Patterns of Evidence for Jesus’ Shroud of Turin

shroud of turin

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Dr. Fred Baltz | Patterns of Evidence

Summary: The preponderance of evidence in favor of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin becomes part of a still larger pattern of evidence that speaks to the truth of the entire Bible.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. – Matthew 27:57-60 (ESV)


Common to all definitions of “pattern” is the idea of repetition. A seamstress pins a paper pattern on cloth so she can repeat that pattern on the material she will make into a dress. A foundry worker packs a wooden pattern of a gear into special sand so the cavity left by the pattern can be filled with molten metal, thus repeating the pattern.

A pattern like the one pictured below uses repeated colored dots to form something larger which can be recognized, a “W” in this case. With patterns of this kind, the more dots there are, the clearer the “W” will be for those who can distinguish colors. The existence of the “W” becomes undeniable.

The Ishihara color perception test
This pattern of colored dots is used to determine color vision. If you can recognize the green dots, you can also recognize the pattern they form, a large “W”. In a similar way, individual items of evidence can form a larger message when taken together and recognized. (credit: Dan-yell, Ishihara-Test.svg. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

As archaeological discoveries which affirm biblical accounts happen repeatedly, along with textual and even astronomy-related discoveries, these form something larger, just as the repeated dots become the “W”. The pattern formed by the repetition of text-affirming discoveries tells a larger truth, that the Bible is true by its nature.

In this Thinker Update we take up what has been called the single-most-studied object in the world, The Shroud of Turin. Millions continue to believe it is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ.

The matter of patterns is most relevant to a discussion of the Shroud. Patterns of evidence discovered and undeniably present within the Shroud weigh heavily in favor of the claim that it is Jesus’ burial cloth.

Absolute proof that the Shroud is genuine will never be established, because no chain of custody exists for the Shroud before the Middle Ages. But we live our lives without absolute proof of many things. We rely on the preponderance of evidence, and we make our decisions.

Researchers have discovered many individual patterns of evidence within the Shroud itself, and these form a larger pattern when taken together. Space considerations allow us to speak to some, though not all of them, here.

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. – Acts 1:3 (ESV)

The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin, kept in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. The Shroud presents an image of a crucified man in great detail. Millions believe that this is the cloth which wrapped Jesus Christ in his tomb, and that the image is his. (public domain)

The Patterns in Cloth 

The Shroud of Turin is made of fine linen, woven in a three-to-one herringbone pattern. The direction of the twist of the strands rules out Egypt as the country of origin and affirms Palestine. The Shroud’s length and width are in even cubits, a unit of measurement not used in medieval Europe where critics say the Shroud was faked, but in ancient Israel. The unusual weave reflects a wealthy owner, and Joseph of Arimathea was certainly that. (Matthew 27:57)

In 2002, conservation measures were taken secretly for the Shroud in Italy. With the 16th Century backing cloth removed from the Shroud for the first time, textile expert Mechthilde Flury-Lemberg discovered a rare type stitch on the back side of the Shroud which was known from only one other place, the Masada Fortress in Israel, which fell to the Romans in the Jewish revolt less than a generation from Jesus’ time.

Masada fortress overlooking the Dead Sea in in southern Israel
Masada, the fortress overlooking the Dead Sea which became the last stand for Jews in the First Jewish Revolt. Only here, from the time and place of Jesus, has another example been found of a rare stitch discovered on the back of the Shroud in 2002. (credit: Andrew Shiva, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikipedia)

The Pattern in the Image

The image on the Shroud of a man crucified is its greatest mystery. To this day, after exhaustive scientific study and numerous attempts to duplicate the figure of the man shown on it, no one has been able to do this at the microscopic level of the linen fibers. The image is on the outermost layers of those fibers as discolorations. They are microscopic pixels. The image is not painted, despite the continued claims of people who simply repeat this explanation over and against the verdict of the experts from the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), and others before and since.

The only traces of paint are from duplicates of the Shroud that were pressed against the Shroud to sanctify the duplicates in earlier centuries. These are tiny flakes of paint. The linen fibers themselves show no trace of brush strokes, binder or pigment. Nothing has soaked in; nothing is present to soak in.

Only in very recent times have scientists found a way to discolor linen strands as they are found in the Shroud of Turin, discolorations penetrating only to a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair. It was done with microbursts from high energy lasers. A burst of high energy! This carries suggestions of its own about the man of the Shroud, because if it is Jesus, he is proclaimed to be raised from the dead. Is the Shroud a “snapshot of the resurrection?”

Replica of the Shroud of Turin on display

Visitors to St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Galena, Illinois, inspect a full-size replica of the Shroud of Turin during Holy Week. Parents and grandparents explain to their children what happened to Jesus as together they study the cloth. (credit: Dr. Fred Baltz)

Anyone who has seen the actual Shroud, or a full-size, high detail reproduction of it, knows that the image of the crucified man is a negative, rather than a positive, image. How or why an alleged forger did that has no answers. But to recognize the image, one must be six or eight feet back from the Shroud. Any closer and the image on the cloth is lost. This fact further argues against a forger. How could such an image be created by someone working up close?

The Pattern of the Body and the Wounds 

The proportions of the body are perfect according to artists like Dame Isabel Piczek. Wounds appear on the image which science has established to have been present on the cloth prior to the presence of the body image itself. If you will imagine hand-writing a message on a sheet of paper, but dotting the “i’s”, crossing the “t’s”, and inserting all the commas and periods before you wrote any words on the paper, you have an analogy to what an alleged forger must have done, putting blood on all the wounds before the wounds were located on the cloth. And the blood has been shown to be actual human blood, type AB.

Normally, blood becomes brown as it ages. The blood of the Shroud is red, which seems impossible if it is two thousand years old. This has been advanced as evidence of fakery. But blood chemists know of changes in the blood of persons under great stress or suffering, like a crucifixion victim. Bilirubin is a pigment that enters the blood with the breakdown of red cells. It causes blood to hold a red color. Did a forger use actual human blood, and torture his donor so the blood would remain red for centuries, then paint the blood on the linen cloth before there was an image, all in order to fool people centuries later?

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
 – Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)

A Roman spear and scourge similar to those used during the crucifixion of Jesus
Left: a reproduction of a Roman spear point. John’s Gospel says a soldier drove his spear into Jesus’ side to insure that he was dead on the cross. Blood and water exited from the wound (19:35). A corresponding chest wound with blood and clear fluid appears on the Shroud of Turin. The blood and water point to red cells separated from clear fluid within a chamber of the heart, meaning the heart had stopped beating. Right: an example of the scourge used on victims before they were crucified. The image on the Shroud of Turin shows marks corresponding to the lead balls of a scourge. They run the length of the body, front and back. (credit: photos by Dr. Fred Baltz)

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. – John 20:6-7 (ESV)

The Patterns of Soil Content and Pollen

When soil traces from the foot region of the Shroud were analyzed for their composition with a scanning ion microprobe at Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute, the graph of the results almost completely matched the graph read-out for the aragonite soil of Jerusalem. This was literally pattern matching pattern. 

Pollen grains adhering to tape samples pressed against the Shroud indicated that the Shroud had been present in the Jerusalem area, then northern Syria, Anatolia, Constantinople, and Europe. This matched the pattern of travel hypothesized by Shroud students, based on ancient references to an Edessa Cloth which found its way to Constantinople, and then as a result of the Fourth Crusade, came to France. If the Shroud were just a fake, the presence of all the non-European pollens is inexplicable. 

An Israeli botanist, Dr. Avinoam Danin of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, asserted that he had found patterns of flowers on the cloth—flowers that bloom in Jerusalem in the Spring. Professor Danin had no religious motivation to authenticate the Shroud.

The Pattern of the “Poker Holes”

In four places an “L”-shaped set of burns appears on the Shroud. These are damage from before the first known fire of 1532. The burns are often called the poker holes.

An illustrated book called the Hungarian Pray Manuscript is kept in Budapest. A painting of Jesus’ burial that certainly seems to portray the Shroud is contained in that manuscript. Not only does the figure of Jesus match the Shroud’s crucified man (hair, beard, arms crossed), but the herringbone weave is shown on the cloth. And there, too, are the poker holes.

The Pray Manuscript is dated to 1192. This poses a great problem for those who would dismiss the Shroud as a fake because of the Carbon 14 dating of the Shroud that happened in 1988. Many people stopped paying attention to the Shroud of Turin when they learned that the Carbon 14 determined possible dates for the Shroud were from 1260-1390.

Newspaper headlines said the Shroud was proved a fake. But the Hungarian Pray Manuscript testifies to the Shroud, already in existence at least seventy years before the earliest possible Carbon 14 date.

There’s more to be said about the Carbon 14 dating of the Shroud of Turin, much more than we can cover here. But the samples tested all came from an edge. One of the STURP scientists, Raymond Rogers, wrote in a peer-reviewed article before his death that the weave of the edge from which the sample was taken showed anomalies. The material there was cotton, not linen, and it had been colored with agents to match the rest of the Shroud.

The conclusion drawn by many since that time is: the Shroud was repaired on its frayed edge. To restore the pattern of the cloth, colored cotton threads were invisibly woven into the cloth. Since these were younger than the rest of the Shroud, they gave a reading from the Middle Ages. Now three other tests for the age of ancient textiles all indicate that the Shroud of Turin is not a product of the Middle Ages, but much older. 

Image of Jesus from the Hungarian Pray Manuscript
From the Hungarian Pray Manuscript. The image of Jesus in the upper illustration corresponds to the appearance of the man on the Shroud. In the lower illustration the herringbone pattern of the cloth is clearly apparent, and something matching the poker holes seen on the Shroud are present within the red circle. The Pray Manuscript is securely dated to seventy years before the earliest possible date for the Shroud given by the Carbon 14 dating done in 1988. That is one of several indicators that the Carbon 14 dates are incorrect. (credit: public domain)

The Evidence Against

Shroud skeptics bring forth what evidence they can muster against the Shroud, and there isn’t much. Basically, only two challenges merit consideration.

One of these is the D’Arcis Memoranda, written in the Middle Ages by Bishop Pierre D’Arcis, who claimed the Shroud being displayed then was a “cunningly painted” fraud. 

The other is the Carbon 14 testing from 1988. We have only introduced the problems with those C14 tests; there are more. As for the Bishop, he was either wrong or dishonest. There is no trace of paint on the Shroud forming the image.

Returning to Patterns

When I once photographed a copy of the Shroud of Turin, my camera recognized the face, and imposed a red square around it in the viewfinder. The face stands out, and not only to the camera. The man on the Shroud has had the life beaten out of him, the blood drained away from him, and the breath suffocated from him.

But despite all that, his face manifests a serenity. The man of the Shroud seems to have been in charge, unconquered throughout the torture he endured. He looks like a person who has faithfully completed a most difficult and deadly mission. He looks like a man who knows his story isn’t over. He looks like Jesus Christ. Jesus, after all, is the one whom Christians have claimed for centuries to have fit the patterns of the prophetic words of the Old Testament.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
 – Isaiah 53:11 (NIV)


There are so many “dots” arising from the study of the Shroud of Turin. That they form a pattern is difficult to deny. No one should place all their faith in the Resurrection of Jesus on this cloth alone. But as Norm Geisler said when he titled his book: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. It takes a dogmatic faith in skepticism, against the great preponderance of evidence, to dismiss the Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud of Turin becomes one “dot” in a still-larger set of “dots” which form a pattern telling us the entire Bible is to be trusted, Old Testament and New Testament. Believing is not foolish, but reasonable. Believers do not sin against common sense. Multiple patterns of evidence direct us to the truth and that’s more reason to keep thinking.


You can see more from Fred Baltz at his website: 

TOP PHOTO: Left: This is the face from the Shroud. This photograph was taken in 1931 by Giuseppe Enrie. In 1898, Secondo Pia had become the first to photograph the Shroud. Both men discovered that their negative plate produced an image which was a positive (Right). Notice that there is no outline to the image. (public domain)

NOTE: Not every view expressed by scholars contributing Thinker articles necessarily reflects the views of Patterns of Evidence. We include perspectives from various sides of debates on biblical matters so that readers can become familiar with the different arguments involved. – Keep Thinking!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Patterns of Evidence
Is the history found in the Bible real? Is it fact or fiction? Timothy Mahoney had these questions and using patterns of evidence discovered answers. Follow the investigations that uncovered layers of controversy using a balanced approach. Learn more at: