Huh? “What would happen if the clone of the son of God became an atheist himself”

imageTHE SHROUD IN COMIC BOOKS: We have blogged about it before but now Brian Truitt has a feature article in USA TODAY about the new Punk Rock Jesus comic book series:

Sean Murphy is answering the question "What would Jesus do?" in a very sci-fi fashion. His new Vertigo Comics miniseries Punk Rock Jesus imagines a futuristic world of 2019 where the birth of a clone of Jesus Christ is the star of a reality show — called The J2 Project— and, as a teenager complete with Mohawk, rebels against the people and system that created him.

The [first] book covers 14 years in the life of Chris, who is born out of a modern-day equivalent to the immaculate conception: Pieces of DNA are scraped off the Shroud of Turin, fused with an egg and are inserted into a virgin girl found via nationwide audition.

There are to be four books in the series.

The story discusses the author, as well:

Murphy says Punk Rock Jesus is autobiographical in a sense — he began writing it as a Catholic eight years ago when he was 23, but has since walked away from religion and is now an atheist.

He admits that there wasn’t anything in particular that made him depart his Catholic roots, but five years ago he was a "militant atheist" and wondered if Punk Rock Jesus would ever be picked up.

"I thought I would just be doing this book myself and it would be just a pure expression of how irritated and concerned I was about religion’s influence on government, things like that," Murphy says. "In the years since, I’ve kind of calmed down and read a lot and did a lot of thinking about the best way to approach people who are religious.

"Sometimes having the ax to grind obviously isn’t the best place to get anywhere."

The hardest thing for Murphy has been how divisive the book has been for him and certain members of his family, including his mom, a born-again Christian.

"Certain parts of the book she’s OK with, but I’d be lying if I said she was happy with this. It’s made things kind of difficult," Murphy says. "But my wife is also religious and she’s got no problem with this and believes in it and believes I should do it."

Just to make sure you understand the author, interpret this:

. . . the punk musical aesthetic came out of pondering what would happen if the clone of the son of God became an atheist himself.

Why was the Shroud hidden in a monastery during WWII?

imageYesterday, I came across this in Matzoh and Meatballs: Grandma said you can outgrow being Chinese.

In the relatively recent past, my father, his brother, and the same aunt waiting for her adopted niece to outgrow Chineseness took a heritage trip to Calitri, Italy, to find our distant family. The trip was a success. They met first cousins, learned we are related to the man who hid the questionably mystical Shroud of Turin from the Nazis. . .

I thought the shroud was hidden during WWII to protect it from Allied bombing. So I did a bit of research and came across this in ABC News filed on April 10, 2010:

According to an Italian monk, the real reason the Holy Shroud was hidden in a remote monastery in southern Italy during World War II was to protect it from the thieving hands of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Officially the famous linen cloth, also known as the Shroud of Turin and believed to have wrapped the dead body of Christ, was secretly sent south by its owners, the Savoy royal family of Turin, to keep it safe from wartime bombings.

Now, on the eve of a rare public display of the Shroud, the Rev. Andrea Davide Cardin, the librarian at the Montevergine Abbey where the Shroud was concealed from 1939 to 1946, says it appears there was another reason to hide the holy relic: to keep it out of the hands of Hitler, who was said to be interested in the esoteric and the occult.

Cardin, a Benedictine monk, told the Italian paper La Stampa that he was preparing an exhibit on the Shroud in his library when he came across a document that he believes shows the Shroud was actually hidden from Hitler.

I missed that. Then, again, maybe both reasons are valid.

Sometimes, just sometimes, Colin Berry talks sense. But. But. But.

imageBy way of a comment, Matt wrote:

Do you know what? Sometimes, just sometimes, Colin Berry talks sense. Then he comes up with some ridiculous theories and thoughts that destroy any credibility he might have claimed.

His latest nonsense concerns the 1516 Lire copy. He presents an argument along the following lines. The Lire copy shows minimal blood stains, only discrete ones on the palms of both hands and the side wound. He presents an argument that essentially the blood stains were added to the shroud over time, and the Lire copy showing discrete wounds consistent with the Bible was an early stage in the progressive re-interpretation of the shroud to incrementally show more blood wounds. He even throws up his bizarre Lirey Badge theory again, arguing because we can’t see blood wounds on what amounts to a tiny metal crafted badge that there was no blood on the shroud in the 1300s. This is nonsense, because the scale is too small to reasonably show bloods wound, although it does show the blood across the bottom of the back of Jesus, which Berry inventively (I’ll always give him points for creating novel theories, even if they are nonsense) calls a chain.

Mr (sic Dr. is correct) Berry needs to get himself to a decent university library and educate himself in art history. There are at least two examples of epitaphios from 1200, and the 1300s respectively, that show Jesus with body wide wounds and flagrum marks (I might add very consistent with the positioning of marks on the Shroud, one of these even shows a wound on the wrist on the top hand, and none on the other), being laid out on a herringbone weave shroud. These provide very compelling evidence that the Shroud was in existence AT LEAST as early as 1200 (personally I believe the shroud goes back to the time of Christ, but for now let’s just deal with the middle ages)

In my opinion, an explanation for the differences in the Lirey copy from the shroud that is FAR more likely is that the Lirey copy’s differences are due to the artist wanting to show the hand wounds in accordance with conventional artistic depiction. Similarly representations of Jesus through the 1500s / 1600s were typically non-gory, hence the very limited and discrete depictions of key (in the sense of the Gospel accounts) bloody wounds. As I have stated here before, there is a limited period in German art from about the late 1300s to the late 1400s that shows Christ’s body heavily wounded, and one or two other curious examples, such as the epitaphios I mention above. Otherwise minimal and discrete wounds are the norm.

And then, in another comment, he adds:

Indeed other copies demonstrate “reinterpretation” of the shroud to suit their audience. For example, most copies show Jesus wearing a loin cloth, to protect His modesty. Obviously, His image on the shroud does not include a loin cloth.

Carlos (corneliotel) then adds (in Spanish with a Bing Translation):

A Colin Berry le sobra SAGACIDAD……pero le falta CONOCIMIENTO.

En 1534 el Papa Clemente VII ordenó al cardenal Luis de Gorrevod que verificara el estado de la Sábana Santa tras el incendio de 4-XII-1532.

La verificación se celebró el 15-IV-1534. Se abrió la caja-relicario que contenía la Sábana ( desde el incendio NO se había abierto al parecer por temor de que se hubiera destruído), se extendió sobre una mesa y 12 testigos que conocían bien la Sábana Santa, la habían tocado y mostrado al público antes del incendio, testificaron que era la misma Sábana que ellos conocían con anterioridad al incendio.

Y esa Sábana anterior al incendio de 1532 ( la copia de Lier es de 1516) ya MOSTRABA las manchas de sangre que nosotros conocemos.

Existe un precioso documento escrito por la Abadesa del convento de las clarisas de Chambéry, Louise de Vargin en que se relatan los hechos de la reparación de la Sábana y su descripción e incluso la interpretación de lo observado. Las monjas clarisas estuvieron en contacto permanente con la Sábana durante 15 días, si bien sólo 4 monjas podían tocar y remendar la Sábana ( entre ellas Louise de Vargin).

Este documento demuestra 2 cosas:

1.- La enorme IMPORTANCIA que tenía la Sábana Santa como RELIQUIA para la Iglesia Católica.

2.- La presencia de las MANCHAS de sangre en los sitios en que hoy las conocemos.

El precioso y extenso documento escrito por la madre Abadesa Louise de Vargin :


Colin Berry [ ? ? ? ] lacks knowledge.

In 1534 the Pope Clement VII ordered the Gorrevod Luis Cardinal that verify the State of the sheet Santa after the fire of 1532-XII-4.

The check was held 15-IV-1534. Opened the caja-relicario containing the Savannah (from the fire not had opened apparently fearing that had destroyed), spread on a table and 12 witnesses who knew well the shroud, it had played and shown to the public before the fire, testified that it was the same sheet they knew prior to the fire.

And this sheet before the 1532 fire (the copy of Lier is 1516) as showed the blood stains that we know.

There is a precious document written by the Abbess of the convent of the Poor Clares of Chambéry, Louise Vargin that relate the facts of the repair of the savanna and its description and even the interpretation of what was observed. The poor Clare nuns were in permanent contact with the Savannah for 15 days, while only 4 nuns could touch and mending the Savannah (including Vargin Louise).

This document shows 2 things:

1. The enormous importance that had the shroud as a relic for the Catholic Church.

2. The presence of the blood STAINS in the places in which today we know them.

The beautiful and extensive document written by the mother Abbess Vargin Louise:

Asking Thibault for more details concerning Rogers hypothesis

imageA reader tried to comment on Paper Chase: Thibault Heimburger’s Paper on the Maillard Reaction Hypothesis. It wouldn’t take any he suspects a bug. I tried to post it for him and it wouldn’t take; I have no idea why.

“I was quoting Rogers conclusions and asking Thibault for more details concerning Rogers hypothesis (presumably given in a long SSG message) as he suggested,” he writes.

So here it is:


Some years ago, Rogers wrote a very long SSG message to explain step by step his hypothesis and the many parameters. I will try to summarize this message later.

Online, we have only access to part of his book : A Chemist’s Perspective On The Shroud of Turin. Based on preliminary experiments he concluded :

1/When temperature is too high, convection cells are too active, and resolution is low. A body that had cooled would give better resolution than a hot body. I think Rogers first thought high body temperature was needed for two main reasons : vertical convection cells, and a temperature gradient on the shroud, making temperature the main parameter to explain high resolution since he thought reactive amines came from the lungs (and don’t forget he was a thermal analyst). Then he tested his hypothesis, came back on this idea, and admitted a lower body temperature would better suit high resolution. Anisotropic heat flow, may be a second order parameter.

2/The amine must be released slowly. Two much amines badly reduced resolution. Porosity – Adsorption properties of the shroud : a low flow of amines can diffuse through the cloth, a high flow of amines is blocked and flows along the cloth. This is consistent with a slow production of ammonia through hydrolysis of urea on the skin for hours (your article on the origin of the reactive amines).

3/The atmosphere must be cool and still. No external convection flows. Convection blurs the image.

4/An increase in the concentration of reducing saccharides improves resolution. It improves contrast. Indirectly, it allows a lower amount of reactive amines, thus a lower flow.

5/Modern linen that does not contain suitable impurities will not produce an image. According to his Maillard reaction hypothesis, that is an argument against the pcw as the chromophore. The question is, which other parameters are given in his SSG message ? Thank you,

Why you should not trust what you read in blogs

imageFrom time to time I’ve drawn attention to some list of top ten or top five mysteries, which invariably includes the Shroud of Turin. Another list, 5 greatest unsolved enigmas of humanity, just popped up on a blog called Learning Mind. It is interesting. And if I find the time, I might read more about these first four items.

I think I have heard of some of them or all of them at one time or another.

  1. The Bimini Road
  2. The Voynich Manuscript
  3. The Piri Reis Map
  4. The Nazca Lines (one aerial image pictured)

Then I read a bit about the fifth item, something I know something about. And I read:

Although the Vatican has affirmed that it is not authentic, the Holy Shroud remains an unsolved mystery of humanity. It is a shroud on which is imprinted the image of a bearded 33 years old man. Throughout the fabric there are signs of blood, which proves that this man was crucified and then his body was covered with this cloth. Understandably, many believe it is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ in which the body was put after the Crucifixion, as the weave of the fabric refers to the epoch he lived in andthe signs of blood confirm the death in the same manner as that of Christ.

Some other scientists contend that it was created much later, between 13th and 14th century. Even if it is a coincidence and not the burial cloth of Christ, the mystery remains: what has become of the real shroud that covered his body after the Crucifixion? (bolded emphasis is author’s)

The Vatican has affirmed that it is not authentic? Really? A bearded 33 years old man? Pray tell, how did someone determine the age? Was it the beard? It must be Jesus if the image is of a 33 years old man. And these amazing tidbits from wherever continue. Can anything written about any of the other mysteries in this article be trusted?

Can you trust anything you read in a blog?

Yannick Delights with Another Great Paper

imageYannick Clément writes (oh, what the heck, the whole letter, postscript and all. Do read it, postscript and all, and read the paper in your choice of language):

Hello Dan !

Since I know that you follow closely all that is written on your great blog, I’m sure you’re aware that I was working on a complete article based upon my recent open letter published on your blog some months ago. Because of the good reactions I get at that moment, and also because I noticed that the very good website of Pete Schumacher ( had published a link concerning this open letter, I thought it would be a very good thing if I could make a more complete work to really emphasize the fact that science have proven long ago, especially when we look closely at all the data coming from the bloodstains, that the Shroud COULD NOT be any form of artistic forgery.

So, now, after a very high amount of hours, the work is completed !!! I give you in an attach file the complete article (the English version) in PDF format. This time, the quality of the English is very good because I had the help of Andy Weiss, the webmaster of !!! I’m so glad that this article is in a very good shape concerning the English because I will have the opportunity to propose it for publication to all the known Shroud website on the internet. And the big news is this : have already publish it on their website !

Here’s the link for the English version

And here’s the link for the French version

And guess what ? In a near future, there will even be a Spanish version of the same paper on this website !!! Great don’t you think ???

That’s the main reason why I wrote you this email : Because I want to ask you kindly if you could just wrote a news about that and give those links for the English and French versions of my article… I’m 100% sure that you will help me to share this article (the best I’ve ever wrote about the Shroud) with the world !!! Thank you in advance for your very good support !!!

To conclude, I just want to say this : Have a nice reading of my paper and don’t be shy to comment it to me via an email and/or to comment it directly on your blog !!! I’m almost sure that you will really love it !!! And be sure that I did it with honesty and with passion !!! Now, I’ll wait for you to help me sharing this article with all the persons interested by the question of the authenticity of the Shroud !!!

Yan :-)

P.S. : In the news you can put on your blog about this article, it would be great if you, at least, can say that the main goal I had while writing this paper was, like I said in the beginning of this email, to emphasize the fact that science have proven long ago, especially when we look closely at all the data coming from the bloodstains, that the Shroud COULD NOT be any form of artistic forgery, but instead, it is a real burial cloth of a real tortured and crucified man who has bled a great deal prior to his death and who show all the stigmatas of Jesus of Nazareth during his Passion, as reported by the Gospels.

Is the non-fluorescent body image on the Shroud of Turin a valid indicator?

imageColin Berry wonders if the fact that the body image did not fluoresce is a valid indicator that the image is not a scorch. Unfortunately, he almost always wraps what is most legitimate scientific questioning and commentary in arrogant, verbal stink bombs, in this case another inexplicable attack on Barrie Schwortz. Colin writes:

The non-fluorescent body image on the Shroud is a pale sepia colour.  It may or may not have been the result of mild scorching (I happen to believe it is a light scorch). But the fluorescent, heavily charred regions on the Shroud are the result the 1532 fire etc. There is no inconsistency whatsoever between these two findings. All that remains to be done is to offer an explanation as to why one fluoresces and the other does not, ensuring that it is a TESTABLE  and potentially FALSIFIABLE explanation, i.e. a SCIENTIFIC explanation.

OK, so here goes. Here is my scientific explanation:

The 1532 fire exposed the linen to high temperatures, ones  that charred i.e. carbonized  the carbohydrates, notably the cellulose. Carbonization of cellulose is known to proceed via intermediates that have aromatic ring systems (see the recent paper by Sevilla and Fuertes, 2009)

Note the aromatic benzenoid ring systems, prime candidates for fluorescence under uv radiation. Reminder: the margins of the heavily-scorched, indeed carbonized, holes in the Shroud linen(1532 fire etc) exhibit a red fluorescence.

Aromatic ring systems with delocalisation of π-bonding p- type electron clouds frequently fluoresce under ultraviolet light.

However, the temperatures that produced the sepia image on the Shroud were not high enough to  char and carbonize cellulose. Indeed, they may not have been high enough to affect the cellulose at all. They may have affected primarily or exclusively the chemicallymore susceptible hemicelluloses of the primary cell wall (accounting for the superficiality of the Shroud image).

PS  It’s instructive to read Barrie Schwortz’s  two comments in full.

Quote (1 of 2):

“I think everyone is forgetting an important fact. The idea of the Shroud image being the product of scorches caused by a heated metal statue has been around for a long time (since the STURP days), and was first proposed by Joe Nickel, avowed atheist and Shroud skeptic.

Since the color of the image is very similar to the color of the scorches, STURP understood the need to test this theory and performed specific experiments for that purpose. A primary test was to photograph the Shroud using ultraviolet fluorescence photography, since true scorches on linen will always fluoresce in the red. As there are many documented scorches on the Shroud from the 1532 fire, testing this was not difficult and the results of the tests were published in this peer reviewed reference:

Miller, V.D. and S.F. Pellicori, “Ultraviolet Fluorescence Photography of the Shroud of Turin,” Journal of Biological Photography, Vol. 49, No. 3, 1981, pp. 71-85.

Every documented scorch on the Shroud fluoresced in the red, as expected. However, the image did NOT fluoresce and in fact, even quenched the background fluorescence in the image areas. The only conclusion possible from these observations is that the Shroud image is NOT the product of scorched or heated linen.”

Quote (2 of 2)  He kept the real stinker till last:

Sadly, that’s why I don’t post to blogs very often. I don’t have time to waste debating folks who simply choose to ignore the published science. They obviously have already made up their minds so why bother? Perhaps they have more time on their hands than I do, but I am not interested in arguing for the sake of argument. That is why I never try to convince anyone of anything. Frankly, I don’t really care what this gentleman thinks and will leave him in your and Dan Porter’s able hands.

The article I referred to was published in a highly respected scientific journal. However, due to copyright restrictions, I do not have the right to distribute or publish the article or the UV fluorescence photographs it contains in a public forum. The photographs are all copyrighted to Vern Miller.

However, there is a great Table in the paper that makes the very specific comparisons you have been discussing in this forum, so I highlighted them in yellow and posted a jpeg image of the table to this link:

Perhaps that will be helpful to your skeptic (but I doubt it). Have a great weekend!


image[You can also click on the picture of the table to the right]

Note his preoccupation with copyright issues, even when discussing a crucial scientific point re the Shroud’s authenticity. Has BS, described today as “copyright expert” (oh yes indeed) never heard  of “fair use” waivers–  designed to ensure that copyright is never used to gag genuine disinterested researchers, like this one?

As I said in my last post, what BS did in February was nothing  less than a guerrilla hit-and-run tactic,  deploying what he thought was good STURP science, but which in his hands translated into flawed logic and defective science.

Maybe BS should stick to his photography – jealously guarding and indeed extending that copyright portfolio of his and STERA’s – leaving the disinterested science to us disinterested scientists.

Technical footnote: what a delightful and unexpected mechanism that is for carbonisation of cellulose. Ask anyone how they pictured the process at the molecular level, and I’m willing to bet they would imagine it to be one in which the hydrogen and oxygen are driven off to leave a carbon skeleton. In other words 0ne polymeric matrix – cellulose fibres – gradually transforms into another – charcoal. But as the diagram reveals, that is not the mechanism: cellulose becomes fragmented into small reactive molecules with 5 or 6 membered rings, and the latter then gradually undergo condensation reactions to produce tars and resins, and finally a ‘hydrochar’ particle. Chemistry is full of surprises.

For the complete stink bomb click here.

Insane Ancient Achievements or Modern Insanity?

imageAnd the Shroud of Turin is one of these? 10 Insane Ancient Achievements that Science Can’t Explain over at the blog of the Chromographics Institute (tinfoil hat warning area).

Out-of-place artifact (OOPArt) is a term coined by American naturalist and cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson for an object of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in a very unusual or seemingly impossible context that could challenge conventional historical chronology. The term “out-of-place artifact” is rarely used by mainstream historians or scientists. Its use is largely confined to cryptozoologists, proponents of ancient astronaut theories, and paranormal enthusiasts….

In this article we present our selection of Top 10 OOPArts. There are many more (you can find them by exploring our website).

The Shroud is number 8. Nothing new, just screen scraped text from other websites. Fun to read while sipping morning coffee.

Savage Treatment in Randi Land

imageRich Savage, a friend of this blog, has been spending time over at the Randi forums (of the James Randi Educational Foundation – that’s magician The Amazing Randi – pictured here –paranormal investigator and Joe Nickell mentor) on a Shroud of Turin discussion thread that has grown to some 2456 comments as of this morning. Here is the latest comment, as an example. Jabba, mentioned in this comment, is our friend Rich doing a sort of David facing Goliath and an entire army:

I notice Jabba has left out the fact that there is no proof whatsoever of the provenance of the threads Rogers tested in his kitchen. Dinwar rightly presses this point but Jabba seems to ignore it completely in the summing up.

We’re still waiting for some reason to imagine there is an invisible weave in the TS. It seems incredible Jabba would think the presence of such a patch would have escaped notice in the 2002 restoration of the TS.

Rich writes:

Over on the Randi forum
(, we’re focusing on the possibility of an “invisible reweave” – I’ve given that as my best guess as to explaining the results of the carbon dating.  Is that still your best guess?

Anyway, of my 60 or so opponents over there, I’ve finally run into a friendly and rational one — “davefoc”  – and he’s provided a lot of reasonable reservations and questions re the re-weaving hypothesis over there, and I’d like to give him our best answers.

At the moment, we’re discussing the apparent fact that the calcium, iron and strontium contents of the Raes sample are roughly identical to that of the larger Shroud.  Here’s what I’ve said so far.

  • So far, at least, I haven’t been able to find an obvious explanation…
  • Apparently, everyone accepts that these elements are introduced by the
    “retting,” — and wherever and whenever the linen was retted, it would
    contain these elements as “trace elements.”  However, the amount of these
    elements present should be somewhat different if one set was from 1st
    century Mideast, and the other, 16th century Europe.
  • Accepting — for the moment at least — that the two sets are “roughly
    identical,” how different SHOULD they be, and how different ARE they?  You
    and I don’t know.
  • So far, I give the advantage on this “sub-issue” (round?) to your side
    (the dating validity side), but I’m still looking…

How would you answer that question –, and/or, can we ask that question of your audience?

I have a list of other serious reservations and questions from davefoc, but need to paraphrase them better.  I can provide those if you can use them.

God only knows if these relics are truly what they claim to be

imageNot an unhealthy way to look at relics. Relics and Reflections posted by someone named Sprott, a traveling blogger or is it a blogging traveler:

We headed down the street to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme where a wedding was just wrapping up.  The church itself is pretty, but it’s whats in the Chapel of the Holy Relics that’s the main attraction.  It has quite the treasure trove of relics including a piece of the good thief’s cross, three fragments of the true cross, doubting Tom’s finger, pieces of the scourging pillar and Christ’s tomb, one of the nails that Jesus was crucified with, two thorns from the crown of thorns and the INRI King of the Jews sign, and a fragment of the scourging instrument used to beat Jesus.  Plus, in another room is displayed an official copy of the Shroud of Turin.  These relics didn’t move my soul the way others had and God only knows if they are truly what they claim to be, but it was really helpful in reminding me that Jesus was a real person.  Sometimes, I feel kind of removed from Jesus by all the time that has passed. It becomes easy to regard him as this kind of mythical figure or a story in a book. The relics though, bring home that he was a real person, with a real life, who suffered…a lot. So seeing the relics was pretty interesting. Of course there were no pics allowed. So you’ll just have to see it for yourself. . . .

Miracles, like the Shroud of Turin, are a kind of religious bling? Really?

imageFrom a review of Tim Stafford’s Miracles by Joanne K. McPortland in the Patheous blog, Egregious Twaddle:

We Catholics, after all, have a unique (if bipolar) relationship with miracles. We see them everywhere: in weeping statues and rosary chains turned to gold, in the Turin shroud and the E-Bay grilled cheese sandwich. And yet we’re remarkably blasé about them. We’re not, for the most part, a Church that goes on about miracles, or works them into our day-to-day ministry, even in those parts of what Tim Stafford calls “the majority world” where Western skepticism has not yet worked its unmagic, and where among Pentecostal Protestant missions, Stafford reports, “miracles seem to be the normal entry point for people becoming followers of Jesus” (p. 148). For Catholics, miracles are a kind of religious bling—nice to flash on special occasions, but not a necessary part of the wardrobe of faith.

Edward Feser on the Road from Atheism

imagePhilosopher Edward Feser in The road from atheism explains his journey.  He starts out:

As most of my readers probably know, I was an atheist for about a decade — roughly the 1990s, give or take.  Occasionally I am asked how I came to reject atheism.  I briefly addressed this in The Last Superstition.  A longer answer, which I offer here, requires an account of the atheism I came to reject.

I was brought up Catholic, but lost whatever I had of the Faith by the time I was about 13 or 14.  Hearing, from a non-Catholic relative, some of the stock anti-Catholic arguments for the first time — “That isn’t in the Bible!”, “This came from paganism!”, “Here’s what they did to people in the Middle Ages!”, etc. — I was mesmerized, and convinced, seemingly for good.  Sola scriptura-based arguments are extremely impressive, until you come to realize that their basic premise — sola scriptura itself — has absolutely nothing to be said for it.  Unfortunately it takes some people, like my younger self, a long time to see that.  Such arguments can survive even the complete loss of religious belief, the anti-Catholic ghost that carries on beyond the death of the Protestant body, haunting the atheist who finds himself sounding like Martin Luther when debating his papist friends. . . .

It concludes thus (but you should read everything in between even though it has nothing to do with the Shroud of Turin. But to me that can be the point.):

. . .  Speaking for myself, anyway, I can say this much.  When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back.  As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed.  But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.

Barrie Schwortz responds to Colin Berry’s Rude Criticisms

The following is a special posting by Barrie Schwortz: good friend, President of STERA, known to most of us as the creator and maintainer of He writes:

imageI woke up today to find a somewhat surprising and completely unfounded online personal attack on me by a rather rude blogger. I would much rather spend my day answering some of the 150 e-mails waiting in my mailbox or adding another back issue of the BSTS Newsletter to our next website update, but some comments need to be addressed, even though I usually don’t waste my time arguing with bloggers.

So I guess it’s time to set the record straight. Even though I really do not have the time or the interest in being goaded into an argument with anyone, I do think I need to make some things clear that may not be apparent to those of you who are not in the same position that I am in.

I am one of only six still photographers in history that have been authorized to photograph the Shroud. I am one of only a few photographers (including Vernon Miller) that were allowed to retain the legal rights to the photographs we made of the Shroud. The copyright ownership of our images is not in dispute (and there are 34 years of ‘custom and usage’ as described in the copyright law to support that) but that ownership does bring with it an awesome responsibility.

For thirty-four years I have made those photographs readily available to any researcher who asked. And not just pro-authenticity researchers either. Emily Craig, Nicholas Allen and Luigi Garlaschelli, to name a few, all used my photographs in their research, as have hundreds of pro-authenticity scholars. We have never charged any fees for the research use of the images, or for their being reproduced in hundreds of scientific papers, articles and presentations. The angry blogger, who seems to have some problems with my actions, needs only to write and ask us for the images. He never has. He can even go to the Image Library page of our site where he can review and choose from nearly 300 different images from our various collections. His rude tactics are simply unnecessary.

When I first built the website in 1996, the internet was new and I had every intention of putting the larger images online. However, in those days, with slower dial-up networks, large images took too long to download, so we settled on 72dpi versions for the web. (Some of the research quality images are over 300MB each). In the ensuing years, the internet matured and changed. Over time, sadly, respect for online intellectual property rights declined and many people felt that everything online was fair game. I disagreed, so our solution was to only allow 72dpi files to be published online. But that also presented me with some serious and unique issues to consider: how could I make the images readily available but still protect them from inappropriate uses? The copyright law provided the answer.

The image of the Shroud is iconic. It is revered by about a billion people on this planet. I was privileged to make and own the photographs so it is my legal responsibility to insure that any uses of the resulting images were carefully screened to make sure they were not inappropriate. The very first rule we instituted was that we would never allow the images to be placed on any products. For thirty-four years we have strictly enforced that rule. Because of that, you won’t find any of our Shroud photographs on glow-in-the-dark tea towels, lunch boxes, coffee mugs (as Dan Porter recently reported on this blog), tee shirts, bed linens, lamp shades, or ball caps. (All actual requests I received and denied over the years). I continue to screen every image request we receive to insure that any uses are reasonable and not disrespectful of the subject matter, even if they are strongly anti-authenticity. However, we have never denied access to any researcher and we never interfere in the editorial content of any written materials in which our images are used (which is why you will find our images in most anti-authenticity books as well). And we always stipulate an appropriate, printed copyright notice be included, since that is required to protect the images under the copyright law. For research uses, that copyright notice is our ONLY stipulation. You can also find our images on nearly every Shroud related website on the internet. They are all 72dpi files and look great, and each is identified with an appropriate copyright notice (or should be). That is the law.

The only commercial uses we allow of our high resolution images are for books, periodicals or television documentaries. And yes, we do charge a licensing fee for these uses. That is normal in the commercial media world and all of these organizations have Rights and Clearances departments to specifically deal with these issues. I know because I work with them regularly. The licensing fees we charge help to pay the bandwidth and server costs of the website and keeps the site free of any advertising. We even pay extra every month to keep advertising off the results page of our Search Engine!

Now imagine for a moment what would have happened had I never applied these rules and simply allowed the high resolution photographs of the Shroud to float around the internet. Within days there would have been a host of tacky, commercial items for sale that would include my very identifiable photographs. No one would think less of any of you if that happened, but my name, reputation, integrity and credibility would be totally destroyed if my photographs were used in that manner and I would have become a pariah in the Shroud world. None of you are in that position, but I am. However, as a professional photographer for 41 years and considering the subject matter, I knew how to protect the work I produced, particularly on a subject so important to so many people in the world. And that is exactly what I have done.

So, no, I won’t be posting the high resolution files on the internet any time soon. There are already some other high resolution Shroud images available online that should satisfy most requirements. We will continue to provide the highest quality images that result in the best quality reproduction of this important relic to anyone who requests them, but only directly and on an individual basis, allowing us to still maintain the integrity of the images themselves. We will not do so by simply posting them all on the internet or without following a standard procedure that has served us well for thirty-four years. Some have suggested that all Shroud photographs should be available to everyone online. In a perfect world, perhaps that might work, but we do not live in a perfect world so I will continue to strictly enforce our copyrights as I have always done. It is my personal responsibility and one that I take very seriously. I should also add that, beyond this statement, I do not intend to debate these issues any further.

As for the comments made about STERA, Inc., if the blogger is so concerned with the other collections we hold, perhaps he can personally fund our Archiving Project. I was greatly honored when so many noted Shroud scholars decided to legally leave me their personal collections upon their deaths, but that also brought with it a great responsibility. In fact, STERA, Inc., our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed specifically to insure these collections were not lost should something happen to me and to provide an organizational framework that would ultimately insure the materials were made freely available to the public.

I legally transferred ownership of the website and all the collections (including my own photographs) to STERA, Inc. in January, 2010. Our goal is to scan and OCR every page of every document in every collection (totaling tens of thousands of pages), enter them into a searchable database and make it all freely available to everyone via But we have almost 200 large boxes filled with materials (not counting my own archives) and it will take considerable additional equipment and manpower to achieve the goal. It is far larger than one man can do or fund by himself. Instead of making rude, unprovoked attacks, perhaps this blogger can put his money where his mouth is and help fund our project. Noting his adversarial tone however, I somehow doubt it. However, I refuse to be baited into an ongoing, time wasting argument on this topic and will totally ignore all future attacks, so take your best shot, but consider this my last word on the subject.

Barrie Schwortz
President, STERA, Inc.

Paper Chase: Diana Fulbright’s “Akeldama Repudiation of Turin Shroud omits evidence from the Judean desert”

Hat tip: From a comment by DaveB of Wellington, New Zealand:

I discovered a fascinating paper by Diana Fulbright: “Akeldama Repudiation of Turin Shroud omits evidence from the Judean desert”. by Diana Fulbright, 2010; Shroud of Turin Centre, Richmond VA. Paper can be found at:

imageIt is possible to download the paper, but only as a “secure” pdf. The security means that it is not possible to copy any of the text or graphics from this paper.

In December 2009, following the discovery of a sealed 1st c. Jewish tomb at Akeldama, when a “shrouded” body was discovered, it was widely proclaimed that the Turin Shroud could not be 1st c. as this single example was in simple weave. This inference is clearly an extremely weak deduction, with no statistical significance. It almost appears as if the body may not have been shrouded at all, but was merely wrapped in its own clothing, indeed with mixing of kinds, both wool and linen (apparently permitted for dead bodies under Mishna regs). The DFulbright paper is directed against the Akeldama assertions, citing several examples of herring-bone weave from ancient times, Even more complex patterns of weaving were found at Masada, including a diamond twill. The sash of Rameses III (1200 BCE) included a number of complex patterns, including a 3:1 herring-bone twill. It is apparent that weavers were quite capable of producing quite intricate patterns from ancient times.

Argumentum ad Ignorantiam, mea natibus


A reader writes:

Every student of philosophy should know that an appeal to lack of evidence, argumentum ad ignorantiam, is proof of nothing. So I was told recently when I claimed that the shroud must be real because no one had figured out how the image was created.

There is something compelling, however, about mystery that speaks to our higher faculties; those faculties which ignore the limitations of mere rationality. One would think, really, that after so many years someone would have figured it out. There is nothing like it in the world of art from any period in history. That includes photography.

Fifty years ago John Walsh wrote these words. They are no less meaningful today.

The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Christ in existence or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever products of the human mind and hand on record. It is one or the other, there is no middle ground.

Argumentum ad ignorantiam? Mea natibus (but mea asinum sounds better).

Absurdity for Today: Colin Berry Castigates Barrie Schwortz

imageA reader writes:

Does Colin Berry really think that people will agree with his pompous demands for pictures from Barrie Schwortz? Doesn’t Barrie own the pictures he took and those given to him? Aren’t they protected by copyright?

(Based on Colin Berry’s posting on his blog: Message from Mr.Barrie Schwortz, President of STERA Inc (The self-styled “Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, Inc”))

I partly agree with Colin in what he says below but not how he says it. And I’m not sure the pictures are quite so protected by copyright as we sometimes think. I would like to see all of Barrie’s photographs and all all other photographs of the shroud completely and publically available with the highest resolution possible. Realistically, and for a number of reasons, that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future.

Pompous was the right word as used by a reader of this blog. Colin’s attitude towards Barrie (and just about everyone) is indeed unfortunate. What extreme, ignorant arrogance by this Johnny-come-lately to the field of shroud studies. What he says about Barrie borders on slander when he suggests, as he does, that Barrie might not want people to see something “that could dispel some assiduously-promoted ideas about the Shroud of Turin.” Colin is acting like one of those people who try to convince us that UFOs are real because the government is certainly concealing something. Here is what he wrote:

Why not [permit your high resolution files to be published on the internet], Mr. Schwortz? What are you afraid of?  That folk might see things in those images that could dispel some assiduously-promoted ideas about the Shroud of Turin as constituting some kind of “enigma”  (see the last sentence of your “Mission Statement” below).

Oh, and why do we read that:  “…during the ensuing thirty years, Mr. Schwortz has accumulated an extensive collection of  Shroud-related materials. These include, in addition to his own items, the collections of five prominent  Shroud researchers, now deceased, who placed their materials under his direct care and control, plus other
collections pledged but not yet received. “?

Why should any Shroud-related material be under your “direct care and control”, Mr. Schwortz, or for that matter an organization called STERA Inc of which you are President, and to whom one is requested to contact personally  re “licensing and copyright” issues?

Correct me if I am mistaken, but I thought you were appointed as Official Photographer to the STURP team, the latter  a largely self-appointed consortium one gathers. You were  not appointed as Museum Curator in perpetuity, deciding who can and cannot access and/or publish crucial Shroud images and other material …

Your first duty to “education and research” , Mr.Schwortz, is to place all  STURP-related material into the public domain. Nobody should have to go cap in hand either to you or to STERA, Mr.Schwortz, far less pay any licensing or copyright fees, no matter how “modest” you may consider them (noting you are coy as to your scale of fees).

You cannot proselytize the notion of a  science-defying  “enigma” while hindering access to information that might throw light on authenticity. Nor can you reasonably use that website of yours  (www. as a shop window for your squirreled-away archives, while stating categorically:  “We do not permit our high resolution files to be published on the internet.”

The photographs that you took of the Shroud may well be your personal property, Mr.Schwortz (though the Shroud’s custodians might well take a different view if challenged).  But no STURP investigator, living or dead, has (or had) the right to gift you their research findings.  Those findings should all be in the public domain. It costs nothing to post them on the internet. Please do that NOW Mr.Schwortz.  STURP investigators were given PRIVILEGED access to the Shroud, not personal and private access.  Any data they collected ought not to be hoarded as if your own , or STERA Inc’s private property. I repeat: IT SHOULD ALL BE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.

The problem isn’t at all what Colin imagines. Not by a long shot.

  • Barrie is Jewish, so he doesn’t have a pony in this race, so to speak. So why hide something? Even so, why suspect deception at all?
  • Over the years, Barrie has spent significant amounts of his own money to keep his site going. Small license fees can help defray the cost of maintaining his website.
  • STERA was formed (in a sense< as a responsible gift to all of us) to preserve the website and various materials for many years to come.
  • Barrie, previously, and now STERA, have complete legal and ethical rights to accept materials and data from others and make it available as deemed appropriate.
  • Most importantly, Barrie is honest and ethical, as just about anyone who has met him or dealt with him will attest.

Frankly, I trust Barrie to safeguard material and protect its chain of custody more than anyone else in the field of shroud studies. And I trust him more than anyone when it comes to objective and honest decision making.

But having said that, I would prefer that all pictures of the shroud, from every source, with the highest possible resolution, were in the public domain and readily available on the internet. And frankly, I have doubts about the applicability of copyright for shroud pictures. A year ago, I published the following:

The Bridgeman Art Library makes photographic reproductions of numerous works of art from museums around the world. It is their business. On their website, we read:

Founded in 1972, the Bridgeman Art Library works with museums, art galleries and artists to make the best art available for reproduction. The result is an outstanding archive of images drawn from collections throughout the world, all of which are available for licensing.

Many, if not most of the works they have photographed are works that were in the public domain, which generally means the works are older than the life of the artist plus seventy years (more or less in different countries). This is true for all icons, paintings and mosaics from antiquity. They are, unquestionably, in the public domain.

A number of years ago, the Corel Corporation used many of Bridgeman’s reproductions to produce an educational CD-ROM without seeking permission or paying Bridgeman.  Bridgeman claimed copyright infringement. Not only had they purchased rights to some photographs, they had made many of them.

In 1999, the U. S. District Court for Southern New York ruled against Bridgeman. The ruling stated that “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality. Even if accurate reproductions require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, the key element for copyrightability under U.S. law is that copyrighted material must show sufficient originality.” (quoted from Wikipedia)

In other words, if you take a picture of an ancient mosaic, and you give me a copy or you make a copy publically available, I can use it without your permission.

Is this fair? You would probably think not if you are the photographer or someone owning a copyright claim. Bridgeman still makes copyright claims and insists that use of their photographs be licensed. Many such works today, particularly those that are licensed to commercial concerns, contains invisible or visible “digital watermarks,” to detect copying. But that is not effective. Typical blogging software simply strips away digital watermarks and facilitates automatic cropping, resizing and corrections to contrast and color as thousands of pictures get posted every hour.

Does Bridgeman vs. Corel apply to photographs of the Shroud of Turin? Perhaps not, for it has not been determined that the shroud is a work of art. But the courts might not see it that way. The precedent established by Bridgeman vs. Corel stipulates that a photograph show sufficient originality. The more accurate the photograph the less copyrightable it is. It is often said that the courts have ruled that “sweat of the brow” (for example, the act of photographing a public domain work) is not the “creative spark” which deserves copyright. I agree.

However, having said that, I disagree, too. I fully support STERA’s right to claim copyright of photographs. If a book publisher wishes to include a Barrie Schwortz or STERA owned photograph, they should be required to obtain permission and perhaps pay a fee. But what about newspapers and television stations? I think they should be required to do so as well. These larger organizations make money by virtue of the fact that they are using the reproduction. And I think this should apply to smaller commercial websites, including blogs, run for significant profit.

For the most part, everyone plays along. For instance, on’s homepage you will see:

All Rights Reserved, unless otherwise noted. Images of the Shroud of Turin and related photographs appearing on this website are ©1978 Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA, Inc., unless otherwise noted. Access to this site does not grant any rights to copy, publish, sell, license, distribute or use any included materials, including photographs, text, backgrounds or design elements in any form or media, without the expressed and written permission of the individual copyright holders.

No one objects. Commercial organizations pay. Some makers of things like beach towels, not wanting to pay, seek other images that are more unquestionably in the public domain, such as the original Secondo Pia photographs. But in the end, a challenge in the courts by STERA or anyone who owns a photograph of the shroud might fail because of Bridgeman vs. Corel.

imageWikipedia has taken a lead in this matter and has enough case law behind it to be confident in their assertions. Shown here is a poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the Shroud of Turin. It is obviously a photograph of the poster and it was lifted from and added to Wikipedia’s massive image library. And it doesn’t  matter who took the photograph or when. Wikipedia states, “This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.” By that, they mean the poster, not the photograph, not the image lifted from the PDF file. Once a paper, PDF or otherwise, lands on the web, it is fair game for Google and others to extract images. Google will do it quickly. Wikipedia will generally add it as soon as someone uploads it. Often, text added to the image, which makes unsupportable copyright claims, is cropped away automatically, not to avoid copyright of the photograph but because the added text itself can be copyrighted. Silly, perhaps, but that is what happens.

But what about blogs like this. What should I do. This blog is not intended to make any money for the author. The images that I display are low resolution (72 dpi) that are generally unsuitable for the book publishing industry. I almost always get them from image libraries on the web. Though I do not take the time to chase down every source of an image, it’s copyright situation or find credits – no one among bloggers really does – I will honor polite and reasonable requests to give credit to an image or even echo a copyright claimant’s claim.

If an image, in my opinion, is legitimately protected by copyright (not merely, “sweat of the brow”)  and the copyright owners asks me to remove it and I am persuaded that it is the right thing to do, I will remove it. When I do so, I will explain who, what and why for the benefit of the blog’s readers. . . .

*** In other words I sort of agree with Colin on this matter, and this matter only. But why does he need to be such a jerk?

Art for Today: Michal Na’aman’s “The Shroud of Turin”

Michal Na’aman, The Shroud of Turin, oil and masking tape on canvas. Collection of Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv.  Photo credit: Avraham Hay. Source: Midnight East and Wikipedia Commons.


Shooting the Fox

imageStephen Jones has a delightful posting, Shooting the fox is not killing the fox!. Yes, it is about the Shroud. It deals with many issues dear to skeptics. In the following, the bold text is by Robert Allen in his book, "How To Win Arguments: The Complete Guide To Coming Out On Top." The not-so-bold text is by Jones.

There are two main ways of dealing with foxes. Ladies and gentlemen dress up smartly, mount fine horses, and have a splendid time chasing them all over the countryside before finally watching them being torn to bits by hounds. Farmers shoot them. It is considered unsporting but is quick and effective. Using Allen’s metaphor, it is not enough to merely shoot a fox, one must actually kill it! One might have merely have temporarily stunned the fox, and if one wishes that the fox was dead, then one is more likely to deceive oneself that the fox is dead, when it is not, and will live to fight another day.

And the same, here, Allen and Jones:

The complications were endless. The nail holes in the body were in the correct place. Traditionally painters and sculptors had shown Christ’s wounds to be in his hands. Anatomically and historically this was nonsense because the hands would not have borne such a weight. The actual method of crucifixion was to drive the nails through the wrist bones. The shroud showed this quite accurately. On the other hand the image on the shroud showed the hands modestly covering the genitals, but if a body has been `laid out’ the hands would not normally reach so far. Also the image showed that blood had run from the wounds. Biblical evidence tells us that the body was washed before burial and, of course, dead bodies do not bleed.Allen is right that the Shroud does have "The nail holes … in the correct place … through the wrist bones" yet "Traditionally painters and sculptors had shown Christ’s wounds to be in his hands" which "would not have borne such a weight." So even if the Shroud’s 14th century or earlier forger knew that (when it seems that no one else did), why, if he wanted his forgery to be accepted, would he not depict the nails in the Shroud man’s hands?

It is a long posting with some good discussion on the carbon dating of the shroud, as well. Enjoy.

Herringbone Weave within Stavronikita Epitaphios (Revisited)

I posted the following over a year ago and am now reposting following these two comments today from Matt:

  1. Did no one ever find out more info on this epitaphios? I think it is a very interesting one. Not only the Shroud-like weave, but also the hand positions, and the blood / flagrum markings all over the body

  2. Interesting to see in this epitaphios the wound on the top hand only near the wrist, as per the Shroud, also the lower hand (left hand) seems much longer than the top hand, also as per the Shroud

  3. Any answers, thoughts, speculation? Here is the old posting from March 2011:

The implications are significant. Look very carefully at the weave pattern on the burial shroud pictured (two photographs) and the enlarged section showing the cloth below the shoulder. In the meantime I’m trying to find out more about this. And I’m trying to find a higher definition image.

Photo 1:image

Photo 2:


Section beneath shoulder showing herringbone:



Better Posting on Barrie Schwortz Appearing on "Mysterious Realms"

imageJoe Marino nets it out and fills in the gaps. He improves on my earlier posting from my iPhone while sitting in my car:

Barrie will be a guest tonight on a program called "Mysterious Realms," hosted by Dr. John DeSalvo, who was a consultant to STURP in the early 80s and who is also part of Association of Scientists and Scholars International for the Shroud of Turin, Inc. (ASSIST), for which Paul Maloney is the General Projects Director.  It’s always nice to have an interviewer who is knowledgeable about the Shroud, and John certainly is.

The program can be listened to live between 9-11 p.m. Eastern at  If you are unable to listen to it live, it will available in archives within a day or so.

Mysterious Realms with Dr John

Go to for show information.

Tonights guest Barrie Schwortz was the official Documenting Photographer for the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) in 1978. The host, Dr. John was also a member of this team as a research consultant. Together, they will explore the history and scientific studies on the Shroud and the LATEST FINDINGS!

You do not want to miss this program. You seldom get two STURP researchers who have studied the shroud for over 30 years on the same program and have the latest up to date findings.

The Shroud of Turin is a centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man. A man that millions believe to be Jesus of Nazareth. Is it really the cloth that wrapped his crucified body, or is it simply a medieval forgery, a hoax perpetrated by some clever artist? The Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc (STURP) studied the Shroud and completed the first extensive scientific examination of it. Between October 8 and October 14, 1978, the team spent 120 hours with the Shroud of Turin.

The host, Dr John was a research consultant to STURP and studied the image formation process. He is a long term friend and research colleague with Barrie.

I didn’t make the list

imageFrancis DeStefano’s Resurrection Now blog lists the best Shroud of Turin websites. I didn’t make the cut with nearly one million page views (1500 to 2000 per day), with 1741 posts (an average of 2.3 posts per day in the last year), 7,898 comments, several hundred subscribed followers. Actually, come to think of it, none of the Shroud of Turin websites I created made Francis’ list. Wonder why? Did he Google? Ah, best!

According to Alexa the top five most popular Shroud of Turin websites are:

  • The Shroud of Turin (

    • Rank:1,053,735
    • Reputation: 742
  • Shroud of Turin Blog (this blog, not on the list)

    • Rank: 2,770,853
    • Reputation: 578 (108 direct)
  • Shroud of Turin for Journalists (not on the list, created by me)

    • Rank: 4,552,842
    • Reputation: 412
  • Shroud Story (not on the list, created by me, being rebuilt) 
    • Rank: 5,620,198
    • Reputation: 224
  • Turin Shroud Center of Colorado (created by John Jackson)

    • Rank:9,496,612
    • Reputation:  53
  • Well, go have a look. They are all good sites.

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