pp. 27-29, Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov./Dec. `98:
DEBUNKING THE SHROUD
Made by Human Hands
Nothing puzzles and intrigues the sindonologist - the student of the Shroud of Turin - more than the supposed mystery of how the image on the shroud was made. "It doesn't look like any known work of art," they say. The implication is that its creation was somehow miraculous, perhaps caused by a sudden burst of cosmic energy as the cloth came into contact with the dead body of Jesus. But in fact, it is simply historical ignorance of what the shroud really is (or at least, what it purports to be) that leads these people to wrong-headed notions. The Shroud of Turin is not, by definition, a work of art but instead belongs to the long and revered tradition of sacred objects that are at once relics and icons.
Such objects first appeared during the sixth century in the Holy Land; in Greek they are called acheiropoietai (singular, acheiropoietos), which means "not made by human hands." They are called this because they are (apparently) contact impressions of holy bodies. They have become relics through physical contact with the sacred, and they are icons because of the resultant image; but in neither case is there (by definition, at least) any intervention by an artist.
Among the earliest acheiropoietai is the Column of Flagellation, in Jerusalem. This relic (the column) appears for the first time in fifth historical sources, which describe its location in the Church of Holy Sion; but it is only in the sixth century that pilgrims began to see the image of Jesus' hands and chest impressed into its stone surface, left there, presumably, as Jesus was bound in place for the flagellation.-century
The most characteristic form of acheiropoietos, however, is the holy cloth. According to legend, St. Veronica stepped forward to wipe the sweat from Jesus' brow as he stumbled toward Calvary, and her towel - already transformed into a relic through that holy contact - miraculously retained the image of Jesus' face. Known as Veronica's Veil, the relic became one of the most famous acheiropoietai of the Middle Ages. Another such cloth image (also generated by perspiration) was produced on the night of the betrayal, as Jesus prayed intently at Gethsemane. And then there is the Shroud of Turin, seemingly produced by blood, blood plasma and sweat absorbed from Jesus' dead body at the time of entombment [see "The Shroud Painting Explained" by Walter McCrone at end of this paper.]
Several reputed examples of each of these holy-icon cloths have surfaced over the centuries. At least three dozen cloths have been identified as Veronica's Veil, the Holy Shroud, and the like. In 12th-century Constantinople alone, there were two iconic burial shrouds and one Gethsemane towel, each of which was eventually destroyed. What sets the Shroud of Turin apart is not what it is, but rather how it, almost alone among its object type, has survived more or less intact to modern times.
But the more important point is this: The Shroud of Turin is not and never was a "work of art" in the conventional sense of that term. And in fact, were it in any way to look like a work of art - something made by human hands - this would immediately disqualify it from being what it is supposed to be: an acheiropoietos.
This is the catch-22 that sindonologists fail to appreciate: For the shroud to be the shroud, it more or less has to look the way it looks. Furthermore, the shroud is in no way unique in appearance among its object type. The single salient quality that these sacred objects share is that very quality that is so striking about the shroud - namely, a faint and elusive image seemingly produced by bodily secretions.
How is it, finally, that we know for certain that the Shroud of Turin is a fake? Without prejudicing the possibility that one or more among history's several dozen acheiropoietai may be genuine, we can be positive that this one cannot, since, according to its carbon 14 dating, it could not possibly have come into contact with the historical Jesus. Yet it would be incorrect to view the Shroud of Turin as just another icon, because it was very clearly, very self-consciously doctored in order to become what millions, until recently, have taken it to be: an image not made by human hands. And these, unlike icons, can only be one of a kind.
The Shroud of Turin was created to deceive. It was manufactured at a time, in western Europe especially, when relics meant pilgrimage and pilgrimage meant money. The competition for both, among rival cities and towns, was intense. And stealing and forgery were both part of the business.
It was also a time when the material remains of Jesus' Passion were very much in vogue, when St. Louis would build Ste. Chapelle solely to enshrine the Crown of Thorns (which had recently been stolen from Constantinople).
A contemporary model will help us understand this culture in which the blood and gore of Jesus' death carried intense spiritual power. Although Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in 315 A.D., the practice - as a form of piety - was never completely abandoned. To this day, some members of a lay confraternity of Spanish American Catholics in northern New Mexico, called the Penitentes, are said to practice various forms of extreme body mortification during Holy Week, including self-crucifixion. Thus, the Penitentes understand the physical reality of crucifixion as few before them have. The Penitentes are also known for their artwork; most characteristic are their carved wooden crucifixes, painted blue, which incorporate their firsthand knowledge of crucifixion - specifically, the knowledge that the body eventually turns blue from suffocation.
The carbon 14 dating of the shroud to 1260-1390 A.D. brings us into the world of the Penitentes' patron saint, Francis of Assisi (who died in 1226), to his stigmata (the miraculous wounds on his hands, feet and side) and, especially, to the lay brotherhoods that his piety and his cult of self-mortification engendered. These Christians appreciated and understood Jesus' wounds in a very physical way.
This is the world of the holy shroud; these are the people for whom it would have held special meaning; and these, certainly, are the people for whom it was made. Just as the Penitentes understand the significance of blueness, these medieval Christians would have understood that the nails must have gone through Jesus' wrists in order to hold the body to the cross (although in medieval art these wounds are invariably in the palms). And their cult images would match this physical understanding of crucifixion, even to the point of adding human blood, much as the Penitentes add human hair and bone to their cult images. All of which is to say that the indication of nail holes in the wrists and what some claim is the presence of blood on the linen need not add up to a miracle.
Knowing both this and the shroud's carbon 14 dating of 1260 to 1390 A.D., it is worth returning, finally, to the place and time of the shroud's first appearance in historical documents. It is the year 1357, and the shroud is being exhibited publicly to pilgrims. It belongs to a French nobleman, Geoffrey de Charnay, and is being displayed in his private chapel in Lirey, a village near Troyes, in northeastern France. The Bishop of Troyes, Henri of Poitiers, is upset because he believes the shroud is a fake; in fact, he has been told this by a man who claims to have painted it. Thirty years pass. It is now 1389, and Henri's successor, Pierre d'Archis, writes a long letter of protest about the shroud to Pope Clement VII. He recalls his predecessor's accusation and then goes on to state his own conviction "that the Shroud is a product of human handicraft ... a cloth cunningly painted by a man." He pleads with the Pope to end its public display. The Pope's written reply is cautious but clear; the shroud may still be displayed, but only on the condition that a priest be in attendance to announce to all present,
`in a loud and intelligible voice, without any trickery, that the aforesaid form or representation [the shroud] is not the burial cloth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but only a kind of painting or picture made as a form or representation of the burial cloth.'
This was the true verdict - the correct verdict- from the Pope, issued less than four decades after the shroud was painted. And isn't it ironic that it has taken 600 years to get essentially the same answer - but this time from the offices of an international team of scientists? [Emphasis added. - RDB]
[Also from p. 29 of the same publication:]
THE SHROUD PAINTING EXPLAINED BY WALTER C. McCRONE
I beg to differ with the recent statement in BAR [Biblical Archaeology Review] (and in Time magazine) that "no one has been able to account for the image" on the Shroud of Turin.
Nearly 20 years ago the Catholic Church invited me to determine chemically what the image is on the Shroud of Turin.
I obtained 32 samples from the shroud: 18 from areas where there are images (both of a body and of bloodstains) and 14 from non-image areas (some from clear areas that served as controls, others from scorch and water stains caused by a fire in 1532). The samples were taken with squares of sticky tape, each of which exceeded a square inch in area and held more than 1,000 linen fibers and any materials attached to the shroud. They were excellent samples. I used standard forensic tests to check for blood. I found none. There is no blood on the shroud.
To determine what substances are present in the shroud images, I conducted tests based on polarized light microscopy. I identified the substance of the body-and-blood images as the paint pigment red ochre, in a collagen tempera medium. The blood image areas consist of another pigment, vermilion, in addition to red ochre and tempera. These paints were in common use during the Middle Ages.
The paint on the shroud was very dilute (0.01 percent in a 0.01 percent gelatin solution). I made up such a paint and an artist friend, Walter Sanford, painted an excellent shroud-like image (see ... my book Judgement Day for the Shroud [Chicago: McCrone Research Institute, 1996], pp. 145, 149). Known as grisaille, the style of the painting, with its very faint, monochromatic image, was also common in the 14th century.
Based on the complete absence of any reference to the shroud before 1356, Bishop Henri of Poitiers's statement that he knew the artist, the 14th century painting style and my test results, I concluded in two papers published in 1980 that the shroud was painted in 1355 ("to give the paint a year to dry"). A third paper in 1981 confirmed these results with X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray determination of the elements present (iron, mercury and sulfur) in the two paints. Eight years after my published results, the carbon-dating results were reported as 1325 [plus or minus 65 years] - thus confirming my date of 1355.
An expert in microanalysis and painting authentication, Walter C. McCrone is director emeritus of the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago, Illinois. [Emphasis added - RDB.]
The March/April 1999 edition of Biblical Archaeology Review carried a number of dissenting letters by "Shroud Believers." They attacked the above articles and the researchers who wrote them. Here is Walter C. McCrone's reply to their objections:
Any objective chemist would be convinced by my detailed articles and book, Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud, in which I argue that the shroud is a beautiful medieval painting. I am expert in using microscopical methods to identify the pigments, media and supports for each paint used in a painting. I have examined several hundred paintings, by artists from Giotto to Pollock, submitted to me by dealers, auction houses and collectors in order to authenticate them.
When I began my study of the 32 sticky tapes taken from body-image, blood-image, scorched and clean areas of the shroud, I looked for body fluids, especially blood. However, I immediately saw thousands of tiny red ochre particles in the image areas. The more I looked at these tapes, the more I became convinced that the image was paint. Subsequently, I found a second red pigment with the red ochre, but only in blood-image areas. I tested for blood by several recognized forensic tests (benzidine, luminol, Teichman, phenolphthalein and sulfuric acid plus ultraviolet fluorescence). I might add that I am a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and have worked on, and testified in court on, forensic cases.
I and an artist friend of mine have prepared shroudlike images on linen using diluted blood as a paint and examined sticky tapes from those images. There were no particles of blood, much less red particles. Dried blood is brown and present on my dilute blood-painted shroud tapes as a continuous brown gel-like smear. My colleagues at McCrone Associates used X-ray fluorescence and X-ray and electron diffraction on the samples, which confirmed my research in every respect. I object 100 percent to all pro-shroud claims:
+ Carbon dating - three world-class laboratories in the United States, England and Switzerland analyzed clean shroud samples and three other known-date cloths with agreement on all four cloths, and they did a good job of cleaning the samples. Only a few pro-shroud individuals disagree with their conclusion: 1325 [A.D.]
+/- 65 years.
+ Blood tests -- I stand by my claim that there is no blood on the shroud. Anyone claiming there is is guilty of wishful thinking and speaking from their belief in a first-century shroud.
+ Mercury -- the presence of mercuric sulfide as the pigment vermilion (in a form invented by alchemists in about 700 A.D.) is proved microchemically, by X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence. All of the seven blood-image tapes showed thousands of vermilion pigment particles dispersed on the linen fibers.
+ Iron oxide (red ochre) as image -- neither Adler nor anyone else has shown that 90 percent of the iron [present on the shroud] is bonded to cellulose and is not present as colored iron oxide. This ludicrous statement is an out-and-out misrepresentation of the facts. Anyone making such a statement [as one of the letter writers attributed to Alan Adler] is either not a microscopist or is incompetent or lying. The explanation of the shroud image as due to dehydrative oxidation of the cellulose [also attributed to Adler] is balderdash - absolutely impossible; 99 percent of the iron on the shroud is readily visible to a microscopist as micron-sized red particles bound to the linen with a dried gelatin paint medium.
+ There were very few pollen grains on his tapes (I examined them very carefully).Pollen -- Max Frei has been shown to have misled all of us with his report of 54 different species of pollen, all from the Near East, on the shroud.
+ Three-dimensional images -- I taught a noted Chicago portrait artist, Walter Sanford, to paint "shrouds" with convincing 3-D and negative images.
+ History of the shroud -- there is no credible evidence for the shroud before 1356, and the bishop at the time said he knew the artist who painted it.
I can't go on. Some people believe so strongly in a real Christ's shroud that they "see" anything that would be there if real. From my experience as a painting authenticator, the shroud is authentic - a beautiful and inspired authentic painting - p. 66. [emphasis added - RDB.].
Jehovah's Witnesses have written on this subject even long before the scientific proof related above:
"Shroud of Turin"
From time to time publicity is given to the "Shroud of Turin," a cloth the full length of a body, supposedly showing the image of Jesus. Roman Catholics believe that the likeness came from its contact with the body of Jesus. Others doubt the claim.
However, was Jesus buried in a one-piece shroud? No, he was not. God's inspired Word, the Holy Scriptures, states at John chapter 20, verses 6 and 7, that in the empty tomb after Jesus was resurrected the apostle Peter "observed the wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth which had covered the head not lying with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself." - Catholic New American Bible.
So there were several cloths, with a separate one around Jesus' head. Thus the "Shroud of Turin" could not have been any part of the actual cloths used in Jesus' burial, since it is in one piece and Jesus was "bound . . . in wrappings of cloth," with a separate one being used for his head. - John 19:40, NAB. - p. 15, Watchtower, 1 April 1979
pp. 16-20, Awake!, 8 March 1980.
The Shroud of Turin - Is It the Burial Cloth of Jesus?
[Picture of human face shown.] Is this the face of Jesus Christ? Millions of persons around the world believe it is. Why?
This face is part of the image on a piece of linen cloth called "the most important relic in the history of Christianity" - the Shroud of Turin.
This 14-by-3 1/2-foot (4.3-by-1.1-m) cloth is claimed to be the "fine linen" (Mark 15:46) used to wrap the body of Jesus after his death. On it is formed the faint image of a blood-stained body with wounds that are said to correspond to those inflicted on Jesus. The cloth, it is asserted, was laid lengthwise over and under the body so that one sees the front and the back of a man, and this is centered between two dark streaks resulting from fire damage.
World attention was focused on the relic when, after a long-awaited public display, which drew millions of observers, permission was granted a team of scientists to examine the shroud carefully. For five days and nights during October 1978, these 45 scientists, armed with four tons of sophisticated space-age instruments, pored over the relic. In fact, Science News reported:
"Five yards of linen kept on an altar in Turin cathedral are the subject of more precise scientific tests than probably any other religious relic."
Even before the findings of the scientists were published, newspapers and books hailed the shroud as:
• "A Proof of the Existence of God"
• "The Fifth Gospel Written in Blood"
• "A Literal `Snapshot' of the Resurrection"
• "The Photograph of Christ"
What Christian would not like to know the physical appearance of Jesus? To think that there is, as some claim, tangible proof of the resurrection certainly creates excitement. On the other hand, how would you feel if the shroud proved to be a fraud? How misleading! By drawing such great attention, could it be sidetracking persons, causing them to ignore weightier matters?
Would you not want to know all the facts? Just how should a Christian be affected by this relic?
First, let us examine just why so many scientists are excited about the shroud.
Why Are Some Excited?
The herringbone weave of the cloth [it has been claimed] was popular in Palestine during the time of Christ, and [it has been claimed that] pollen taken from it was found to be from plants that at one time grew in that land. The preservation of linen from Jesus' day is nothing extraordinary, for linen cloths dating even before then still exist. What makes this cloth unique is the image on it.
Back in 1898, when the shroud was photographed for the first time, something completely unexpected happened that attracted the attention of scientists. When the pictures were developed, the image was found to be in reality a negative. (In photography a negative is what you see on the developed film where the whites and blacks are reversed.) The faint markings on the shroud appeared to come to life in the negatives. With exceptional detail they showed the full figure of a man.
Marks were observed in the wrist and the foot as if these had been pierced. Also noticed were a large bloodstain on the right chest area and numerous dumbbell-shaped wound marks that resemble the lead balls used on Roman scourges during the time of Christ. Bloodstains were seen on the top of the head, suggesting the use of a crown of thorns.
The greatest puzzle is how the image was formed. Recent tests failed to find any traces of pigment known to have been used during the Middle Ages, when the shroud made its first documented appearance. By the use of powerful microscopes, the image was found to be made up of tiny "yellow-red to orange granules" that sat on top of the weave. Whatever caused the image did not penetrate the cloth. Apparently, according to authority Ian Wilson, "it would seem to have been a `dry' process as from some physical force reacting with the surface fibers of the Shroud threads, the granules thereby being formed, as it were, from the fibers themselves."
The latest theory, according to physical chemist and shroud authority Ray Rogers, is that the image "was formed by a burst of radiant energy." Some feel this occurred when Jesus was resurrected. However, are all convinced?
Why Some Have Serious Doubts
A number of serious Bible scholars doubt its authenticity because of the Scriptural record. The Scriptures suggest conditions during Jesus' burial that were contrary to what is seen on the shroud. For the shroud to be authentic, two conditions must have existed when the image was formed: (1) the body could not have been washed, for the bloodstains are clearly visible, and (2) the linen cloth would have to have been laid loosely over the body, not pressed against it. "The figures [on the shroud] had not been produced by mere contact of the linen with human flesh," affirms shroud backer Edward Wuenschel. He adds: "Such contact would have caused considerable distortion, and there is little or no distortion in the figures on this shroud."
The accounts of Jesus' burial by Matthew (27:59, 60), Mark (15:46) and Luke (23:53) are quite brief. But they all say that the body was "wrapped" in "fine linen." Was the body so quickly prepared that it was not first washed? Such treatment by Jews would be highly unusual. Why? Contemporary Jewish historian Josephus says that, unlike some of their enemies, "the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men."
The apostle John, who was an eyewitness, fills in some additional details confirming that "much care" was taken with Jesus' body before it was buried. He reports:
"He [Joseph of Arimathea] came and took his body away. 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 19:38-40.
What was the "custom" of the Jews in preparing for burial? Virtually the only contemporary evidence is in the Greek Scriptures. There it shows that the body was first washed and then oils and spices were used to anoint it. (Acts 9:37; Matt. 26:12) The fact that Joseph and Nicodemus made use of the myrrh, aloes and bandages and "bound up" the body indicates that they had at least begun the customary Jewish preparation of the dead.
Ancient Jewish non-Biblical writings also indicate that it was their custom to wash the body and to use spices, but not to preserve or embalm the body as some claim; rather, as the Talmud says, "The spices are to remove the bad smell." Such preparation of the corpse was not forbidden even on the Sabbath; as the Mishnah (2nd century C.E.) says: "They may make ready [on the Sabbath] all that is needful for the dead, and anoint it and wash it." - Shabbath 23:5.
That the two men took steps to prepare the body for burial is also indicated by what was found in the empty tomb after Jesus' resurrection. John tells us:
"He [Peter] viewed the bandages lying, also the cloth that had been upon his head not lying with the bandages but separately rolled up in one place." (John 20:6, 7)
There is no mention of the "fine linen" (Greek: sindón), but reference is made to "bandages" (Greek: othónia) and a "cloth that had been on his head" (Greek: soudárion). It may be that the "fine linen" was torn up into strips, providing the "bandages." All of these had to be wrapped around the body. However, if this is true, the bandages would hold the shroud close to the body and cause a "contact print" and not allow the projected image found on the shroud. If the bandages were under the shroud, they would likewise distort the image.
The fact that a separate piece of cloth is mentioned as being "upon his head" shows that a different piece covered his head, whereas the shroud clearly shows the image of the head on the same cloth that covered the body. However, some try to contend that this headcloth is actually the shroud. Yet this Greek word is variously translated as "napkin" (AV) or "handkerchief" (Catholic Confraternity Version), and at Luke 19:20 it is applied to a piece of cloth in which one keeps money. How could this be identified with a 14-foot (4.3-m) shroud! Others feel that this headcloth was a chin strap to hold the mouth of the corpse in place. If so, that would mean the shroud is not mentioned by John as being in the empty tomb. Certainly, since he details the "bandages" and the "headcloth," would it not seem likely he would have mentioned the "fine linen" or shroud, if it had been there?
The Scriptural account suggests that the body was washed and bound with myrrh and aloes according to the Jewish custom. All was completed except the anointing with oil and spices, which the women intended to do the following Sunday morning. (Luke 23:55, 56; Mark 16:1)
Such preparations would have made impossible the present image on the shroud. Concerning the Bible account, shroud supporter Rodney Hoare admits:
"This section in St. John has for years been the main argument in the attack on the authenticity of the Shroud, and a very powerful argument it is." - The Testimony of the Shroud, p. 120.
An Unusual Silence of Early Christian Writers
If the graveclothes of Jesus had his image upon them, does it not seem to you it would have been noticed and become a subject for discussion? Yet, beyond what is in the Gospels, there is complete silence in the New Testament about the graveclothes.
Even the professed Christian writers of the third and fourth centuries, many of whom wrote about a host of so-called miracles in connection with numerous relics, do not mention the existence of a shroud containing the image of Jesus. Some claim that the shroud had been hidden during all these years. Still, even after the supposed burial shroud of Jesus had been "discovered," according to seventh-century writers, there is no mention of an image on it. Shroud advocate P. A. Beecher lists a considerable number of individuals who saw the shroud between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, one who even "kissed it," and yet not one mentioned the image. This is hard to understand, since 15th- and 16th-century viewers, according to Jesuit scholar Herbert Thurston, "describe the impressions on the shroud as so vivid in detail and colouring that they might have been quite freshly made."
Concerning this long period of silence, Ian Wilson, a backer of the shroud, asks some very searching questions:
"How could such a fascinating piece of cloth as the Shroud of Turin, if genuine, have gone totally unrecorded over thirteen centuries, suddenly to turn up in fourteenth-century France?
"Could it have been hidden away all the time, due to Jewish and Roman persecution of Christians, followed by the danger to all image-bearing objects during the period of the iconoclastic controversy (725-842)? This was most unlikely.
"There were four hundred years from the conversion of Constantine the Great to the onset of iconoclasm, during which many previously `hidden' relics came to light, including the entire True Cross, the crown of thorns, the nails, the purple cloak, the reed, the stone of the sepulcher, and many others. There was ample opportunity for such an important and unmistakable relic as the Turin Shroud to come to light. Yet there was no record of any such event."
Scientific and Historical Problems
Many theories have come and gone as to how the image was formed. Most scientists agree that the latest findings have shown that the whole image was produced from the same cause, perhaps from some process that "scorched" it.
This scientific conclusion presents some problems, for it indicates that the impression on the shroud should be basically one color, simply varying in intensity. Yet 16th-century viewers indicated that it was made up of two different colors. Not only did artistic reproductions of the time show it multicolored, but one observer, Chifflet, said:
"The figure of Turin shows hardly anything but dark crimson stains, . . . the marks of the wounds seem to be painted in over the impression of the body, which is in a thin pale yellow."
One could wonder if today's shroud is the same as the one displayed back in the 14th century and labeled a fraud by the then Roman Catholic bishop Henry de Troyes (France) and said to have been "cunningly painted." Joseph Hanlon, writing in New Scientist, raises an interesting possibility:
"But could there have been a double fake, one in the 14th century and another in the last century? The shroud was widely shown in the 15th and 16th centuries, but not later. Could it be that the first fraud became too obvious?
. . . Might the shroud's owners have done a better job in that time, using modern technology and medical knowledge, including tests such as Barbet's, and using ancient linen from the middle east? Might a statue have been created solely for this purpose, heated to give an impression on the cloth, and then destroyed?
. . . .
Nevertheless, there have been a number of sophisticated Victorian archaeological frauds, so we cannot ignore this possibility."
Others have suggested the use of a mixture of myrrh and aloes rubbed over a bas-relief (a picture with three-dimensional features) to produce a similar image. However, Adam Otterbein, president of the Holy Shroud Guild, concluded: "How the image was formed may be a mystery to the end of time. . . It's doubtful whether science will ever be able to prove how this was done."
Does It Affect Your Faith?
Obviously the debate about the shroud will continue for some time. But does this seem to you to be God's way of verifying the resurrection of his Son? How were persons in the first century convinced? Instead of relying on cloth that once draped a dead man, Jehovah saw to it that over 500 living eyewitnesses testified about the risen Christ. (1 Cor. 15:3-8) In the wake of such evidence, the graveclothes pale into insignificance.
Yet by such publicity could the shroud, even if it were authentic, overshadow this real evidence of the resurrection? Could it sidetrack persons into resting their faith on this piece of cloth? Even shroud scientist John Jackson said:
"But if someone were to base his faith completely on an unusual piece of cloth, that would really be a form of idolatry." - The Catholic Digest, April 1979.
It is very easy for a person to let his heart become enticed by the intriguing possibilities of the shroud. But will interest in the shroud create genuine faith? Will it help us to keep "walking by faith, not by sight"? (2 Cor. 5:7) What if it is proved to be a fraud? Would you lose your faith in the resurrection or at least develop some doubts? If you are excited by the shroud, just why? Does your faith need a brace such as this? Could it in reality prove to be a weak crutch? These are meaningful questions for every Christian to consider.
Though we live when people thrive on the spectacular, how often such has stolen attention from important matters. For instance, Franco Barbero, a Roman Catholic priest, remarked: "I wonder what would have happened in the Turin Church if all the energy spent and concentrated on this initiative had been concentrated on the preaching of the Word!" (Italics ours)
Yes, the "preaching of the Word," not the displaying of relics, is what will build genuine faith. It is what will create a sure hope that "does not lead to disappointment." (Rom. 5:5) This hope assures us that the same One who resurrected Jesus will again act, not by "sending" a piece of cloth to amaze the world, but by using his glorified Son to bring to its end a corrupt world that lacks true faith. At the same time he will deliver into a new order of righteousness persons of genuine faith. - 2 Pet. 3:13. - pp. 16-20, Awake!, 8 March 1980.
1. Veronica's tale does not appear in the New Testament but is recorded in the fourth-century apocryphal Acts of Peter and in the medieval Golden Legend.
2. See for example, Walter C. McCrone, "The Shroud of Turin: Blood or Artist's Pigments?" Accounts of Chemical Research 5:23 (1990), pp. 77-83.
3. McCrone, Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud (Chicago: McCrone Research Institute, 1996).
4. McCrone, Judgement Day, pp. 291-308.
5. But notice this more recent testimony concerning that herringbone weave:
"Beyond all of the controversy over the chemical and carbon tests on the Shroud of Turin, one must consider the textile. The image appears on a linen pointed twill or herringbone twill textile.
"Never, in all of the thousands of textiles in the museums or in the literature, have I found a complex twill textile comparable to the cloth of the shroud. Nor is there evidence during the Roman period for the multishaft loom necessary to weave this twill.
"One can venerate and admire the Shroud of Turin, but I cannot believe that this linen textile was woven in Christ's lifetime." - Nancy Hopkins, p. 10, Biblical Archaeological Review, 1999, Vol.25, No. 6.
6. Footnote from the quoted Awake! article:
"Such anointing would not have necessitated the removal of the graveclothes, for they could have merely poured the sweet-smelling oils over the body. (See Mark 14:3, 8; it shows, while still alive, Jesus was `anointed' for burial, yet the woman merely `poured it [oil] upon his head.')"
SHROUD OF TURIN (INDEX; Watchtower Online Library)