What The Shroud Of Turin Might Suggest About The Crucifixion

By Heather Ramsey on Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Close-up of a crucifix
“If there ever was an anarchist on Earth the gospel Jesus was one.” —Frank S. Billings, 1894

In A Nutshell

To believers in the Bible’s New Testament, the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, showing the image of His crucified body. However, many nonbelievers feel the image on the shroud is an artistic hoax. In 2014, researchers decided to re-create the path of the blood flow shown on the image to determine the crucifixion position. They found that the spots on the shroud were consistent with a crucifixion, but the arms had to be in a “Y” position above the head rather than the commonly depicted “T” position. The “Y” position would have been especially painful, creating difficulty in breathing as well.

The Whole Bushel

To believers in the Bible’s New Testament, the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, showing the image of His crucified body. However, many nonbelievers feel the image on the shroud is an artistic hoax.

When a group of scientists were finally permitted to directly test the fabric in 1969, they found evidence of real bloodstains, not artificial pigments. Yet, they still couldn’t explain how the image was created. In 1988, the shroud was analyzed at three labs using carbon-14 dating techniques. With a statistical confidence level of 95 percent, scientists from the three institutions concluded that the shroud was a medieval material originating from a year between 1260 and 1390.

However, in 2010, other statisticians challenged those results. It seems that the dating of the three tested samples was averaged to produce a result from medieval times. However, if you looked at each sample individually, the dates varied by over 150 years, depending on which part of the garment the samples were taken from.

In 2013, more recent test results from scientists at the University of Padua placed the origin of the shroud to a year between 300 BC and AD 400. The Padua scientists contend that the 1988 carbon-14 dating samples were contaminated by cloth fibers from the Middle Ages that were used to repair the shroud after it sustained damage in a fire.

Regardless of the controversy over the date of the shroud, no one can prove how the image was created. Nor can they replicate it. Even in the 21st century, we don’t have light technology advanced enough to reproduce the image. So how can a medieval forger have done what modern science cannot? That’s why many believers in Jesus Christ point to a miracle of divine light that burned His image onto the cloth.

In 2014, a new analysis of the shroud raised an interesting issue. This time, the subject wasn’t when the image was produced or by whom. Instead, these researchers say the position of the crucified body appears to be different than most traditional depictions. However, it’s worth noting that they appear to believe the shroud is a forgery, meaning the image was put there by an artist.

Regardless, they acknowledge that the faint image on the cloth may show blood flowing down the arms of a naked man. So Matteo Borrini of Liverpool John Moores University and Luigi Garlaschelli of the University of Pavia decided to re-create the path of the blood flow to determine the crucifixion position. By dripping blood down his arm from a cannula affixed to his wrist, Garlaschelli found that the spots on the shroud were consistent with a crucifixion. However, the arms had to be in a “Y” position above his head rather than the commonly depicted “T” position. “This would have been a very painful position and one which would have created difficulty breathing,” Borrini told New Scientist. “It could be that the artist just decided to draw the rivulets of blood parallel to the arms for artistic reasons.”

Their analysis confirms earlier findings by Massachusetts doctor Gilbert Lavoie and Denmark doctor Niels Svensson. Borrini is quick to point out that the “Y” position was used for medieval torture. However, those victims weren’t nailed to a cross. Instead, they were left hanging, with their wrists bound by rope to a beam.

Show Me The Proof

National Geographic: Why Shroud of Turin’s Secrets Continue to Elude Science
The Telegraph: Turin Shroud ‘is not a medieval forgery’
New Scientist: Shroud of Turin depicts Y-shaped crucifixion