AND: The Get Religion blog gets down in the trenches with how journalist cover stories
like this. Be sure to read Jim Davis.
Paul Vale, in the UK edition of the Huffington Post, tells us that the Birmingham Koran Carbon Dating Reveals Book Is Likely Older Than Prophet Muhammad:
In what could prove something of a pot hole for current readings of Islamic history, a carbon test carried out on a Koranic manuscript recently discovered in England reveals the book is likely older than Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith.
The test used a piece of the ancient parchment, discovered in Birmingham University Library in July, with scientists dating the tome from between 568 and 645AD.
Islamic scholars believe Muhammad lived between 570 and 632AD and that he founded Islam after 610AD. The first Muslim community was founded in Medina in 622AD. This means the text was likely compiled either before the Prophet’s birth or during his childhood.
“It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged — and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions,” historian Tom Holland told The Times.
However, Keith Small, a researcher at the Bodleian in Oxford, urged caution as the carbon testing only used parchment rather than the ink from the book. He said: “If the dates apply to the parchment and the ink, and the dates across the entire range apply, then the Koran — or at least portions of it — predates Mohammed, and moves back the years that an Arabic literary culture is in place well into the 500s.”
Small added: “This would radically alter the edifice of Islamic tradition and the history of the rise of Islam in late Near Eastern antiquity would have to be completely revised, somehow accounting for another book of scripture coming into existence 50 to 100 years before, and then also explaining how this was co-opted into what became the entity of Islam by around AD700.”
For additional perspective, see Oldest pages of the Koran found in England may date to Mohammed’s lifetime by Mark Miller at Ancient Origins.
There are other manuscripts that may be as old as this one, the BBC says. Radiocarbon dating provides a range of years for an object being dated, and the years of this and other manuscripts overlap. But these two pages are among the oldest known surviving Koran manuscripts in existence.
Muhammad Isa Waley, a British Library expert on old manuscripts called the discovery exciting and Muslims would rejoice over it.
AND: The GetReligion blog gets down in the trenches with how journalists cover stories like this. Be sure to read Jim Davis at GetReligion.org
How soon will it be before journalists are somehow linking this to the carbon dating of the shroud?
If scientists are gradually losing their position as high priests of society,
generations educated in a system governed by the scientific method still carry the
burden of doubting Thomas. Although faith does not rest on scientific evidence, unbelievers
continue to clamor "Show me," "Prove it."
MUST READ: Republished, yesterday, August 29, 2015, in the English edition of the Russian Orthodox internet portal, Pravosvie Ru, The Shroud of Turin: A Mystery Across the Ages warrants your full attention:
On this day, the Church celebrates the icon of the Savior "Made Without Hands" -the prototype of which is believed to be an image of Jesus Christ’s holy face, left on a cloth used to cover His face at burial after the crucifixion. An exhaustively researched and highly interesting article by Fr. Alexy Young, Nun Michaila, and Mary Mansur was published a number of years ago in the periodical, "Orthodox America" on the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Napkin. We present it today in the spirit of the present feast.
Science, although not incompatible with faith when properly understood, has more often served to reduce the wonders of nature to molecular conglomerates than to awaken man to the infinite wisdom and power of God as reflected in His creation. Because it acts to unlock the mysteries of nature, science has long been cast in the role of a protagonist by those seeking to destroy the stronghold of faith. Historian Lewis Spitz writes:
"The scientific revolution, which made its first giant strides in the 17th century, has won such a total victory through its apparent domination of nature that the Western mind has virtually capitulated to its truth."
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)
If scientists are gradually losing their position as high priests of society, generations educated in a system governed by the scientific method still carry the burden of doubting Thomas. Although faith does not rest on scientific evidence, unbelievers continue to clamor "Show me," "Prove it." Ultimately the case rests on the question of Christ’s Resurrection. While there is not, and can never be, a scientific test for the resurrection of Christ, skeptics have used the lack of material evidence in their favor. Is it not providential that today, in this age of science’s hegemony, they are being challenged by a mysterious piece of cloth, the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ?
To say that the Shroud is a challenge to hard-line materialists is not to say that the debate over its authenticity is neatly divided between believers and unbelievers. Not at all….
Read the full article, which leads to this interesting Conclusion:
As Orthodox Christians, do we need the relic of the Lord’s Shroud? As far as the fullness of the Faith, "given once and for all to the saints," is concerned, we do not. The image on the Shroud adds nothing doctrinal to what has already been revealed; neither does it take anything away. Had it not survived Apostolic times, as some think, our faith in Christ and His Church, the Ark of Salvation, would be the same. Nor do we seek after signs and wonders to confirm our faith in Christ. On the other hand, the Shroud provides a visual document of something that the Evangelists describe in only a few terse words: "They crucified Him,"
In the image on the Shroud there unfolds before our very eyes the story, the process of indescribable suffering, those physiological processes which took place in the human Body of Christ. This is all precisely documented on the Shroud, attesting to our Lord’s humanity and at the same time revealing His divine power, for He arose as God, rising in such a way as to leav e all the evidence imprinted upon the Shroud and miraculously undisturbed,., containing a providential meaning which is not being revealed."
The late Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitsev), an eminent Church writer who wrote these words, was so impressed by the powerful testimony of the Turin Shroud that he urged the widespread dissemination of this "discovery," which he said "lies with the conscience of each faithful Christian soul who becomes acquainted with it."  What precisely is the value of the testimony offered by the Shroud?
All in all it is a startling medical documentary of what was described so briefly in the Gospels. Dr. John Heller biophysicist
The Russian bishop-saint, Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783)–as so many spiritual directors–was alarmed at the cold-hearted insensitivity of people, at the callousness, indifference, and wordliness of the average soul, joined to complete love of self. In our own day, most pastors would add to this list the soul-killing sin of self-righteousness and "zeal not according to knowledge," which stems from the Luciferian sin of pride.
As a spiritual remedy, the Saint urged people to "keep in your house a picture of the passion of Christ, look at it often and with reverence …. the whole deepest content of the Gospel is portrayed in the passion of Christ and incites us to imitation." To imitation of what?
St. Tikhon observed that "God descends to the humble as waters flow down from the hills into the valleys." And it was this awesome humility of the Lord on the Cross that St. Tikhon wished his spiritual children to imitate. But how to find humility? In union with all Orthodox Fathers, St. Tikhon taught that each individual must seek to know himself as he really is, without self-deception. Seeing thus his own wickedness, he must then consider "the suffering of Christ, the magnitude of whose love and suffering surpasses our understanding." Christ’s example of humble obedience "even unto death" inspired this Saint to instruct his spiritual children to "remember often, especially during the night, the suffering of Christ. It will kindle in you love for the Sufferer; this love will preserve you from sin. Meditate upon His Passion …. The suffering Christ is like a saving bock from which we learn…repentance, faith, devotion to God, love of our neighbor, humility, meekness, patience, detachment from worldly vanities …" 
What is it, then, to follow Christ? To do good and to suffer for the sake of the will of God… to endure all, looking upon Christ Who suffered St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
St. Tikhon was not here introducing some novelty into Orthodox piety or theology, It must be made perfectly clear that he was not suggesting the use of imagination–a common element in Western spirituality–in order to create dangerous emotions that lead to "prelest" or spiritual deception. St. Tikhon understood that the Son of God suffered not just a death such as might come to any man, but a terrifying emptying of His divinity joined to an unimaginable physical, mental, and spiritual agony that we cannot comprehend. But we can, even with sinful eyes, gaze upon it, as those who put the Lord to death stood by and watched and some, like the blessed Centurion, even confessed Christ. The image on the Shroud vividly tells us, in ways that words often cannot, what unutterable suffering was endured for our sake, and the high price with which cur souls were ransomed from eternal death.
And then there is the cry in a scientific age, “My Lord and My God!”:
Together with this universal significance which applies to all Christians at all times, the Shroud may also be said to be uniquely relevant to our 20th century, in which science has had such a powerful voice. Some believe that this image was encoded on the fibers of the cloth like a time capsule intended specifically for our materialistic age, when only the tools of modern science could begin to decode or unlock its secrets, when belief in God would be so weak or non-existent that even faith in science would testify to "the things of God."
There is a poster, plastered on walls in the Soviet Union, which shows a smiling astronaut flying through space. The caption reads: "There is no God," For individuals raised under the forced domination of ‘scientific-atheism," the inability of scientists to disprove the Shroud does not go unnoticed. And there is reason to believe that the scientific evidence in favor of the Shroud’s authenticity has been instrumental in opening doors to faith behind the Iron Curtain. (A report on the Shroud, written by a scientist in the Soviet Union, is said to be circulating there in Samizdat.)
We, too, in the free world, have been greatly influenced by the scientific-materialist outlook. And it seems that now, at a time which many believe to be the 11th hour, the suffering yet serene face looking at us from the Shroud confronts us with the REALITY of Jesus Christ. Can it be that in this age of diminishing faith, when even believers are crying out "Lord, help Thou my unbelief," the Lord in His mercy has condescended to reveal Himself to men in a special way, that seeing they might believe and exclaim with Thomas: "My Lord and my God!"
If you are relatively new to this blog, you need to know this: When Dr. Colin Berry first entered the fray of shroud research he rather wildly characterized other researchers in offensive ways; remember, three years ago, Of Infrared Herrings and Mickey Mouse Science: Berry Criticizing Di Lazzaro?
Colin has since then cooled his rhetoric, but not completely; witness the recent back and forth of comments with Barrie Schwortz in Oy vey! We’ve got a problem?
Knowing this explains the quoted characterizations in Paolo Di Lazzaro’s response to a question by Colin. I raised it in this blog and pointed to Colin’s blog in Have we all been looking in the wrong place?
Dear Dan and All,
thank you for pointing out this piece, which describes amateurish attempts.
You may reassure Mr (sic) Berry that this "bunch of jokers" at Enea which is doing "MIckey Mouse science" has looked at the right place, recognizing the main photo-chemical reactions and chromophores possibly involved in the laser-coloration mechanisms, as detailed in several peer reviewed papers, notably in [Superficial and Shroud-like coloration of linen by short laser pulses in the vacuum ultraviolet*]
And… no, sorry, none of the "deductions" of Mr Berry reported in your blog are justified by his out-of-focus images shown in your blog. It is evident Mr. Berry is not trained in microscope imaging. Our students can do a better work.
Why did I insert sic in the above response? It is Dr., not Mr. Dr. Colin Berry describes himself in one of his blogs thus:
Colin Berry, aka sciencebod, is a retired PhD researcher/teacher/academic who has worked in industry, medical schools, schools, food and biomedical research (mainly in the UK, but also in W.Africa and the United States). He’s best known for his work on RESISTANT STARCH, recently described as "the trendiest form of dietary fibre". See also his specialist Shroud of Turin blog on
Dr. Paolo Di Lazzaro, a senior researcher at the ENEA Research Centre of Frascati, has posted an English language Curriculum Vitae at Academia.edu
* I inserted the title into Paolo’s email and left the URL as he had it.
Greetings, Mr. Porter,
I just read your piece [Pictures of the Day] … Standing room only for talk by Barrie Schwortz at Jalsa Salana United Kingdom yesterday….
I would like to give some input, and perhaps you’ll have some answers. The question of how the images, on both the ventral and dorsal sides of the Shroud were made, is still considered a mystery. By the way, I’m not a scientist. But I do remember what "dorsal" and "ventral" mean."
I have what might be an answer. But first, a tiny bit of background. For a short while, I befriended Barry Schwortz, the photographer that was hired by STURP, in 1978, to photograph ever square centimeter of the Shroud. When I say, "For a short while," I do not mean to suggest that Barry and I had any problems. We did not. In fact, we corresponded very well. It’s just that we just happened to lose contact.
Anyway, you can check with him on the following, if he remembers. Once, I asked him the following question: "Barry, has there ever been a test conducted, on the Santa Sindone, that would determine whether or not the blood on it was pre-mortem blood, or post-mortem blood." He answered, "Well, I can’t answer that, but I am certain, of course, that they would have conducted such a test. But, I’m going to be having lunch, in Turin, with Dr. Adler, and I’ll ask him."
So, he did have lunch with Dr. Adler, in Turin. Eventually, he got back to me, through email, and said that he was very surprised at Dr. Adler’s response. Dr. Adler told him that, no, no such test had ever been performed on the Shroud. That is very hard to believe. And Barry was as surprised, of course, as I was. But, this was coming from the horse’s mouth, so to speak–Dr. Adler, a prime and important member of the STURP team. There would be no reason that he would state that no such test had been performed, if that had not been the case.
How did I know to ask such a question? Hey, just thinking, that’s all; wondering. I barely knew if there was any such thing as "post mortem" blood, but the thought came to me, so I pushed it forward.
Now, I am aware that, in the literature, one reads, for example phrases like, "The pre-mortem and post-mortem blood on the Shroud…" and one assumes that, since the statement was made, matter-of-factly, that tests were actually done. But, were they? Or has it just been assumed, all these years since STURP, that post-mortem blood exists on the Shroud?
I am aware, because I read his book, that Dr. Heller proved, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that the stains on the Shroud are blood stains. I was just looking for that book, in my library, but I can’t find it. I might have made the mistake of loaning it out to someone. Anyway, I do not recall Dr. Heller, in that book, saying a single word about post-mortem blood.
Now to the point. And this is a point that would be very uncomfortable for those who believe in the doctrine of Christianity. But, if we’re talking about science, and following where the science goes, and what it reveals, then we cannot allow doctrines to interfere with science…Can we?
Now if, indeed, no post-mortem blood exists on the Shroud, and it has simply been assumed, by the scientists, including Heller, that the Shroud contains post-mortem blood [Hang with me, here!!], then would our conclusions regarding the scientific results of studies on the Shroud change?
If STURP began its scientific studies with the idea that "The Man of the Shroud," as he is sometimes called, was dead when the Shroud was draped over him, might that affect how STURP interpreted scientific results?
So, now I’ll get to the point: If we assume that "The Man of the Shroud" was not dead, but was merely unconscious; that is, that he did not die as a result of his ordeal; and if we assume, as a consequence of that first assumption, that the only blood stains on the Shroud are pre-mortem blood stains, might we then be able to explain how the images were made on both sides of the Shroud?
I’m not a scientist, as I said before. But I do know one thing: Dead people and live people are…ahem…different. Dead folks do not breath. Dead folks, that I know of, do not emit uric acid from their skins [except maybe for a while after death??]. Dead folks do not sweat. Dead folks do not produce heat [Well, maybe they do, but I don’t think so]. The oxygen, in the air, that interacts with the skin of dead folks, interacts differently [doesn’t it??] than oxygen that interacts with the skin of live folks.
You may be aware that a new study has concluded that oils were on the Shroud [I can send you that if you’re interested, although you might know of this study], contrary to what was concluded by STURP. And those oils were burned off in 1532, at the fire, which is why STURP found no oil residue.
Now, if we assume that the Biblical account is true, and that Nicodemus brought "100 pounds" of aloe and myrrh to the burial site; and if we further assume that those substances were administered to "Jesus," not because he was dead, but because he was alive; and if we further assume that the substances were administered for the purpose of healing his wounds, then might we also have to re-visit the scientific studies, to determine:
1. What was the effect of those substances on the Shroud?
2. What was the effect of the interaction of those substances with the uric acid, sweat, and heat that "Jesus’" alive body was producing?
Could anything had been burnt, within the open and airy tomb, that would have helped the healing–some kind of ancient, medical practice? And if some healing substance was burnt, would the smoke from the substance have added to the combination of sweat, uric acid, heat, and oxygen that, together, could somehow have created the images on the Shroud?
Years ago, I contacted the Shema Israel International Burial Society, and I asked them the following question. Was the application of aloes and myrrh a part of ancient, Jewish burial practices? Answer? No. You can ask them yourselves. Just Google. They told me, in email, that no such practice existed, amongst Jews of that time, as part of the burial ritual of a human body. So, why would Nicodemus have taken "100 pounds" of aloes and myrrh there? Perhaps for the purpose of healing "Jesus’" body, since both of those substances are healing substances.
I hope you get my point. By the way, I have been told that the test that determines post or pre-mortem blood is called the gas chromotography test. If that is true, then it would be interesting to find out of that test was performed.
Now, I have one more thing to say, and this is a bit uncomfortable. Could any of the STURP scientists have been influenced by religious doctrine, thus drawing conclusions about the scientific results that were skewed because of the influence of those doctrines? Drawing the conclusion, for instance, that there exists post-mortem blood stains on the Shroud?
I was highly disturbed when I read this statement by Dr. D’Muhala, one of the STURP team members:
Editor’s Note: Tom D’Muhala was a founding member of STURP and was President of the organization from 1978 to 1996.
View on shroud.com Preview by Yahoo
That is VERY disturbing. You will see what I’m referring to, if you read all of it.
One more thing, and you can verify this with Barry Schwortz. Barry told me that, when they first entered the room where the Shroud was, in order to begin their scientific study, a couple of the scientists were wearing crucifixes. Barry, without hesitating, pointed out to them that this was highly inappropriate, and that if it ever got leaked to the news media that members of the STURP team of scientists were performing their scientific studies on the Shroud, while wearing a visible sign of belief in a religious doctrine, then if STURP concluded that the Shroud was genuine, critics, cynics, atheists, and just the general public would believe that the results were not credible.
Am I suggesting that there has been some hanky-panky? I have no idea. And I have no way to prove that any of the STURP scientists were operating in any way that was not at the highest professional level. But, STURP people are just that–people.
Could the STURP team have discovered that there exists only pre-mortem blood on the Shroud? And then, fully understanding the ramifications of 2 billion Christians potentially being informed that Jesus Christ did not die on the cross "for the sins of the world," but survived that ordeal [as did happen, by the way, sometimes, as is recorded by the Jewish historian of that time, Flavius Josephus]?
This sounds like a suspense novel, I know. But, I can easily imagine that, in the wee hours of the night, while the STURP team was diligently studying the Santa Sindone, one of them looked up at the others, and said, "Oy vey!! We’ve got a problem. It’s clear that whoever this cloth covered was very much alive. There is no sign of death on this cloth."
I can very well imagine a discussion–a deep discussion taking place as to whether or not their findings should be revealed. Recall the beginning of Dr. Heller’s book, in which he stated that when he was first asked to be on the STURP team, his first thought was that he did not wish to be involved with something that could turn out to be controversial, since it involved the most important religious figure in human history, Jesus Christ.
But, what attracted Heller was the science. So, he agreed.
Well, I apologize to have taken so much of your time (assuming that you read this entire note). Of course, it may be that post-mortem blood does exist on the Shroud, and that that fact was scientifically proven. But, in truth, I have my doubts.
Thank you for your email. My friend Helmut Felzmann likes to remind me that forensic experts in Spain, Great Britain and Germany agree with him that Jesus survived crucifixion and recovered from his wounds. Perhaps he will join the discussion as he has in the past on this blog. Helmut has a website at http://www.shroud.info/
I must draw your attention to comments by Hugh Farey in Have we all been looking in the wrong place?
You might also refer to these prior postings in this blog:
You might try: http://shroudstory.com/?s=post-mortem for more postings.
Again, thanks for your email. Oh, bye-the-way, I cannot imagine a discussion like the one you imagine. I think it is simple conspiracy theory. Sorry, but that is what I think.
Are Di Lazzaro’s laser-generated pulses of uv radiation
actually targeting that S1 lignin, not “cellulose”
Colin Berry, looking through a microscope sees something. We’ll get to that. But first, parenthetically, he informs us know:
(sorry about the poor resolution,” he says in parentheses, “but that’s probably due to the cylindrical 3D light-reflecting/bending geometry of linen fibres).
He goes on:
See the link to a paper reporting from detailed microscopy – light and electron microscope- that some of the lignin of flax bast cells (as used for linen) is not only inside the fibres, but in the S1 layer that would put it just below the PCW.
When Colin writes, “See the link…” I think he is referring to Lignification in the flax stem: evidence for an unusual lignin in bast fibers. We find that in his blog. Colin continues:
Have we all been looking in the wrong place? Are Di Lazzaro’s laser-generated pulses of uv radiation actually targeting that S1 lignin, not “cellulose” as claimed, generating hot spots that may then cook what’s around them? First Law of Photochemistry: light – regardless of wavelength or how generated – has first to be absorbed by one or more chromophores for there to be any chemical reaction – which would include faint yellow/brown coloration. So the first priority of photochemists (I can’t speak for laser physicists) is to identify your chromophore. Uv light is far more likely to target an aromatic compound like lignin, albeit as a minor constituent of linen, than a non-aromatic carbohydrate like cellulose.
Have we all been looking in the wrong place? That’s one question. It’s a good one.
Another one comes to mind. Colin didn’t ask this. I am. At what point is increased contrast more detrimental than helpful by introducing exaggeration, blocking detail and creating image artifacts? At what point does reliance on increased contrast cross the line between science and pseudoscience?
Louis had recommended an important paper on Radiocarbon dating, Does Radiocarbon Provide the Answer? by Uwe Zerbst and Peter van der Veen.
I found it to be very informative for understanding the Bayesian approach to interpreting radiocarbon data. But is there anything in it that might impact the accuracy of the shroud’s dating? That seems unlikely in any significant way, at least to this non-scientist.
The aim of the present paper is not a detailed discussion of the radiocarbon evidence of specific archaeological periods, or even individual sites and strata, but a more general view on whether the scientific methodology, as it presently stands, can really be used conclusively. Despite dissenting claims, the authors will demonstrate that there still is a conflict between the archaeological and radiocarbon based time scales, even if elaborate Bayesian statistics are used. The authors discuss possible reasons for this.
Nonetheless, I’m glad I worked my way through it. It was not an easy read for this non-scientist.
My reading of things is that STuRP tried a few ways to try and create the image. Finding none, they declared the image a scientific mystery. The unfortunate consequence of this was a tendency of apologists for the faith to stupidly declare that modern science could not reproduce the image. The failure of STuRP only means that no one has yet found a way. It means nothing more, unless, of course, there was a miracle.
I have been reading Colin Berry’s blog posting about testing a method of coating a human subject with flour and imprinting an image onto a wet cloth which is then cooked in an oven. It is ingenious and possibly correct. Maybe modern science can find a way that does not count on a miracle. That means that a medieval craftsman might have been able to create the image on the Shroud. It does not mean that he did.
Philosophically, at least, this serves to remind us that there may be many other ways of producing the image that no one has yet thought of. At least one of those methods might be a phenomenon of nature in the tomb. One might be the consequence of the byproducts of a miracle. One might be an arts and crafts method.
Colin’s ingenious work warrants examination:
There’s something very odd about the coloration of the “Shroud” fibres at the microscopic level. It’s to do with (a) the unifomity of coloration between different fibres (b) discontinuities on coloration, i.e. a sudden loss of coloration on particular fibres and (c) the coloration affecting the entire circumference of each fibre (we’re told). The model studies to date reported here with the dry flour/wet linen imprinting seem to match at least two of those characteristics , i.e. (a) and (b) . Who knows, maybe (c) too if I make an effort to view each fibre in the round, maybe by using high magnification on coloured fibres that have separated – or been separated – from neighbours in a thread.
Where are we at? Close to the finishing line would be my guess as regards the body image. It can be accounted for as a dry flour imprint onto wet linen that seeped its natural flour oil (1.5% approx by weight) during oven roasting, causing the hot oil to track along individual linen fibres producing yellow half-tone coloration with discontinuities when/where oil was limiting. It is not impossible that imprinting of the TS body image was carried out, as here, using flour supplemented with a small amount of added vegetable oil or some other lipid-like or lipid-rich material.