Which Came First, the Gospels or the Shroud?

imageYesterday, Stephen Jones published an introduction to his new section of postings about the shroud dealing with Jesus’ wounds. In the very first paragraph he writes:

The Shroud must be consistent with the Bible If the Shroud of Turin is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, then it must be consistent with what the Bible says about Him, and particularly about His suffering, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection[1]. (emphasis is Stephen’s)

That seems backward. I would say:

The Bible must be consistent with the Shroud. If the passion narratives are accurate, in a literal sense, then they must be consistent with what the shroud suggests about Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, death, burial and perhaps his resurrection[1]. Underlining as emphasis is mine)

I left the notation ([1]) in because in Stephen’s blog it points to Ken Stevenson’s and Gary Habermas’ book, "Verdict on the Shroud: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” which I think more accurately reflects my point of view. It is the skeptic, the one who thinks a forger created to shroud to reflect what was in scripture, who says that the shroud must be consistent with the bible.

Let’s look at one example from among several in a table in Stephen’s blog:

The first column is a summary of the biblical account referenced in the second column. John (or the author or authors of John) tells it this way:

31Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” (NSRV)

But did it happen this way? Literally? I like to believe it but I can’t know it. Was it prophesy fulfilled or a case of postdiction, what John Dominic Crossan (Jesus Seminar) calls prophecy historicized? Or is it a literary technique to remind us of Psalm 34 and Zechariah 12? We should note carefully what Raymond E. Brown (The Death of the Messiah) reminds us of:

[T]he Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission taught authoritatively that the Gospels are the product of considerable development—narrative, organizational and theological development. They are not simply literal accounts of the ministry of Jesus.

There is a clear wound, certainly a piercing wound, on the man of the shroud. I agree with Stephen on that. But nowhere on the shroud is there clear evidence that his legs were NOT broken. There is no evidence that his legs were broken, either. But from that it doesn’t therefore follow . . . .

The wonder of the shroud is that it supports the biblical narratives, not the other way around.

If you want to watch John Dominic Crossan (who disagrees with Brown in this video) on the passion story, here it is. I’m more inclined to side with Brown and N. T. Wright who argue that what happened is pretty much what is told in the gospels. Pretty much!


The top picture is from Stephen’s blog.

An Antonio Lombatti Poop Dump

imageI have no idea why Antonio Lombatti was raising this on his blog yesterday except that perhaps he has run out of anything meaningful to say.

In a response, a commenter on Lombatti’s blog, Biblical Archaeology and History of the Church criticized Lombatti for his most recent posting.  This is how I choose to start this posting, with what I understood from Google and Bing translations:

If you were to look at all the crap that men do you should not even go by bus and breathe their air; You should not give a hand to anyone; you should not take the communion host from the hands of a priest (he could be a "sinner"). Fortunately in the same air we breathe we have experienced great men and Jesus Christ. . . . It doesn’t seem respectable [on your part, Mr. Lombatti] to try to relate the Shroud to that of pedophiles: It is really tacky.

Lombatti responds:

Maybe you’re right. However, I do not understand why this depraved [person] disappeared from all official lists of members [of] STURP.

imageWho, of course, is not what Church Lady Lombatti’s posting is really about. This is the all-caps headline in his blog: SHROUD: A PEDOPHILE FUNDAMENTALIST IN STURP. You can do your own translation with Google or Bing or you can get a good idea from nasty hypocritical Jim West, Pastor of Petros Baptist Church and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies and Church History for the Philippines Baptist Theological Seminary. In his blog, ZWINGLIUS REDIVIVUS, West does a Lombatti poop dump:


So, it turns out that

… among the 1978 STURP scientists that examined the Turin Shroud there was also one (probably more than one) who belonged to the fundamentalist sect of the Christ Brotherhood (others to the Cult of Jesus sect). Paterson Brown was arrested in 1981 over raiding several Christ Brotherhood homes and taking 14 children into custody. Although five of the children said they had been molested by Brown, he was tried only for raping and sodomizing the 14-year-old daughter of a sect member.   Not a single book or article on the Shroud has ever mentioned that this depraved pedophile and fundamentalist was part of the scholars who studied the relic in 1978.

For a bit of sanity read Thomas Paterson Brown ’60 – In Memory, deceased June 6, 2012 on the Amherst College Magazine website. And read the comments.

Drs. Antonio Lombatti and Jim West, what intelligent point were you trying to make?

Will the Alfred Rosenberg Diaries Tell Us Anything?

imageThis is how Nick Squires at The Telegraph reported the story that Hitler ‘wanted to steal’ Turin Shroud in April of 2010:

The shroud was transferred for its safety to the Benedictine sanctuary of Montevergine in Avellino, in the southern Campania region of Italy in 1939 and was only transferred to Turin in 1946.

The current director of the library at the abbey, Father Andrea Cardin, said the reason behind the move was because Hitler was "obsessed" with the sacred relic.

Both the Vatican and the Italian royal family, the Savoys, who were the guardians and owners of the shroud, feared that the German leader, who had an interest in the esoteric, might try to steal the linen cloth.

In an interview with an Italian magazine, Diva e Donna, Father Cardin said: "The Holy Shroud was moved in secret to the sanctuary in the Campania region on the precise orders of the House of Savoy and the Vatican.

"Officially this was to protect it from possible bombing (in Turin). In reality, it was moved to hide it from Hitler who was apparently obsessed by it. When he visited Italy in 1938, top-ranking Nazi aides asked unusual and insistent questions about the Shroud."

Father Cardin, a Benedictine monk, said that after Italy entered the war in alliance with Hitler, and German forces were sent to Italy, the shroud was very nearly discovered in its secret hiding place.

"In 1943 when German troops searched the Montevergine church, the monks there pretended to be in deep prayer before the altar, inside which the relic was hidden. This was the only reason it wasn’t discovered."

The shroud, which is supposed to have wrapped Christ’s body after he was crucified, was returned to Turin in 1946 on the orders of Italy’s last king, Umberto II.

We now learn, (Reuters, June 9, 2013) that the U.S. government has recovered 400 pages from the long-lost diary of Alfred Rosenberg, a confidant of Adolf Hitler. The pages covering the spring of 1936 to the winter of 1944. According to Reuters . . .

Rosenberg also directed the systematic Nazi looting of Jewish art, cultural and religious property throughout Europe. The Nazi unit created to seize such artifacts was called Task Force Reichsleiter Rosenberg.

The pages, written in long hand, are being analyzed by the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. It will be interesting to see if the Shroud of Turin is discussed in the pages. Was Rosenberg one of the top-ranking Nazi aides asking questions about the Shroud in 1938?

Argumentum ad populum of the day

clip_image001Do you hold any really odd beliefs—in ghosts, UFOs, tooth fairies, the sanctity of the Turin Shroud? While science often acts as a bullshit filter, the internet rarely does.

Science journalist Robyn Williams unloads this “hey, everybody knows better” fallacy, an appeal to ridicule by ludicrous association, on Australian Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor show while introducing Tory Shepherd, senior writer for The Advertiser newspaper in Adelaide who explains, on the broadcast, why science and the internet are now in mortal combat. (an idea I don’t agree with).

As a science journalist and host of  Radio National’s The Science Show and Ockham’s Razor, he should know better.  As a  Fellow Member of the Australian Academy of Science, he should know better. Moreover, why did he forget the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot?

Stephen Jones Starting New Section

imageStephen Jones is getting ready to start his next section of his blog: "3. The Bible and the Shroud," which is by his count part 18 of a series. Here already, is the Table of Contents.

Stephen makes the point that the Shroud of Turin with major bloodstains is consistent with the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus.

I’m looking forward to these next twenty-one postings as they unfold.

© Stephen E. Jones

  1. Introduction
  2. The man on the Shroud
  3. He was scourged
  4. He was beaten about the head
  5. He was crowned with thorns
  6. He carried his cross
  7. He fell
  8. He was nailed to a cross
  9. He died on the cross
  10. His face was covered with a small cloth
  11. His legs were not broken
  12. He was speared in the side
  13. He was buried in tomb
  14. His body was washed
  15. His body was anointed with spices
  16. He was enfolded in a linen shroud
  17. His body did not decompose
  18. His body was resurrected!
  19. Objections
  20. Alternatives
  21. Conclusion

The poker holes on the Turin Shroud deliberately put there to designate the cloth as sacred?

clip_image001You may need an introduction before I tell you about one person’s solution to a musical cryptogram. I had never heard of such a thing. Here, Wikipedia, tells us:

Edward Elgar composed his Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra ("Enigma"), Op. 36, commonly referred to as the Enigma Variations, in 1898–99. It is a set of fourteen variations on a hidden "theme" that is, in Elgar’s words, "not played". It is Elgar’s best-known large-scale composition, for both the music itself and the enigma behind it.

Elgar dedicated the piece to "my friends pictured within", each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his circle of close acquaintances. See Musical cryptogram. The people portrayed in the variations include Elgar’s wife Alice, Augustus J. Jaeger and Elgar himself. The enigma is the hidden theme, which has been the subject of much speculation. Various musicians have proposed theories for what melody it could be, although Elgar did not say that that his "theme" was a melody. The enigma could be something else, such as a symbol or a literary theme. Elgar accepted none of the solutions proposed in his lifetime, and, pleased with his little joke, took the secret with him to the grave.

After its 1899 London premiere, the piece achieved popularity and was performed internationally. It has been recorded over 60 times.

imageAlong comes Mr. Padgett. According to his own blog, Elgar’s Enigma Theme Unmasked, we learn about Mr. Padgett:

Mr. Padgett studied violin with Michael Rosenker, and Rosenker’s pupil, Owen Dunsford. Mr. Padgett studied piano with Sally Magee (a student of Emanuel Bay), and Blanca Uribe, a student of Rosina Lhévinne. He attended the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California, and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in psychology. At Vassar he studied music theory and composition with Richard Wilson. Mr. Padgett has performed for . . . .

Elgar’s Enigma Theme Unmasked seems to be a blog dedicated to just what its name says. Therein, I found this shroud ladened conclusion that Mr. Padgett posted just yesterday:

This brief review documents multiple coded references to the Turin Shroud in the Enigma Variations. The Hyphen Cipher in Variation II encodes the name of Secondo Pia, the first official photographer of the Turin Shroud. The timing of Pia’s famous photograph in May 1898 is credible because it predates the genesis of the Enigma Variations by five months. In Variation XIII the Romanza Cipher names the Turin Shroud as TURIN S, leaving the word shroud symbolically shrouded by its five missing letters. The importance of that sacred relic to Roman Catholics like Elgar is highlighted by the FACE Cipher, for Pia’s famous photographic negative of the Turin Shroud vividly revealed for the first time the face and crucified body of a man many believe to be Jesus. Elgar originally designated Variation XIII with a single capital letter L, and that is the only discernible English letter on the Turin Shroud formed by a distinctive "poker hole" pattern. Finally, the Tasso Cipher serves as a distinct literary reminder of Elgar’s interest in the Turin Shroud because Tasso was the guest of honor when it was delivered to the city of Turin in 1578. With so many ciphers pinpointing the same famous religious relic, there is no room for doubt. A major source of inspiration behind the Enigma Variations was the Turin Shroud. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

imageIs this like Bible Codes?  Apparently not. This is something some composers do. For fun, maybe?

I’m reading all about this on an iPhone while sitting on a bench by a pond called a lagoon. For some reason, they call ponds lagoons in South Carolina. The sun has just come up. An alligator is swimming slowly by in what I call ‘up periscope’ mode; only their nostrils and eyes are visible. My dog, whom I’m supposed to be walking, is sitting beside me watching me. If he could talk he would say, “Walking me would be a better use of your time.”

He is right, the dog that is. Compare:

Elgar sonically portrays the sea in Variation XIII by means of fourMendelssohn fragments from the concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. The word sea is the phonetic equivalent of the letter c, the first letter in the FACE Cipher. The remaining letters are provided by the Mendelssohn fragments which are in the keys of A-flat major, F minor and E-flat major. It is hardly a coincidence those key letters form the well known music cryptogram FAE, hinting at the fact they contain yet another music cryptogram. Adding the letter C to the letters FAE enables one to form the word FACE. Whose face inspired Variation XIII? The one miraculously revealed by Secondo Pia’s famous photographic negative of the Turin Shroud. This mysterious friend’s initials are encoded by the Roman numerals. X represents 10, and the tenth letter in the alphabet is J. III stands for 3, and the third letter is C. Together the Roman numerals openly conceal the initials JC.

or this:

imageElgar originally designated Variation XIII with a solitary capital L. Many scholars have debated the significance behind that letter. With the discovery of various coded references to the Turin Shroud, the meaning becomes clear. The Turin Shroud has distinctive “poker hole” burn patterns in the shape of a capital letter L. That feature is the only discernible letter on the Turin Shroud. When inverted, the capital letter L resembles the upper case of the Greek letter gamma.  During the Byzantine era thegamma was used to decorate alter clothes known as gammadia. The L-shaped poker holes on the Turin Shroud may have been deliberately put there to designate the cloth as sacred.

Pounding the square peg into the round hole

Alimage Reilly writes:

Just read your sidebar on the shroud blog and I find your assertion that Pro. Dawkins questions the validity of carbon dating actually as being inaccurate leads one to believe that the good Doctor believes the technique is wholesale inaccurate. That simply isn’t true. Prof Dawkins claims it is not reliable for dating purposes that deal the evolutionary timescale dealing with MILLIONS of years. He claims it is very accurate in terms of dating hundreds and THOUSANDS of years. That would make the procedure highly useful in dating an organic piece of cloth 2000 years old or less. Also, when you write, "We simply do not have enough reliable information to arrive at a scientifically rigorous conclusion. Years ago, as a skeptic of the Shroud, I came to realize that while I might believe it was a fake, I could not know so from the facts. Now, as someone who believes it is the real burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, I similarly realize that a leap of faith over unanswered questions is essential", it’s not up to the non-believer to prove its’ validity, it’s up to the claimants, or as Carl Sagan once said,"extraordinary claims (which belief in the shroud is) REQUIRE extraordinary EVIDENCE". If you say your belief in the shroud requires a "leap of faith" after stating your conclusive belief in the item, yet at the same time admitting there are "unanswered questions", you’ve just taken real science out of the picture. In other words, you arrived at the conclusion long before any conclusive evidence. Sorry, Daniel, that is not how real science works. Your blog claims science as its’ tool, yet it fails at using actual scientific methodology. Without "extraordinary evidence" a conclusion to the question, in terms of real science, cannot be reached. The second you use the word "faith" you’ve just raised belief as a priority over the head of real science. That, in reality, is NOT real science. Belief does not require reason, and without reason, there cannot be reality. I think this site (shroud blog) is just another example of apologetics masquerading as science. Or, pounding the square peg into the round hole.

Hi Al:

Re Dawkins:

I don’t know how from what I wrote that anyone might “believe that the good Doctor [=Dawkins] believes the technique is wholesale inaccurate.” And what you say about what Dawkins believes about radiocarbon dating is very accurate. I don’t dispute it. But what I was thinking about was from his wonderful book, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” (pp. 105-106):

The dating of the shroud remains controversial, but not for reasons that cast doubt on the carbon-dating technique itself. For example, the carbon in the shroud might have been contaminated by a fire, which is known to have occurred in 1532. 1 won’t pursue the matter further, because the shroud is of historical, not evolutionary, interest.

Re Extraordinary claims:

It is true that Carl Sagan said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," but the real credit should probably go to David Hume (1711-1776) who wrote,"A wise man . . . proportions his belief to the evidence" or to Marcello Truzzi, a cofounder of CSICOP, who wrote in an essay on pseudo-skepticism in the the Zetetic Scholar . . .

In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new "fact." Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of "conventional science" as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis — saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact — he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof.

Truzzi elaborates enough to remind us to be cautious. So when you write, “Carl Sagan once said,"extraordinary claims (which belief in the shroud is) REQUIRE extraordinary EVIDENCE,”  two things come to mind:

  1. Is belief in the shroud extraordinary? I say it is not.
  2. Is the evidence in support of that not extraordinary.

Spend some time with us in this blog. You may not change your mind about the shroud but you may come to agree with what I contend here.

Regarding faith as a priority over reason.

You say to me, “The second you use the word "faith" you’ve just raised belief as a priority over the head of real science.” Would you rather that I was dishonest? Should I not say that I believe it is real when in fact I do? Should I pretend that the evidence is better than it is? If anything, being honest and not denying science (e.g. by quoting scripture or an apologetic argument) elevates science.

Belief is something Dawkins tries to address in a letter to his then ten year old daughter (A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love, 2004):

Inside feelings are valuable in science too, but only for giving you ideas that you later test by looking for evidence. A scientist can have a ‘hunch’ about an idea that just ‘feels’ right. In itself, this is not a good reason for believing something. But it can be a good reason for spending some time doing a particular experiment, or looking in a particular way for evidence. Scientists use inside feelings all the time to get ideas. But they are not worth anything until they are supported by evidence. . . .What can we do about all this? It is not easy for you to do anything, because you are only ten. But you could try this. Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.

And this blog is about finding answers that don’t depend solely, or even at all, on tradition, authority or revelation.

An enigmatic thing about the shroud is that to claim it is fake is as extraordinary (if not more so) as to claim it is real. You can do this thought experimentation without making any claims one way or the other about what might be supernatural causes or reasons or consequences for belief.

Al, you say I have arrived at the conclusion long before any conclusive evidence. Maybe, I’ll have to ponder that. (Why do I think of Enrico Fermi pulling out those cadmium rods?)

Al, your comments are welcome here. There are quite a few scientists participating in the discussions.

Re the square peg:

It all depends on the size of the hole.

Thanks for writing. Join in the discussion, please.


In case anyone thinks Thomas de Wesselow isn’t important

imageimageThe original title was The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection (Viking UK, March 26, 2012). Now there is a reprint edition, The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Birth of Christianity (Plume; Reprint edition, March 5, 2013). Notice the subtle change in the title and the new cover. This reprint edition includes a hardcover version for $26, a paperback version for $16 and a Kindle version for $10. How often do you see a hardcover in a reprint.

And then there is Das Turiner Grabtuch und das Geheimnis der Auferstehung  and Sinal: O Santo Sudario e O Segredo da Ressurreicao.

imageimageThe more reviews I read the more convinced I am that people de Wesselow’s argument for authenticity compelling but his argument that it gave birth to a false belief in resurrection untenable.

Room for doubt? About as much room as there is on a crowded microdot

imageJohn Klotz put me onto this article, although I guess I knew about it and had forgotten about it, and maybe I imagined I had read it. But it is too memorable to forget. So I guess I just read it for the first time last night.

John sent me a PDF from some library microfilm reader and tried to convince me it was readable. I had to find a better copy. I did. Read on.

“The Shroud of Turin: Who is this man and why does he have no navel?” by Michael Thomas in the December 28, 1978, issue of Rolling Stone may be the best piece of Shroud of Turin journalism ever published in the mainstream media. To emphasize, however, it was written in 1978, the year of STURP. Carbon dating was being talked about by some, but it would not happen until a decade later.

Rolling Stone’s Table of Contents, something that is usually hobbled together by an editor just before press time, is unfair to the gist of the story. IT REALLY IS A MUST READ.


You have few choices if you want to read the article. You can go to a public library and possibly read it on some microfilm reader. Or you can find an issue on eBay, maybe. Or you pony up 99 cents and read it online – forget about trying to print it or save it, though. I’ll tell you how to read it online, but first some wonderful clips:

1) “Until it [=carbon dating] is done, there is still room for doubt as to the shroud’s authenticity—about as much room as there is on a crowded microdot. . . . “ (The pages are really Financial Times pink):


2) “As a physicist he [=Harry Gove] agrees he can’t understand any other way the image on the shroud was formed except by some kind of thermal radiation. . . .”


Okay, so how do you read it. Sign up for a 4-week trial subscription. It will cost 99 cents. If you are happy with the magazine you can let them automatically charge your credit card $19.95 for 26 more issues. If not, you can cancel. As soon as you sign up, you can access the archives; choose  the 1970s, then choose 1978 and then December 28.

I just discovered on the Rolling Stone website that you can buy a back issue (no price quoted, online) by calling 1-800-283-1549. Right now it is 5:00 am on a Saturday. I’ll try that on Monday.

I also just discovered that backissues.com sells the December 28 issue for $24.95 plus $6.00 for shipping.

The Shroud of Turin & Our Lady of Guadalupe Tilma

imageIn the latest Late Breaking Website News at shroud.com, Barrie Schwortz updates on . . .

. . . "Third Encounter of the Two Linens," sponsored by the Pontifical University in Rome, was originally scheduled to be held at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center in Israel from November 25 to December 1, 2012. However, due to the political situation at the time, the conference was postponed and has now been rescheduled to take place on June 26 through July 2, 2013. The conference deals specifically with the Shroud of Turin and the Tilma Cloak of Tepeyac (aka Our Lady of Guadalupe). You can read the stated objectives of the event at this link.

or right here:

To pair off the two cloths (the Shroud of Turin and the tilma cloak of Tepeyac) that have had the greatest impact on the Church throughout history in order to:

  1. Appreciate their evangelizing, historical and scientific value.

  2. Reflect upon the interplay between these two gifts of God to the world for the evangelization of the XXI century.

  3. Determine, in the light of Shroud science, what research should be done on the tilma containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The conclusions and proposals will be presented to the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera

.Barrie continues:

With many invited speakers from around the world, the Encounter will consist of presentations by experts and round table discussions. As far as I know, the speakers remain the same. Among those invited are Prof. Adolfo Orozco and Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann from Mexico, Prof. Bruno Barberis, Piero Savarino, Paolo Di Lazzaro, Fr. Hector Guerra and Fr. Gianfranco Berbenni from Italy, Dr. Alfonso Sanchez Hermosilla from Spain, Dr. John and Rebecca Jackson and Barrie Schwortz from the USA and Dr. Petrus Soons from Panama.

imageI took it on the chin a bit (perhaps deservedly) back in 2010, when I expressed reservations about connecting the Guadalupe Tilma with the shroud.  Thus, A Special Posting: A Letter from John Jackson followed.

Upon our return [from Turin], Rebecca called to my attention some discussion on the Shroud Science Group regarding this event and I wish to offer some of my own reflections. It seems that the discussion was precipitated by comments made by Dan Porter on his “Shroud of Turin Blog” where he writes about the event in Turin, “What kind of signal does this send? Confusion. Keep the story tiny and buried.” With respect for Mr. Porter, I could not disagree more with this summation; I think the signal sent is, to the contrary, Spiritually valuable and that the story should be widely disseminated and definitely not buried.

I still have reservations about associating the Tilma and the Shroud, at least scientifically. But I understand John’s point expressed in A Special Posting: A Letter from John Jackson.

Most unlikely yet overwhelming success story of all unrecorded time

imageThere is an interesting article in the Huffington Post, Witness: To Be With Jesus’ Companions After the Crucifixion, by essayist Jonathan Wolfman:

By the late 50s, we have abundant written evidence that Paul and his companions are organizing home-based churches in communities throughout the Mediterranean and in Rome itself and then writing to the parishioners. And 20-some years on from Paul’s work, we have Mark writing the first canonical gospel.

I don’t want to speculate as to what went on. I want to be there, to light up and penetrate those earliest dark years and to see, to really know, how and why the first Jerusalem community survived its near decimation, its scattering after the murder of its leader, and how it once again coalesced and grew.

I want to have known the charisma of the rabbi who was Jesus. I want to have been among the first to hear his words on justice and the Kingdom of God spoken over and over and over again, throughout Galilee and the south — the striking, illuminating parables, stories and sayings forming a distinctly Jewish paradigm of justice, the basis for all extant gospels.

And then I want my own ears to hear that silence and my eyes to see beneath it, because the story of the companions of Jesus may well be the most unlikely yet overwhelming success story of all unrecorded time.

And what I am wondering, and have long wondered about, is what role the shroud might have played. Of course, we can speculate, but what are the clues, if any?

The Mallard Reaction

imageWhile walking the dog in the morning, I have been listening to Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked. Suddenly, he mentioned a \MY-yard\ reaction. What, I thought, was he talking about? And the dog wanted to know why I was mumbling to myself. Then it occurred to me. Pollan was referring to a Maillard reaction. I knew this because he was talking about browning meat. I remembered, then, flippantly telling Ray Rogers that I thought a Maillard reaction was what happened when you let the dogs loose near a duck pond. Okay, he got it, dumb joke that it was, even though the word is not pronounced \mal-erd\.

  • Here are some pronouncing options over over at howjsay (be sure speakers are on).
  • Here is how to say it in French over at Forvo (it is a French word, after all)

Now, when I give talks about the shroud, people won’t snicker at my mentioning what Mallard ducks do.

R.I.P. Ben Wiech

imageWord arrived that Ben Wiech, best known to me for more than four hundred comments in the Shroud Science Group forum, passed away. He had brain cancer. An email addressed to Ray Rogers back in 2003 is particularly memorable:

I agree that the mind can fool us into seeing all kinds of things on the Shroud that maybe are not really there. We all see a body shape, but only a few of us see lances or a titulus from the crucifixion.

Here is what I see. You’ll agree with me on all but one.

Coins. Well, I see coin letters but since Dr. Jackson and Barry Schwortz and others are adamant in saying they aren’t there and can’t be there, I’ll agree that they may not be there.

Flowers. No, I don’t see them.

Teeth. Again, I don’t see enough there to be sure I’m seeing any dental images.

Skull. Nope, can’t be sure.

Finger bones. Bingo! We have a winner! Everybody sees something here. Fans and foe alike. Joe Nickell, arch-enemy of the Shroud, saw them and used them to discredit the Shroud. People see them because they seem to be as clear as a leg or an arm! Now, if they are finger bones, your chance of coming up with a naturalistic hypothesis to explain the image and the finger bones, just flew right out the scientific window! So, I’m guessing you don’t see finger

Ben Wiech

MORE:  Here are some past postings in the blog that reference Ben or include comments from him:

STILL MORE:  Here is a recent YouTube by Ben. All of Ben’s YouTube videos that may be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/Bennyweechy. If you go looking, check out the squirrel cam.

By Ben Wiech


Now, our friend Ben has the answers. We can be thankful for treasured memories of Ben.


Paper Chase: Two New History Papers by Pam Moon

clip_image001You may recall that in February, I linked to a scientific paper by Pam Moon, Coloured Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) contamination, mould damage, biocides and the carbon-14 dating of the Shroud of Turin.

Pam now has two new historical papers that explore a medieval manuscript, which is a version of John Skylitzes chronicle of the Byzantine Empire from 811 to1057. The first paper is about the so-called poker holes and the second paper about the transfer of the shroud from Edessa to Constantinople.

Calm down, Yannick; these are interesting papers for the rest of us.

The High Price Of Success at STERA

clip_image001Barrie Schwortz writes on the Late Breaking News page of shroud.com:

As I said at the beginning of this update, a "perfect storm" of events recently led to massive international media coverage of the Shroud, the most in many years. The effect on STERA, Inc. and Shroud.com was immediate and I think the above graphic chart says it all. We had nearly 150,000 unique visitors in March (nearly triple our norm) and 90,000 in April. Consequently, our bandwidth tripled in March to 87GB and was double the norm in April at 50GB. Although we receive very reasonable rates from our service provider and a gracious allowance of free bandwidth (which we only rarely exceed), we dramatically exceeded our allowance over March and April. This put an unexpected burden on our operating expenses and we have to ask our viewers for assistance. We are hoping to raise at least $3000.00 to help offset these recent expenses and you can help by making a safe, online tax deductible contribution to STERA, Inc. using our 256 bit encrypted Secure Contribution Form. Please help us manage the high price of success.

Again: Secure Contribution Form

The Writing on the Shroud: A Stephen Jones Update

clip_image001Stephen Jones has published the next part of his extensive survey,  The Shroud of Turin: 2.6. The other marks (6): Writing in his Shroud of Turin blog. He begins:

That I have included a page on the topic of "writing on the Shroud" should not be taken to mean that I am claiming that there is any writing on the Shroud (apart from the inscriptions on the coins over the Shroud man’s eyes – see part 16, "Coins over eyes"). Rather, I am covering this topic for completeness of my "Other marks" section.

and concludes:

With the possible exception of the 11th century writing above the right knee (see above), there is no compelling evidence for, and much evidence against, the theory that there is writing on the Shroud of Turin. Even among scholars who believe in the Shroud’s authenticity, most have dismissed as unreliable the computer enhanced images of `letters’ on the Shroud upon which Marastoni’s, Marion and Courage’s, and Frale’s, theories are based[103]. As Dr Bruno Barberis, director of the International Center for Shroud Studies of Turin, commented, "There is no evidence that those letters do exist. Many have seen faint writings on the cloth. Rather than a shroud it looks like an encyclopedia"[104]!

Stephen, as always, does a good job of crawling through the published material. I have a much easier time with his assessment of the writing than his assessment of coin images. 

The Shroud of Sforza

imageI’ve never watched the television series, The Borgias. Actually, I never heard of it until today. But it turns out the shroud, or at least a copy of the shroud, plays a role in one of the episodes, Tears of Blood

The series on the Showtime channel, now wrapping up season 3, is a drama series about the fictional Borgia dynasty in early 16th century in Italy (about the time of Machiavelli).

As Les Chappell writes in the AV Club blog:

In the course of these reviews, I’ve talked many times about the use of spectacle on The Borgias, as both the show and the world within the show rely on it to a considerable degree. From a production standpoint, some of the show’s finest moments have been its depictions of grand events, from Alexander’s coronation as pope to any number of weddings to the Bonfire of the Vanities to the burning of Friar Savonarola. . . .

You get the idea. But how about this:

Caterina, however, is greeted with a far different spectacle: the body of her son Benito. And for all her bold talk about bearing ten more sons in “The Siege Of Forli” she’s consumed with sorrow at this loss, and fear for what [Pope] Alexander [VI] will do to her with the funds the Jubilee is raising. She decides to deploy her own relic, a duplicate of the Shroud of Turin, displayed in the catacombs of Sforza-controlled territory and stemming the flow of pilgrims to Rome. The move works to keep the coffers of Rome light—particularly with the aid of a contraption to simulate bleeding tears on the Shroud in front of the first group—and then works to draw papal attention as Cesare and Micheletto investigate, only to be nearly blown to bits by a gunpowder trap.

It aired on June 2 and I missed it. Ah, shucks!

Huge Update to shroud.com

Barrie Schwortz writes

imageJust a short note to let you know that a huge new update to Shroud.com is now online. Just go to to our Home Page and click on the June 3, 2013 Latest Update link to see the details.

This update proudly includes the next five issues of Shroud Spectrum International, bringing to nine the number of issues now available on the site. It also includes a selection of recently published papers, an article taking you behind the scenes of a new Smithsonian Channel Shroud documentary, an article about the Annual Feast of the Holy Shroud and how it was celebrated this year in Portugal and Italy and an inside look at the recent TEDx ViadellaConciliazione conference held in the Vatican. There are also several illustrated features, including one about the Shroud of Rabat, Malta and another about a new Shroud exhibit in Panama.

And that is just a partial list! So check it out when you have a minute. Wait. Make that an hour! We think you will find a lot of useful information that will keep you busy for some time to come. Enjoy! . . .

A completely inappropriate experiment. Nice white lab coats, anyway

imageBarrie Schwortz is updating his website and Google just spotted a new PDF file, Behind the Scenes of a New Smithsonian Channel Shroud Documentary. It’s by Barrie. Here is a short sample from page 2 of 6:

The first thing we taped that morning was in the outdoor area of the facility where two dead pigs had been placed, partially exposed to the elements, with the linen cloth samples draped over their sides. They were laid on the bare ground in a wood frame shed that was covered with a thin plastic film, but had open sides. It had been raining off and on for several days and the ground was soft and muddy and the humidity was quite high. There was also a steady breeze blowing which would seriously impact any type of gas diffusion and I immediately realized that this test was completely inappropriate for comparison with the Shroud, since the body it had covered had been placed in a dry, sealed tomb. At that moment I had my first doubts that we would get any results at all. (Above: Dr. Anna Williams, her assistant and several crew members prepare to tape the decomposing pig sequences).

It’s important to read the whole paper: Behind the Scenes of a New Smithsonian Channel Shroud Documentary

Now what else is going to pop up at shroud.com? Okay, we got a whole new Late Breaking News page dated June 3, 2013.

Every year, millions travel to Rome to view the shroud . . . ???

imageA reader writes:

I see some potential problems with Artifactory’s plan to release a new Shroud replica.

1/ Product descriptions for their Shroud replicas are so erroneous that it is surprising anyone would buy them.

2/ They may confront serious copyright issues using scans provided by an unnamed priest unless the Archdiocese of Turin has granted permission. 

3/ High resolution scans show the herringbone pattern of the cloth very clearly. You can’t print a herringbone pattern on herringbone cloth as they propose.

The image above is from the iPhone app, complete with an electronic watermark. For some information on the unnamed priest see comments by Louis, Barrie, DaveB and Hugh to an earlier posting on this subject.

Here is one product description from the Artifactory website:

The Shroud… Authentic image of Christ, or medieval forgery?  For centuries, this simple, tattered cloth has been surrounded by controversy.  And yet, it is one of the most widely-recognized relics in the world.  Every year, millions travel to Rome to view the shroud in its glass-protected display. But only a select-few have ever been able to get close-enough to the image to be able to examine it in detail. Until now. . .

Artifactory brings you an exacting replica of this historic Icon, recreated from a direct digital, high-resolution scan of the original.  Each replica is printed on 100% polyester canvas, 280g (9oz) weight, 14mil thick.  Both the ink and canvas are water resistant.

This partial section measures 16 inches by 20 inches.  It is a replica of the Shroud as it was displayed in 6th century Turkey, in the village of Edessa.  It remained in this folded configuration for several hundred years, and represents the only view of this sacred relic that thousands of people ever saw.

A life-sized print of the high resolution image on smooth, white paper or plastic, or better yet as a digital image file, now that would be worth something.

A Guest Posting: Ten Questions for Alan Adler by Kelly Kearse

10+ Questions that I would ask Alan Adler


In the light of several recent discussions involving various Shroud investigators, I decided to jot down several specific questions that I would ask Dr. Alan Adler if given the opportunity to have a face to face discussion with him.  I tried to limit my questions to 10 main points of interest. Of course, Adler "is not here to defend himself", but he doesn’t have to-at least not to me.  The intent of this posting is not to represent a type of cross-examination, far from it-this posting merely models a focused discussion with specific questions from someone who is seeking to increase their understanding. These are the questions I would have. Yours, of course, may be different.  And the answer to one question may naturally spawn three more.  But that’s how discussions move forward.  If you’re old enough to remember the lines, "I asked Bobby Dylan.  I asked the Beatles…"; well, in this discussion exercise, I am asking Alan Adler-or at least pretending to. Of course, others may eavesdrop on this imaginary conversation and contribute as they choose-that of course, is the point.  

First, allow me to say that it is truly an honor & privilege to have this opportunity. I have followed your work with great interest-my background is in immunology & cell biology, the blood typing studies are what first seriously caught my attention about the Shroud. I am not a blood ‘specialist’; my questions may appear somewhat detailed at times, and at others, rather naïve. I hope that is okay. I appreciate this opportunity and thank you again for your time.

1. In your article “The Origin and Nature of Blood on the Turin Shroud”, published in 1986, you wrote: “The next test we did was to take micro-spectrum photometry on the non-birefringent red-coated fibrils from the Shroud. It was obvious that the spectrum it produced did not match the spectrum of methemoglobin, at least not given in the standard references, which is a solution spectrum of blood. This is one of the problems in trying to look in the literature for references to compare the results to.” It is somewhat surprising that the literature is rather limited relative to the spectra studies of blood that is not in solution. Besides the oxidation of hemoglobin to methemoglobin in dried (aged) blood, what are the other major differences in the spectra of blood in solution versus dried blood? Also, what are the major differences in the spectra of freshly dried blood (2-3 days old) versus blood that is years, even several decades (or more) old?

2. In the same article, you mention that “In a film of hemoglobin there is a conformational change; it no longer remains in the “met” form but goes to the para-hemic form. Can you distinguish for me, exactly what the difference is between the structure of the para-hemic form and the met form? Is the para-hemic form an opened ring form of hemoglobin that has begun the breakdown process, or does this refer to the position of an attached group shifting its location on the ring (ortho, meta, para like we learned in organic chemistry years ago)? Or is the term “para” in reference to paramagnetic, a species that contains unpaired electrons? Forgive me if this question is very basic, but when I search the terms on the internet, most of the references that come up are the sentences from your article. I’ve also thumbed through various physiology and physical chemistry texts but so far, have struck out. Can you draw me a diagram or give me a reference that has a picture of the two structures? Also, what drives this conformational change-does this result from the dehydration of the blood as it dries into a film?

3. In the same article, it is said that “It is known now that there is a certain species which will spontaneously go to the para-hemic form if there is not enough turnover in the spleen and the liver to process the blood fast enough”. This sounds like a relatively recent observation. The word that confuses me the most here is “spontaneously”, is this a type of isomerization that is occurring here? Is there a specific enzyme that catalyzes the change? Is this independent of the oxidation state of hemoglobin?

4. Also in the 1986 article, it states “We found a spectrum that was characteristic of only one known group of compounds-the so-called high-spin, high-iron porphyrins. What we were seeing is the breakdown products of hemoglobin-bilirubin and biliverdin. There is an extraordinary high bilirubin count, almost as high as the methemoglobin” Just to clarify, this is methemoglobin (deoxygenated hemoglobin), all or most of which exists in the para-hemic form, not the typical met-form? Also, what is the relative proportion of bilirubin and biliverdin that is observed?

5. What exactly is meant by “high-iron” porphryins? High spin refers to the electron configuration, that this conformation has the maximum number of unpaired electrons available, but what does the term “high-iron” denote? Is this in reference to Fe-containing porphyrins to distinguish them from other porphyrins (which contain a ligand other than Fe being bound), or is there another significance?

6. In the 1986 article, you state “You now mix bilirubin which is yellow-orange with methemoglobin in its para-hemic form which is an orangey-brown and you get blood which has a red color. In fact, we have been able to simulate this spectrum in the laboratory.” Relatedly, in the 1998 Shroud Symposium held in Dallas, TX, in the article “Further Spectroscopic Investigations of Samples of the Shroud of Turin” it says “A simulation of such a traumatic blood exudate prepared from laboratory chemicals as a control matches the appearance and properties of this class of test objects. A traumatic clot exudate simulacrum was approximated by mixing 3 drops of blood (finger stick) with three drops of a bilirubin/human albumin diagnostic standard (Sigma Chemical Co.). Dried whole blood, bilirubin, and human hemoglobin samples were employed as controls.” Exactly how much exogenous bilirubin was added relative to the hemoglobin present in the finger stick? How does this compare to what would be considered normal levels? In this article (and others) there is no mention of specific amounts-[I have looked through the current Sigma catalog, but was unable to find this particular product-may have been discontinued]. Also, was the majority of hemoglobin used in these experiments (finger stick) in the deoxygenated form? Finally, did you ever spot such samples onto cloth (linen) and evaluate if the red color persisted over time?

7. In whole blood, the relative amount of bilirubin present is normalized per blood unit volume, making it straightforward to compare levels between individuals. In dried bloodstains, how does one accurately quantitate or even approximate the relative level of bilirubin present as volume cannot be used for normalization? Several spectroscopy and forensic “experts” I have e-mailed or talked to on the phone have acknowledged that spectroscopy of dried samples is semi-quantitative at best. I have run across a few presentations suggesting that the samples may be weighed and then normalized relative to Fe content, but such techniques involve larger volumes of blood than would be present in tape lift samples or individuals threads, and appear to be in the early stages of development. It is unclear even today if such methods would be sensitive enough to apply to the relative small amounts of blood in your analysis. No specific values or approximate ranges for the relative amount of bilirubin present were ever given in your articles-can accurate values be obtained from the techniques that were in use during these studies? If so, what are the estimated values?

8. In the 1980 article “Blood on the Shroud of Turin”, you state that in reference to the spectra of the Shroud fibrils that “the high degree of scattering from these solid samples makes the visible band shape features less distinct and does produce peak shifts from the solutions spectra. Therefore this identification is much less positive than desired.”

In the 1998 Shroud meeting in Dallas, TX you note that “Hemoglobin exists in lots of states and it’s a real problem on the Shroud to know what some of these states are.” In communicating with several specialists in heme spectroscopy about the spectral profiles (without indicating they were of the Shroud and cropping all identifiable labels on the Figures), the opinion was voiced that “it is impossible to really say what species are present there-the background is too high and the peaks are poorly resolved.” Different scientists have different opinions & viewpoints-I am certainly confident in your ability to identify the sample as blood and in the characterization of blood components, but it sounds as though there are still some large unknowns as to exactly what species might exist. Is it possible for us to look at the spectra of a Shroud sample together (and also a blood simulacra sample) and for you to take me through this, from left to right, peak by peak, and point out the probable identity of everything that is represented there? Is the resolution of biliverdin, bilirubin or other breakdown products more straightforward than various oxidized species of hemoglobin that may be present?

9. In your 1993 article, “Conservation on the Shroud of Turin” you emphasize that “bilirubin can be readily and quickly photodecomposed under a variety of conditions”. Given the relative instability of bilirubin, how do you account for its preservation on the Shroud over a relatively long period of time? Could this be due to aggregation of (high concentrations of) bilirubin in dried bloodstains as opposed to bilirubin in solution? Or some type of chemical bonding/association between bilirubin and the cloth? Thoughts?

10. Growing up, what first stimulated your interest in science? Were you always interested in pursuing a scientific career?

Real Clear argumentum ad ignorantiam

imageJohn Klotz writes:

I had kidded Barrie about his extended tour in April being like a missionary journey of St. Paul. Not so fumy. Today after perusing the RealClearPolitics and History pages on the webs, I though I would drop in to the RealClearReligion page. http://www.realclearreligion.org/ Sure enough there was a linked story, ‘Science Can’t Explain the Shroud,’ and the link took you a Catholic News Service page with an article concerning guess who? We have all seen it before but the RealClearReligion page spreads the word even further. The linked  article is http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1301829.htm

The message of that article title, ‘Science Can’t Explain the Shroud,’ though something of an argumentum ad ignorantiam, is perhaps overtaking all the faked image hypotheses and burying the 1988 carbon dating deeper in the ash bin of science done badly. Seeing it on the front page of RCR is important, as John notes, in spreading the word.