Picture Jesus of Nazareth: Interpretation from the Shroud of Turin

broglio From time to time we see various interpretations of the image on the Shroud of Turin. I like this one. I have only a couple of small observations. Almost all interpretations show Jesus with a forked beard, which I think is obvious on the shroud face. I also think the nose is more flared at the bottom. But then, again, this is an interpretation. Here are the details:

Artist: Broglio, Pietro  

Description: Jesus of Nazareth. A reproduction of the face of Jesus, from the shroud of Turin

Form of Art: Painting

Style: Realism

Genre: Portrait

Media: Acrylic

Year: 2008

Size: 40x30x5cm

See Art-3000: Picture Jesus of Nazareth (includes email address of artist not reproduced here.

The Ridiculous Picknett and Prince Photograph Theory

lynnpicknett_cliveprince When Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince get into the news, as they have recently with their new book, The Masks of Christ: Behind the Lies and Cover-ups about the Life of Jesus, invariably new discussion arises about their proposal that Leonardo da Vinci created the image on the shroud using a medieval proto-camera.

Historian Dan Scavone comments on the Picknett and Prince argument that the image was made using a magic lantern, a simple projector, and light-sensitive chromium salts in an egg white medium.

The argument that history’s proto-photo was a life- sized photo(!) on a fourteen-foot cloth(!) that was a composite(!): double corpse with daubed-on blood and, in separate processes, Leonardo’s own head front and back, is a priori far-fetched. The premise is more demanding of faith than is the authenticity of the Shroud. I am led to ask why Leonardo has left us his self-portrait in red chalk and not his photo, and why he would use another body when Vasari notes that his own physique was near-perfect, and everybody knows his exorbitant vanity.

Scavone also writes:

This question leads the authors to another assertion: Leonardo was a member of a secret society called the Priory of Sion, which esteemed John the Baptist over Jesus. Therefore, the apparent disembodied head visible on the Shroud man was Leonardo’s cipher for the decapitated Baptist. Leonardo’s use of his own photo, they argue, was owing to his inordinate vanity, the same that prompted him to encode his own face in his famous portrait of Mona Lisa, wife of Francesco de Giocondo. This theory was confirmed by Lillian Schwartz of Bell Laboratories and Dr. Digby Quested of London, who discovered that it matched up perfectly with the major lines of Leonardo’s face in the above-mentioned self-portrait at age sixty. Picknett writes “Leonardo was capable of subtly building his own image into that of his masterpieces; if he had done so with the Mona Lisa, why not with the Shroud?”

There is also plenty of evidence from science that demonstrates that this is not a photograph. Were it, it would not produce a 3D image. A photograph contains only reflective light data. It does not contain spatial data.

On Science vs. God

Over at Sara’s Ramblings you will find a well thought out posting on the proposition that God and science are not compatible. Sara disagree.

Science and human discovering, as far as I’m concerned, further affirms God’s character as shown in Scripture. God gave us brains for a reason. If He wanted a bunch of mindless drones worshipping Him, He wouldn’t have given us the capacity to seek, question, push, discover and then choose to believe something, to believe in Him, and love Him by our own free will.

There is a brief mention of the Shroud of Turin. She speaks of one hypothesis for the resurrection based on observations of the shroud. There are many, however. And while I think the shroud is real I don’t think the nature of resurrection can be determined from the evidence so far gathered from the shroud.

Book: The Masks of Christ: Behind the Lies and Cover-ups about the Life of Jesus

Publishers Weekly Nonfiction Reviews – 10/13/2008 – The Masks of Christ: Behind the Lies and Cover-ups about the Life of Jesus Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. Touchstone, $16 paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-4165-3166-1:

lynnpicknett_cliveprince Picknett and Prince are the authors of controversial and provocative works, including The Templar Revelation and The Turin Shroud, that challenge popular assumptions and bring into question much of what many consider truth. In their newest volume, the authors strike boldly and unreservedly against what they see as the mythos that transformed the historical Jesus into a God, namely, the Christ. Studying the traditions and tensions that surrounded the early Christians and filtering these through the lens of skepticism, they create a picture that is both challenging and disturbing. If they are correct, then the Christ of today’s Christianity is a corruption of the mission of the rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. In the end, they conclude that “it seems that even Jesus himself would once have agreed that Christians have been worshipping the wrong Christ for two millenia.” Tough words. Readers will decide for themselves whether the authors prove their case. (Nov.)

Personally, I think Picknett and Prince are themselves mostly conspiracy theory authors, whose evidence is mostly motives and circumstance, sometimes real and sometimes imagined. You should read their books to see how incoherent their theories are.

The Weedless Garden: More on Passive Systems

Ray Schneider writes:

This is the time of year (mid-October) when my mind tends to turn to system design. What should I do next year. I’ve had two pretty tame Summers since I’ve taken a vacation last Summer and this Summer I worked on a study of image-processing and the Shroud of Turin which I hope will be up on the Ohio Conference Shroud site by the end of December.

There should be many papers to read this winter. We are looking forward to it.

When Atheists act like Fundamentalists

On his blog, “Ssnot! – God Snot, Where God’s Not!”, Tatarize writes: 

So I am apparently retarded. I watched something called the Shroud of Turin which was get this, about the Shroud of Turin and completely bogus nonsense.

The argument went like this,

The Shroud of Turin carbon dates to the 1360s. The Shroud of Turin was first seen around 1325. However, there were other fake shrouds which purported to be the burial cloths of Christ which dated back to the 11th century. So the Shroud of Turin dates back to the 11th century. There’s also some hood thing which dates back to the 5th century so clearly the Shroud dates back to the fifth century (because both of them have blood) that look nothing alike in pattern (it seriously overlays them and they look nothing alike). And therefore the Shroud of Turin is 5th century. However, we also know that the Gospels say Jesus was crucified and we have this cloth and so this cloth clearly dates back to the first century.

The first thing is to misstate the facts with a bit of incredulous drama. Let’s begin with the first sentence, “The Shroud of Turin carbon dates to the 1360s.” In fact, the results of carbon dating undertaken in 1988 estimated the date of the cloth between 1260 and 1390 C.E. This was reported in Nature, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

If we focus on peer-reviewed scientific journals, which is appropriate, we discover that those carbon dating tests have been roundly discredited. One need only refer to Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425, Issues 1-2 , 20 January 2005, Pages 189-194) and Chemistry Today (July/August 2008) to understand why. Robert Villarreal who led a team of nine scientists at the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory, using some of the most advanced methods and spectra tools, confirmed the findings in those journal accounts. He stated that the sample area was significantly unlike the rest of the shroud. In other words it is almost certain that the shroud itself was not carbon dated.

Christopher Ramsey, the current head of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, a lab that participated in the original carbon 14 dating of the Shroud, states on the Oxford website (posted in March of 2008) that because of new information “further research is certainly needed.” He went on to say:

It is equally important that experts assess and reinterpret some of the other evidence. Only by doing this will people be able to arrive at a coherent history of the Shroud which takes into account and explains all of the available scientific and historical information.

Atheists are quick to point out, correctly so, that many Christians ignore scientific and historical evidence, particularly when it comes to evolution. Yet, some Atheists do exactly this themselves. It is fine to believe that the shroud is not the real thing, but do so with facts that are correct. Draw conclusions from those facts. Make a good case. Don’t be a fundamentalist. We don’t know in certain terms the age of the shroud or its provenance. To assert that it is fake in the absence of real evidence takes a leap of faith no less than it does to assert that it is real.

Let’s look at some other points from the posting:

  1. “The Shroud of Turin was first seen around 1325.”  — Actually the correct statement is that the earliest known written record of the shroud in Western Europe was in 1349 C.E.
  2. “However, there were other fake shrouds which purported to be the burial cloths of Christ which dated back to the 11th century.” — Let’s drop the word “fake” unless there is evidence to support that little bit of well poisoning. There is a drawing of what seems to be the shroud that dates to 1194 (late 12th century). There are documented descriptions of a burial shroud (not plural) from 944 that might be the Shroud of Turin. There is good but imperfect historical evidence that connects the dots between 944 and 1349. As with almost all records of artifacts from antiquity there are gaps in reliable documentation. This is normal. But one thing that seems quite certain, the same cloth documented in Constantinople in 944 is the same cloth that existed in the ancient city of Edessa in 544 C.E. Any trace that goes back beyond that, from a historical point of view ceases to be hypothesis and rests on the backs of legend and difficult-to-assess ancient writings.  So we really can’t say. Possibility and plausibility is the best that we can do at this time.
  3. “There’s also some hood thing which dates back to the 5th century so clearly the Shroud dates back to the fifth century (because both of them have blood) that look nothing alike in pattern (it seriously overlays them and they look nothing alike).” — I suspect that Tatarize is referring to the Sudarium of Oviedo. The earliest plausible date for this cloth is the seventh century not the fifth. Records suggest that its journey to its present location began in 644 C.E. when Persians under Chosroes II invaded Jerusalem. To protect the Sudarium, it was moved out of the city to safety. We are uncertain of its route to Spain. It may have been first taken to Alexandria along with numerous other relics (real or otherwise, and stored in a chest or “ark”) and from there, in succeeding years, along the coast of North Africa ahead of advancing armies. Some historians have suggested a more direct sea route to Spain, but forensic pollen evidence indicates that the Sudarium was in North Africa, just as the presence of other pollen spores evidences that it was at one time in the Jerusalem environs. Whatever the route, we know that after it arrived in Spain, it was kept in Toledo for about 75 years. For some time after it arrived, it was in the custody of an early-medieval scholar, Isidore of Seville. Then in 718, to protect it from Arab armies, which had invaded Spain only seven years earlier, it was moved northward with fleeing Christians. In 761, Oviedo became the capital of a northern, well-defended enclave of Christians on the Iberian Peninsula and it was to this city that the Sudarium was brought for safekeeping. It has been in Oviedo ever since. As for the bloodstains matching the patterns of bloodstains on the shroud, it seems that they do. No the patterns don’t look alike. That isn’t what pattern matching is all about. It is at the margins, relative placement and the juxtaposition of certain features that the patterns match. It is fine to argue that they don’t match, but that argument requires more substance than a vague doesn’t look alike. “I think I see” and “I think I don’t see” are the weakest types of scientific argument: the tools of fundamentalist thinking.
  4. “However, we also know that the Gospels say Jesus was crucified and we have this cloth and so this cloth clearly dates back to the first century.” — This point doesn’t make any sense. That is not what the BBC special said.
  5. “The carbon 14 dating must be wrong! Perhaps some carbon-14 mixed into the linen via carbon monoxide. *tests* — Nope that doesn’t work at all. Still, it’s a mystery!” — That was a major weakness in the BBC documentary. So far as I know, only John Jackson of Colorado Springs thinks this is a possible explanation. Not a single scientist that I know agrees with him. But, yes, the carbon dating is wrong.
  6. “I am utterly astounded at how many hoaxes people buy into lock stock and barrel.” — I agree. But it can cut both ways.
  7. “In the end, I lost an hour of my time watching . . .” — Yes, I think you did.  And more time writing about it with a complete lack of understanding. Too bad.

Shroud research needs skeptics who will engage the science and the history of this unsolved mystery. That ultimately is the best way for Christians and Atheists alike to resolve the truth about this cloth.

Religulous and the Shroud of Turin

Anne Neville in the Buffalo News in an article, “Maher the agnostic is loosed in a world of worship,” writes:

maher Fans of Maher, or anyone with a high tolerance for irreverence, will certainly laugh out loud at one point or another at the absurdity of the religious beliefs highlighted here, from the wealthy minister in a $2,000 suit who explains, “Jesus dressed very well,” to the ex-gay man whose insistence on a farewell hug prompts a suggestive quip from the comedian.

But there are squirm-worthy moments, too, as Maher turns his camera on easy targets. In a tiny trailer that houses a truckers’ mission, the well-groomed Maher faces down blue-collar guys who haven’t got much besides their faith as they voice wildly misinformed interpretations of Scripture and science, including a far-fetched story about the DNA taken from the Shroud of Turin. One man storms out when he realizes that Maher is mocking his beliefs, and it’s just uncomfortable all around.

Where do these far-fetched stories come from? Certainly, the web. People read something. They misunderstand it. They write about it and get it wrong. Without scrutinizing or questioning or checking sources, someone else reads that incorrect write-up and writes something even more preposterous. But it is word of mouth, too. And as one person tells another, these stories become more far-fetched.

So far, DNA analysis of the bloodstains is not conclusive. Barry Schwortz, who has studied the shroud for about twenty years writes:

Several years ago, some Texas researchers did a DNA study of supposed Shroud bloodstains, but the provenance of the samples they used was questionable and their results have not been officially recognized. Nonetheless, their findings concluded that the blood on the Shroud is from a male human. They also stated that the blood is so old and degraded that very few DNA segments were found, eliminating any possibility of “cloning” anything from the blood found on the cloth. Other DNA experts argue however, that so much contamination exists on the Shroud that no DNA test, no matter how carefully done, could ever be considered definitive. During the 1978 exhibition and scientific examination, the cloth was handled by many people, including most members of STURP, the Church authorities who prepared it for display, the Poor Clare nuns who unstitched portions of it, visiting dignitaries (including the Archbishop of Turin and the emissary of King Umberto) and countless others. During the five days and nights of the 1978 examination, the Shroud was continuously exposed to contamination as it lay unprotected on the support table. Every member of our research team, including myself, left DNA on the cloth. And remember, the cloth has been displayed and handled thousands of times throughout its history. Once again, the Shroud presents us with an enigma that even DNA evidence may not definitively unravel.

On the other hand, DNA evidence does little if anything to help determine the mechanism that formed the image on the cloth. I am not sure that it has much other value, except perhaps, to satisfy someone’s curiosity. I personally see little merit in pursuing it and expect the Church will not allow any formal DNA testing in the forseeable future anyway. The authorities have already officially stated that any future research efforts will concentrate exclusively on the preservation and conservation of the Shroud.

This view probably best represents what scientist-researchers think. The sad thing is that the trucker had it wrong. Maher, so interested in mocking rather than honesty, only adds to the spread of misinformation.

Doctrine of God: God and Foreknowledge

Kyle Deming, the Skeptical Christian, from his latest podcast, October 3, 2008:

The shroud of Turin is back in the news. For those who don’t know, the Shroud of Turin is a cloth that appears to have the image of a man who was buried after crucifixion. The shroud was discovered in the 1300s, and was immediately proclaimed as the burial cloth used by Jesus Christ.

Believers in the authenticity of the shroud point to certain evidences in favor of the artifact’s legitimacy. The method is difficult or impossible to duplicate, especially given the technology that would have been available to forgers in the 14th Century. Moreover, the image seems to be remarkably accurate. For example, wounds in the wrists indicate that nails were driven through the wrist during crucifixion. We now know that this was the custom in the ancient world. However, as a large body of Christian art attests, the belief up until very recently was that nails were driven through the hands. The fact that the shroud got this detail right is very surprising if the artifact is a forgery.

Nevertheless, skeptics of the shroud believe that the cloth does not date back far enough. They cite carbon dating results demonstrating that the material dates back to the 14th Century. These tests were conducted by three separate laboratories and seemed to put the issue to rest.

However, a slew of criticisms have been raised about the legitimacy of the carbon dating used on the shroud. John and Rebecca Jackson are two shroud enthusiasts who are trying to reopen the debate on the issue.  They believe that the region of the cloth tested was contaminated, leading to skewed results. They hope to prove their hypothesis and then gain access to the actual shroud for more accurate dating. Oxford University has agreed to work with the Jackson’s.

Too bad that he has missed the bigger news on the carbon dating: Using some of the most advanced analytical equipment available, a team of nine scientists at the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory confirmed that the material used for radiocarbon dating of the shroud in 1988 was not part of the shroud’s fabric. Previously, micro-chemical tests had demonstrated that the cloth is at least twice as old as the medieval date determined by the now discredited carbon 14 tests. This gives new life to historical and forensic arguments that the shroud might indeed be the burial cloth of Jesus.

This news plays well into his personal story that follows. He is right as he continues:

I actually have a bit of a personal story here about the shroud. In my undergraduate chemistry class the professor gave us an extra credit quiz where we could analyze the argument for the legitimacy of the shroud’s dating. I wrote that the tests done were insufficient to confidently determine a date, since all three laboratories sampled the same area of the shroud. Thus, the possibility of contamination remained too high for us to make a confident assessment. He marked me off one point for my answer, and I listened as he explained to the class that the date should be considered authentic since it was confirmed by three separate scientific laboratories. He tried to turn the example into some sort of point about the difference between science and faith, and that they are compatible but deal with different subject matter, or whatever. I didn’t care about his philosophical musings, however, I wanted full credit for my answer! So I raised my hand to question his point reduction and argue that, since all three labs sampled from the same portion of the cloth, they did not adequately disprove the contamination hypothesis, and, especially given other evidences for an early date for the shroud, we cannot be confident that the results are accurate. In response, he rejected my claim, arguing that these scientists would never do something so silly as all analyze the same piece of cloth! Ironically, he virtually proved my point, since he implicitly admitted that examining one portion of the cloth was a methodological mistake. Yet, convinced that the scientists had wisely sampled different regions of the cloth to get an accurate date, my professor felt confident in his assertion that the shroud was a medieval forgery. I was a little mad that my professor reduced my grade because of his crass ignorance of the actual facts of the case, though I wasn’t motivated to continue the argument for a single point. His position though, seems typical of those who have undue confidence in the legitimacy of the dating.

My position on the shroud of Turin is solidly agnostic. I think that there are some compelling reasons to believe that the shroud is authentic, including the accurate portrayal of the crucifixion body. Nevertheless, the case is far from proved, and I think certain evidence points away from authenticity, such as its late appearance on the scene in the 1340s. To me, it seems rather silly, because the question of its date could probably be solved easily if access to the artifact was granted for sampling from different portions of the cloth. But, with the shroud withheld from scientific scrutiny, it will be difficult to determine the facts of the case. Hopefully Jackson is successful in securing permission for another analysis of the controversial shroud.

Highly recommend Skeptical Christian: Transcript: Podcast 18 – Doctrine of God: God and Foreknowledge

Was Jesus Left-Handed as evidenced by the Shroud of Turin?

RoyalBeatz07 thinks he has it figured out.

So the choices are simple, 1) Jesus Christ is the image on the Shroud of Turin and is left-handed! 2) Jesus Christ is the image on the Shroud and was desecrated by his followers! 3) Left-hander Leonardo Da Vinci is the image on the Shroud and he posed naturally. 4) A left-handed unknown individual is the image on the Shroud. 5) The experts can’t tell which side is the up side of the Shroud. Isn’t it interesting that a left-hander noticed it? When all the experts have looked at it, and run out of ideas, then it’s time for a left-hander to look at it. We see things that right-handers miss.

There is also the possibility that contrary to what RoyalBeatz07 thinks, Jesus’ followers accidentally put his left hand over his right even if (and this is arguable and speculative) it was the wrong thing to do. Filed under something to think about someday.

Religulous: Fishes and Loaves in a Barrel

T. R. Jones in the Chicago Reader offers his views on the Religulous written by Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles:

Maher’s first film project, Religulous, is a major disappointment because here, unlike on Real Time, he aims for laughs instead of insight—and aims low. The movie opens with Maher in Israel, perched on a hill in what was once the ancient city of Megiddo, which the Book of Revelation prophecies will be the site of Armageddon. As he points out, people are now more capable of destroying the world—through nuclear technology, pollution, and global warming—than they are of understanding it. “If there’s one thing I hate more than prophecy,” he concludes, “it’s self-fulfilling prophecy.” To him, faith is a neurological disease that has to be cured before the human race destroys the planet, and anyone who defends faith is an “enabler” and a “fellow traveler.” As he concludes at the end of the movie, “Faith means making a virtue of not thinking.”

But as Maher and director Larry Charles tour the world, surveying the influence of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, they bypass serious religious scholars and historians—the sort of thinkers who might have moved the discussion into uncharted territory—in favor of fundamentalist goofballs who can be ridiculed with ease. Their first stop is the Truckers Chapel in Raleigh, North Carolina—a trailer at the side of a highway rest stop—where Maher quizzes a half dozen truckers on the more fanciful extrabiblical aspects of Christianity. One volunteers the theory that, because DNA testing on the Shroud of Turin has supposedly revealed the presence of female blood, Jesus must have been born of a virgin.

Actually, no such DNA results exist. All we know is that the bloodstains are human blood. Had DNA revealed female blood, a more disturbing conclusion might have surfaced.   Chicago Reader | Movie Review: Fishes and Loaves in a Barrel