The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth that purportedly served as the burial cloth of Christ. The image of Christ on the shroud is thought by many Christians to have been miraculously put there by our Lord Himself. Scientists have tried to find natural explanations for this, but have come up short.
The Church does not require you to believe that the Shroud is the burial cloth. Still, a lot of evidence points that way. Scientists have studied everything from whether the image could be a painting to the presence of pollen native to the Jerusalem area. Some findings substantiate the claim that the Shroud really enwrapped Christ’s body and that the image is miraculous.
Some Christians go too far and promote theories that don’t have enough support yet. By doing so, they invite the ridicule of unbelievers, who are quick to undermine their claims.
One popular theory to support the Shroud’s authenticity is the supposed image of ancient coins over our Lord’s eyes. Let’s dig a bit more into this theory to see if it’s credible.
Why people say there are coins over the eyes of the image of Christ
If you zoom in on the eyes of the Shroud, you see what looks like letters. Some people note that these letters match early first-century coins minted by Rome. Of course, the Roman empire ruled Palestine during the time of Jesus and Roman soldiers participated in Christ’s crucifixion.
People point to these first-century coins as evidence that the Shroud goes back to the time when Jesus died. They corroborate this claim by saying the “coin” over Christ’s eyes has part of Tiberius Caesar’s name on it. However, there is a “C” where there should be a “K.” This seemed to undermine its genuineness. But then first-century Roman coins were found with this same misspelling. Once again, the coin theory found support.
It is, however, too weak to bolster the Shroud’s credibility. Here’s why.
The weave of the cloth undermines the coin theory
The cloth is not like a flat piece of paper. When woven on a loom, the cloth surface becomes uneven. So would it really be possible to see the edge of a letter on the image? Maybe, but it’s questionable.
This may be a case of pareidolia. That fancy word refers to seeing patterns or images you want to see that aren’t really there. It could be a lion’s face in a cloud or an image of Jesus on a slice of toast (yes, that has happened).
While no one really doubts that the image on the Shroud is a man, the supposed “coins” over the eyes are just not distinct enough. They could be coins, but much more research needs to take place first.
While the Shroud – if authentic — is a great boost to our faith, our belief in Christ’s resurrection shouldn’t ultimately rest on it. Rather, we believe in Christ through the gift of faith and the credible historical claims of the Gospels.