Is the ‘Shroud of Turin’ really Jesus’ burial cloth?

Shroud of Turin, poster from 1898


For several weeks this Spring, for the first time in 5 years, the Shroud of Turin has been on public display:

Devotees believe the shroud, which is imprinted with the image of a man who appears to have been crucified, to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

Sceptics are just as adamant that it is nothing more than a Medieval forgery which scientists have carbon-dated to around 1300 years after Christ supposedly died on the cross.

Despite their certainty about the likely age of the most-talked-about length of linen in history, researchers have not been able to explain how the remarkable image was created, leaving space for theories of some sort of miraculous process to flourish.

The Church does not officially maintain that Christ’s body was wrapped in the shroud or that the image was the product of a miracle.

But it does accord the cloth a special status which has helped to sustain its popularity as an object of veneration. …

When the shroud was last presented to the public, in 2010, more than two million people filed past it.

Pope Francis decreed the latest exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of St John Bosco, a 19th Century monk who devoted his life to the education of poor children in newly-industrialised Turin. Francis, who has family roots in the region, is due to visit the city and the exhibition on June 20-21.

So, the Church of Rome will not say it is the real deal, but that it is fine to idolize (which is what the practical application of their veneration means).  As far as Don Bosco goes, we have a video related to him: Deceitful Year of Don Bosco.

From time-to-time I get questions about the Shroud of Turin.  Many have claimed it to be the burial cloth of Jesus.

But is it?

If not, why not?

Here are a few comments on the Shroud of Turin from the article titled Is the Shroud of Turin true or fraud?:

There is no record of the shroud during the first centuries of the Christian era, it is first mentioned in the 14th century, having been found in the Diocese of Troyes…

The Gospel writers say that the body of Jesus, after being taken from the stake by Joseph of Arimathea, was wrapped in clean fine linen. (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56) The apostle John adds: Nicodemus also came bringing a roll of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds of it. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it up with bandages with the spices, just the way the Jews have the custom of preparing for burial. John 19:39-42…writers of the third and fourth centuries, many of whom wrote about a host of miracles in connection with numerous relics, did not mention the existence of a shroud containing the image of Jesus. What happened to it at this time, if it did exist, is unknown.

Let’s quote John 19:39-42 in its entirety:

39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby. (John 19:39-42)

Basically, strips of linen were placed on Jesus’ body somewhat like a mummy (this is also basically what happened to Lazarus, see John 11:43-44). If the Shroud of Turin was saturated with myrrh and aloes, it would by now be fairly stiff and would tend to look quite differently than it now does.

Notice furthermore that Jesus’ burial cloths, though mentioned in scripture, are basically only mentioned as being folded after the resurrection (and the description of multiple cloths also does not necessarily seem to quite match the Shroud of Turin):

6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. (John 20:6-10).

By the time the Apostle John wrote this, if there had been any real special powers, it would have seemed that he would have mentioned them, but he did not.

Notice also the following:

   Curiously enough, it was a Roman Catholic bishop who first branded the shroud a fraud. When, in the year 1356, the fourteen-by-three-and-a-half-foot piece of linen was exhibited at the obscure church of Lirey in central France — the first known historical record of its existence — it quickly became the subject of a lengthy memorandum to the Pope from Henry of Arcis, bishop of Troyes. Bishop Henry alleged that the Lirey canons had “falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for their church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say the back and the front, they falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb.”

In Search of a Past

   “I am convinced that this is the shroud that covered Jesus Christ after His crucifixion.” So declared Dr. Max Frei of the University of Zurich after painstakingly testing for pollen grains in the linen of the shroud and analyzing them.
“My analysis of pollen grains has been confirmed under the electron microscope beyond any reasonable doubt…. I isolated from the shroud more than a dozen pollen grains from plants growing in Jerusalem and surrounding deserts. They grow only in the Near East,” he said.
“The pollen most found on the shroud is identical to the most common pollen in the sediment of Lake Tiberias, in Israel” (National Enquirer, Nov. 29, 1977).
But even if we accept that the pollen proves the shroud once resided in Palestine, it would not necessarily connect it with Christ, for Dr. Frei also found in its fibers pollen from the area of southeastern Turkey! This finding would, perhaps, support Ian Wilson’s theory that the shroud itself is none other than the famous Mandylion (meaning “napkin” or “handkerchief’ in Arabic) which had been brought to Constantinople from Edessa in eastern Turkey. From there he postulates the Knights Templars took the shroud to the Holy Land before bringing it to France.

The Byzantine Connection

   Fifty years before the shroud enters history in the possession of Geoffrey deCharnay and the Lirey church, there was another Geoffrey deCharnay. This other Geoffrey is not provably related, but shroudists suspect that he was. This man was a famous knight of the Templar organization, which King Philip the Fair of France charged with secret “idol” worship of a disembodied head — the image on the shroud, says Wilson and Geoffrey was martyred, all the while denying there was any idol.
The Templars had sacked Constantinople (Byzantium) in 1204, which, as capital of the Byzantine Empire and center of its religion, had become glutted with relics and icons innumerable. Among the relics, according to extant records, was something called a burial cloth of Christ, which apparently bore a full length image, and also the famous Edessa image, the Mandylion, which had been taken by force from the Moslem rulers of its city in A.D. 944. These both disappeared in the looting — possibly taken to the Templars’ Palestine headquarters.
Ian Wilson speculates that both cloths were one and the same. He explains the double listing as possibly referring to copies of the original. A flourishing industry existed in Byzantium of making cloth and other images of “Christ.” Many of these were, like the Mandylion itself, regarded as miraculously produced.
The problem for Wilson’s theory is that the Edessa image is specifically described as a face only, appearing on a towel, a veronica napkin, while on the Turin shroud is undeniably a double full length figure. Wilson suggests the reason was that the shroud had always been kept folded in such a way that only the face was showing.
In any event, the image on the shroud has a long, sad face and long hair. A writer for the London Tablet was moved to observe: “The first thought likely to occur is: But how very strongly the figure resembles the Christ of any number of old masters [painters of the fifth century on]”‘ (quoted from Wilcox, p. 26).

What the Earlier Paintings Looked Like

   There is more to that statement than meets the eye.
The oldest pictures of Christ are paintings on the walls of the catacombs of Rome. Most date from the second and third centuries. It was against the teachings of the church to have such pictures (see box: The Early Church and Images). Nevertheless, those who sketched them only about 100 years after the apostles — were undoubtedly acquainted with individuals who were familiar with the general appearance of Christ that came by word of mouth from His own generation.
“… There is a painting of the Resurrection of Lazarus in which Christ is shown — youthful and beardless, with short hair and large eyes…. Although it is now only barely recognizable, this picture is of great interest since it is the oldest representation of Jesus that is preserved anywhere” (Roderic Dunkerley, Beyond the Gospels, p. 57).
In all of these early portrayals, “He is almost invariably boyish…. His hair is short” (Frederic William Farrar, The Life of Christ as Represented in Art, 1894, p. 43). Short hair was the predominant style among men in the Hellenized areas of the eastern Mediterranean (including Palestine) in Christ’s time. …

How Was Christ’s Body Really Wrapped?

   The shroud theory demands that Christ’s body was covered differently than was the custom in Jewish burial. The usual fashion was for the body to be wrapped cocoon-wise in strips of linen cloth which were bound at hands and feet. All representations of Christ’s burial in the first four centuries assumed this Egyptian-like style. “The [Jewish] corpse was wrapped in a shroud, and bandages soaked with resin were wound around the hands and feet: a cloth, the sudarium, was placed over the face (John 11:44). Finally the tomb was shut” (Bo Reicke, The New Testament Era, p. 187).
The account of the raising of Lazarus illustrates the method. “The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.” It would appear that he was so enclosed and tied as to be scarcely able to walk until “Jesus said to them, `Unbind him, and let him go”‘ (John 11:44). Shroud of Turin theorists postulate that Joseph of Arimathea, not having time to bury Christ’s body properly, simply covered it, leaving the body lying amidst the rolls of cloth he had brought for the usual wrapping, perhaps intending to return and use them after the Sabbath. They suppose this may have been what Peter saw when he came into the tomb after the resurrection and saw “linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head… rolled up in a place by itself (John 20:6-7).
But Matthew tells us that “Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud” (Matt. 27:59). This shroud was obviously not merely a long flat cloth like the Turin shroud, laid out under the body, then folded over it from the head.
The Gospel of John plainly tells us that Joseph and his company actually “bound it [the body — not merely covered it] in linen cloths [plural] with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19:40). This was done even before they carried the body to the tomb (verse 42). (Briggs LC. ICON SUPREME? THE SHROUD OF TURIN. Plain Truth, December 1978)

Even if the actual burial cloth of Jesus were the Shroud of Turin or some other similar relic, it should not be venerated by Christians. History records that the early Christians opposed venerating relics. Many do not seem to realize how negatively early Christians viewed such items.

The Continuing Church of God does not consider that the Shroud of Turin is holy nor the burial cloth of Jesus.

Amongst other reasons, it is not supported by the historical record nor scripture. The image on the Shroud of Turin shows a long-haired male. Yet, Jesus did not have long hair.

Notice that even Catholic translations of the Bible support that:

14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but when a woman has long hair, it is her glory? (1 Corinthians 11:14-15a, New Jerusalem Bible)

While hair does grow after death, it does not grow quickly enough for the length that is on the Shroud of Turin. Jesus said He would be in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40), and that would not be enough time for long hair to appear.

Most do not know a lot about the Bible and know even less about early church history–and what many think they know is clouded by misinformation and misconceptions. And the Shroud of Turin does not provide helpful information into original Christianity, only for those who seem to prefer improper traditions of men over what the Bible teaches.

Those interested in early Christianity may wish to study the following documented items and presentations to learn more:

What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons? Did Catholic and Orthodox “saints” endorse or condemn idols and icons for Christians?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. [Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja do deus?]
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from c. 31 A.D. to 2014. A related sermon link would be Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D.
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years.
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?

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