The Shroud of Turin


By Richard Kieninger


The so-called burial cloth of Jesus has aroused much interest and speculation among Christians and also among the scientific community that has been called upon to analyze it. The image of the man upon the cloth shows that he was whipped, beaten, likely crucified and wore a crown of thorns. Its age fits the era of Jesus’ life, but we will never be able to prove that it was actually He who had formed the image. However, the evidence is persuasive that we have before us a true likeness of Him. Radiocarbon dating of this linen fabric in 1988 by three independent laboratories resulted in findings that the cloth comes from about the 14th Century. However, scientists of many other disciplines had previously established that the cloth was woven much earlier. A considerable uproar over the results of the radiocarbon dating ensued, and some interesting detective work finally established conclusively that the Church had arranged to substitute a similar-looking cloth that had been cut from the Cope of St. Louis d’Anjou, the age of which is authenticated between A.D. 1290 and 1310. Why did the Vatican want its famous relic to be discredited as portraying Christ?


The study of the Shroud began in earnest with it being first photographed May 28, 1886 by the Mayor of Asti, Secondo Pia, using a 50 X 60 cm glass plate. The negative that emerged in his developing tray seized him with astonishment. The faint sepia-colored image on the cloth does not look very real. Indeed the image appears to have been breathed onto the cloth; and when one tries to examine it at close range, it simply disappears. But Pia’s photographic negative was the “positive” of the Shroud image. The subject could now be seen as a real person, like a portrait with natural shadings. Pia excitedly “knew” he was the first in 18 centuries to see what Jesus looked like. Past suppositions that the Shroud was the handiwork of a clever painter now was entirely unlikely. There are no pigments or dyes on the cloth; and before the advent of photography, how would anyone know to paint a negative? Pia’s photo spurred experts in textiles, art, chemistry and forensic science to either prove or disprove the authenticity of the Shroud for the next ninety years.


The rare herringbone weave of the cloth was traced to Syria of the first century. A few stray strands of cotton fibers found in the linen threads come from a species of cotton grown in Syria. Various pollen grains on the Shroud uniquely indicate the same country as well as the places where it had been brought over the next two millennia. The image is like no other in all of art history. Why would an artist create such a delicate work which is no longer visible when viewed close up instead of showing things more clearly? Chemical analysis shows traces of aloes and myrrh are present as described in John’s Gospel.


Forensic scientists discerned that the man in the cloth wore a cap of thorns, not a crown, his hands had been pierced through the wrists and his feet through the insteps. It shows the body had been scourged by a three-thonged whip with small dumbbell-shaped lead weights at the end and that he had been beaten about the face in five places. The right shoulder is lacerated in such a way as to indicate a heavy, rough object like a beam of wood had been borne there, and a piercing wound between the 5th and 6th ribs on the right side bled onto the cloth. There are marks from blood that had coagulated from these wounds and then had been partially dissolved by aloe vera. There was also fresh blood that flowed from the wounds in rather large quantities onto the cloth after the body had been laid upon it. It is the evidence of the fresh blood that disturbed the Vatican so much. A corpse does not bleed. The blood marks show conclusively that the body was still alive. Shortly after Christ drank a mixture of vinegar and herbs from a sponge while on the cross, He cried out, “It is done,” and John reports He then gave up the ghost. At that, there was an earthquake, and the exceptionally dark skies of that afternoon poured forth a powerful thunderstorm.


The body sagged on the cross for a few more hours while Joseph of Aramathea pleaded with Pilate to surrender the body to him for burial. The two thieves who were crucified on either side of Christ were still alive, so guards were ordered to break their legs and crush their skulls. The body of Christ was shown to be already “dead” when the centurion, Longinus, shallowly stabbed the chest with a spear, allowing blood and water to spill out. A man subject to crucifixion accumulates water in the pleura around the lungs. Jesus’ body was gently removed from the cross and carried to Joseph’s new vault carved into limestone. The vault had several chambers to receive bodies and a flat stone bench in a small anteroom to prepare a body for burial. The linen Shroud measures 4.36 meters in length and 1.1 meters wide (a standard size in old Palestine). The cloth was evidently laid on a flat surface, and upon it a body laid on its back with the feet at one edge of the cloth, and the other end was brought over the head and then laid on top of the body so that the loose end of the cloth came down to the feet again. The body was thus sandwiched between the cloth. The image shows both the back and front sides of the body.


The women brought oil and wrapping cloths to prepare the body for burial, but sundown began the Sabbath, so they had to abandon their task before really getting started. However, Joseph of Aramathea, and likely Nicodemus, continued to work that night. John writes that they brought about a hundred weight of aloes and myrrh to apply to the body of Jesus. The Jewish custom is to wash the body, oil the skin and wind the body in cloths. Aloe vera is a healing balm and myrrh is a disinfectant. John is telling us something important here. They were healing Jesus’ wounds. The unconscious Jesus was evidently coated with a mixture of the herbs, and the Shroud indicates that the body was cushioned underneath with other cloths-probably the ones brought by the women-and some pillowed under the head. Many scientists have tried in vain to duplicate the method of producing the image on the Shroud by assuming there was a chemical reaction between the herbs, sweat and body oils, but the actual image is so clear and detailed that they have given up on such notions. Moreover, the herb plaster would prevent direct contact between skin and cloth in many places. The image is only on one surface of the Shroud and seems to be a scorch of the linen. Some have postulated an inexplicable burst of energy that burned the image in. It was not done chemically or by vapors or pigments. The Brotherhoods state that the Archangel Melchizedek, the Christ, and Jesus, the Master, both worked to restore the body while it slept all day Saturday, the image was likely the creation of Christ by some mental means.


John uses the Aramaic achajuta and techijjuta in words describing the return to life of Jesus, which mean a resuscitation, not a resurrection. An exhaustive study of the patterns of bleeding onto the cloth is proof there was life even though there was such reduced breathing and heartbeat as to feign death. The drugs in the vinegar on the sponge given to Christ to drink probably contained something to induce a metabolic stupor. Egyptians and Essenes knew the effects of poisons and drugs to perfection from ancient times. And if neither Christ nor Jesus chose to awaken the body, it would remain asleep. The position of the body on the Shroud is as if the person was in a relaxed sleep. Rigor mortis sets in within a half hour of death, is complete in three hours and lasts about three days. We should expect a dead body to be locked frozen into the position of hanging on the cross during the rain storm while the lengthy arrangements were made to acquire the “corpse” for burial.


There were two main philosophical branches that competed with each other in the first century of Christianity-Essene Gnosticism and Pauline Messianism. The former taught Christ’s message of brotherly love, tolerant forgiveness, self-perfection and doing good works, and they promoted Christ’s promise of a future Kingdom of God. Their disciplines were intense, and they required seven years of metaphysical instruction before an aspirant could prove himself worthy of being a member of their sect. On the other hand, Paul imparted his life’s training as a Pharisee into the new Jewish sect that believed Christ to be the Messiah. Paul was known to be narrow minded and self-righteous, and he zealously persecuted the followers of Christ until his conversion while traveling to Damascus to root out any believers in Christ whom he might find among the Jewish community there. The only thing we know about his vision on the road is what Paul told to his later traveling companion, Luke, who wrote “the Acts of the Apostles.” It is not likely that Christ or any Higher Being spoke to Paul in that encounter on the road to Damascus because that kind of control over a human being’s brain is not permitted to Them. Paul’s three-days’ blinding is totally out of character with Christ’s methods. At any rate, he “saw the light.” Whatever else was suggested to him led him then to formulate the new idea that the Jewish priesthood’s custom of selling blood sacrifices of animals and birds to assuage sins could be brought to an end because God’s son was made a blood sacrifice on the cross for everyone’s sins forever after. This sacrifice depended on the true death of Christ on the cross, and the example of His resurrection was to be the promise of resurrection for every person who believed in Christ. In I Corinthians 15:12-14, we see the crux of Paul’s idea—”Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also in vain.” Paul had little interest in the teachings of Christ, but makes the new religion he invented rest exclusively on this dying on the cross. Since this is the central theme of the Catholic Church and all its Protestant offspring, the Vatican was anxious to discredit the Shroud of Turin that so eloquently showed that the body which had lain upon it was alive. The widely published works of Hans Naber from 1957 through 1981, detailing the findings of the various Shroud experts, could no longer go unchallenged. So the fraud to have the Shroud dated to the 14th Century was engineered, and they used the radiocarbon dating laboratories as their dupes.


If it had been Christ’s intention to save the entire faithful of humanity by His death, does it not seem likely that He would have mentioned it? Christ was preparing the way for a more humane civilization. He performed instantaneous healings to get people’s attention so they would heed His message of a loving God. He demonstrated the equality of men and women and loving kindness to all. He set the stage to encourage acceptance by His disciples of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them in their commission to spread the good news throughout the world when He staged His Ascension using Jesus’ Astral shell in order to convince them of His divinity. But Paul introduced detrimental developments by his intolerance of those with different views, his extreme hostility toward the body and sex, and his low view of women. According to Paul, we are all born lost and without hope unless we accept Christ as our Savior via His shedding of blood and death. Paul invented the concept that a person cannot atone by any good works of his own or by personal goodness. “For only by grace are ye saved through faith. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” For the next century, the successors in Paul’s church did everything in their power to destroy the Essene church and even slay its followers.


However, the testimony of the Shroud of Turin survived until science could decipher its message. King Abgar V Ukkama of Edessa, now the city of Urfa in modern-day Turkey, had written to Christ inviting Him to visit and cure him of a disease. According to the church historian Eusebius, Christ wrote a letter explaining that He could not come Himself, but promised to send a disciple who would heal him. Sometime before Abgar’s death in A.D. 50, one Thaddeus brought the Shroud to the Christian community of Jews in Edessa and later gave it to King Abgar. It remained there until it was brought to Constantinople in A.D. 944 to “rescue” it from the subsequent Mohammedan occupation of the area. In A.D. 1203, leaders of the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople and took the famous relic. The following year the Shroud was sent by ship to the Pope, but it never arrived there. Somehow, the Order of the Knights Templar acquired it, and when, in 1307, Philip IV, King of France, dispersed the Templars and burned Jaques de Molay at the stake, the Shroud had been moved to Lirey near Paris. The man who died with de Molay in Paris, one Geoffroy de Charnay, evidently had the task of securing the safety of the Shroud, for it was traced to possession by Geoffroy de Charny, who was likely a relative because of the similarity of spelling their last names. The cloth surfaced publicly when it was displayed in Lirey in 1357. The granddaughter of Geoffroy, Marguerite, the last Charny, in a court action in 1443 in Dole, France, was granted custody of the Shroud and retained it. When she died in 1460, the Shroud was passed to Louis, Duke of Savoy, at her request. It was installed in the Duke’s chapel at Chambery in 1506. On December 4, 1532, a fire destroyed the chapel, and the cloth in a silver reliquary was saved at the last moment but not before some burn holes damaged the cloth, but not in the area of the image. In 1561 the Shroud was returned to the rebuilt chapel. When Duke Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy moved his capital to Turin, the cloth was transferred there in 1578, where it has remained to this day, except during World War II, when it was at the abbey of Monte Vergine in Avellino. Ex-king Umberto II of the Savoy family bequeathed the Shroud to the Vatican at the request of Pope Paul II in 1983. All during its existence it was frequently displayed as a revered relic that portrayed the Christ as well as having been in contact with His very person. It tells a fascinating first-hand story, and it may be rightly thought of as an extension of the Gospels. Christ separated from the body on the cross, but Jesus still used the body after having loaned it to Melchizedek for 3 1/2 years. Master Jesus traveled to the New World to spread the message of Christ, and that physical body served him well for many decades afterward.


(Other intriguing details may be found in The Hidden Christ by Richard Kieninger. The book is available in paperback edition.)