Episode #11: Has The Shroud Been Debunked? John Calvin vs. The Shroud


Episode 4: Busting Shroud Myths, Part 2: 

In one statement, John Walsh (His book The Shroud) observed: “The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Jesus Christ in existence … or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever, products of the human mind and hand on record. It is one or the other; there is no middle ground.” 

I did a recent – July, 2019 – survey of Baptist Pastors on The Shroud of Turin. Of those that responded to the poll – only 3.5 percent believed that the Shroud was the genuine burial cloth of Jesus. Half of them were agnostic – it was an interesting historical artifact that could not be verified, and just slightly under half 41 percent – believed the Shroud to be a forgery. I did a much larger poll in The Astonishing Legends facebook group – a group of people that are quite open and interested in paranormal things. In that survey, 132 out of 350 – 38 percent – believed the Shroud to be a hoax, which is very similar to the Baptist pastor’s percentage. However, there were more true believers in the paranormal group, with 37 out of 350 – 11 percent – believing that the Shroud was the genuine burial cloth of Jesus. Shroud agnostics – believing the Shroud to be interesting, but unverifiable – represented 181 out of 350 respondents, just over half at 52 percent. Therefore, based on my informal surveys of a little over 400 people – roughly half of those respondents are just like me – uncertain about the Shroud. Over the next few episodes of this podcast, we are going to cover the history of the Shroud of Turin, and the most modern research and findings. Maybe by the time we are done, we’ll all still be Shroud agnostics, but maybe – just maybe – we will together unearth enough information to change our minds and develop a clearer and more definitive view of one of the most controversial and noteworthy artifacts of church history.  

Today, we are continuing to bust some myths about the Shroud. Next episode we will present 10-25 arguments in favor of the authenticity of the Shroud, some arguments against it, and likely conclude this series.

  1. Myth: The Shroud has always been owned by the Catholic Church, and they have officially endorsed it. In fact, it appears that the Catholic Church did not have official possession of The Shroud until 1983 when the royal House of Savoy conveyed ownership of The Shroud to The Holy See. If you remember your AP Modern European History, you might remember that the Savoys began as a small ruling family in the Alps northwest of Italy proper, and grew to become the dominant royal family in Italy, reigning over the country from 1861-1946, and also briefly ruled Spain in the 1800s. Although the Catholic church does not have an official position on The Shroud, several Popes and other church officials have commented favorably about it, including:

    Cardinal Ratzenberger/Pope Benedict, who called The Shroud, “A truly mysterious image, which no human artistry was capable of producing. In some inexplicable way, it appeared imprinted upon cloth and claimed to show the true face of Christ, the crucified and risen Lord”.” (This was said when Ratzenberger was a Cardinal, and was not said officially/Ex Cathedra, so it was not considered an official endorsement of the whole church.

    Pius 11, 1936, “These are not pictures of the Blessed Virgin, it is true, but pictures that remind us of her as no other can. Since they are pictures of her Divine Son, and so, we can truly say, the most moving, loveliest, dearest ones that we can imagine.”   What a strange quote – am I wrong that it seems to be suggesting that pictures of Mary, mother of Jesus, would be more remarkable than pictures of Jesus, the son of God? When any theology places more attention, emphasis and weight on Mary than they do on Jesus, this is where I have a massive difference with them. Source of quote “The Shroud, a Guide” by Gino Morreto. (I note here that I can’t find this quote by Pius 11 elsewhere)

  2. Pope John Paul II 

“Since it is not a matter of faith, the church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions,” the late Pope John Paul II said in 1998. ALSO:  “The Holy Shroud is the most splendid relic of the Passion and Resurrection [of Our Lord Jesus Christ]. We become what we contemplate… Why don’t we contemplate the Icon of Icons: The Holy Face of Jesus!” Instead of icons made by man, let us venerate the greatest icon of all: The Holy Face of Jesus!” and also, “The Shroud is an image of God’s love as well as of human sin … The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one’s fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age.”

Most recently, Pope Francis commented on The Shroud during his first Easter address:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I join all of you gathered before the Holy Shroud, and I thank the Lord for offering us this opportunity, thanks also to new devices. We do not merely “look” if we are looking at it, it is not a simple look, but it is a form of veneration, a look of prayer and also it is a way of letting him look at us. This face has eyes that are closed, it is the face of one who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us.

How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. 

This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.

Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this look, which is directed not to our eyes but to our heart. In silence, let us listen to what he has to say to us from beyond death itself. By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world to free us from its power. 

This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty. It is as if it let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to say: have faith, do not lose hope; the power of the love of God, the power of the Risen One overcomes all things.

So, looking upon the Man of the Shroud, I make my own the prayer which Saint Francis of Assisi prayed before the Crucifix: Most High, glorious God, enlighten the shadows of my heart, and grant me a right faith, a certain hope and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may accomplish your holy and true command.

Amen.

One Catholic commentator on St. Francis’ speech above noted, “”The shroud draws [people] to the tormented face and body of Jesus and, at the same time, directs [people] toward the face of every suffering and unjustly persecuted person.” This is condemning/damming the Shroud with faint praise and reinforces that Pope Francis really does think (wrongly) that the Shroud is just another fake icon.”

I agree with that commentator – reading between the lines of St. Francis’ pronunciation, speech, it is quite clear that he is either a Shroud Agnostic, or possibly even thinks it is a forgery. 

So – it would seem that, in the Catholic church, the opinions on the authenticity of The Shroud are quite varied. It appears that more Catholic leaders consider The Shroud authentic than do leaders of other major religious groups, but the fact that The Vatican has stopped short of pronouncing the Turin Shroud should possibly give us pause. Do they have reason to suspect it is inauthentic – unreleased reasons? Possibly. 

I’ll say this – I don’t understand religious veneration of objects. That seems completely contra to the clear teachings of the Old and New Testaments. Some branches of Christianity do this, but I think they are missing it. If The Shroud is authentic, then it is fascinating and wonderful, but not at all worthy of a single drop of religious devotion. If it is inauthentic, then it is less so.  Either way, it is a fascinating artifact. 

If genuine, it is one of the great treasures of history and should be in our finest museum. Just don’t worship it – it is a linen cloth. It didn’t die for you. It has no power to save you. I see no indication that it holds any special significance to God. I own a collectible card with a verified piece of a jacket that Elvis Presley sang in and wore. If I had the whole jacket – what would that avail me? Would it help me dance better? Sing better? Become more famous? Could I bring it to Graceland and get free entry for wearing it? Could I take it to surviving members of Elvis’ family, and ask to become an honorary Presley? None of those things. And The Shroud would get you less far in Heaven than The Presley jacket would get you in Graceland. 

What should we do if it is inauthentic? Burn it, throw it away? Of course not! I still believe it belongs in our finest museums of art (as opposed to history) If it is art – it is incredible art. Mystifying and awe-inspiring. 

Whatever it is – The Vatican isn’t saying for sure one way, or another. They appear to be fans, but in a mostly unofficial capacity.

  1. Maybe Myth: The Shroud has been fully replicated.

    One of the major issues that has surrounded The Shroud from the beginning has been that, up until recently – even skeptics agreed that the way The Shroud was produced is unknown and thus postulating a medieval forgery was quite difficult, because nobody knew how a person could forge such an image with medieval equipment. There have been other ancient technologies that have been a mystery to modern man. Damascus steel, for instance, has not been inarguably replicated by modern blacksmiths. Roman Concrete has a kind of durability that modern concrete lacks, and scientists are only recently discovering some of the secrets to its longevity. Archimedes is said to have developed a sort of heat ray that was powerful enough to burn up boats from a significant distance away, but it is difficult for us to replicate such a ray using the technology that Archimedes would have had 200 years before the birth of Jesus. To that list, we should certainly add The Shroud, for if it is a forgery – it is an incredibly sophisticated, impressive and technologically advanced one.

    N.D. Wilson’s amazing 2005 article in Christianity Today, entitled “Father Brown fakes The Shroud” is a must read for Shroud enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the only possible way to read it is to get your hands on that 2005 magazine in a library somewhere, or pay CT $30 for a digital subscription – which is what I did. 15 years ago N.D. Wilson supposedly figured out how one might fake The Shroud of Turin, and since that time, I have heard several people say or intimate that The Shroud had conclusively been proven a fraud with the 1-2 punch of #1 1988 medieval dating and #2 Wilson’s reproduction.

    Wilson’s method of duplicating The Shroud is ingenious. Basically, he and an artist friend painted a reverse image on a large pane of glass, and then had the sun shine through that image onto a Linen cloth over a period of several days. The sun bleached the cloth – lighter in areas of heavy paint and darker in areas of light paint. The resulting image does indeed look fairly authentic and Shroud-like to the naked eye. It does prove that it is possible, with the right equipment,  to put a negative-like image like The Shroud onto a linen cloth. Here are some objections that have been raised:

    1. The cloth contains pollen from plants only found in Palestine – that would be difficult for a European forger to get. For one, he would have no idea that such a thing could potentially authenticate The Shroud. Wilson notes that the cloth could have been procured from a first century, Jewish grave, which I suppose is technically possible. 


2. The figure in the Turin Shroud is pierced through his wrists, not through his hands. In recent years, it has been discovered that crucified people would have to have been pierced through their wrists (and not their hands) in order to actually be suspended from a cross. This does not at all contradict the Passion accounts in all four Gospels in the Bible, because the Greek word used for ‘hands’ can also include the wrist area, unlike our English, which more clearly delineates between the two. Almost the totality of medieval art depicts the nails used during the crucifixion of Jesus being located in the hands, rather than the wrists. If the Shroud were a forgery, it is remarkable in the extreme that the forger would have known to include nail holes in the wrists, rather than in the hands.

3. I am not an expert on 1300s era glass technology, but some who are have argued that the kind of large and flat pane windows that would have been needed to sun-bleach the painted image of a man onto a large linen cloth would not have been available in the early medieval period. This is a fairly strong objection that I don’t believe Wilson’s article – as thorough as it is – addresses fully.

4. The figure on the Shroud has real wounds and real blood. This, of course, means that it was more than merely a sun-bleached image. Wilson contends that somebody had to have been murdered in order for forgers to make The Shroud using his method. Again, such a thing is technically possible.

5. It appears to some that the figure in The Shroud has coins in its eyes – and the type of coins appear to be first century coins that would have been commonly used in Israel during the time of Christ. That a medieval forger would be able to add such a detail is fairly astonishing. Of course, as with everything surrounding The Shroud, others (and Wilson, I presume) argue that there are no coin impressions in the eyes of the Shroud-figure.

6. Finally, if The Shroud is a forgery, those who painted the image on the glass had a remarkable and accurate knowledge of both the full details of Roman crucifixion and how the body would have responded to such crucifixion. Additionally, the anonymous forgers would have had to have a strong knowledge of anatomy and wound-effects, as the wounds on The Shroud figure are consistent with what modern medical technology would expect. Wilson contends that there were many medieval people with deep and accurate knowledge of anatomy, and the only reason we don’t expect the forgers to have such knowledge is because we have a sort of bias against people from the past and assume they are unsophisticated and unintelligent. Such bias is certainly real, I will readily admit, though it does seem that medical history of the last 500 years demonstrates that medieval medicine and anatomy was indeed quite primitive.

So – did Wilson definitively prove that medieval forgers could have produced The Shroud? Maybe, maybe not. Even Wilson admits, “I have not proved much. Or, I do not think that I have. Men and women who have believed in the Shroud will continue to believe. There is a fireman somewhere in Italy who risked his life to save the Shroud. I have a great deal of respect for that man. Perhaps I’ve given those who disbelieve more reason for noses lifted in the air, but I have not proved that the Shroud was faked. What I have done is crudely demonstrate that such an image could easily be produced in a matter of weeks by wicked men with no scruples, a little imagination, and a little more skill. The fact that it could have been faked does not mean that it was, though I believe it to have been. ”  

I’ll say this – Wilson’s supposed forgers would have had to be: remarkably intelligent, gifted with art, well supplied with very rare (if existent) glass panes, and have an astonishing – for the time – knowledge of medicine, Roman history and human anatomy. Additionally, they would have had to be in possession of a cloth from Palestine, and possibly even pollen that had come from Palestine as well. 

There have been other attempts to recreate the Shroud as well. In 2009 the University of Pavia organic chemistry professor and skeptic society member Luigi Garlaschelli produced a fairly convincing (at first glance) reproduction.

He describes his attempt: “What you have now is a very fuzzy, dusty and weak image, Then for the sake of completeness I have added the bloodstains, the burns, the scorching because there was a fire in 1532.”

Garlaschelli says his work disproves the claims of the shroud’s strongest supporters.

“Basically the Shroud of Turin has some strange properties and characteristics that they say cannot be reproduced by human hands,”For example, the image is superficial and has no pigment, it looks so lifelike and so on, and therefore they say it cannot have been done by an artist.”

“The procedure is very simple. The artist took this sheet and put it over one of his assistants,” “His good idea was to wrap the sheet over the person underneath because he didn’t want to obtain an image that was too obviously a painting or a drawing, so with this procedure you get a strange image, Time did the rest,” 

As you might imagine, there are several people who disagree that Garlaschelli has produced a convincing replica. Dr. Thibault Heimburger has written an extensive and scientific rebuttal of Garlaschelli’s method, essentially arguing that it does not really duplicate all of the elements of the Shroud, but is only a superficial likeness. His paper, linked in the shownotes, concludes: 

L.G. concluded: “We have also shown that pigments containing traces of acidic compounds can be artificially aged after the rubbing step (…) in such a way that, when the pigment is washed away, an image is obtained having the expected characteristics as the Shroud of Turin. In particular the image is pseudo negative, is fuzzy with half-tones, resides on the top-most fibers of the cloth, has some 3D embedded properties and does not fluoresce”. I think to the contrary that the image has none of these characteristics (except negativity and nonfluorescence). L.G. used a sophisticated method and a new interesting hypothesis, and he got the best Shroud-like image today. It is interesting to notice that even so, the properties of his image remain in fact very far from the fundamental properties of the Shroud image. 9 For the moment, the Shroud image remains unfakeable.

Source: https://www.shroud.com/pdfs/thibault-lg.pdf

Shroud blogger Stephen Jones has also debunked the replication of Garlaschelli: http://theshroudofturin.blogspot.com/2018/08/my-critique-of-borrini-m-garlaschelli-l.html 

3. The complex herringbone twill pattern of the Shroud was not possible in the first century. 

Some Shroud skeptics have speculated that the particular pattern of sewing used on the Shroud is too complex and advanced have been created in the first century. 

In the Summer of 2000, archaeologists James Tabor and Shimon Gibson stumbled upon a freshly robbed first century grave outside of Jerusalem. Amazingly, the grave still had bodies in it, and one of them was encased in a somewhat intact first century shroud – the first shroud of that era that has been recovered in or around Jerusalem. Tabor writes of this discovery in a way that is very dismissive of the Turin Shroud: 

Although 1st century cloth has been found at Masada and in caves in the Judean Desert, nothing of this sort had ever been found in Jerusalem. Apparently that niche, sealed with a blocking stone, had a geological fissure that kept water from seeping in and rotting the material.

The tomb had any number of interesting features. DNA studies were done on all the individuals represented in the tomb—the first time, so far as we know, that this had even been done in an ancient Jerusalem tomb of this period. Textile analysis was done on the cloth—it turned out to be a mixture of linen and wool, not woven together but layered with a separate head piece. It had a distinctive 1st century weave—in contrast to the Shroud of Turin. 

News articles from major sites like BBC and CNN concluded that this was yet more evidence that the Shroud was a fake. From the CNN article: 

“And in addition, the weave of the shroud raises fresh doubts about the Shroud of Turin, which many people believe was used to wrap the body of Jesus.

According to researchers involved in the excavation and subsequent testing, the recently discovered shroud lends more credible evidence that the Shroud of Turin does not date to Roman times when Jesus died but from a later period.” SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/16/mideast.ancient.shroud/index.html

However, it should be noted that none of the researchers actually engaged in much textile research, nor were they textile experts. They were simply taking the design and weave  of one 1st century burial cloth and concluding that all other 1st century burial cloths from that area would have a similar weave-pattern. That seems plausible at first, but it turns out that it is not true. 

Hamburg textile expert Mechthild Flury-Lemberg is a recognized art historian and expert on the restoration of ancient textiles. She was able to examine and work on restoration/repair of the Shroud in 2001/2002 and published a book on it. She concludes on chapter of that book by saying: 

“The seam that connects the 8 cm wide strip to the larger segment is not a simple one. The type of seam construction chosen clearly displays the intention to make the seam disappear on the face of the cloth as much as possible. This is another reason to believe that the Shroud was planned and produced by professionals. The sewing has been done from the reverse of the fabric and the stitches have been executed with great care and are barely noticeable on the face of the Shroud. The seam appears flat on the face and raised like a roll on the reverse of the fabric . Examples of this same kind of seam are again to be found among the textile fragments of Masada, already mentioned above. To conclude this chapter it can be said that the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin does not display any weaving or sewing techniques which speak against its origin as a high quality product of the textile workers of the first century A.D.” SOURCE: Sindon by Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, pages 59-60, December 2001.

John Tyerer, a chartered textile technologist, “It would be reasonable to conclude the linen textiles with ‘Z’ twist yarns and woven 3/1 reversing twill similar to the Turin Shroud could have been produced in the first century Syria or Palestine.” (Source: The Shroud and The Controversy by Gary Habermas and Kenneth E. Stevenson, pg. 69) 

4. The Shroud was myth-busted by John Calvin, among many others, who show us that The Scripture demands TWO burial cloths (one for the head, one for the body) and not ONE. 

The Sudarium of Oviedo, long believed to be the “napkin” that was wrapped around Our Lord’s head after His crucifixion and death, has been shown to have 120 “points of coincidence” with the Shroud, including the same AB blood type.

Researchers assert, “The only possible conclusion is that the Oviedo sudarium covered the same face as the Turin Shroud.”

John Calvin:  4 Arguments against The Shroud: 

  1. THERE ARE MULTIPLE ‘SHROUDS’ THAT CLAIM TO BE GENUINE.   It is now time to treat of the “sudary,” about which relic they have displayed their folly even more than in the affair of the holy coat; for besides the sudary of Veronica, which is shown in the Church of St Peter at Rome, it is the boast of several towns that they each possess one, as for instance Carcassone, Nice, Aix-la-Chapelle, Tréves, Besançon, without reckoning the fragments to be seen in various places.Now, I ask whether those persons were not bereft of their senses who could take long pilgrimages, at much expense and fatigue, in order to see sheets, of the reality of which there were no reasons to believe, but many to doubt; for whoever admitted the reality of one of these sudaries shown in so many places, must have considered the rest as wicked impostures set up to deceive the public by the pretence that they were each the real sheet in which Christ’s body had been wrapped. 

Answer: That counterfeits exist does not at all prove that there is no genuine article. Rather, a counterfeit shroud (or three) can be a fairly convincing proof that – at least at one time – there was a significant genuine shroud.

2. THE BIBLE DOES NOT RECORD A CLOTH WITH AN IMPRESSION ON IT. 

St John, in his Gospel, relates even how St Peter, having entered the sepulchre, saw the linen clothes lying on one side, and the napkin that was about his head on the other; but he does not say that there was a miraculous impression of our Lord’s figure upon these clothes, and it is not to be imagined that he would have omitted to mention such a work of God if there had been any thing of this kind.

Answer: John 21:25 25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written. 
This is a clear argument from silence. That doesn’t mean it carries now weight – it does indeed carry some weight…but not enough to actually disprove the veracity of the Shroud. It should be pointed out that the miracle of the Shroud IF it happened and IF it was noticed by the ladies or the disciples would NOT have been all that significant in comparison to the resurrection of Jesus or the appearance of angels at the tomb. One can quite easily answer this argument from silence with another plausible argument from silence, and it is one I’ve not heard before. Consider how short, relatively speaking, each of the Gospels are – the Longest is Luke, checking in at just under 20000 words. In total, all four Gospels are approximately 65,000 words – not very lengthy. This is about the size of a shortish paper-back novel.  Given the relative brevity of these accounts, I find it remarkable that ALL FOUR Gospels mention the grave clothes of Jesus. Why? It would seem there would be little reason to record any details about the grave clothes unless…possibly…something remarkable happened to them. Now – is that argument enough to convince a skeptic? Of course not – because it is a very, very weak argument! So is Calvin’s argument here that the Gospels would have mentioned it if something miraculous happened with the grave-wrapping of Jesus. 

3. THE CLOTHES WERE GUARDED AND LEFT IN THE GRAVE.  Another point to be observed is, that the evangelists do not mention that either of the disciples or the faithful women who came to the sepulchre had removed the clothes in question, but, on the contrary, their account seems to imply that they were left there. Now, the sepulchre was guarded by soldiers, and consequently the clothes were in their power. Is it possible that they would have permitted the disciples to take them away as relics, since these very men had been bribed by the Pharisees to perjure themselves by saying that the disciples had stolen the body of our Lord ? 

This one is not terribly difficult to answer. None of the gospels record the detail of removing the clothing, which could be because they did indeed remove it, but did not notice an image imprinted on it. It is highly unlikely they would have left cloth behind in the grave for reasons both sentimental and practical. As well, it should be noted that the Gospels do not record the presence of a guard at the tomb AFTER the resurrection of Jesus. 

4. THE SHROUD IS ONE CLOTH AND THE BIBLE CLEARLY SHOWS THAT TWO CLOTHS SERVED TO BURY JESUS.

I shall conclude with a convincing proof of the audacity of the Papists. Wherever the holy sudary is exhibited, they show a large sheet with the full-length likeness of a human body on it. Now, St John’s Gospel, chapter nine teenth, says that Christ was buried according to the manner of the Jews ; and what was their custom ? This may be known by their present custom on such occasions, as well as from their books, which describe the ancient ceremony of interment, which was to wrap the body in a sheet, to the shoulders, and to cover the head with a separate cloth. This is precisely how the evangelist described it, saying, that St Peter saw on one side the clothes with which the body had been wrapped, and on the other the napkin from about his head. In short, either St John is a liar, or all those who boast of possessing the holy sudary are convicted of falsehood and deceit. * *

This is probably Calvin’s most well known argument contra the Shroud and the one that I hear most well-educated Protestants make when I bring up the Shroud to them That the Bible suggests a plurality of gravecloths, but the Shroud is only one cloth. On the surface, this might seem like a pretty compelling claim against the Shroud, but it is not quite as open and shut as Calvin would have us believe. 

The most relevant passage in the Bible to this discussion is John 20:  6 Then, following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. 7 The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself.

Pretty clear, right – according to John’s Gospel, there were not ONE but TWO burial cloths that wrapped Jesus. One, mentioned in vs 6 (Greek: ὀθόνια (othonia)/PLURAL)  and the other in verse 7 – a cloth wrapped around Jesus’ head. (Greek: σουδάριον Soudarion) 

Here’s the thing, though – Many Shroud researchers, including Kenneth Stevenson, Gary Habermas, Ian Wilson, Barrie Schwortz and others contend that the Shroud shows evidence that there was a head cloth wrapped around the Shroud figure’s neck and head – most likely to hold the jaw in place. 

It would appear that the Sudarion was not a very significant part of the grave cloths that wrapped Jesus, as Matthew, Mark and Luke do not mention it in particular. Consider: 

Mark 15:46 46 After he bought some fine linen, he took Him down and wrapped Him in the linen. Then he placed Him in a tomb cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.

Luke 23:53 and 24:12  52 He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed…12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.

And Matthew 27: 59 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.

So, the three synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – don’t mention the head-wrapping, or the sudarion, but John does. Could this indicate that the sudarion was a smaller garment – one that would not have left much of an imprint on the Shroud? Possibly. But, again, I emphasize – The Shroud seems to allow for the existence of a head-scarf type wrapping, as well as ones around the wrists and feet. Rather than the Biblical account disproving The Shroud, it actually seems to describe it quite well.

5. THE ABUNDANCE OF FAKE RELICS PUT FORWARD BY MEDIEVAL CATHOLICS PROVES THE SHROUD IS ALSO FAKE.  St Honoratus has a body at Arles, and another at the island of Lerins, near Antibes.St Giles has a body at Toulouse, and a second in a town bearing his name in Languedoc.I could quote an infinite number of similar cases. I think that the exhibitors of these relics should at least have made some arrangement amongst themselves the better to conceal their barefaced impostures. Something of this sort was managed between the canons of Trêves and those of Liége about St Lambert’s head. They compounded, for a sum of money, not to show publicly the head in their possession, in order to avoid the natural surprise of the public at the same relic being seen in two different towns situated so near to each other. But, as I have already remarked at the commencement of this treatise, the inventors of these frauds never imagined anyone could be found bold enough to speak out and expose their deceptions.

This is really more of a subset of argument #1, and it is a fairly strong argument. However, it must be said that not every statement made by a dishonest person is a lie, and it is perfectly possible that not every relic claimed by the medieval Catholic church was fake. Most likely were. Were they ALL fake?  I’m not convinced they were. 

So – Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little bit of busting myths. 

You can probably tell that I want the Shroud to be the real thing. There’s several reasons for this, but none of them are apologetics-related. In other words, I don’t want the Shroud to be the real burial cloth of Jesus because I think that would help prove the Bible to be reliable, or Jesus to be the resurrected Son of God. No article could prove such a thing. I do, however, want the Shroud to be real and genuine in the same sort of way that I want there to be a real Loch Ness Monster, or an extant Holy Grail somewhere out there. The world is a more interesting place with a legit Nessie swimming around in the cold waters of Scotland, and it is a more interesting place with real, tangible artifacts from the time of Jesus. Does that bias me? Possibly it does, and I don’t want to enter this discussion biased. It does make me consider the claims of debunkers with a greater skepticism, however, and that might not be a bad thing. 

I love John Calvin and am quite persuaded by his soteriological leanings in the realm of theology. That said, I believe his debunking of The Shroud is somewhat ham-handed, especially his contention that it is easily proved false by John 20 argument that the Bible says there were two different kinds of grave-clothes. I believe that there were indeed two different kinds of graveclothes used on Jesus – the Bible is explicit about this – there was a linen cloth that the body of Jesus was wrapped in, and a head covering (of some sort) that went along with it. That said, the Shroud appears to show evidence of there being a head scarf or head wrapping of some sort, and even if it didn’t, one could easily see how the Shroud figure could have been wrapped in more than one cloth. I have little patience for people who believe the extraordinary simply because somebody told them it was so – gullibility is delightful in children, but unbecoming and unsophisticated in adults. I also have little patience for those who claim to debunk complex objects and possibilities with overly-simplistic and reductionist arguments. It is definitely possible – even plausible – that the Shroud of Turin is a medieval forgery, but the fact that John 20:7 mentions a sudarion that was on the head of Jesus does not necessarily debunk the authenticity of The Shroud in any sore of logical, philosophical or archaeological way. 

Ok – that was a long episode. ONE more Shroud episode coming up – a summation of sorts. I hope to have 20-25 reasons to believe the Shroud could be authentic as well as a number of reasons to NOT believe in the authenticity of The Shroud. Thanks for being patient, and thanks for listening. Please leave a positive review if you are so inclined. 


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Bible Mystery Podcast with Chase A. Thompson

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