If you had looked three days ago, you might have noticed the name of a new contributor to David Rolfe’s Shroud Affair Crowd Funding Campaign: The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr. Rowan Williams, who until just this past March was the Archbishop of Canterbury (+Rowan Cantuar), the senior bishop of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, the primus inter pares (first among equals) of all Anglican primates worldwide. A friend and confidant of Pope Benedict XVI, known widely as a brilliant theologian and a man of towering intellect (Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Literature and the Learned Society of Wales), he is today Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
In the early hours of the morning, today, the following press release appeared on the web.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury backs The Shroud Affair
Dr. Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and former Archbishop of Canterbury, comes out in favour of a new project focussed on the Shroud of Turin designed to bring it back into the academic domain.
The project is: The Shroud Affair, currently the subject of an Indiegogo Crowd Funding campaign that can be viewed here. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-shroud-affair
Dr. Rowan Williams (left) said: "David Rolfe’s original film The Silent Witness and its associated publicity made a big impact back in the 70’s and I find the evidence based on the development of iconography developed by Ian Wilson that links the Shroud with the Edessa image and expounded in that film persuasive. At the same time, a close look at the single C14 test performed in 1988 seems to leave some loose ends. This might be easier to put aside if anyone had been able to come up with an explanation for the image which, so far, has not been forthcoming. So, I welcome David Rolfe’s initiative and share with him the hope that at some point a properly structured scientific examination might try again to address the Shroud’s secrets. In any event, it would be pleasing to find a way for cinema-goers to become acquainted with a story that, thanks to that single C14 test, is fast becoming forgotten."
David Rolfe (right) said: "For a long time the few trying to reconcile the conflict between the mass of data that supports the genuine antiquity of the Shroud and the single, suspect C14 test that has overshadowed it have felt as if we have been crying in the wilderness. To have Dr. Williams’ public endorsement and practical support for The Shroud Affair campaign and what it represents is a significant step forward. When will other academics have the courage to revisit this subject? If the image was purported to be a pharaoh or any another character from ancient history, academia would not rest until it had fathomed the nature of the image. As it is, the Shroud ‘s image remains a total mystery. What are they afraid of?”
The former heads of both the Anglican and Catholic Church have now both now made a significant gesture in refocussing scientific attention on the Shroud. Dr. Williams by the endorsement above and ex Pope Benedict making an unscheduled worldwide TV transmission of the Shroud his valedictory act.
Download PDF Here.
Links in the first paragraph are all to Wikipedia articles. Picture of Dr. Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI accompanied the press release and is from Getty Images.
Barrie Schwortz writes to members of Shroud of Turin Website Mailing List:
Just a short note to let you know that another huge update to Shroud.com is now online. Just go to to our Home Page and click on the August 31, 2013 Latest Update link to see the details.
This update includes our newly redesigned Main Menu/Home Page, custom Mobile Phone Versions of our Home Page in English and Spanish, three more issues of Shroud Spectrum International, the latest (and possibly the last) issue of the BSTS Newsletter, new Shroud papers and books, information on recent and upcoming Shroud conferences, several Special Features, an update on David Rolfe’s Shroud Affair project and much, much more. Rather than trying to list them all, just click on the above link and get started! We think you will find a lot of useful information that will keep you busy for some time to come. And don’t forget to visit the Private Subscribers Page for exclusive offers not available to the general public.
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After reading this blog for more than a year, I have decided the image was not produced by a manmade, a natural or even a supernatural process. Yet, there it is, very faint, seemingly a negative, which when processed “photographically” reveals more details than any human or lesser god could have imagined. But it is not an image is it? It is analog 3D data that just happens to look like an image.
The more we try to understand it the more unexplainable it becomes. I was therefore very pleased to read the thoughtful discussion between Matthias and Hugh Farey about the unexplainable nature of what we call the image.
Me. too! Here, to make it easier for anyone who missed it or wants to reread it, is an ever-so-slightly edited version of that discussion:
You are not willing to consider a miraculous unexplainable cause?
Hugh Farey responds:
No, I’m not. However, the reason is not, perhaps, what you might think. When we describe something as unexplainable, we can mean one of two things. One is inexplicability due to a simple lack of evidence. I hear a noise in the night; in the morning I can’t discover any reason for it. There is no evidence. It is inexplicable. Here is the Pray manuscript. It has a diagonal line of crosses in a pattern made mostly of rectilinear ones. It may never be possible to account for this. It may be inexplicable. This kind of inexplicability is a source of frustration but it stimulates exploration, investigation, further study and consideration. I like it.
The other kind is intrinsic inexplicability. This event is wholly beyond any human understanding, even if you had stood there with cameras, microscopes and the full panoply of forensic apparatus. Luckily, it is impossible to prove that any event is of this kind, but if it ever were, how dull! What would there be to do? Marvel? But for how long? I would get fed up with it very quickly and go and find something else to play with. That’s why no Scientist, whether convinced of the authenticity of the Shroud or not, can entertain the idea that it is truly unexplainable.
I am not sure what your religious beliefs are – atheist, agnostic, Christian etc.
As a Christian, I believe in the resurrection. Not the physical resuscitation of Christ’s body, but a materialisation as a spiritual body as described by Paul.
In my view, science will never explain this, unless one favours some kind of naturalistic explanation (eg. hallucinations etc)
Although I search for an explanation of the Shroud image’s formation, I also acknowledge that if it was a product of Christ’s resurrection then our chances of explaining it in scientific terms is probably zilch.
Despite much brain power over the years, no single theory convincingly explains the image. Of course there might still be a valid scientific explanation! But I think the fact that there isn’t, despite all the analysis over the years, is suggestive of a reasonable likelihood of a miraculous creation.
My own view is that Christ’s body dematerialised, and the image is somehow a byproduct of that. He then rematerialised in a spiritual form that somehow had quasi physical characteristics eg. three dimensionality etc – that took his appearance beyond a “ghost” and that is the resurrection.
Well, for what it’s worth, I’m a Catholic-born, card-carrying, practising Roman Catholic and Head of Science at a Catholic school whose school badge is the triple tiara and crossed keys of the pontificate. I couldn’t be any more institutionally Christian without becoming a monk! (I could no doubt be a much nicer person, but that’s another facet altogether).
However, one of the Catholic version of Christianity’s core beliefs in is the rationality of the Universe, and the conviction that Faith and Reason cannot conflict. This was first expressed explicitly by St Augustine of Hippo, reiterated by Thomas Aquinas confirmed most recently by John-Paul II and Benedict XV, and is the rationale behind the Pontifical Academy of Science. (Is there another religion in the world with a scientific institution so close to its heart?)
The nature of the resurrection may, perhaps, be inexplicable. To deny that anything happened at all, which is the usual atheist line, is absurd, but all attempts to pin down exactly what it was have proved fruitless, and theology has moved on. The science of the physical resurrection, in other words, has stopped. Inexplicable – leave it and move on.
That’s exactly why, as I explained above, I won’t be treating the shroud as inexplicable.
Several of the commenters on this blog (including yourself, it seems) would like to have it both ways, and try to intertwine the rational and the irrational, the scientific and the mystic. They would like Jesus to have exploded in a burst of radiation, or dematerialised in an instant vacuum, or even simply ceased decomposing, woke up and yawned; and they would like this to have happened ‘miraculously,’ but without disturbing the laws of physics. This may be permissible within the bounds of individual conscience, but it is not Catholic orthodoxy or teaching.
By now, I can feel some of you stuttering with rage and thinking that I have demoted the shroud to the relevance of one of Napoleon’s handkerchiefs. Nothing could be further than the truth. Although St Augustine said that Faith and Reason could never conflict, he famously said that Faith ‘precedes’ Reason. He didn’t altogether mean that if there was uncertainty about a question then Faith should be given the benefit of the doubt, but more that unless you believe something is worth the bother, there would be no point in trying to find out more about it in the first place.
The shroud will continue to be important even if it is no more miraculous than any of the great masters’ paintings and sculptures of the life of Christ. It can be an object of personal contemplation, a means of education, a focus of unity among those drawn to its image. It inspires awe, immanence and compassion. Whether it is eventually completely explained rationally, or abandoned as an object of scientific study altogether, it will continue to influence people in one way or another for as long as it lasts.
Well, I strongly disagree. If you are a practising Catholic who believes in the resurrection, which you admit may be an inexplicable phenomenon, then why is it a jump to consider that the shroud is a by product of the inexplicable resurrection, and an explanation of its image formation is also inexplicable because it was caused by an inexplicable event? It is not a logical inconsistency at all!
“an inexplicable explanation”
Maybe my interpretation of ‘logical inconsistency’ is different from yours.
Be that as it may, it misses the point somewhat. If I were to accept that there is an inexplicable explanation to the physics of resurrection, how would I begin to investigate it? You go for ‘dematerialisation.’ Shall we follow John Jackson’s idea, that the shroud collapsed “into and through the underlying body structure?” Or Isobel Piczek – that the shroud is a quantum hologram derived from an event horizon? Or di Lazzaro – that the resurrection involved UV laser radiation? The first two are incapable of exploration, as the vocabulary used is scientifically meaningless, and although UV laser radiation certainly does exist, if we accept that it occurred miraculously, then there’s nothing more to explore anyway. Remember that my point is not that the shroud cannot be inexplicable, but that if it is, there is nothing for a scientist to do about it.
some things in life are inexplicable, and always will be in my view.
I’m happy to leave some mystery in life.
There is a degree of human arrogance in our belief that we can explain everything ,predict everything etc.
Despite the advances in science, we are still SO ignorant of so many things, and keep getting so many things wrong.
Look, if a convincing comprehensive scientific explanation came out tomorrow for the image, I’d be happy to change my view. It’s just I think that’s unlikely
Has there ever been a single, undeniable, unmistakable photograph of any of these things on the shroud?
And this is why we’ll never get to the real truth about the shroud. This appeared as the Letter of the Week in The Southern Cross: Southern Africa’s Catholic Weekly:
The outline of a coin of the period with the name of Emperor Tiberius partially visible can even be seen covering one of the eyes, a custom prevalent for keeping the eyes of a corpse closed.
The Shroud also seems to have a kind of X-ray quality, for teeth can partially be seen showing through the slightly open lips.
Less delicately, below the joined hands, the penis tip of one who had been circumcised is visible.
[ . . . ]
Imprints seen under magnification on the Shroud reveal those of flowers and spices used in the Jewish burial procedure.
Has there ever been a single, undeniable, unmistakable photograph of any of these things on the shroud?
[Posted] August 27, 2013 By Mark Shea
He offers a  nice discussion of the state of the Question, followed by an absolutely  fascinating speculative reconstruction of its history, featuring a gob of documentation I was unfamiliar with. After this, I think it’s pretty darn hard to buy the “It was made in the 1340s” line of dogma.
My challenge to Shroud skeptics and similar Atheism of the Gaps types remains unchanged. If it’s a fake, make another one.
Again because you really should read these:
Note: I had linked to the first part (nice discussion) on August 14 with Or it is the first century burial cloth of Yussuf Schmoe?
Here is a paper I wrote last spring on the Shroud of Turin. I have to admit that I was beyond skeptical about the Shroud. I thought it was a medieval forgery and that Christians that claimed it was one of the burial cloths of Christ were bringing discredit to Christians in general. My intent in writing the paper was actually do some research so that I could speak intelligently about it being a forgery. However, facts are relentless, and the week before I started to write the paper a new dating test conclude the Shroud dates from the 1st century. If you take one fact, the carbon dating in 1988, you will come to the conclusion that it is a medieval forgery. However, all other data, points to a relic from the first century. What changed my mind was three pieces of evidence, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the fact that the piece dated in 1988 came from a part that was repaired during the 1500’s, and the new dating tests that utilize non-destructive dating methods.
One final note: The Shroud of Turin is not something that proves the Resurrection of Jesus. However, the Resurrection of Jesus is currently the best explanation as to how the image got on the Shroud.
It is a good paper. Do read it.
The image dual images are flipped L/R
The relative magnitudes of brightness are somewhat misleading, since they depend on response of film or of digital camera sensors (which are entirely different, the digital camera being more linear (not perfectly so) over range of brightness, while film in not, but has far greater dynamic range).
In addition, human vision is highly nonlinear (logarithmic in response to brightness), so that it resolves far more contrast in the dark range than in the brighter ranges. So small contrast in the SOT (seen naturally), which is relatively bright with a small contrast image, when inverted becomes much higher contrast when seen. It is not really an effect of camera negative, per se, but of inversion making the contrast more visible by the eye, which is more sensitive in the dark ranges. (This will depend on the re-zeroing of the image as inverted.)
If this was done properly, you wouldn’t use film products. You would employ a 256 bit approx. linearly digital camera to obtain accurate physical information over a linear range.
Then you could decide whether to invert the image for human visualization with higher contrast in the darker ranges (with a suitable zero, for max brightness in the original SOT linear image).
You can confirm all this by using Photoshop, taking photos with digital and film cameras, and inverting the results.
I have always been a little puzzled by the effects of using image obtain by film cameras. Especially if the original NASA 3D program was intended to be used with film as opposed to digital camera images.
You can eliminate all this distortion by histogramming output of a digital image of the original, also comparing to a nearby patch which does not show the image of the body.
And so the digital scan found in the iPad app, Shroud 2.0, comes to mind. To what extent have those images been manipulated for presentation value?