"You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.
He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. " (Mark 16,5)


The Resurrection of the Shroud of Turin

Alan D. Whanger, M.D.

The Shroud of Turin is an ancient piece of fine linen, 14 feet 3 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide, with the front and back images of a male who has been scourged, beaten, crowned with thorns, crucified, and pierced in the heart in a manner consistent with the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as described in Scripture.

Face of the shroud

Negative image: Face of the "Man of the Shroud"

The last information that most Christians have on the Shroud of Turin is from the 1988 carbon 14 dating studies which announced world-wide, on the basis of a test on a single sample from the Shroud by three laboratories, that the Shroud is a medieval fake dating 1260-1390 A.D. This reinforced a long-standing claim by one individual that the Shroud image is a medieval European painting. He bases this claim on his observation of threads with a pigment coating found on 1978 sticky tape samples from the surface of the Shroud. Also, in 1994, a claim received wide media coverage that some investigators had supposedly been able to replicate all of the features of the Shroud image by a carbon dusting art technique, thus claiming to have driven the last nail into the coffin of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Almost as to sign the death certificate of the Shroud and seal it in a tomb, three books have come out in the past year 1994, all claiming to reveal the truth about the Shroud. Two claimed that the image of the Man on the Shroud showed that he was not really dead, but only in a coma, and hence not needing a resurrection. The third supposedly proved that the Shroud was actually a photograph produced by Leonardo da Vinci.

Recent studies by a number of other investigators have shown these desperate attempts to debunk or discredit or distort the Shroud of Turin are fallacious, and that the Shroud remains the most intensively studied, the most controversial, the most mysterious, and the most remarkable object in existence.

Carbon 14 dating is based on the measurement of the amount of a radioactive isotope of carbon in an object that once was living. The carbon 14 isotope is taken in by the organism either by breathing or ingestion during life, but after death the carbon 14 in the organism decays into ordinary carbon at a predictable rate. The measurement of the carbon 14 can give an estimate of the time since the death of the plant or animal. The accuracy of the test is based on the assumption that nothing has happened to add any extra carbon 14 to the sample tested, as this would give a younger result to the test. There is no question that the three laboratories correctly tested the carbon 14 in the sample that they had. Further research has shown, however, that there are multiple factors that did or could add additional carbon 14 to the tested sample, thus totally invalidating the result. The single sample from the Shroud was taken from the dirtiest corner of the Shroud in an area that was rewoven, probably in the 17th century, in complete violation of the protocol for detailed analysis of seven different samples set up by a commission of 24 carbon dating experts in Turin in 1986. Subsequent studies have shown that the flax plant from which linen is made biologically fractionates the carbon isotopes, naturally increasing the carbon 14 content of the cellulose part of the plant which makes up the linen. Living bacteria and fungi were found growing inside the linen fibers of the Shroud. Tests have shown that atmospheric carbon would have been chemically bonded to the Shroud linen during the fire of 1532 which produced the scorch marks and holes now seen on the shroud.

Most remarkably, studies on the image fibers on the Shroud itself have shown that the image is due to a physical/chemical change in the surface of the fibers themselves, and that there are no pigments, dyes, or stains (other than the obvious blood) to account for the image. Detailed studies on the body image, and of the many non-body objects whose images have been identified on the Shroud, such as the coins over the eyes, the phylacteries or Jewish prayer boxes, the crucifixion nails, the Roman spear, and the hundreds of flowers, indicate that the visible images were formed in part by electron corona, which is a high voltage electrical current which flows over the surface of objects and is discharged from irregularities and high points on the objects. More recent studies of the three-dimensional images produced by superimposing the positive and negative photographs on top of one another show that the underlying skeletal system of the hands, wrists, skull and teeth can be clearly seen on the Shroud. This indicates that the image is in part an auto radiograph; i.e., soft X-rays came vertically from the depths of every portion of the body and combined with the coronal images from the surface to produce the body image that we see on the Shroud.

Negative image: "Man of the Shroud"

The image is that of a muscular Jewish male, about five feet eleven inches to all, weighing about 170 pounds, about age 35, whose body is in cadaveric spasm (a type of near instantaneous rigor mortis occurring in those severely traumatized), and who has a spear wound through the right chest into the heart with a post mortem flow of blood and serum from the wound. The appearance of the blood clots shows that the body disappeared from within the Shroud without the cloth being unwrapped. The appearance of the blood clots and the body, as well as the images of the flowers, indicates that this event took place between 24 and 36 hours after death.

Attempts to date the Shroud to the middle ages are absurd, as there are identifiable images of two Jewish coins, the 'leptons‘ or widow's mites of Pontius Pilate, one over each eye. Both coins were struck in A.D. 29. Eusebius, the early Church historian, dates the transfer of an object (the Shroud, which was rolled and mounted in a frame so that only the face showed) from Jerusalem to King Abgar in Edessa in A.D. 30. There are statues of various divinities in the Middle East which are clearly influenced by the Shroud face 8 mm. high on a Byzantine coin struck in A D. 692 and showing about 180 points of congruence between the coin image and the Shroud. This shows clearly that the die cutters and iconographers were copying their images directly from the Shroud, and that they considered the image to be of divine origin and to be that of Jesus.

Attempts to localize the origin of the Shroud to Europe equally fail. We feel we have identified with reasonable certainty the images of 28 flowers and thorns on the Shroud, twenty of which grow in Jerusalem, and the other eight within 12 miles of Jerusalem. Most do not grow in Europe at all. Pollens of twenty-five of these species had been previously and independently identified by Dr. Max, a noted Swiss criminalist and botanist, from sticky tape slides that he took from the Shroud in 1973 and 1978. Their common blooming time is March and April.

The question arises as to whose image it is on the Shroud. Clearly it parallels and amplifies the Scriptural account of the beating, mocking, and crucifixion of Jesus. The image of a crown of thorns is visible on the Shroud, and history records only one use of a crown of thorns. The image records a remarkable event between 24 and 36 hours after death when the body abruptly disappeared, leaving its image in vertically directed electron corona and soft X-ray radiation. To more certainly identify the Man of the Shroud, the title (the sign over the head) and several letters in Greek and Latin of Jesus of Nazareth are faintly visible on the Shroud. Thus, the Shroud of Turin continues as a witness to the most remarkable event in history. The cloth has no magical power in itself, but its remarkable image can bring awe and joy to the believer, information to the skeptic who wants to see and touch the evidence, and issues to reflect on to all. An individual's response is ultimately a personal one of faith. Our hope is that people will have a chance to see the evidence for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

© copyright 1998

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