Archive for August, 2011

Avinoam Danin’s New Shroud of Turin Website & His Book

August 31, 2011 Comments off

imageFrom an email by Avinoam Danin, Prof. Emeritus of Botany and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

I translated my "Botany of the Shroud" to Spanish. . . .My children built a website dedicated for buying my books; the link is: I hope to become able to have soon a PayPal button to enable international buying of the books.

And from the website:

Learn more about the botany of the Shroud of Turin

Fill in your details below [at www.ShroudPlantBook] and get the first chapter of Prof. Avinoam Danin’s ground-breaking book, "Botany of the Shroud", for free!

Categories: Books, News & Views, Science

Paper Chase: Was the Shroud of Turin Also the Tablecloth of the Last Supper?

August 31, 2011 11 comments

imageEvery now and then we hear that the Shroud of Turin might have been a tablecloth used at the Last Supper before it was Jesus’ primary burial cloth.

I’m not convinced. I’m not convinced that a tablecloth was used by most or any Jews at the time of Christ. And if so, does it even matter?

A paper, Was the Shroud of Turin also the Tablecloth of the Last Supper? by John and Rebecca Jackson appears on the web, in Italian. (I’m looking for an English version). In the meantime, if you are not proficient in Italian, you can use Google Toolbar or Microsoft Bing to read a reasonable translation in English. Here are the first four paragraphs as translated by Google:

In this paper we present the hypothesis that the relic of the ‘ Last Supper , that the cloth was used for the table, still exists. For reasons which we will discuss, we will show that this tablecloth, a requirement for the Jewish Passover is the time of Christ, in fact, the Shroud of Turin. We believe that the Shroud of Turin is at the same time, the burial cloth of Jesus and the cloth for the Lord’s Supper served. If so, it would represent an important archaeological evidence of the first Eucharist.

We present our study only as a hypothesis that we wish could provoke further scientific research. This study represents a further deepening of what has been presented at the Conference on the Face of Faces, Christ, held in 1998. 1 We argued, then, is that the Shroud of Turin, exposed to Constantinople in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was actually the burial cloth of Jesus is that the fire occurred in 1532 meant that the test did the carbon be more recent than it actually was. 2 also indicate several studies showing that the Shroud and its image has different features, cultural and ethnological Jewish origin that proved it to be placed in the first century 3 .

If the Shroud of Turin is the actual, historical burial cloth of Jesus Christ, then it would have to be present at the historical foundation of the Church when it is extended out of its cradle of Judaism. After the events of the Gospel of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, began immediately powerful currents of traditions, theologies and liturgies based on the Resurrection. If the Shroud was the property of the original Judeo-Christian communities, it is then possible, and perhaps inevitable that it (the Shroud) was involved in the dynamics of development and growth of the early Church.

Noting that writing and art were used to obtain information on the history of the Shroud, we suggest that the Liturgy of the Church is also another potential vehicle of historical information that can be examined.

Rabbi Samson H. Levey, Emeritus Professor of Rabbinics and Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, provides some answers to the question. This appears on Barrie Schwortz’ website.

I. To get a clear picture of Jewish life and practice during the first two centuries C.E. we must rely on the primary Tannaitic sources, namely the Mishnah, the Tosefta and the other Tannaitic passages dispersed throughout the Talmudim of Babylon (Bavli) and of the Land of Israel (Yerushalim).

During this period, a table was used for meals… We find no evidence that the Jewish people used different tables for the Sabbath and festivals, including Passover, than they ordinarily used; although they probably subjected it to a thorough cleaning, same as the rest of the house, to clear away the leaven immediately before Passover. (Mishnah, Pesahim, Ch.1 et passim)

What did the table look like? It had a square top (sometimes also a square bottom), usually made of wood, (Mishnah Kelim 16:1), pottery (Mishnah Kelim 2:3); overlaid with marble (ibid 22:1). It usually had three legs (ibid 22:2), and could accommodate three or four people. For larger groups, such as weddings, long boards were used (called dahavanot) (Tosefta Kelim, Baba Metzia, 5:3).

II. Table Cover: Food was ordinarily eaten off the bare table top (Bavli, Baba Batra 57b), and only the intellectual elite seem to have used a cloth to cover part of the small table for use as napkins to wipe their lips after eating (ibid). According to Maimonides, the Mishnah refers to a leather table covering (skortia), probably designed to protect the table from the elements (Mishnah Kelim 16:4). The only explicit reference to "a cover for tables" (Mishnah Makshirin 5:8) is explained as a sheet spread over the food (not the bare table) to protect it from flies and other insects. (M.Jastrow, Dictionary, vol.II, p.1396, col.1, bot. sub Kesiyah, Cf. P.Blackman, Mishnah VI, 682).

III. A sheet of any cloth, including a mixture of materials (shatnez) may be used as a shroud (Mishnah Kilayim 9:4). It is unlikely that one would be buried in an unclean sheet. The Tannaitic principle is expressed by Rabbi Meir (second century), that at the Resurrection the dead will arise wearing the same garments in which they were interred, and unclean raiment would be a disgrace (Bavli Sanhedrin 90b). Rabban Gamallel (first century) instituted the use of a plain linen shroud for everyone (Bavli Moed Katan 27b. Cf. Matthew 27:59).

Categories: History, News & Views

The Ron and Yannick Shroud of Turin Image Discussion

August 30, 2011 1 comment

imageA reader writes:

The Ron and Yannick discussion about image formation is a most interesting thing going on on your blog. I check constantly for the latest. Sadly it is buried in comment space under an uninteresting post. You should put a link to it so everyone will see it.

Here is a link:

And here, below the fold (read more) is the discussion as of this writing:

Read more…

Categories: Image Theory

Pareidolia and the Shroud of Turin: Yes and No

August 29, 2011 1 comment


Definitely, Victor Tran has a wonderful quotable quote:

The face of Jesus on a burnt tortilla. Now why would the most influential figure to the Christian community manifest itself on a tortilla wrap and a burnt one at that.

I posted what follows this paragraph back in November of 2010 under the title, “I Don’t See Flowers and Coins and Teeth on the Shroud of Turin.” Now, a blog posting, by Victor Tran, Pareidolia – WTC, Jesus, Devil faces in random objects in Ambitious Mindsets suggest to me that I should repeat the posting with a couple of additions in red. So here we go:

"I think I see the light coming to me, coming through me giving me a second sight." Those are words from the song, "I Think I See," by Cat Stevens, written years before Yusuf Islam, as he is now called, converted to Islam. It was, some said, a metaphor for the promised land. Maybe!

"And sometimes the light [I think I see] at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey," Jon Stewart said at the "Rally to Restore Sanity," not meaning, of course, to criticize Yusuf Islam who was at the rally to sing his more famous song, "Peace Train."

In Shroud circles, when you hear the four-word phrase, "I think I see" you immediately think of Ray Rogers. "I think I see, won’t do," he wrote concerning one person’s observation that was pretty much only one person’s observation. "I think I see is not a scientific statement," he wrote often. To me, in an email, he wrote: "tests and measurements will always have more credibility than ‘I think I see.’"

What others said they saw, Rogers said he thought they merely thought they saw. I agree.

image One day, I was astonished to receive an email from someone who claimed that we only think we see an image of a face on the Shroud. What we think is an image, he told me, is merely the happenstance accumulation of smudges and stains on the cloth. It is no different than an imaginary image of Jesus on a burned slice of toast. It is a pareidolia, an apophenia. I had never heard of either of these words. Now I have. As far as I can see, they mean the same thing. According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary apophenia is "the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data." Pareidolia is defined as apophenia.

I wrote back. "The image is too detailed. It is too realistic and too complex to not be the real face of a man. When I say real, I mean by any means. Absent other evidence this includes painting, photograph or something else that we don’t understand."

But he persisted. His mind was made up. "You can’t prove it," he wrote back. "It could be pure coincidence and you don’t know for a fact that it isn’t. What is the threshold for perceiving an image? What are the criteria for saying that the image is of a man? Are you an expert on the human face?"

And then I read today in Victor’s posting:

However, Pareidolia does provide a psychological explanation for many delusions based on sense perception such as UFO sightings, the Shroud of Turin, and messages on records played backwards (backmasking).

Technically, he is correct; correct if he is referring to images of flowers and coins and lettering and all manner of things like nails and brooms.  But Victor is not correct if he means the face. And the way he wrote his blog entry and the way he focused in facial images, I think that is what he meant.

I suspect that there is a rather fuzzy swath of undecidedness between certainty that an image is of a face and is not. Given the setting and circumstance and a measure of sanity in whatever our worldview may dictate to us, we can usually avoid undecidedness. If I see a face in the clouds, I know it is a phantasm (another cool word), an illusion, an apparition of sorts. I am sure most of us think the same thing if we see a face on a piece of toast or in a smudge of a windowpane. It should be easy to know what we see for any given context. If I see a face in a Picasso, even if it looks less like a face than what I see on my morning toast, I know it is an image of a face because of the context. But what about the face on the shroud? It is a face? The context is clear. There is an entire body there – admittedly, at the risk of being declared incompetent, maybe a pareidolia. I don’t know how the face got there but it is a face.

The folks at the Harvard Law School are very much interested in this subject, as one might imagine they would be. In an interesting article on a fascinating blog they maintain called The Situationist, they explore the subject. They begin by pointing out that Carl Sagan once wrote:

As soon as the infant can see, it recognizes faces, and we now know that this skill is hardwired in our brains. Those infants who a million years ago were unable to recognize a face smiled back less, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents, and less likely to prosper. These days, nearly every infant is quick to identify a human face, and to respond with a goony grin.

Victor repeats what Carl Sagan wrote that I had posted above. Do look at his blog entry. And what follows is why he is technically correct beyond the subject of faces (which is much more fun).

But it need not just be faces. Takeo Watanabe, a neuroscientist at Boston University, "suggest[s] that subliminally learning something ‘too well’ interferes with perceptions of reality." The blog article continues:

[P]eople have gotten so used to seeing faces everywhere that sensitivity to them is high enough to produce constant false positives. This tendency to become hyperattuned to common stimuli may represent a survival advantage. "If you lived in primeval times, for instance," Dr. Watanabe said, "it would be good to be very sensitized to tigers."

z-Martian_face_viking_cropp A famous example is the giant face on Mars from a NASA photograph. In 2001, Michael Malin, the president and chief scientist at Malin Space Science Systems, wrote an article entitled "Unmasking the Face on Mars." It is published on NASA’s official website. In it he wrote:

Twenty five years ago something funny happened around Mars. NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft was circling the planet, snapping photos of possible landing sites for its sister ship Viking 2, when it spotted the shadowy likeness of a human face. An enormous head nearly two miles from end to end seemed to be staring back at the cameras from a region of the Red Planet called Cydonia.

There must have been a degree of surprise among mission controllers back at the Jet Propulsion Lab when the face appeared on their monitors. But the sensation was short lived. Scientists figured it was just another Martian mesa, common enough around Cydonia, only this one had unusual shadows that made it look like an Egyptian Pharaoh.

Indeed—and we should not be surprised by this—many people were convinced that this was a gigantic monument of some sort created by humans or human-like aliens who once lived on Mars. NASA re-photographed the mesa from different angles. They used the same ray tracing technology (think VP8) that is used to show the 3D image of the face on the shroud to show that the Martian face was not a face at all. Had it been, the results would have been similar to the results obtained from the face on the shroud. The face was a pareidolic image. But some people, not unlike flat-earthers, remain convinced that it is a face.

The images of a person, certainly a man if we look closely, exists on the shroud. Many well pronounced features are part of that image. But there may be other parts of the image that some people claim to see that are probably pareidolic perceptions.

Takeo Watanabe’s views "that subliminally learning something ‘too well’" results in false positives may explain many reported images and features of the shroud image. A botanist may see images of flowers and plants. A numismaticist may see images of ancient coins. A dentist may see what looks like teeth. It would be totally unfair to say that this is what happened when such experts saw these things. But it would be unfair to not suggest the possibility.

The shroud is dirty, creased and wrinkled. It has been exposed to dust, moisture, smoke from fire and almost certainly candles and incense. It has been exposed to moisture and there are clear water stains in places. It has been folded different ways and rolled up for storage. Folding causes creases. It has been held aloft and probably hung in ways that over time caused stretching. The cloth was woven on a hand loom with handspun thread that is not perfectly uniform. All of this contributes to visual information and visual misinformation.

coins.23 So does the banding patterns, the variegated appearance of the cloth. We know that it alters the appearance of the face very dramatically. It certainly must contribute to what some say they see on the shroud. For instance, if you look closely, you are likely to see what looks like teeth behind the man’s lips, as though somehow the image contains x-ray qualities. But vertical banding lines may be the reason we see teeth. Clear banding lines extend well beyond the teeth, beyond the face even, and seemingly for the length of the cloth.

Photography also introduces visual noise. Different films have different contrast characteristics that can significantly change the appearance of faint details. Lighting may create small shadows between threads and among wrinkles and creases. Even the color temperature of lighting can have an effect because different films are subject to different colors being reflected from the cloth. What we perceive in a photograph of the shroud may not be what we see if we look at the cloth with our own eyes.

People have seen coins over the eyes; and not just coins but enough details to identify them as specific coins minted by Romans for Jewish use around the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. People have identified flowers and plants that are specific to the environs of Jerusalem. The list of things seen goes on and on. There are, supposedly, a hammer, a nail, a fluffy shaped sponge tied to a reed, a coil of rope, a pair of dice and part of a plaque with enough lettering in Greek, Latin and possibly Hebrew to identify it as saying, "Jesus of Nazareth." But are these things really imaged on the cloth? Are there criteria for deciding?

Consensus among people who closely study the images on the shroud is valid so long as that study is as completely objective as possible. Worldview nullification must be avoided at all cost. It is not proper to reject these images because you don’t believe the shroud is real. But it is fair to be skeptical, as in the case of the flowers, teeth, coins and lettering because there is identifiable noise such as the banding, wrinkles and crinkles and whatnots.

"’I see’ said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw," so goes the excruciatingly ridiculous old English ditty. "I see flowers, I see teeth . . ." You get the idea.

flower8 I would like to see the flowers. I see something that looks like two flowers. I’m not convinced they are flowers. I’m not trained enough in botany to know many other types of flowers to look for. I’ve read the books. Studied the charts and diagrams. Looked at pictures through gadgets. I don’t see the flowers. I want to see. Show me. Show me that these images are not pareidolias or apophenias or phantasms or I-think-I-sees. Show me that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t New Jersey.

I Don’t See Flowers and Coins and Teeth on the Shroud of Turin « Shroud of Turin Blog

Comment on Freethought Should Be Accurate and Factual

August 28, 2011 1 comment

domenico adds an important comment to the Freethought Should Be Accurate and Factual posting:

imageOnly a brief note to the claim that the Shroud shows a “man about six feet tall, which would make this “Jesus” a Goliath by first-century standards”. This claim is from Nickell’s books..

Does the writer know that in Jericho, Israel, there is a famous tomb from Second Temple Period known as “Goliath Tomb” in wich skeletons height 1,8 m. were found (one of them was 1,88)?

That is 5’11” and 6’2” respectively. Nickell writes nonsense.

Categories: News & Views

Aggressive and Unapologetic New Atheists or Righteous Sinners

August 28, 2011 1 comment

Kimberly Winston has a good summary of the New Atheist movement since its inception right after 9/11.

imageIn September 2001, Sam Harris was an unknown doctoral student who didn’t believe in God.

But after the World Trade Center crumbled on 9/11, he put his studies aside to write a book that became an instant best-seller—and changed the way atheists, and perhaps Muslims, are perceived in this country.

Published in 2004, Harris’s “The End of Faith” launched the so-called “New Atheist” movement, a make-no-apologies ideology that maintains that religion is not just flawed, but evil, and must be rejected.

But did it reshape what had been a mostly quiet, academic movement? Some think the New Atheists have created a rift. Others, well . . .

Ryan Cragun, a sociologist of religion at the University of Tampa, is more qualified in his assessment. In their extremism and intolerance, he likens the New Atheists to Fox News Channel—“so far to the right,” he said, that they opened up the middle.

“Now it is OK to be a moderate atheist because you can point to the stridency of the New Atheists and say, `At least I am not one of them,”’ he said. “It opens up a bigger space for freethinkers to actually communicate.”

Sort of reminds me of Luke 18

[Jesus told this parable . . . "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people . . .”

. . . while the tax collector was beating his breast. Well, maybe, but remember that Harris is thumping his chest (ego) not beating his breast before God.

Categories: News & Views

Pew-Shaped Hineys and Feigned Enlightenment About the Shroud of Turin

August 28, 2011 2 comments

imageFor your Sunday morning reading enjoyment as still-a-hurricane Irene bears down on New York – I still have power and internet – there is this from a personal blog of André du Broc who plans to work his way through Martha Stewart’s cookies cookbook:

I have two dear friends who have decided to tie the knot and have asked that I officiate their nuptials this Fall. As part of the preparations, a dinner party was assembled for the bride’s and groom’s parents to meet me and my partner, Dan so that they’d know we weren’t Satanists or worse, Unitarians. Before the evening of the dinner I received several texts from the bride listing the topics I should avoid lest I “ruin her life”. Wanting nothing but happiness for her, I, of course obeyed the rules and stuck to the approved topics of conversation avoiding any topic that would make either set of parents uncomfortable. I hadn’t been in this situation since high school. All-in-all I believe Dan and I were charming. The bride and groom nervously flew about in the kitchen stirring a pot here and opening an oven door there while the two sets of parents sat exchanging pleasantries from around the beautiful new dining table purchased for this auspicious evening. From time-to-time, when the bride was able to exchange an undetected glance my way she’d give me a quick and pained expression that seemed to be saying, “Kill me. Kill me now.”  The two sets of parents were very nice people although quite different from each other. The groom’s parents were part of the country club set, both athletic, both remarried, both versed in the sport of golf, innocuous charities and boxed wine. They seemed to be proud of their youthful vigor and with the proper training they could easily be spokespersons for multivitamins and Viagra.

The bride’s parents were homey nesters from the Northeast. Devout Catholics with spiritually-based world views and  opinions and pew-shaped hineys. They recently returned from Italy where they were thrilled to view the Shroud of Turin. Dan and I thought that the authenticity of the shroud had been proven false but we listened attentively and nodded with feigned enlightenment. The groom’s parents did the same.

Feigned enlightenment? André, with his blog, may have committed the faux pas he was warned to avoid. Feigned enlightenment is worse than being a Unitarian. Worse than burned cookies. Worse than ultimate insult of being accused of drinking boxed wine.

See: And the Bars Come Crumbling Down! Apple-Cherry Crumble Bars! -235 eggs, 178 1/2 cups of sugar, 180 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 223 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 37 recipes to go! « André Bakes His Way Through Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book

Categories: Other Blogs

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