Over the years, much has been made of this relic, the supposed burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth which, according to one website, is “the single most studied artefact in human history” (Barrie M Schwortz).
Opinion has been since its supposed discovery in 544 CE, when an image seemingly created by supernatural means turned up in Edessa (now part of Turkey) and was later thought to be in Constantinople, although few historians believe this was the same image that came to be displayed in an airtight bulletproof case at the Cathedral of San Giovanni in 1998. During its 3 month exhibition and despite a strictly view-per-reservation policy, around 2.5 million visitors filed past it, some ecstatic or tearful, others merely curious to see the imprint of a man who supposedly met a violent death almost 2,000 years ago.
Measuring 14 feet 3 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide (463 x 110 cm) the shroud belonged to Geoffrois de Charny in the 14th century before coming into the hands of Louis, Duke of Savoy in 1453. It was then transferred to Chambery and was later taken to Turin by Emmanuel Philibert where it’s been ever since.
But is the haunting image really that of Jesus? In 1988, radiocarbon dating seemed to place the cloth in medieval times, yet ten years later, Pope John Paul 11 seemed convinced it was “the imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One.”
And now, there are fresh attempts to verify this relic. According to the Telegraph a couple of years ago, “a group of Italian scientists conducted a series of advanced experiments which, they claim, show that the marks on the shroud – purportedly left by the imprint of Christ's body – could not possibly have been faked with technology that was available in the medieval period.”
As a result, many theologians thought this was the actual face of Jesus. However, gospel accounts firmly contradict such a claim. In his account of Jesus’ burial, the apostle John describes how, not one long sheet, but bandages were used to bind the body of Jesus with spices – a method of anointing still used by many Jews today. (John 19:39-42)
Later, the apostle Peter entered the (now empty) tomb and “viewed the bandages lying, also the cloth that had been upon his head not lying with the bandages but separately rolled up in one place.” (John 20: 6,7) Had there been a long winding sheet, would it not have been mentioned, especially if it bore the image of Jesus’ face?
So, whether the Turin Shroud is the result of some supernaturally superimposition or a clever con-trick by a clever technician, the evidence does not point to it being in any way sacred.
It’s also worth mentioning that the worship of relics, images, statues and other idols was strictly forbidden under the Ten Commandments - and still is.