Investigation into the Shroud of Turin: Part 1

I wrote this essay years ago, but I thought it would fit perfectly with the week of Passover and Easter Sunday. It's about the Shroud of Turin. I am well aware that there are SO many varying opinions on this subject, and so much research is still forthcoming; however, I wanted to share what I found after much research. In part one, I will focus on the history of the Shroud. Disclaimer: Though I believe the Shroud to be the authentic burial cloth of Christ (as you shall see), I do not believe it to be an object of worship; only Jesus Himself and God the Father are to be worshipped. However, I do believe that the Shroud provides sufficient evidence of the Resurrection. It is for this reason that I present this material. For more information, visit, hosted by Barrie Schwortz; he presents all views on the Shroud, as well as the latest information.
For decades, a mysterious linen cloth has captured the attention of many. It is considered a holy artifact, because it bears the imprint of what is believed to be the face and body of Jesus. Commonly called “The Shroud of Turin,” the million-dollar question is, "Is it really the 2,000 year old burial cloth of Jesus?" It has gained a lot of criticism over the years from skeptics who wish to discredit it as being so. Apart from all the skepticism, it has also been through extensive, scientific examinations and experiments to understand the never-ending mysteries that surround it. In Matthew 27:59 we read, "And Joseph [of Arimathea] took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth..." Is this cloth the same as the Shroud of Turin? It is very likely, yet skeptics claim that it is not. As you read on, you will see the many different views about this cloth, and you will also be fascinated by the overwhelming evidence that supports it's authenticity.
Part 1: History
A brief history of the Shroud is necessary before presenting evidence for its authenticity. Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, fourth century church historian, and author of Ecclesiastical History, [1] discovered two letters in the records of Edessa (modern-day Turkey). The first of the letters was from an ill king to Jesus, and the second letter was Jesus’ reply to the king. Here is what Eusebius said about it. “You have written evidence of these things taken from the archives of Edessa, which was at that time a royal city. For in the public registers there, which contain accounts of ancient times and the acts of Abgarus, these things have been found preserved down to the present time.”[2] It should be mentioned that Eusebius’ book is considered the “accepted standard for Early Church history throughout all denominations.”[3] According to the records found by Eusebius, between 15 A.D and 30 A.D, Abgar V, king of Edessa,[4] was struck with a leprous disease. [5] He heard of all the wonderful things that Jesus had done and decided to send a letter to Him. In this letter, he asked Jesus to come to Edessa and heal him. The letter was sent by a messenger who swiftly returned with Jesus’ response. Some accounts of the story say that after Jesus’ ascension, as He had promised in His letter, a disciple named Thaddaeus came bringing with him a cloth. But it was no ordinary cloth, for it bore the image of a man – Jesus. However, in The Acts of Thaddaeus, it is recorded that Ananias the messenger was given the cloth by Jesus and brought it back to King Abgar with a message from Him and that Thaddaeus came, after Jesus’ ascension, without the cloth.[6] It is more probable that Jesus sent the cloth after His ascension, if we are to suppose that it is the Shroud of Turin. Whatever may have happened (there are many other disagreements about this story), the story reports that King Abgar was cured upon looking at the cloth, and he brought Christianity to his town.[7] This story is said to be a legend, and it is for some an excuse to discredit it. However, “that it is legend does not make it untrue.”[8] However, it should be considered that Eusebius was a historian, and the Acts of Thaddaeus are most likely fabrications. But is it possible that the Image of Edessa is one and the same as the Shroud of Turin? Well, skeptics argue that it cannot be, because, unlike the Shroud, it only depicts the face –not the whole body – of “whomever it is” whose image is imprinted on the cloth. However, a simple explanation is that the Shroud was folded so as to show only the face of Christ as is evidenced by the creases that are still visible on it to this day[9] (see picture below). From this, we can learn that an image of Christ was around soon after Christ’s resurrection!
In 57 A.D. Abgar’s successor came to the throne, rejecting the Christian faith. Consequently, he persecuted the Christians. In an attempt to save the cloth, they hid it in the city walls, where it was “hermetically sealed.” It was not discovered again until 525 A.D. For the first 1,200 years thereafter the Shroud was known as the Mandylion, because only the image could be seen due to the way it was folded.[10] “In the tenth century, a Byzantine Army surrounded the small city of Edessa and demanded the holy relic. After a long siege, the Byzantine forces seized their prized quarry and, amid great fanfare, brought the cloth to Constantinople, the capital city. Note that within a hundred years of this event, the Muslims completely destroyed the Christian city of Edessa and changed the name of the town to Urfa. They destroyed some 350 churches of Edessa, including the one that housed the cloth known as the Mandylion. It is likely that the Manydylion/Turin Shroud would have been destroyed, had the Byzantines not seized it.” In the 1200s, it happened again – crusading Frenchmen robbed the Byzantines of the Shroud, turning on their fellow Christians. As a result, the city of Constantinople was destroyed, and many of the holy relics were destroyed, as well.[11] Then, in the 13th century (1357), the Shroud came into the possession of a French knight whose name was Geoffrey de Charny. During this time, it was exhibited and was claimed to be authentic. The bishop ordered the Shroud exhibition to stop immediately. In 1449, de Charny’s daughter displayed the Shroud again.[12] This really disturbed Pierre d’Arcis, the succeeding Bishop of Troyes. He did an investigation and stated the following in a letter to the pope: “The case, Holy Father, stands thus. Some time since in this diocese of Troyes the Dean of a certain collegiate church, to wit, that of Lirey, falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Saviour Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb.”[13] In a later letter, the Bishop says, “Eventually, after diligent inquiry and examination, he discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not miraculously wrought or bestowed.”[14] Critics often seize on the Bishop’s words to say that the Shroud is not authentic. However, how can we trust Bishop d’Arcis, since he was a skeptic? How do we know that he was not lying? How do we know that the one who was supposed to have “confessed” to painting the image on the Shroud was not lying? Since we have no way of knowing the answer to any of these questions, we cannot take the Bishop’s words as the truth that “ends all dispute” as the critics do. It is also important to note that the name of the so-called “forger” was not mentioned. Maybe there was no such person. In 1453, Geoffrey de Charny’s daughter gave the Shroud to the House of Savoy at Chambery. [15] Then, in 1532, there was a fire in the Chambery castle. Some molten silver from the receptacle, which housed the Shroud, along with water used to quench the fire, caused permanent marks on the Shroud but amazingly did not touch the image! The Shroud was patched and rewoven by the Poor Clare Nuns.[16] In 1578, the Shroud was brought to Turin, Italy where it remains to this day.
[1] [2] [3] ibid [4] [5] The Silent Witness, 1978 video recording [6] [7] The Silent Witness, 1978 video recording [8] [9] ibid [10] Risen Indeed, Coral Ridge Ministeries, p 72, By D. James Kennedy [11] ibid, p 73-74 [12] ibid, p 58 [13] Inquest of the Shroud of Turin Prometheus Books, 1983, p12, By Joe Nickell (Note: Joe Nickell is a skeptic!) [14] ibid [15] [16]


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