Is the Shroud of Turin the Burial Cloth of Jesus?
The Bible’s answer
The Shroud of Turin is not mentioned in the Bible. It is a linen sheet thought by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. As a result of this belief, the shroud is considered by some to be one of Christendom’s most sacred relics. A cathedral in Turin, Italy, now houses the shroud in a high-tech protective casing.
Do Bible accounts support the idea that the Shroud of Turin is genuine? No.
Consider three aspects of the shroud that differ from what the Bible says.
The shroud is a single cloth measuring 442 by 113 centimeters (14 ft 6 in. by 3 ft 8 in.) plus an 8-centimeter (3 in.) strip sewed lengthwise.
What the Bible says: Jesus’ dead body was wrapped, not in one piece of linen, but in multiple strips of cloth. His head was wrapped in a separate cloth. After Jesus was resurrected, one of his apostles came to the empty tomb and “saw the linen cloths lying there.” The Bible adds: “The cloth that had been on his head was not lying with the other cloth bands but was rolled up in a place by itself.”—John 20:6, 7.
The shroud contains markings presumed to be bloodstains from an unwashed corpse.
What the Bible says: When Jesus died, his disciples prepared his body “according to the burial custom of the Jews.” (John 19:39-42) This custom included washing the corpse and applying oils and spices to it before burial. (Matthew 26:12; Acts 9:37) Therefore, Jesus’ disciples would have washed his body before wrapping it in cloths.
The shroud bears the image of a man “laid lengthwise along one half of the shroud while the other half had been doubled over the head to cover the whole front of the body,” according to the Encyclopædia Britannica.
What the Bible says: Jesus’ disciples discussed his death, his empty tomb, and the eyewitness testimony of women who saw “a supernatural sight of angels, who said he is alive.” (Luke 24:15-24) If the shroud had been in Jesus’ tomb, his disciples would no doubt have discussed it and the images on it. However, the Bible says nothing about such a discussion.
Should the shroud be venerated?
No. Even if it were authentic, venerating it would still be wrong. Consider Bible principles that explain why.
It is unnecessary. Jesus explained: “God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) True worship does not involve the use of religious relics or icons.
It is forbidden. The Ten Commandments forbid idolatry. (Deuteronomy 5:6-10) Likewise, the Bible commands Christians: “Guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) Some might argue that for them the shroud is not an idol but an icon, or symbol, of their religious faith. However, an icon becomes an idol to the person who venerates it.a Therefore, a person who wants to please God will not show devotion or reverence to any object, including the shroud.
a An idol is an image, a representation, or a symbol that is an object of devotion.