Busting Shroud Myths: Did Carbon 14 dating prove that The Shroud of Turin was a fake?


Jessica Spitz, writing recently for NBCNews.com, basically asserts that science has proven – again and again – that The Shroud of Turin is conclusively a fake. The centerpiece of her argument is the carbon dating of The Shroud. She writes: 

Forensic scientists have once again concluded that the Shroud of Turin, supposedly the burial cloth Jesus was wrapped in after his crucifixion, was artificially created.

The Shroud, which is kept in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, has long been a subject of controversy within the Catholic community. Believers say its stains are the blood of Jesus, while others have questioned whether the stains are even blood at all.

The new research is in line with numerous previous studies that have concluded that the Shroud is not authentic. Earlier carbon dating work has determined that it dates to 1260 to 1390; Jesus is generally believed to have died in the year 33. And a blue ribbon panel called the Turin Commission concluded in 1979 that stains on the garment are likely pigments, not blood, while textiles experts and art historians have suggested that the materials and images are not from the right era.  SOURCE 


Reading the article, it sounds very, very definitive. Science has CERTAINLY concluded in many ways that The Shroud is a fake, and this new study just adds more evidence. So – let’s take a look at some of these definite proofs and consider whether or not they can convince us that The Shroud is a forgery. Spitz summarizes how this particular 2018 scientific inquiry ‘proved’ the Shroud of Turin false in this way: 

In the most recent study, forensic scientists used blood pattern analysis to investigate the arm and body position necessary to yield the pattern seen on the Shroud. Using a living volunteer and a mannequin to model several positions, researchers determined that the patterns were consistent with multiple poses, which contradicts with the theory that Jesus was buried in the cloth lying down.

In other words, reading between the lines, the researchers concluded that the blood splatter pattern on The Shroud conclusively could NOT have come from a victim that was lying still, but one that was moved about some. Think about it for a moment. Does the fact that the figure on The Shroud shows evidence of being moved AFTER being wrapped in the burial cloth indicate that The Shroud itself must be a forgery? I’m not sure how one could come to that conclusion – especially considering the Biblical testimony that the followers of Jesus took steps to prepare the body of Jesus for permanent burial. As well, we see clear evidence in Matthew that the body of Jesus was wrapped in linen AND THEN MOVED into the tomb. Surely such a thing could account for “multiple poses.” Consider: 

So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, 60 and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock. He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were seated there, facing the tomb. (Matthew 27:59-61)

So – does the fact that the Shroud Figure had “multiple poses” conclusively prove that The Shroud is a fake? Of course not – Scripture is clear the body of Jesus was moved, which could certainly account for those multiple poses. But don’t take my word for it.

Victor Weedn, chairman of forensic sciences as George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said in an interview that while the experimental approach seemed to make sense, he was “skeptical of this analysis,” saying there was no reason to believe that the body could not have been moved while being transported.

“We’re not dealing with things we really know about,” Weedn said. “We just don’t know if this cloth was laid on someone who just laid there or was wrapped around the body or moved some before being put in a particular place.”


Weedn is an Ivy League professor with a Juris doctorate and a Medical doctorate – a brilliant man. I think we can consider this particular scientific study conclusively debunked.

As a side note, I believe these passages about the burial of Jesus and the preparation of His body in particular are quite interesting relative to the resurrection of Jesus, and I’ve written about it fairly extensively in my book on the resurrection Easter: Fact or Fiction. We often assume the ancient followers of Jesus were quite gullible and not at all sophisticated – that they would have glibly accepted the  idea of a person coming back to life because they would not have understood it to be scientifically impossible. However, biblical evidence clearly contradicts this – the disciples of Jesus DID NOT expect Him to return. They hid out and mourned. An expensive linen cloth was used to wrap the body of Jesus – strange behavior if one expected him to return in a few short days – why waste the cloth? The female followers of Jesus DID NOT expect Him to rise from the dead – they came to prepare His body for permanent entombment. Even Mary Magdalene, upon seeing the open tomb of Jesus did not assume resurrection, but asked where His lifeless body had been moved to. The followers of Jesus did not expect the resurrection, despite Jesus’ claims that He would return from the dead. 

Probably the biggest single evidence against the authenticity of The Shroud – at least in most people’s mind – is the results of the 1988 radiocarbon dating, which concluded that the fabric was from the 1300s, give or take 200 years. If that conclusion was accurate, then The Shroud would very obviously be a medieval forgery of some sort. I believe that the number of congruences between the figure in The Shroud and the biblical account of the passion, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus are too numerous for one to assume that the figure in The Shroud is anyone but Jesus, and thus – if the cloth is from the 1300s, then The Shroud is an intentional forgery meant to mislead. The trouble is, that there is much debate – scientific, theological, and philosophical – about that carbon dating figure. In one of the groups mentioned above, we can see the two polarizing opinions that people have adopted based on this carbon dating: 

N.S:  “No one has been able to replicate how it was made, which is fascinating. And one of the fiber samples taken for carbon dating turns out to have been a repaired section so that accounts toward the dating inconsistencies. I’ve always been interested in the Shroud and it’s physical characteristics.

On the other hand, A.M. wrote: I feel like the “carbon dating was from a repaired section” thing has been taken as gospel (no pun intended) without looking at the evidence against that theory; among them the fact that the weaving is not typical of judaean fabrics of the early first century CE, and that several experts including a textile restoration specialist have said that the section from which the sample is taken is microscopically indistinguishable from the rest of the cloth, which is simply not possibly if the repair were undertaken in the time to which the sample dates. There have been many, MANY attempts to prove the 14th century origin date wrong, and all of them have been failures or have been ginned up with test results that were not able to be duplicated and independently verified. 


A survey of headlines on major websites shows a similar pattern: Confident and contradictory claims that appear to be irrefutable. For instance: 

Life Site News: Scientists debunk theory that Shroud of Turin is medieval ‘hoax’

NBC News: 

Forensic research (once again) suggests the Shroud of Turin is fake. 

BBC News: Turin Shroud Older than Thought.

Independent.Co.Uk: 628-year-old fake news: Scientists prove Turin Shroud not genuine (again)

USA Today: New Test Dates Shroud of Turin to Era of Christ.

Reuters: New Forensic Tests Suggest Shroud of Turin is a Fake. 

History.com: Shroud of Turin Isn’t Jesus’ Burial Cloth, Claims Forensic Study

Phys.org – Study of Data from 1988 Shroud of Turin testing suggests mistakes. 

Dozens – or more – studies have sought to undermine the 1988 C14 tests. Some have been quite convincing…other, a bit less so. For instance, from a Churchmilitant.com article: 

A theory surfaced in 2014 that the earthquake when Our Lord died on the Cross might have impacted the Shroud’s radiocarbon results. 

Radiocarbon dating is based on measuring radioactive decay, the process by which atoms lose neutrons. The group of scientists in Italy made the case that the tremors on Good Friday possibly caused emissions of neutrons from the earth’s crust, impacting atoms in the Shroud’s fibers. If atoms in the Shroud were affected by neutron emissions, this would massively skew the results of radiocarbon dating.” Source  


Are you confused yet? I sure am. I think it is obvious that scientific consensus isn’t 100 percent behind the hoax or genuine side of The Shroud debate. So – what’s the story on that C-14 dating that conclusively and supposedly proved The Shroud was faked?

Here’s what happened: (FROM WIKIPEDIA SO AS TO BE NEUTRAL) 

On April 17, 1988, ten years after the S.T.U.R.P. project had been initiated, British Museum scientific director Michael Tite published in Nature[31] the “final” protocol:

  • the laboratories at Oxford, Zürich, and Tucson would perform the test;
  • they would each receive one sample weighing 40 mg., sampled from a single portion of weave;
  • the laboratories would each receive two control samples, clearly distinguishable from the shroud sample;

samples would be delivered to the laboratories’ representatives in Turin;

each test would be filmed;

  • there would be no comparison of results (nor communication) between laboratories until the results be certified as definitive, univocal, and complete;

Samples were taken on April 21, 1988, in the Cathedral by Franco Testore, an expert on weaves and fabrics, and by Giovanni Riggi di Numana. Testore performed the weighting operations while Riggi made the actual cut. Also present were Cardinal Ballestrero, four priests, archdiocese spokesperson Luigi Gonella, photographers, a camera operator, Michael Tite of the British Museum, and the labs’ representatives.

As a precautionary measure, a piece twice as big as the one required by the protocol was cut from the Shroud; it measured 81 mm × 21 mm (3.19 in × 0.83 in). An outer strip showing coloured filaments of uncertain origin was discarded.[37] The remaining sample, measuring 81 mm × 16 mm (3.19 in × 0.63 in) and weighing 300 mg, was first divided in two equal parts, one of which was preserved in a sealed container, in the custody of the Vatican, in case of future need. The other half was cut into three segments, and packaged for the labs in a separate room by Tite and the archbishop. The lab representatives were not present at this packaging process, in accordance with the protocol.

The labs were also each given three control samples. 

In a well-attended press conference on October 13, Cardinal Ballestrero announced the official results, i.e. that radio-carbon testing dated the shroud to a date of 1260-1390 AD, with 95% confidence.  (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

 So – that’s that, right? 95 percent confidence by three different labs that The Shroud was from the 12-1300s. End of story. The radiocarbon dating slammed the door on The Shroud’s authenticity for many, many people. One of the foremost Shroud researchers and proponents, who was himself a member of the original STURP team of scientists who studied the Turin Shroud in the late 1970s, is a man named Barrie Schwortz. He runs Shroud.com, which is probably the most visited site devoted to the TS on the internet. In commenting on the results of the dating, Schortz describes the reaction by Shroud devotees: 

“As soon as the dating results were leaked to the press, the world of the Shroud came to a complete and sudden halt. Many researchers took this as the final word and disengaged completely. The years of hard work by the STURP team and the many papers they published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature was immediately disregarded and ultimately, forgotten. These were indeed the bleak years of Shroud research.” (SOURCE

Except, there were objections raised about the radiocarbon testing almost from the beginning. Actually, to be fair, there were objections raised YEARS before the testing actually took place. Professor William Meacham is an archaeologist who writes articles with titles like, “High-throughput field phenotyping using hyperspectral reflectance and partial least squares regression (PLSR) reveals genetic modifications to photosynthetic capacity” and “Determination of the original firing temperature of ceramics from Non Nok Tha and Phimai, Thailand” Before The Shroud was carbon-dated, Meacham cautioned against letting the results be the end-all determinant of the authenticity or lack thereof of Shroud. In 1986, he wrote: 

In recent discussions on the possible authenticity of the Turin Shroud, the question of the value of C-14 dating persistently recurs. Virtually all researchers agree that the test should be performed; sufficiently small samples can now be measured so that the appearance of the relic is not altered. Several C-14 dating proposals are now under consideration by the Archbishop of Turin.

In contrast to these positive developments, however, there appears to be an unhealthy consensus approaching the level of dogma among both scientific and lay commentators, that C-14 dating will “settle the issue once and for all time.” This attitude sharply contradicts the general perspective of field archaeologists and geologists, who view possible contamination as a very serious problem in interpreting the results of radiocarbon measurement. In this paper I shall examine the issue of the reliability of C-14 testing to produce an “absolute date” on the linen sheet known as the Holy Shroud of Turin and believed by some to be the gravecloth of Christ…Reviewing recent Shroud literature of all persuasions, I find little awareness of the limitations of the C-14 method, an urge to “date first and ask questions later,” and a general disregard for the close collaboration between field and laboratory personnel which is the ideal in archaeometric projects. Regarding the Shroud, consultations should take place among archeologists, historians, conservationists, cellulose chemists and of course radiocarbon scientists in order to formulate a specific C-14 sampling and dating procedure. As I shall endeavor to demonstrate below, the radiocarbon measurement of the Shroud is a complex issue, and the inclusion of all relevant expertise is highly important.” 

Later, Dr. Meacham concludes his long and excellent paper on this issue, “My own tentative proposal for dating the Shroud is that at least five samples be taken: 1) a single thread from the middle of the cloth, between dorsal and ventral images; 2) a small piece cut just in from the edge next to the site of Raes’ piece I; 3) a piece of the charred cloth; 4) a piece cut from the side strip next to the site of Raes’ 11; 5) a piece of the backing cloth sewn on in 1534. The principal samples would be 1 and 2, with 3 possibly confirmatory; 4 would hopefully clarify the question of an added side strip: 5 would be a control for modern contamination. All samples would be subjected to elaborate pretreatment, SEM screening and testing (microchemical, mass spectrometry, micro-Raman) for impurities or intrusive substances such as higher order hydrocarbons, inorganic and organic carbonates. Samples 2-5 would be measured by both gas proportional and accelerator counting. Samples of a least 3sq. cm each would be required for intensive pretreatment (likely to sacrifice a portion of the sample), measurement of fractions, and controls for micro-testing. A total of 12 sq. cm. or so of the relic itself would thus be required. Selvage edges would be avoided, as in the British Museum inter-comparison experiment (Burleigh et al 1985:3). In view of the myriad contamination possibilities, at least two fractions of each sample should be measured, by each counting method, if possible.

In the end, with luck, we would have at least two or three radiocarbon ages in good agreement and possibly, quite possibly, indicative of the true calendrical age of the Shroud linen. That is all we would be justified in claiming. 

The existence of significant indeterminant errors can never be excluded from any age determination. No method is immune from giving grossly incorrect datings when there are non-apparent problems with the samples originating in the field. The results illustrated [in this paper] show that this situation occurs frequently. Regardless of the C-14 result, evidence from other sources would of course remain of considerable importance in the overall evaluation of the age and origin of the relic.

A C-14 age later than the first century would not of course constitute scientific proof of the inauthenticity of the Shroud, since radiocarbon dating is a based on a number of unverifiable assumptions — the most important in this context being that the carbon extracted from the sample is indeed identical with the carbon absorbed from the environment when the sample was alive. But of course C-14 measurement does usually provide a reliable indication of true calendrical age.”  SOURCE (CLICK HERE)

Over the years, many have raised objections to the method and conclusions of the test, which most certainly did not follow the protocols that Professor Meacham called for. The main objections raised included the possibility of contamination of the sample (due to more than one fire that The Shroud was exposed to – as well as the touch of hundreds/thousands of medieval hand), as well as the location of the sample being near the edge of the garment – an area some have thought to be part of a medieval repair. 


Think of it like this: Have you heard of the Ship of Theseus?  It’s one of the more fascinating thought experiments and it has been around for thousands of years, at least since 500 years before the time of Jesus. So – who was Theseus? He was the possibly mythical founding king of Athens. The thought experiment goes like this: Let’s say Theseus had a great battle ship that he won some big battles in. Over the years, the ship has to be repaired some planks are damaged, the mast is broken, rot sets in, etc. After a few decades, due to the nature of wood, fabric and rope (and the corrosive effect of salty winds and oceans) – all of the original parts of Theseus’ ship has been replaced. Not all at once, of course – but over the years, bit by bit. The philosophical question is this: Is it still Theseus’ ship despite the fact that there is not a single original part left??  The second part of the thought experiment is to consider another hypothetical. What if Theseus kept in a storehouse EVERY single part of his boat that was replaced. Further still, what if somebody was able to restore and repair every single former part of the ship, and then completely rebuilt it – using the original parts and to the exact specifications of the original. Which of the two boats is more the original ship of Theseus??

Well, that’s not the Bible mystery we are here to solve today, but it does serve as an oblique introduction to one of the major issues with testing The Shroud.  – What if The Ship of Theseus – or a similar ship – was somehow in service for hundreds of years – dating back to an indeterminate time. Perhaps some modern scientists would want to radiocarbon date the ship to test how old it was. That test would only be accurate if one took a sample from an original plank on the ship. If the ship was originally built in 1525, but then repaired in multiple places in 1875, and the sample taken for the carbon test was from a repaired plank, then one could quickly see how the c14 test would fail to ascertain the real age of the ship, right? Well, that is exactly what many claim has happened with the 1988 radiocarbon dating of The Shroud. Many claim that the sample tested was either from a section subject to some unknown medieval era repairs, or it was tainted by a medieval fire, or medieval hands, etc. This is why professor Meacham argued in 1986 that radiocarbon dating should not be the only way that the date of The Shroud was determined. 

A 2000 study by Joseph Marino and his wife Sue Benford found interesting results based on x-ray analysis of the TS sample sites. They found what they believe to be a seam in the sampled area of the fabric which is indicative of a repair made much later than when the cloth was originally made. The seam they found is diagonal and runs through the entire strip of the piece of fabric that was divided into three parts and sent to three different labs. Marino and Benford indicate that the variance of roughly 200 years found in the c14 dating of Arizona, Zurich and Oxford seems to correspond to the location of this diagonal seam, which caused the researchers to theorize that the repair was skewing the results of the dating test, and causing the three results to fall outside of the bounds of date agreement that statistical analysis would expect for three tests of the same exact cloth. Interestingly, after my first episode on the T.S., Mr Marino contacted me and sent some very helpful research my way. 

Raymond Rogers was a chemist and thermal analysis expert who served for nearly 40 years at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was a high ranking military analyst as well, and wrote and edited numerous scientific journal articles. Rogers was the head of chemical analysis for the original STURP team that studied The Shroud. After the 1988 c14 testing, Rogers was initially convinced for years by the results of the test, but began to reconsider those results after reviewing the paper mentioned previously by Joe Marino and Sue Benford. Rogers reexamined some fiber samples from the Turin Shroud in order to debunk the debunkers. He was surprised to find clear microscopic evidence that a cotton patch had been skillfully weaved into the original linen of the tested part of the Turin Shroud. Rogers also noted that x-ray fluorescent photography done of The Shroud demonstrated that the part of the cloth where the sample was taken glowed a different color than the rest of the cloth, which would likely be an indicator that different fabric was contained in the tested sample. In 2005, shortly before his death from cancer, Rogers wrote a scientific paper on The Shroud for the chemistry journal Thermochimica Acta that contained a detailed chemical analysis of The Shroud fibers, (with pictures) and a discussion of the likely contamination of the sampled section of the cloth. The paper concludes:

If the shroud had been produced between a.d. 1260 and 1390, as indicated by the radiocarbon analyses, lignin should be easy to detect. A linen produced in a.d. 1260 would have retained about 37% of its vanillin in 1978. The Raes threads, the Holland cloth, and all other medieval linens gave the test for vanillin wherever lignin could be observed on growth nodes. The disappearance of all traces of vanillin from the lignin in the shroud indicates a much older age than the radiocarbon laboratories reported…Because the shroud and other very old linens do not give the vanillin test, the cloth must be quite old. It is thus very unlikely that the linen was produced during medieval timesThe combined evidence from chemical kinetics, analytical chemistry, cotton content, and pyrolysis proves that the material from the radiocarbon area of the shroud is significantly different from that of the main cloth. The radiocarbon sample was thus not part of the original cloth and is invalid for determining the age of the shroud. Because the storage conditions through the centuries are unknown, a more accurate age determination will require new radiocarbon analyses with several fully characterized and carefully prepared samplesSOURCE

More recently, Summer of 2019, a peer reviewed academic journal called Archaeometry, produced by The University of Oxford, published a very interesting article that called into question the results of the c14 dating of The Shroud. If you aren’t familiar, Archaeometry “is an international research journal covering the application of the physical and biological sciences to archaeology and the history of art. The topics covered include dating methods, artifact studies, mathematical methods, remote sensing techniques, conservation science, environmental reconstruction, biological anthropology and archaeological theory.”

An international team of researchers led by French researcher Tristan Casabianca obtained the raw results from the original 1988 radiocarbon testing and did some significant statistical analysis of those results, and also looked for other possible issues.

In a recent interview with the French magazine L’Homme Nouveau (The New Man), Casabianca summarized the findings of his team’s study: 

“In 1989, the results of the shroud dating were published in the prestigious journal Nature: between 1260 and 1390 with 95% certainty. But for thirty years, researchers have asked the laboratories for raw data. These have always refused to provide them. In 2017, I submitted a legal request to the British Museum, which supervised the laboratories. Thus, I had access to hundreds of unpublished pages, which include these raw data. With my team, we conducted their analysis. Our statistical analysis shows that the 1988 carbon 14 dating was unreliable: the tested samples are obviously heterogeneous, [showing many different dates], and there is no guarantee that all these samples, taken from one end of the sheet, are representative of the whole fabric. It is therefore impossible to conclude that the shroud of Turin dates from the Middle Ages.” 

The paper itself is incredibly complex, and very heavy on a type of statistical analysis that is well over my head in most places. I’ve read and reread portions of that paper, though, and I feel like I understand it well enough to note that it raises some very troubling concerns about the results of the 1988 dating. Some of those concerns include: 

  1. Significant contamination of various pieces of the very small Shroud samples sent to each laboratory. The paper notes:

Despite the close visual inspection of the TS by textile experts and the loss of weight of approximately 25% after the cutting (FOIA 2017, 162), Oxford found and removed several textile fibres of different colours, including one identified by a textile laboratory to be cotton, ‘possibly of Egyptian origin and quite old’ (Anonymous 1988; FOIA 2017, 104). Oxford mentions that in one subsample there may have been ‘glass’, perhaps sodium Radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud 7 © 2019 University of Oxford, Archaeometry ••, •• (2019) ••–•• chloride crystals (Wilson 1995, 18; FOIA 2017, 103). In the original draft, Arizona indicated that ‘a red thread and three blue threads’ were removed from one of their subsamples (Turin Shroud Archive). In 2010, Arizona recognized that they had kept one piece of an undated TS subsample. On this subsample, the authors identified foreign material invisible to the naked eye, including a blue substance described as ‘apparently wax’ (Freer-Waters and Jull 2010, 1522) and some cotton fibres. Zürich may have found an assortment of debris (Marinelli 2012, 26).”

2. Significant statistical differences between the raw dates obtained by the three labs that each tested a similar sample of the Turin Shroud. Recall that a very small piece of the TS was cut off and sent to three different labs. One in Arizona, one in Zurich and one in Oxford. Supposedly all three labs returned the same results for the dating of the TS, but according to Casabianca’s statistical survey of the raw results, that claim is not true. He shows that there was significant statistical variance between the results obtained by the three labs, especially the Arizona lab. Now, I’m going to read a part of the paper where Casabianca’s team makes this claim, but I do not claim to fully understand what’s going on here:

The analysis of the Arizona counts showed further interesting aspects. The eight counts of the Arizona data were categorized into four groups (A1 and A2, A3 and A4, A5 and A6, and A7 and A8) because they were executed on the same day using the same standards. The non-parametric Kruskal–Wallis test (Table 5; see also Table S10 for the assumptions) shows highly statistically significant differences even if we consider the eight counts both separately and gathered (p-values < 0.0001). The results show that the different assessments produced by the same laboratory (raw vs. Nature) are not statistically significant, whereas the analysis of the raw radiocarbon dates confirmed that the different laboratories produced different assessments and that these differences are, in most cases, statistically significant.

That might be the most understandable section out of the paper’s discussion of the statistical anomalies between the dates obtained by the three labs. Ultimately, I take it that Casabianca’s work is demonstrating that the lab results are different enough that something must account for the difference – contamination, medieval repairs, botched handling, etc.

3. The dates obtained by the labs on the small samples they were given, appear to vary throughout the length of the sample, rather than remain the same. In other words, different parts of the small sample size tested by each lab test out with a statistically significant different date, a result which could be explained by contamination, and many other factors. The paper makes this claim about the non-homogenous results:

Moreover, our statistical analysis of the raw data supports the conclusion of Riani et al. (2013). They used the known locations of the tested samples in each laboratory and showed a significant decrease in the radiocarbon age as one gets closer to the centre of the sheet (in length, from the tested corner). This variability of the Nature radiocarbon dates in a few centimetres, if linearly extrapolated to the opposite side of the TS, would lead to a dating in the future.

So – those are some significant scientific issues raised with the 1988 dating in this paper, and many other scientific studies are cited which reveal similar problems with the dating. Casabianca’s paper concludes this way:

The discussed statistical analysis reinforced the argument against the goodness of the radiocarbon dating of the TS, suggesting the presence of serious incongruities among the raw measurements. Our results, which are compatible with those previously reported by many other authors (Brunati 1996; Van Haelst 1997, 2002; Riani et al. 2013), strongly suggest that homogeneity is lacking in the data. The measurements made by the three laboratories on the TS sample suffer from a lack of precision which seriously affects the reliability of the 95% AD 1260–1390 interval. The statistical analyses, supported by the foreign material found by the laboratories, show the necessity of a new radiocarbon dating to compute a new reliable interval. This new test requires, in an interdisciplinary research, a robust protocol. Without this re-analysis, it is not possible to affirm that the 1988 radiocarbon dating offers ‘conclusive evidence’ that the calendar age range is accurate and representative of the whole cloth.

This is not a lightweight attack on the credibility of the 1988 radiocarbon dating of The Shroud. If you are a committed and convinced Shroud-skeptic, then I have no beef with you, since I am currently a Shroud-agnostic. However, if you have based your assured skepticism primarily on the radiocarbon dating of The Shroud, then I would encourage you to sit down and try to read Casabianca’s paper. It’s not an easy read in the least, and you might need some Tylenol, but i believe it does poke significant holes in the credibility of that 1988 test – enough holes that I believe that the test represents minor evidence – at best – against the genuineness of The Shroud, rather than conclusive evidence.

So – has 1988 radiocarbon dating conclusively shown that The Shroud was a medieval hoax? I believe that scientists (textile experts, statisticians, chemists, historians and archaeologists) have raised enough objections with the method and the conclusions of the original 1988 test to say, ‘no.’ This, of course, does NOT prove that The Shroud is the original burial cloth of Jesus, nor does it prove that The Shroud was produced originally in the first century. What it does suggest – strongly, I’d say – is that we need an updated radiocarbon testing of The Shroud. One that utilizes fabric far closer to the middle of The Shroud, and one that uses fabric that is checked and rechecked for contaminants, repairs and reweaves prior to the testing. What does The Vatican have to lose here? I realize that they want to preserve the Turin Shroud as well as possible – it is a priceless artifact whether it is genuine or not. However, I believe the loss of a small portion of the middle, non-imprinted section of The Shroud is an acceptable loss, and a worthwhile risk. If the updated testing again shows a medieval date, then nothing significant has been lost, considering that The Shroud already bears the scars of years of use and fire damage, and considering that The Vatican has never officially vouched for the authenticity of the cloth. If, however, the test comes back as dating to near the time of Christ, then imagine the clamor and positive publicity over such a finding? It would be immense, and clearly worth the risk. Worth the risk, of course, if The Vatican truly believes The Shroud could be authentic. Next episode we will consider to what degree The Vatican really does esteem The Shroud, and maybe bust a few more myths along the way. 


One Reply to “Busting Shroud Myths: Did Carbon 14 dating prove that The Shroud of Turin was a fake?”

  1. Og Keep

    It should also be noted that the shroud has been associated with several fires, including medieval church fires. Since a major by-product of fire is soot, which would deposit contemporaneous carbon, it is very likely that carbon contamination would skew the findings towards a more common date, and especially the dates of the fires.

    In Donald Johanson’s dating of the Lucy skeleton, he expressly rejected the dates of K-Ar testing (a type of decay-based testing, like C12/C14 testing, but with a longer range of test dates). His given reason was that the soil in the area was contaminated with modern soil containing high levels of modern potassium. Based on Johanson’s example, and considering the potential for carbon contamination by fire, we should be very cautious about a dogma based on the C-14 tests from 1988.

    Keep in mind, of course, that the oldest test result would have the greatest chance of being correct, as contamination by older carbon is highly unlikely.

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