Another Divine Remedy Post: The Top of Happiness

Think about this:

What if individual salvation was the collective New Year’s resolution, our here-on-earth gift to ourselves and to God.

Read: Chapter 38: The Top of Happiness

Let the Debates Begin

William, I was glad to receive your response to my comment. You are most gracious. A debate, as you suggest on your blog, may indeed be fun and profound.

I think we need to clarify stances before beginning. And we should mention something about the notion of the burden of proof. Conceptually it cuts both ways and proof, if that is a goal, may be beyond reach. To not be convinced that the cloth is the authentic burial cloth of the historical Jesus of the New Testament requires no evidence or argument or proof whatsoever. It is a perfectly valid position. You, however, specifically say that you are convinced that it is a medieval hoax. I should therefore expect convincing evidence. Moreover, you wrote as part of your conviction, “that the stains on this medieval cloth have nothing whatsoever to do with the alleged crucifixion of an individual named Jesus, some two millennia ago.” That is a given if it is a medieval hoax. But I must ask for clarification on two points:

  1. It has not yet been established between us what constitutes a stain. Perhaps it isn’t necessary to do so though I feel compelled to comment. A bloodstain, if that is what you mean and if it is in fact formed by blood, is indeed a stain. But what about the image? To think that the image is a stain, as some people do, implies some knowledge of how the image is formed: paint, photographic process, reverse bleaching, oxidation, singed fibers from heat, an amino/carbonyl induced color change or a non-reactive chemical stain. We might explore some of these possibilities if it becomes germane. It depends on what directions this debate might take. The chemistry of the Shroud is fairly well understood and documented in peer-reviewed, secular scientific journals.
  2. You referred to the “alleged” crucifixion. That surprised me. If you are not convinced that Jesus was crucified then I wonder why. There are scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at DePaul University, America’s largest Catholic University, and Anglicans Marcus Borg and Bishop John Shelby Spong who argue that Jesus was not buried in a tomb. I think it is fair to say, however, that most scholars, among those who think that Jesus is a historical person, think that Jesus was crucified. Am I wrong? I was surprised, too, because it is often said, quite reasonably by skeptics as well as many who think the Shroud is authentic, that the image has nothing to do with an “alleged” resurrection.

You asked me to tell you what makes me feel that the Turin Shroud is in fact the cloth that wrapped Jesus of Nazareth. I can’t say “in fact.” I can only say that I think it is probably the burial cloth of Jesus. I am very much convinced that it is not medieval and not a hoax. I think there is ample scientific and historical evidence that the cloth dates back to before the beginning of the early medieval, an era that begins with the reign of Justinian in Constantinople. How much older it might be is currently hard to ascertain. I think it is reasonable to think that it is the burial cloth of a victim of Roman style crucifixion with visual parallels to Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. Moreover, it is almost certainly a burial cloth of the sort used by wealthy Jews in the environs of Jerusalem in the late-Second Temple era. If so, it has been removed from a tomb-grave (for whatever reason) and carefully preserved. From that I think it can be inferred that it the burial cloth of Jesus.

Indeed, let’s debate. I propose that we carry on this debate at the posting level rather than the comment level and that we do so in your blog as well as mine. (I have posted this in my blog).

Before beginning, let me introduce myself. I am 68 years old. My Shroud of Turin blog may be found at I am a theologically liberal Anglo-Catholic leaning Episcopalian. My faith did not prepare me to believe that the Shroud was real. In fact, it was the opposite. It took five years of study for me to change my mind. I am not sympathetic to many claims about the Shroud such as the appearance of coins on the eyes. Nor am I comfortable with extra-scientific claims about how the images were formed. I have no idea, whatsoever, how the images arrived on the cloth.

Dan Porter

A Gracious Response

I had objected to William Skyvington’s remarks in his blog Antipods. He responded most graciously:

imageMaybe we’ll have a profound debate on my humble Antipodes blog about the alleged authenticity of the Turin Shroud. As Daniel points out quite rightly, the unqualified expression "serious historians" is perfectly unacceptable. I agree that historians who consider that the Shroud is authentic cannot be brushed aside as "not serious". And it’s a fact that I spoke too rapidly and stupidly in suggesting that the only individuals who accredit the authenticity of the Shroud are Roman Catholics. In other words, my article was excessively lighthearted and superficial, and I acknowledge my error in handling a subject of this nature in a flippant manner. Personally, I’m convinced that the Turin Shroud is a medieval hoax, and that the stains on this medieval cloth have nothing whatsoever to do with the alleged crucifixion of an individual named Jesus, some two millennia ago. I suspect that Daniel won’t agree with me. If this is the case, Daniel, please tell us what makes you feel that the Turin Shroud was in fact the cloth that was wrapped around Jesus of Nazareth.

Historian Emmanuel Poulle and the Shroud of Turin

Cazab notes as a comment from Ignorance or Bigotry or PZ Myer-ism « Shroud of Turin Blog:

Among historians, I think it is worth mentioning french historian Emmanuel Poulle who published in 2006 and 2009 two of the most important articles on the Turin Shroud in renowned peer-reviewed journals : Revue d’Histoire de l’Eglise de France and Revue d’Histoire Ecclesiastique( and )

I know it is written in French but I cannot explain why he is (almost?) never mentioned by historians such as Scavone.

Jesus in Toledo by way of a piece of candy

Marc Hartzman writing in AOL:

As the Christmas season fades and the new year approaches, a Toledo, Ohio, man believes he found the real spirit of the holiday in a piece of hard candy.

See all the examples Marc has found at Jesus Sightings 2010: Year Ends in Piece of Candy in Toledo

Nothing beats this:


Happy New Year

The Danger in Abstracts of Scientific Papers

imageA reader from Halifax writes:

It is too bad that the public only gets to see abstracts of most scientific papers. Through the auspices of a friend at Cornell, I was able to read the Jull and Freer-Waters paper without having to subscribe to Radiocarbon.

It is particularly regrettable in this case that the paper is hard to acquire  because the abstract is little more than an unjustified premise in the guise of a conclusion unjustified by the paper itself. What Jull didn’t find, as others have noted, is both pointless and non-analytical. What he did find, interestingly enough, seemingly contradicts his premise and the abstract statement. He found cotton. He discovered different thread counts. He tried to explain away the cotton with nebulous speculation. He missed the thread count issue, altogether.  The paper is actually that unprofessional.

Rogers, Marino, Benford, Brown, Fanti, Walsh and a host of others argue that the sample was non-uniformly contaminated and/or physically non-homogenous. It was chemically non-representative of the shroud. They provided evidence. Cotton was part of the evidence. Jull, in finding it, without realizing it, gives credence to Rogers, et. al.

Rogers found evidence of dyestuffs, splices and differences in vanillin content. Brown found microscopic evidence of dying. Jull expressed speculative doubt about the dye adhering to linen. That is possibly why cotton was used. That is also speculations but it deserves mention if objectivity is desired. Walsh and others found unacceptable statistical variations in the sub-sample results. Jull seemingly ignored good, confirmed evidence in favor of ostrichism or he was unaware. 

A trivial sample split from the rest of the larger sample is insufficient to claim that by not seeing something it isn’t there elsewhere. That was the whole point by Rogers, et. al.

Jull could have just as easily used his observations to draw another conclusion.  It is a damn shame that the public only sees abstracts of scientific papers like this one.

The image is from the paper. It is a “High-magnification image of a fiber bundle, showing the presence of a cotton fiber, unidentified fibers, and debris. This area appears to have been exposed to more contamination than other samples.”

The letter is in reference to: Outstanding Response to Recent Carbon Dating Paper « Shroud of Turin Blog

Ignorance or Bigotry or PZ Myer-ism

William Skyvington, an Australian expatriate in France writes in his blog Antipods:

During the present days of journalistic lassitude, another terrifying monster has emerged in the French press: the Shroud of Turin, alleged to have been wrapped around the sacred body of Jesus.

Serious historians have known for ages that this medieval cloth, with its curious symmetrical stains, is no doubt a clever piece of skulduggery that could have been produced by myriad techniques, known and unknown. Meanwhile, it’s utterly ridiculous to imagine that this cloth might have received some kind of photographic imprint of the crucified body of a certain Jesus of Nazareth. One would have to be crazy to accept such tripe. But there exist indeed hordes of crazy individuals—known as Roman Catholics—who are prepared to believe in such bullshit. And lazy journalists, in this empty season, can easily tune in to such folk to create superficial media buzz. [Emphasis his in terms of color and italics]


And what serious historians is this blogger referring to? Names? And are historians who think otherwise (Scavone, Wilson, Cahill, Habermas) perhaps not serious? Roman Catholics? What about Anglicans, Evangelicals, Protestants, and, yes, Jews who think it is real? I’ve met Agnostics and Atheists who think it is possibly real. Do these others simply believe the “bullshit” without being “prepared.”

Skyvington calls himself a journalist. See: Antipodes: What can we talk about in 2011?