The HyperTexts

The Shroud of Turin: Two Poets' Perspectives

If you're concerned about innocent children being terrorized by the debilitating fear that they and other children may be in danger of an "eternal hell" when they grow up, please read No Hell in the Bible. If the subject of biblical inerrancy interests you, please read Is the Bible infallible?

This page contains poems, articles and historical information about the Shroud of Turin. I find the Shroud of Turin to be quite interesting, but I have come to doubt its authenticity for three primary reasons:

(1) The figure on the Shroud seems to be merely human-like, rather than actually human. The most glaring error is the length of the arms, including the forearms and hands [see the figure on the left, below]. The figure's elbows angle away from the body and yet the arms are still long enough for the left hand to cover the "privates" while the right hand extends to the opposite side of the body with bizarrely long, spidery fingers. Both arms are abnormally long, and one arm is much longer than the other. The Jews did not allow deformed people to enter the Jerusalem temple, so if Jesus had been deformed he could not have taught in the temple as the Bible says  he did. Perhaps the greatest mystery of the Shroud is how so many "scientists" can ignore the fact that the figure on the Shroud has extra-long, unequal-length arms that would have precluded him from entering the temple, much less being proclaimed the Messiah.

(2) The blood on the Shroud makes no sense to me. If Jesus was taken down from the cross and placed in the Shroud immediately, then as he was carried to the tomb in the Shroud, his blood would have been smeared all over the cloth. How can anyone carry a grown man whose body is saturated with blood in a linen cloth and keep the blood from smearing? If, on the other hand, the body had been carried to a tomb, then transferred to the Shroud, there would be little or no blood on the Shroud because corpses don't bleed and blood that isn't being pumped continually coagulates quickly. It seems obvious that the blood on the Shroud appears as it does (i.e., in the "correct" or "expected" places) because an artist chose to depict the places the blood would have flowed while Jesus was on the cross or immediately after he was taken down. But the Shroud is a burial cloth, and that means the blood should not be in the "expected" places. Either the blood should be smeared everywhere, or there should be little or no blood, depending on whether the body was carried from the cross to the tomb in the Shroud, or was transferred to the Shroud later. Whether the blood is real or not really doesn't matter, if the Shroud is a forgery. An artist could have chosen to use real blood, or pigments like red ocher or vermillion. Or different artists could have used blood and pigments at different times. But in any case, real or not, the blood on an actual burial cloth should not be in the "expected" places. It seems obvious to me that the Shroud artists were portraying the blood as it would have appeared before the body of Jesus was transported to the tomb.

(3) Three important pieces of information seem to jibe, and point to the Shroud having been created during the 1300's. First, the cloth of the Shroud has been carbon-dated to around that time. Second, there is a historical document dating to the 1300's which says the Shroud was a fraud, and that the artist who created it had confessed to forging it. And third, the blood on the Shroud has been reported to be type AB. But from what I have read on the subject, AB blood didn't appear until around 700 to 1,000 years ago, which just happens to coincide with a medieval date. Again, whether the blood is real or not really doesn't matter, if one is arguing that the Shroud is a forgery. But if one is arguing that the Shroud is authentic, the blood needs to be real, and not type AB, if AB blood is too "modern" to be the blood of Jesus.

Is there any scenario in which the Shroud might possibly be authentic? Of course anything is possible, so I will suggest two possibilities that occur to me:

(1) The Shroud might have been authentic originally, but over time the artists who worked on the Shroud may have tried to "improve" it.  Suppose the figure's genitals were exposed? An artist might have been ordered to cover up the genitals, for the sake of modesty. This would explain the extra-long arms. And suppose the Shroud didn't originally contain blood, because the body had been transferred to the cloth after the body had stopped bleeding. But artists who "knew" where the blood was "expected" to appear could have later dabbed the cloth with real blood, or pigments, or both. But this scenario doesn't explain the cloth carbon-dating to the 1300's, or the historical document from that time stating that an artist had confessed that the Shroud was a fraud.

(2) Another possibility is that the Shroud is a medieval forgery (which seems highly likely to me), but that it was produced from something authentic. Suppose, for instance, that someone had made a death mask of the face of Jesus, and that this death mask was used to create the Shroud. Then the face might be authentic, although the body would not. And indeed, it seems the figure's head and body may not "go together" all that well. The neck area certainly looks suspect to me. Interestingly, the Knights Templar may have had possession of the Shroud for a period of time, and they were rumored to have possessed (and perhaps worshipped) a disembodied head of some sort. If so, might it have been a death mask of Jesus, or something of that nature? Another possibility is that the head in question might have been that of John the Baptist, who was beheaded by Herod, according to the Bible. The Knights Templar were said to revere John the Baptist and today the Shroud resides at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist: an interesting coincidence. While I don't pretend to "know" the real nature of the Shroud of Turin, if there is anything authentic about it, my hunch is that the face is the original aspect, while the goofier things about the Shroud can be explained by the fact that different artists have been trying to "improve" the body over the centuries, while only managing to make it look odder and odder.

But now let's see what three poets and others have to say about the Shroud of Turin:

The Holy Shroud 
by Joe M. Ruggier

WHAT VISION, and what darkness, and what knowledge
passed across Your weather-beaten Face
when the small robin drew the thorn and blood
decorated his vest — I cannot tell!
All Time swam in Your sight, and You beheld
infinite space, and superhuman silences
weighed down upon the unbearable pain. Did You then
count the majority that went to Hell,
despite Your bitter Sacrifice? and did
apocalyptic troubles crush Your brains? and did
the names of those who made You worthy honours
ring in Your spellbound ear, two thousand years
ago upon the Cross, in that last abandon?
Did Spirits visit You within the tomb
whence You arose a Superman? or did
You painfully awaken from the dream of life?
and slowly stir? and slowly, very slowly
count Your five wounds and dress them? wiping away
the blood and filth upon the winding-sheet
which bore Your stain for generations still
unborn? Ah! what ridiculous parodies
are screened in cinemas of that most real
supernatural VOM that You became Who meant
the very least Word You spoke ...

VOM (penultimate line) — a term which signifies SUPERNATURAL MAN. It is used to very fine effect by Dante in his "Paradiso."

Originally published in A Richer Blessing, Poetry & Prose by Joe Ruggier, p. 60.
Copyright Joe M. Ruggier, 1999


The following introduction is written by Tamara Beryl Latham, a poet I correspond with from time to time. The assortment of facts and commentary offered thereafter is the result of my own research, findings, musings and speculations. Please keep in mind that Tamara is speaking from a point of view of personal revelation, while I'm merely investigating a highly interesting mystery with a number of twists and turns. Nothing here is definite, of course. And now, without further ado, here is Tamara Beryl Latham's account of how a dream and the Shroud of Turin came to be found of the same weave. — MRB

Tamara Beryl Latham:

When I was young, and in my teens, I remember walking to the store many times and hearing men's cat calls and wolf whistles. When I worked later in Manhattan, I heard the continual remarks and cat calls of construction workers. When I had conversations with many of the men at my place of employment or at social gatherings, they always either talked about sex, or their comments had an underlying sexual theme.  After a while, I began to hate men. In those years, I figured there was no way to get an intellectual conversation out of them. They had one-track minds, which centered on sex.

One night, I had a dream. In the dream I was very young, maybe five or six. Jesus and I sat under a tree on a grassy hill. He had a staff and overlooked a herd of sheep. He wore a long white muslin-type tunic that had a rope around the waist. I ran and played, as He sat under the tree. He talked to me, and I remember being very peaceful. I loved it there. He was so good to me and the thought that kept running through my mind was: "Here is a man who talks only of the good in life and never about sex." When I awoke from the dream, I had a different outlook with respect to men. I no longer hated them and I realized all men do not concentrate on sex. Jesus changed my life in that dream. Even to this day, I remember the peaceful landscape and His reassuring face. Jesus had striking features, but what I remember most is His face being long and narrow. He was a tall man with thin lips and His skin was tanned from the sun. With time, the dream faded.

Fifteen years had passed and I had enrolled in college. One day, just a little before Easter, I was sitting in the Student Union, our school cafeteria. I was thinking to myself: "Jesus, we see so many pictures and paintings of You. It's almost Easter. Why don't You show us what You really look like, so there will be no doubt in our minds?" At that exact moment, I looked up and there was a black and white picture, which took up the entire back cover of a book a male student was reading opposite me. The picture on the book was the face in my dream! 

I walked over to the gentleman and asked him the name of the book, and he replied, "The Shroud of Turin."  I went to the library and checked out the book, and read it cover to cover in about two days. It was one of the best books I have ever read. I became very interested in the Shroud and, after obtaining my degree in Chemistry, I went to a seminar given by Dr. Alan D. Adler, a porphyrin chemist who did the initial blood chemistry on the Shroud. According to Dr. Adler, the blood was authentic and so was the Shroud. Although the Shroud failed the initial carbon dating screen, I know this is the image of Jesus. The face on the Shroud is the face in my dream. The analogy I make is with respect to a biological father. Let us assume one hadn't seen their biological father for about fifteen or twenty years, and then was shown a picture of him. There would be no doubt. We would all know our biological father's face.

The same holds true with the Shroud. I don't need any evidence. I know the Shroud contains the true face and body image of Jesus and that it is His authentic burial cloth. We will see, in time, this to be the case.  Jesus wanted us to know the extent of His suffering, as well as His physical appearance. 

Although the image on the Shroud was produced by Jesus' body giving off intense light during the resurrection, His face was etched in my mind after the dream and, long before I had ever even heard of the Shroud of Turin.

— Tamara Beryl Latham  

I find two things particularly interesting about Tamara's account. First, she says her life was transformed by her vision of Jesus. Second, she prayed to see Jesus, and her prayer was answered immediately in a surprising way. On the other hand, when Tamara tells me about her personal beliefs, I can't believe in the Jesus she believes in. How can Jesus refuse to speak to human beings, demand that they "believe" in him, then send them to hell if they don't? How could Jesus praise the compassion of the Good Samaritan, then not be a Good Samaritan himself and condemn the compassionate saints of other religions (men like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama) to hell? And why would any truly loving, enlightened being demand belief, blind obedience, worship, praise, and the bending of every knee? So, while, I find Tamara's dream and revelation interesting, I find no reason to conclude that Jesus is the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. So now let me tell a story of my own . . .

The Gardener’s Roses 
by Michael R. Burch

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses ...

I too have come to the cave;
within: strange, half-glimpsed forms
and ghostly paradigms of things.
Here, nothing warms . . .

this lightening moment of the dawn,
pale tendrils spreading east.
And I, of all who followed him,
by far the least . . .

The women take no note of me;
I do not recognize
the men in white, the gardener,
these unfamiliar skies . . .

Faint scent of roses, then–a touch!
I turn, and I see: You.
My Lord, why do You tarry here:
Another waits, Whose love is true.

Although My Father waits, and bliss;
though angels call–ecstatic crew!–
I gathered roses for a friend.
I waited here, for you.

Footnotes and the story of how this poem was written.

Well, we have heard three poets' thoughts and perhaps settled nothing. Readers will have to draw their own conclusions. Joe Ruggier, Tamara Latham and I have very different ideas about who Jesus was. In my opinion, no good person would refuse to speak to someone, then condemn that someone to hell for not "believing" in him. When I was a child, I prayed to God and Jesus continually, and they never spoke to me in return. I was only a child, and it broke my heart to pray to God for forgiveness, yet hear nothing in response. The Christian religion only filled me with shame, terror and despair. God and Jesus refused to speak to me, while condemning me to an eternal hell, so of course I hated them. All the popes and evangelists from now till kingdom come can proclaim the glories of God and Jesus to the skies, but there is one thing they can't do. They can't explain why God and Jesus refused to speak to me, when I was only a child, praying desperately for them to forgive me of the sin of having been born human. Why should I believe in Jesus? Why should anyone? Perhaps most importantly, why should any mother subject her own children to such a soul-rending religion? If mothers actually believe in hell, how can they have children in good conscience?

If you're concerned about innocent children being terrorized by the debilitating fear that they're in danger of an "eternal hell" when they grow up, please read this article No Hell in the Bible.

If you're interested in "things mysterious," you may be interested in these other Mysterious Ways pages:

A Direct Experience with Universal Love
Two Tales of the Night Sky
Michael, Wonderful and Glorious
The Poisonous Tomato
Of Mother Teresa, Angels and the Poorest of the Poor
Thy Will Be Done (Iron Lung)
Did Jesus Walk on the Water?

Mysterious Ways Index

The HyperTexts

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