Taking the Turin Shroud as an example, this paper analyzes the strict relationship between science and faith, considered as two forms of knowledge that try to explain the world according to two different methods. In fact, while we are often offered a dualistic vision that tends to separate science and faith, leading them to be two spheres in continuous conflict with each other, the most important Relic of Christianity just shows the opposite.
From the numerous similarities between what is scientifically detected on the Shroud and what is reported in the Holy Scriptures, a clear example of how science and faith can meet together is shown. The Shroud, even furnishing additional scientific details, confirms many facts described in the Bible and vice versa, many clues reported in the Bible have a clearer explanation at the light of the scientific facts shown on Relic.
Science and faith can be considered as two forms of knowledge that try to explain the world according to two different methods. The relationship between scientific knowledge and religious belief has long been the object of reflection by many scholars. Is it possible to find a meeting point between the two spheres? Often we are offered a dualistic vision that separates science and faith, leading them to be two spheres in continuous conflict with each other. Auguste Comte, father of the Positivism, even argues that theology must be outclassed by rational and scientific thought. Science, that has long tried to replace religion , promised to
respond to the desires of humanity, to resolve all difficulties by thinking to an assurance of happiness on this earth. However, it did not succeed in recreating an earthly paradise and the faith remained, even if feeble.
While many affirm that science and faith must travel on two parallel levels without ever meeting, others, with the author, are convinced that they must meet together to compare and enrich each other, after having traveled mutually independent avenues. In agreement with St. John Paul II “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” . It is as if a blind man (faith) sustains a lame one (science) which in turn leads the blind (faith) on the path to truth.
Like in other cases such as the one concerning the
explanation of the origin of life where religious texts do not
show up in contrast with the results of scientific analyses, the
case of the Turin Shroud (or simply Shroud) highlights the close
relationship that exists between science and faith. The following
presentation shows this strict connection. The Shroud [3-12],
see Figure 1 is the archaeological object, as well as religious,
more studied in the world. From a scientific point of view, it is
important because it shows a double image of a man up to now
not reproducible nor explainable; it is also religiously important
because, according to the Christian tradition, it shows some
traces of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is an ancient linen cloth, 4.4m long and 1.1m wide, which
wrapped the corpse of a tortured man, scourged, crowned with
thorns, crucified and pierced by a spear in the chest. Many are
convinced that the Shroud is the sepulchral cloth of Jesus Christ
resurrected there after about forty hours from the wrapping.
The double body image there impressed has been the subject
of intense studies especially during the twentieth century, but
even today, it is not technically reproducible and cannot even be
explained scientifically. On the Shroud, various signs are visible,
more or less important and not easily comprehensible at first
glance: the double mirror image of a man, frontal and dorsal,
the bloodstains corresponding to the wounds of the Man there
wrapped, the stains caused by water, the traces and the holes
caused by fires and other minor signs.
Hypothesizing the identification of Jesus Christ with the
Man of the Shroud, we analyze here the significant correlations
between the scientific aspects detected on the Shroud and what is
reported in the Bible, to better understand the close relationship
between science and faith . We will see that the quotations
from the Bible and in particular from the four Canonic Gospels
confirm the observable facts on the Shroud thus evidencing the
strict connection between science and faith.
The Shroud bears the impressed image of Crist who was put
in the tomb and then, according to the Christians, resurrected
during the third day. This body image can be interpreted as the
sign of Jonah (2,1-11), promised by Jesus, who remained for
three days and three nights in the belly of a big fish before being
vomited on the ground.
a. no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah (Mt 16,4).
b. all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Lk 3,6).
The Shroud body image shows signs of tortures everywhere.
Various injuries, such as that of the side, have not been closed;
in fact the casting of post-mortem blood, considered impure
by the Jews, was not been touched. It seems that the complete
embalming had been postponed to the first day after Saturday
because the evening was arriving.
a. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no
soundness in it (Is 1,6).
The imprint of the face shows numerous swellings: the
broken nose, right eye hurt, perhaps blinded by a blow to the
scourge, his lower lip cut and various wounds caused by the
crown of thorns that are also evident at the nape; actually it does
not result a healthy part of the face. It is obviously not easy to
identify the sign of a slap or spit on the face of Jesus from the
analysis of the Shroud, but the evident and various swellings
on the cheeks and on the eyebrows arch, as well as the broken
nose, demonstrate that the man was hit and tortured especially
in correspondence of the head.
a. The whole head is sick (Is 1,5).
b. They struck His head with a staff and spit on Him (Jn
It is on the back that is more evident the fury of the torturers;
there is in fact a greater concentration of shots. Typically, a man
condemned to crucifixion was not punished with additional
torture. In the case of the Shroud instead, we may think that the
scourging was given as a sentence independent by crucifixion,
which was decided later. The author counted on the Shroud at
least 372 signs wounds caused by flagellation. Since the sides of
the body image are not visible on the Shroud, we may think that
the wounds could be about 700 in total. If the Roman flagrum
was composed of three cords with two lead balls at each end
as someone supposes [3,6-8], we can deduct that the number
of blows inflicted was about 120 (since 120 x 6 = 720). The
area around the heart shows few signs of the scourge because,
hitting him, they would have caused the premature death of the
a. The plowmen plowed upon my back; they made their
furrows long.” “ (Ps 129.3),
b. I gave my back to those who struck me, (Is 50.6).
c. then Pilate took Jesus and flogged Him (Jn 19.1).
Excoriations imputable to the transport of the cross are
evident on the region of the shoulders of the Shroud body image.
Jesus repeatedly fell to the ground: this is demonstrated by the
dust particles found on the area of the nose and the left knee. As
recently highlighted by M. Bevilacqua , the cross dislocated
his right shoulder during a fall, causing a paralysis of his right
arm. The Roman soldiers therefore decided to help Jesus in the
transportation of the Cross by forcing a man coming from Cyrene
to follow him with the weight of the cross.
a. He went out, carrying His own cross, to a place called
The Place of a Skull (Jn 19.17.).
b. they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the
country, and they laid the cross on him to carry it behind
Jesus (Lk 23.26).
The Shroud shows that Jesus was nailed to the cross with
two nails for his hands  and one longer for both His feet. The
rigor mortis detected on the body image is not consistent with
a man lying on a floor, but with a dead man hanged on the cross
to which were subsequently repositioned the arms, by breaking
the rigor mortis.
a. like a lion they pin my hands and my feet (Ps 22.16).
b. Golgotha. There they crucified Him … (Jn 19:17-18).
c. and by lawless hands have crucified and killed Him
According to various medical analysis [4,6], Jesus died
dehydrated, even after significant blood loss caused by the
scourging. However, according to several theologians, His thirst
was not only physical but also moral because with His voluntary
sacrifice aspired to draw to Himself all souls.
a. my throat is parched; (Ps 69.3).
b. in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Ps 69,21).
“The signs of our sins” including the stab to the chest with
a spear are impressed there on the Shroud. The wound in the
side, following Haemothorax shows the red part of the blood
separated by the serous part, transparent like water. It is not
yet completely clarified the cause of Jesus’ death, but asphyxia,
typical of the crucified men, seems to be a contributing cause,
not the main reason. If Jesus had died for asphyxia alone, as
supposed by someone, it is not easy to explain how he could
have issued the loud cry reported in the Gospels. Accentuated by
the intense moral pain, along with orthostatic and haemothorax
collapse, the haemopericardium diagnosed as a possible cause
of death as a result of infarction, produced a violent expansion
of the pericardial pleura with consequent shooting retrosternal
pain and sudden death associated with a shout.
We must remember that an orthostatic collapse happens
when the blood in the body falls down and does not flow to the
heart and brain; the hemothorax is a shedding of blood in the
pleural cavity after thoracic trauma; the haemopericardium
is a shedding of blood in the space between the heart and the
pericardial sheet that surrounds him.
a. and Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud
voice, released His spirit (Mt 27, 50).
b. so that they look to Me, whom they have pierced
through. (Zechariah 12:10).
c. This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ.
He did not come by water only, but by water and blood (1 Jn
Rigor mortis of Jesus is remarkable on the Shroud ; it
grew up in a vertical position where the knees were partially
bent due to the body collapsing, leaning on the fix point of the
nail of the feet. Such a configuration is contrary to the fact that
sometimes the bones of the legs were broken to the crucified to
On the Shroud some dislocation are evident, but not a
a. nor shall you break a bone of it (Ex 12:46).
b. they did not break His legs (Jn 19,33).
c. For these things happened so that the Scripture should
be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken (Jn 19,36.).
According to three of the four canonical Gospels, Jesus was
wrapped in a new and valuable sheet, purchased by a wealthy
person. The Shroud shows a particularly fine texture and
herringbone fabric for an important person, probably a highranking
a. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean
linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut
out of the rock (Mt 27.59-60).
A soft bed for the corpse
The study of the dorsal image of the Shroud shows that the
Man was leaned on a soft bed, probably made of spices in dust
a. and You have set me toward the dust of death.(Ps 22,15)
P.L. Baima Bollone , found traces of aromas such as
aloe and myrrh on the Shroud probably used to bury the body
of the Man. Interestingly, according to the custom of the Jews,
P. Vignon  reported that rolled bandages impregnated with
aromatic oils surrounded the body wrapped in the Shroud. The
term “linen cloths” (from the Greek “othonia”), in the plural,
was preferred by the apostle John to the term “sindon” used by
the other Evangelists probably because in reference to the set
of linens like Shroud, sudarion and various bandages used for
a. Nicodemus, … also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh
and aloes, weighing about seventy-five pounds (Jn 19:39).
b. Then they took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in
linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the
Jews (Jn 19:40).
It is evident from the Shroud the escaping of separate blood
(plasma and post mortem serum) due to the side stubbed by
a spear after death. On the right side of the chest, according
to P. Barbet , there is a wound whose margins widened and
well defined typical, of a blow inflicted after death. Among the
contributory causes of death, we must not forget the moral pain
of Jesus seeing Him treated in that way, just from people who had
come to save. The insult has therefore accentuated the effects of
orthostatic collapse also followed by the hemothorax.
a. because for Your sake I have endured insult; (Ps 69.8).
b. my heart is like wax; it is melted inside my body. (Ps
c. Insults have broken my heart, and I am sick; (Ps 69,20).
d. However, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a
spear and immediately blood and water came out (Jn 19:34).
The evident rigor mortis of the corpse and the lack of spots
on the body image, produced by emissions of putrefaction gases
also in correspondence of the orifices (e.g. nose and mouth),
demonstrate that the body of Jesus did not see any kind of
corruption . According to the Bible in fact Jesus’ life was
therefore not abandoned in the hell because on the third day
Jesus rose from the dead. The lack of smearing in correspondence
of the Shroud bloodstains, conserved in a humid environment
like the sepulcher, demonstrate that the corpse was not moved
after wrapping. Therefore, we must think that Jesus was not
placed in the niche carved into the rock, but he was left on the
stone for the preparation of the corpse, waiting for the finish of
embalming operations to be performed after the Holy Saturday.
a. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You
suffer Your godly one to see corruption. (Ps 16:10).
b. For You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor will You
allow Your Holy One to see corruption. (Acts 2:27).
According to many scholars [1,6,8-10], the body image
imprinted on the Shroud, not yet scientifically explainable, was
probably formed by a brief and intense burst of energy, maybe
even of electric type , which could be related to a lightning.
If we refer to the hypothesis of the disappearance of the corpse
due to the concurrent radiation that formed the body image, the
Shroud presents a double sign: the death of Jesus and the burn
caused by the intense energy source that produced the body
a. And you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning,
but that of it which remains until the morning you shall burn
with fire…. 11 It is the Lord’s Passover. (Exodus 12:10).
b. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to
the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (t 24,27).
c. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the heavens
from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His
day (Lk 17,24).
Science cannot study the Resurrection as a scientific fact
because it is not reproducible, but we can formulate scientific
hypothesis based on this phenomenon to try to explain what can
be scientifically detected on the Shroud.
From the Shroud it results what follows:
a. The Man remained there wrapped for not more the
about forty hours because there are no signs of putrefaction,
therefore someway the corpse went out of the linen Sheet.
b. To explain the body image of the Shroud it seems
necessary the hypothesis of a burst of energy coming from
the corpse [8,9], but a dead man only exchanges relatively
small quantities of thermal energy with the environment.
c. The absence of smearing in all the stains visible on the
Shroud due to the blood re-dissolved by fibrinolysis in the
humid environment of the sepulcher, implies that no skinfabric
movements happened during wrapping.
d. It is not possible for the moment to scientifically explain
how Jesus came out from the Shroud, but when science stops, all other hypotheses can be considered, Resurrection not
excluded. Supported by various experimental data J. Jackson
 supposes that Jesus became mechanically transparent
with respect to the sagging Sheet and produced a flash of
energy, which would be the cause of image formation.
e. Some scholars with the author think that the body
image could have been originated by an intense electric field,
which produced the so-called corona discharge, directly
responsible for the image . While some scholars tend to
form hypotheses related to an earthquake, the author thinks
that this supernatural energy can be directly related to the
f. This description from the Evangelists makes us think
about what happened for the Shroud when the body image
g. The Transfiguration of Mount Tabor is a prelude to the
Resurrection of Jesus, He “was transfigured before them. His
face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the
light” (Mt 17,2).
h. The Resurrection of Jesus …. (Lk 24).
i. He foresaw this and spoke concerning the resurrection
of the Christ.” (Acts 2:31).
j. And then there was a great earthquake. For the angel of
the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back
the stone from the door and sat on it (Mt 28,2).
k. Paul wrote this letter in the years 53-55 AD, in a period
when there were certainly too many eyewitnesses and this
could not be an invention without historical foundation.
Then He was seen by over five hundred brothers at once, of
whom the greater part remain to this present time, though
some have passed away (1.Cor 15.6).
Paul wrote this letter in the years 53-55 AD, in a period when
there were certainly too many eyewitnesses and this could not
be an invention without historical foundation.
The Position of the Shroud that Pushed John to See
The synthetic description of the sepulchral linens made by the
apostle John is not exhaustive, but we can think that the very
particular position of both the Shroud and the Sudarium helped
a lot him to believe in the Resurrection, that was a preannounced
fact but not understood up to this moment. Probably the
particular shape of the Shroud lowered on the sepulchral bed
and the Sudarium that was hardened by the aromas, placed in a
form that seemed to wrap the lacking head, led the apostle John
to believe in the Resurrection of Christ.
a. 3So Peter came out with the other disciple and they
went toward the tomb. 4They both ran together, and the other
disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5Stooping
down and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying. Yet he did not enter. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and
went inside the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,
7and the cloth that was around His head, not lying with the
linen cloths, but wrapped in a place by itself. 8Then the other
disciple, who came first to the tomb, went in also. He saw and
believed. 9For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He
must rise from the dead.”(Jn 20.3 to 9).
First of all we must observe the description of “the cloth
that was around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but
wrapped in a place by itself.” And we may interpret this cloth
as the sudarium that was posed on Jesus’ head, not laying with
the Shroud, but still wrapping up the disappeared head. This
significant description deserves an additional comment from
the Greek version: “ 5καὶ παρακύψας βλέπει κείμενα τὰ ὀθόνια,
οὐ μέντοι εἰσῆλθεν. 6ἔρχεται οὖν καὶ Σίμων Πέτρος ἀκολουθῶν
αὐτῷ, καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον • καὶ θεωρεῖ τὰ ὀθόνια
κείμενα, 7καὶ τὸ σουδάριον, ὃ ἦν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ, οὐ μετὰ
τῶν ὀθονίων κείμενον ἀλλὰ χωρὶς ἐντετυλιγμένον εἰς ἕνα τόπον
• 8τότε οὖν εἰσῆλθεν καὶ ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς ὁ ἐλθὼν πρῶτος εἰς τὸ
μνημεῖον, καὶ εἶδεν καὶ ἐπίστευσεν”.
This text reports three different instants, characterized by
three different verbs used to describe the facts when the two
Apostles saw the Shroud in the sepulcher. These verbs similar
but different, βλέπει, θεωρεῖ, εἶδεν have the same main meaning
-to see-, but they are used to characterize different peculiar
a. βλέπει, referred to the Apostle Peter, means -to see- in
the sense of –turning his eyes- with a touch of attention but
with a limited use of one of the five senses;
b. θεωρεῖ, referred to the apostle John, instead indicates
-to see- in a way that contemplates something beyond, in
deeper way, involving thought and reflection; it means trying
to understand an hidden meaning and it derives from the
same root θεωρ of theory and theorem;
c. εἶδεν, again referred to John, indicates -to see- in a
different way, meaning to be careful, but also experiencing
and showing that John deeply meditated on this fact.
It seems clear now that John, after his deep meditation
(εἶδεν) on the particular disposition of both the Shroud and
the sudarium, still wrapping the lacking head, was pushed
to think in the Resurrection (ἐπίστευσεν), a phenomenon
that was preannounced to him by the same Jesus, but that
was very difficult for him to understand without the physical
signs seen in the sepulcher.
The author is not able to find citations of the Bible and, in
particular, from the four Canonic Gospels against either the
scientific facts detectable on the Shroud or the Relic itself but he
will try to answer to possible questions raised by the readers of
this paper. Only two points offered by some persons against the
existence of the Shroud are here discussed.
The Shroud body image is not mentioned in the
Some state that the body image of the Shroud is not authentic
because, if true, the Gospels would have certainly mentioned it.
This fact is true, but according to the author, it is in favor of the
Shroud authenticity too. In fact, experimental tests with coronal
discharge  demonstrated that only a latent image could
be formed by using this source of electric energy. The latent
image “develops” with time and a source of heating at about
200 °C is necessary to produce a visible image in few minutes.
It is therefore easy to think that months or better years were
necessary for the Shroud to form its body image and this is why
the Gospels did not mention it: the Apostles probably did not see
any visible image on the Shroud, but only the bloodstains that
were surely not so important to be mentioned in their Gospel.
The Gospel of John speaks of bandages but not of a
Unfortunately the Greek language, from which derives the
translations of the Gospels, is not rich of terms and therefore a
single word has various meanings. While the other Apostles (Mt
27,59 Mc 15,46 Lc 23,53) who were not present to the burial
mention the word “Sindon”, that is Shroud, to make reference
to the most important Object used in the sepulcher, John uses
the generic term “Othonia” that may be translated as “linens” or
“bandages”. Some translator of the Gospel selected this last term
for his unhappy translation, thus inducing the reader to think to
a wrapping like that used for the Egyptian mummies. In this case
instead it seems more proper the first term “linens”, because
John, who was present during the burial, wanted to mention not
only the Shroud, but also other pieces of linen used there, like
the sudarium and the rolls of bandages full of spices posed at
the sides of the corpse to better conserve it. Therefore nothing
seems strange if John used a term not directly referred to the
Shroud but to all the linen fabrics used that Friday evening.
From the numerous similarities detected between the
Shroud and the Holy Scriptures, we see that there is here a
full agreement between science and faith. In agreement with
prof. Eberhard Lindner who widely studied the Shroud, we can
therefore think that the most important Relic of Christianity
is a “Scientific Gospel”. In fact it scientifically confirms many
facts described in the Bible, representing them all together
concentrated in one sheet and even adding new details.
Therefore the Shroud summarizes the facts of the Passion
described in the Gospels and, while confirming their historical
veracity, in turn these facts confirm the authenticity of the Relic
too. For example, in the Gospels we read: “Then Pilate took
Jesus and flogged Him “ (Jn 19.1-2). The reader of our times has
probably some difficulties to imagine what was the severity of
punishment inflicted on Jesus about 2000 years ago because
flogging is a kind of torture nowadays almost forgotten. On the
Shroud however, by analyzing the hundreds wounds left by the
blows of the scourge, it is scientifically documented the harsh
punishment and it is easier for us to understand what physical
suffering were inflicted to that Man. Therefore, we can say with
M. Laconi that the Shroud meets our materialist expectations, in
fact, while the New Testament puts the blood of Jesus in front of
the heart, warmed by faith, the Shroud instead puts it in front of
The author thanks Wanda René Thompson of Ichthus
Inspirational Publications (ichthushouse.org) for the translation
from Italian of some sentences, Dr. John Donahue of Shroud
Science Group on Yahoo for his advices and Dr. Susan Lara,
Managing Editor of Juniper Publishers with her collaborators for
the help and kindness manifested during the publication of both
the present paper and the two already published:
-Fanti G. “Why is the Turin Shroud Authentic?”. Glob J Arch &
Anthropol. 2018; 7(2): 555707, https://juniperpublishers.com/
-Fanti G. “Why is the Turin Shroud Not Fake?”. Short
Communication, Glob J Arch & Anthropol. 2018: 7(3), https://