Shroud of Turin

Actual Facts and Logic

The Shroud of Turin is considered by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus after He was Crucified. This conclusion seems really unbelievable once the actual facts are considered.

The Shroud of Turin is definitely very old. It can be traced back to 1354 AD with good documentation. Prior to that year, no evidence seems to exist about it. In 1578, it was placed in the Cathedral of Turin, Italy, where it remains (and where it received its popular name).

The Shroud is a piece of linen cloth 14'3" long by 3'7" wide. The unusual thing about it is that it appears to have an image of the front and back of a man who was about 6' tall. The image appears as a negative rather than a positive image, and it shows features that can be interpreted as marks of crucifixion.

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That image is nowhere near as distinct as most people think! It is nearly invisible to the human eye. The image that is usually presented is an ENHANCED image, which DOES appear to show the image of a person, which is just barely recognizable to a person looking at the cloth.

The implication is that this long cloth was laid flat, the body was laid on top of half of it and then the other half of the cloth was folded back over the body. This situation may certainly have been true for whoever the person was whose image is preserved in the cloth. Modern science cannot explain how the images could have appeared in the cloth and cannot duplicate the results by any known means.

However, that person could not possibly have been Jesus, for at least two independent reasons.

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Burial Rituals

In the day of Jesus, Jewish society was incredibly structured. Every aspect of life was precisely defined and controlled by religious beliefs. This organization of life included burial rituals.

The Bible is even very clear on this matter. John 19:38-40 is very precise in indicating that Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus prepared Jesus' body in the manner of the Jews for proper burial. This procedure involves extensive wrapping of the body, while including a LOT of myrrh and aloes that would get placed between the various layers of cloth. Specifically, John 19:40 says that "Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury."

The amount of myrrh and aloes used in this ritual was a sign of the respect for that individual. It was common to use great quantities of spices for embalming the dead. When Rabbi Gamaliel died around the same time, 80 pounds of spices were used in preparing his body. The same general situation is known regarding the death of Aristobulus. So the hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes mentioned in John 19:39 is generally in line with other highly respected people of the time.

Merrill Tenney describes the Jewish custom as follows: In preparing a body for burial according to Jewish custom, it was usually washed and straightened, and then bandaged tightly from the armpits to the ankles in strips of linen about a foot wide. Aromatic spices, often of a gummy consistency, were placed between the wrappings or folds. They served partially as a preservative and partially as a cement to glue the cloth wrappings into a solid covering. (from: The Reality of the Resurrection).

In some parts of Syria, this burial custom is still observed. In both the ancient and modern procedure, and in the description of the custom, the head was never wrapped in such a way and the face would remain uncovered. It is very likely that the neck and upper shoulders were also not wrapped in the linen strips.

The spices, the myrrh and the aloes, may have been placed dry or in the gummy consistency mentioned above. If they were placed dry between the various layers and folds of the linen, in the case of Jesus, it would not seem that we would still have the 'glue' effect mentioned above. However, in addition, a semi-liquid unguent such as nard was initially used to anoint the body. The effect of this would be to cause the powdered myrrh and aloes near the body to strongly adhere to the body and to the layers of linen. Outer layers of myrrh and the aloes might have remained as a dry powder.

The point being made here is that in either case, this complex and involved wrapping of many narrow strips of cloth would naturally have stuck together so strongly as to effectively make a relatively rigid 'cocoon' around the body.

The head and hair were anointed with the nard unguent, but the powdered spices do not appear to have been applied to the head or face. A small separate 'face cloth' or 'napkin' was generally placed on the face or around the head. John 20:7 refers to this separate cloth, so this aspect of the custom was definitely used regarding Jesus. Rather than ONE piece of cloth, certainly at least two separate pieces are described here.

Several points should be noted. A HUNDRED POUNDS of myrrh and aloes were applied during the burial preparation. If a single sheet, such as the Shroud of Turin was used as the burial cloth, how could they have applied such a great amount of spices? Jewish custom did not involve using a single cloth, but rather a number of long strips of linen that were tightly wrapped many times around the body. The presence of the myrrh and the nard would have made the burial clothes become extremely rigid. The burial clothes were never extended to cover the head or face but only wrapped the body.

The Shroud of Turin contradicts each of these known facts. It purports to show both the body and head and face of Jesus. It purports to be a single loose layer of cloth under and over the body, which is very different from the Jewish custom that was actually followed. Actually, such a burial would have been extremely disrespectful of Jesus, something that Joseph of Arimathaea would certainly not have done or allowed. No matter how carefully strips were wrapped around the body, it would be impossible to get a full body image, even if the face was not included. The Shroud of Turin is apparently not as physically rigid as the burial clothes of Jesus had to have been. It is not saturated with great amounts of myrrh and aloes, although it could be argued that such materials may have evaporated over the centuries (but precise chemical analysis should still show their presence, considering the original amount of 100 pounds, almost comparable to the body weight of Jesus Himself!).


The other great reason why the Shroud of Turin could not actually be the burial cloth of Jesus has to do with DNA. If it actually IS the burial cloth of Jesus, then microscopic amounts of the DNA of Jesus must necessarily still be present in the cloth or in the nard or in the myrrh. If that was really the case, then some idiot scientist would some day get the brilliant idea that he could 'clone' Jesus from that microscopic sample. That theoretical clone would not actually be Our Jesus, but, in a sense, it still WOULD be Jesus. God would never allow a situation where we might be able to do such a stupid thing. In addition to the factual arguments presented above, this consideration adds another reason why the Shroud of Turin cannot actually be the burial cloth of Jesus.

It is still a remarkable piece of linen. Until some day when science can figure out how such an image could appear on it, and possibly duplicate the appearance, we will all remain mystified by the Shroud of Turin. But we should not consider it to be Jesus' burial cloth, because it clearly could not be, no matter how much we might all wish it were.


From approximately 1354 AD on, there are good historical records which indicate where the Shroud of Turin was at all times. But prior to that day, there are NO historical references to it at all. IF there had actually be a true piece of cloth which had even TOUCHED the Body of Jesus, it would have been treasured from the very first day to today, as being probably the MOST important artifact of history! But there was NO mention of it at all, for over 1300 years.

Carbon-14 Dating

An attempt was made to try to confirm the age of the Shroud of Turin several years ago, when a small corner or the cloth was permitted to be cut away in order to do radiometric Carbon-14 dating of it.

Those results should be ignored! Yes, C-14 dating CAN be extremely accurate for things like cloth or wood or other organic materials. See our presentation on the process at Radiometric Age Dating - Carbon-14 Age Determination Radiometric Age Dating, Carbon-14, C-14. A critically important fact is that amazingly FEW atoms of carbon-14 are actually in any sample. This means that ANY contamination over the centuries could have EITHER increased or decreased the number of those C-14 atoms that are counted, which would result in a very wrong age. In order to combat this problem, ALL good researchers always shave off the surface layers of the object which is to be dated, in order to get down to a NON-CONTAMINATED portion of it. In the case of the Shroud of Turin, that was neither done nor was it really possible with such a THIN piece of material. Therefore, the potential of contamination is so large that NO credible age could be determined for the Shroud, and certainly from a very tiny corner of the piece.

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in March 1998.

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C Johnson, Pastor,
A Christ Walk Church

also, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from University of Chicago