Doubts Concerning the Coins Over the Eyes

Antonio Lombatti
Reprinted from the "British Society for the Turin Shroud" Newsletter #45
Copyright 1997
All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission

Editor's Note: The following article appeared in Issue 45 of the "British Society for the Turin Shroud" Newsletter (pp. 35-37). Written by Italian historian Antonio Lombatti, it sparked a lively e-mail debate amongst Shroud researchers, which, through the courtesy of all the participants, is reprinted here, following the article.

The hypothesis of the presumed coin, or coins, found on the eyelids of the corpse of the man of the Shroud began with electronic processing of the Shroud's image made by Prof. Tamburelli at the end of the 70's, and with the publishing of an article, and afterwards a book, by the American Jesuit Professor Francis Filas . After having distinguished what seemed to be four letters "UCAI" near the arch of the man of the Shroud's eyebrows, Filas and the Italian numismatics expert Mario Moroni identified these as part of the inscription of a lepton coin minted in 29 AD during Pontius Pilate's governorshup of Judaea. "UCAI" was part of "TIBEPIOU CAICAPOC". This is what everybody knows. Now let us tell the other side of the story....

The reading of "UCAI" is mostly due to a photographic enlargement and to computer processing, often arbitrary operations which eliminate stains and shades. The tridimensional reproductions have shown, or they look like dipthong OY with a final Y and never with U, and besides, the first letter showing, a "U" and a "C". Nevertheless, Tiberius's coins always have the of the Greek word for "Caesar" is always the K, and never the C "TIBEPIOY KAICAPOC". This is the only, and correct, writing. It is absolutely useless showing ruined or corroded coins on which the K could seem a C. The supporters of Filas' theory have never explained that there absolutely did not exist a Jewish custom to put coins on the eyes of their dead in Palestine in the first century after Christ. They have always quoted two historical sources: the first is A.P.Bender, 'Beliefs, Rites and customs of the Jews, connected with death, burial and mourning', quoted in Jewish Quarterly Review 7 (1895), pp. 103-226, and the second R. Hachlili, 'Ancient Burial Customs Preserved in the Jericho Hills', in Biblical Archaeology Review, 4 (1979), pp. 28-35. Bender, however, speaks about some Judaic customs of the 19th century and about some Russians, who used to put coins on the eyes of the dead, while Prof. Hachlili refers to having found two coins inside a skull of a defunct. Hachlili, however, has never affirmed that the coins were on the eyelids of the dead, or that it represented the typical Judaic burial custom of the first century. Therefore there does not exist an historical source to affirm that in Jesus' time in Palestine some Jews practised such rites on corpses.

In 1980 the greatest specialist in Judaic cemeteries, Prof L.Y. Rahmani, Director of the Jerusalem Museums, entered the debate with an article in Biblical Archaeologist. He rejected without hesitation the idea of a Judaic custom of putting coins on the eyelids of the dead. Prof. Hachlili, also writing in Biblical Archaeologist, then immediately confirmed that the tombs she found in 1979 were in bad condition. The two coins she found in a skull were of the time of Agrippa (40-45 AD), but the ossuary was full of piled-up bones, the ossuary was no longer intact, and it was not absolutely clear that the two coins were on the eyes of some dead person inside the tomb. In short: the coin theory has not the slightest archaeological support.

Filas's answers to these historical problems have always seemed to me unconvincing, and some time ago he even had the temerity to affirm that the man who worked at the mint made a mistake with the coin and replaced the K with a C ! It seems useless, therefore, to use the coins on the eyes as referring to a Judaic custom of the first century after Christ.

Antonio Lombatti

Editor's Note: Dr. Alan Whanger of Duke University, who has done research into the coins on the eyes, wrote this reply to the article:


By Dr. Alan D. Whanger
August 24, 1997

Having just received by e-mail the article from the Newsletter of the British Society for the Turin Shroud by the Italian historian Antonio Lombatti entitled "Doubts concerning the Coins over the Eyes", I felt that an immediate reply in the same media would be appropriate since the article raises some issues as though they are new, whereas they were basically dealt with 10 to 15 years ago. Many who are relatively new to the field or who have not followed this particular issue and finding over the years may be confused by the points that were brought up. The basic issue is whether there are identifiable letters over the coin-like objects visible over each eye, and, if so, whether they correspond well with known coins. There are a number of persons who have difficulty with these observations either because the images are small, fragmentary, and hard to detect or on a theoretical basis that coins should not have been there in the first place. Many of us feel after considerable study that there are indeed extraordinarily accurate images of coins over the eyes, and even more remarkably that both of these are highly congruent with known coins, namely two Jewish lepta or "widow's mites" struck during the reign of Tiberius Caesar by Pontius Pilate in Israel in the year AD 29. The relevance of this finding should be immediately apparent, as this would clearly date the origin of the Shroud image to the first half of the first century and locate its place of origin to be Israel/Palestine. Those who would wish to believe that the radiocarbon dating of 1988 correctly puts the origin of the Shroud between AD 1260 and 1390 must somehow debunk or discredit or ignore the coin images.

I feel that I am well qualified to comment on these issues since I worked very closely with Professor Francis Filas from 1981 until his death in 1985, and have done extensive research with my wife and co-researcher Mary on the coin images and related issues. We have published these findings in the refereed professional literature and in many lay publications, have issued an international press and video release in 1982, have shown the findings personally to many thousands of people, and have produced detailed documentary videotapes showing the identification of these images and their congruence to two Pontius Pilate lepta. We have done this by means of the polarized image overlay technique that we developed which enables the highly accurate comparison of two different images and the documentation of the various points of congruence. (Reference: "Polarized Image Overlay Technique: A New Image Comparison Method and its Applications", by Alan D. and Mary Whanger, APPLIED OPTICS, Vol. 24, No. 6, 15 March 1985, pp. 766-772) Using the forensic criteria for matching finger prints, we feel that there is overwhelming evidence for the identification of the images and the matches with the coins. We have sent copies of these videotapes to many people, including the Centro Internazionale di Sindonologia in Turin. It is interesting that the critics seldom cite these references.

To deal more specifically with the issues raised in the paper, I wish to make several corrections and to elaborate several points. The reading of the letters "UCAI" on the Shroud is not dependent on photographic enlargement or computer processing, although these help to clarify them. The letters are quite visible on a positive-body, life-size direct photograph of the head taken by Enrie in 1931, as well as the photograph taken by Pia in 1898. The letters on the Shroud were first identified on the Shroud photographs by the Greek classical numismatist Michael Marx. The letters are not nearly so apparent on the 1978 photographs because some of the threads running through the right eye area apparently had been pulled or rotated during the 1973 showing of the Shroud, fragmenting the images somewhat. On any particular photograph the letter images may not be apparent because of processing or printing conditions. The letter patterns are not simply a function of the weave pattern, as shown in 1983 by the extensive studies done on the eye areas by Professor Robert Haralick, an internationally known computer imaging expert In his report entitled "Analysis of Digital Images of The Shroud of Turin," he reports on finding evidence of the letters "OUCAIC" on the Shroud, and concludes: "The evidence is definitely supporting evidence because there is some degree of match between what one would expect to find if the Shroud did indeed contain a faint image of the Pilate coin and what we can in fact observe in the original and in the digitally processed images."

Lombatti states that the Tiberius coins always have the name spelled "TIBEPIOY" with the final Y and not U and that the title is always spelled with a K as in KAICAPOC. The silver coinage in Palestine was the denarius, which was struck in Roman mints, and the copper currency was a mixture of Roman and Greco-Roman coins. On the Roman coins, Latin was used and the ruler=92s title was spelled CAESAR. Much of the copper coinage was struck locally and was of rather poor quality. The local die cutters made frequent misspellings on the coins, and a rather logical misspelling would be to substitute the C for the K. This misspelling was never recorded, however, and its existence was first suggested by the letters seen on the Shroud. Remarkably, Father Filas was given a lepton which happened to have this misspelling on it. When people finally realized that the coin actually did show a C, they began looking for it on other lepton coins and found it occasionally. I know of at least six coins that have the C spelling on them, and I have photographs of three of them in which the letter is unequivocally a C and not a ruined K as suggested. Several numismatists have examined the Filas coin, and I have photographed it in great detail. I was privileged to have first correctly dated that coin by identifying the Greek letters on the back indicating that it was struck in the 16th year of the reign of Tiberius, or AD 29. On examining the Filas lepton and the image on the Shroud, it is apparent that the letter at the end of the abbreviation for Tiberius is indeed the Greek letter Upsilon, which looks like a U with a small tail on it. There are differences in which letters are used for transliteration of the Greek letters; some use IOY and others IOU for the same inscription.

As a supporter of Filas's remarkable observations, I have previously explained why one might find coins on the eyes of Jewish corpses, and I will do so again because this issue is repeatedly raised by detractors. Lombatti correctly states that it was not customary among the Jews to put coins on the eyes or in the mouths of the dead as was done by the Greeks and other ancient peoples. Archaeologist Rachel Hachlili contributed to the early confusion of Filas and some others regarding burial customs by her statement regarding the finding of two coins of Herod Agrippa I (AD 41--44) inside a skull in a Jewish tomb : "Coins were often placed on the eyes of the decreased=97a vestige of a pagan custom to pay Charon, the guardian of the river leading to the land of the dead." (Biblical Archaeology Review, (4), 1979, page 35). Later, under pressure, she altered her observation to speculate that the coins had been originally placed in the mouth rather than on the eyelids. This attempt to get away from the evidence that coins were occasionally placed over the eyes of the Jewish dead totally ignored the fact that coins placed in the mouth would eventually fall onto the vertebrae of the neck and not into the skull. Short of someone deliberately dropping coins into the foramen magnum (the opening where the spinal cord enters the skull from the vertebral column) of a detached skull, the only way for coins to get into an intact skull is through the fissures or openings in the back of the eye sockets. I have tested this by dropping lepton coins into the eye sockets of a number of skulls. In about half of the cases, the coins would drop into the skull cavity on both sides. Occasionally a coin would fall through one side only. A number of skulls have been found with Jewish coins inside of them. How frequently coins were put on the eyes would be hard to determine since almost all burials in Israel from the first century BC to the third century AD were secondary burials. This means that the body was allowed to decay in the tomb for a year, and then the bones were gathered up and placed in a small stone casket called an ossuary or in a family bone container.

Certainly it is true that the Jews did not believe in the pagan practice of providing a tip for charon, or routinely putting coins on the eyelids of the corpse. two things were always done customarily among the jews at the time of death, however: namely, the eyes were closed and the chin was tied shut. if a person dies with the eyelids open, they may have the rather disconcerting characteristic of opening again after they are shut. the nearly universal practice among many peoples for millennia has been to put coins on the eyes of the dead to keep the eyelids shut. it would be rather ridiculous to think that the jews would not occasionally resort this very pragmatic practice when necessary and would simply take two small coins out of their purse to accomplish that. to randomly pull out two coins struck the same year would indicate that the event for which they were used was very close in time to when the coins were minted.

For those who would like to see what the image over the right eye looks like and what the Filas coin looks like and how they compare, I would refer them to the excellent internet web site produced by Barrie Schwortz at: He has recently posted the article "The Authentication of the Turin Shroud: An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology" by Dr. William Meacham from CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY, Vol.24, No. 3, June 1983, which includes a short section that I wrote as well as excellent photographs. I would encourage people to look at the evidence for themselves.

Not only does the image of the coin over the right eye and its congruence with the lepton that was owned by Father Filas help date the Shroud image with incredible accuracy to the first century and locate its origin in Palestine/Israel, but it serves an important function of providing evidence for the nature of the image formation. The pattern of the image on the Shroud is that which one would expect from electron corona discharge from the surface of the coin, which we feel is a die mate of the one that actually formed the image. This means that the image is formed in part by a high energy discharge that flows over the surface of all objects in the field and is discharged from irregular surfaces and high points on those objects. As has been shown by experimentation, highly accurate and detailed images can be formed on linen and film by means of corona discharge from coins, flowers, leather, and other materials. These images, in contrast to those produced by various artistic techniques, are very similar to those actually seen on the Shroud.

Father Filas was a very remarkable man, and a real pioneer and astute observer who was years ahead of his time. He made some interesting observations in his monograph "The Dating of the Shroud of Turin from Coins of Pontius Pilate", the second edition dated June 1982. He was a proponent of carefully seeking out the truth, and of providing opportunities for letting people review the evidence for themselves. He suffered considerable criticism and ridicule for his work, and he noted that "the opposition continues the same tactics: distortion, suppression of evidence or caricaturing the case." In 1982 he made the following observations to those who would not accept his evidence but wanted to wait until a Carbon 14 test would supposedly verify the age of the Shroud: "Data independently arrived at presents facts that exist. One truth cannot contradict another truth. Even if a Carbon 14 test is performed on the Shroud, the question of how to interpret its finds remains critical and problematical. I merely point out once again that the interpretation of scientific data often creates more problems than obtaining the evidence."

Alan Whanger, M.D.

Editor's Note: Antonio Lombatti sent the following reply:

Antonio Lombatti
August 26, 1997

It would have surely been easier for me to write in Italian (even Latin or Greek) but I understand I have to write in English, even if it is not my mother tongue and therefore there may be many grammatical and ortographic errors in this article . Anyway, I hope you will understand the general meaning of the following:

First of all, the polemics about the presumed coin(s) found on the eyelids of the man of the Shroud is not 10-15 years old, because two scientists of the Centro Internazionale di Sindonologia (P.L. Baima Bollone e N. Balossino) of Turin told the world, at the beginning of 1996, that they found the second coin on the other eyelid of the man of the Shroud.

I am writing as Historian, because it is my job and I know what I am writing about. Let me tell you how frustrated I feel when I read that an American scientist, after careful laboratory tests on Shroud samples, has proved just the opposite of an Italian or vice versa (ex. McCrone says there is no blood; Baima Bollone says there is AB type blood). I thought that chemistry, physics, biology where exact sciences. I thought that 2+2 were always 4 and not sometimes 5 or maybe 3.

Dr. Whanger encourages people to read the excellent article written by Dr. William Meacham (available at http:/ but for the part I have read, only some lines, I have found an eloquent historical error (to underline how data can be easily manipulated):

"From its first recorded exhibition in France in 1351".

I would like to let everybody know, having studied all the original Latin documents concerning the Lirey controversy about the first exhibition of the Shroud, that there is no document in which is stated that the relic was openly shown in 1351.

In that year the Lirey church was not yet built (the church was officially opened in June 1353). Of course I can not say anything about the paragraphs in the article dedicated to "modern technology" because I do not have the knowledge to analyse them. But if the only data I was able to understand is completely wrong, what about the other 50 pages of the article? On the other hand, under a medical point of view, Meacham quotes Dr. Barbet's work even if this book is nowadays outdated (cf. F Zugibe, "Two Questions about Crucifixion", in BIBLICAL RESEARCH, 5 (1989), pp. 35-43), therefore the article is not so excellent and updated as Dr. Whanger thinks.

Let's get back to the coin(s) dilemma. I would quote the greatest specialist in this field, Prof. L.Y. Rahamni (Chief Curator of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums):

"No coins of the period 50 B.C. to 70 A.D. were found in any tomb. In the first century Jewish Palestine theplacing of the coins was looked upon as idolatry; there was only a Greco-Roman custom according to which a coin was placed in the mouth of the deceased, so that he could pay Charon for conveying his shades across the Styx. Prof. N. Avigad of the Hebrew University, who excavated a great many of tombs of the period in question, in and around Jerusalem, and Mr. A. Kloner, District Archeologist, who has lately had a great practical experience in this field, confirmed to me this scarcity of even one coin in such tombs. If at all encountered inside a tomb, such a stray coin has been found in the debris and not even in the tomb's loculi. It may be added that no coins have been reported from inside a Jewish ossuary nor does such a custom exist at the time at all. No archeological or literary evidence exists from the 1st century A.D. fro a custom of covering the eyes of the deceased with coins, then the existence of such a custom from the same period must be denied."
But Whanger says: "If a person dies with the eyelids open, they may have the rather disconcerting characteristic of opening again after they are shut. The nearly universal practice among many peoples for millennia has been to put coins on the eyes of the dead to keep the eyelids shut. It would be rather ridiculous to think that the Jews would not occasionally resort this very pragmatic practice when necessary and would simply take two small coins out of their purse to accomplish that", but this is only a hope and not a consideration based on historical data. Therefore, the coin(s) theory has not the slightest archaeological or historical support.

Now it is absolutely uncorrect to establish unknown Jewish burial customs after the analysis of the Shroud Image, it is as if a palaeanthropologist would literally interpret the Genesis in the Old Testament to reconstruct the origins of the universe and those of man. Someone thought that through the Shroud image one could be able to say how the Romans used to crucify people in the 1st century A.D. After the discovery a Jewish skeleton at Giv'at ha-Mivtar in 1969 it was stated the he was crucified with a single nail for both feet and that this was the proof that this was the Roman custom of crucifying rebels and slaves. The man of the Shroud has one nail for both feet as well, therefore he "should" have been crucified in the same period as Jehoannan. I have never found quoted in Shroud monographs (American, Italian, French or English) the article by J. Zias and E.Sekeles, "The Crucified Man from Giv'at ha-Mivtar: A Reappraisal", in ISRAEL EXPLORATION JOURNAL, 35 (1985), pp. 22-27 or the Xth chapter by J. Zias and J.H. Charlesworth, "Crucifixion", in J.H. Charlesworth et al., "Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls", Doubleday, New York 1992, in which it is undoubtedly stated that the man of Giv'at ha-Mivtar was crucified with two nails, one for each foot (the interpretation given by N. Haas, "Anthropological Observations....", IEJ, 20 (1970), pp. 38-59, was wrong). So, the only bones of a crucified man found in 2000 years has two nails in the feet and the arms were tied up to the patibulum and not nailed. I do not say that this was typical roman custom of crucifying people. But I refuse to accept the idea the if two shadows on a such irregular textile weave, like that of the Turin Shroud, seem to be small coin letters or if the man of the Shroud was crucified with three nails, this surely happened during Christ's life.

In short: to call into question the coin(s) to support the authenticity of the Shroud seems to me anti-historical and scientifically unorthodox.

Antonio Lombatti

Dr. Alan Whanger
August 29, 1997

I am glad that Professor Antonio Lombatti wrote his long and thoughtful reply in English, which he expresses very well.

I am quite aware that the issue of the coins over the eyes of the man of the Shroud was renewed recently by the announcement of Dr. Baima Bollone, a Professor of Forensic Medicine, and Dr. Nello Balossino, Professor of Computer Sciences, both at the University of Turin, who had reported that they had identified the image of another Pontius Pilate lepton coin on the Shroud. They reported this as being the image of the so-called Julia lepton, struck only in AD 29. The image that they reported is not directly over the eye, but rather is on the left eyebrow. Our findings had previously shown the image of a Julia lepton directly over the center of the left eye, so that if their findings are confirmed, and they are both very competent and experienced investigators, then that would actually be the third identifiable coin. The side of the lepton they report is the opposite of the one that we identified. I did not comment on this previously since I have not yet had the opportunity of getting high resolution photographs from them of the exact area and match that they have identified in order to do a polarized image overlay examination. Since I can not yet comment authoritatively on their finding, I did not mention it. I limited my previous discussion to the two coin images that I am very familiar with and which illustrate the controversy. These are very important findings since they can date and locate the origin of the Shroud very accurately.

Professor Lombatti (I do not know his exact title, but anyone who can write well in English, Italian, Greek, and Latin, ought to be a professor) expresses his frustration on the wide variety of opinions expressed by various people about the Shroud and that the sciences are not very exact. While 2 + 2 is commonly agreed to be 4, almost all other observations are subject to some degree of variability in description and interpretation. The more ambiguous the subject matter, the greater the latitude for legitimate difference. The more emotionally charged an object or event is, the more that the conscious and unconscious biases of the observer will intrude into what is perceived and how it is interpreted. Few objects are as controversial and charged as is the Shroud. We try to reduce subjective bias by the scientific method and by peer review. We try to be as rational as possible, but humans are not fully rational creatures and it is well to recognize our own shortcomings and that of others. This will help us to be more patient with others, and to strive for truth as diligently as we can. Not all opinions are valid, and the totally opposites cannot be simultaneously true. The example of Walter McCrone claiming that there is no blood is discounted by almost all of the researchers, since his data do not agree with what is on the Shroud. There is massive evidence from Professor Bollone and others that is consistent with blood actually being on the Shroud. I am sure that historians do not always agree with each other, and it is highly evident that Shroud researchers often do not agree with each other, and even some people do not seem to agree with themselves as we shall shortly see.

I am sorry that Professor Lombatti got sidetracked early on reading Dr. Meacham's article by the incorrect date into thinking that the rest of the article would be erroneous. The error in dating the first display of the shroud in Lirey in 1351 was one in transcribing the article on to the Internet, as it is plainly and correctly stated in the original article in CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY that, "From its first recorded exhibition in France in thirteen hundred and fifty-seven..." (Editor's Note: Dr. Whanger accurately identified a typographical error in Meacham's article on this website that escaped my detection. It has now been corrected and properly reads "1357") I am not defending everything that was stated in the article, and of course it is limited by having been written in 1983. It does have a good review, and had sought the opinions of a number of people, many of whom are highly skeptical or critical. Meacham then comments on these conflicts. There is a great amount of new information, and the web site of Barrie Schwortz does an excellent job of helping make this available to many people. I was particularly citing this article as it has photographs of the image over the right eye on the Shroud as well as of the Filas coin that people can see for themselves and I hope that Professor Lombatti has had a chance to see them. We hope to have many more photographs and motion images on the internet soon for examination.

Returning to the main issue of the coins on the eyes, may I state clearly and emphatically that I did not and do not think that putting coins on the eyes of the dead was a Jewish custom. It certainly was not. Professor Lombatti is beating a very dead horse to continue to focus on that practice. The essential question is whether there are the images of identifiable coins over the eyes on the Shroud. Obviously I feel that there is massive evidence that indeed there are. Even if there were never any coins put on the eyelids of any other dead Jews, that does not negate the presence of the images on the man of the Shroud. An exception tests the rule. The Shroud is a unique object, and actually is the only existing intact burial Shroud from Israel/Palestine from that period of time. There are many existing older shrouds from other areas, but none of them have images on them. There was a Jewish custom, however, that makes it quite understandable that coins might have been put on the eyelids of a decreased person. In the section on early burial practices, it is stated in THE JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA (Vol. III, pp. 434-436, 1925 Ed. ) that: "the eyes of the dead were closed" and "the mouth was shut and kept in position by a band." As I contended previously, I feel that coins were occasionally used in a very pragmatic sense to keep the eyelids of the dead closed if they happened to open again. This would have nothing to do with Greek or pagan practices. The evidence on the Shroud would indicate that cadaveric spasm, a nearly instantaneous type of rigor mortis, had occurred, and likely the eyelids were open.

Professor Lombatti quotes Professor L. Y. Rahamni of the Israel Department of Antiquities as saying, "No coins of the period 50 BC to 70 AD were found in any tomb." This is in rather curious contrast to an article "Jason's Tomb" in the ISRAEL EXPLORATION JOURNAL, Vol. 17, No. 2 (1967), pp 61-100 written by L. Y. Rahmani who excavated this tomb in Jerusalem in 1956. In this tomb, which had been used over many years, Rahmani details finding a number of bronze coins. Five of these were from the Hasmonean period, two were from the Herodian period, and forty-six were from the time of the Procurators. Thirty-six of the coins were at the foot of the body remains and six from its middle. Seven of the coins were the "Julia" lepta of Pontius Pilate, the coin we identified over the left eye from 29 AD, and twenty-one of the coins were the lituus lepta from 30 AD, the type found over the right eye. I had previously cited the article by Dr.R Hachlili about her excavations in tombs in Jericho, where she found four coins, two of them lepta from 41-44 AD inside a skull. In a later article Hachlili and Killebrew report on coins being found in two skulls from Jericho and a number of coins found in tombs in the Jerusalem area ("Was the Coin-on-Eye Custom a Jewish Burial Practice in the Second Temple Period?", BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGIST, summer 1983, pp. 147-153). They also discuss the finding of coins, including those in skulls in "Jewish Funerary Customs during the Second Temple Period, in Light of the Excavations at the Jericho Necropolis" by R. Hachlili and A. Killebrew, in PALESTINE EXPLORATION QUARTERLY, Vol. 115 (1983), pp. 109-132. Of even more interest is the report of archaeologist Zvi Greenhut in "Burial Cave of the Caiaphas Family" in BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, Vol. 18, no. 5, September 1992, pp 29-36, in which he reports finding a lepton from 42/43 AD inside the skull of a woman in one of the ossuaries. While Greenhut still thought that a coin could somehow get from the mouth into the skull, he does discuss the issue of coins found in Jewish tombs. He states: "Furthermore, I believe we must now regard coins discovered in the context of Jewish tombs from the Second temple period to be elements connected to the burial ceremony, despite the fact that they have not always been found in direct relation to the skulls or bodies of the deceased."

Interestingly, when we first presented our findings on the images of the two coins over the eyes in 1982, we were publicly accused of fraudulence, irresponsibility, and perpetrating a hoax by archaeologist Professor Eric Meyers, who had never seen our work, and who has continued to avoid looking at it to this day. While he claimed that " the coin theory has been discounted by scientists", he was quoted in the local newspaper as saying: "It was not uncommon in Judaism that coins would be placed over the eyes of the dead. The practice was scattered and not general."

Professor Lombatti feels that it is absolutely incorrect to establish Jewish burial practices or Roman crucifixion practices from information on the Shroud of Turin, and he wonders why he does not find the articles by Professor Joe Zias quoted in Shroud monographs. I suspect that the main reason is that Professor Zias is apparently largely ignorant of what is on the Shroud of Turin. In a news release carried world wide by Associated Press on 13 April 1997, he was quoted as saying that the Shroud is "fake" and "a crude forgery by someone ignorant of Jewish customs." He describes several things on the Shroud quite inaccurately, and did not seem to be aware of many recent findings. I met Professor Zias in Jerusalem in 1995 and invited him to see our material when he came on a scheduled visit here, but he has never accepted our offer. While Professor Zias is otherwise an authority on crucifixion, it is ironic that he totally discounts the Shroud as a primary source of information, although it is a unique anatomically and physiologically correct near-photograph of a Jew crucified by Romans. He continues to believe the results of the radiocarbon dating tests done in 1988 which said that the Shroud is medieval in origin, in spite of the results of detailed examinations on the material taken from the single sample that was used for the testing which showed the material in the specimen to be highly contaminated chemically and different from the fabric in the rest of the Shroud, and hence totally invalid ("Updating Recent Studies on the Shroud of Turin", by Professor Alan Adler, ARCHAEOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, ACS Symposium Series, No. 625, pp. 224-228, 1996.)

I would suspect that the outcry from Professor Zias was in response to the news release just the day before from Hebrew University in Jerusalem from Professor Avinoam Danin, the foremost authority on the botany and flora of Israel, who had looked carefully at our material and had confirmed the presence of large numbers of identifiable flower images on the Shroud. Professor Danin stated that the only place in the world where one could have obtained these particular Spring blooming flowers in a fresh state and put them inside a shroud in a tomb was Jerusalem. The Shroud is the most remarkable archaeological artifact in existence, but many ignore it, deny it, run away from it, or attempt to debunk it. There is factual ignorance and there is willful ignorance.

There is an enormous amount of information known about the Shroud, but comparatively few people have access to it. Barrie Schwortz is undertaking a vital project in making much of this information available on the Internet and CD-ROMs. My wife Mary and I are writing a book with many illustrations of our findings. We feel that it is the proper scientific and scholarly procedure to provide the data so that people are able to see it and evaluate it for themselves. People will and should---come to their own conclusions. The Shroud is an unique source of information in many areas that requires the best scientific and scholarly skills of people everywhere to understand, and our most sensitive feelings to appreciate.

Alan Whanger, M.D.

Antonio Lombatti
September 2, 1997

Dear Dr. Alan Whanger,
It is a real pleasure to debate on this matter with you. You have been involved for so many years with the Turin Shroud, and you surely are an authority on the questions connected to the relic. I would like to underline that only the debate, and not boring or factious monologues, can help the scholars in doing their job. If all the sindonologists (has this word a negative meaning in English, anyway in Italian it has not a negative meaning, it just means a sholar, whose researches are devoted to the Turin Shroud), if all the sindonologists meet once a year, and they all agree about the many questions connected to the authenticity of the relic, I will feel that something is wrong. About the figure of Jesus the debate is still wide open between exegetes of the New Testament, or about the Templars historians are still writing complex volumes. Anyway, my modest contribution did not want to be against or pro the authenticity of the Shroud, but simply an historical moment of reflection.

Under my point of view, the question of the presumed coin(s) on the eye(s) of the man of the Shroud is closed. There was no such Jewish custom in the 1st century Palestine. I have nerver heard of an archaeologist, who establishes his/her theories after the computer analisys of photographs of the irregular textile weave of the Shroud. Anyway, there is always a first time. I have also read an article (if such theories are taken seriously, really everthing can be affirmed about the Shroud) written by Oswald Scheuermann, «L'immagine di un amuleto sulla Sindone di Torino», in COLLEGAMENTO PRO SINDONE, marzo-aprile (1988), pp. 40-46 (the title can be translated «The image of an amulet on the Turin Shroud»), in which the german author states to have found aramaic inscription in the area of the chest. Those aramaic letters, visible also without any computer analisys of the textile photograph, are «Marà (dak) ranì» (Lord, remember me). This amulet could have been put around Jesus's neck by Joseph of Arimathia. I will not comment this article, there is absolutely no need. I only say that between the stains and shadows of the Turin Shroud textile photographs one could see whatever one wants. From an archeaological finding we can support an historical hypothesys, and not vice versa. When we talk about 1st century A.D. Jewish tombs, we must always make the difference between Jewish people, who have been regularly buried, and those Jews who have been executed by the Roman power. The tomb of Giv'at ha-Mivtar is the only one with the bones of a crucified man.

Professor Zias is surely an authority about crucifixion and his statements can not be simply refuesed only because and thinks that the Shroud is a "fake". In his article, he explains carefully that the nail found in the "calcaneum" of Jeohannan was 11 cm., and not 17 cm., therefore it is anatomically impossible that a single nail could penetrate both ankles and the wood of the "stipes". Anyway I am not a medical doctor and I leave this considerations to experts in this field.

You correctly quote Mecham's article («thirteen hundred and fifty seven» 1357), but I would like to underline that he is still wrong. There is not absolutely any record of a Shorud exposition in 1357. We have only four medieval chronologic reference: the so-called «Memorandum» written the Archbishop of Troyes, Pierre d'Arcis, around the end of 1389: «Qui videntes dectam ipsorum maliciam, dictum pannum occultarun et suppresserunt, ut per ipsium ordinarium reperiri non posset, et depost ipsum semper tenuerunt suppressum per XXXIIIor annos vel circa», (Bibliothèque National de Paris, Coll. Champ., v. 154, f. 138) and this would place the first unrecorded public exhibition around 1355, even if sindonologists refuse to accept the «Memorandum» as genuine. The second chronological reference was given by Pope Clement VII in a papal bull dated January 6th 1390; he wrote that the relic: «pro parte ejusdem Gaufridi exposito, quod olim genitor ipsius Gaufridi exposito, quandam figuram sive representacionem Sudarii Domini nostri Jhesu Christi sibi liberaliter oblatam» (Vatican arch., Reg. av. 261, f. 258v.), therefore it was the father of the living Geoffroi de Charny (ca. 1345-1398), Geoffroi de Charny (ca. 1300-1356), to obtain the Shroud. So if Geoffroi died September 19th 1356, how could he exhibit the Shroud in 1357? The Pilgrim Badge found in the Seine in Paris reinforces this theory (first public exhibiton between June 1356 - after the letter of the Archbishop Henri Poitiers [May 28th 1356] to Geoffroi - and september 1356). In the end, the daughter of Geoffroi de Charny (1345-1398) wrote that: «le sanct suaire, lequel piece fut conquis par feu messire Geoffroi de Charny, mon grat père» (Bibliothèque National de Paris, Coll. Champ., v. 154, f. 147v.). Therefore, there is not a single historical data to support Mecham's «1357» statement.

It is hard for me to read or debate about radiocarbon tests, anatomy, blood or red ochre on Shroud tapes and so on. I am sure that neither Dr. Whanger, nor I, will have the last word in the Shroud debate. If everyone were sure of its authenticity or of its falsity, the interest in the Turin Shroud would be lost forever.

All the Best,
Antonio Lombatti


19 January 1998
Alan D. Whanger, M.D.

Dear Professor Antonio Lombatti:

Thank you for your response of 2 September 1997 in our e-mail debate on aspects of the Shroud of Turin. This long gap in my response is due neither to rudeness nor to a lack of issues to debate. My wife and co-researcher Mary and I have been very busy completing for the printer the preparation of a book we have written on many of our findings during our nearly twenty years of research on the Shroud.

Our book contains sixty-five illustrations, as we feel it is crucial that people have an opportunity to see what is actually on the Shroud and our conclusions from our detailed studies of the various images. We have photographed and videotaped almost all of our research, and it has been reviewed by a substantial number of people with varying degrees of expertise. Certainly not everyone agrees with all of our conclusions. This is not surprising, given the faintness and complexity of the Shroud images. It is helpful to us for people to question our deductions; however, we give the questions or disagreements more credence if the persons have previously examined the material closely. We do feel there are demonstrable bases for our conclusions.

Speaking of the image, you mention that you have never heard of an archaeologist who establishes theories after the computer analysis of photographs of the irregular textile weave of the Shroud. I have never heard of this either, but I presume that your comments are stimulated by papers presented at the scientific symposium on the Shroud in Nice, France, in May, 1997. Drs. Courage and Marion presented a paper on deciphering letters appearing on the Shroud. Dr. Siliato has also reported on these findings from computer-enhanced studies. I was not able to attend that meeting, so I cannot comment authoritatively. It was only a few days ago that I finally saw a photograph in a magazine of what and where the purported letter images are (around the face), but I have not seen or read their detailed work. They do try to make words out of these images, but they do recognize this as a hypothesis and state that "at present it is impossible to arrive at a definite conclusion."

I think there is a major error in this context on the part of Professor Lombatti, who apparently assumes that what people are seeing is merely the irregular textile weave of the Shroud rather than actual images. Anyone who claims to see words and other complex objects in a clean and unmarked piece of fabric, no matter what the weave pattern is, either has a vivid imagination or a slightly tenuous grasp on reality. The weave does not make the images. Most of the Shroud images are made by a discernible, visible, physical-chemical change in some of the surface fibrils of some of the threads. Being superimposed on the threads, the images by necessity are involved with the weave, but they are not dependent upon it. The density of the images is dependent on the number of fibrils impacted by the image-forming agent, which is dependent on the distance between the body and the Shroud. This is what gives the Shroud images their three-dimensional characteristics. The density of the images is also dependent in part upon the chemical content of the linen fibers, which is influenced by the growing conditions and by the retting process in preparing the flax fibers. The different thread batches used in the weaving likely contribute to visible linear patterns which are independent of the herringbone weave pattern.

Failure to recognize the nature of the image-forming process itself contributes to the confusion in interpretation of the images. Because there is nothing else similar to the Shroud, some assume that there cannot really be anything such as the images some of us describe. They illustrate the German proverb which says, "That which should not be, cannot be." There is no empirical, logical, or experiential reason why one should expect to find on the Shroud detailed images of human body parts, of Jewish coins, of slightly wilted flowers from Jerusalem, and of a crown of thorns; or autoradiological images of 24 teeth, roots and all. If one becomes aware that there is clear evidence on the Shroud of the effects of two types of radiation in producing the images, then one pays a great deal more attention to what may be imaged there.

There is evidence on the Shroud of corona discharge or electrostatic imaging and also of soft x-radiation imaging of some of the skeletal system. Both of these are ionizing types of radiation which are attenuated in air. This means that they can produce images on linen which encode three-dimensional information, just as we see on the Shroud. Electron corona flows over the surface of every object within the energy field and is discharged from the irregular surfaces and high points of the objects. Since this is the same basic mechanism which produces the images in your xerographic copying machine, it obviously can produce tiny, highly accurate images.

Professor Lombatti cites the observation by Oswald Scheuermann of an amulet over the chest, claiming that this proves that one can see whatever one wants to see in the stains and shadows of the Shroud textile. He summarily dismisses Scheuermann’s work as overactive imagination as Scheuermann speculated that there might be Aramaic letters visible on the amulet. A certain amount of imagination is necessary in order to turn early observations or preliminary data into a working hypothesis for further study.

As it happens, I know Scheuermann quite well, having exchanged many dozens of letters with him since we started working together in Shroud research in 1982. He is a German physics teacher who has done extraordinary work in researching the production of images by means of electron corona discharge. He has sent me literally hundreds of photographs, corona images made off of a wide variety of materials and objects in a variety of circumstances. Knowing what these images look like (partial, fragmentary, faint, low contrast, and variably reversed positive and negative) has been very important in being able to find and decipher images that we find on the Shroud. Scheuermann has also produced by this technique many images on linen which highly resemble those on the Shroud.

Scheuermann is persistent, accurate, and highly perceptive, and was the first to spot the flower images as well as the amulet. I have a rather extensive collection of his writings; and fortunately for me, he, like Lombatti, writes in excellent English. He was the first to spot the isolated image over the center of the sternum of the chest. This image measures 14 cm in height and 2.5 to 3 cm in width with two 2 cm upward projections, suggesting that the object was suspended from the neck. The upper part of this object is round, and there appear to be irregular strings hanging down from it.

Following the good scientific principle of asking colleagues to view and comment on findings, Scheuermann showed the image to a German linguist, who was the one to suggest that there might be Aramaic letters or fragments of such letters on an amulet "despite the fact (to quote Scheuermann) that the [appearance of the fabric] makes the task more difficult and could easily lead to the wrong interpretation. It must be pointed out, however, that these results need further verification and confirmation to be regarded as definitely established. But they can already be used to fuel further speculation." This is good progress in research and should be applauded and not summarily dismissed.

In the preface of a long and abundantly illustrated paper that Scheuermann wrote in 1984, entitled "Hypothesis: Electron emission or absorption as the mechanism that created the image on the Shroud of Turin, proof by experiment," he stated the following: "The author would like to emphasize the importance of making a distinction between facts and suppositions. Otherwise, there would be the danger to declare that hypotheses are facts, as they might one day turn out to be erroneous. The Shroud could then become a "kitsch" object at the mercy of theories which are not to be taken seriously. A serious investigation would thus become unsuccessful."

Knowing from long experience that Scheuermann is a very careful and thorough investigator, we (my wife and I) became interested in this particular image on the chest and devoted considerable study to it. As I enlarged photographs of the area, it suddenly became apparent that there are two human figures on a circular object. They are seated, one apparently a male holding an upright shaft like a spear in his right hand, and the other rather obviously a female holding a scepter-like object over her left shoulder. There is a small oval object between their heads. It seemed obvious that this is an engraved amulet, but we did not know whose or what. I therefore searched a number of books illustrating Jewish and Roman amulets and carvings. I found that one individual repeatedly had himself depicted holding a spear and seated with a goddess holding a scepter, an oval sign of Capricorn with between their heads. That individual was Tiberius Caesar, the very one whose coins are imaged over the eyes.

It turns out that the image of the object that Scheuermann spotted is of an amulet of Tiberius Caesar, and it has hanging down from it at least two tassels or fringes or tsitsit from the Jewish tallet or cloak. Before this observation is dismissed, I would suggest that people look at the evidence carefully. This is shown in one of the 65 illustrations in our book, The Shroud of Turin: An Adventure of Discovery , that will be published early in 1998.

Also, before dismissing the amulet as something no Jew would ever wear, hence it could not really be there, I would remind the reader that the individual whose image appears on the Shroud, if that individual is indeed Jesus of Nazareth, was mocked for being a Jew and especially as the upstart King of the Jews in a minor but rebellious province of the Roman empire. May I also point out that anything that was in touch with the body at the time of death or had on it the life blood was entombed with the body, so this outrageous and probably blood-stained object would have been left in place where it was at the time of death.

Scheuermann is like Father Francis Filas in many ways. He is astute and perceptive, he has both knowledge and imagination, and he is willing to publicly hypothesize on limited or partial data. He recognizes that the observations are tentative and not conclusive, but properly uses them as a means of stimulating further observations, criticisms, and questions from others, with the goal of furthering knowledge and research. Like Filas, Scheuermann was years ahead of his time.

Professor Lombatti mentions Professor Joe Zias, an archaeologist and an authority on crucifixion, and wonders why Zias is not ordinarily cited by Shroud researchers. As I mentioned previously, it is at least partially because Zias publicly stated in April, 1997, that he considers the Shroud to be a medieval "fake" and that the "forger was ignorant of Jewish customs." As the late Bernard Baruch said, "Everyone is entitled to be wrong in their opinions. No one is entitled to be wrong in their facts."

The problem with Professor Zias at the time of his 1997 AP press release was that he was quite wrong in some of his facts. Notably, he said that the Shroud shows the nail driven through the palm, when quite clearly it went through the wrist. He stated that there is a six-inch discrepance between the front and back images, but failed to take into account the foreshortening caused by the flexed position of the body. The Shroud nicely fits a male 71 to 72 inches in height. Zias said that the fingers are resting on the pelvic bones and are abnormally long to cover the genitalia. In fact, the hands are folded over the lower abdomen, and the fingers are of quite normal length. The situation that has confused many is that the image is formed in part by x-radiation, and the bones in the palms of the hands and the wrist are quite visible on the Shroud, giving the appearance of very long fingers. The genitalia are not visible because they are covered by a folded modesty cloth by Jewish custom.

Zias continues to cite the 1988 carbon 14 tests which reported the origin of the Shroud to be from the fourteenth century. These tests were done on a single sample of cloth from one corner. As I mentioned previously, fabric from the sample used for the tests has been examined in detail and found to be grossly contaminated chemically when compared to fabric from the main part of the Shroud. This totally invalidates results of the 1988 carbon 14 tests. No one can get the right answer from the wrong specimen.

Professor Zias also indicated the Jewish custom in the first century of leaving the head of the deceased uncovered, while the Shroud was obviously over the head of the Man. He failed to recognize the Jewish custom of requiring that the body be entombed before sundown on the day of death, even if the usual burial preparations could be only partially completed because of the short time between death and sundown. In that case, the family would return the next day (or after the Sabbath, if that happened to be the next day) to complete the burial procedures. Under such circumstances the ordinary procedures would not necessarily be carried out.

Professor Lombatti does cite the later report of Zias which corrected the initial reports of N. Haas of the Department of Anatomy of The Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School concerning the singular finding of the skeletal system of a first century crucifixion victim ("Johannon") with a nail still in place through the heel bone (ref. Haas, N. "Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv’at Ha-Mivtar," Israel Exploration Journal (1970), vol. 20, no. 1-12, pp. 38-59.) Haas indicated that study of the nail, whose tip was bent over preventing its extraction, showed that "its initial length was 17-18 cm," although because of the bent shaft, its straight line length is only 12 cm. Zias, on later studying the specimen, determined that the length of the nail is only 11 cm. I am unable to explain these discrepancies. The side-to-side thickness over one of my heels is about 5.5 cm, while the thickness of my two heels placed side by side is about 12 cm.

Interestingly, the images of three large nails can be seen on the Shroud; two only partially, but one can be seen clearly in its full length, which is 16.8 cm. The nail is squared with a shaft width of 1.5 cm, and ends in a point. It is virtually the same size as a modern railroad spike. The nail wounds visible on the Shroud on the left wrist and the right foot both measure about 1.5 cm.

The superimposition of the Shroud foot image on that of an x-ray of a foot with a large spike driven through it shows clearly that the nail in the feet was driven through the space between the proximal ends of the second and third metatarsals. In a very limited male sample, the thickness of the left foot being placed on top of the extended right foot at the level of the nail hole is about 12 cm. Thus the nail visible on the Shroud would be quite adequate to firmly fasten the superimposed feet to the cross.

In his article, N. Haas reports on the finding in Jerusalem of fifteen ossuaries containing the remains of 35 individuals. There was a syrupy fluid in 13 of the ossuaries which helped preserve the contents. Of considerable interest to us is that they found "well-preserved plants, such as bunches of withered flowers or plaited cereal spikes" in two of the ossuaries, clearly indicating the flowers were at least occasionally used in Jewish burial rituals in the first century.

More recently, I have sent printed, photographic, and video material to Professor Zias to illustrate many of the points and findings that I have described. I also pointed out that various images on the Shroud show evidence that at least eleven different ancient Jewish customs and burial practices are illustrated on the Shroud. It is hardly likely that any medieval forger would be aware of many of the customs, much less be able to subtly incorporate them into his artistic production.

I feel that Professor Zias has had the same problem that many have had in not being aware of what is actually on the Shroud. The Shroud is such a remarkable and complex object that many just assume that it could not be really authentic, and therefore don’t even bother to look more closely at it. It is easier to dismiss the Shroud than to confront it, but truth is found only by confronting the unknown situation.

Professor Lombatti raises the issue of exactly when the Shroud was first presented in Lirey and questions Meacham’s statement that it was 1357. I am in no position to state anything precisely from a historical or documentary standpoint. We have made, however, a series of observations that may be quite relevant to the issue of when and where the Shroud was viewed. We have studied the photographs of multiple thousands of artistic works from the first to the seventeenth centuries. Since we have found the images, fairly visible, on the Shroud of a large number of objects (nails, spear, sponge on a reed, crown of thorns, hammer, scourges, tongs [pliers], dice, and so forth) connected with the crucifixion, we have been interested in the artistic depiction of these objects.

Called "Arma Christi," these Instruments of the Crucifixion were first clearly depicted in the sixth century. Those objects commonly portrayed until 1290 include the spear, the sponge, three nails, and the crown of thorns. Then the hammer, the tongs, and the brush broom suddenly appear. By 1314 in Germany, two scourges and three dice and the tunic were added. Beginning in 1320, the "Mandylion" face also was added, and in England in 1350 in a stylized work the cloak also appeared. Between 1350 and 1360, there was a sudden flurry of detailed art works, especially in Germany, showing many of the Instruments of the Crucifixion that are quite similar to the images on the Shroud, although variably placed. A number also have a floral background. A relatively large number of these art works were produced until about 1520, when they suddenly became much less frequent.

We certainly were not able to find all of the medieval depictions of the Instruments of the Crucifixion, and the exact dates of many of them are unknown. But it was very apparent that something stimulated the sudden production of this type of art about 1350-1360. While these are not accurately congruent with the Shroud images in detail, we feel there was a sudden public knowledge about what many images on the Shroud looked like. We did not come across any direct references stating that these depictions were taken from the Shroud, but we feel there is rather massive evidence that the Shroud was the direct or indirect model or inspiration for these art works. The rather sudden decrease in the appearance of these in the early sixteenth century makes us feel that the images were much more vivid probably until the fire of 1532. Because the heat of the fire almost certainly accelerated the yellowing of the Shroud, these images likely became much less distinct. Perhaps Professor Lombatti or others could provide more background and comments on these very interesting art works.

We certainly do not assume that we have the final answers on the Shroud, but it is naïve at best to assume that there are no answers. It is not as though the evidence for or against authenticity is equally balanced, but people vary in what they define as evidence and what amount or type of evidence is needed to constitute "proof" for them. There is a preponderance of evidence for authenticity. I think that this generally increases interest in the Shroud, rather than causing interest to be lost forever. In our years of making a number of discoveries about the Shroud, we have found generally that new questions and areas of inquiry, intrigue, and mystery open up.

We welcome your response and thoughts.

Very sincerely.
Alan D. Whanger, M.D.

A Reply to Dr. Alan D. Whanger

January 20, 1998
Antonio Lombatti

Dear Dr. A.D. Whanger:

I am not a medical doctor, I am not an optician, I am not a chemist, I am not a microanalyst and therefore I do not have the authority to debate in such fields. I cannot, of course, quote any of my research in the fields above. In any case, I would like to say something about this so-called scientific research. In your long article you repeatedly quote studies that are in favour of the authenticity of the Shroud. But I would also like to remind you, that there are many studies against the Turin relic. In Shroud monographs, I have rarely, (better say never) read pros and cons.

When I have to write about the dilemmas regarding whether there is blood or paint on the Shroud, or about radiocarbon dating, or about textile weave, I must quote other scholars who have a specific knowledge of these scientific issues. It could be the case, (that you will never quote) of Prof. R.E.M. Hedges (A Note Concerning the Radiocarbon Dating to the Turin Shroud, in "Approfondimento Sindone", 1 [1997], pp. 1-8) or of Dr. W.C. McCrone (Red Ochre and Vermilion on Shroud Tapes, in "Approfondimento Sindone", 1 [1997], pp. 21-28) or of Prof. V. Pesce Delfino (E l'uomo creò la Sindone, Laterza: Bari 1982) and so on. The research and studies of these scholars, like yours and those of Scheuermann, deserve to be respected. But who is right and who is wrong? That is the point. You could then ask me: if you do not have any instrument to answer this question, how can you claim that the Shroud is genuine or not, or how can you enter such a debate? Actually, I never wanted to enter the debate under this point of view, but I wanted to enter it under "my" point of view, which is the point of history and that of literature.

First of all, let me say something on your statement regarding Prof. Zias's research. Of course, he does not need me to defend him, because his studies are clear enough to be understood by everyone. You wrote that he considers the Shroud to be a "fake", therefore his articles and books do not deserve attention. Personally, I will never write that your research, considering that you think the Shroud is genuine, should not be read. It is really strange that you do not mention that among the thousands of skeletons that Prof. Zias has found in the past 30 years, only one from Jericho almost reached the height of 1,75 m. (the man of the Shroud is 1,80 ca.). As he has written in hundreds of reports, there is absolutely no chance that a man of that height lived 2000 years ago. But I am not Prof. Zias. The answers to your questions could be easily found in his papers consisting of 30 years of archaeological excavations in Palestine.

I would like to point out some other aspects. After having read one of the last books about the Turin relic published in Italy (M.G. Siliato, "Sindone", Piemme: Casale Monferrato 1997), I felt the need to write a book of my own (the book will be released in April by Mondadori Publ., Milan). Siliato's volume is so full of literary and historical gross mistakes that one will need another book to correct them all. The problem is, that many scientists (with this word I mean scholars devoted to mathematics and physics) quote such books as authoritative sources for their own research. Therefore, I would like to put into the debate, historical and literary arguments (subjects I know and which I can speak about) and briefly examine some questions: the terminology used by the four evangelists to describe the burial of Jesus, for example. The problem is complex, but I will try to summarize it and to make it clear.

What does Mark (15,46) say about the burial: "* eneilesen te sindoni *", Matthew (27,59) says: "* Iosef enetulixen auto sindoni kathara *", Luke (23,53) says: "* enetulixen auto sindoni *" (further [24,12]: "* kai parakupsias blepei ta othonia mona *"), and John 19,40: "* edesan auto othoniois *"(further [20,6-7] he says: "* kai theopei ta othonia keimena, kai to soudarion, o en epi ten kefales autu *"). What do we understand from these verses? First of all, we can analyse the verbs used by the four evangelists. Mark uses the verb "eneilein", Matthew and Luke "entulissein", and John "dein". Their meanings are clear: none of them have a link with action of the "to be laid upon" or "to be put inside", as it is the relation between the Turin Shroud and the image of the man on it (also the Vatican exegete Guarducci agrees on this point: M. Guarducci, La Sindone e i Vangeli, in "Rendiconti della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia", 60 [1987-1988], pp. 91-101). To correctly understand what the evangelists meant through these Greek verbs, we have to see how the verbs were used during and immediately after the composition of the four gospels. Jerome, who represents our most authoritative literary source, translated the synoptic verbs in his iVulgatai with the Latin "obvolvere" and "involvere", and that confirms us indirectly the original meaning of the Greek verbs. Moreover, Jerome considered synonymous ieneileini and ientulisseini (Mk. [15,46]: "* et deponens eum involvit sindone *", Mt. (27,59): "* Ioseph involvit illud in sindone munda *"), reinforcing the idea of what the Church Fathers thought about Jesus' burial, and in this context, the way Jesus was "compressed, tightly wrapped up or packed" in a "sindon"; "eneilein" meant "to confine a person inside something" (e.g., prisoners in fetters or a child in swaddling). For this correct translation see [of some Greek and Latin writers and I have not found the translation of the names]: Eliodoro, "Etiopiche" IV,8,6, VI,4 and VIII,11,9; Artemidoro, "Onirocriticon" I,13; Josephus, "Antiq. Iud." XII,11,90 and "Bell. Iud." VI,160; Plutarco, "Artasere" 11,3; Apuleio, "Metamor." IV,11,7; Philo, "De opificio mundi" 88 and "De Chrubim" 33). This verbs never had meant "to cover up" a body or "to put someone inside" a linen cloth.

There are two more things that I would like to add into the debate. First of all, there is a forgotten Syriac text about the so-called "Image of Edessa." Why is it important for us? Because the author is surely an Edessan. As an inhabitant, he indirectly describes the relic and gives us the idea of its size. It is an anonymous chronicle (Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, vol. 354, syr. 154) referring about the "othonei of Edessa in an unknown period after 944. (The following French translation from the Jacobite Syriac has been taken from: "Anonymi auctoris chronicon ad A.C. 1234 pertinens", II, ed. par A. Abouna et J.M. Fiey, Louvain 1974).

"[*] il arriva quiun homme de liOrient se trouva a Edesse. Il attendit quelque temps jusquia ce quiil en trouve lioccasion, et vola de lieglise le mandil que Notre Seigneur avait envoye a Abgar et qui etait garde dans lieglise diEdesse. Liayant donc pris, il sortit le soir par la porte sud de la ville. Il passa la nuit dans le couvent de St. Come. Mais le linge etait comme plein de feu dans son sein et le brulait [*."

The text proves, like all the other Syriac and Greek sources, the small size of the Edessan relic. And this time it is an Edessan himself to describe it. I have never found it quoted in Shroud monographs, although it was surely known to many sindonologists, considering that J.B. Segal (Edessa, the Blessed City, Oxford 1970, p. 250) quoted this fundamental text and translated the crucial passage with "* put the mandyl in his pocket *". I think it would be hard to put the Turin Shroud "* dans son sein *" or "* in his pocket *."

The last question is that of the Cod. Vat. Graec. 511, ff. 143r-150v descovered by G. Zaninotto more than ten years ago. It was immediately stated that the Codex was the evidence that the "othone", "rakos" or "eikon" of Edessa had the imprint the whole body. After a brief description and translation of the Codex Vat. Graec. 511 (a manipulated and partial translation of the text is given by: G. Zaninotto, "Orazione di Gregorio il Referendario in occasione della traslazione a Costantinopoli delliimmagine edessena nellianno 944," in La Sindone. Indagini scientifiche [Atti IV Congresso, Siracura 1987], a cura di S. Rodoante, Cinisello Balsamo 1988, pp. 344-351) the "logos" has never been fully published and translated. Why, if it confirmed that the "rakos" of Edessa was the Turin Shroud? Simply put, it is because some verses clearly impeded that identification. I just transliterate three verses to let everybody understand how can literature be easily manipulated.

First of all, the copyist who wrote the title used the noun "ekmageion" ("Patriarchai treis anetaxanto ekmageion einai Christu oper apo ta Aidessa" 143r.) as a synonym for "othone", giving without any doubt the idea of the small size of the relic.

In the relic there is only a face to be contemplated: "* meta tes ugheias glichesthai se idein kai tu oromenu prosopu autu tes emfereian" (145r.), but, above all, that the "blood drops coming from the side" ("* af u kathestalachthesan ranisi pleuras idias *" [149v.]) are not on the Edessan "ekmageion". In fact, a little bit further, it is stated that "* aima kai udor ekei, entautha idros kai morfe". It is a clear contemplative association made by the author of two clearly different episodes. He remembers that the "idros kai morfe" on the Edessan relic recalled to his mind the "ranisi pleuras ekei". Actually, the author uses "ekei" to stress that the "ranisi pleuras" are not on the "ekmageion * apo ta Aidessa", but in his mental association (in my book there will be a clear translation of this text and a whole chapter about the Edessan controversy).

I really hope that in your book, history and literature will not be manipulated and that you will not instrumentalize them. Many have already tried to cover twelve centuries of an historical gap that, at least until now, cannot be bridged.

Antonio Lombatti

In Regard to Prof. Lombatti to Dr. Whanger

January 29, 1998
Mario Latendresse


I have read with interest the last message written by Prof. Lombatti. I have several comments regarding the meaning of the French paragraph given in that message. It clearly does not prove that the "mandyl" was small. Here are my explanations.

"[...] il arriva qu'un homme de l'Orient se trouva a` Edesse. Il attendit quelque temps jusqu'a` ce qu'il en trouve l'occasion, et vola de l'E'glise le mandyl que Notre Seigneur avait envoye' a` Abgar et qui e'tait garde' dans l'E'glise d'Edesse. L'ayant donc pris, il sortit le soir par la porte sud de la ville. Il passa la nuit dans le couvent de St. Come. Mais le linge e'tait comme plein de feu dans son sein et le brulait [...]."

According to Prof. Lombatti this paragraph would prove that the "mandyl" was small. French being my mother tongue, I cannot see at all how this text could prove that.

Prof. Lombatti quoted a translation made by J.B. Segal, qualified as crucial: "... put the mandyl in his pocket ...". I cannot see at all which part of the French text could give such words. Prof. Lombatti compared the text "... dans son sein ..." with "... in his pocket ...". There is certainly a confusion of terms and parts translated: "... put in his pocket ..." contains the verb "put" but the French sentence with the word "sein" does not have at all such a French verb and to translate "sein" to "pocket" is clearly unusual since this French word, in the given context, means "in the center of".

So the French sentence: Mais le linge e'tait comme plein de feu dans son sein et le brulait. Could very well mean:
1) But the linen was like full of fire in its center and was burning it.
    Or another possible translation could be:
2) But the linen was like full of fire in its center and was burning him.

This second translation would assume that "le" refers to the man and not the linen itself; that would assume that the French sentence was badly constructed since "le" should refer to the nearest object in the sentence, namely "linge". So, sentence (1) is closer to the French text.

Accordingly, since it seems to refer to "a center", that is "sein" in French, the given sentence gives the impression that the "mandyl" was folded, so it is probably large, not small!

To summarize, the passage "...put in his pocket..." is no where to be found in the French text. Moreover, the last French sentence, "Mais le linge ...", gives the impression that the "mandyl" is large or long, not small.

As for the original Syriac text, I have no idea if it is correctly translated into French.

Mario Latendresse
Laboratoire de parallelisme informatique | Computer parallelism laboratory
Universite de Montreal (Canada)

A Reply to Mario Latendresse

February 1, 1998
Prof. Lombatti

Dear Mario Latendresse,

The philological question could not be focused on a translation. I could not of course write Greek or Syriac words because the software I use for the e-mail does not support them (I think). Anyway, the original text was written in Jacobite Syriac, a developed linguistic phase of Aramaic and contemporary to Rabbinic Hebraic, and I could only transliterate the Syriac word with "mandil", which is always translated into Greek and Latin as "othone", "ekmageion", "rakos" and "sudarium" (in French essuie-mains or serviette). But I suppose that in my transmission, a part of the quoted text was probably missing to you and to all the others. Actually I see that you do not have the crucial passage:

... Mais le linge etait comme plein de feu dans son sein et le brulait. IL LE SORTIT DONC DE SON SEIN ET, PRIS DE FRAYEUR, LE JETA ...
Nous savons que les robes croiseees orientales non boutonnees n'ont pas de poches interieures, c'est la ceinture qui retient les objets que l'on glisse entre la robe et la chemeise. That's why is really impossbile that the thief aurait pu le chacher plie dans son sein.

I think that now it is clear enough.

As for Segal's translation he has done its best in giving the idea of someone who puts something folded "dans son sein". The Jacobite Syriac word for "sein" is also clear: it means literary "bosom" or "chest" and the Syriac version of this passage gives a clearer idea of the action of putting the mandil in one's tunic. Could the Shroud be put in one's tunic? Everybody has now the literary and linguistic instruments to answer this question.

Antonio Lombatti

A Reply From Mark Guscin

February 1, 1998
Mark Guscin

The verbs used in the gospels are perfectly compatible with what we know about the burial of Jesus and with the information given about this by the Shroud. Either Mr Lombatti's Greek fails him on this point or more probably his knowledge about how the Shroud itself was used. He seems to think that Dr Whanger or any other "Pro Authenticity" investigator thinks that the Shroud was simply laid over and under the body without being bound in any way. He should read Dr Jackson's work on this before giving an opinion that it is not based on truth.

Secondly, he claims that the Greek word "ekmageion" proves the small size of the Edessa cloth, thus eliminating any possibility of its being the Shroud. This is simply mistaken Greek as the word implies nothing about size at all. In fact, it just means an object on which an impression is made, or even the impression itself, so in fact this is another point in favour of the Edessa cloth being the Shroud.

Thirdly, the theory about the word "ekei" proving that the writer is talking about two different moments in time is pure speculation that is not in any way supported by the Greek text. It is very easy to impress people with Greek and Latin quotations when the reader does not understand these languages, but unfortunately for Mr Lombatti there are some of us who do, and we realize that his arguments amount to very little.

Mark Guscin
BA in Classics, M Phil in Medieval Latin

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