Is the Shroud of Turin Real?
by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S
Is the Shroud of Turin genuine? Or is it a forgery in a long line of 'pious frauds?' How was
The Shroud of Turin is a world-famous piece of cloth alleged to have been the burial garment of
Jesus Christ. The shroud is held up by believers as evidence not only of Christ's existence but also of his
divinity. But is the shroud real? Or is it a fake?
In this analysis, it should be kept in mind that the story of Jesus Christ in the New Testament and other Christian texts is demonstrably fictional,
created in order to unify the Roman Empire under one state religion. In doing so, the Church forged hundreds of
texts, which were constantly reworked, mutilated and interpolated over the centuries.
The Faithful Forgery Factory
In its quest to establish a religion to gain power and wealth, the Church forgery mill did not
limit itself to mere writings but for centuries cranked out thousands of phony "relics" of its "Lord," "Apostles"
and "Saints." Although true believers keep attempting to prove otherwise, through one implausible theory after
another, the Shroud of Turin is counted among this group of frauds:
There were at least 26 "authentic" burial shrouds scattered throughout the abbeys of Europe,
of which the Shroud of Turin is just one.... The Shroud of Turin is one of the many relics manufactured for
profit during the Middle Ages. Shortly after the Shroud emerged it was declared a fake by the bishop who
discovered the artist. This is verified by recent scientific investigation which found paint in the image
areas. The Shroud of Turin is also not consistent with Gospel accounts of Jesus' burial, which clearly refer to
multiple cloths and a separate napkin over his face.
"The Shroud of Turin
is one of the many relics manufactured for profit during the Middle Ages. Shortly
after the Shroud emerged it was declared a fake by the bishop who discovered the
In the literature, we find references to shrouds of Milan, Lodz, Nice, Aix-la-Chapelle and Besançon, among
others. Concerning this issue of relic-forging, Dr. Gerald Larue remarks:
Carbon-14 dating has demonstrated that the shroud is a 14th-century forgery and is one of
many such deliberately created relics produced in the same period, all designed to attract pilgrims to specific
shrines to enhance and increase the status and financial income of the local church.
Mythicist Barbara G. Walker, author of Man Made God, likewise comments on the holy relic mill:
About the beginning of the 9th century, bones, teeth, hair, garments, and other relics of
fictitious saints were conveniently "found" all over Europe and Asia and triumphantly installed in the
reliquaries of every church, until all Catholic Europe was falling to its knees before what Calvin called its
anthill of bones.... St. Luke was touted as one of the ancient world's most prolific artists, to judge from the
numerous portraits of the Virgin, painted by him, that appeared in many churches. Some still remain, despite
ample proof that all such portraits were actually painted during the Middle Ages.
And Dr. George A. Wells states:
About 1200, Constantinople was so crammed with relics that one may speak of a veritable
industry with its own factories. Blinzler (a Catholic New Testament scholar) lists, as examples: letters in
Jesus' own hand, the gold brought to the baby Jesus by the wise men, the twelve baskets of bread collected
after the miraculous feeding of the 5000, the throne of David, the trumpets of Jericho, the axe with which Noah
made the Ark, and so on...
At one point, a number of churches claimed the one foreskin of Jesus, and there were enough
splinters of the "True Cross" that Calvin said the amount of wood would make "a full load for a good ship." The
list of absurdities and frauds goes on, and, as Pope Leo X was depicted as exclaiming, the Christ fable has been enormously profitable for the
"A number of churches claimed the one foreskin of Jesus,
and there were enough splinters of the 'True Cross' that Calvin said the amount of wood would make 'a full load for
a good ship.'"
As we will see, the Shroud of Turin may be added safely to this lengthy list of "pious frauds"
committed by believers and vested interests who wish to shore up their faith. It must be therefore asked why force,
forgery and fraud were needed to spread the "good news" brought by a "historical son of God."
Despite claims to the contrary, carbon-14 dating conducted in 1988 has proved the shroud
cloth was created during the 13th or 14th centuries AD/CE. In the Shroud of Turin article on Wikipedia, we read:
After years of discussion, the Holy See permitted radiocarbon dating on portions of a swatch
taken from a corner of the shroud. Independent tests in 1988 at the University of Oxford, the University of
Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology concluded with 95% confidence that the shroud material
dated to 1260–1390 AD.... In 2008 former STURP member John Jackson rejected the possibility that the C14 sample
may have been conducted on a medieval repair fragment, on the basis that the radiographs and transmitted light
images taken by STURP in 1978 clearly show that the natural colour bandings present throughout the linen of the
shroud propagate in an uninterrupted fashion through the region that would later provide the sample for
radiocarbon dating. Jackson stated that this could not have been possible if the sampled area was a later
"Independent tests in 1988 at the University of Oxford, the
University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology concluded with 95% confidence that the shroud
material dated to 1260–1390 AD."
'Carbon dating tests carried out in 1988 in Oxford, Zurich and
Arizona suggested that the shroud was created some time between 1260 and 1390' (Daily Mail UK, 12/21/11)
Regarding believers' claims that the carbon-14 dating is flawed, the Committee for the
Scientific Investigation of Paranormal Claims (CSICOP) relates that the 13th-14th century date revealed by C-14 was
verified by three different labs:
DATING. The assertion that blood and pollen matching prove the Shroud of Turin dates to at
least the eighth century is - based on the evidence - absurd. The shroud cloth was radiocarbon dated to circa 1260-1390 by three
separate laboratories. The date is consistent with a fourteenth-century bishop's report to Pope Clement
VII that an earlier bishop had discovered the forger and that he had confessed.
When it was asserted that the C-14 date was "distorted" by the possible use of a newer patch of
cloth or the carbon from a fire in the 16th century that left several burn holes in the shroud, a test in 2008
confirmed the original C-14 dating of the 13th to 14th centuries by demonstrating that the piece of cloth
previously used indeed was "representative of the whole."
The carbon-14 date of the 13th to 14th century coincides with the shroud's first appearance in
the historical record, in the possession of a French knight in 1360. Thus, we are lacking a provenance for the
shroud and can hardly make any scientific historical claim for its origin.
Blood on the Shroud?
Although some claim the shroud impression contains human blood, that contention has
never been proved by science, and the trickles of blood on the head appear to confirm that the image is a
forgery, as the blood would have been matted in the hair, not running down the scalp.
As concerns the so-called blood purportedly on the shroud, CSICOP says:
BLOOD. The Associated Press reported claims that the shroud bears type AB blood stains.
Perhaps this erroneous information has its origin in other fake shrouds of Jesus, since the Shroud of Turin's
stains are not only suspiciously red (unlike genuine blood that blackens with age) but they failed batteries of
tests by internationally known forensic experts. The "blood" has been definitively proved to be composed of red
ocher and vermilion tempera paint."
"The 'blood' has been definitively proved to be composed of
red ocher and vermilion tempera paint."
There remains a debate among the faithful, however, as to the nature of the supposed paint or
pigments and whether or not they are present on the shroud.
The claims of pollen supposedly found on the shroud, allegedly indicating that the cloth was
manufactured in the Middle East before the eighth century, have been discredited as "fraud" and "junk science." The
person who originally claimed to have found the pollen on the shroud, Max Frei, has been accused of "sleight of
hand" in reporting that pollen samples he took from living plants were subsequently found on the shroud. CSICOP
basically determines that Max Frei's "find" is an out-and-out fraud:
POLLENS: It was reported that pollens on the shroud proved it came from Palestine, but the
source for the pollens was a freelance criminologist, Max Frei, who once pronounced the forged "Hitler Diaries"
genuine. Frei's tape-lifted samples from the Shroud were controversial from the outset since similar samples
taken by the Shroud of Turin Research Project in 1978 had comparatively few pollens. As it turned out, after
Frei's tapes were examined following his death in 1983, they also had very few pollens - except for a particular one that bore a suspicious cluster on the "lead" (or
end), rather than on the portion that had been applied to the shroud. (See Skeptical
Inquirer magazine, Summer 1994 pp. 379-385.)
Wiki's Shroud subsection on "Flowers and pollen" reiterates this sordid tale:
Skeptics have argued that the flower images are too faint for Danin's determination to be
definite, that an independent review of the pollen strands showed that one strand out of the 26 provided
contained significantly more pollen than the others, perhaps pointing to deliberate contamination. Skeptics
also argue that Max Frei had previously been duped in his examination of the Hitler Diaries and that he may
have also been duped in this case, or may have introduced the pollens himself. J. Beaulieau has stated that
Frei was a self-taught amateur palynologist, was not properly trained, and that his sample was too small.
that Max Frei may have introduced the pollens himself."
Researcher Mark Thompson further comments about the pollen:
One thing that is well known to botanists is that the range within which many wild plants
grow contracts under pressure from agriculture, civilization, industry and climate changes, and can expand due
to the inadvertent or deliberate transport of seeds in cargo along trade routes.
These shroud researchers asserted (using a database that covered only Israel, it seems,
along with other available reports of the plant's range, which I presume to be reliable for the sake of
argument) that Z. dumosum grows only in Israel, Syria and the Sinai peninsula.
What I was working on before the likely fraud by Max Frei was pointed out here, is that Z.
dumosum may have grown throughout the Middle East along the Mediterranean coast clear up into Byzantium and
Constantinople during the 8th century. Other species of Zygophyllaceae grow throughout that range, from Turkey
and Greece even into India and clear around the Mediterranean into the Levant and Northern Africa (including
the related notorious hallucinogenic Soma/Haoma candidate plant Peganum harmala).
So, the statement that "As Zygophyllum dumosum grows only in Israel, Jordan, and Sinai, its
appearance helps to definitively limit the shroud's place of origin" seemed worth questioning, especially due
to climate changes and population pressures in the region over the last 1100 years....
Another source of suspicion was that the odd appearance of vague flower images on the shroud
are "explained" in one of these papers as due to "corona discharge." This was also quite far-fetched, since
corona discharge is more related to Kirlian photography than the residue of pressed flowers. Unless one insists
that the Shroud and any enfolded bouquets were struck by Divine Lightning or something -an entertaining notion worthy of Steven Spielberg I suppose, but hardly likely.
The conclusion here is that the pollen does not only grow in the "Holy Land" and that other
arguments are metaphysical, not scientific.
In addition, where these researchers came up with the "eighth century" date one can only guess,
but even if said date were correct, such would no more "prove" that the shroud was "authentic" in the sense that it
was the "original burial cloth of Jesus," than does the spurious argument used by other apologists that the remains
of a first century boat found in the Sea of Galilee provide evidence that Jesus existed. The latter argument runs
thus: "Here is a boat from the first century A.D. found in the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and his disciples would have
ridden in a boat like this." This line of argumentation is fallacious and unscientific.
Weave Too Complex
In 2009, the discovery of a "Jesus-era" shroud in a tomb of a Jewish priest in Jerusalem demonstrated the primitive
nature of weaving at that time and place. This fact was not lost on the researchers, who released statements to
the press that this rare discovery essentially proved the Turin shroud to be a much later fabrication with a
twill weave far too complex and intricate for the appropriate period.
In addition to this discrepancy in the weave, the burial cloth genuinely dating to the relevant
era is composed of two pieces, whereas the Shroud of Turin is a single cloth. As MSNBC concludes: "If the
remains in the Jerusalem tomb represent typical burial shrouds widely used at the time of Jesus, this casts
strong doubt that the Turin Shroud originated from Jesus-era Jerusalem."
"The Jerusalem tomb burial shrouds cast strong doubt that
the Turin Shroud originated from Jesus-era Jerusalem."
The Crucifixion as Old Testament Midrash
The argument that the shroud is "genuine" because it depicts a man apparently crucified with
wounds through his wrists, rather than his palms, does not account for the fact that a skilled forger would know
that the palm nails would not hold up the body's weight in a real crucifixion.
Moreover, if the correct procedure for a crucifixion is to hammer nails through the
wrists, then the gospel account would be incorrect, as it evidently was cobbled together from the "Pierced
One" of the Old Testament Psalm 22, along with the common Pre-Christian pagan motif of a figure in cruciform.
We read at Psalm 22:1, 16-19:
...My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?...
Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands
and feet - I can count all my bones - they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for
my raiment they cast lots....
"They have pierced my hands and feet."
The use of these Old Testament verses as midrash or scholarly interpretation to create the New Testament account
explains both the casting of lots for Jesus's clothing (Mt 22:35) and his pitiful crying from the cross to his Father in heaven (Mt 27:46):
And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots...
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?"
that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
The relevant Greek of Psalm 22:1 (LXX 21:1) about God's forsaking reads: ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου
πρόσχες μοι ἵνα τί ἐγκατέλιπές, while that of the NT verse of Matthew 27:46 is very similar: Θεέ μου θεέ μου
ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες. Mark 15:34 is even closer: ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου εἰς τί ἐγκατέλιπές με.
The NT verses use the precise terminology for "cast lots" as the Greek OT or Septuagint:
βάλλοντες κλῆρον (Mt 22:35; Mk 15:24) or ἔβαλον κλήρους (Lk 23:34) and ἔβαλον κλῆρον (Ps 22:18). Using the phrase ἔβαλον
κλῆρον, John 19:24 specifically states that the casting of the lots for the garments was to
"fulfil the scripture," referring to Psalm 22. In other words, the Old Testament was a midrashic blueprint for
the creation of the NT account, a fact of which the NT writers were consciously aware.
Pierced Hands and Feet
John 19:37 echoes this awareness of the OT blueprints, in discussing the "piercing":
And again another scripture says, "They shall look on him whom they have pierced." (Ps
This passage in Psalm 22 refers specifically to the piercing of the hands and
feet, a detail left out by the NT composers, perhaps because they knew that Roman crucifixion was not committed
in this manner. The fact is, however, that the evangelists did not "correct" this crucifixion error by relating
that, in the "real" crucifixion, Jesus's wrists were pierced.
Since it is evident that, rather than representing a historical account of an actual
crucifixion, the NT account was cobbled together using Old Testament scriptures, one might suggest that the
writers of the gospel tale also had in mind that, like the Pierced One of Psalm 22, the sufferer likewise would
have his hands pierced, not his wrists. Hence, the shroud would not match the gospel
As concerns the ancient mythical motif of deities and heroes in cruciform or cross-shape, it should be noted that there are images of
such figures with piercing of their feet, as in the story of the Indian god Krishna, who is killed by an arrow
piercing his foot while sitting under a tree.
The crucifixion account in the New Testament also represents an archetype of the ancient
sacred-king, scapegoat sacrifice ritual practiced many times in countless places for thousands of years. In
consideration of these facts, there is little reason to assume that the NT account is historical. (See my book
Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled for more on the subject of
How was the Shroud Made?
Over the centuries, the pious have frequently claimed that the shroud was made supernaturally
and could not be reproduced. Such supporters often point to the photographic image of the shroud, which more
closely resembles a person's skin tones and contrast, as "proof" of its mystical and godly origin.
However, the shroud's appearance has been reproduced faithfully enough without any divine
intervention, such as a supernatural flash of light. This latter idea posits a burst of ultraviolet light/energy from
Christ's flesh upon his resurrection, a notion refuted by the presence on the shroud of the beard and hair,
unless they too possessed supernatural radiation.
In any event, a team of Italian scientists led by chemist Luigi Garlaschelli reproduced the
shroud effect in 2009:
"The result obtained clearly indicates that this could be done with the use of inexpensive materials and
with a quite simple procedure."... [The] team used a linen woven with the same technique as the shroud and
artificially aged by heating it in an oven and washing it with water. The cloth was then placed on a student,
who wore a mask to reproduce the face, and rubbed with red ochre, a well known pigment at the time....
"The result obtained clearly indicates that this could be
done with the use of inexpensive materials and with a quite simple procedure."
Blowing and Dusting Techniques
Another theory of how the shroud was produced seeks to explain the apparent negative impression
as well as the lack of brush strokes, if it is an artist's creation. This technique requires a cadaver or, perhaps,
sculpture, of an appropriate size, shape and attributes, such as wounds. Once the body is wrapped in a shroud, the
artist blows the red ochre and other pigments along the cadaver's contours, thus producing the
three-dimensional and apparent negative imagery.
In "Image Formation and the Shroud of Turin" (17), Drs. Emily A. Craig and Randall R. Bresee
suggest that examples of this blowing technique may be found in the paleolithic artwork of the Lascaux caves,
for instance, also devoid of brush strokes.
The cave paintings of Lascaux, Altamira, Chauvet and other sites are so extraordinary and
advanced for their time that one could easily propose a series of arguments for their "supernatural" and divine
origin in the same manner as done with the Turin shroud. The fact that there are thousands of these amazing
paintings, composed over a period of tens of thousands of years, is far more impressive than the manufacture of
a single piece of cloth.
A type of "soft-brush" technique can be found in books from the relevant era that specifically
address the painting of a dead man and wounds. In this regard, Craig and Bresee also remark:
...the 12th century work of Theophilus, De diversis artibus, and the 14th or 15th
century work of Cennino d'Andrea Cennini, Il libro dell'arte, revealed step-by-step procedures for
artists of that period. Cennini's handbook includes instruction for grinding pigment into powder, brushing
charcoal with feathers, and burnishing an image onto cloth. His handbook contains chapters containing specific
instructions on "how to paint a dead man" and "how to paint wounds."
Using this dusting technique, Craig and colleagues were able to produce the following
Craig, et al., conclude:
These considerations indicate that the inspiration, knowledge and tools necessary for an
artist to create the image on the Turin cloth were probably available during the 12th and 13th centuries,
although the specific combinations of individual techniques we used in our dust drawing technique may not have
been described. It is clearly possible that an artist created the image on the Turin cloth. Of course,
radiocarbon dating also supports this hypothesis, because this analytical technique determined that the Turin
cloth originated between 1260 and 1390 A.D.
"The inspiration, knowledge and tools necessary for an
artist to create the image on the Turin cloth were probably available during the 12th and 13th
Craig and Bresee, aware that the cloth has been proved scientifically to date to the 13th
century at the earliest, make the seemingly desperate suggestion that the shroud could still represent an
"authentic" image of Christ transferred from an earlier "genuine" one. This sort of proposal in order not to offend
religious sensilibities has, of course, continually muddied the field.
Theories of who created the cloth include Leonardo da Vinci, whose face
appears to match that of the shroud. It is also believed by many that Knights Templar leader Jacques de Molay
(d. 1314) is the victim whose body was used to create an image that is apparently distorted as concerns normal
Others point out that the face on the shroud resembles a European, while the alleged historical
Jesus would have been Semitic in features, much like the image to the right.
In the end, there remains little reason to suspect that the Shroud of Turin is anything but a
late artifact created over a thousand years after Christ's alleged advent. Therefore, it does not serve as evidence
of Jesus's purported divinity or existence as a historical figure.
Turin shroud too complex for Jesus's time
Shroud of Turin a fake?!
Italian group claims to debunk, reproduce Shroud of Turin
Unraveling the Shroud
Shroud of Turin (Rational Wiki)
Was Turin Shroud faked by Leonardo da Vinci?
Radiocarbon 14 dating of the Shroud of Turin
Image Formation and the Shroud of Turin