Shroud of Evidence


I do believe I covered this topic before. It turns out it was nearly 24 years ago. The following originally appeared in the September/October issue of The Skeptic:

The Shroud Comes to Plano

by John Blanton

On a Saturday in August a friend of mine who is an ardent creationist phoned me to tell me about an exhibit he had just attended. A shopping mall in Plano was featuring a rather impressive display of photos and history of the famous “Shroud of Turin,” said by its proponents to have been the burial cloth of Jesus, and said by its detractors to be a fourteenth century artifact. The evidence, I was told, was impressive. I took this as some testimonial by someone who was not a Catholic and resolved to take in the exhibit before it closed.

The display lived up to all of its billing. The centerpiece consisted of three large color transparencies fitted together to form a life-size photo of the cloth (which usually is kept in a silver case at a church in Turin, Italy). Mounted display panels told the story of the Shroud and vouched for its authenticity. Furthermore, two highly articulate speakers lectured at length to a very attentive crowd.

The two speakers (who later introduced themselves as Larry and Chuck) were with the Shroud Society of Texas, which may or may not have some association with STURP (the Shroud of Turin Research Project). After Larry had talked mainly about the historical and the religious significance of the shroud, Chuck got into the meatier aspects.

Allowing the carbon 14 dating tests to be performed, Chuck told his listeners, was a big mistake. Proponents had miscalculated gravely in letting a single test determine the shroud’s authenticity. The tests, he announced, had been badly botched in a number of ways: 1) The chain of custody of the samples had been broken (they had been left unattended for some time in a room). 2) The samples had been taken from a region where reweaving indicates some repairs have been made using newer material. 3) Besides that, carbon 14 dating is old hat. The uranium-thorium process has superseded the C-14 process. Chuck further related how the results of the tests had been unscrupulously leaked to the press in October of 1988, prior to publication in a legitimate scientific journal. Fortunately, Chuck explained, an unauthorized test (that presumably did not have all of these problems) had dated the fabric at AD 200, which, apparently, was close enough.

Chuck saved his best for last. He told of STURP scientist John Jackson’s “vertical mapping” process which led him to conclude that the image on the cloth had been imprinted as the cloth (previously resting on the supine body of Jesus) fell straight down through the body to the table below. This, we were told, was an example of a new kind of physics. This was the physics of miracles. An event that happens once and cannot be repeated is not natural, but is miraculous. When I later asked Larry about this analysis, he referred me to Jackson’s published work. He told me to check Applied Optics, 1982 and 1984 for particulars, and he went on to say that Jackson will publish his actual calculations in the future (where, we were not told). NTS Secretary Mark Meyer was able find “Correlation of image intensity on the Turin Shroud with the 3-D structure of a human body shape” in Applied Optics, Vol. 23, No. 14 (pp 2244 – 2270). It is a very detailed article, with charts, photos and computer-generated images. I have not had the time to read it.

After Larry’s talk, and before Chuck got up to speak, I went up and introduced myself to Larry. He saw that I was taking notes and asked me if I was an interviewer. By way of introduction, I gave him a copy of The North Texas Skeptic (a mistake, as it turned out) and allowed him to read it while I listened to Chuck. When Chuck was finished I once again conversed with Larry, and he began by stating that he hated to offend me by accusing me of being non-objective (I told him to go right ahead).

This is disturbing. Apparently I was as unpleasant 24 years ago as I am now. Obviously my people skills still require some work.

Anyhow, it’s a story that just will not go away:

The historical records for the shroud can be separated into two time periods: before 1390 and from 1390 to the present. The period until 1390 is subject to debate among historians. Author Ian Wilson has proposed that the Shroud was the Image of Edessa, but scholars such as Averil Cameron have stated that the history of the Image of Edessa represents “very murky territory”; it cannot be traced back as a miraculous image, and it may not have even been a cloth.

Prior to the 14th century there are some congruent references such as the Pray Codex. It is often mentioned that the first certain historical record dates from 1353 or 1357. However the presence of the Turin Shroud in Lirey, France, is only undoubtedly attested in 1390 when Bishop Pierre d’Arcis wrote a memorandum to Antipope Clement VII, stating that the shroud was a forgery and that the artist had confessed. The history from the 15th century to the present is well understood. In 1453 Margaret de Charny deeded the Shroud to the House of Savoy. In 1578 the shroud was transferred in Turin. As of the 17th century the shroud has been displayed (e.g. in the chapel built for that purpose by Guarino Guarini) and in the 19th century it was first photographed during a public exhibition.

There are no definite historical records concerning the shroud prior to the 14th century. Although there are numerous reports of Jesus’ burial shroud, or an image of his head, of unknown origin, being venerated in various locations before the 14th century, there is no historical evidence that these refer to the shroud currently at Turin Cathedral. A burial cloth, which some historians maintain was the Shroud, was owned by the Byzantine emperors but disappeared during the Sack of Constantinople in 1204.


The pilgrim medallion of Lirey (before 1453), drawing by Arthur Forgeais, 1865.

Historical records seem to indicate that a shroud bearing an image of a crucified man existed in the small town of Lirey around the years 1353 to 1357 in the possession of a French Knight, Geoffroi de Charny, who died at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. However the correspondence of this shroud with the shroud in Turin, and its very origin has been debated by scholars and lay authors, with statements of forgery attributed to artists born a century apart. Some contend that the Lirey shroud was the work of a confessed forger and murderer.[28]

The history of the shroud from the 15th century is well recorded. In 1532, the shroud suffered damage from a fire in a chapel of Chambéry, capital of the Savoy region, where it was stored. A drop of molten silver from the reliquary produced a symmetrically placed mark through the layers of the folded cloth. Poor Clare Nuns attempted to repair this damage with patches. In 1578 Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy ordered the cloth to be brought from Chambéry to Turin and it has remained at Turin ever since.

Repairs were made to the shroud in 1694 by Sebastian Valfrè to improve the repairs of the Poor Clare nuns. Further repairs were made in 1868 by Clotilde of Savoy. The shroud remained the property of the House of Savoy until 1983, when it was given to the Holy See.

[Extraneous links deleted]

Then I came across this last year. For your convenience I have re-posted the entire piece:

New research removes ‘shroud’ of doubt

Experiments prove sacred Christian relic in Turin dates back to Christ

author-imageby Garth Kant Email | Archive

Garth Kant is a WND staff writer. Previously, he spent five years writing, copy-editing and producing at “CNN Headline News,” three years writing, copy-editing and training writers at MSNBC, and also served several local TV newsrooms as producer, executive producer and assistant news director. He is the author of the McGraw-Hill textbook, “How to Write Television News.”


A new book on a scientific analysis of the Shroud of Turin confirms what WND reported more than a year ago – the relic is not a medieval forgery. The latest tests date the shroud to between 300 BC and 400 AD.

The results of the tests are documented in the book “Il Mistero della Sindone” or The Mystery of the Shroud, written by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Italy’s Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist.

Scientists measured radiation intensity using infra-red light and spectroscopy to analyze the shroud, which is kept in a climate-controlled case in Turin, Italy.

Fanti said the imprint was caused by a blast of “exceptional radiation.”

That is essentially what WND reported in Decemeber 2011, that the imprint on the shroud was likely caused by a burst of ultraviolet light that was beyond the technical capabilities of medieval forgers.

Get the full story in “The Case for Christ’s Resurrection,” “The Fabric of Time,” and “Stunning Science of the Shroud.” Then enjoy the fictional adventures in “The Shroud Codex.”

That finding is also remarkably similar to the fictional explanation WND staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi provided in his 2010 novel on the Shroud of Turin, “The Shroud Codex.”

In 2011, Corsi told WND, “What the Italian scientists are saying is that the image was created on the shroud in a burst of energy that Christian believers would understand as physical proof of the Resurrection.”

And, in 2010, Corsi had reported in WND that scientists were building the case that the Turin image was created by radiation that emanated from the body itself, a theory remarkably supportive of the traditional resurrection account that is central to Christian theology.

A scientific paper co-authored by attorney and historian Mark Antonacci and physicist Arthur Lind argued that the shroud image might constitute what amounts to a photograph taken at the instant Jesus’ body transformed as he rose from the dead.

Scientists had been unable to explain the image of a bearded man’s body with wounds in the wrist, feet and chest on a 14-foot linen cloth. Many Christians believe it the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

WND reported in 2011 that experts from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development found, “The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin, has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining … is impossible to obtain in a laboratory.”

Experiments in 1988 by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona indicated the shroud dated back to only 1260 to 1390, suggesting it was a fake.

But, as WND reported, those findings were suspect.

In 2005, a scientific paper by chemist Ray Rogers of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, a member of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project, argued the samples taken from the shroud in 1988 for the radiocarbon dating were contaminated by medieval reweaving.

He argued that after a fire in 1532 nearly destroyed the shroud, French Poor Clare nuns repaired the shroud by adding 16 burn patches and stitching to the back of the shroud a reinforcing cloth that is known as the Holland cloth.

The nuns were able to repair the edges of the shroud by expertly reweaving with cotton much of the damage the fire did to the shroud’s original linen cloth.

Rogers was able to detect under a microscope the reweaving because the cotton had been dyed to match the linen, and the fibers could be distinguished in the reweaving at the edges of the shroud because linen is resistant to dye, while cotton is not.

Rogers’ change of heart made an impact on the Shroud of Turin research community worldwide, largely because immediately after the results of the 1988 radiocarbon dating were made public, he was an outspoken leading voice among critics charging the shroud was a medieval forgery.

The shroud will be on display on Italian television Saturday, the day before Easter. Pope Francis has recorded a voice-over introduction.

The designated “pontifical custodian of the shroud”, Archbishop of Turin Cesare Nosiglia, said, “It will be a message of intense spiritual scope, charged with positivity, which will help (people) never to lose hope,” and, “The display of the shroud on a day as special as Holy Saturday means that it represents a very important testimony to the Passion and the resurrection of the Lord.”

An app sanctioned by the Catholic Church called “Shroud 2.0″ will let users see details in the shroud invisible to the naked eye.

“For the first time in history the most detailed image of the shroud ever achieved becomes available to the whole world, thanks to a streaming system which allows a close-up view of the cloth. Each detail of the cloth can be magnified and visualized in a way which would otherwise not be possible,” said Nosiglia.

You can also examine the shroud in close detail at

[Extraneous material deleted]

Call me a skeptic if you want, but I have always considered the Shroud of Turin to be in small part religious idolatry and in large part wishful thinking. I was curious about just who it is pushing more nonsense about the Shroud. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about WND:

WorldNetDaily (WND) is an American web site that publishes news and associated content from the perspective of U.S. conservatives and the political right. It was founded in May 1997 by Joseph Farah with the stated intent of “exposing wrongdoing, corruption and abuse of power” and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

In 1997 Joseph Farah created the news website WorldNetDaily as a division of the Western Journalism Center. It was subsequently spun off in 1999 as a for-profit organization with the backing of $4.5 million from investors, Farah owning a majority of the stock. The site describes itself as “an independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism”. In 1999,, Inc. was incorporated in Delaware with offices in Cave Junction, Oregon. According to its website, WND has a staff of approximately 25 people. In 2007 it was headquartered in Medford, Oregon.

[Extraneous text and links deleted]

Who would ever believe it? An organization with a conservative lean pushing religious nonsense. What next?

Here’s what’s next. This is from that liberal front organization Fox News:

Could ancient earthquake explain Shroud of Turin?

By Megan Gannon

Published February 12, 2014

The authenticity of the Shroud of Turin has been in question for centuries and scientific investigations over the last few decades have only seemed to muddle the debate. Is the revered cloth a miracle or an elaborate hoax?

Now, a study claims neutron emissions from an ancient earthquake that rocked Jerusalem could have created the iconic image, as well as messed up the radiocarbon levels that later suggested the shroud was a medieval forgery. But other scientists say this newly proposed premise leaves some major questions unanswered.

It would seem that WND had the news as far back as 2010. So why is it news again? Is Easter approaching? Maybe it’s time to read more about this enigmatic artifact, and there are multiple sources. You might want to read Inquest on the Shroud of Turin: Latest Scientific Findings by Joe Nickell:

This authoritative book about the controversial “shroud” of Turin, claimed to be the burial cloth of Jesus, presents overwhelming evidence that the cloth is actually the creation of a clever medieval artist.

From the earliest known document that mentions the shroud – a letter from a 14th-century Catholic bishop reporting that the artist had confessed – Joe Nickell traces the historical, iconographic, pathological, forensic, and physical and chemical investigations of the purported relic. He details the microchemical tests that revealed artists’ pigments on the image and tempera paint in the areas claimed to be bloodstains.

Working with a panel of distinguished scientific and artistic experts, the author links the reported medieval confession and the scientific proof of pigments by demonstrating that the much-touted “photographically negative” image can actually be convincingly simulated by means of an artistic technique employed in the Middle Ages.

For the faithful the available literature is ponderous. I have not read this, but you might start with The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Birth of Christianity [Kindle Edition] by Thomas de Wesselow. If this kind of stuff interests you, then you may also want to read Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris:

The story of the origin of all things: Does the scientific evidence support special creation or atheistic evolution?

Authoritative and thoroughly documented, Scientific Creationism is easily understood by readers with non-scientific backgrounds.

Teachers, students, pastors, and other witnessing Christians can now be equipped with the convincing evidence for special creation. Updated and expanded, Scientific Creationism is a book that has changed the lives of people for Christ ? people who have been blinded by the current origin-myth, evolution.

“All ministers of the gospel, teachers and professors of our Christian schools on the primary and secondary level, should read this book. A copy should be placed in every church and school library, and used as a textbook in our Christian high schools and colleges.” -Rev. C. Van Schouwen

284 pages 5-1/4 X 8-1/4 Paperback

From there you can go on to Alien Contacts and Abductions: The Real Story from the Other Side by Jenny Randles:

This author strikes me as having the mind-set of a True Scientist. Leaves it up to the reader to choose to believe in this subject, or reject it. The book contains many, many old sightings which I had never heard of, so is highly informative. Heartily recommended to all who wish to gain an unprejudiced look at this fascinating subject. One major disagreement: the author makes the assumption that any advanced alien culture would have just as much rapid change as we have. I believe this would indicate the beings to be from Earth. If an alien technology were 1,000 years ahead of us, would they have our half-yearly change in auto design, or would their autos (and space ships) have reached fruition, and be more static? MUST MUST read this book!

The Skeptics Dictionary also has a take on the Shroud:

“All empirical evidence and logical reasoning concerning the shroud of Turin will lead any objective, rational person to the firm conclusion that the shroud is an artifact created by an artist in the fourteenth-century.” –Steven D. Schafersman

Wikipedia concludes:

In 2013, new peer-reviewed articles were published in favor of the hypothesis that the Turin shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. One followed a “Minimal Facts approach” to determine which hypothesis relating to the image formation process “is the most likely”. Another analysed the wounds seemingly evident on the image in the shroud and compared them to the wounds which the gospels state were inflicted on Jesus. Another regression analysis by Riani et al concluded that the validity of the 1988 radiocarbon dating test is questionable.

A team of researchers from the Politecnico di Torino, led by Professor Alberto Carpinteri (and published in the journal Meccanica, where same Alberto Carpinteri is currently the acting Editor-in-Chief ), believe that if a magnitude 8.2 earthquake occurred in Jerusalem in 33 AD, it may have released sufficient radiation to have increased the level of carbon-14 isotopes in the shroud, which could skew carbon dating results, making the shroud appear younger. This hypothesis has been questioned by other scientists, including a radiocarbon-dating expert. The underlying science is widely disputed, and funding for the underlying research has been withdrawn by the Italian government after protests and pressure from more than 1000 Italian and international scientists. Dr REM Hedges, of the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit of the University of Oxford, states that “the likelihood that [neutron irradiation] influenced the date in the way proposed is in my view so exceedingly remote that it beggars scientific credulity.” Raymond N. Rogers conducted various tests on linen fibers, and concluded that “the current evidence suggests that all radiation-based hypotheses for image formation will ultimately be rejected.”

[Links to footnotes deleted]

I have a final take, as well:

  1. First you have to assume that there is somewhere in the universe a magical person who exhibits certain human qualities but is invisible, inaudible, untouchable and imponderable. This person is supposed to be deeply concerned with human welfare, having created the universe in which she dwells plus all the people in it. This person can work many feats of magic and is, on top of that, all powerful. For example this person is said to have helped defeat the “people of the mountain” but could not defeat the “people of the valley,” because they possessed chariots of iron.
  2. Now that you have swallowed that, there is Jesus. Jesus is the son of this magical person and at the same time is the earthly embodiment of this person, and Jesus was sent to this planet in the womb of an unwed teenager to save us from the punishment for sin that the magical person had caused two stone-age people to commit, namely engaging in sexual copulation.
  3. The scheme by which Jesus was supposed to save us all was to have himself tortured and executed on a cross, as was the practice of the Roman government at the time.

Now, and only now, do we get to the issue of the Shroud. You have to believe all the foregoing in advance. Trust me, if you have bought in to the previous, then belief in anything is palpable. Convince me of the first three, and I will eat the Shroud, without catchup.

2 thoughts on “Shroud of Evidence

  1. Pingback: Psychic Frauds | Skeptical Analysis

  2. Pingback: Psychic Frauds | North Texas Skeptics

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