Not superficial? The implications could be staggering.

February 8, 2019 30 comments
Colin Berrys Microscope Picture


Left: the arrow points to a THREAD that is displaying a cut edge, i.e. much needed transverse section. Why the speckled appearance? Right: enlargement, showing that it’s the SCW cores of some but not all individual FIBRES that contain the dense pigment, probably Maillard-derived melanoidin, the latter possibly having penetrated via this investigator’s proposed reticular network of capillary channels existing between the MICROFIBRILS.

If Colin Berry is right, the implications could be staggering. It’s enough, I thought, to warrant waking up this blog for at least one posting. Your comments are, as always, welcome.

I retired from blogging just over three years ago.  Until today, I stayed away from this blog and every other Shroud of Turin related website and newsletter.

A few days ago, I decided to jump back in, at least for one posting. That was after getting an email from Dr. Colin Berry. He wanted me to know that he now suspected that the Shroud’s image is not superficial.

Not superficial? But Isn’t it a fact that it is? Isn’t it something we all believe is true?
On his blog, he told of …
…   a realization that the supposed ultra-superficiality of the TS body image – pointing we’re told to a supernatural origin –  had scarcely a single solid fact to back it up. …
No, not on the surface PCW (primary cell wall) but hidden away, out of sight, deep within the microfibril-packed core of the SCW (secondary cell wall).  Oh dear: has sindonology got it entirely wrong with its ‘out-of-this-world ultra superficial’ body image?

Colin’s email to me invited me to look at his blog.  Colin tried to boil the ocean in his last posting, something that I used to do myself, sometimes. I would do so again, this time in a reply to him. In addition to my reaction to Colin’s non-superficiality grenade, I had three years of pent up thinking to unload. When I realized my reply was too long to be a reasonable blog posting or email, I turned it into a PDF file called,The Resurrection is Just Too Mysterious to Be Described & A Response to Dr. Colin Berry. 

Long walks with the dog, away from the blog, gave me the chance to think a lot about the Shroud.  Colin and I are closer than I thought we were. It is mostly in the conclusions about the authenticity of the cloth that I disagree with him. I think we are very much in agreement about not finding any basis for an image being created as the result of the Resurrection.

What Colin is now saying about the lack of superficiality in the image reminds me of the 3D problem. It was often said that it is impossible to plot 3D information from paintings and ordinary photographs. Bill Meacham put it this way:

Unlike ordinary photographs or paintings, the Shroud image converted into an undistorted three-dimensional figure, a phenomenon which suggested that the image-forming process acted uniformly through space over the body, front and back, and did not depend on contact of cloth with body at every point.


Unfortunately, that wasn’t true.  At an international Shroud of Turin conference in St. Louis in 2014, Joseph Accetta proposed that a photograph of a certain death mask might contain all the information needed in exactly the same way as the image on the Turin Shroud.  He was right; Colin did so and confirmed it.  That challenged the belief, stemming out of an erroneous assumption that the grayscale values on the Shroud represented cloth-to-body distance or body shape.  It was a classic case of an assumption being treated like a fact. See:  It is really, really time to rethink what we think about 3D.

Colin is a scientist. If he is wrong about the non-superficiality of the Shroud image he certainly wants to know it. And he wants to know why.  And if he’s right he wants you to know. And I want you to know that this might challenge a generation of postulating about how the image was formed.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thank You, Everyone

December 15, 2015 218 comments

imageThis is my last posting. I’m retiring from blogging. I need to. It’s time to move on. I’m now more involved in the community where I live and I want to become more active in the church.

I’ll let commenting continue for a few days and then shut down comments for good by years’ end. I’ll keep the blog up for future research and reading.

Thank you, everyone!

If you want to take over in some way, write to me and we’ll try to figure out something.

imageI started this experiment seven years ago with the hope of beginning an ongoing conversation about any and all topics related to the shroud. The slow pace of papers and the length of time between conferences, very much the time-tested way, was too slow for my temperament. There was the Shroud Science Group conducting discussions in private by email. I enjoyed that. But its membership was restricted. It reminded me of the proverbial boyhood tree house with the sign that read, “No Girls Allowed.”

Maybe that’s unfair: You had to be nominated. You had to be invited. No one was ever turned away although a couple of people were eventually kicked out of the group for email misbehaving. If there had been a sign and someplace to hang it, it would have read, “No Skeptics Allowed.” At least, it felt that way.

Skepticism is the healthiest of attitudes with all things having to do with religion. I believed that. For instance, a Christian should never fear new discoveries in science and history. There can be no better test of the strength and truth of one’s faith than to face the questions posed by new views of reality.

We needed to be tempted, not by going into the desert but into the jostling crowd. It took a long time. Thank, God, for Colin Berry and all the others.

At first I didn’t do blogging correctly and this blog didn’t catch on. Eventually, I learned to say less and encouraged others to become the center of the discussion, something I’m not good at. In doing so I created an opportunity to learn a lot from skeptics and non-skeptics alike. I hope this has been true for others because this blog was never intended for my benefit alone.

This blog has exceeded all my expectations. Lately, I have been posting almost every day, sometimes two or three times a day. Comments pour in. They are good comments, not those meaningless short comments you see in so many blogs. There has been a lot of constructive discussion.

In looking back over seven years, I realize that my overall views on the shroud have not changed significantly. You’ll note that in the right hand column of every page, I say, “The Shroud of Turin may be the real burial cloth of Jesus.” I used to say it probably is instead of may be. I still gut-think it is probably authentic but in all honesty I can’t defend the word probably with real-world science and objective history.

Belief is a less cautious word than knowing. I can say with more honesty that from all the evidence discussed here, with everyone’s input considered, I believe the shroud is indeed authentic. But I can’t say I know it.

As I leave blogging about the shroud, I want to leave a few thoughts behind. This is today’s list. I may awake to a new list tomorrow but I won’t go back and change it. I’m really out of here.

On Overwhelming Evidence: From time to time, people have tried to convince me that the evidence in favor of authenticity is overwhelming. Similarly, others have tried to convince me that the evidence against authenticity – particularly the carbon dating – is overwhelming. No, it is not. It is underwhelming. That is why this blog has over 4000 postings with a total of more than 46,000 comments. That is why this blog has accumulated 3.3 million page views. That is why 790 people subscribe to receive email copies of every posting.

Redo the Carbon Dating: Of course.

On Seeing Things on the Shroud: I don’t think there are any images of ancient coins, plants, teeth or written messages in Greek, Latin or Hebrew; all these are wishful misperceptions or pareidolia. See: I Don’t See Flowers and Coins and Teeth on the Shroud of Turin

On 3D Encoding: I think the ability to plot a 3D representation of the body from the image of a man on the shroud with tools like the VP8 Image Analyzer or ImageJ is a valid image characteristic. However, I don’t think that the data – essentially greyscale values of the image – necessarily represents cloth to body distance. To think so requires the assumption that the shroud covered the body. It probably did if the cloth is authentic, but we are not there yet. Nonetheless, I’ve listened to others preposterously trying to prove the authenticity of the cloth from the facts and measurements derived from this assumption.

Moreover, it is often said that it is impossible to plot 3D information from paintings and ordinary photographs. Bill Meacham wrote:

Unlike ordinary photographs or paintings, the Shroud image converted into an undistorted three-dimensional figure, a phenomenon which suggested that the image-forming process acted uniformly through space over the body, front and back, and did not depend on contact of cloth with body at every point.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold up. See: It is really, really time to rethink what we think about 3D

Exaggerations: NASA did not analyze the shroud. Ray Rogers was not a general In the Air Force, America’s greatest scientists did not study the shroud, and so-and-so was not a Nobel prize-winning physicist. Drop the exaggerations. They only weaken the truth.

Dematerialization: The suggestion that the image was formed by a cloth falling through a dematerializing body is unfortunate. Permit me to quote Hugh Farey here:

… The trouble with the fall-through hypothesis is that, being imaginary, its parameters can be adjusted so that it fits whatever observations we want. If a critic were to say that the instantaneous disappearance of 70kg of mass would create a sudden large vacuum which would suck the shroud into a screwed up ball in the middle, then we simply have to invent a physics in which that doesn’t happen. If he says that the energy emitted by such a disappearance would exceed that produced by several megatons of nuclear bomb, vaporising the Shroud and most of Jerusalem with it, we simply invent a physics in which that doesn’t happen either. All we need is for a “body wrapped in the Shroud to become volumetrically radiant […] and simultaneously mechanically transparent, thus offering time-decreasing resistance to the cloth as it collapsed through the body space.” Simples. Made-up physics can explain anything.

See: The Process of Resurrection and Dematerialization 101

Sindonology: To quote Colin Berry, because in this I think he is right:

. . . There is no such thing as an expert in the field of sindonology (or shroudology as I prefer to call it. We are all beginners. Some begin better than others. The TS is a test of our ability to separate the wishful thinking that comes with appealing imagery from that of cold hard reality. Sadly there is no part of the human mind that is devoted to detecting CHR. The human mind is programmed to respond on a more immediate like/dislike response to what it sees. It’s part and parcel of the human condition to instantly add layers of fancy to what cunningly or otherwise seduces, or attempts to seduce the eye.


Some of my other favorite postings:

Maybe the devil made them post this

It Was A Single Procedural Screw-Up. No Other Area Was Sampled. Is That Enough?

Why do we think the Resurrection was a process? What if it was not?

The Best Shroud of Turin Pareidolia?

Paper Chase: Why There Are Probably No Images of Coins, Lettering, Flowers and Whatnots on the Shroud of Turin

The Pollen Scam?

Why the images and bloodstains were not painted on

So which hypothesis, of all those ever proposed, do I prefer?

A Masterly Demolition of the Hungarian Pray Manuscript?

A Pointless Discussion of the Hungarian Pray Manuscript?

The Curious ‘a’ in the Hungarian Pray Manuscript

Discussion about the Pray Codex and its relation to the Shroud is over?

Get Thee Upset! Or Not: Thomas de Wesselow’s New Book on the Shroud

Hymn of the Pearl: Description of the Shroud of Turin?


A final note:


When I first started this blog someone told me. “The Shroud of Turin is a Catholic relic. As an Episcopalian you have no right to comment on it.”

I wrote a reply and never posted it. This is my last chance:

It’s true; I’m an Episcopalian. Episcopalians are part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Maybe I should explain what sort of Episcopalian I am. I’m High Church – all smells and bells, some say. Every Sunday it’s Solemn High Mass with a priest, deacon and sub-deacon, plenty of incense, holy water, chimes, chanting and recitation of The Angeles (“Hail Mary, full of grace…”). To some, should they visit a service, it might seem a lot like the Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass of old. There are differences, however. There is little or no Latin. Look closely and you will see wedding rings on most of our priests and bishops. That is because most of them are married. Many of our priests and even a few bishops are women; so girls are allowed. Generally speaking, we Episcopalians think most Christian denominations or traditions are part of one universal church, one body of Christ. One expression of this is our practice of open communion. We welcome all baptized Christians to participate in the Eucharist. (Personally, I would do away with the requirement of baptism. I would welcome anyone to the “Lord’s Table” regardless of belief or anything else – let God sort these things out, not men and women).

Okay, so I’m an Episcopalian. So what? Would it be any different if I was Methodist or Presbyterian or Greek Orthodox? You say it is a Catholic relic. Is it? Why is that? If the history of the shroud is right, was it not a possession of the Church in Constantinople before 1204? Early on, perhaps it was a relic of the Nestorians or the Syriac Church or even the Church in India. We don’t know is the point. Today, to my way of thinking it is an item (an icon or a relic) for all Christians. The Pope is its current legal custodian and the leader of perhaps its most interested Christian tradition. Beyond that, let God sort it out, not men and women.

Thank you, everyone!

Categories: News & Views

Watertight Evidence

December 13, 2015 42 comments

imageJust this morning Charles Freeman was writing in a comment:

… I shall not be the first nor the last to say that this was originally a painted linen. MacCrone, of course, and then we have the late and lamented expert on painted linens, Caroline Villers, who talks of the Shroud as ‘one of the best-known surviving medieval images on a textile support’….

And just this morning the Duluth News Tribune ran this letter from one of its readers, Kenneth L. Johnson, a retired chemist who was trained in microscopic analysis by Dr. Walter McCrone at the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago.

On Nov. 1, the News Tribune published an article headlined, “Shroud of Turin mystery deepens.”

The mystery to me is how this subject continues to get press coverage. In the 1970s, Dr. Walter McCrone examined a portion of the shroud that was purported to contain dried blood. He found no blood, but he did find red ochre and vermillion paint particles. Dr. McCrone, who literally wrote the book on the analysis of microscopic particles (“The Particle Atlas,” published in six volumes from 1973 through 1979), was eminently qualified to conclude that the shroud was a 14th century painting. The “scientists” who refuted his work had no qualifications to perform the analyses on which they claimed to rely.

In fairness to Charles, he writes:

I have had several responses that say that my views are plausible or that i seem to be on the right lines so I can only sow seeds . One day I hope some expert will come up with the watertight evidence!

I, too, would like watertight evidence.  But I doubt it will be what Charles hopes for.  Colin Berry has certainly demonstrated how weak Charles’ argument is.  I also doubt, even with watertight evidence, that the belief it is a painting will ever fade – no pun intended, Charles.

Categories: Image Theory


December 10, 2015 22 comments

A Guest Post by O.K.

imageIt is well known that after the transfer to Constantinople in 944, all Byzantine descriptions of Mandylion and the Shroud (Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Gregory Referendarius, Nicholas Mesarites) are deliberately vague. The true nature of the Mandylion/Shroud had to remain secret, for the reasons I will discuss next time. We can only guess properties of the Mandylion/Shroud from several allusions. Several of those allusions (pointing to the identity between Shroud and Mandylion and great confusion of the academic community) were discussed in my old posting on Dan’s blog. Today I want to present another allusion, which (what is very strange to me) was ommited by all historians’ elaborations regarding the Mandylion known to me.

In Mark Guscin’s english translation of the 944 sermon of Gregory Referendarius, in chapter 13 we can find a very interesting remark, no historian, as far as I know, paid a proper attention to:

Who is like you, God, doing everything in wisdom from times of old? […] You wiped clean the sweat of the nature you had taken on and what was wiped clean was transformed into an image of your unchanging form, just like Adam’s form was drawn out of the ground, like the eyes of nature in the folds of the kneaded earth. (my emphasis).

Here we have a comparison between creation of Adam, the First Man (and naked, just like the Man of the Shroud -cf. Genesis, chapter 2) and creation of the form of Jesus on the Mandylion. What is the significance of that? I think it is great.

The main "argument" (or should I say pseudo-argument because it has been undermined long ago) is the conviction that the Mandylion contained nothing else, but only image of the face of Jesus. There are of course documents telling otherwise (like Codex Vossianus Latinus Q69), ignored usually by narrow-minded majority of academic scholars, but with regards to the Adam reference in Gregory Referendarius other question arises:

If Mandylion contained only the face, do those wise guys think that Adam’s form drawn out of the ground consisted only of the face?

IMHO, this is ridiculous. The reference to Adam makes sense only if it is an allusion to the fact, that the Mandylion contained the image of the whole body.

Just like the (again deliberately ambiguous!) reference to the side wound (chapter 22 of the Gregory Referendarius’ sermon).

So, based on the contemporary accounts (Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Symeon Magister, Gregory Referendarius, see Daniel Scavone’s paper Acheiropoietos: Jesus Images in Constantinople: the Documentary Evidence ) we can make a list of several allusions (except for #2 not clearly stated facts, which, I should stress once again, is deliberate) to the properties of the Mandylion:

1. It contained bloodstains

2. The image on the Mandylion was very faint, "sweat-like".

3. The reference to the Adam makes sense only if it was an allusion to the fact that the Mandylion contained the whole body (which was mentioned in later, Latin versions of the Abgar story, like Codex Vossianus Latinus Q69)

4. The allusion to the side wound -suggest presence of the whole body image and the side wound.

There is only one known object in the world that fits those "allusions" -the Shroud of Turin.

Categories: Guest Posting

Important New Paper on the Carbon Dating Samples

December 9, 2015 66 comments

Pam Moon has just published a significant paper, The presence of dye in the 1988 radiocarbon date samples of the Shroud of Turin. Pam nicely footnotes the title with:

This paper came out of an online conversation with Joe Marino and Paul Maloney, with additional input from Bill Meacham, Professor Emanuela Marinelli and Barrie Schwortz. I am deeply indebted to them for sharing their knowledge, wisdom and advice.

That says a lot. So go read this paper carefully.

Great pictures and careful analysis:

imageThere is very little data about the samples tested by Oxford, Zurich and Arizona: no chemical analysis has been published and most of the photographic evidence is not sufficiently detailed. However, further evidence of encrustation is visible in the Oxford photographs.14 Below is a comparison of the 3 samples tested at higher magnification (the Shroud, Thebes and Nubia). There is a density of encrustation coating Shroud sample p2574_9 which is not present on the other two samples. The “frosty” 6 contaminant is also not present on the Mark Evans image of the Shroud.15 As ‘the "frosty" coating is almost certainly a plant gum in the Raes sample’ 6 it is likely to be a plant gum in the Oxford sample.



Jesus, the XX Male

December 8, 2015 63 comments

imageThe feature article in the December 2015 issue of the New Oxford Review is an article by Maria Hsia Chang, The Virgin Birth: Where Science Meets Scripture

If that occurs — if replicability is achieved for the DNA data from the Shroud and Sudarium — it means Jesus indeed was an XX male. We are then faced with two rival hypotheses:

1. Jesus was one of those rare four out of every 100,000 all-too-human males who have two X chromosomes but no Y chromosome. But that doesn’t mean He was born of a virgin or that He had no biological father. The only problem is: How could the writer of the Gospel According to Luke, centuries before the discovery of DNA, possibly know that Jesus was an XX male and so tried to account for Jesus’ abnormal DNA with a made-up virgin-birth story?

2. Jesus was an XX male with no Y chromosome because Luke 1:26-35 tells the truth: Jesus was born of a virgin and has no human biological father.

In the end, as in the identification of the man who left His image on the Shroud of Turin, it is science that enables us to decipher DNA testimony from the Shroud and the Oviedo Cloth. There was a time when science caused an erosion of faith. But the Shroud and the Sudarium demonstrate that science and faith need not be at loggerheads. Instead of showing the Shroud and the Oviedo Cloth to be fakes, it may well be that science can confirm the miraculous character of both.

The article began by pointing out that 68% of American adults believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God but only 57% believe in the virgin birth.

Disbelief in Jesus being born of a virgin, which is a fundamental tenet of Christianity, in turn implies a belief that the author of the Gospel According to Luke lied when he wrote:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph…. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus….” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (1:26-35; emphasis added)

This is a philosophical minefield. It imposes assumptions about miraculous conception onto science in order to try and prove the assumption. You may not want to believe it, but Luke could have been writing myth to make a point. That is a third hypothesis. To an Atheist, what Luke (and indeed Matthew) wrote about the virgin birth is part of the fabric of what must be a much bigger fictional account.

Does the XX male argument rest on the authenticity of the shroud or is it another argument for authenticity?  

Categories: Science and Religion

David Rolfe’s Website

December 7, 2015 22 comments

imageA reader writes:

I just visited [David Rolfe’s] Shroud Enigma website.  It has been a long time since I looked at it and I see that it has been revised to emphasize his wonderful Shroud of Turin films.  Maybe you could direct your readers to it.

Indeed. The site is The Enigma of the Shroud of Turin. And indeed the films are wonderful. However, I must say more. The Silent Witness, available on Vimeo, is truly a seminal work for the ages.

I had not visited in awhile as well. Thanks for guiding me back to David’s site. 

Categories: Other Sites
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