Another Take on the Urfa Mosaic

A reader writes:

The Urfa mosaic (Paper Chase: Face of the God-man) is interesting. I think some people would say it looks like Jesus. If it is ca. 1st or 2nd century, that would be truly amazing. But I suspect that if it is from Edessa, it is no earlier than middle to late 3rd century when Christianity first came to the city-state.  It could be much later, even as late as the 13th century if sourced from the shroud.  There is a real possibility that this thing is a forgery; think unsophisticated museum, Urfa, an untraceable claim. Too bad the IAA wouldn’t be welcome in Urfa.  And there is the possibility that this is not Jesus. No, really!

Partial opaque overlays on a computer are not a good way to compare images. It fools us because it is so suggestive. If you think the method is useful then you need control experiments to show this. I don’t think you will find many experts who will accept this method.

Transparent film is better but that is hard to duplicate with graphics software. Points of congruence is a bit dubious, as well. It is useful for finger prints where precise rules are pre-defined. It could perhaps be useful for comparing faces with the rules that have been developed for facial recognition software. But the method in this paper will probably not be accepted by image analysts.

One good method is to use outlining as was done with the lead codex (another fake) and the Zippori Venus. See Jesus’ Mona Lisa Smile at

Maybe Dayvalt is onto something. But he must first establish the mosaic’s provenance. Then he must find a solid method of comparing images that everyone can agree on. Even then, I have doubts that this mosaic was a source for other images. For one thing it is too coarse. For another it is in a city that was often ruled by a puppet king or caliph, quite outside Byzantine control for most of the 1st millennium.

I suspect that there were a lot of portable images in circulation, perhaps derived from the shroud. Many were probably lost to iconoclasm or disaster or are yet to be found. I suspect that the Urfa mosaic is just another really cool image of Jesus (or maybe somebody else). I congratulate Dayvalt for bringing it to the world’s attention. I hope he will continue to study it and engage other experts to work with him to help us all learn more about it.

2 thoughts on “Another Take on the Urfa Mosaic”

  1. I fully agree with this comment. I don’t trust at all this comparative image technique. It’s not a very scientific technique in my mind. Way too much suggestive. In fact, if the author took the Shroud face as the main image and use his technique again to compare it to other Jesus depictions, he would probably get the same result and the Shroud face then would be consider as the primary source for ancient Jesus depictions and not the ISA mosaic ! If he used one of the oldest Jesus fresco from the Roman catacombs, he would surely get, again, the same result and this fresco would be consider the primary source, etc., etc.

    And another thing I want to underline is the fact that this article don’t give us any proof at all that the Shroud and the Mandylion are one and the same thing. It’s a preconception in the mind of the author. In fact, even if the ISA mosaic hypothesis is true and was made around the time that the Mandylion came to Edessa, how can we be sure that this Mandylion wasn’t just another artistic depiction of Jesus (maybe or maybe not based on the Shroud) ? It could well be the case ! In EVERY surviving copies of the Mandylion, Jesus is ALWAYS depicted has a living men without any traces of blood or injury in the face. And another thing this article don’t give us is the real age of the ISA mosaic. If we don’t have a true age for this mosaic (and also an absolute authenticity proof), then I found the author hypothesis to be really week…

    In fact, one of the only good thing about this article is to point out the fact that, surely, there is a primary common source for the ancient depictions of Jesus and that this source was so important that it came to be THE source for every Jesus depictions… But the question remain unanswered : What was the primary source ? We still don’t know. And I still think the first source (the original one) was the Shroud but, as the author of the article point out, it could well be a fact that the Shroud was a primary source for just one artistic depiction of Jesus and then, this artistic depiction (the Mandylion ?) became THE main source for other Jesus depictions. In my mind, this is a possibility as good as the hypothesis put forward by the author…

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