Friday, August 19, 2011

The Shroud of Turin: What Does the Bible Say About It?

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
– 1 Jn. 5:20-21

To be brief, the image on the Shroud of Turin is not that of Jesus Christ – and there are at least two reasons why.  The first is because the image on the Shroud doesn’t fit the biblical account of what Jesus looked like at the time of his death, and the second is that the existence of the Shroud itself, as in accepting the possibility that it came from the body of Jesus, or is of Christian origin in general, is unbiblical.  We’ll justify these two positions by first comparing the results of the biblical account of the crucifixion with that of the image on the Shroud.
·        In the Bible, the headpiece was separate from the rest of the grave clothes (Jn. 11:44, 20:7); and yet, the Shroud is a single sheet of linen which shows the headpiece as part of the whole sheet and not as separate.
·        In the Bible, when the Jews prepared a body for burial, they would take individual strips of linen and wrap the arms and legs separate from the body instead of all together.[1]  This would explain how Lazarus was able to walk out of his tomb.[2]  If his legs would have been wrapped together, then he wouldn’t have been able to do this.
During that same event, the Bible also records that Lazarus needed help removing his grave clothes (Jn. 11:44).  This suggests that there’s much more involved in preparing a body than just laying a sheet over a body.  You don’t need help to remove a flat sheet.       
·        God’s Word teaches that myrrh and aloes were used to prepare a body for burial (Jn. 19:39).  These two, when mixed together, form a hard shell around the body.  The Shroud is a flat, pliable, sheet.
·        Much has been said about the damage on the shoulder blades.  The conclusion held by many is that it was caused by the cross as Jesus carried it on the way to Calvary.  However, when comparing Mt. 27:32; Mk. 15:21; Lu. 23:26, and Jn. 19:17, you’ll find that Jesus never publicly carried his cross.  He only carried it in the courtyard of the Praetorium.  It’s therefore unlikely that such a short trip would have caused that much damage. 
·        In speaking of the crucifixion, God’s Word teaches us in Isaiah 50:6 that Jesus had his beard plucked from his face.  The man on the Shroud has a full beard.  Therefore, the man on the Shroud cannot be that of Jesus Christ. 
·        And finally, in speaking of the crucifixion, Isaiah teaches us that Jesus’ face was so badly beaten that you wouldn’t have recognized him (Is. 52:13-15).  The Shroud shows the face of the man whose features are clearly distinguishable with no evidence of a beating having taken place, other than the possibility of a broken nose.      

Thus, the biblical account of the crucifixion doesn’t match up with the image on the Shroud; or, should I say that the image on the Shroud doesn’t match the biblical account?  Either way, the net effect is that the image on the Shroud is not and cannot be that of Jesus Christ.  Any one of these comparisons is proof enough, much less the entire group – if you believe the Bible that is.  We’ll now turn our attention to discerning whether the existence of the Shroud itself is biblical.  To do so, we need to look no further than the Second Commandment. 

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God,…  – Ex. 20:4-5a

As you can see, God’s definition of idol worship is slightly different than ours.  We have the tendency to emphasize the latter while overlooking the former: we have the tendency to emphasize the admonition not to worship images while ignoring or rejecting the other admonition not to even make them; but God’s definition includes both the manufacture and the worship of these images. 
Of course many would disagree, but no amount of human rationality can deter the simple wording found in this commandment.  The fact remains that the image of the man on the Shroud doesn’t fit the biblical account of what Jesus looked like at the time of his crucifixion and so it must be rejected.  It must also be rejected because its very existence is an abomination as expressed by the Second Commandment.  And finally, having been asked for a sign by spiritually unregenerate religious leaders of his day, Jesus replies:     

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Mt. 12:39-40

Thus, Jesus has given them, and us, one, and only one, proof or sign of his deity: his resurrection.  That means that there is none other – including the Shroud of Turin.  Jesus’ response also serves to enlighten and to warn. The good news is that we serve a living God who isn’t made by the hands of men (Acts 17:29): the warning is that there are those who would have us believe otherwise: we should therefore be wary of them.  Selah. 

Also, over the years, many documentaries have been produced using scientific methods to prove or disprove the authenticity of the Shroud.  But of all these tests, please note that the best that they could ever hope to prove is that the Shroud isn’t a forgery; but proving the Shroud isn’t a forgery isn’t the same thing as proving that it came from the body of Jesus Christ.

The single best proof that’s been offered is that the image on the Shroud could only have been produced by a sudden and very intense burst of light.  Now whether this is possible or not is unknown to this author (not that it matters anyway), but what is known is that a 50/50 mixture of myrrh and aloe will produce the exact same effect, and so there’s nothing to be added to their argument from this.  Many of their findings may in fact be correct.  But what needs to be remembered is that science doesn’t establish God’s Word; rather, it bears witness to it.  And so while the science may be correct in its findings, it’s incorrect in its final interpretation.  Indeed there’s an image of a man who’s been crucified on the Shroud: it’s just not that of Jesus Christ.  Selah.

[1]Cp. Mt. 27:59; Mk. 15:46; Lu. 23:53a, Jn. 19:40, and Acts 5:6.
[2]On this point, some may argue that Jesus could have been wrapped with the linen strips, then “sandwiched” in between a single flat sheet.  But for this to be true, assuredly some of the overlapping of the individual linen straps would have shown up in the photographic negative, but they do not.


  1. Actually we do have two cloths from The Tomb: The Shroud of Turin and The Sudarium of oviedo Spain (the head covering handkerchief at the time of death). The forensic show that they covered the same body with the same exact head injuries.

  2. Doubtful I believe, but the Shroud has already been proven by Scripture to not be that of Jesus, and so this makes no difference.

  3. Your arguments about the Bible and the shroud may not stand up to real scrutiny and scholarship. You should read the article here.

    Re: the first commandment: Why did God COMMAND images of heavenly creatures to be sown into the very fabric of the Temple curtain? Why did He command the image of Angles be sculpted upon the ark? Why did he commands Moses make an image of a snake and the Israelites to gaze upon it? All of these instances show that it is the WORSHIP of images that is meant by the commandment. You should read the article here:

    No one should worship the shroud, but if it is truly evidence of Jesus body then it is essentially a reflection - not a graven image carved out by man for worship. It is essentially an organic reflection made as a byproduct of natural or supernatural process; not an image made by man. Just as Jesus' face reflected in the water and in mirrors; just as his shadow fell upon the ground as he walked in the sun - so the shroud - if it is authentic, is simply a reflection of Jesus by the same principle : a byproduct of physical reality.

    It is a question of worship. Thomas might have worshipped Jesus nail marks. He did not. He worshiped the Jesus who had nail marks. But Jesus still provided Thomas with evidence of his resurrection.

    On "signs" for an adulterous generation: Whatever we may think about "signs", Jesus thought they were important enough to spend his life doing them. He performed signs so that sinful people would believe and keep believing (John 20:29-31). Wether the shroud is a true sign is not my argument - but if it is a sign, that does not mean it is wrong for it to be used as evidence. If Jesus thought signs were worth it, then who are we to despise them?

    John 30:
    "The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name."

    1. Your response is typical. Satan's deception of man began with the introduction of doubt, which is what you're doing. As shown in the lesson, there faces don't match and so all that's left is a decision. You don't want to make this decision, but have no problem finding fault in those who have.

      Habermas added nothing to your argument. He used extra-biblical resources as his main source and I used the Bible as mine. What he wrote was logical, but not biblical. But don't confuse his logical argument with the facts in God's Word... right!? Let's see. Jesus had his beard plucked from his face and the man in the image has a full beard. Now, who should we believe? Duh.

      As per the existence of the image itself, evidently you cannot discern the difference between an image that God commanded to be made verses one we that we contrive on our own. (To add, God never commanded that one of himself be made.) And despite the fact that the Tabernacle\Temple were only around for about 1500 years and the images of cherubim were only seen by a select few, you're trying to establish it as common practice thus implying that the shroud could be that of Jesus. Hmm.

      You say that you don't know if the shroud is a legitimate sign or not, but you have no problem telling me I'm wrong. You then employ circular reasoning to justify it as a possible "sign" or "reflection." Here, all you've done is redefine God's Word so as to make it ineffective. So for you, there is no right or wrong - just doubt. And is that what people need?