing within the small bones of the wrist, in the “space of Destot” is a man’s weight able to be supported. If the nail passed through the palm, it would result in the hand being torn apart under the weight. The effect of the nailing is to cause the median nerve to snap, so that the thumb contracts into the palm. The image shows this to have been the case. The mark of the nail through the man’s foot is also clearly visible, passing through the metatarsal bones at the base of the foot. The left foot was placed over the right.
(b) Head wounds. There are 8 separate blood flows from punctures at the back of the head, and 4 or 5 on the top of the forehead, as from a cap of thorns being forced on the man’s head.
(c) Over 100 marks on the body, mainly to the back and buttocks, each about 1 1/2 inches long and dumb-bell shaped. These marks were found to be in groups of three. This is clear evidence that the man had been scourged. The Roman scourge, the flagrum, consisted of a wooden handle with three leather thongs, into which were sewn small sharp lead pellets known as plumbatae, that would tear the flesh. The geography of these marks shows that the man was flogged repeatedly by two soldiers, the one on the right being a little taller than his companion, and showing a more sadistic tendency to lash the legs as well as the back. This type of scourge was unknown to any but the Roman culture.
(d) On the right shoulder there is a quadrangular shading as from abrasion due to carrying the cross-bar known as thePatibulum, which in Roman times would weigh about 100 pounds. Further down on the left side, in the scapular region, there is a rounded area of abrasion. Prisoners were required to carry this cross-beam over their shoulders, their wrists being tied to it. The upright beam of the cross, known as the Stipes, was already in place in its socket in the ground.
(e) Both knees show serious abrasions, which can only be due to the man falling headlong, and being unable to use his arms to save himself from injury. The knees would have taken the toll first, and possibly his nose, which shows signs of being broken.
(f) Wounds to the face – a swelling of both eyebrows, a torn right eye-lid, a large swelling below the right eye, a swollen nose, which as mentioned above could indicate a breakage by falling, a triangular shaped wound on the right cheek, a swelling to the left cheek and to the left side of the chin. All this is evidence, not of the crucifixion, but of severe buffeting beforehand.
(g) A wound to the right side, elliptical in shape, and measuring 1 3/4 inches by 7/16 inch, which would appear to have been made by a Roman lance. It entered between the 5th and the 6th ribs. From this wound there is evidence of a blood flow, also a watery plasma. This shows that the man died, not of crucifixion alone, but of a burst heart, where the blood from the heart flowed into the pericardium and separated into two parts, the crassamentum (red clots of blood) and the watery serum.
(h) The direction of the blood-flows on the man’s arms indicate the angle at which he was suspended from the cross-beam, thereby showing conclusively that he was crucified on a cross-shaped structure, rather than on a single upright pole.
8. Pollen grains taken from the shroud have been studied with great care by experts in this field. The results show the presence of 49 different types, including a certain species, found only in the region around Jerusalem in the months of March and April. This was named as the tumbleweed Gundelia Tournefortii.
9. The eyes appear to be rounded in the image, giving it a haunting expression. But this is due to the fact that in burials in ancient times, it was a custom to place small coins over the closed eyes. Recent careful analysis of the photographic image shows signs of these coins, and one researcher claims to have identified, almost positively, the marks of a coin minted during the reign of Pontius Pilate, over the man’s right eye.
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So much for the evidence. History books tell us that in Roman times thousands of men were crucified. But there is only one reliable historical record of a crucifixion which fits all the above facts, namely the crucifixion of Jesus Christ under Pontius Pilate on April 3rd A.D 33. But in 1988 three laboratories independently determined the date of the shroud by the radiocarbon method. Each of these laboratories was supplied with postage-stamp-sized pieces of cloth, and each came up with the same result, 1260 to 1390 A.D. Regardless of all the other incontrovertible evidence, the “experts” described the shroud as “a mediaeval fraud.”
But more recently, Dr.Garza-Valdes, former professor of microbiology at the University of Texas, has shown that the linen of the shroud is covered with a “bioplastic coating” of bacteria and fungi, which, because it is still living and growing, tend to skew the radiocarbon date, so that it reads centuries later than expected. Tests carried out on linen shrouds from mummies confirm this conclusion, because carbon dates from samples WITHIN the mummies are sometimes a whole millennium earlier than those of their shroud. Scientists are now awaiting permission to carry out further tests on the Turin shroud. The Roman authorities are dragging their feet.
Garza-Valdes also determined the blood type from the shroud as AB positive, common amongst Jewish people. Both X and Y chromosomes have been found, showing (if proof was necessary!!) that the blood belonged to a male.
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My own conclusion is that the shroud is indeed the actual cloth which Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus used to cover our Lord’s body. The subsequent history of this cloth has been determined by Ian Wilson, and may be read in his exciting books “The Turin Shroud” (1979) and “The Blood and the Shroud” (1998). I believe that God has allowed this cloth to be preserved as a witness to the abominable torture His Son endured to bring us such great salvation. The words of Mrs C.F.Alexander’s famous hymn says, “We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains He had to bear, Butwe believe it was for us He hung and suffered there.” The shroud is a silent testimony to just how awful were the indignities, the abuse, and the physical punishment He endured for the men and women He had created. It gives us pause each time we take the Bread and the Wine, to remember, and to say a deeply felt “Thank you” to our God and Father who “So loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” and to the Lord Jesus Himself, who endured the cross that we might have “life in His name.”