Traces of Aramaic Found on Shroud of Turin

A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters.

A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio July 26 that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago.

She said that in 1978 a Latin professor in Milan noticed Aramaic writing on the shroud and in 1989 scholars discovered Hebrew characters that probably were portions of the phrase “The king of the Jews.”

Castex’s recent discovery of the word “found” with another word next to it, which still has to be deciphered, “together may mean ‘because found’ or ‘we found,'” she said.

What is interesting, she said, is that it recalls a passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, “We found this man misleading our people,” which was what several Jewish leaders told Pontius Pilate when they asked him to condemn Jesus.

She said it would not be unusual for something to be written on a burial cloth in order to indicate the identity of the deceased.

I am intrigued.

Personally not quite sure about the authenticity of this particular relic (I lean towards skepticism) but I would become absolutely giddy if I could hunt up some images of this text.


6 thoughts on “Traces of Aramaic Found on Shroud of Turin

  1. I am extremely dubious that the followers of Jesus would write “King of the Jews,” the trumped-up charge for which, ostensibly, he was executed. The notion that any phrase reminiscent of “We found this man misleading our people,” from the Gospel of Luke, as Frale suggests, would be found on the cloth is absurd: (1) because His followers would not have written this; (2) because there is no evidence for the implicit assumption that the cloth was ever in the hands of the authorities who condemned Jesus; (3) because the third gospel is dated a couple of generations later. Moeover, any “writing” would have been effected by some sort of ink, but STURP (1978 scientific investigation) did not find traces of this. It seems the whole business about Aramaic letters may result from “noise” sometimes found in enhanced photographs. I have not been able to find any reference to a published paper or précis of same, searching both World Cat and Google Scholar, by Thierry Castex, who apparently first “discovered” the supposed writing on the Turin Shroud. All the blogs quote one another about “Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters,” indicating lack of familiarity about the language. (Aramaic, unlike Syriac, its near linguistic twin, IS written with Hebrew letters.) I have found what is said to be a translation of the Chinon Document on a Knights Templar website —
    I found nothing in the text about a linen cloth, much less a shroud. The style and repetition of legal phrases would seem to be representative of medieval Church expression, but I’m not a medieval specialist and therefore cannot comment on its authenticity. (I suppose most everyone examined by the Inquisitor, having been restored “to unity with the Church” and reinstated “to communion of the faithful and sacraments of the Church,” ended up on the pyre. Glad times have changed.)
    Diana Fulbright
    Director of Research
    Shroud of Turin Center
    Richmond, Virginia, USA

  2. I should add that names of deceased were custmarily carved onto the outside of the stone ossuary into which the bones were placed sometime after interment, when the body had decomposed. This was indeed for identification. But there is NO evidence whatsoever that names were ever written on shrouds. The bereaved of course knew who they were burying at the time, but as ossuaries were used for several generations of a family, it was practical to record whose bones the box contained.
    Diana Fulbright

  3. Diana,

    Your criticisms of this story are ones that I am very sympathetic to. In every scan and every photograph that I’ve been able to get my hands on I have not seen any writing on the Shroud at all, let alone anything in Aramaic.

    However, when it comes to the whole “Aramaic written in Hebrew letters” description, I believe that this is less a result of unfamiliarity with Aramaic, and more of the news service that I quoted from trying to make things understandable for the layman. A fair number of people who have been exposed to Aramaic think of Syriac scripts first. Saying “Hebrew letters” in this sense disambiguates the character of the Aramaic in question. Not many people outside professors, epigraphers, or ancient language enthusiasts understand that the Aramaic language family has been written in dozens of different scripts over its 3,000 year history, and even then, some individuals who know one dialect of Aramaic very well are surprised to find out that the language family is deeper than their own familiarity.

    For example, a friend of mine a number of years back was rather flummoxed and confused when he came across Mandaic for the first time, thinking it must be some form of Syriac. Another example would be the panic experienced by one of my customers when a speaker of Jewish Neo-Aramaic misinterpreted a translation I provided him with with as she was not familiar with the nuances of Herodian script, misreading he for het and (apparently) nun for lamed.

    It’s not uncommon. 🙂

    But I digress.. Heh…

    In any case, I would love to see some photographs of this claimed text as it continues to be elusive no matter how thoroughly I look.

    With a little luck, I have been able to locate M. Castex’ website but alas, it has been taken down from the web since this media explosion. Luckily, Google’s cache still has a few things to look at, including a PDF of an article about the Shroud (however, no mention of Aramaic writing):

    My next step I think is to try and contact him directly, but we shall see.


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