The Shroud of Turin is the most well known, and one of the most studied, Christian relics in history. It is a piece cloth that many people believe is the burial cloth Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used to wrap the dead body of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:58 - 59, Mark 15:43 - 46, John 19:38 - 40).
The shroud we are familiar with today first appeared in the small village of Lirey, France around 1360 A.D. It then was transferred to Chambery around 1453. In 1532, the chapel housing the relic caught on fire and damaged the linen. In 1578, the relic was moved to the northern Italian city of Turin.
Treated as Authentic
The modern Catholic Church stops short of officially declaring the linen to be the burial cloth of Christ. However, in their official 1913 Encyclopedia article on the relic, they state, "That the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is taken for granted, in various pronouncements of the Holy See, cannot be disputed." Pope Sixtus IV, who led the church from 1471 to 1484 A.D., stated regarding the linen "men may look upon the true blood and portrait of Jesus Christ himself" (ibid.). A 1506 Papal Bull by Pope Julius II says that the cloth was used to wrap Jesus as he lay in his tomb.
In June 2015, Pope Francis visited the city of Turin. News agencies reported that he made a special pilgrimage to the place housing the relic and, bowing his head, silently prayed in front of it. Clearly, regardless of any official stance, the church treats this relic as if it were legitimate.
There are several major arguments that not only refute any claims this relic is legitimate but also condemn how it is used.
Two separate sheets
Scripture indicates that the body of Christ was NOT wrapped in one cloth from head to toe as is portrayed in the shroud. His body was wrapped with one piece of cloth and his head with a separate piece (John 20:5 - 7). In his 1543 work entitled "A Treatise on Relics," John Calvin (the founder of Calvinism) states the following about Jewish burial rites and offers a stinging rebuke to those who wish to deny the truth of the Bible.
"This may be known by their (Jews) present custom on such occasions . . . which describe the ancient ceremony of interment, which was to wrap the body in a sheet, to the shoulders, and to cover the head with a separate cloth. This is precisely how the evangelist (John) described it . . .
"In short, either St. John is a liar, or all those who boast of possessing the holy sudary (shroud) are convicted of falsehood and deceit."
Long Hair Jesus
Turin's shroud shows the image of a man wearing long hair. This could NOT have been Jesus as the Bible clearly states that it is a SHAME for a man serving the true God to wear long hair.
14. Or does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, IT IS A SHAME TO HIM? . . . 16. But if anyone is contentious over this issue, WE HAVE NO SUCH CUSTOM, neither do the churches of God (1Corinthians 11:14, 16, HBFV)
Only those who took a Nazarite vow, like John the Baptist, could wear uncut hair (Numbers 6:2 - 21). Jesus was not a Nazarite, as He drank alcoholic beverages and touched dead bodies (Luke 7:11 - 15, 8:49 - 55), which Nazarites were not permitted to do. The relic of Turin does not reflect the real Jesus.
A historical gap
In its 1913 Encyclopedia, Catholics honestly admit that the history of the relic can only be traced back to around 1360 A.D. (article "The Holy Shroud of Turin")! In a Catholic approved book titled "Relics" it states, "Its existence before then (before the 14th century) is not definitely recorded . . ." (Relics, Joan Carrol Cruz, 1984, page 46). How could the most widely known relic in Christendom just "pop up" more than thirteen centuries after Christ’s death? The history behind its roughly 2,000 mile (3,200+ kilometer) journey from Israel to a tiny northern French village remains a mystery.
Additionally, how did such an unparalleled "proof" of Christ warrant not so much as a mention by early church "fathers" like Polycarp (c. 69 - c. 155), Jerome (347 - 420), Augustine (354 - 430) and others who would have readily used it to convert pagans? Even more telling is the complete absence of any mention in the New Testament of the miraculous shroud now located in Turin. In this regard, John Calvin wrote the following.
"How is it possible that those sacred historians (New Testament writers), who carefully related all the miracles that took place at Christ's death, should have omitted to mention one so remarkable as the likeness of the body of our Lord remaining on its wrapping sheet?" (A Treatise on Relics).
The second of the Ten Commandments, given directly by God, states the following.
4. You shall not make for yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth. 5. You shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them . . . (Exodus 20:4 - 5)
Idolatry is far more than creating an idol for worshipping a false pagan deity. The intent of the commandment was also to prohibit the use of images, icons and relics (e.g. the linen at Turin) as an aid to worshipping the TRUE God, as most Biblical commentaries agree (emphasis added).
"It is equally clear that the second commandment does forbid the use of images in divine worship. In other words, idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods, but also in the worship of the TRUE GOD (see our article on Jesus being God) by images" (Hodge's Systematic Theology).
". . . worshipping the TRUE GOD under the form of an image or symbolic likeness, representing ANY of His attributes (e.g. what he looks like), the second is directed" (Fausset's Bible Dictionary)
"Idolatry, strictly speaking, denotes the worship of deity in a visible form, whether the images to which homage is paid are symbolical representations of the TRUE GOD or of the false divinities . . ." (Smith's Bible Dictionary)
God roundly rebuked ancient Israel and their kings (especially those who ruled the northern ten tribes) for using idols and images to "help" in their worship of HIM (Exodus 32:1 - 2, Hosea 8:5 - 6, 10:5 and many other places). Why, then, would he contradict his own law and miraculously create a shroud with the imprint of His dead son He knew humans would use to worship him?
Many religious people treat this relic as far more than just a curiosity or some gruesome souvenir of the Roman Empire's cruelties. A 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the linen states, "Since 1578 it has remained at Turin where it is now only exposed for VENERATION at long intervals."
The word veneration or venerate comes from the Latin veneratus, which means to revere or worship (dictionary.com). Clearly, the shroud is treated as worthy of religious adoration, honor and awe, all of which God commands should be given directly to Him. It is an image that leads people to breaking the second commandment and, in keeping with the Bible, should be destroyed.