The Shroud of Turin's Earlier History: Part One: To Edessa

Share/recommend this article:
This article was first published in the Spring 2007 issue of Bible and Spade. This version includes editorial updates.

Excerpt If Biblical Archaeology is defined loosely as “the study of the ancient things related to the Bible,” then surely the sindon, linen used to wrap Jesus’ body in death, has to be of interest. Most informed Christians now know that there is a serious candidate, the Shroud of Turin. Continue reading

Related Articles
Like this artice?

Our Ministry relies on the generosity of people like you. Every small donation helps us develop and publish great articles.

Please support ABR!

Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover & PayPal

Special thanks to Professor Emeritus of History, University of Southern Indiana, Daniel Scavone for reviewing this paper and making suggestions for improvement.  Special thanks also to Mr. Ian Wilson for pictures and especially for his historical reconstruction which this article follows.   

Practically unknown outside European Catholic circles at the end of the 19th century, in the last 100 years modern scientific studies repeatedly have produced evidence consistent with the view that it is an old burial cloth and not human artistry (for a brief summary of the main conclusions see: A Summary of STURP's Conclusions (off-site link). For how these influenced a professional archaeologist, see The Authentication of the Turin Shroud: An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology (off-site link).

A 1988 radiocarbon dating of 1260 to 1390, subsequently shown to be possibly defective (see: Latest Developments on the Shroud of Turin: Part II), is the only major scientific contradiction.  However, there still remains the question of the Shroud’s earlier history.  Critics complain that its known history only goes back to mid-14th century France, a time infamous for fabricating relics, suspiciously consistent with the 1988 C-14 result, and a long way from Jerusalem.  A highly respected but nevertheless minor French nobleman, Geoffrey de Charny, was the Shroud’s first certain owner about 1355. Unfortunately, before he could leave any testimony as to how he came by the cloth, he was killed the next year in a battle of the Hundred Years’ War. Writing 34 years later an angry French bishop claimed that an investigation in Geoffroy’s time had proven the image “was made by human hand and not miraculously made or given” (Bonnet-Eymard 1991: 251). Although a consensus of modern scientific scrutiny disproves any known human artistry, many thoughtful Christians will remain doubtful unless the Shroud’s first 1300 years are better understood. There is now adequate reason to believe that researches in the last century have produced that history, albeit slender at times and, of course, controversial.

The ABR fellowship has no doubt whom God’s point man is to understanding where Joshua’s Jericho may be found.  Likewise, if the Lord eventually were going to reveal how the New Testament sindon reached us today, there would be someone who would receive the requisite insight. Ian Wilson was a 14 year old English teenager in 1955 when he saw a picture of the Shroud’s photographic negative.  Although strongly agnostic and disinterested in religious matters, his interest in art history made him wonder how medieval artistry could produce such a life-like, photo-like image.  About 1969 he made a remarkable observation which has opened the door to the cloth’s earlier history, and eventually helped him become a professing Christian. His 1978 book The Shroud of Turin still remains the best place to begin a quest for the Shroud’s earlier history. Today a substantial number, if not majority, of informed researchers who believe the Shroud probably does date to antiquity subscribe to some version of Wilson’s historical reconstruction.

Most English translations of the Synoptic Gospels understand the Greek to mean there was a piece of linen, a sindon, used to wrap Jesus in the tomb.  John’s Gospel says Jesus was bound (edesan – an interesting word) or wrapped in sheets or cloths (othonia) and that a kerchief or sweat cloth (soudarion) had been over his head (at some unspecified point in time); the Synoptics’ sindon would have been either among the cloths or, a few believe, the sweat cloth.  Did the Jews bury their dead in a simple shroud?  Generally authorities believe the deceased were dressed in their own clothes.  However, Jesus had his clothes taken away.  Sindonologist Dr. Gilbert Lavoie noticed that in the 16th century Code of Jewish Law a victim who died a violent death with blood flowing “should not be cleansed, but they should inter him in his garments and boots, but above his garments they should wrap a sheet which is called sovev [a white shroud],” a tradition that some Jewish scholars believe goes back to New Testament times (Wilson and Miller 1986: 45-46).  Hence, if he died nude he would be wrapped only in a shroud. Ancient burial textiles from Israel usually have not survived (although a few pieces discovered in 2000 in an old Jerusalem cemetery were used by some news sources to deny the Shroud’s authenticity - for a discussion and refutation, see Fulbright 2010). That the New Testament makes no mention of what happened to Jesus’ sindon is not surprising considering the great risk to cloth and disciples alike if it became common knowledge that it was preserved.  Most Jews (even the more legalistic Jewish Christians) would have been offended by a bloody and imaged grave cloth, and Roman authorities would have destroyed any such evidence suggesting Jesus escaped the death they inflicted.  Even gentile audiences might have wondered how attractive the Christian message was when its founder was displayed dead and so gruesomely humiliated. Unless it could be disguised as something else, then there would have been little recourse to hiding it for a more secure time when the Christian message was better understood and appreciated.


A mosaic dating to the 4th century AD, depicting Christ as a typical clean shaven, Greco-Roman youth. Eermans Handbook of History of Christianity (1977): 17

The great bulk of early Christian literature is lost, but enough survives to indicate that the whereabouts of Jesus’ sindon was of continuing interest to believers.  The second century apocryphal Gospel According to the Hebrews, considerably respected by early Christian writers, had a passage reporting Jesus giving his shroud to “the servant of the priest,” or as some scholars amend the text, “to Peter” (Sox 1978: 45 – 6).  Other 2nd  century apocryphal books like the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, Gospel According to Peter,  and Mysteries of the Acts of the Savior all show a concern for the sindon’s whereabouts (Savio 1982: 11).  As a young girl being educated in 4th century Jerusalem, Saint Nino was told by her learned teacher Niaphori of a tradition of it being given to Peter (Humber 1977: 75).  In the 6th and 7th centuries some pilgrims to the Holy Land witnessed cloths identified as Christ’s sudarium or linteamen (linen), but without matching the Turin Shroud’s dimensions or images (Scavone 1989: 76 – 77).

Unfortunately, none of these stories appears to provide any substantial grounds for identifying a place or individuals who possessed the NT sindon, let alone our Turin Shroud.  However, if early historical texts are no immediate help, changes in Christian art at the end of antiquity suggest that the Shroud of Turin was not only becoming known, but also an accepted model for Christ’s facial appearance.

It is well known that in the first few centuries Christian art depicted Jesus in a variety of different ways, but most frequently as a beardless, Hellenistic-Roman youth.  In the 6th century (some historians believe 5th) this rapidly changed to the more Semitic “true likeness” (moderate beard, moustache, shoulder length hair parted in the middle, etc. and often rigidly front-facing) passed down the centuries to us today.  Some of the earliest of the new type are the beautiful mosaics in Ravenna, Italy (Wilson 1979: 102) which were constructed by the Byzantines (Eastern Christian successors to Rome) and date to the early 540’s. Wilson noticed that conventional academia had no accepted explanation for this change other than “the Byzantine tendency at this period to create rigid artistic formulae that then became the pattern for future generations” (Wilson 1979: 103).  In the 1930’s French researcher Paul Vignon had observed about twenty facial peculiarities, subsequently called “Vignon markings,” in many of these new pictures.  The earliest he believed was found on copies of a mysterious eastern icon, the Image of Edessa (Walsh 1963: 157–8).  These oddities appeared to have little or no artistic function, but nevertheless could find parallel, corresponding markings on the Shroud. This suggested the latter may have been a model for this new Jesus face. Wilson subsequently reworked Vignon’s analysis into 15 characteristics including an open top square on the forehead, one or two “V” shaped markings near the bridge of the nose, a raised eyebrow, accentuated cheeks, enlarged nostril, hairless area between lips and beard, and large owlish eyes. No picture included all these characteristics, but some contained many.  He also noticed that a few, especially forehead markings, were to be seen on saints, probably placed there as a sign of holiness (Wilson 1979: 104 – 105).  Although some researchers express reservations noting that other non-Christian pictures sometimes have these markings, these peculiarities are so frequent on the new Jesus face that some special Shroud-like model is likely to have been used.


Shroud Face Darkened and Vignon Markings

A good example of this new “true likeness” is St. Catherine’s Monastery’s famous 6th century encaustic (painting on wax) Christ Pantocrator.  The Pantocrator, “Christ Enthroned” and sitting in majesty as ruler of the world, was an important artistic type and preferred means for depicting him at this time.  Shroud researchers Dr. Alan Whanger and wife Mary developed a photo comparison technique for overlaying one picture on another and then counting the actual “points of congruence” (PC’s) between the two (see Applied Optics, 15 March 1985: 766 – 772).  Applying an overlay of the Shroud face onto the St. Catherine’s Pantocrator the Whangers counted 170 PC’s, and when they expanded the search to areas around the faces of both, over 250 PC’s (Whanger 1998: 19 – 20; see also Wilson and Miller 1986: illus. 23 – 25).  Numerous other pictures, icons, and some images on coins dating from the sixth century onwards (the Whangers believe some even much earlier) often revealed good matches (see Wilson and Miller 1986: illus. 26 – 27).  The Whangers note that 45 to 60 PC’s are sufficient to prove common identity in a court of law.  Christ’s face on one 7th century coin from Constantinople, the Justinian II tremissis, is particularly striking.  It is so crude, even harsh in appearance it is difficult to imagine what model the die maker followed; it certainly was not “naturalized” as other images to show what a living Jesus would look like.  But a comparison with the Shroud face strongly suggests that the coin’s maker may have been more concerned with reproducing the unusual, stark detail of a model very much like on the Shroud.  The Whangers count 188 PC’s between the two (Whanger 1998: 33–34). For an interesting comparison of the two images see the Whangers’ website at CSST (off-site link).

St. Catherine’s Pantocrator Icon: a good example of the new “true likeness” Christ face from the 6th century AD. When researcher Alan Whanger overlays the Shroud face on to this picture, over 250 points of similarity are observed. Wikimedia Commons

If the Shroud were the new exemplar for the face of Christ, where was it and how did it so quickly influence Christian art from the 6th century?  Wilson theorized that some unknown artist studied the Shroud face including Vignon’s peculiarities, made model drawings trying to incorporate each oddity, and then circulated copies to Christian communities engaged in religious decoration (Wilson 1979: 105). It probably began in the East, where some earlier art historians had recognized the important role played by the greater Syrian region in Christian art.  O. M. Dalton observed “It was the Aramaeans [Syrians] who counted for most in the development of Christian art” compelling Hellenistic views to yield to Semitic modes of expression. This especially included “the cities of Edessa and Nisibis, where monastic theology flourished …” (Dalton 1925: 24-25).  This was an important key to their influence:

The East had always one advantage over its rival [Hellenistic West]… it was the home of monasticism, the great missionary force in Christendom …. Monks trained in the Aramaean theological schools of Edessa and Nisibis flocked to the religious houses so soon founded in numbers in Palestine. From the fifth century it was they who determined Christian iconography … (Dalton 1925: 9).

The large pilgrim influx to the Holy Lands and migration of Syrian-trained monks to distant places ensured that what was current in the East would be known everywhere.  “When we consider the part played by a monasticism trained in Aramaic theology, and the wide missionary activity of which Edessa was the base, the importance of the Syrian element in Christianity is at once realized” (Dalton 1925: 24). If there were an authoritative picture of Jesus to be found in the Syrian region, it is understandable how it could have become famous throughout Mediterranean Christianity.  Although initially Wilson could not identify any contemporary documentary source for this new Jesus face, he recognized there was a likely candidate.  In the 6th century a new class of icon was gaining prominence in the East, supposedly made by Christ himself and therefore acheiropoietos, “not made with (human) hands” (Wilson 1979: 111-112).  The belief was that in one way or another they were imprints of Christ’s face.  The most prominent was the Image of Edessa, the very picture Vignon had deduced as the earliest to exhibit the new “true likeness” features.  Could the Image have been the Shroud?  If so, why hadn’t anyone made that identification?  Wilson soon noticed an obscure Greek word, tetradiplon, that proved to be the key to answering those questions.

Tremissis coin (692 – 695) minted during the reign of Justinian II has 188 points of congruence with the Shroud face. Mark Borkan, Vertices Magazine Vol. X, No. 2 (Winter 1995): 34.

First century Edessa, today known as Urfa in southeast Turkey, was the seat of a small buffer kingdom between the Parthians to the east and Romans in the west.  It had a mixed population of Syriac, Greek, Armenian, and Arabic speaking peoples including a strong Jewish representation.  By the 6th century it and the adjacent Assyrian region was home to a large, thriving Christian population. Most historians agree that Christianity was a growing force in Edessa late in the 2nd century under the famous ruler Abgar VIII (“The Great”), with a church sanctuary dated there in 201 (Segal 1970: 24).  But when the Edessan Christians wrote their history in the 3rd century, they remembered that the Gospel originally came to them in the 1st century from a Jerusalem disciple named Addai and to a King Abgar V, a known historical figure contemporary with Christ.  Eusebius included in his Ecclesiastical History a brief late 3rd century version, reporting a famous letter from Jesus still kept in the Edessan archives (Eusebius 1991: 43-47).  But later in the 4th century (or possibly early in the 5th) a Syriac writer penned a much expanded text.  Known as The Teaching of Addai (hereafter TA) one small passage has Abgar, who is corresponding with Jesus by way of a messenger Hanan, instructing him to make a picture of Jesus:

When Hanan the archivist saw that Jesus had spoken thus to him, he took and painted the portrait of Jesus with choice pigments, since he was the king’s artist, and brought it with him to his lord King Abgar.  When King Abgar saw the portrait he received it with great joy and placed it with great honor in one of the buildings of his palaces (Howard 1981: 9 - 10).

Most modern scholars usually reject The TA as reliable history for a variety of reasons, but sometimes admit “a substratum of fact” (Segal 1970: 179–181).  Wilson recognizes numerous “anachronisms and interpolations” more characteristic of Abgar VIII’s time than Abgar V’s but also concludes that many “elements of the story have an authentic period ring” (Wilson 1998: 165).  As for the picture, this is the only certain place in antiquity that mentions the Edessa Image, and by itself would lead no one to dream that it was actually the NT sindon or Turin Shroud.  Writers like the Edessan Church Father Ephrem in the 4th century show no knowledge of the picture, leading some scholars to believe there never was such an object in ancient Edessa (Drijvers 1998: 17).  Others believe it was there, just not very famous (Drews 1984: 75).  Historian Daniel Scavone opines that the story is “made up after the fact, when the real history was forgotten, to explain the presence of the Christ-picture in Edessa” (Scavone 1991: 180).  What the TA may also suggest is that there was a distant memory in 4th century Edessa of a Christ picture coming to their city in an early evangelization, and if a lengthy history (like The TA) were to be written, contemporary readers might expect it to be included.  However, because of persecution, it had to be hidden away and perhaps even lost, with only confused memories surviving by the 4th century (Wilson 1979: 129 – 130).

Whatever the truth about the Edessa Image’s existence in antiquity, most scholars concede there is sufficient evidence for its reality sometime in the 6th century. The primary document is Evagrius’ Greek Ecclesiastical History, written about 595. In it he recounts the desperate attempts of the Edessans to stave off a 544 Persian siege. When the enemy built a large wooden siege ramp aimed at overwhelming their walls, the Edessans mined under it stacking wood with the hope of burning it down. However, their wood found too little air to burn:

So, when they came to complete despair, they brought the divinely created image, which human hands had not made, the one that Christ the God sent to Abgar ….  Then, when they brought the all-holy image into the channel they had created and sprinkled it with water, they applied some to the pyre and the timbers.  And at once … the timbers caught fire … (Whitby 2000: 226 – 227).

The siege ramp was destroyed and city saved.  Most scholars doubt the story’s miracle aspects, but it is believed generally that sometime in the 6th century an icon did achieve the fame of “The Holy Image Not Made With Hands of Edessa.”  For reasons to be discussed later, Wilson believed the date of the Icon’s appearance to be somewhere between 525 and 530.  But unlike in The TA, from this time forward the picture usually was not believed to be a work of human artistry, but rather a divine imprint, made by Christ himself.  A second 6th century (or possibly 7th cen. based on a 6th cen. Syriac original – see Palmer 2009: 118) Greek text, the anonymous Acts of Thaddaeus (hereafter AT) described this new way of understanding the picture’s origin.  This document is another brief account of the Gospel coming to Edessa in the 1st century in the time of Abgar V. The king’s messenger, Ananais, was unable to paint Jesus, so:

And He [Jesus] knew as knowing the heart, and asked to wash Himself; and a towel was given Him; and when He washed Himself, He wiped His face with it. And His image having been imprinted upon the linen, He gave it to Ananias … (Roberts and Donaldson 1951: 558).

When Ian Wilson read the AT account he learned that what the Greek text actually said was that Jesus was given a rakos (piece of cloth) which was a tetradiplon, a word translated as “doubled in four,” and then imprinted his face on the sindon (linen). Rakos and sindon are common words, but tetradiplon very rare. Surprisingly, this word was never used except in reference to the Edessa Image.  By three simple width-wide foldings, Wilson found that the Shroud of Turin was easily converted into a cloth with four, two-fold layers. Additionally, the final panel would be a landscape shaped horizontal rectangle.  In this arrangement, through no special effort, this panel (one-eighth the original Shroud size) would show only the Shroud’s face, with the remaining body images hidden within the folds. Wilson noticed that the earliest surviving pictures of what the entire Icon actually looked like (from the 10th to 13th centuries) showed a rectangular picture frame with just a face on a cloth, seen through a circular opening in a slipcover. It was almost always set in a landscape (rectangular) shape, as opposed to the more artistically acceptable portrait shape (vertical rectangle) (Wilson 1979: 119 – 120).  For Wilson these observations were an epiphany unlocking some of the Shroud’s earlier history, including a variety of mysterious changes in Christian art.

The Shroud (1) can be converted by 3 simple width-wide foldings (2, 3, 4) to a final panel (5) with just the face showing. If it is mounted with a slipcover it now looks like a composite of the earliest pictures of the Edessa Icon (6). Ian Wilson, 1998: 153; adaptation by author.

Evagrius’ Ecclesiastical History and the anonymous Acts of Thaddeus were the earliest Greek documents Wilson found referring to the Image.  Recently his confidence in this historical reconstruction was considerably enhanced with the 1994 translation of discarded Georgian texts found at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.  They help confirm old Georgian traditions that Assyrian monks evangelized Georgia in the 6th century (Wilson believes the 530’s). One of the monks, Theodosius, was from Edessa where he was “a deacon and monk [in charge] of the Image of Christ,” a certain reference to the Edessa Icon (Wilson 2010: 135–36).  Both Theodosius and a companion were tasked to paint religious art, and are rare examples of known individuals engaging in “icon evangelism” during this era.  Additionally, the Syriac Acts of Mar Mari the Apostle (believed to be an early evangelist to the Assyrian region) briefly records the miraculous origins of the Icon and probably dates to the 6th century (Harrak 2005: xvii).  In it Jesus is said to have made his image on a sdwn’ (linen cloth) (Drijvers 1997: 21–26).  Although sometimes doubted in academic circles, the Holy Image of Edessa was a documented certainty no later than the 6th century.

Syriac documents and traditions continue to shed light on the Image for the next three centuries.  Recently, Archbishop Gewargis Silwa, head of the Church of the East in Iraq, disclosed an unpublished mid-7th century letter addressed to Nestorian Christians in Edessa calling that city “a sanctified throne for the Image of his adorable face and his glorified incarnation,” an almost certain reference to the Icon (Wilson 2001: 34 – 35). The 8th and 9th centuries Jacobite Patriarch Dionysius of Tell-Machre (a town nearby Edessa) remembered that the Image of Edessa was in the hands of the orthodox Christian community going back to the late sixth century.  His recollections mirror those of  the Acts of Mari and recount Jesus making his swrt’ (Syriac for image) on a shwshaepha (piece of cloth or towel) (Drijvers 1997: 21 – 26).  These accounts are almost identical to the image creation in Acts of Thaddeus, but without mention of a word like tetradiplon.  Dionysius remembered one story told by his grandfather how a clever artist, in the employ of the fabulously wealthy Edessan Athanasius bar Gumoye, had made a copy “as exactly as possible [like the original] because the painter had dulled the paints of the portrait so they would appear old” (Segal, 1970: 213 - 214); he then tricked the Image’s original owners, the Orthodox Christian community, by exchanging the copy for the original. Whatever the full truth of this event, it would have occurred near the end of the 7th century. It indicates the Image had been revered for a considerable time, and it affirms that copies were being made. Additionally, having to “dull the paints” suggested to Wilson not just age, but the indistinct, faint image so characteristic of the Shroud face. Two early 8th century texts make it clear that the Edessa Image was a continuing and important religious object.  The Church where it was kept was referred to as “The House of the Icon of the Lord” in manuscript BL Oriental 8606 dated to 723 (Drijvers 1997: 28).  Scholar Hans Drijvers also knows of an unpublished text of an early 8th century dispute between a Christian monk and an Arab wherein the latter admits he has heard of the image made by Christ and sent to King Abgar (Drijvers 1997: 27).


The Christian communities in Edessa apparently practiced a number of rituals with the Image, but with the Icon always covered - however, near the end of its stay in the city its true nature began to leak out. Picture by author.

Early medieval Edessan traditions indicate that this cloth on which Jesus imprinted his face was highly revered but kept in great secrecy.  When in 525 Edessa’s most important cathedral was destroyed in one of the city’s periodic 100 year floods, a new one was finished about 30 years later. “It was called Hagia Sophia after the famous [and contemporarily built] church of that name in the capital [Constantinople], and is said to have been beautiful beyond description, with its gold plating and glass and marble” (Segal 1970: 189). In the “Liturgical Tractate,” a 10th century Greek text describing the Icon’s Edessan rituals discovered by the great 19th century historian of Christ pictures Ernest von Dobschutz, Wilson learned that no images were permitted in the cathedral except the Icon.  It was kept secluded in a chest in its own sanctuary and guarded by an abbot (Wilson 1979: 145). “Then, on the Sunday before the beginning of Lent, there was held a special procession” in which the Image, still enclosed in its chest, was carried through the cathedral “accompanied by twelve incense-bearers, twelve torch-bearers, and twelve bearers of flabella or liturgical fans” (Wilson 2000: 222). Historian Robert Drews concludes that details in the Tractate make it apparent that “we are dealing with an object of some size, and not with a small, unframed cloth that the wind could lift and carry” (Drews 1984: 37).  The chest in which the Icon was kept was allowed to be opened (and the Image seen) only by the archbishop. It was equipped with shutters which were opened on rare occasions “then all the assembled throng [general Edessan populace and visiting pilgrims] gazed upon it; and every person besought with prayers its incomprehensible power” (Drews 1984: 38).  But this was done at a distance through a grille at the entrance of the Image’s sanctuary, making it difficult to see the face very well.  Von Dobschutz believed that even then the Icon was covered up (Scavone, 2001: 13). Wilson emphasizes the profound effect this produced quoting the Tractate:

no one was allowed to draw near or touch the holy likeness with his lips or eyes.  The result of this was that divine fear increased their faith, and made the reverence paid to the revered object palpably more fearful and awe-inspiring (Wilson 1979: 146). 

This is of paramount importance in understanding the Holy Image of Edessa’s history, and why its identification with the Shroud of Turin is so apparently difficult; the cloth was almost always kept folded and hidden away from prying eyes, just as much as the Shroud during later centuries in Turin.

This concludes Part 1. In Part 2 we will trace the Image of Edessa to the great capital of Eastern Christendom, Constantinople, and find more reasons to connect it with our present Shroud of Turin.


Bonnet-Eymard, Brother Bruno

1991 Studies of Original Documents of the Archives of the Diocese of Troyes in France with particular reference to the Memorandum of Pierre D’Arcis. Pp. 233–260 in History, Science, Theology and the Shroud, ed. Aram Berard, S. J., Amarillo, Texas: The Man in the Shroud Committee of Amarillo.


Dalton, O. M.

1925 East Christian Art, Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Drijvers, Han J. W.

1998 The Image of Edessa in the Syriac Tradition. Pp 13-31 in The Holy Face and the Paradox of Representation, eds. Herbert L. Kessler and Gerhard Wolf, Bologna: Nuova Alfa.


Drews, Robert

1984 In Search of the Shroud of Turin, New Jersey: Roman and Allanheld


Eusebius Pamphilus

1991 Ecclesiastical History, trans. Christian Frederick Cruse, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


Fulbright, Diana

2010 Akeldama Repudiation of the Turin Shroud (off-site link)


Harrak, Amir

2005 The Acts of Mar Mari the Apostle.  SBL Writings from the Greco-Roman World 11. Atlanta.


Howard, George

1981 The Teaching of Addai, Anne Arbor (Michigan): Scholars Press.


Humber, Thomas

1978 The Sacred Shroud, New York: Pocket Books.


Palmer, Andrew

2009 The Logos of the Mandylion: Folktale or Sacred Narrative? A new Edition of The Acts of Thaddaeus With a Commentary. Pp.117-207 in Edessa in hellenistisch-romischer Zeit, eds. Greisiger et al, Beirut.


Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson, eds.

1951 Acts of the Holy Apostle Thaddaeus. Pp 558-559 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.


Savio, Mons. Pietro

1982  Sindonological Prospectus.  Shroud Spectrum International, Vol. 1, No. 5: 11.


Scavone, Daniel C.

1989 The Shroud of Turin – Opposing View Points, San Diego: Greenhaven Press.

1991 The History of the Turin Shroud to the 14th C.  Pp 171– 204 in History, Science, Theology and the Shroud, ed. Aram Berard, S. J., Amarillo (Texas): The Man in the Shroud Committee of Amarillo.

2001  A Review of Recent Scholarly Literature on the Historical Documents Pertaining to the Turin Shroud and the Edessa Icon.  Proceedings of the Worldwide Congress “Sindone 2000.”  Orvieto, Italy (issued in CD-Rom Format).


Segal, J. B.

1970 Edessa The Blessed City, Oxford: Clarendon.


Sox, David

1978 File on the Shroud, London, Coronet Books/Hodder and Stoughton, 1978.


Walsh, John

1963 The Shroud, New York: Random House.


Whanger, Alan

1985 Polarized Overlay Technique; A New Image Comparison Method and its Application.  Applied Optics, 24, No. 16, 15 March 1985: 766-772.


Whanger, Mary and Alan

1998 The Shroud of Turin: An Adventure of Discovery, Franklin (Tennessee): Providence House.


Whitby, Michael

2000 The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius Scholasticus, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.


Wilson, Ian

1979 The Shroud of Turin: Burial Cloth of Jesus? (Rev. Ed.), Garden City, NY: Image Books.

1998 The Blood and the Shroud, London: The Free Press.

2000 Urfa, Turkey: A Proposal for an Archaeological Survey. Pp 219-229 in Proceedings of the 1999 Shroud of Turin International Research Conference, ed. Bryan J. Walsh, Glen Allen (Virginia): Magisterium Press.

2001 A Hitherto Unknown 7th Century Reference to the Image of Edessa.  British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 54 (November, 2001): 34-35.

2010 The Shroud, London: Bantam Press.


Wilson, Ian and Barrie Schwortz

2000 The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence, New York: Barnes and Nobles.


Wilson, Ian and Vernon Miller

1986 The Mysterious Shroud, Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Company.

Comments Comment RSS

9/18/2013 1:01 AM #

Biblically speaking, it cannot be Christ's burial cloth because the FIRST Commandment forbids worship of idols, etc.

Midnightmom - 9/18/2013 1:01:31 AM

9/18/2013 12:43 PM #

Dear "Midnightmom,"

Thank you for your ABR Guestbook comment. We appreciate your caution against viewing the Shroud of Turin as a relic to worship. Yet, you are apparently overlooking that the First Commandment (as understood by the Catholic and Lutheran traditions) prohibits the CREATION of an object specifically for the purpose of worshiping it as an idol. In both Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21, the prohibition is: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not MAKE for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them..."

With the Shroud of Turin, we are dealing with an historical object that scientific and historical evidence indicates was not CREATED for the purpose of serving as an idol. Rather, the problem is not with the object per se, but with peoples' ATTITUDES toward it, regarding it as a sacred relic to which veneration is to be given. I absolutely agree with you, this attitude is wrong - we are not to reverence the Shroud as an idol.

If one's attitude is not to worship or venerate but rather to understand, that is not prohibited by the First Commandment. Christians in science and history, on the whole, investigate the Shroud to see if the evidence indicates it was genuinely connected with the life of Jesus the Messiah, who as a real man walked the roads of Israel 2000 years ago. That is why this linen cloth is subjected to scientific testing - to determine the presence of pollen grains unique to the area around Jerusalem, whether coins from Pontius Pilate were placed over the eyes, whether the stains contain hemoglobin, whether the whip marks in the image on the Shroud match what would have been caused by a Roman whip of the first century AD, and many other aspects - including the existence of the separate facecloth known as the Sudarium of Oveida with blood stains that match up with those on the Shroud.

I and countless others believe the objective evidence, from both history and scientific study, points to the genuineness of the Shroud as the burial wrap of Jesus, mysteriously imprinted by the energy of the Resurrection. This does not mean we venerate it as a holy relic, but recognize it as an object connected with the life of the Son of God. He is the object of our worship.

May God bless you and increase your knowledge of Him,

Rick Lanser
Associates for Biblical Research

Rick Lanser - 9/18/2013 12:43:35 PM

9/19/2013 12:05 AM #

I have absolutely no problem with accepting the Shroud as being the burial cloth of Jesus.  It won't surprise me in the least to see One Day that it indeed was the plain cloth that was imaged by the power of the Glory of His resurrection.  That's really a cool deal and something just like my Lord would do to provide an intriguing "proof" of His "great Gettin' Up".
My faith in Him and His atoning work in my life isn't based upon a piece of cloth though, no matter how certain we might become that it was a Godly "polaroid" Jesus produced.  That understanding and life changing event came through the conviction of the Holy Spirit of the absolute Truth of the Gospel regarding the Risen Lord's Love and Gift of Life to me.
The rest (including the really cool shroud I think He left as a neon sign) is just gravy for the time being.
Please keep up the good work regarding the logical and historical His-Story of the shroud, in spite of the shrill attacks from some who want to debunk it. Of course, most of the folks would like to do the same thing regarding the sin in their own lives... ignore it or debunk it.  But it will always come back on them, just as One of these Days, so will Jesus as it is written.

Wm. A. "Bill" Fisher - 9/19/2013 12:05:08 AM

11/24/2013 1:42 AM #

Given that carbon-dating dates the shroud to the middle ages when there was an active market in fake religious artifacts (which even the church participated in), I think you need to go no further to know that the shround is a fake.

Microscopic examination of the blood stains on the Shroud has shown that they are crystallized red ocher.  Red crystals can be seen clinging to the linen fibers, whereas blood would have soaked into the fibers.  Blood does not crystallize.

To you, the face may look Semitic, but to me it looks like a bearded European.

The face of the Shroud has a two-dimensional quality, like a painting.  True shrouds are wrapped around the head; so if an imprint of the body were to occur on the shroud, the head portion would look rather strange, with the face appearing distorted and the ears sticking off to the sides, etc.  Some investigators believe that a bas-relief sculpture was used to create the image of the face.  Actually, the body also does not look as it should.  The shroud would have been wrapped around the body, showing Jesus' sides in addition to his front and back, so the image of the body would also appear distorted.  Instead of that, we have a perfectly proportionate two-dimensional representation of the front and back of a human body (with the hands strategically placed over the crotch!).  For such perfectly proportionate images to appear, Jesus' body would have to have been wrapped in a highly unusual manner, with his body placed perfectly between the folded cloth, like a sandwich.  Bodies aren't wrapped that way.

Several investigators have managed to duplicate the Shroud, including its three-dimensional qualities (as seen under ultraviolet light). One method is to apply metallic paint to a cloth covering a body (but using a bas-relief sculpture for the head), and then baking the cloth for a few hours. Another method involves painting an image on glass, then placing the glass over a cloth, and then leaving the glass-covered cloth exposed to the sun for a week (the portions of the cloth that are not covered by the image will lighten, while the portions covered by the image will remain dark).  The former method was probably used since paint can be seen on portions of the Shroud.

Given all the evidence against it, it's pretty clear that the shroud is a fake.

Perry James - 11/24/2013 1:42:51 AM

11/25/2013 12:04 PM #

I did not write the article posted to the ABR website, but there are many inaccuracies and misrepresentations in this post that I know enough to address. This will be my only post on this thread, since I have no desire to enter into debate on this subject.

To begin with, the first "given," that carbon-dating dates the Shroud to the Middle Ages, is not a given at all. That was what they said way back in 1988, 25 years ago. More recent research, first reported in March of this year (2013), has shown that the section of fabric carbon-dated to the Middle Ages was contaminated by threads from an area REPAIRED at that time. Subsequent testing of fabric from an un-repaired section dated it to between 300 BC and 400 AD (see, for example,

Secondly, the allegation that the blood stains are "crystallized red ocher" is a misrepresentation based only on the early work of Walter McCrone. I direct your attention to the later work of John Heller and Alan Adler that followed up on McCrone to check his results, work described in detail at Repeated scientific tests by independent experts have shown the red pigment is in all likelihood due to old acid methemoglobin - a product of the breakdown of red blood cells.

Regarding the wrapping of the linen, the body had to be taken down by sunset of the Passover, and the women preparing Jesus' body for burial did not have time to complete their task by sundown. They had to finish the job later - the reason they went back to the tomb the morning of Easter Sunday. The unusual lengthwise "wrapping" of the Shroud can easily be attributed to the need to unwrap the body again and complete the preparations. Unwrapping the body would have been quite awkward if the linen had already been wrapped around the body and securely bound. The lengthwise "wrap" is easily explained as a stopgap measure to allow for easy removal later, to finish the task of preparing the body.

The comments regarding attempts to duplicate the qualities of the Shroud image are all very interesting, but entirely beside the point. Those were intensive, highly directed efforts by people consumed with showing the Shroud image could not have been genuine. To believe that such lengths would have been gone to by a medieval forger strains credulity. Surely if such a thing was possible, other artists of the medieval period would have tried to use similar means to create art. But there is nothing comparable to the Shroud until modern efforts to cast doubt on its genuineness motivated the efforts you mentioned. Ultraviolet light certainly had not been either discovered or utilized in the Middle Ages.

I observe nothing was said about the Jerusalem-area pollens found on the Shroud. This must certainly be taken into consideration by any fair and impartial searcher for truth. Nor did the poster address the remarkable congruity of the blood stains of the Shroud with those seen on the Sudarium of Oveida, reputed to be the separate face-cloth mentioned in the Gospel of John.

Those who say "it's pretty clear the shroud is a fake" either have not been keeping up with the research, or have shut their minds to all contrary evidence - of which there happens to be a great deal. I suggest reading up on the latest work as presented by those who did the research, and not simply parroting biased, one-sided (mis)information put out by atheist and skeptic sources with an axe to grind. Follow the evidence where it leads, rather than trying to force it into a mold shaped the way you want it.

Richard Lanser

Rick Lanser - 11/25/2013 12:04:22 PM

1/20/2014 2:10 PM #


My father showed me the earlier photographs of the Shroud of Turin, taken in the year 1931 by a professional photographer, Guiseppe Enrie, at that time chief editor of the specialist journal "Vita fotografica Italiana" and President of the Association of Photographers of northern Italy.

Lorenz von Walter SJ - 1/20/2014 2:10:25 PM

Research RSS Feed

AddThis Feed Button

Recent Articles

In this article we will discuss why the decree of Daniel 9:25 must be identified with one issued by the...
II. Analysis and Discussion 3. Liber Biblicarum Antiquitatum 4. Augustine’s Renegade Scribe Theory 5....
II. Analysis and Discussion 2. Straw Men and Ad Hominems
II. Analysis and Discussion 1. The Rabbinic Deflation of the MT’s Primeval Chronology
Associates for Biblical Research
  • PO Box 144, Akron, PA 17501
  • Phone: +1 717-859-3443
  • Toll Free: 1-800-430-0008
Friend ABR on Join us on Twitter Join us on Twitter