Shroud of Turin

The debates go on and on: Could the Shroud of Turin be Jesus’ actual burial cloth?

The debates go on and on: Could the Shroud of Turin be Jesus’ actual burial cloth?


Is the Shroud of Turin really the burial cloth of Jesus?


Is Italy’s celebrated Shroud of Turin an authentic relic of Jesus Christ from the 1st Century that undergirds belief in his crucifixion and resurrection? Or a hoax from medieval times? Or an ingenious work of pious art? Or what? The Religion Guy will attempt to fairly summarize key aspects of this seasonal topic.

Quick answer: There is no undisputed, empirical proof that this was Jesus’ actual burial garment from 20 centuries ago, and chances are there never will be. Yet that’s not all. Mysteries hover, and it’s likely the debate will be unending to judge from recent decades.

The Holy Shroud (Santa Sindone in Italian, so students of it are called “sindonologists”) is “the most studied ancient artifact in existence,” says an organization of devotees. Probably true. The aged linen cloth, secured in Turin’s Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, measures 14 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 7 inches. It contains two faint brown images, front and back, of a thin, bearded man 5 feet 7 inches tall, showing blood stains and wounds consistent with crucifixion.

All four New Testament Gospels record that Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus’ corpse in linen. Three Gospels say he used a “linen shroud” in the singular. But John states that on Easter morning Jesus’ empty tomb contained “linen cloths” plural. John also mentions a separate “napkin that had been on his head.” If that napkin covered the face, then why is there a face on the Turin shroud?

Since 1578 the shroud has been in Turin, where it is occasionally put on public display. More than 2 million pilgrims from many nations visited the last exhibition in 2015. Existing records can trace the garment to France as far back as 1357.

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Shroud of Turin: Let's include the basic facts, please

Readers who have been following GetReligion for some time, or even reading my Scripps Howard News Service columns, may remember that I have been keeping up with the debates about the Shroud of Turin since the mid-1980s, when I worked at The Rocky Mountain News in Denver. That meant that I wasn’t that far from some of the key American players in this lively field, both in Colorado Springs, Colo., and in Los Alamos, N.M.

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