Olsen Ebright tells us on the NBC San Diego website that a Mission Viejo (California) man has discovered a picture of Jesus on a chair that he was getting ready to throw out. It is, according the Ebright, an addition to other classic images that “include grilled-cheese Jesus, piece-of-plaster Jesus, X-ray Jesus, Google Jesus, MRI Jesus and the granddaddy of them all, the Shroud of Turin.”
There is a difference, however, between all of these images and the Shroud of Turin. No, the difference isn’t that all of the others are not real and the image on the shroud is. It could be, but that is not what makes these images different. All of the images mentioned except the image of a man on the shroud are pareidolia. As humans, we have a very natural ability to see images in random patterns. Frequently, people see patterns with which they are most familiar. Faces are common and hence people often see images of Jesus or Mary on tortillas and grilled cheese sandwiches, in wood grain, in patterns of smudges of all sorts. That is called pareidolia. But the image of a man – arguably of Jesus – on the shroud is not pareidolia. To imagine that the front and back details including the face with the accompanying bloodstains is mere pattern interpretation, is to risk being called insane. You don’t need to believe that the image is authentic (indeed that the shroud is authentic and the image is really of Jesus) but you can’t deny that the image is really there.