- A special posting by Kelly Kearse -
The idea has been proposed that the bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin are the result of application of the blood meals of the medicinal leech, Hirudo Medicinalis, using a felt-tipped pouch. The identity of this illusory forger remains unknown, but has been suggested to be an overzealous medieval monk. For the purpose of discussion, we’ll call him Brother Hirudo. While many may view this idea so preposterous that it warrants no further consideration, this suggestion will be examined below with the focus on maintaining an objective evaluation of the specifics of this proposal. When a hypothesis is put forth, it is predictable that others will raise questions regarding the scientific merit of such ideas. This is standard operating procedure for scientific inquiry. Inflammatory rhetoric and insinuations regarding personal character should not be a part of the equation; it is destructive and takes the focus off of the science. A brief discussion of the procedure of blood clotting is introduced, followed by several specific, key questions regarding the basis of this hypothesis.
There are four major components important in the clotting of blood: i) platelets, ii) red and white blood cells, and iii) a group of molecules collectively termed clotting factors, which include iv) fibrin, a molecule that forms a meshwork or web, joining all of the above together into a blood plug. When a tear in a blood vessel occurs, platelets first become activated and begin to adhere to the walls of the opening. Unless the tear is very small, platelets by themselves are not sufficient to stop blood flow. Various clotting factors are stimulated to reinforce the platelets, the main one being fibrinogen, which is converted to fibrin, creating a fibrous web that functions as a type of glue. Other cells, such as red and white blood cells may become trapped within the web and help fortify the clot.
The medicinal leech (Hirudo Medicinalis) begins feeding on human blood by
attaching itself to the skin and piercing the outer layer with a set of three blades, arranged at an angle to each other. Leeches contain a natural anticoagulant, or blood thinner, termed hirudin that interferes with the conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin (discussed above) that precludes the clotting of ingested blood. As the leech feeds, the watery portion of blood, the serum, is excluded to maximize the intake of red blood cells. Digestion of blood meals is extremely slow. Leeches may take up to several months to digest imbibed blood. Morphological preservation of erythrocytes ingested by leeches has been observed for up to 18 months.
1. Could the anatomical precision of bloodstains be accurately portrayed using leech-ingested blood applied with a felt stylus?
On average, the human body contains approximately 5 liters or 5000 ml of blood. A person may lose up to 10-15% of total blood volume (500-750 mls) without experiencing any major symptoms. (For those who may not regularly use the metric system, 16 oz. is equivalent to approximately 470 mls or 1 pint). A single leech may consume as much as 15 mls of blood in a feeding. Thus, Brother Hirudo would not have needed to expend tremendous effort to collect a sufficient volume of blood for the task. Moreover, there is no reason to assume that blood collection had to be restricted to a single event.
It has been suggested that the image on the Shroud of Turin shows no obvious, unequivocal evidence of wounds, which would be consistent with the requirement for application of bloodstains. However, various medical specialists would disagree (Barbet, 1963; Bucklin, 1997; Zugibe, 2005; Svensson, 2012; Svensson and Heimburger, 2012), asserting the presence of a major post-mortem wound on the right side of the body and puncture wounds located in the left wrist and middle of the right foot. The forensic accuracy of the bloodstained patterns on the Shroud has also been noted by numerous medical doctors and specialists spanning multiple decades, many of which are listed in the introduction of Y. Clement’s 2012 article “Concerning the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin: please don’t forget the evidence of the bloodstains!!!” For instance, Barbet noted that the blood flow follows a furrow between two extensor muscles of the forearm; others have discussed the gravitational flow of blood from the elbow and off the foot.
Is it reasonable to assume that someone like Brother Hirudo would have the knowledge to include such precise detail when creating the bloodstains on the Shroud? Relatedly, is it feasible that such clearly marked edges of the bloodstains could be achieved by delivering leech-sourced blood through a felt applicator, together with the use of a set of templates? Even the most open-minded scientific reviewer might struggle here.
The bordering area surrounding many of the bloodstains exhibits a halo of sorts, which is only visible under ultraviolet light (Miller and Pellicori, 1981; Jumper, et al., 1984). The medical doctor G. Lavoie, a specialist in internal and occupational medicine, has noted that such halos demonstrate the blood marks of the Shroud had exuded serum (Lavoie, 1998). Moreover, these data are consistent with the previous detection of blood serum proteins on Shroud bloodstained fibers by both chemical and immunological methods. It is unclear how application of leech-ingested blood might be considered here, as a paucity of blood serum would be expected in such mixtures since exclusion of serum occurs in the initial phase of leech feeding (see above). Considering that Brother Hirudo may have been visionary, foreseeing the use of uv analysis in the future, he might have set aside sufficient serum to decorate such wounds, using an additional set of specialized templates.
2. Is the presence of hydroxyproline in blood samples sufficient evidence of leech involvement?
Mass spectrometry is among the most powerful methods that exist for the identification and characterization of small amounts of substances present within a sample. To this end, pyrolysis (heating) coupled with mass spectrometry was performed on samples from the Shroud, having the primary goal of the sensitive detection of impurities (e.g. painting materials and sebum), (R. Rogers, 2008). A blood-spotted ( “Zina”) sample taken from the heel area was shown to emit hydroxyproline following treatment with low-temperature. These results helped to define an upper limit on the highest temperature the blood on the cloth was exposed to, as related to suggestions the Shroud was at one time boiled in oil (Rogers, 2008); also towards Rogers’ refutation of photons of particular wavelength playing a role in image formation (Rogers, 2008).
A tenet of the leech hypothesis is that hydroxyproline is not a regular constituent in human blood, that there is scarcely any worth speaking of. Moreover, as hydroxyproline is known to be present in connective tissue (collagen) of animals, including leeches, this can account for the hydroxyproline signal at m/e 131.
While true that hydroxyproline does not represent a principle component of human blood, its scarcity may be overhyped here. Hydroxyproline can be detected in normal human blood serum using simple immunological techniques that do not approach the sensitivity of mass spectrometry (ELISA kits, see kamiyabiomedical.com and mybiosource.com for examples). Using HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography) methods, serum levels of hydroxyproline may be evaluated in patients as a measure of liver and renal function (E. Kucharz, Rom J Intern Med Oct-Dec; 32: 271, 1994; Inoue, et al. Analyst Apr. 120: 1141, 1995; Inoue, et al., Biol. Pharm. Bull. Feb 19: 153, 1996). The clinical significance of a hydroxyproline-containing protein in human plasma was reported by Carwile LeRoy and Sjorerdsma as early as 1965 (J. Clin. Investigation 44: 914, 1965). It is not a given that the presence of hydroxyproline is indicative of contamination by animal protein, i.e. leeches. Perhaps it is an oversimplification, but has it also been considered that the sample taken from the heel area could contain trace components (hydroxyproline) of abraded skin? Or that the sample might have been contaminated by exposed skin during its collection and handling? Analysis of multiple blood areas would help determine if this finding were unique to this particular area of the cloth, and further validate the detection of hydroxyproline in Shroud bloodstains.
3. What are the colorometric and chemical properties of leech-ingested human blood?
One of the main issues that is raised regarding the involvement of someone such as Brother Hirudo, is what is known regarding the properties of leech-ingested blood?
Other than trying to imagine how someone might have gotten around the problem of using normal blood subject to clotting, what empirical evidence is there that the appearance of the bloodstains is telling of leeches? This raises some interesting points as to what may be known regarding the properties of leech-ingested blood that is put to further use. For example, when expelled, does such blood eventually clot upon drying? If so, what are the kinetics and what is the appearance of such bloodstains? Have any spectrophotometric studies ever been performed to compare normal vs. leech-ingested blood to evaluate the oxidation state of hemoglobin that is present? Such information could help establish a preliminary basis for further consideration of this novel idea.
I do not have a satisfactory explanation for why the blood on the Shroud of Turin has a red appearance. I would like to know. I am not convinced that bilirubin is the answer. I am not sure I completely understand the proposed effect(s) Saponaria treatment might have. I am willing to consider the involvement of other possibilities that involve some type of conversion of chemical bonds, by natural or even supernatural means. Leeches? It’s a creative idea, I’ll admit, but I need a lot more to go there. When I was a teenager, we used to wade out to up above our waist to use a pitchfork to remove lily pads that had overgrown on our neighborhood lake in the summer. The average leech count on each laborer was easily in the mid-thirties, upper torso to bottom toe, dorsal and ventral. I guess that’s why our dads sent us out to perform the task while they “held down the fort.” Of course, Brother Hirudo would have anticipated as much.
Whatever the pathway, the coloration of the bloodstains on the Shroud must have a definable, molecular basis. Further characterization of the chemical nature of the blood is central in any effort to define the basis for the resultant color. It is reasonable that more could be learned by careful examination of older (unrelated) blood samples. Others may argue that because this situation is totally unique, such comparisons will eventually become futile; even so, perhaps important knowledge could be gained before eventually is reached. Finally, any evaluation of blood coloration should be considered in the context of adhering to/binding the fibers of the cloth; this is an important variable, which should be part of the matrix. It is also one of the most challenging. The coloration of the bloodstains is an interesting scientific question, regardless of where one stands on possible mechanisms involved in image formation, or even on the proposed age of the cloth.
Other essays and postings by Kelly Kearse:
MUST READ: For John Klotz, in his must read posting, Evidence and the Shroud of Turin in his blog Living Free, the conclusion that Rudy Dichtl should arrive at, based on the article in the Denver Post is a matter of probabilities.
[A]s scientist, it can’t be said that it has been proven to be the burial cloth of Christ. Rudy Dichtl has made great contributions but there is a point where we have to make decisions on the evidence available. Based upon all the evidence available, the Shroud is a burial cloth of Jesus Christ. It is a matter of probabilities. How many Jews were crucified in 30-33 CE who claimed to be the Messiah?
[. . . ]
The accumulation of facts is overwhelming. The question that nobody has ever answered, given the circumstances is: If not HIM, who?
The Denver Post article was already mentioned in another post in this blog.
A good story, Boulder scientist shares Shroud of Turin research, by Amy Bounds appears in the Denver Post:
Dichtl, a retired physicist who lives in Boulder, was a founding member of a contingent of scientists granted unprecedented access to the shroud in 1978 in Turin, Italy. They worked around the clock for five days to run tests and gather evidence.
Sunday, he gave a talk . . .
On the bloodstains and the image:
The 30-person Shroud of Turin Research Project ultimately concluded the apparent bloodstains were real and very old. They also found no evidence of paint, dye, stains or any known artist’s media that could have created the discolorations that form the image.
Dichtl said there’s no way to prove that the shroud was the burial cloth of Jesus. But, he said, based on the evidence, “I believe it’s possible.”
On the carbon dating:
However, Ray Rogers, a member of the research project and Los Alamos National Laboratory fellow until his death in 2005, found in 2004 that the test sample used for the carbon dating was taken from a rewoven area — skillfully mended with different materials — that was virtually invisible under normal lighting conditions.
Rogers used ultraviolet photography and a battery of chemical tests to conclude that the tested section was this medieval patch and that the carbon dating, while correct, didn’t apply to most of the shroud.
“The consensus is the Carbon 14 dating has to be redone,” Dichtl said.
As I’ve said before, the view, nay dogma, that the bloodstains were imprinted before the body image arrived rests on somewhat token and insubstantial evidence based on a single spot test with proteolytic enzyme on a microscope slide. I have to say that I am not in the least bit surprised that a STURP finding that provides a pro-authenticity answer should be instantly and uncritically accepted without anyone ever suggesting that independent confirmation is desirable by other workers using other methods. For my part I have used Shroud Scope to look closely at areas where there are both blood and body images. Not only do I see superimposition, but am fairly confident that where there is superimposition in patches where blood image has flaked away
A couple of days later a reader wrote to me saying:
A couple of days ago Dr. Collin Berry made a rather significant comment and you ignored it completely. Instead you mocked his ideas about the blood stains being touched up over the years by well meaning monks. This does not make for dialog that arrives at the truth, which you say you want.
At the time, or so I thought, we addressed the issue in a posting, Did the bloodstains really precede image formation on the Shroud of Turin?, with all of its comments and the reference to Adler’s paper. Kelly Kearse challenged the accuracy of Colin’s characterization of Adler’s analysis as being “somewhat token and insubstantial evidence based on a single spot test.”
You may recall, at the time, that I used the cartoon of the baying dog. The cartoon was right given that I had ignored Colin on this. Colin is still right in persisting because he is really looking and questioning. He writes today of the following contrast-enhanced picture from Shroud Scope:
It’s a blood stain on the hair, with a nice contrast between blood (plum colour) and hair (greyish-brown). What seems clear is that blood has flaked off in places, shown by instances of hang-up in the interstices and crevices of the weave. Now look closely in those areas that are largely denuded of their blood, and one will see continuity of hair image across those regions. That is not what one would expect to see if the blood- first dogma were true. If an acquired blood stain on otherwise pristine linen subsequently acts as a barrier, preventing image being imprinted onto the linen carbohydrates, then when that blood flakes off, maybe centuries later, one should NOT see hair or other body image. But one does!
This does warrant our attention. (I would love to see the unenhanced side-by-side with the enhanced version of the image and information about exactly how the enhancement was done.)’
Is dogma the right word? Have we settled too much on merely citing papers rather than finding ways to seriously question ourselves over and over? Wait a minute! Has blood flaked off or are we jumping to conclusions? If Colin is right in that assumption then I must wonder if I am seeing what I think he is seeing?
In one thread of discussion, Hugh Farey questions much of the correctness of Stephen Jones’ summary of the bloodstains on his shroud blog:
Bloodstains. As usual, the “obvious” turns out to be almost the exact opposite. While few (perhaps none) of Stephen Jones’s observations are incontrovertibly incorrect, even fewer (perhaps all) are utterly unchallengeable.
Let’s take a few, probably in no particular order.
1) The two different angles of flow on the forearms correspond to the two different angles at which they were suspended on the cross. If this is so, then that pattern was maintained after the blood dried, the body was removed from the cross, transported to the tomb and ended up being transferred to the shroud, without being rubbed or washed off…
2) unlike the dribbles of blood which would have descended from the spear thrust, which have mysteriously disappeared, to be replaced by the randomly directed dribbles we see today, zigzagging around below the wound and flowing from one side to the other of the shroud. From one side to the other at least twice, or possibly from one side to the other and back again. There is no pooling of blood in the middle, as might be expected from a shroud carrying a body – so how did it dribble across? Presumably it was before the body was placed on top, and dried so quickly that the body did not smudge or distort it all as it was laid down.
3) It is easy to find pictures of people who have suffered head traumas. Do they have clean, stain-free hair, with a handful of well defined dribbles placed on the surface, as we see on the shroud? Nothing like. Blood, people seem to forget, starts at the scalp, and oozes its way through. If Jesus’s hair was matted with blood, it did not transfer to the shroud at all. Curious. Some people have suggested that the blood came from the sides of the face when the cloth was wrapped around the head (but nothing was transferred from the hair), and then the shroud was realigned to receive the image of the hair. If it is hair, and not a packing of spices.
4) There have been quite convoluted attempts to distinguish between bloodflows that occurred during crucifixion and dried, bloodflows from wounds reopening as the body was taken down, and bloodflows from wounds reopening as the body was laid in the shroud. Also between wet, dry and re-wetted blood, and even venous and arterial. They are not based on the colour or appearance of the blood, but entirely on its position on the shroud, taking it for granted that the flows must be genuine and attempting to explain the inconsistencies. Nothing wrong with that, but the premise is not proved thereby.
5) The flogging marks. These are very neat and tidy, as if the body had been washed clean, and then new exudates had seeped from the wounds onto the cloth. But if it wasn’t washed (see above for ‘crucifixion’ flows), then where is all the mess?
6) The serum. The bloodstains are certainly not surrounded by neat rings of serum under UV light. One prong of the wrist stain has a kind of halo, the spear wound has a rim, and there is an interesting pattern on the big foot stain. Much of the blood is completely without serum.
7) The Oviedo cloth, to be sure, is not inconsistent with a seriously injured head. In fact it is so heavily marked it is not inconsistent with almost any assembly of serious head wounds. To claim it is a perfect match of blood and fluid stains is wholly unjustified.
I could go on, but these will be enough, I hope, to encourage people who might otherwise have swallowed Jones’s article whole at least to go back to a photo of the shroud (not that absurdly miscaptioned image which graces Jones’s posting) and see for themselves whether these inconsistencies don’t need answering.
Max Patrick Hamon responds:
Hugh, why don’t you tell (late) Prs Bucklin, Baima-Bollone, Zugibe and Cameron are very poor forensic medical examiners when it comes to the Shroud image? Don’t you mistake Jones’ most awkward review of the blood stain issue and the true forensic science behind most of it.
Hugh writes back:
While I wouldn’t dream of telling your famous quartet of forensic pathologists their business, I note that they have studiously refrained from telling me mine. Either they have not addressed the issues I have raised, or they have disagreed with each other in their explanations. The question of pre- and post-mortem bloodflows, whether the body was washed or not, the position of the hand wound, the cause of death – on no single one of these are all four scientists agreed. They are scientists, and I’ve no doubt would all attribute their varied conclusions to the fact that they were working from a photograph of a sheet rather than a dead body, but varied their conclusions are, for all that. My inconsistencies remain unexplained.
And in response to a series of comments in another thread, Hugh writes:
A pool of blood at the small of the back seems so natural and convincing that it would argue quite strongly for authenticity if in fact it existed at all, which it doesn’t. There is no pooling of blood in the small of the back. I would recommend that people actually look at the shroud, but alas, even when they do people tend to see what they expect rather than what is there. If the body, with side wound reopened and dripping with lots of blood, was laid gently, being held by a couple of people maybe under the arms and knees, on a flat sheet, would two neat little rivulets of blood trickle across the sheet from one side to the other, and then immediately dry so as not to get smudged? Or would the twin trickles flow from the chest wound across the back of the body itself, not dripping onto the sheet at all, and then dry so perfectly that they didn’t smudge at all when it was laid on the sheet? Or did the trickles of blood cleverly make their way across the body along the top of the arch of the back (warped by rigor mortis), in defiance of gravity, so that by not touching the cloth they didn’t get smudged? In which case how did they arrive on the cloth?
So: Matthias. Well done for at least trying to envisage what might have occurred, but your experiment appears to have demonstrated the likelihood of something that is not represented on the shroud.
And Ron: Who has “concluded” that the trickles occurred after the body was placed on the shroud, and upon what evidence? A ‘conclusion,’ after all implies some sort of decision making process rather than an instant impression.
And other readers: Check again. There is no pool of blood in the small of the back, is there?
Hugh – I’d like you to explain why you think there is no blood on the small of the back. To my eyes at least there is a thin horizontal trail that looks to be of similar colour to the other alleged blood stains on the shroud. If the other similar coloured stains are indeed blood (I’m assuming they are) then I can’t see why the trail on the small of the back might not be blood. Then to the left and right of this thin trail are bigger stains.
Rather than Ron’s conclusion that this blood comes from the side wound, I think its highly likely that the stains to the right and left of the small back trail have come from the underside of the forearms. If you mimic the shroud figure’s pose like I did you will naturally see that blood would flow down the from the wrists on the underside of the forearms and collect around the hip area, possibly then trailing off across the small of the back.
Hugh – I’d be interested in your thoughts and why do you conclude that this isn’t blood? Is this because you think the other apparent blood stains on the shroud are not in fact blood either? Or do you think the other stains are blood but these ones aren’t????
Again I don’t understand why a forger would / could have gone to this level of detail.
And . . .
Credit and Thanks: I tip my hat. The picture shown above is from ShroudScope. It was extracted by Colin Berry who also made useful and informed adjustments to the contrast and brightness of the extraction.
It is a good review of the bloodstains. Jones concludes:
Since the bloodstains mostly correspond to the wounds on the Shroud, see previously "2.4. The wounds". And since the bloodstains on the Shroud correspond to the Gospel’s description the suffering and death of Jesus Christ they will be further considered in "3. The Bible and the Shroud."
Jones keeps us well oriented on finding his newer material:
Distinguishing human blood from that of other species:
Too much monkey business?
The term “human blood” is consistently used in discussions of the bloodstains on the Shroud. Just how is human blood distinguished in the laboratory? And where exactly does the data on the Shroud stand? These questions are briefly discussed below.
Human blood versus animal blood
A scientist cannot just look at a bloodstain with the naked eye and tell that it’s human blood. For fresh blood, microscopic analyses may allow one to distinguish mammalian red blood cells from non-mammalian red blood cells due to the absence and presence of a nucleus, respectively. If sufficient numbers of (white) blood cells are present, chromosomal characterization (karyotyping) may be performed, at significantly higher magnification. Among primates, only humans contain 46 chromosomes; chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans contain 48. The chromosome number of other species is quite variable, for example pigs have 38, sheep have 54, dogs have 78, and cows have 60.
In aged bloodstains, such microscopic tests are not practical because blood cells become dehydrated and rupture within hours of drying. Species characterization of dried, aged bloodstains relies on serological (immunology) tests or molecular (DNA) analysis. Chemical tests cannot distinguish human from animal blood. For serological studies, human blood components (usually albumin or immunoglobulin proteins) are detected using antibodies that are generated in another species, for instance, rabbits. When utilized in the laboratory, such antibodies would not react with blood components from other animals, for example chickens or cows, because enough difference exists from their human counterpart proteins that the antibodies fail to recognize them.
A positive reaction in such tests usually results in the conclusion that human blood is present. However, this is where things get somewhat tricky. Even though such reagents are designated as “anti-human”, this only refers to the species in which they were generated. Cross-reactivity (or the lack thereof) must be independently verified. Species that are closely related to humans (i.e. non-human primates) express blood components (albumin and immunoglobulin) that are similar enough to those of humans to also react positively in such tests (see picture above). In forensic settings this is typically disregarded unless special circumstances warrant that such possibilities be considered (at a crime scene within a zoo, for example, or if someone were known to keep apes or monkeys as pets). In most situations, when it is stated that bloodstains tested positive for human blood, this underlying supposition exists. Strictly speaking, such serological tests do not distinguish human blood from the blood of other primates (monkeys or apes). If sufficient DNA is intact for molecular biology analysis, specific regions of certain genes may be targeted that have sequences unique to humans, which allow them to be effectively distinguished from those of closely related species.
Human origin of the blood on the Shroud
In the vast majority of discussions of the human nature of the bloodstains on the Shroud, the studies that are typically referenced are the experiments of Adler and colleagues and Baima Ballone and coworkers, utilizing serological tests for detection of common major blood components: albumin, immunoglobulin, ABO antigens. In fact, such studies do not distinguish human blood from the blood of other primates.
With the Shroud, primate may imply human but this is an extension beyond what the data actually show. Adler was appropriately cautious in concluding that the data only demonstrated that the blood was of primate origin, and even conducted experiments to evaluate the cross-reactivity of such “anti-human” reagents. Adler would also comment, “If you choose to think that the image you see is that of a chimp or an orangutan, you’re perfectly welcome to believe that…”
To date, the only study that directly addresses the human nature of the Shroud bloodstains is an often overlooked report by Baima Ballone et al. that evaluated the expression of additional blood components found on red blood cells, specifically the M,N, and S antigens. (Such antigens have also been studied in the blood analysis of King Tut). The conclusion was that the bloodstains on the Shroud are characterized as MNS positive. What is most significant about these studies is that unlike M and N antigens, which are shared between certain primates and humans, the S antigen is exclusive to humans only. No S counterpart exists in other species, including apes or monkeys. This point was not emphasized (or mentioned) in the report, as the significance of this relationship among primates was not fully elucidated until several years later (in non-Shroud related studies). Of the six serological analyses of blood components on the Shroud, this brief study remains the single most definitive piece of serological evidence that directly addresses the human origin of the blood on the Shroud. For a more detailed discussion see: “Empirical evidence that the blood on the Shroud of Turin is of human origin: Is the current data sufficient?” recently published on shroud.com. The full-length manuscript is available at http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/kearse1.pdf.
Taken together, the current serological data indicate the blood on the Shroud is of primate, i.e. human origin. Could more work be done in the laboratory to strengthen the conclusion that the blood is indisputably human? The answer is yes. Should there be sufficient doubt that the blood is in fact, human, and may represent the blood of a monkey or ape? The MNS studies say no. All other data are consistent with this finding. Moreover, Adler has effectively commented on the difficulties a forger would encounter in trying to apply clotting blood [of any species] to various regions on the Shroud. Since the original blood studies were performed some thirty years ago, significant advancements have been made in the development of serological and molecular tools that could prove useful in advancing previous information. For example, within the past few years, monoclonal antibodies have been generated that effectively distinguish human blood from that of closely related species. Similar to blood typing data, additional analyses would cross-check and verify previous findings on the bloodstains of the Shroud.
Whose DNA is it, anyway?
Immunoglobulin, the T cell receptor, and the Shroud of Turin
Below is a brief synopsis of the paper “DNA on the Shroud of Turin: Distinguishing endogenous versus exogenous DNA” recently published on shroud.com. The full- length manuscript is available at http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/kearse2.pdf.
In the 1990s, Garza-Valdes reported in the book “The DNA of God” the cloning and sequencing of human gene segments from blood remnants on the Shroud. The presence of human DNA on the Shroud is sometimes viewed as corroborative evidence that the bloodstains are composed of real blood. Mature red blood cells in the human lack a nucleus and do not contain DNA; any DNA present from bloodstains must come from the white blood cells, which include B and T lymphocytes, or B and T cells for short. It is the DNA present within these two cell types that could prove useful in verifying that (certain) DNA on the Shroud is truly from blood cells and not from contaminating DNA, originating from other sources (see below).
Contamination of handled objects: Touch DNA
A major issue that persists in DNA analysis of objects that have been handled by numerous individuals is contamination. The average person sheds roughly 400,000 skin cells per day, a portion of which contains DNA that may be transferred to handled objects, referred to as touch DNA. DNA may be transferred by direct contact with the cloth, or by touching an object, which then comes in contact with the cloth (or with threads removed from it). A determined skeptic might argue that contaminating DNA is responsible for the previous results, a charge that is somewhat difficult to counter.
The three gene segments that have been isolated and analyzed from the Shroud are: the betaglobin gene (a subunit of hemoglobin), and the amelogenin-X and amelogenin-Y genes (present on the X and Y chromosomes, respectively). Such genes are not exclusive to blood cells, but are present in essentially all cells throughout the body, including skin cells. Thus, analysis and sequencing of such gene segments is unable to distinguish if they originated from DNA from bloodstains present on the cloth, or from contaminating DNA from exogenous sources, i.e. skin cells.
Same technique: Different Target Genes
Previous Shroud DNA studies utilized the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique that works by repeated cycling of DNA replication to exponentially amplify DNA. Such methods allow even small gene fragments to be very rapidly and effectively analyzed: a billion DNA copies can be created from a single DNA strand in just three hours time.
Unlike past Shroud studies, which focused on genes that appear identical in all cell types, the suggested experimental approach uses PCR techniques to specifically target lymphocyte receptor genes. B and T lymphocytes are unique in that unlike any other cell type in the body, the DNA encoding their cell surface receptors undergo rearrangement and splicing: immunoglobulin, or antibody for B cells, and the T cell receptor for T cells. As a normal process of B and T cell development, receptor genes separated by large distances on the chromosome are brought close together and edited to create a final product. Although other cell types, including skin cells, contain such genes, they remain in the unrearranged (germline) configuration throughout their lifetime: DNA rearrangement is specific for lymphocytes. Detection of rearranged lymphocyte receptor genes is an established and routine laboratory
procedure, commonly used in the diagnosis of various leukemias and lymphomas. Multiple B cell and T cell receptor genes exist that could be suitable for DNA analysis. Moreover, as many of the genes are present on different chromosomes, this might increase the chances for detection if certain DNA regions are more fragmented than others. Samples taken from several sites on the Shroud, particularly those below the fibers on the surface, would yield the most definitive conclusion. Such an approach may help establish that DNA in the blood areas of the Shroud of Turin originated from white blood cells (lymphocytes) present on the cloth.
Kelly Kearse writes:
Blood typing and the Shroud:
Positive for AB is not the same as AB positive
The bloodstains on the Shroud are reported to be type AB, as determined forward typing methods. Although semantically similar, being positive for AB blood is not physiologically equivalent to being AB positive. Here’s the difference: blood typing nomenclature typically lists the blood type first (A, B, AB, or O), followed by expression of a molecule termed the Rh factor. The ABO and Rh molecules are not genetically linked and are encoded on separate chromosomes. ABO and Rh are listed together in blood typing because both are important in blood transfusions. (Individuals that are Rh negative can mount an immune response to red blood cells that are Rh positive). You either express the Rh factor or you don’t, which is why the designation positive or negative is used.
A person that is AB positive (AB +) would contain red blood cells that express AB antigens as well as Rh molecules. Relatedly, a person that is AB negative (AB -) would contain red blood cells that express AB antigens, but not Rh molecules. Technically, (semantically), both individuals are positive for AB, but only the first is truly AB positive. Although the blood type of the Shroud is frequently reported as AB positive (or AB negative), to the best of my knowledge, expression of the Rh factor on the bloodstains on the Shroud has never been evaluated. In a personal communication with Baima Bollone last year (through Emanuela Marinelli), he replied that the Rh factor was too degraded for study at the protein level. The positive (and negative) designations that are at times assigned to the Shroud bloodstains are most likely semantic in nature (due to nonstandard use of the words “positive” or “negative”), and not data-driven. It is correct to say that the blood on the Shroud is positive for AB, which is most precisely stated as “types as AB”. It is not accurate to say that the blood on the Shroud is AB positive. This implies additional information about the expression of the Rh molecule, which is unknown
Conclusion: the blood from the (alleged) ‘spear wound’ is on the subject’s right side, so appears on the LEFT side of the subject’s imprint (your right).
Shame there’s no sign of a wound on the body image that corresponds with all that blood, but that’s another story, one that has been addressed previously on this site, back in August. Suffice it to say that bloodstains on the Shroud (head, hair, wrist, feet, side, scourge marks should not be regarded as synonymous with wounds when (a) the latter are NOT apparent on the body image, AND (b) one is less than 100% certain that the Man on the Shroud is NOT a forgery, e.g. in which the blood was painted onto a wound-free body image to convey the impression of wounds.
But do I hear you say that the blood came first, did it not, so was unlikely to have been painted on? So we are told, but as I’ve said on a number of previous occasions here, the evidence for ‘blood first- body image second’ rests upon qualitative spot tests from just one laboratory with a protein-digesting enzyme on a microscope slide – hardly copper-bottomed evidence for so crucial a question.
It will be the anniversary of my first Shroud posting in just 3 days time. My next post will attempt to summarise my current, now better informed position after another 135 postings. It will include the crucial but neglected issue addressed above: which came first – blood or body image?
In 1781, The London Magazine mentions the use copper on Royal Navy ships. I like the phrase:
Admiral Keppel made a remark upon copper bottomed ships. He said they gave additional strength to the navy and he reproached Lord Sandwich with having refused to sheath only a few ships with copper at his request, when he had since ordered the whole navy to be sheathed.
Michael asks in a comment:
Ok tell me this why on the shroud of turin is jesus left side seem to be the mark of the spear? For 2000 yrs its been on right side!
daveb of wellington nz replies:
The scriptural reference for the wound in the side is the gospel of John 19:34. However John does not say on what side the wound was given. There are several references in the early Fathers of the Church establishing a tradition that the wound was given on the right side, and this is precisely what analysis of the Shroud image shows.
Now, the Shroud itself acts as a mirror. Imagine yourself holding up say a bed-blanket by its corners, and imagine that your bodily image is projected onto the blanket on the side facing you. This is roughly the way that a Shroud would be draped over a human body. Your right-hand side will be projected onto the.left side of the blanket image. and vice-versa your left-hand side will be projected onto the right side of the blanket, just as looking in a mirror. On the original Shroud cloth the wound certainly appears to be on the left hand side because of this. But you need to view it on one of the several photographic negative images to reorient it to the correct view, when the image will then appear correctly on the right-hand side. Similarly on the Shroud cloth, the right foot appears to be crossed over the left, when in actual fact, the left foot crosses over the right and is therefore in front, also as shown on the Shroud negative photographs.
There is quite a lot that can be said about the wound in the side, and forensic pathologist Dr Pierre Barbet conducted several investigations into the various wounds, examining the negative photographs and experimenting with recently dead cadavers and amputated limbs during the 1930s. His book “A Doctor at Calvary” published in the 1950s is a classic in Shroud forensic literature.
He considers that the cross could not be more than about six foot high as both the crucifixion and the blow itself had to be given by foot soldiers in the execution squad. The blow itself was not part of the actual execution, but was a legal requirement to establish the fact of death before delivering the body to relatives. The blow itself seems to have been given by the Roman “lancea”, a long bladed spear, and the size of the wound matches the size of the lancea blade exactly, from various Roman military artifacts which have been recovered.
Dr Barbet discussed the details of the side wound in chapter 7 “The wound to the heart” of his book. He considers that the blow was delivered above the sixth rib, obliquely but almost horizontally, and the soldier would be seeking to pierce the right auricle of the heart which is always filled with blood. The water described in John 19:34 is pericardial fluid which would have accumulated in a great amount from the trauma of crucifixion. Barbet was also a classicist of some ability and is able to support his analysis by reference to considerable Roman military and other sources as well as by his forensic abilities.
I hope these few notes might give you a better understanding of the various technicalities implicit in your question.
For more information see: Negativity and the Shroud
Image from Stephen Jones’ Blog
I was thinking about the Shroud and wanted to share this with you in case an expert or two might be able to address. My thoughts were these:
If the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus, he was conceived and born of a virgin apart from union with a man. Presuming only one human genetic code/biological material, what would be expected physical evidence found on the Shroud, if any, by an expert in Biology, Genetics, Blood Chemistry or any other specialties that might bring something of substance to bear on this line of thought?
I do realize that there could be two genetic codes, only one provided by the human Mother. Once one considers a virgin birth, one has to admit a possibility of two genetic codes is not far fetched."
Cloning the man on the Shroud of Turin:
The Media’s Hyperbole with the Double Helix
The subject of a recent blog post about a comic book series that is now into its fifth issue, Punk Rock Jesus, involves a rather popular storyline regarding the Shroud: using DNA extracted from bloodstained threads to clone Jesus. Search on amazon.com and you will find over twenty fiction novels based on this premise; include those available exclusively as e-books and you can add about ten more. There has also been an Outer Limits television series episode, and a feature film released in 2010, “I’m not Jesus, Mommy”, centered on this idea.
Just how realistic is this scenario? What would be required to accomplish the cloning of a person under such circumstances? Would a clone be an exact duplicate of the Turin Shroud man? These and related issues are discussed below.
What exactly is cloning?
Cloning is the creation of an identical genetic copy of a living organism. Several types of cloning exist, but the most germane to the discussion of the Shroud is reproductive cloning using a method known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Somatic cells are cells other than sex cells (sperm or egg), which under normal circumstances do not provide DNA in the generation of an organism. Development of the SCNT technique began in the early 1950s using frogs, and was further refined and eventually popularized in the mainstream media years later with the success of Dolly, a cloned sheep, in 1996. The basics of this method are shown in the figure below. The nucleus of adult cell (a skin cell, for example) is isolated and transplanted into an egg cell (oocyte), which has had its own nucleus removed. The egg cell is then implanted into a surrogate mother, who also receives various hormones to simulate the normal course of pregnancy. Since the only source of nuclear DNA in the developing embryo is from the adult cell, the resulting offspring will be genetically identical to the organism from which it was taken.
In the creation of Dolly, the scientists used a very clever strategy to monitor their success: the skin cell containing the DNA to be transferred was taken from a type of sheep that was purely white-faced; the host egg cell into which this nucleus was transplanted was from a black-faced animal. If truly a clone, the offspring would have to be purely white-faced (which was also verified by DNA analysis). Cloning Dolly required significant effort; success was achieved only after 276 previous attempts by the same group resulted in failure.
Send in the clones
Since the creation of Dolly, other types of animals have been cloned using this method, including mice, rats, cats, dogs, goats, deer, cows, mules, and horses. To date, however, reproductive cloning has not been successful in primates. Although cloning of a Rhesus monkey was reported in 2007 (by embryo splitting), this is not equivalent to reproductive cloning by SCNT using DNA from adult cells in the creation of an exact genetic copy. Refinement of this method for use in primate cells has been especially hampered by the fact that removal of the nucleus from the egg cell disrupts important host proteins that are essential for subsequent division and development. It is certainly possible that current limitations to reproductive cloning in primates will be overcome in the future as techniques continue to be developed and refined. Reports of cloned human embryos have periodically surfaced in the media, but all have been subsequently found to be bogus.
Cloning and the Shroud
Apart from the existing technical roadblocks in the reproductive cloning of primates, if such a system were currently in place, cloning the man on the Shroud using DNA isolated from bloodstains still lies well within the realm of science fiction. Multiple problems exist with this scenario. First and foremost, to clone an organism, you need a full complement of nuclear DNA. The DNA on the Shroud is badly fragmented; while certain regions on particular chromosomes may be intact (for example, portions of the betaglobin and amelogenin X and Y genes sequenced by Garza-Valdes and coworkers), it is extremely unlikely that sufficient DNA is present to represent the entire genome. As mentioned above, even with technically pristine DNA present in a freshly isolated nucleus, successful transfer and development often requires numerous attempts together with a generous amount of luck.
Additionally, because numerous individuals are known to have handled the cloth, it is unclear that any DNA isolated would belong exclusively to the man on the Shroud. The average human being sheds approximately 400,000 skin cells per day, a portion of which contains DNA that may be transferred by contact, referred to as touch DNA; how long touch DNA may survive is unclear and unique to each object. The extent of contamination of the Shroud by exogenous DNA is unknown, but given the communal nature of the cloth in both its past and even more recent history, it is reasonable to speculate that DNA from numerous individuals may be present on the Shroud. If it were possible to obtain a full nuclear complement of DNA from a sample taken from the Shroud, it is likely to be a mosaic, resulting from the contribution of multiple persons. In the previously mentioned 2010 film “I’m not Jesus, Mommy”, the scientist responsible for the breakthrough, Dr. Gabriel, announces “What you are holding in your hands is the first human embryo cloned from red blood cells.” This is a miraculous feat indeed, as red blood cells in humans (and all mammals) are devoid of DNA because they lack a nucleus. In the non-Hollywood version, DNA from the Shroud would have to originate from white blood cells in the bloodstains.
A True Duplicate Copy: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Di or Ob-La-Da?
Ethical and moral issues aside, which are without question, hugely significant and relevant; and strictly speaking from a scientific viewpoint: if a full complement of intact, unfragmented nuclear DNA were available, and if it were purely from the bloodstains on the Shroud, and if current methods were in place for reproductive cloning in primates, would a clone be identical to the man on the Shroud? Genetically speaking, the answer is yes and no. Although a clone contains exactly the same nuclear DNA as the organism from which it originated, it is not entirely identical. There is no such thing as an exact clone. In addition to nuclear DNA, cells also contain mitochondrial DNA, which encode genes necessary for cellular function. In reproductive cloning, only the nuclear DNA is transferred to the donor egg cell. All mitochondrial DNA originates from the host egg cell, which will be expressed in the resulting organism (clone) throughout its lifetime. In normal organisms (non-clones), while nuclear DNA is inherited from both parents, mitochondrial DNA is transmitted solely from the mother.
Genes are only part of the story in the development of an organism. Environmental factors may influence which genes are turned on and which genes are switched off. Even monozygotic twins, which are truly genetically identical, do not have the same fingerprints. Twins that are raised together may appear at times indistinguishable, but each possesses unique personality traits and even physical features that are distinct characteristics. Unlike cinematic portrayals of cloning, which at times border on the irrational (e.g. Multiplicity, 1996), clones are not born as adults, equivalent in age to the individual from which they were propagated. A clone would be born as an infant and subject to unique experiences and environmental influences, which would impact the genetic blueprint. A clone would be expected, of course, to be very similar to the organism from which it came, but an identical carbon copy is not likely.
What the future holds in terms of cloning, particularly in relation to higher organisms, remains to be determined. Technology has advanced relatively rapidly compared to the full consideration of moral and ethical issues that accompany such scientific progress. Concerning the Shroud, such cloning scenarios are best categorized as science fiction rather than science fact.
Regarding the controversy about how old AB blood is, Charles Freeman supports the idea that until 9th century this type of blood did not exist because there are no evidences of mingling between A linages (EUROPEAN) and B linages (Asian) before that date.
In this peer-reviewed journal a recent study shows that by iron age there is now an evidence of such a mixture [: Tracing the Origin of the East-West Population Admixture in the Altai Region (Central Asia) by Mercedes González-Ruiz, Cristina Santos, Xavier Jordana2, Marc Simón, Carles Lalueza-Fox, Elena Gigli, Maria Pilar Aluja, Assumpció Malgosa]. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0048904
I think this study may represent a contribution to the debate.
I have added the abstract here:
A recent discovery of Iron Age burials (Pazyryk culture) in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia may shed light on the mode and tempo of the generation of the current genetic east-west population admixture in Central Asia. Studies on ancient mitochondrial DNA of this region suggest that the Altai Mountains played the role of a geographical barrier between West and East Eurasian lineages until the beginning of the Iron Age. After the 7th century BC, coinciding with Scythian expansion across the Eurasian steppes, a gradual influx of East Eurasian sequences in Western steppes is detected. However, the underlying events behind the genetic admixture in Altai during the Iron Age are still unresolved: 1) whether it was a result of migratory events (eastward firstly, westward secondly), or 2) whether it was a result of a local demographic expansion in a ‘contact zone’ between European and East Asian people. In the present work, we analyzed the mitochondrial DNA lineages in human remains from Bronze and Iron Age burials of Mongolian Altai. Here we present support to the hypothesis that the gene pool of Iron Age inhabitants of Mongolian Altai was similar to that of western Iron Age Altaians (Russia and Kazakhstan). Thus, this people not only shared the same culture (Pazyryk), but also shared the same genetic east-west population admixture. In turn, Pazyryks appear to have a similar gene pool that current Altaians. Our results further show that Iron Age Altaians displayed mitochondrial lineages already present around Altai region before the Iron Age. This would provide support for a demographic expansion of local people of Altai instead of westward or eastward migratory events, as the demographic event behind the high population genetic admixture and diversity in Central Asia.
Today, Colin Berry, after citing a comment on this blog, asks a question (well, editorializes, really). Fair enough. It seems to be a valid point:
Well, we’d all like to solve the mystery of the Shroud, and if bilirubin has a part to play, then ought we not to know precisely how much was there, if only to be certain that SOME was there?
So what’s the answer. I’m happy to have the answer in old money (mg%) or in SI units, e.g mmoles /decilitre. But please don’t quote back Alan D Adler’s comment that there were “extraordinary levels of bilirubin”. I am already familiar with that quotation. However, there’s little prospect of “solving the mystery of the Shroud” (sic) when the amount of an allegedly crucial signature of trauma and crucifixion is reported as “extraordinary”, leaving one to speculate as to whether that is just 1 mg% or 20 mg%. That’s the difference between normal and highly jaundiced. Oh, and let’s not bother for now about the proportion of the bilirubin that was conjugated or unconjugated with glucuronic acid (which clinicians use an an aid to differential diagnosis, e.g whether the bilirubin was due to excessive haemolysis of red blood cells or due to liver or kidney impairment). Total bilirubin will do. If you can say how it was measured, so much the better.
Btw: there has to be lots of bilirubin according to Alan Adler, to explain why the blood looks permanently red. But that did not prevent him advising the Shroud’s custodians to instal extra light protection for the Shroud on the grounds that bilirubin was unstable to light. Yup, I’m confused too…
Kelly Kearse writes:
While watching the Orioles go down in flames this evening, I wrote a posting about the origin of the AB blood type . . . .
He attached it and here it is:
Just how old is the AB blood type?
In response to an earlier posting on the upcoming BTST meeting, there has been much discussion about when the AB blood type first appeared in history. AB blood type has been reported in skeletal remains that are approximately 1,600-2,000 years old (Am. J. Phys. Anthrop. 47: 89-91, 1977), and in tissues of mummies from 3 B.C. to 4th century (Forensic Science International, 43: 113-124, 1989). These studies were done using serological methods (antibodies), which recognize the ABO molecules on the surfaces of blood cells (see Figure below). As ABO antigens are also found in many organisms including bacteria, fungi, and insects, the issue of “false positives” is often mentioned when discussing blood typing of ancient samples (see “Blood on the Shroud of Turin: An Immunological Review, available on shroud.com, for a detailed discussion).
An alternative method for blood typing exists, which involves molecular biology (DNA) techniques to probe for the genes responsible for conferring ABO blood type. Because human red blood cells (RBCs) lack a nucleus, this method evaluates gene expression in white blood
cells (WBCs), or other nucleated cell types (see Figure below). In this technique, which uses the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify DNA, possible issues with false positives due to bacteria are circumvented because it is the (internal) gene responsible for encoding the surface antigens that is being evaluated. Unlike the surface antigens which may be similar in humans & bacteria, human ABO genes are easily distinguished from DNA of other organisms. While this may seem like the method of choice for analyzing ancient samples, such studies are often precluded because of DNA degradation issues. Indeed, for typing studies of aged bloodstains, more reports exist in the literature using serological (surface) analysis relative to molecular (DNA) analysis.
Within the past couple of years, I have written to numerous scientists who specialize in the fields of anthropological and molecular evolution (my research background is in cell biology & immunology) to inquire about the origins & appearance of the AB blood type. Specifically, I asked what is the first human or human-related sample that has typed as AB using molecular biology (DNA) methods; and when is the AB blood type believed to have emerged in human history? The consensus from the answers I received is represented in several specific responses quoted below, “ABO systems have not been widely analyzed in ancient remains [using molecular biology techniques], there are very few papers on the blood system.” “There certainly is controversy as to when group B (and thus AB people) emerged.” A specialist at Harvard replied, “It is CERTAINLY [his caps, not mine] well before 10,000 years ago”, “some place the origin of B @ 100,000 years ago.” “I am very sure it was long before 1,000 years ago-based on DNA divergence from the primordial group A gene”. One of the world’s foremost authorities on the molecular analysis of the ABO blood group, whose laboratory first cloned the human ABO genes, was quite adamant in his response that D’Adamo’s claims that the AB blood type is only 1,000 years old “does not fit with the current theory of the evolution of the ABO gene”…and “is not based on scientific evidence”.
In the literature, the few samples that have been analyzed (by molecular DNA techniques) are reported as O; for example, 2 Neanderthals analyzed by Lalueza-Fox in 2008, and Otzi the 5,300 year old “ice man”. In the current population, ~44% of people are type O, compared to ~5% for type AB (A and B are 35% and 17%, respectively). Thus, perhaps it is not that surprising with such a very limited amount of DNA studies reported, type O would be more prevalent. Clearly, much more work remains to be done in this particular area, especially in relation to molecular analysis of aged samples.
James D. Tabor, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, writes in his blog, What Have They Done with Jesus? When History and Theology Collide:
I presented the results of my take on Jesus in my 2006 book, The Jesus Dynasty. It is a book written for a non-specialist audience, not for my academic colleagues, though I am happy that any number of them have offered their reviews. This includes Jim Strange, Craig Evans, Darrel Bock, Jack Porier, and Ben Witherington–all of whom are academics with a decidedly conservative approach to matters of Christian Origins. Craig Evans and Ben Witherington have written entire books on the more general issues involved in historical Jesus research. Evans titles his book, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, with a chapter endearingly titled “Hokum History and Bogus Findings,” in which he treats my own take on Jesus. Still, Ben Witherington’s title surely has to be my favorite: What Have They Done With Jesus? The book is a rather typical liberal vs. conservative treatment of recent historical studies written by well known academics on Jesus and early Christianity that have made it into the mass market trade publishing world. Witherington is bound and determined to save Jesus from the critical scholars but at the same time to be cute and engaging with chapter titles such as: Gullible’s Travels,” “Naughty Gnostic Gospels,” “For Pete’s Sake,” “Simon Says,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” and “Hey Jude, Don’t Make It Bad.” In an appendix to the book, hastily added as it was going to press, is Witherington’s critique of The Jesus Dynasty, previously published on his blog in several parts. Gary Burge, in Christianity Today, characterized Witherington’s treatment of my work as “a stinging dismantling of James Tabor’s primary theses in his speculative book, The Jesus Dynasty.”
I find it interesting that Prof. Burge considers Witherington’s treatment a “stinging dismantling” of my primary theses, though I suppose I should not at all find it surprising that Burge would characterize my work as “speculative.” After all, I do indeed “speculate” that Jesus had a human father, or that dead bodies don’t rise and walk around and eat and drink, talk to folks, and then rise up into the heavens. Therefore I assume that Jesus must have had the normal DNA that comes from a human mother and father, and that if the tomb into which he was temporarily and hastily place after his execution was empty someone must have removed Jesus’ corpse. It is that simple. Since I know neither the father nor what happened to the body I suggest a few possible speculative scenarios that you can take a look here and here. So in that regard I guess I have to plead guilty of “speculation.” But is there really any serious alternative? Seriously? See my essay here on “Sense and Nonsense in the Academic Study of Religions.”
There are of course many things we don’t know with certainty about the historical Jesus, and when I can I try to fill in what one might reasonably suppose, and that could well be labeled speculation as well, but I think it is the “Jesus had a father” and “dead messiahs don’t come to life” assumptions that most hackle folk who take such things literally. As for the charge that Witherington has offered a “stinging dismantling” of my primary theses I must confess I find myself at a loss here. Somehow I can not imagine that anyone familiar with the areas I cover in my book would evaluate Witherington’s critique in that way. I guess it just goes to show how Evangelicals love champions, those few of their number who go out and somehow “meet the lions” on their own terms (and I am surely not even one of the lions compared to the likes of Crossan, Ehrman, or Funk).
I have not chosen to “answer” Witherington’s critique of my book in an explicit and direct way. I think our basic presuppositions are so very different on many issues there is, unfortunately, simply no room for dialogue. Ben is doing theology and I am trying my best to stick with history. Witherington wrote me in the course of his questioning my discussion about Jesus having a father that he believed the blood samples tested on the Shroud of Turin had strangely showed neither X nor Y chromosomes, indicating that Jesus was somehow human, but without normal human blood like the rest of us with two human parents. I must admit, it took me aback more than a bit. But it also helped me to realize that in such circles the normal rules of scholarly engagement and critical discussion are suspended. On the other hand, I have responded to most of the critiques of Witherington, Evans, and others in the many posts on this Blog, particularly the matters relating to the Talpiot tombs, the ossuaries and their inscriptions, and the matter of Jesus having a father. It is all there for those who want to go back and read a bit, beginning with the links above as well as here, here, and here. (bold emphasis mine)
What do we really know or think we know about this subject?
Or to make it simple for what is becoming a very important paper:
Yannick has another article for us The Holy Shroud Guild:
- English PDF: Concerning the question of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin: please, don’t forget the evidence of the bloodstains!!!
- French PDF: En ce qui concerne la question de l’authenticité du Linceul de Turin : s’il-vous-plaît, n’oubliez pas la preuve fournie par les taches de sang!!!
Two comments from blog posting, “Barrie Schwortz Announces Latest Changes to the Shroud of Turin Website (STERA, Inc.)” warrant special attention:
1. The first is from Thibault Heimburger:
Congratulations to you , Kelly Kearse, for your very beautiful and comprehensive review of the immunology of the blood.
I have learned many things, especially the details of Bollone’s studies which unfortunately are not available in English (or French).
It’s exactly the kind of balanced and honest paper we need.
I fully agree with your conclusion.
Thanks again and bravo !
2. The second is from Ron, a frequent and thoughtful participant in the blog:
MAN! You’ve got to hand it to Barrie, he is TIRELESS! Awesome update and sure worth the wait.
A huge THANK-YOU to our good friend Barrie Schwortz and anyone else involved in keeping shroud.com the place to go for Shroud studies.
And that hardly covers it. I’m just reading The Shroud and the "Historical Jesus": Challenging the Disciplinary Divide by Simon Joseph. Fantastic! I’ll be up all night delving into this wonderful update.