The So-Called Coins on the Shroud of Turin
| http://www.indefenseofthecross.com/Shroud_Of_Turin.htm reports that “In
1979, Father Francis L. Filas, S.J., of the Loyola University of Chicago, using
the STURP research, observed on the right eyelid of the man four letters UCAI
which formed a crown around the crook of an augur's staff. This image
corresponds to the symbol on a small coin struck in A.D. 29 during the
procuratorship of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36). The ancient Jews used coins to
hold down the eyelids.
Portion of Shroud of Turin.
Some people see small, round, raised, objects over each eye, purported to be coins, on this isplay of three-dimensional information encoded in the face on the Shroud of Turin. The original source is probably Prof. Giovanni Tamburelli of the Centro Studi e Laboratori Telecomunicazioni S.p.A., Turin, Italy.
Jews also had good reason to hate Pilate’s coins. The coins issued during Pilate’s administration featured pagan symbols—a small ladle (simulum) used for libation in a religious ritual, three ears of grain in a metal tripod used by Roman priests, and a curved staff (lituus) used by augurs to predict the future. Nikos Kokkinos (The Prefects of Judaea, presented at the 2010 International Conference on Judaea and Rome in Coins, 65 BCE – 135 CE) writes: “… the symbols displayed on the coins attributed to [Pilate], are surprisingly foreign to Jewish culture and must have left a bad taste. If, indeed, they had wanted to cover Jesus’ eyes with coins they had many alternatives to those of Pontius Pilate. The coins issued by his predecessor governors featured designs that would not have been objectionable to the Jewish citizens—palm tree, palm branch, laurel branch, ear of grain, cornucopiae, lilies, vine branch, and amphora. And the earlier coins issued by the Herodians and Hasmoneans (Maccabees) were also in circulation in the time of Pontius Pilate.
The variety of Judaean coins in circulation at the time of Jesus’ burial is confirmed in 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 Prefects and Procurators, including seven coins issued during the governance of Pontius Pilate.
Pictures courtesy of Jean-Philippe Fontanille
of this theory] 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 practiced such rites on corpses.
If indeed, there was the practice in Jesus’ time to place coins over the eyes of the deceased, and if his friends chose to use coins issued by the man who had condemned him to death and who was hated by the Jews, let’s look into the physical evidence.
In a letter published in World Coin News (March 2, 1982), Wilburn Yarbrough, Secretary-Treasurer of The Atlanta Center for Continuing Study of The Shroud of Turin, wrote:
“Fr. Filas first proposed his solution to the identification of the coins on the Shroud [of Turin] in October, 1978 at Los Alamos, N.M., at the Shroud of Turin Researc Ptoject (S.T.R.P.) meeting. When S.T.R.P. did not accept his theory, he resigned from the group. The overall view of the scientists is that the letters Fr. Filas sees is a weave pattern of the cloth. This opinion was expressed by Eric Jumper, Vernon Miller and Don Janney at the S.T.R.P. meeting held in Groton, Conn., in October, 1981. There Vernon Miller showed four slides of the eye areas taken in Turin in 1978. These slides did not show and indications of Fr. Filas’ ‘CAI’. In my own research, I came to very much the same conclusions that Mel Wacks did in regard to Fr. Filas’ articles.”
And here is the article that appeared in the January 12, 1982 issue of World Coin News, containing Mel Wacks’ rebuttal to the theory of Father Filas:
Continues on Shroud’s Coins
The image [on the Shroud of Turin] was proclaimed a coin of Pontius Pilate by Fr. Franics Filas, S.J., of Loyola University in Chicago, Ill. The subject of that discovery was carried by World Coin News in an extensive article last year.
Wacks is editor of The Augur, official newsletter of the Biblical Numismatic Society, and numismatic consultant to the Magnes Museum, Berkely, Calif. He is author of The Handbook of Biblical Numismatics and has written over 100 articles on the subject.
BackgroundThe Shroud Coin Theory can be traced back to the computerized image enhancement analysis made of the Shrouald photographs by Dr. Eric Jumper, Dr. John Jackson and Kenneth Stevenson Jr., published in the American Numismatic Association’s The Numismatist in 1978. These investigators wrote:
“One of our investigations … surprisingly revealed objects resting on the eyes—objects which resembled small disks or ‘buttons’. Could these two objects then be coins? When we mentioned our coin theory to friend Ian Wilson, he, being somewhat of a coin buff, immediately looked into what coins might have been used if the Shroud was genuine. The result of his study produced the possibility of a Jewish bronze lepton of Pontius Pilate minted from 29-31 AD. Additionally, the observation of what appears to be a backward question mark on the object on the left eye seems to correspond to the striking (Augur’s wand) on a lepton! Intriguing points, but to date still inconclusive.”
In 1980, Fr. Filas privately published a 7,000-word study, “The Dating of the Shroud of Turin from Coins of Pontius Pilate,” in which he claimed the detection of curtain features on the Shroud coin image:
“The (letters) UCAI angled from 9:30 o’clock to 11:30 o’clock around the curve of an astrologer’s staff called a Lituus (or Augur’s wand).”
The coin image of the Shroud has the lituus superimposed in the position indicated by Fr. Filas. Wacks maintains that the letters CA are in the wrong position.
Filas goes on to state that the letters UCAI are the portion of the coin inscription TIBEPIOY KAICAPOC. Then, in a display of probability theory, it was shown that the odds were one in six million times a trillion times a trillion times a trillion that the lituus and UCAI are fallacious patterns on the weave of the Shroud, accidentally duplicating markings on the coins of Pontius Pilate.
Misspelled CoinsIn a press release dated Sept. 1, 1981, Fr. Filas indicated that “Imprints of a misspelled Pontius Pilate coin now in existence are the same as imprints of an apparent coin on the right eye of the crucified man’s figure on the Shroud of Turin. This discovery proves the authenticity, the place of origin, and the approximate dating of the Shroud of Turin beyond reasonable doubt.”
The normal TIBEP and not CAI as pointed out by Fr. Francis Filas, S.J., is outlined here by Mel Wacks.
After careful examination of greatly magnified glossy photographs of this coin, supplied by Fr. Filas, Wacks has concluded that “the actual inscription is quite normal for the coin and bears no similarity to Filas’ findings. The visible letters are simply the bottom two-thirds of the inscription IBEP, a portion of the emperor’s name—TIBEPIOY (Tiberius). Both the location of the letters and their shape make this conclusion certain.”
In the October 1981 issue of The Augur, Wacks first disputed Fr. Filas’ Pilate coin theory on the basis that Pilate’s lituus coin was not minted until after August, 30 AD—well after the generally accepted date of the crucifixion (April, 30 AD).
After carefully examining highly magnified photographs (both two-dimensional and computer simulated three-dimensional) of the Shroud coin image, Wacks agrees that a pattern forms the letters CA. He also sees the vertical line following the CA that Fr. Filas calls an I, but Wacks feels that it could just as well be a portion of another letter such as P, with the right portion eaten away as is the case with most of the coin image’s design. In addition, Wacks believes that the letters preceding the CA, called a U by Fr. Filas, is crude enough to be another letter such as I.
Grain of barley and inscription from coin of either Coponius or Ambibulus is superimposed on the Shroud’s coin image. This is just as good a fit as the Pontius Pilate coin, and doesn’t require searching for strange spellings and unusual positioning.
If the Shroud coin image was caused by a coin of Coponius or Ambibulus, it would cause no problems concerning the dating of the Shroud to the time of Jesus, Wacks points out, since coins circulated for decades and longer in the ancient world. The coins of Coponius and Ambibulus are among the most common of all Prefect and Procurator issues … and they were struck only about 20 years before Jesus’ crucifixion.
The second Pilate error coin has been superimposed over the Shroud coin image. He has rotated the position of the lituus 90 degrees counterclockwise from the way Fr. Filas has shown it.
Wacks concludes: “It is impossible to determine precisely the Judaean coin that might have caused the image on the Shroud since no one coin design—inscription, motif, and their respective positions—exactly matches the Shroud coin image. It is this vital third factor, positioning, that Fr. Filas neglected to take into account when he computed the mathematical probability of the coin image being the lituus coin of Pontius Pilate. If it is taken into account that the probability becomes infinitesimal.”
© 2020-Mel Wacks