The authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the alleged burial cloth of Jesus Christ, has long been contested, and will be. I have found a clue that settles the issue very clearly for me.

Recently, I had dinner with Dr. Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist who oversaw the prestigious dig on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. He also found the John the Baptist Cave and has dug in Hinnom. Gibson’s next big digs will be the Roman praetorium in Jerusalem and another within the Armenian section of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in an attempt to validate the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The Valley of Hinnom is referred to in the Gospel of Matthew as “the Field of Blood.” The area is punctuated with Roman-period tombs carved out in caves in the rocky hill side.

Over the years, portions of shrouds have been found throughout Israel, but never had a complete shroud been found intact in Jerusalem until Dr. Gibson found one in a burial cave in the Valley of Hinnom. Radiocarbon data and artifacts indicate it is from the time of Jesus.

Ancient writings describe shrouds from the era, but there had been no conclusive evidence confirming the writings until now. This Jerusalem Shroud is completely different from the Shroud of Turin.

The weave in the fabric of the shroud found by Dr. Gibson is the simple two-way weave common in the Biblical era. The Shroud of Turin is made of fabric using the twill weave, which experts say did not come into existence until around 1000 A.D. Twill weave is made by diagonal threads in parallel ridges.

The Shroud of Turin consists of one single piece of cloth, whereas the Jerusalem Shroud is comprised of more than one piece.

It is fair to inject that Barbara Frale, a representative of the Vatican, recently reported computer analyzed photographs discovered faintly written on the Shroud of Turin in Greek, Latin and Aramaic the words “Jesus Nazarene.” The validity of this claim is questionable in that the fabric on which it was written was not existent in the time of Jesus.

The shroud found in Jerusalem was wound around the corpse of a man whose analysis reveals he likely had leprosy and died from tuberculosis. Logically, that is the reason he was still sealed in a burial chamber.

A big distinction between the two shrouds is the Shroud of Turin consists of one 14-foot by 3-foot twill weave cloth that didn’t come into existence until the Middle Ages. The Jerusalem Shroud, indicative of the partial shrouds of the era, consists of more than one piece. The napkin like facial piece was to allow for the possibility the person buried was not really dead. In such an event, it could be blown off and the person call for help. Medical science was not advanced to the point persons could be conclusively proven dead.

The contrast of the two shrouds is distinct. The facts shared here will be weighed by some against the date supporting the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin and the debate continued. Often is heard, “But what do have to say about ...?” If many principles allegedly support the legitimacy of the Shroud of Turin and one reality proves it impossible, for me that means, “Case closed!”

This evidence convinces me the Shroud of Turin is a mystical and matchless work of art, but not the actual burial cloth used to entomb Jesus. Artifacts are important if they are artiFACTS.

 

The Rev. Dr. Nelson L. Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.

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