The Turin Shroud, Fake or Genuine?

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

07 June 2003; Updates: 27 June 2004; 07 March 2005 at end of article

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A controversy exists as to whether the Turin Shroud, allegedly the burial cloth of Jesus, is real or a fake. Click on the following url which argues for its authenticity and some nice photos in color

The late Dr. Walter McCrone, argued that the shroud was a Medieval painting, he briefly explains at the following url

Please click here for McCrone's qualifications as a scientist.

The earliest mention of the shroud's public appearance is about 1356 AD, when it appears at Lirey, France (p.1. Walter McCrone. Judgement Day for the Shroud of Turin. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. 1999).

At the time of its first appearance there was controversy as to whether of not it was the real burial shroud of Christ.

A number of observations have been made about some unusual features in regards to the shroud, by critics skeptical of its authenticity.

1) The shroud does not exhibit any wrinkle gaps in its image as one would expect when a cloth is draped over a body.

2) The shroud's image contradicts earlier portrayals of burial customs preserved in Early Christian art. A number of relief sculptures and murals exist, made by early Christians showing Lazarus being resurrected from the dead by Christ. Lazarus is shown in linens, wrapped around and bound against his body. The bindings are quite clear. A face cloth is also shown bound over the head. Clearly such bindings with their accompanying wrinkles are not present of the Turin burial cloth. cf. the marble bas-relief of Chist calling forth Lazarus, bound in a tightly wrapped shroud at the tomb's entrance (p.57, The Lazarus scene is from a sarcophagus in the San Vitale church of Ravenna, Italy, of the 7th century CE. Gilbert Thurlow. All Color Book of Biblical Myths & Mysteries. London. Octopus Books. 1974)

3) Christ's burial cloth is portrayed in murals as like Lazarus', wrapped or wound about the body in a criss-crossed fashion (rather like that used on ancient Egyptian mummies and still practiced into Ptolemaic times, in Egypt), the criss-crossing cloth being held in place by red strap-like bindings, NOT draped over the body as in the Turin shroud. Cf. the mural of an angel showing three women Christ's open sarchopagus, with a tightly bound burial shroud and separate binding for the head (p. 62, Panagai Phorbiotissa Church Asinou, Nikitari, Cyprus; 14th century  CE. Gilbert Thurlow. 
All Color Book of Biblical Myths & Mysteries. London. Octopus Books. 1974)

4) The New Testament in describing Lazarus' resurrection suggests he is bound by his burial shroud and it is expressly said that his bonds must be loosened and he is to be set free. Such a situation cannot apply to the Turin shroud for it shows no evidence of being bound about Christ's body, but merely loosely draped atop it.

John 11:43-44 (RSV)  :

"When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus,come out." The dead man came out, his hands and feet BOUND with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "UNBIND him, and let him go."

Even more damning, Christ is portrayed as having his burial shroud WRAPPED about his body in Scripture, John suggesting a number of cloths were used for the binding.

John 19: 40 (RSV)
"They took the body of Jesus, and BOUND IT in linen CLOTHS with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews."

Luke 23:52-53 (RSV)
"This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and WRAPPED IT in a linen shroud and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb..."

Mark 15:46 (RSV) :
"And he brought a linen shroud, and taking him down, WRAPPED HIM in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb..."

Matthew 27:59 (RSV)
"And Joseph took the body, and WRAPPED IT in a  clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb..."

5) The earliest Christian representations of Christ  of the 4th-6th century AD, do NOT portray him with a moustache and beard, he is shown clean shaven in bas-reliefs (ivory minatures, and sarcophagai) and his hair does NOT come down to his shoulders, instead, it is closely cropped. Yet, he appears with a moustache and beard and long shoulder-length hair in the Turin shroud. Christian art began to show Christ moustached and bearded with shoulder=length hair about the 6th-7th century AD.

6) A 1988 Radio carbon dating of the shroud suggests it was created ca 1325, plus or minus 65 years (p.287.Walter McCrone. Judgement Day for the Shroud of Turin. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. 1999).

7) Fibers drawn with tape from various parts of the shroud's surface underwent spectographic light analysis by Dr. Walter McCrone, who declared the image was a painted one, composed of red ochre and vermillion (cf. p. 103. Walter McCrone. Judgement Day for the Shroud of Turin. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. 1999).

8) A specialist who practices hand/loom weaving and who has studied examples of woven cloth from ancient times, has declared that the complex twill of the Turin shroud suggests the fabric was not made in the first century AD. Machines that could create such a complex twill did not come into being until Medieval times (The Biblical Archaeology Review "Letters to the Editor on the Shroud of Turin").

The "defenders" for the burial shroud's authenticity claim that the radio-carbon dates are false readings due to the cloth's having been partially carbonized from a fire which singed parts of it. As for claims paint was used, they simply declare McCrone a liar. They claim to have found pollen on the shroud of plants unique to Israel, attesting to its genuineness. McCrone wryly observed that the slides shown of the pollen reveal it appears to be quite recent and not exhibiting any features of 2000 years of aging. 

Early Christian art forms show that in the first century AD that bodies were wound with a band of cloth and then bound with bindings, as implied by John 11:43-44, rather than the Turin shroud, a single cloth  that was folded and then the body placed on top it, then the other half the cloth laid tover the face, chest and legs. There is no example of such a practice from the first century AD nor the early Christian art, of the 4th through  the 14th century AD.

The burial shroud bindings of the 7th century Italian representation of Lazarus at Ravenna, Italy, is replicated in the 14th century mural at Panagai Phorbiotissa Church Asinou, Nikitari, Cyprus. The 14th century Turin Shroud is an anomaly, contradicting 700 years of earlier Christian examples of burial shrouds.

As for the anomaly that the Turin shroud displays no wrinkle gaps as it draped the contours of the body, again no answer which would make sense (Obviously, its a miracle!).


The Turin Shroud is a fake, painted ca. 1356 AD. The weave or twill is of a type unknown in the collections of museums having fabric examples of the Roman Empire from the first century AD, and the machine which could have produced such a complicated twill didn't exist until Medieval times. The claims that ancient pollen from Israel appear on the Shroud's surface are dubious, in light of the foregoing anomalies.

Most damning is that the Turin shroud contradicts John's (John 11:43-44) description of Lazarus' burial shroud and its bindings, which are shown in the 7th and 14th century AD Italian and Cypriot renderings.  Also damning is the absence of wrinkles in the Turin shroud, indicative of its being wrapped about Christ's body.

As regarding Early Christian artist's portrayals of Christ, AT FIRST he was shown with closely cropped hair, that is to say, his hair did NOT reach down to his shoulders, and he was without moustache or beard. Centuries later, he appears, still without beard or moustache, but NOW his hair is no longer closely cropped, it is shoulder length. Finally, the LAST STAGE of Christian representations of Christ, show him with moustache, beard and shoulder-length hair. The Turin Shroud portrays Christ with all the features appearing in the LAST STAGES of Christian representations of Christ !  If the shroud was _truely genuine_  it should have shown Christ as he FIRST APPEARED in Christian art, with hair closely cropped and not shoulder-length, and no moustache or beard. Apparently the FORGER of the Turin Shroud was UNAWARE that the _earliest_ Christian art did not so portray Christ. Also apparent is that the Turin Shroud's "ardent defenders" of its genuiness, are also IGNORANT of Early Christianity's portrayal of Christ without shoulder-length hair, and no moustache or beard. In defending the shroud, they would have to come up with a "rationalization" for why earlier Christian portrayals of Christ's face CONTRADICT the shroud's image.

During the course of a 2002 restoration project, photos were taken of _backside_ of the shroud as well as the front. The backside showed faint images of the face from the front, leading some skeptical scholars to speculate that paint from frontside had penetrated the cloth to reappear on the backside. cf. the following url for the details and "denials" by the faithful:

Update 27 June 2004 

Yesterday I attended a special exhibition at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
titled "Byzantium, Faith and Power, 1261-1557." While there I noticed draperies that resembeld somewhat the Shroud of Turin, there were some notable differences however. First, the images of Christ did NOT show him completely naked, he had a loincloth covering his genitals area. Secondly, the images were EMBROIDERED _not_ painted (as above discussed). Thirdly, a "history" was provided on this image (Catalog number 190 to the exhibition), which explained when these relics FIRST appear in the Orthodox Church.

I quote from my "partial notes" made at the exhibit :

"The Epitaphios, a textile showing Christ's body laid out for burial evolved from the veil (aer) placed over the chalice and paten on the altar in Orthodox churches about 1300. It was used in the Great Entrance portion of the Orthodox service and displayed on Good Friday and Holy Saturday during Easter and carried in a funerary procession commemorating Christ's burial."

It would appear to me that a cloth showing Christ's body laid out for burial, showing the body from above, with hands crossed over the lower abdomen, is earliest attested in Greek Orthodox art forms (embroided), no earlier than ca. 1300. The Turin shroud makes its first known appearance in France ca. 1356, a half century LATER. I suspect, that the French medieval artist "may have been" inspired by the Greek Orthodox "Epitaphios" and broke with tradition by rendering the image in paint rather than embroidery, and Christ as nude rather than with a loin cloth, another creative act of inspiration was the French artist's showing Christ's backside on the cloth (something I am not aware of in Greek Orthodox examples)

Scavone, in his attempt to document the Turin Shroud, notes the Greek Orthodox Epitaphioi and their evolution and attempts to document the authenticity of the Turin Shroud. 


"Small Eucharistic chalice or paten coverlits (called an aer or amnos, Greek for "lamb") had been used for centuries in the Byzantine or Greek Orthodox Mass. The amnos aer cloths, seen already at the start of Christian era originally (and sometimes) had an illustration of a lamb...At some indefinite time in the 11th-12th century large epitaphioi threnoi ("funeral lamentation cloths") began to be used during Holy Week in the Greek liturgy. These bore representations of the dead Christ, sometimes life-sized, upon his shroud."

(cf. Daniel Scavone. Greek Epitaphioi and Other Evidence for the Shroud in Constantinople up to 1204. University of Southern Indiana.<>)

For reasons already given (above) I do NOT understand the Turin Shroud to be the "real" burial shroud of Christ. I understand it to be a painting, on a medieval weave, influenced by the large life-like embroidered representations of Christ which appeared in EARLIER 11th-12th century Greek Orthodox "aer Epitaphioi."

For examples of the Epitaphioi showing Christ with hands crossed over his genitals area or lower abdomen, please click on the following urls :

Update 07 March 2005

Richard H. Feeck of Winter Haven, Florida made a VERY IMPORTANT observation, Christ's burial shroud consisted of 1) Cloths, not a cloth; 2) a Napkin for the head:

"Have the shroud investigators looked at the Scriptures? John 20:6-7 tells us that when Peter went into Jesus' tomb he found that the cloth about Jesus' head was not lying with the linen clothes but was wrapped up in a place by itself. Therefore Jesus' burial cloth was at least two pieces, not one like the shroud. In all the articles and TV programs I've seen on the shroud, I've never heard these verses quoted."

The bas-relief carving of Jesus calling forth Lazarus shows the latter bound in cloths with a separate napkin covering the head and face. A mural painting on the wall of a 14th century Greek Orthodox church shows Christ's empty burial shroud still tightly bound with a SEPARATE napkin or head cloth nearby. These Christian art forms CONTRADICT the Shroud of Turin.

John 20:6-8 RSV

"Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the LINEN CLOTHS LYING, AND THE NAPKIN WHICH HAD BEEN ON HIS HEAD, NOT LYING WITH THE LINEN CLOTHS but rolled up in a place by itself."

Please click here for additional pro and con arguments on the Shroud's authenticity in a series of articles and letters to the Biblical Archaeological Review Magazine.

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