They, whoever they are, say there are no coincidences. I don’t believe it. Even so, I thought I had heard it before, something in a quip about thymol overheard from someone in the audience during Barrie Schwortz’ talk in Savannah last week.
“It is only Listerine,” someone said. I had said something about thymol being used in Listerine, in the past, hadn’t I.
Yesterday, John Klotz, emailed me to ask about a press release I issued after Dallas. (He is working on his book.) The purpose of that press release was to publicize something I wrote in a blog space back in the day when I was trying to get a blog going. I called it, “An Enchilada Comes to Mind: Dallas Shroud of Turin Conference 2005.” And in it I mentioned Listerine.
I mentioned Listerine! Yep! Did I cause that quip? Probably not. I doubt anyone noticed anything I wrote back in 2005. And then there is the fact that some people actually use that awful tasting mouthwash and if so they must be the sort of people who actually read ingredient labels.
Since nobody read my posting back in 2005 and because Klotz will probably ask about that next, here is an encore presentation of “An Enchilada Comes to Mind: Dallas Shroud of Turin Conference 2005.”
The 2005 Dallas Conference on the Shroud of Turin was like hot stuff wrapped in a corny don’t-mess-with-Texas tortilla, awash in a salsa of controversy.
Don’t mess with Texas? Yup; there was a gun-totting sheriff-type in the grand ballroom of the elegant Adolphus Hotel ready to boot out any of the approximately 100 college professors or scholars from around the world who might dare to ask a question. Questions from the floor were not allowed. When University of Hong Kong archeologist William Meacham asked why an armed guard was needed, conference organizer Michael Minor explained he was there to prevent ‘insulting’ controversy and criticism.
But controversy and criticism happened. It erupted like a Texas-style Wild West shootout.
Conference organizers, hoping for focus, had told the media that the question before the conference was: “Is the shroud proof of a resurrection or a medieval fake?” Minor told a reporter from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “"I am a lawyer, and I believe I can prove that the shroud is authentic in a court of law.”
But no one cared much about that topic. Most scientist and other scholars at the conference, representing a broad spectrum of Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Evangelical Christians, agreed that it might well be genuine, though not proven. And if it were proven, they understood that it might not be proof of the resurrection of Jesus. They were here to share and learn.
But, also, they were here to express their views on a growing feud between the Papal Custodians of the Shroud of Turin and scientists. The feud was like an old fashioned Texas turf war. Turin officials – not to be confused with the Vatican or the larger Church – were the Texas farmers controlling the flow of water and stringing barbwire to keep cattle from grazing in their fields. The scientists, archeologists and a fair number of historians were the cowboys singing, “Don’t Fence Me In.” A shootout was inevitable.
To kick off the conference, Fort Worth Bishop Kevin W. Vann read a letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano: “His Holiness [Pope Benedict XVI] trusts,” the letter said, “that the Dallas Conference will advance cooperation and dialogue among various groups engaged in scientific research on the Shroud . . .”
It happened, but not in a way that pleased Turin officials. At one point, Monsignor Ghiberti got up and walked out of the room.
In another letter given to attendees, Turin’s, Cardinal Severino Poletto quoted the late Pope John Paul II as saying, “the Church does not have specific competence to pronounce on these questions. It entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate to find suitable answers to questions regarding the Shroud.”
So why were the Papal Custodians apparently not ready to accept what the scientists were saying? Was it because it challenged their competence and certain assumptions about the Shroud?
There were two hot questions at the root of the feud:
- Why was Turin ignoring the scientific reason for the failure of the 1988 carbon 14 dating?
- Was the 2002 restoration of the cloth archeologically, scientifically and preservation-wise reckless?
- These were scientific matters. Why were Turin officials ignoring their own stated opinion that the Church did not have competence in scientific matters? Why were the Turinese summarily dismissing scientific findings?
- Scientists wanted to ask questions. But questions from the floor were not allowed. You don’t invite academic researchers from around the world to a conference and treat them this way. Many are university professors or well published scholars who have studied the Shroud for many years.
- Scientific competence was the issue.
- Researchers now believe that in the 16th century, a corner of the Shroud had been expertly repaired using a mending technique known as “invisible reweaving.” It was from this repaired corner that the carbon 14 samples were taken. This resulted in a mixed sample of both new and old fibers leading to erroneous carbon 14 dating in 1988.
- Turin wasn’t buying it even though they agreed that the carbon 14 dating was wrong. They had not seen the repairs when they examined the Shroud. Invisible reweaving, they argued, would have been noticeable. But scientists disagree. It takes microscopic, spectral and chemical analysis to identity invisible reweaving. And the scientists have photomicrographs and plenty of test results to prove it.
- In 2002, Turin undertook a secret restoration of the Shroud. Archeologists, scientists and scholars of all sorts were horrified when they learned of it after the fact. It was reckless, they say. Meacham called it disastrous. It cannot be undone. Some scientists suggest that the restoration may have created problems that should be addressed to avoid potential future damage to the cloth.
- But the Archdiocese of Turin was not willing to embrace what scientists had to say. It seemed reminiscent of a time in history, when Cardinal Bellarmine forbid Galileo to hold Copernican views and when he tried to ignore Galileo’s telescope.
- The modern Galileo was the late Raymond N. Rogers, a lifelong chemist, a Fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a highly respected scientist for his unwavering dedication to scientific methods. Turin authorities were trying to ignore his microscope and micro-chemical studies; studies published in a secular, peer-reviewed, scientific journal; studies independently confirmed by others such as John L. Brown, retired Principal Research Scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Energy and Materials Sciences Laboratory who examined samples from the Shroud with a Scanning Electron Microscope.
- What was the reason that Turin refused to consider the scientific data?
In the past few years, the custodians of the Shroud have faced significant public criticism from archeologists, scientists and all manner of Shroud researchers. Not only were they criticized for the restoration and the way the carbon 14 samples were selected, they were criticized for an unscientific, cavalier rejection of Rogers’ findings — findings that actually support the Shroud’s authenticity. Rogers had proved that what had been carbon 14 dated in 1988 was chemically unlike the rest of cloth Moreover, Rogers showed that the Shroud had certainly been artfully and discretely repaired.
- Turin authorities were also criticized for treating the Shroud’s reliquary with thymol. Thymol (3-Hydroxy-1-methyl-4-isopropyl benzene), the active stuff of Listerine antiseptic mouthwash, is a phenolic compound that will react with many functional chemical groups on the Shroud. According to Rogers, it permeated the cloth. “This will confuse image analyses, and it may result in damage to the cloth,” he had written shortly before his death in early 2005.
The first shootout occurred during the evening of the first day. It was during an after-hours presentation that had been billed as a tribute to the late Ray Rogers. Minor, the conference moderator, and his armed guard were not present. Nearly everyone else showed up.
- It wasn’t a tribute at all. It was a DVD of Rogers interviewed by Barrie Schwortz shortly before Rogers’ death. Schwortz never claimed it was a tribute. It was titled, “Ray Rogers in His Own Words.” Rogers’ words were scientifically precise. He expanded his criticism of the Thymol treatment of the Shroud’s reliquary, stating that because Thymol was absorbed into the cloth, it might make future dating problematic. And Rogers offered a blistering criticism on the secretive, poorly documented, unnecessary, potentially damaging restoration of the Shroud.
- Rogers explained the invisible reweaving in chemical terms and why the reweaving had fooled the carbon 14 dating. 1) Everyone knew that those findings were independently confirmed by Brown; 2) confirmed by textile experts; 3) confirmed by ultraviolet photography; 4) confirmed with x-rays. 5) Statistical studies of carbon 14 measurements suggested anomalous age patterns in the sample and everyone knew that. 6) Most everyone knew, that in 1988, Teddy Hall, then the director of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Laboratory had seen cotton fibers that might be from mending. 7) Almost everyone knew that a 1988 article in Textile Horizons by P.H. South entitled “Rogue Fibers Found in Shroud,” suggested that those cotton fibers were suspicious and might have been part of repairs. 8) Some knew that in 1998, Turin’s own scientific advisor, Piero Savarino, wrote, “extraneous substances found on the samples and the presence of extraneous thread (left over from ‘invisible mending’ routinely carried on in the past on parts of the cloth in poor repair).” 9) Many knew, too, that longtime researchers Sue Benford and Joe Marino had made a strong case for invisible reweaving. 10) And many knew of an earlier paper by Rogers and Anna Arnoldi of the University of Milan, published in 2002, that confirmed Benford and Marino.
- Many knew that in 2004, the Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology published an important paper by Lloyd A. Currie. Currie, a highly regarded specialist in the field of carbon 14 dating and an NIST Fellow Emeritus, cited the Rogers and Arnoldi paper giving it additional scientific standing and credence.
- Currie’s NIST paper was significant in other ways. It set aside any argument that the labs had done anything wrong or that there was anything uncertain about carbon 14 dating. It debunked other hypotheses circulating in the polemic rumor mill such as the notion that a biological polymer on the fibers was the cause of a measurement failure. And it brought into focus the issue of sampling. A serious violation of the original scientific sampling protocol had occurred in Turin. Had the proper protocol calling for multiple sample locations been followed by Turin, the single bad sample would not have caused the problems it did. (Three labs conducted the test on one sample that had been divided into pieces).
- By the time Currie’s paper was published, Rogers was well on his way to proving that the carbon 14 tests were wrong. In December of 2003, he received material that had been reserved from the center of the carbon 14 sample. It would take a year for testing, independent confirmation and peer review. In January 2005, Thermochimica Acta (an Elsevier BV journal) published Rogers’ proof.
- What had been carbon 14 dated was chemically unlike the Shroud. Thus the Shroud had not been dated. Moreover, Rogers found clear evidence of mending. Dyestuff used by medieval tapestry craftsmen to discreetly mend old tapestries was found. Rogers found Madder root dyes, aluminum hydroxide and gum Arabic. He found cotton fibers twisted in with flax fibers in the threads. And he found splices. Where newer thread had been spliced to older thread, one end was dyed to match the other end. Benford and Marino were right. The Shroud was mended and it was the repaired area, a mixture of old and new thread, that had been tested.
Over a hundred researchers and thousands of people who follow shroud research were aghast when, within days of Rogers’ paper, Turin’s Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti pronounced a summary judgment on Rogers’ findings. He said, “I am astonished that an expert like Rogers could fall into so many inaccuracies in his article. I can only hope, indeed, also think that the C14 dating is rectifiable (the method, in fact, has its own uncertainties), but not on the basis of the ‘darn’ [sic, darning is altogether a different method of repair] theory."
How can Ghiberti possibly know this? He offered no evidence or explanation. So, now, people at the conference wanted to ask him about it. It wasn’t that questions were not allowed at the conclusion of the interview with Rogers. Neither the conference moderator nor the conference sheriff were there for the evening presentation. And Ghiberti, representing Turin’s Cardinal Poletto, could have invited questions and no one would have objected.
- Ghiberti walked out.
- The ranking representative for of the Papal Custodian of the Shroud of Turin got up and walked out of the room. It was the wrong thing to do. Some felt he should have stayed to defend his archbishop, the diocesan staff, its advisors and ultimately the decision that later he defensively characterized as a decision by the Holy See. People would have respected that. More so, they would have respected and probably admired someone in his position exerting leadership, the sort of leadership characterized by open discussion with the audience; questions such as, “What mistakes have we made?” and “What can learn from them?” Poletto had asked for harmony and dialogue at this conference. But Ghiberti, as they say in Texas, skedaddled.
- The Rogers interview will soon be on the World Wide Web. By the time of the Winter Olympics in Turin, in February of 2006, a Google search on the word “Turin” will be but two or three clicks away from the interview — in full living color, in easy to watch streaming media.
Defense of the Turin position, on the next morning, fell to Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg. Flury-Lemberg is a renowned textile conservator. Ghiberti once described her as “the greatest world-wide authority in the ancient cloth field.” She stated that she did not see invisible reweaving.
- But that is just the point. She should not have noticed invisible reweaving without the tools of science. Without the freedom to ask questions and get answers, the whole substance of her argument was reduced to a visual polemic.
- Later in the conference, Alan Whanger, Professor Emeritus at Duke University, surprised everyone with a powerful analysis from x-ray photographs that clearly showed weaving anomalies, the exact sort of anomalies expected from reweaving. It seemed that Flury-Lemberg and the Turin folks stood alone on this issue. Turin officials had not expected Whanger to include this information in his presentation.
- Flury-Lemberg had also argued that invisible reweaving skills were not known in medieval Europe. But in an unscheduled, after-hours, off-the-record presentation, researchers Marino and Benford presented a paper supporting medieval use of invisible reweaving on the Shroud. Museums in Europe, they pointed out, have many examples of tapestries repaired in this way.
- Flury-Lemberg took the most heat for the 2002 restoration. She had recommended it and she led the work effort. It is certainly true that most people at the conference felt that the restoration was a mistake. Some were very angry. That having been said, however, it is important to remember that Flury-Lemberg is a highly regarded professional and as such she should have received more respect than she did. Audible snickers during her talk — inevitable since real comments were not allowed — were unfortunate.
- It is easy to imagine that Flury-Lemberg, being a professional, would subscribe to the idea of second opinions. The Turin folks, one might think, would also value second opinions. How many people have been saved from unnecessary and sometimes reckless surgery because they sought second opinions? How many lives were saved by people who sought second opinions to avoid possible misdiagnosis? Turin had put all their eggs in one basket, Flury-Lemberg, and for that they should be and have been publicly criticized. She should not have accepted such a situation.
- Flury-Lemberg as a professional, and given the chance, would certainly have welcomed open discussion. Instead, she was called upon to take to the podium for a second time during the conference to dispel hallway rumors about the restoration. Minor, speaking from the dais, asked about a dozen questions that seemed trumped up and exaggerated. They sounded like the all-to-often self-serving “frequently asked questions” or FAQs so common on many websites. Was the Shroud vacuumed all over? Of course not! Who was asking such questions? It is hard to imagine. These staged questions brought back the audible snickers to the room.
- “Can I ask a question,” said archeologist Bill Meacham from the back of the room to Flury-Lemberg.
- She looked at Minor quizzically.
- “No,” was the answer from Minor. Questions from the floor were not allowed. And certainly, had Meacham persisted, the sheriff of the conference would have removed him from the room. He had already been warned.
Another shootout occurred over a list of scientific facts compiled by Giulio Fanti. He is Professor of Mechanical and Thermic Measurements at the University of Padua in Italy. He has authored over a hundred scientific papers, many of them published in distinguished peer-reviewed, international scientific journals. He had spent much of the last two years in consultation with dozens of people as he compiled the list of facts.
Giulio Fanti is the epitome of old world charm, one of the nicest, most gentle mannered university professors one might ever meet. For the conference, he submitted the list as a paper coauthored by twenty-four researchers. It was initially accepted. Then it was rejected. After considerable pressure from others, the conference organizers agreed that it could be read into the proceedings. Only after Fanti arrived from Italy, and even though the paper was listed in the program, he was told it would not be allowed. When he asked why he was told it was too political. Political?
You don’t treat people this way. You certainly don’t treat a respected professor from the University of Padua in this way. Here is an instance where Monsignor Ghiberti, because of his high clerical position, could have exercised leadership in the interest of science and common decency. He was silent. Fanti described the situation as a lack of cooperation by the “Turin Authorities.” It certainly seems so.
Fortunately, in a privately funded room, after the banquet, away from the conference venue, Fanti was able to present his paper to a large gathering. This paper will get wide circulation on the Internet and many will wonder why some people didn’t want it to be presented. Was it because the scientific facts support invisible reweaving? Was it more embarrassment for the Papal Custodian of the Shroud?
At the very end of the conference, just before a scheduled banquet, Father Kim Dreisbach, an Episcopal priest, was presenting a paper. Because time was tight, it had been announced that closing remarks by Dr. Pierluigi Baima Bollone could be moved to the banquet forum. This was necessitated by the extra time needed for Flury-Lemberg’s return to the podium. Dreisbach had gone over his time limit by a couple of minutes when the chair cut him off to allow Bollone to speak immediately. It was completely unnecessary. Many other presenters had gone well over their time limits without objection from the dais. Dreisbach could have finished. It was no way to treat a respected researcher who had spent much of his life studying the Shroud. Was it his biblical perspectives with shades of contemporary revisionism that troubled the conference organizers? Some think so. In protest, many people got up and left the room before the closing remarks.
Was there anything good that came out of the conference? Absolutely.
More than two dozen excellent historical and scientific papers were presented. In the weeks ahead, these papers will begin to see the light of day. They add to our knowledge of this enigmatic cloth.
There is no empirical proof yet that the Shroud is a first century burial cloth. But there is enough data to infer that it is. There is, in fact, enough information to reasonably infer that it is the burial cloth of Jesus. And if you can infer that you can infer that for some reason it was separated from Jesus’ body and it survived the tomb. That is powerful stuff.
We don’t know how the images of a crucified man were formed on the fabric. So far, scientist can do little but offer hypotheses. But we do know that the images are a caramel-like product within a coating of starch and sugar that is thinner than most bacteria. Chemically it seems like the browning that takes place when amine vapors such as cadaverine and putrescine react with the coating. But how the right molecules got to just the right places in just the right amounts to form such a picture is still a mystery.
This cloth is too valuable to all Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians; to valuable to all people of faith and too valuable in the quest for the historical Jesus to be cared for without second opinions and open discussion. This may be the most important lesson learned from this conference.
I think most people would agree that whatever it is that we know about it, it is not a substitute for faith. We may never be able to prove, by the Shroud, that Jesus is the Christ or that he rose to new life. But it is nice to learn what we can.
Cardinal Poletto wrote: “The fascination of the mysterious image that regards us from the Holy Shroud strikes people of every religious faith and culture, in particular those who experience the presence of Jesus of Nazareth in their personal lives and who believe that His life on earth represented the culminating moment of human history.”
And the Vatican Secretariat of State, Cardinal Sodano told us that “His Holiness [the current Pope Benedict XVI] trusts that the Dallas Conference will advance cooperation and dialogue among various groups engaged in scientific research on the Shroud . . .”
It happened in a way that Turin could not have hoped for.
As I recall, the point at which Msgr. Ghiberti walked out is when Barrie showed a DVD of some of the Ray Rogers interview he had made and had showed the quote from Turin’s own scientific advisor to Cardinal Poletto, Piero Savarino, who wrote, “extraneous substances found on the samples and the presence of extraneous thread (left over from ‘invisible mending’ routinely carried on in the past on parts of the cloth in poor repair).”
I’ve been trying to remember. You’re probably right. Your memory is better than mine.
The realm of Shroud studies is unfortunately also filled with inflated egos, backbiting and politics. When the message of Pope Benedict XVI was read out at the Dallas Conference by Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth it was obvious that the cooperation he was looking for did not refer to Turin, which has adopted a defensive posture, part of politics. We will have to wait and see what attitude Pope Francis will adopt, but it is clear that he is taking the faithful back to the Church’s primitive roots with his concern for the needy, his top priority. This is even prompting New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan to make major changes in a (Catholic) society also used to the “American Jesus”. Relics are meaningless in this context, they are secondary, but one day the topic will be on the pontiff’s desk.
Nice summary Dan. Loved the Wild West motif.
A hair-raising litany of incompetences upon incompetences!
A perennial question – “Who guards the guardians??!!”
It needs more than a Texas sheriff!
I just read a comment to a piece in the National Catholic Reporter where the commenter made the passing remark that we didn’t even know if Christ even existed. Dawkins made the same kind of quibble his book “The God Delusion.’ We are losing thousand of Christians by the day. Those who believe that the “gift” of faith is what matters can sniff at them and they, like the Pharisee” in the parable, thank God they are not like others.
I believe the Shroud is more than an relic or artifact, it is a revelation for our time that as been waiting two millennia for science to reveal its mysteries. In ancient times, some found faith through he preaching St. Paul. In our times, science may in fact be delivering the gift of faith to a faithless age.
It is my opinion, it is not sufficient to sit back and tut tut all the faithless when there is at hand a miracle, but a miracle that is being revealed by science.
That’s appropriate, because at the very beginning of human history, there was no dividing line between religion and science. The first scientists were the priests. Witness for example the complex, but brutal civilization of Maya’s which practiced human sacrifice. We may abhor their practices, but the same priests who offered-up the sacrifices where the “scientists” who studied the stars and made incredible discoveries and predictions. Some the greatest “scientists” of medieval and Renaissance times were in fact priests and ministers.
On my manuscript, I will give Teilhard a go. He was a Jesuit priest who was and anthropologist who foretold a convergence of science and religion. Do I think the Shroud is authentic? Yes. My belief and the Shroud are what we call a positive feed back. The Gospels, much maligned by Dawkins et al demonstrate the authenticity of the Shroud and the Shroud demonstrates the authenticity of the Gospels.
The mystery of faith in Catholic Church until the recent, scatter-brained change of it was : Christ has died, Christ has risen; Christ will come again. The Shroud authenticates the first two items, and be in at least a metaphorical or allegorical sense, the fullfilment of the final item. Oh Happy day!
Pope Francis seems to be faster than the Turin Shroud in getting people back to the Church.
1) John’s NCR reporter would seem to be ignorant of Bart Ehrman’s comprehensive study, “Did Jesus Exist?” and Ehrman although now claiming to be an agnostic, is a highly reputable scholar in New Testament and other classical works who musters several solid independent proofs for the real existence of Jesus as an historical person. He completely demolishes the mythology theories, prevalent at the start of the 20th century and prompting Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism. The mythological approach appears to have been behind the efforts of Herbert Thurston and Ulysse Chevalier to discredit the Shroud, as Secondo Pia’s photographs, tended to support the traditional beliefs of the Church. These two gentlemen hoped to take the Church in a different direction, and so conspired to present Bishop D’Arcis’ so-called memorandum to Clement VII in a more persuasive way than could be justified by their improper exercise of scholarship.
2) The traditional association of religion and science is an interesting one. In primal societies, it is the shaman who has all the arcane wisdom; it is evident in the Pacifica and Maori peoples for example where the schools of learning, including astronomy, navigation and other techical skills were taught by various tohunga with specialist expertise, frequently involving chants to be learnt by rote for the actual practioners.
In Ancient Egypt the mathematical and science skills for the various civil works were taught by skilled scribes in their schools, refer Rhind papyrus, copied by scribe Ahmes 1650BCE. In Babylon, however, mathematics and science remained the domain of a priestly caste. The Babylonians were extremely skilled, knowing at least 15 Pythagorean triples 1000 years before the time of Pythagoras, had calculated the square root of 2 to seven decimal places, had developed a base 60 place-holder system with a zero, and which was still used in astronomy up to medieval times until it was supplanted by the Indo-Arab denary system.
It was the Jewish exiles’ exposure to Babylonian science which resulted in their supplanting the Genesis anthropic Creation myth of Chapter 2, with the more elevated and scientific approach of Chapter 1.
3) Pope Francis certainly seems to have the charisma and knows how to touch the hearts of the present age. But yet he is only another Apollos, Paul or Silas. He is not Christ, the person that we see in the image of the Shroud, the evidential sign for our present skeptical age.
The depth of our knowledge is truly amazing. Thanks for the education but the issue would be when in a particular culture science, religion and now I’ll add governance separated from each other. I have always had a small quibble with Alvin Toffler and the his masterpiece The Third Wave. Writing in seventies, Toffler believed that there three era of history that each supplanted the other in succession: agriculture, industrialization and now information. Some of his predictions about the Information era seem a bit far out and still are, but basically, he nailed it.
My quibble in this, control of information has always been an element of power, even in ancient agriculture societies. I mentioned in my post the Maya. Certainly in Egypt, there was enormous power in the priesthood class that was exerted over the Pharaohs. What’s the old epigram: Knowledge is Power!
Now that I think of it, the actual the core of all Revelation is knowledge. The [P]ower of the Shroud is the knowledge it reveals to us. I know that I am not alone when I say that there was a moment when studying the Shroud, I felt for the first time, I began to understand the suffering that resulted from the passion and crucifixion of Christ. And I believe, that the FACTS revealed by the Shroud point to only one direction: the Resurrection. (For example: the existence of rigor mortis, the lack of evident putrefaction and the image in itself) Applying Occam’s Razor to the Shroud, the Resurrection is the simplest explanation of the Shroud. Really.
Typo alert in first sentence: “The depth of YOUR knowledge”
Typo alert in the first sentence. “the depth of YOUR knowledge.”
You said gun toting? You meant it metaphorically, right?
No. He was armed. He was a Texas Ranger. The only thing he was missing was his horse.
Was he the lone Ranger. :)
My fellow Texans sometimes take their security concerns with a verve sometimes unequalled anywhere in the nation. That said, in the last few years, people have been killed for admitting to the ‘crime’ of Christianity. Think its a joke? Ask any Coptic Christian in Egypt how funny they think it is. Being ‘insulted’ for being a Christian is going to happen. But leaving yourself wide-open for paint spraying, screaming, belligerent ( and often dangerous) people is inexcusable. So we don’t do it, y’all.There are many (not in Texas, thank God) who think they would be doing the world a great favor by getting rid of a few of us pesky Christians. If a Texas Ranger is a deterrent to these maniacs than I thank God for them. Maybe the organizers would be happier to plan their next seminar at Brown University. Students refused to allow the police chief of NYC to speak, by screaming, throwing garbage and scrawling obscenities, and calling it a ‘victory for free speech everywhere.’ Maybe Dan would feel more comfortable in an environment where anyone could just bust down the door and spray the congregated intelligentsia with gasoline, or a Molotov cocktail? By the sound of it, there were some definite organizational SNAFUs that turned out to be embarrassing, but providing adequate security was not one of them. We are not scared of firearms in Texas. We believe they should be in the right hands, to protect the innocent from those who would deprive them of their rights to speak and be heard. Seems like the organizers of the event had the issues, not the Texas Rangers. Someone who will not hear an opposing argument is clearly the one to fear, not the man with the Silver Star. I wonder how ‘corny’ Dan would feel if he had to jump behind a Texas lawman with some Christian hating nut coming at him with a knife. We know something in Texas: how many rights to you really have? As many as you can really defend, to the death if necessary. So next time, if y’all are uncomfortable in Big T, go have your conference at Brown. Good luck with that one, y’all.
“Lighten up, Francis.” Seriously, Josie, if what you took from Dan’s post was that it was a slam against Texas and southern risk management — please reread it. If you felt the Wild West jokes were a distraction that’s fair enough but no need to whack an ant with a sledgehammer.
Genesis is not about science, as Pope John Paul II wisely noted. The most we can learn is that God reveals himself, as in the priestly account. Nothing can be taken literally, otherwise we would have to answer:
a) How did the serpent move around before being condemned to crawl?
b) In what language did Adam speak to God? In Hebrew? Where did he learn it?
Don’t be too quick to conclude there is no wisdom in Genesis. It would foolish of course to expect that the ancient writers write an essay on quantum mechanics. But as I deal with these questions I am sometimes edified how their allegories some times hit on a truth although not in the explicit way they describe. For example, our universe from cosmic chaos which suddenly produced an ordered event. I find an allegorical “truth” in the words of opening words of Genesis:
“GENESIS 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”
Before the Big Bang there was no organization and the principal forms of existence and the laws of physics evolved in an incredibly brief instant, I have difficulty finding the definition of what existed prior to the Big Bang. I would call it cosmic chaos unless there is already a definition of that which would exclude the state from which a singularity came to be which caused the creation of our universe.
The state by definition is timeless but things happened.
As far as the snake and all that, the ancients were grappling with the innate selfishness of humanity that was at war with the instinct to love. I find less in that. However, selfishness was a driving force of evolution and the moment when the human species acquired the consciousness with the power of reflection is the moment in Teilhard’ view that we became human. That power “made us like God” but only a shadow of him. “Let us create man in our own image and likeness.”
Of course, the most relevant story in Genesis in my humble opinion is the story of Cain and Abel. From Cain’s snarling question: “Am I my brother’s keeper, evolves the two great commands of love upon which everything else depends.
I am involved in another chore now, and I’d best return to it.
John, I did not leap before looking. I never said that there was no wisdom in Genesis, only pointed out that the accounts are symbolic, the objection being to a literal interpretation, especially in our days when science has brought some things to light and even Orthodox Jews are divided:
Before I proceed let me say that I appreciate your efforts very highly and may only object to some points once in a while. The definition of what existed prior to the Big Bang proposed by the priest-scientist Father Georges Lemaitre is a very difficult point There are scientists who say that there were quantums fluctuating in a vacuum and that is because in science nothing comes from nothing. If there was cosmic chaos, where did it come from? So there is no creatio ex nihilo? Is chaos being converted into order and, if so, why is it taking such a long time? Is it as slow as the evolutionary process? A lot of suffering has gone on, be it due to processes relating to physics or to others relating to biology, that is, in the evolutionary process. And what can be said if both physics and biology are linked more deeply?
This is a problem in the Judaeo-Christian context, but it is not so in religions that believe in a cyclic process. In Buddhism the ultimate end is nirvana, which is “nothing”. Who can imagine nothingness? What is the meaning of it all? Is it some kind of joke coming from a cosmic magician? Buddha is said to have dodged questions he could not answer posed to him by followers by telling them that they were wasting time with speculation instead of concentrating on how to get out of the karmic ladder. It is a negative soteriology, with no room for a deity. True Buddhism can only be practiced in a monastery and even that can be difficult. We have had Rupert Murdoch accusing the Dalai Lama of being a shrewd politician, walking around wearing Gucci shoes. Is Richard Gere truly a Buddhist? He can only be believed if he gives away his millions. As Jesus said, “Where is your treasure, there is your heart also.”
I take comfort in the fact that Christianity is not the religion of the book, it is the religion of the person, and that person is Jesus. I am sure you will agree with me.
By the way, when are you planning to launch your book?
Please don’t take my rhetoric personally. I am aggressive in debate and maybe over do the rhetoric sometimes. Then too, when I put a proposition out, I want to see intelligent criticism like yours. This blog is a learning experience so long as you can separate the wheat from the chafe.
As far as the book is concerned, I estimate I am about 80% complete. I have received some nice comments from those who I have worked with on it so I am hopeful. I don’t want want to be too boastful, but when anyone with an open mind reads my chapters on really happened with the carbon dating, they will understand just what a fiasco it was.
I am about finished with the Shroud part. The quantum part will be shorter and because it will theoretical it will not involve the tangle of personalities and events involved in the Shroud part.
By the way, the working title is “The Coming of the Quantum Christ: The Shroud of Turin and the Future of Science and Humanity.” I really believe the Shroud is a Revelation revealed by science.
Louis, I don’t think you get it! The first Creation myth to be set down was that in Genesis Ch 2; It is an anthropic story, probably evolved over camp fires, God “walks” in the garden. He asks questions (omniscience not there yet?) “Adam, where are you?”; There is a talking snake! The Creation story of Genesis Ch I evolved in Babylon during 6th c.BCE, and is a more uplifting story, it was a product of the Jewish exiles exposue to Babylonian systematic and scientific thought. “In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth … Let there be light!” But you don’t throw away the old myths and the older story was relegated to Ch 2. Another example: discovery of the full body image of the Shroud in Constantinople, did not result in the old story about Abgar being discarded, it was kept in the Greek liturgy!
I think it was Pope John XXIII (Roncalli) who explained to Nikita Khruschev the significance of the Genesis ch 1 story of creation in seven days, each “day” is an age or era. The order in which the individual events are set down is scientific and logical, but without the camp-fire mythology.
Q: “What is a million years to you, Lord?” G: “Merely a minute!” Q “What is a million dollars to you, Lord?” G: “Merely a cent!” Q: “Please, Lord, may I have a cent?” G: “In a minute!”
Where did thatjoke come from?
David, I did get it (#18), and precisely because of what you said above. What I was tring to convey is that we cannot take the Genesis account literally because pagan myths crept into the text. It is a mixed bag, which Julius Wellhausen was quick to discover, and the idea was bought by the Israeli scholar Yehezkiel Kauffman. These myths do not need to be tossed overboard, we have to select the revelation in them, as Professor Joseph Blenkinsopp shows us. This is a very vast topic, with a lot of research being made, but with no conclusive results so far.
You ended with a good joke. It will cheer us up, immersed as we are in talking about myths that tell us little, and delving into chaos.
Jokes don’t need a pedigree! If you can’t come up with your gags, you never get to make it on any Kiwi social scheme. Being entertaining is de rigeur! The besetting crime is being boring!
The world renowned Irish Dominican biblical scholar Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, died in Jerusalem yesterday. In one of the articles penned by him he wrote that Jesus had a “nervous breakdown” in Gethsemane. Would that sort of confirm the studies made by Pierre Barbet?
Shroudies will be very interested in learning what the great biblical scholar Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor,OP, who was the most well known Catholic priest in Jerusalem, had to say about the location of Golgotha and Jesus’ tomb. He confirmed what the respected Israeli archaeologists Dan Bahat and Amos Kloner, bother former Jerusalem District Archaeologists, wrote about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:
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