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An unconvincing Shroud story

A review of The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection by Thomas de Wesselow
Penguin Books Limited, 2012

An unconvincing Shroud story

reviewed by Lita Cosner

Published: 24 April 2012 (GMT+10)

For millions of Christians, Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The declaration of the empty tomb goes back to the very earliest records we have about Christianity, and from the beginning this formed the foundation of Christianity’s beliefs about what Jesus’ followers have to look forward to in their own resurrections.

De Wesselow is simply lying when he shrugs and says, ‘Well, I guess we don’t know what the Jews thought about Resurrection!’

Just after Easter, art historian Thomas de Wesselow released a book that promises to revolutionize how we see the Resurrection, and what some Christians think is a genuine artifact—the Shroud of Turin—as a witness to the sort of Resurrection that he’s arguing for.

The credentials game

It may seem like a cheap shot to ask what right someone has to pontificate about matters like these, but particularly when an individual makes claims that would overturn decades and even centuries of research by specialists in the field, we have a right to ask on what authority he makes these claims. If someone wrote a book saying that cigarette smoking didn’t cause cancer, but that fresh fruit and vegetables were the culprits, we would have a right to ask if he had any actual training in oncology. But from a New Testament studies point of view, de Wesselow’s claims are just as absurd.

De Wesselow has a Ph.D. in art history, specializing in Italian art. This would qualify him to research the Shroud, if it is in fact a medieval forgery (putting it in the realm of an artistic piece). But if it is (as he claims) an actual first-century shroud, then that puts its study in the realm of archaeology (Is the Shroud actually from the first century? Does it conform with what we know about first-century Jewish burial practices? Are there any other cases where a body has left such an imprint on an ancient shroud?), and de Wesselow has absolutely no qualifications to speak on these fronts.

He may be qualified to speak about whether or not the Shroud could possibly be a work of medieval art, but he certainly has no stated qualifications regarding early Church history or New Testament interpretation. Yet he has the audacity to make sweeping claims about the doctrine of the Resurrection in first-century Judaism and early Christian thought and the composition and compilation of the New Testament canon. These flaws are the ones which are the most relevant (and the ones which the reviewer is particularly qualified to talk about), so the review will center around these.

The Resurrection

At nearly the beginning of the book, de Wesselow states:

It would help, of course, if we could say for certain what the first Christians understood by the concept of the Resurrection—especially those who claimed (as did Paul) to have seen the Risen Jesus. As yet, scholars have been unable to agree on this issue, mainly because it is inextricably linked to the contentious interpretation of the Resurrection itself. (p. 5)

He goes on to use this supposed uncertainty about what the Resurrection is to concoct his own fanciful version of what Jews and Christians must have meant when they talked about resurrection. But in fact there are two very good, in-depth studies on the Resurrection that explain in detail what exactly ‘resurrection’ meant to Jews and Christians. The first made it into de Wesselow’s bibliography: The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright (although apparently he read it very selectively!). The second didn’t but should have: The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Mike Licona. Anyone interested in researching the subject further is directed to those works: for the purposes of this review a single quote will suffice:

Resurrection, therefore, seems to possess two meanings in the second-Temple period, with considerable fluidity between them. In each case the reference is concrete: restoration of Israel (‘resurrection’ as metaphorical, denoting socio-political events and investing them with the significance that this will be an act of new creation, of covenant restoration); of human bodies (‘resurrection’ as literal, denoting actual re-embodiment). Nothing in the entire Jewish context warrants the suggestion that the discussion in 1 Corinthians 15 was about ‘resurrection in heaven’, or that the Jewish literature of the period ‘speaks both of a resurrection of the body and a resurrection of the spirit without the body’. Some Jews speak of eternal disembodied bliss, but this is not described as ‘resurrection’; when ‘resurrection’ is spoken of, it is the second stage in post-mortem life, not the instant destiny upon death. Nothing here, either, would prepare us for the use of ‘resurrection’ to mean ‘that after his crucifixion … Jesus entered into the powerful life of God’ or ‘the passage of the human Jesus into the power of God’. … Anyone who used the normal words for ‘resurrection’ within second-Temple Judaism would have been heard to be speaking within this strictly limited range of meaning.1

So in other words, there were all sorts of ways to talk about shades and spirits existing after death. There was veneration of beloved teachers who had died, there were even ways to talk about seeing ‘the angel’ of a person who had died and communicating with the dead. But none of these phenomena were called ‘resurrection’—if you’re talking about Resurrection in the context of Judaism in Jesus’ day, you’re talking about the revivification of a body that was previously dead. De Wesselow is simply lying when he shrugs and says, “Well, I guess we don’t know what the Jews thought about Resurrection!” And it’s even more spurious when he uses this supposed ignorance to build his fanciful theory.

The Resurrection according to The Sign

De Wesselow is an agnostic, and of course as such he rejects the historicity of the Resurrection, if by ‘Resurrection’ one means the conventional version where Jesus’ corpse is transformed into a living resurrection body and He walks out of the tomb and spends the next forty days appearing to various people. He is by no means the first to be skeptical about the Resurrection, but most people accept that the tomb was empty—the Jews in Jesus’ day who rejected the Resurrection argued that the body had been stolen (if the corpse had been in there, disinterring the remains would have put a speedy end to the Resurrection stories). Most skeptics simply say that the body was stolen, or Jesus wasn’t really dead and revived after a suitably long nap, or that it was Jesus’ ‘evil twin brother’ who was put in the tomb and Jesus went into hiding someplace else, or any number of other (increasingly improbable) theories. But in a twist, de Wesselow says that the sightings were real; it was the empty tomb that was added later to embellish the legend:

There are two consistent features of the tomb-stories that might have provided the necessary stimulus; the discovery of an empty tomb and the encounter with the angel(s). In modern scholarship the angels have generally been dismissed as superfluous additions to the story, while the empty tomb has been considered its essential raison d’être. … Originally, the focus of the story was about the women’s visit to the sepulcher was the encounter with the angel(s), i.e. the discovery of the Shroud, not the discovery of an empty tomb. The missing body was added to the story at a later stage. For centuries people have assumed the angels to be legendary and the empty tomb to be historical; in reality it was the other way round (p. 243).

But what we know about the Gospel narratives makes this sort of embellishment highly unlikely, and what we know about Jewish conceptions of the Resurrection of the dead makes it impossible. The Gospels are dated, even by most liberals, to sometime in the first century. By anyone’s estimation, the Synoptics were penned well within the lifetime of people who would have been witnesses to the Resurrection, and John was penned by the close of the first century (at the latest according to most mainstream scholars), well within the lifetime of the second generation. Mythology simply cannot replace historical events that quickly, especially when Christianity was taking root in the midst of hostile Jews (who would have been more than happy to disinter Jesus’ remains however many times were necessary to put an end to the movement, if those remains were still anywhere to be found), and among pagans who viewed the Resurrection as not just impossible, but repugnant. The historical evidence indicates that the remains were missing—that’s the only satisfactory explanation for the Jewish story that the body had been stolen, and for Jesus’ followers claiming that He was raised from the dead.

The appearances

The disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb was a necessary component for the Resurrection to have any plausibility, but not sufficient.

The disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb was a necessary component for the Resurrection to have any plausibility, but not sufficient. We can see this from the reaction of the first to arrive at the tomb—they assume not that Jesus was risen, but that his body had been stolen—Mary Magdalene begs Jesus, who she mistakes for a gardener, to tell her where His corpse is, presumably so she can take care of the remaining funerary rites (John 20:11–18).

In first-century Judaism, the Resurrection of the dead was seen as an eschatological event—when God judged the world, the dead would be raised—some Jews thought that all the dead would be raised, while others supposed that only the righteous would be resurrected. Jesus’ disciples weren’t expecting Him to be resurrected, because there wasn’t a category in Judaism to describe one individual being raised before everyone else to prove that He really was the Messiah (somewhat understandably, given that Judaism wasn’t expecting the Messiah to die). So nothing short of seeing an actually-resurrected Jesus would have convinced them. It is the only sufficient explanation for the disciples’ sudden certainty about the Resurrection of Jesus.

De Wesselow claims that each of the Resurrection appearances and sightings of the angels associated with the Resurrection of Jesus were actually sightings of the Shroud. Anything that he can twist to support his theory he accepts as an oblique transmission of evidence for the Shroud being the symbol of the Resurrection. But anything that is incompatible with this is dismissed as later embellishment: “Obviously, a great deal of this narrative—including the eating and speaking—is fictional” (p. 272). If someone does exegesis by simply accepting whatever can be twisted to fit the desired view and throwing out everything else without the slightest evidence that it should be, then it’s possible to find evidence for practically any belief one wants to support. But this is hardly responsible interpretation of the text.

The early skeptics

A couple of times now it has been suggested that the Jews and other early skeptics of the Resurrection could have simply produced the corpse, and Christianity would have died in its infancy. That they did not do so indicates that they could not do so—however it happened, the tomb was empty.

But if the Resurrection claims had somehow come about because of the Shroud, surely these unbelievers would have recorded this somewhere in their records. We would expect to see somewhere in the ancient anti-Christian writings claims that Jesus’ followers went mad and began to worship an image of their dead rabbi—there are pagan and Jewish writings about Christians from the first century, and none of them mention anything that could be said to be support for the Shroud theory.

But what about the Shroud?

Is the Shroud authentic or a medieval forgery? The first part of the book is concerned with this question. To summarize de Wesselow’s argument, he argues that the body of Christ was washed when it was taken from the cross, the rigor mortis broken in the arms to enable the body to fit in the cloth (but still present in the head, explaining the odd position of the head in relation to the body—it was still at the 40-degree angle where it was hanging at the time of death, making it look like there was no neck). The body was washed, removing dirt and blood, but after washing, more blood leaked from the wounds on the body. He claims that Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb hastily, only covered loosely by the linen shroud (explaining the minimal distortion in the image). In the tomb, he claims a Maillard reaction (the same sort of reaction that causes fruit to go brown) between amines released by the corpse and starches present on the Shroud produced the image.

To further bolster his case, he argues that all forgery methods available in medieval times are insufficient to explain the Shroud. Nicholas Allen’s proto-photographic shroud copy produces a 3D negative, but also includes directional lighting, which is not present on the Shroud, and Joe Nickell’s reproduction made by laying a cloth over a bas-relief representation of Christ’s face and dabbing it with iron oxide is much cruder than the image on the Shroud. But he fails to address Luigi Garlaschelli’s 2009 work that attempted to reproduce the Shroud using red ochre.

But there are problems with the Shroud itself that means that it could not have been made by contact with a human body. For instance, rigor mortis probably would not have lasted long enough to hold the head in the correct position for the duration of time required to form the image. All of the Gospel narratives say that the body was wrapped in the Shroud, and one wonders why someone would simply carefully drape the body in a Shroud—if there were time enough for that, surely there would be time enough to wrap the body more securely? In either case, there should be more distortion than is seen on the Shroud image, particularly at the top of the head, and the face should be rounder from distortion. De Wesselow explains the separation between the two figures by saying that a cloth was used to bind the chin to keep the mouth from gaping open. This would explain a separation between the two images, but not the lack of distortion. So while we don’t know exactly how the Shroud was produced, it wasn’t produced by being wrapped around a human body.

How was Jesus buried?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention linen (Greek sindon) used to wrap Jesus’ body. Matthew 27:59 leaves it ambiguous whether it should be translated “in clean linen cloth”, leaving the possibility open that it was strips, or “in a clean linen shroud”, as does Mark 15:46 and Luke 23:53. De Wesselow discounts John’s narrative as a reliable source, arguing that it’s late and too steeped in the tradition of the physical resurrection, but we disagree. And John happens to give us the most detailed description of Jesus’ burial.

John says that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were instrumental in burying Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to bury the body, and Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of spices. Linen is mentioned here, too, but a different, less ambiguous word is used—othonion, which refers to strips of linen. They bound the body in the linen strips and layers of the spices. The same word othonoion is used in 20:5 for the strips that were left laying in the tomb, but 20:7 also refers to a soudarion, a cloth used to cover the face.

De Wesselow claims that John’s burial account is fanciful, reflecting the burial he feels Jesus should have received rather than the one He actually did, and points to discrepancies between the burial narratives. But especially regarding the Passion and Resurrection narratives, the Gospels differ in which details they choose to include, doubtlessly theologically motivated part of the time. But if we look at the various narratives as different portraits of the events that transpired, each providing a different, yet accurate, perspective, we can bring them together to create a reconstruction of the events that does justice to each account.

The Synoptic Gospels emphasize the hurried nature of the burial, but John too recognizes that the burial was rushed—the tomb where Jesus was laid was chosen mainly because it was nearby and the Sabbath was on hand. Even so, it’s difficult to imagine that Jesus’ followers would have simply dumped the body of their beloved Lord into a tomb only hurriedly covered with a sheet. It’s not inconceivable to imagine that they hurriedly started the burial process with the strips of linen and the spices, while planning to come back after the Sabbath to finish. As Carson says:

The mixture of spices brought by Nicodemus, one hundred litrai, was a little less than the seventy-five pounds specified by the NIV—65.45 pounds, to be more precise (hence NEB’s ‘more than half a hundredweight’, where a hundredweight is 112 pounds avoirdupois). Mention of so large an amount is neither an error nor an exaggeration. Five hundred servants bearing spices participated in the funeral procession of Herod the Great. In the fifth decade of the first century, Onkelos burned about eighty pounds of spices at the funeral of Gamaliel the elder. The implication in the present narrative is that two wealthy men used their servants to carry the spices, help take Jesus’ body down from the cross, and then prepare him for burial. At a guess, Joseph saw to the legal steps while Nicodemus secured the spices.2

While the use of a shroud to cover Jesus’ body is conceivable based on the wording used in the Synoptics (and the omission of a mention of one in John doesn’t rule it out), nothing in any of the Gospels requires that there be a shroud. Plus, if John’s Gospel is correct about the strips of linen and spices used to wrap Jesus’ body, any shroud would be on top of that, and thus an impression couldn’t have been made of the body.

Carbon dating

In 1988, some samples from the Shroud of Turin were tested using accelerator mass spectrometry, and yielded a result dating the Shroud material to 1260-1390, firmly in the medieval era. De Wesselow says that several factors could yield an incorrect date: contaminations, reweaving, or some sort of fraud (p. 171). But there’s no significant evidence in support of any of these conjectures, and at the end de Wesselow says: “But can we legitimately reject the carbon-dating result without determining exactly what went wrong? Of course we can. Archaeologists routinely dismiss ‘rogue’ radiocarbon dates out of hand. … The 1988 test may therefore be declared null and void, even though, without further direct study of the Shroud, it is unlikely we will ever be able to say definitively what went wrong” (171).

De Wesselow implies several times that the Vatican’s refusal to allow further testing is suspicious, but this is not necessarily the case. The 1988 testing required the destruction of a small part of the Shroud—as would most ways of dating the Shroud. Even as a medieval forgery, it has value as a rather unique piece of art, so one shouldn’t be surprised at the Vatican’s reluctance to cut it up to satisfy the curiosity of conspiracy-mythers who wouldn’t accept a result that didn’t match up with their beliefs.

Would Christians expect a Shroud?

Christianity in the first century was differentiated from most other religions in their particular lack of physical objects of devotion. There were no Temples or statues of gods and goddesses. There were no relics, no charms to ward off evil spirits. Not only is there no evidence that an image of Jesus’ body was left on the Shroud, all the evidence is to the contrary. All the physical evidence of Jesus’ resurrection consists of the empty tomb now that His resurrected body has ascended to Heaven.

Jesus is risen indeed—but we don’t need a Shroud as proof of it.

De Wesselow spins a fantastic just-so story where so many unusual things happened ‘just right’ to form the image, and then his interpretation of the Resurrection narratives assumes that his thesis about the Shroud is correct. When John includes statements that don’t allow for his thesis, he simply throws ¼ of the evidence out as unreliable.

People who want to believe that the Shroud is real, and who are already convinced of any number of conspiracy theories surrounding it, will find The Sign to be an invaluable resource. For anyone else, it is a piece of engaging, well-written nonsense. For all the reasons expressed above, the Shroud could not be from the first century, it could not have been made from being wrapped around someone’s body, and even if it had been, an impression of Jesus’ rotting corpse on a burial cloth would not be considered any sort of resurrection. And even if his followers had been delusional enough to think this was the case, it’s not the sort of message that would convert anyone. De Wesselow’s argument is based on profound ignorance of Second Temple Judaism, and what early Christians always meant when they talked about Resurrection.

Jesus is risen indeed—but we don’t need a Shroud as proof of it.

Related Articles

Further Reading


  1. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 204. Emphasis in the last sentence added. Return to text.
  2. Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (629–630). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Chris L., South Africa, 6 June 2012

I read the first half of the book with extreme interest and found the arguments well thought out, but feel that the author seriously lost the plot in the second half. In fact, I gave up very quickly when he was discussing the not-so-empty tomb, not to mention the concocted picture of Thomas sticking his hand into the "wound" in the image on shroud as if into a real person. The conclusions reached in the second half contradict those reached in the first half and undermine the work as a whole.

Kym D., Australia, 6 May 2012

Thanks for the thought provoking article. The shroud has always been a curiosity for me, and now I have more knowledge of it. My faith in Jesus resurrection is, and has been for 30 years, based on His presence with me, not on physical things. But at the beginning of my journey of faith, it was based on a choice to believe the Scriptures. The shroud story neither added to, nor detracted from, their record, which I believed to be securely transmitted from ancient times to the present day. In this post-modern world, I am frequently shocked by the continual attempts at re-invention of truths, denial of trustworthy sources of knowledge and sweeping away of historical records. Thank-you for taking the time to publish articles that review and refute this trend.

M. D., Canada, 4 May 2012

I do not doubt that the shroud is an authentic piece of art. But to use it to prove the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is grasping at straws. Concerning the meaning of the resurrection for first century believers, well just read the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians Chapter 15. Note (1Co 15:6) "Then He appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, of whom the most remain until now, but some also fell asleep". How much more evidence do we need. Paul was a believer, and let's not forget he was also a Jew.

Terry P., Australia, 4 May 2012

In the Gospel of John it states wrapping in linen strips was the norm in Jewish burials. (Not unlike Egyptian mummies.) Ergo, John says Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, was wrapped in linen strips, and likewise Jesus. The synoptic Gospels tell us Jesus was wrapped in a linen cloth, but this does not contradict the Gospel of John; simply, a linen sheet was brought to the tomb and torn into the linen strips in which John says Jesus was bound. Thus, the Bible itself proves the Shroud of Turin, not being in strips of linen, could never have been used to wrap the body of Jesus.

Michael H., Australia, 4 May 2012

The shroud is a very complex object that is not easy to understand especially if it is not approached with a multidisciplinary perspective. There are many sciences that point in the direction of its authenticity. No, we don't need the shroud as 'proof' of the resurrection, but the indisputable fact is that is it here and continues to baffle science in many facets particularly in regard to its image formation.

I agree with the reviewer that "The Sign"by de Wesselow appears to be nothing short of ignorance on many levels, however Cosner herself has also not approached the possible authenticity of the shroud with due consideration. There is much to research before one concludes with such an unfounded resolve.

In her conclusion to say, 'the Shroud could not be from the first century, (and) could not have been made from being wrapped around someone’s body' is displaying a lack of knowledge on this subject.

The shroud is woven in a 3-over-1 herringbone pattern and measures 14'3" x 3'7" correlating with ancient measurements of 2 cubits x 8 cubits consistent with loom technology of the period. Herringbone pattern was not known to medieval Europe but was to ancient near east (refer Swiss textile historian Mechthild Flury-Lemburg review & Fanti and Marinelli 1998). Further, linen in the first century Middle East was indicative to hank bleaching just as we see in the shroud's variegated patterns.

The shroud's history is undeniably connected to Jerusalem: the presence of calcium carbonate (limestone dust) on the cloth (Dr Nitowski, Fanti & Marinelli) is a noted mineral of the cave tombs of Jerusalem - found dirt particles located on the nose tip, left knee and heel on the shroud (Pellicori).

Pollen grains within the shroud were identified as 'geographical and calendar indicators' demonstrating the provenance of the Shroud, specifically the area around Jerusalem -(Israeli botantist Dr Avinoam Danin, Whanger, Prof Emeritus, Dr Uri Baruch, Dr.M.Frei).

3-D imagery of NASA's VP8 image analyzer (Jackson & Jumper 1978) revealed dense button like objects over the eyes. Macrophotography and digitalization of the eye area by Dr R. Haralick, Uni or Virginia Spatial Data Analysis Lab suggest coin lettering consistent with the Lepton (Widows Mite) minted by Pontius Pilate between 29-32AD.

The scourge marks/wounds on the whole body are imputable with a Roman flagrum tipped with dumb-bell shaped pellets used by the Romans at the time of Christ (Dr N.Svensson, Dr. Zaninotto). Even the wound to the side matches a Roman lancea described in the Gospel of John as used to check Jesus was dead.

Could not have wrapped around someone's body (?): Cosner's concluding comment is quite unbelievable to say the least. The amount of evidence on a vast array of the medical sciences has volumes of material elaborating in specific details of the wounds, blood, anatomy, etc., of a tortured, crucified human (*Jewish) male. Further, the words of the New Testament regarding the Passion clearly match the wounds depicted on the shroud and consistent with the weapons used by the ancient Romans.

*(Locks of shoulder length hair, beard (with bits missing!Isa 50:6) & 1st C Jewish male tradition of pig tail tying back of hair as found in the shroud).

One significant point to recant Cosner is that the blood on the shroud is real - type AB. This is irrefutably conclusive (Dr. B. Ballone, Dr L. Garza-Valdes, Dr.A.Alder, DrJ.Heller refers). The latter specialist found a high concentration of the pigment bilirubin consistent with someone dying under great trauma and thereby making the colour more red than normal ancient blood. Drs Victor & Nancy Tryon (Uni of Texas Health Science Center) found X & Y chromosomes (Male blood) and degraded DNA 'consistent with the supposition of ancient blood.'

I could go on, as the information is there in secular scientific journals, books, reviews and websites. Not to mention the historical evidence that has now been pieced together (one e.g.: The Shroud (Wilson 2010). Combine these 2 fields of inquiry and a convincing argument can be raised.

There are many scientists called to investigate the shroud relative to their field of expertise and are sceptics/ non-believers but come out the other end as believers in the resurrection. Refer below for further reference>>

Science > Refer, shroudstory faq website

Review: > International conference on the shroud of Turin "Perspectives of a multifaceted enigma": Columbus - Ohio August 14-17, 2008

History/Chronology:" The Shroud", Ian Wilson 2010 (Non-fiction)

As for the carbon dating fiasco, that was refuted some years ago now flawed with error. Refer Dr. Ray ROGERS, shroudstory - frequently asked questions.

Once again, I reiterate, the shroud should not to be used as proof of the resurrection, but it is not to be dismissed either. The evidences certainly point in the direction of its authenticity and therefore need to be carefully reviewed (like creationist researchers do) especially before any haphazard statement is put before the masses.

*PS: In response to - Jerry W. comment (29/04/12):

"...images of the back and front of the head look to be an inch or less. There is no way a real person as tall as the image on the shroud could have a head only an inch wide front to back.

This incongruity alone should cast serious doubts on the shroud's authenticity.

Am I missing something here?"

Yes Jerry you are missing something!! A simple measure with your ruler on the full cloth image distance from the top of the head front & top of head back displays a very distinct gap that can easily be compared with a similar distance on any part of the image (for e.g. face). Using this, you measure this comparative distance from the top of the head(s) and it measured down to the eye level on the shroud - and on the average human head, is a approximate distance of 4 inches. We have to a factor in droop in cloth weight, gravity etc. However, I cannot see your 'look to be an inch or less' measure with any congruity.

Lita Cosner responds

Thanks for writing in. Although I don't agree with your conclusions that the Shroud may be authentic, I'll publish your comment to let the readers see and decide for themselves.

I admittedly am not an expert on the subject of the Shroud—even if it were authentic, I would think it was of peripheral importance at best. I'm skeptical about whether the research you cite actually proves what it claims to, but I have neither the specialization or the time to go through and research, so I'll let it stand. But why would the Shroud not be mentioned—by anyone—for centuries after Christ's death? And when an image of Christ is mentioned in connection with King Abgar, it is of the face only.

And re: your reply to Jerry; you're correct that the space between the images is several inches, but a watery stain directly above the face is easily mistaken for the start of the back image, especially when viewing low-quality images of the Shroud. Given that the image is somewhat indistinct in places even in the best photos, I wouldn't be too hard on that misidentification. But even with the spacing, there should be some distortion at the top of the head of both of the images, which no Shroud defender has been adequately able to explain.

Jack N., Australia, 3 May 2012

I agree with Jerry. The top of the head would appear on the shroud if it were genuine.

Jerry W., United States, 29 April 2012

Whenever I get a chance to see a full length (front and back) picture of the shroud I am amazed that one important flaw in it is never discussed. This is the distance between the two head images. Any shroud wrapped loosely (and length wise) around a body must necessarily make full contact along the top of the head. Therefore, the middle of the shroud should include an image of the back of the head, the top of the head, and the front of the head (face).

I am 6'1" tall, which I assume is a bit taller than the average Israelite of Jesus' day. The distance between the front and back of my head is about 5 inches. Even if Jesus was as short as 5'5" the distance between the front and back of His head should be around 4 inches.

On the shroud the distance between the images of the back and front of the head look to be an inch or less. There is no way a real person as tall as the image on the shroud could have a head only an inch wide front to back.

This incongruity alone should cast serious doubts on the shroud's authenticity.

Am I missing something here?

Douglas B., United States, 25 April 2012

Dear Lita,

"The description of being wound in cloth and 75 pounds of spices would certainly suggest a binding that covers the whole body."

It might. But even then I would find it hard to imagine that such a binding could "contain" 75 pounds of anything. However, I have to confess I have no experience, thankfully, in the matter.

I'm not sure what one should expect to see after Jesus' resurrection in a covering shroud. Would thin bindings around the chin, hands, and feet show in such an image? I suppose; but then again, I can imagine it would be possible for them to not show.

Also, if the Jewish custom was to wrap a body completely in strips of cloth, then it seems to me that Lazarus would have had a very hard time "scuffling" to the entrance of his tomb upon his being resurrected by Jesus. (Not to mention, he likely would have had difficulty breathing [though perhaps Jews did not bind the head, but merely used a "handkerchief" to cover that area].)

Anyway, our faith is not in any Shroud or relic, however authentic or impressive. Our faith is in the living, glorified Jesus. The authenticity of the Shroud, yea or nay, makes no difference to His reality and power.

Sam W., Kenya, 24 April 2012

Perhaps Thomas de Wesselow should have began the most simple inquiry, how iconoclastic Christianity as a whole is.

Why bother with scholarly work and forget a major distinguishing point between Christianity and any other faith, viz. lack of belief in physical objects - Catholicism aside.

If an authority such as he cannot be bothered with such [seeming] trifles, why should the discerning Christian reader be bothered with his more empirical pseudo-research? Question is entirely rhetorical.

As the article's final premise states, we need no shroud to justify belief in Jesus the Christ.

Indeed, the fool says in his heart there is no God.

Chuck J., United States, 24 April 2012

Again I do not have the words to express my appreciation for your vigilance and ability to clearly, logically, and Biblically explain the Bible and keep watch on the "wolves". I am disgusted how the History Channel and others give equal or more weight to supposed other authorities than the Bible itself to explain one thing or another especially around Easter and Christmas. This author fits the same mold in my mind. He is risen indeed.

Diana L., Canada, 24 April 2012

Amen, sister!

Russell M., United States, 24 April 2012

I understand your skepticism on the authenticity of the Shroud, yet pollen spores were discovered in the Shroud that came from plants that existed in the area of Jesus' burial. Also, the carbon dating was indeed flawed and should put to rest the idea that this was a forgery.

I do agree we don't need a piece of cloth to affirm out faith in a risen Christ. I may not read this particular book because of serious flaws in some of the author's premises, yet there are other, more credible authorities that are useful for historical reference.

Douglas B., United States, 24 April 2012

"When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth," (Matthew 27:59 [NKJV])

John mentions them binding Jesus' body in "strips of linen", and that Peter saw the "linen cloths" lying by themselves. Assuming that BOTH are correct (a "singular" cloth, and "plural" cloths/strips), then this would imply that Jesus was bound with the linen strips, and wrapped in a (singular) linen cloth.

Unfortunately, it seems that many have their imaginations blinded by Egyptian mummification, and think that when the Bible says that Jesus' body was "bound" by linen cloths, it means His ENTIRE body was thus bound. But this does not need to be the case, logically. Logically, all that would be required is that PART of His body was so bound -- in my opinion, it makes sense that His feet and hands, and chin, were thus "bound" (necessitating "plural" cloths), but not the rest of His body.

Then, after His feet were bound together, and His hands, and His chin was bound, His entire body was then "wrapped in a [singular] clean linen cloth". Then, when Peter saw the "linen cloths" (plural) lying by themselves, this would have included the "[singular] clean linen cloth" along with the [plural] linen strips.

The "handkerchief" that had been placed "around" His head could have been placed under or over the "clean linen cloth". (Though it seems to me more likely that it was under, I suppose.)

Anyway, the Gospels DO seem to suggest that a singular, at least body-length, linen cloth was placed over Jesus' body. It would make sense to me that it would also be long enough to protect the body from whatever it was lain on, and thus it would make sense to me that it would be roughly twice the length of a human body. All quite consistent with the Shroud.

(This is not to say that the Shroud is genuine [I tend to think it is, but I don't know]. It is to say that the Gospels do not preclude the authenticity of the Shroud necessarily.)

Lita Cosner responds

Dear Douglas,

The description of being wound in cloth and 75 pounds of spices would certainly suggest a binding that covers the whole body. But if it was only the chin, hands, and feet that were bound, we would still see evidence of that on the Shroud, if the body image were the result of the Maillard reaction as de Wesselow claims. In fact, he explains the separation of the frontal and dorsal images by the use of a chin cloth.

Jennifer P., Australia, 24 April 2012

The most serious doubt to the cloth’s authenticity is found in Scripture , specifically in Johns' Gospel. I had never seen the English Standard Version of the Bible that you referenced in the article, Matthew 27:59 Mark 15:46 and Luke 23:53 where the word "shroud" is used by the translators. Of course the original Greek and Hebrew would take precedence over this? Also the very same translation drops all "shroud" words and must faithfully relate the details of Peter and John's account ie. the strips of linen etc.

John 20:4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus'[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes."

This was a shock to me as the descriptions of the heads strip called the face cloth (singular ) wound and left empty, folded up and away from where the body had been laid has always suggested to me the miracle of the resurrection. There is a serious weakness in the Catholic man made traditions of worshipping relics and idols and even cruxifics with a body still hanging on the cross. Some I have seen when my children were small were horrific in detail. The Reformation Protestant tradition is right to stess the empty tomb as well as the empty cross. It is a glorious finished work of our Lord God and Saviour. Jesus is indeed risen, everliving and risen indeed !

From CMI 's site the following ; " It is clear in the New Testament and from Jewish burial customs that several pieces of cloth were used in Christ’s burial-not one large sheet like the shroud. In John 20:5-7 we see that there was a separate piece wrapped about Christ’s head-yet the Shroud of Turin depicts a face on the sheet. Scripture indicates that Jesus was bound with linen strips, not wrapped with a cloth (see John 19:40). These and other problems apart from the carbon-dating results seem to indicate that great caution should be used in accepting the shroud as genuinely having wrapped the body of Christ.

Jaime L., Australia, 24 April 2012

Thank you so much for publishing this article. Earlier this month, Thomas de Wesselow appeared on the Sunrise show on channel 7. The more I listened, the more I found myself yelling at the TV! Several times he stated his credentials as an "art historian", like it gave him authority to speak "authoritatively" on the subject. I haven't read his book, but by what he said in the interview, it is evident that the main aim is to deny the bodily ressurection of Jesus. This is not surprising. While most Christians would have seen through Thomas de Wesselow's fancyful theories, your article is indeed required to refute his claims. I have a small Bible study group and the first question I received was about this TV interview. I will be directing anyone who asks to your article.

As a side note, I want to thank you for your ministry and the amazing resource content on your website, as well as the many books available some of which are now on my bookshelf! is my first port of call for all creation related topics. May God continue to bless you and pour His favour upon you.



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