Coming Out of the Closet on Pollen and Plant Images

imageStephen Jones has put together an interesting posting on the pollen found on the shroud and apparent images of plants some claim to see on the cloth. He does so from the perspective some material in a 2005 book, A Grain of Truth: How Pollen Brought a Murderer to Justice by Lynne Milne.

Stephen writes:

Milne has `come out of the closet’ and is clearly a Shroud pro-authenticist (whether she realises it or not), differentiating herself from Shroud sceptics, pointing out that the Shroud must have had an undocumented history outside of Europe before 1352, in the Middle East, the carbon-14 date for the age of the Shroud cannot be correct and indeed has been "discounted"!

Out of the closet? A pro-authenticist (whether she realizes it or not?

But when Milne writes in her book that . . .

The carbon-14 dating has since been discounted. The linen threads that were dated are chemically different from most of the’ Shroud linen. Was this younger thread used for mending the Shroud when it first arrived in France, or before it was taken from Constantinople?

Stephen disagrees. She is wrong, he tells us because the only satisfactory explanation for errors in the carbon 14 dating is Stephen’s own so far unsubstantiated theory that a computer hacker fudged the dates.

51 thoughts on “Coming Out of the Closet on Pollen and Plant Images”

  1. Pro authenticist ?
    Because she’s a forensic palynologist and doesn’t question the identification of Gundelia tournefortii ? Is it based on her own expertise or does she take for granted Frei’s observations and conclusions ?
    Pro authenticist because she assumes Frei had not manipulated his data ?

  2. Do people really seriously believe that Frei manipulated his findings? I read McCrone’s book(which I enjoyed thoroughly), but the chapter by Steven Schafersman on Frei was character assassination on the same level as those who claim that the C-14 labs intentionally manipulated the tests. Especially since Frei is no longer here to defend himself.

    1. Ref last paragraph of Hugh Farey’s BSTS paper on pollen grains:
      “In spite of all the secrecy and confusion there remain a few grains of pollen from some exclusively wind-blown Middle Eastern trees that are difficult to explain except that they fell on the Shroud while it was in Israel.” There is no record of the Shroud having been in Israel any time after 1350, and yet its whereabouts after that time is adequately documented.

      1. ‘There remain a few grains of pollen from some exclusively wind-blown Middle Eastern trees’. I am not clear from the article exactly which ones these are. It would be good to have the list. Thanks.

  3. Yes. And for what it’s worth I don’t believe that Frei manipulated his findings or deliberately set out to deceive, although a certain amount of unconscious bias may have distorted his findings, and, for that matter, those of the other people who also studied his tapes. However I am told that it is impossible to identify pollen to species level even today, and that Frei’s 58 specific identifications are wholly unacceptable. So how do we reconcile these points of view?

    My suggestion is that Frei’s assiduous collection of reference material in particular parts of the world is responsible. Selecting, specifically, Turkish and Palestinian plants, and most of those with conspicuous flowers and entomophilous pollen, and finding his Shroud pollen matched one, he assumed that it would not match anything else, and identified it as that species. He had a pollen that looked like Gundelia, therefore it was Gundelia. The fact that it also looked very much like any other species of thistle was overlooked.

    Nonetheless, I feel I cannot dismiss Frei’s findings altogether. Even with all the inconsistencies, there remains a kernel of evidence that resists summary rejection, and, until I discover more about it, it constitutes a real objection to any hypothesis that does not include a Middle Eastern sojourn for the Shroud.

  4. We cannot dismiss Max Frei Sulzer’s findings that easily, some of his findings were confirmed by U. Baruch and Professor Danin stands by the latter’s findings. The problem started when Professor Litt contested Baruch’s findings, however he did not publish his contentions, they became like hearsay. Other than that he just used a powerful confocal lens, but even then that in no way was the same thing like making incisions in the tape, removing the grains for examination after cleaning. This was not done.
    We have two sources now: What remains of Frei Sulzer’s collection and what was vacuumed off the Shroud during the restoration.

  5. I think my money would still be on Frei, a botanist by training, and a criminologist who had secured several successful prosecutions based on his knowledge of palynology. Or are we to believe he fudged those as well?

    1. By 1973 Frei had been completely discredited in his profession. He was the protagonist of a judiciary scandal and a man in Switzerland had been kept 12 years in jail, with a life sentence, as a consequence of wrong proofs given by Frei. Then the Zurich police instituded a commission ot three esperts for judging Frei’s activity in general. The response was negative and Frei hurriedly retired from service. This was in 1972. A year later he came to Turin and began his adventure with the Shroud. It is telling that this circumstance is never mentioned by sindonologists. Apart from this, Frei published photos of reference pollens as if they were pollens from the Shroud and said to have used the SEM, in particular for the 1978 tapes, but this was not true. This is sufficient for doubting of Frei’s reliability.
      By no means Frei was a pollen specialist. His degree was in Natural Sciences with a thesis on the flora of Sicily, at a time when palynology had scarcely been born. His professional career was as a generic criminalist. As far as I know, he never published a scientific paper about pollens in the specialized literature. His work on the Shroud is sufficient to discredit him as a palynologist: if he pretended to have identified 58 out of 59 pollens at the species level, he was not familiar with the problems of pollen research.

      1. Thank you Gian, this is the first I’ve heard anything substantive against Frei’s integrity. All I’ve ever heard previously is non-specific innuendo, and I’ve wondered why. If he was so discredited already in 1973, why was this not more generally known and why was he allowed to be co-opted onto the 1978 STURP team? Did they not know? Are you able to give any references corroborating this information?

        1. Daveb, the facts were widely known at the time in the media in German language. Something can still be retrieved from the internet. I have now done a quick search and have spotted the following. (Note that when Google searching websites in German, you have to insert Max Frei-Sulzer, not simply Max Frei.)
          From Wikipedia:

          From Der Spiegel 1971:

          In the next page,see second section: “Aus der Tätigkeit des Wissenschaftlichen Dienstes der Stadtpolizei Zürich”:

          The next page has a resume of three cases of wrong expertises, and the Shroud is one of them: Falsche Gutachten Die Hitler-Tagebücher, das Turiner Grabtuch, der Gross-Prozess im Aargau – und immer hatte der gleiche Kriminologe die Hand im Spiel

          The texts are in German but can be easily automatically translated.

        2. Why was Frei not spotted? Well, according to John Heller’s Report on the Shroud of Turin, p. 108, John Jackson made an official complaint about Frei’s behaviour, procedures and general amateurship in taking samples. The complaint was upheld by Gonella, and Frei ‘stomped out of the room, glowering’. So he had been ‘outed’ that early by STURP, although he did have his tapes.
          The real question is why he was given any credibility thereafter.
          It seems sensible to view the question of pollen on the Shroud, what there is and where it came from, completely independently of anything Frei provided.

        3. Gian Marco Rinaldi, what does the Spiegel article have to say about Max Frei or of his contribution to the field of forensics? Some of us cannot read German.

    2. Following Hugh’s article, you need to specify which parts of Frei’s argument you support. Perhaps someone can give a considered reply to the different points that Hugh made. What is the thinking about the flowers supposedly buried with the Shroud – do t hey relate to what Frei actually found? There just seem to be a lot of discrepancies.

  6. Why was Frei used as an expert on the “Hitler Diaries” when they were discovered if his name was mud in his native country? Surely Der Spiegel knew his past history when he was asked to help authenticate them. Nickell and the other Shroud critics always bring up Frei’s part in the Hitler diaries fiasco, but not his past checkered history. It’s all very strange to me.

  7. There seems to be a mud-slinging campaign going on here and if we apply the criteria being employed to others in the field of science what will happen? After all, the British Museum put Piltdown Man on display, didn’t it? Scientists can and do make mistakes and can be fooled.

    What were Frei Sulzer’s motives? Was he an impostor and fervent Christian at the same time, interested in authenticating the Shroud? There are missing links in the story and objectivity must be seen:
    1) Max Frei Sulzer made his examination
    2) U.Baruch confirmed at least some of his findings
    3) Professor Danin stands by Baruch’s findings
    4) Professor Litt contested the findings but did not publish his contentions
    5) There are two sources and these can be compared: what remains of Frei Sulzer’s collection and what was vacuumed off the Shroud during the restoration.
    To insist on personal attacks is to hit below the belly and will get us nowhere, more examinations will have to be made.

  8. Louis “more examinations will have to be made”. Yes, I agree- what we have is clearly unsatisfactory, partly because of the doubts that STURP had of Frei’s competence when they saw him working in Turin, partly because of the clouds hanging over him, partly because of the impossibility of defining the pollen with the certainty that he claimed and partly because of the discrepancies shown up by Hugh. So it seems worth starting again if only one can get access!!! Meanwhile, it would be irresponsible to use his findings as any kind of proof of anything.

  9. Charles, I wouldn’t suggest tossing Max Frei Sulzer’s findings into the waste paper basket, but this is exactly what those indulging in personal attacks are doing. They thus lose sight of objectivity. As commented previously, Frei’s findings can be used in comparison with what was vacuumed off the Shroud during the restoration, it would be the concrete proof we are looking for. My opinion is that he will be vindicated, also, repeat, also, because no one seems to have found the axe he had to grind in authenticating the Shroud.
    We will not get access that easily because the professor who possesses the collection has stepped out of the “minefield” which is Shroud studies and quite rightly. There has to be a change in attitude, there is a lot of favouritism, only chummies are allowed to publish what they want in the realm of Shroud studies, even if what they write is rubbish. I do not see any change in attitude, some newcomers on the scene show an awareness of the mischief-making process that has gone on for decades and have willingly joined the process. It is a process that takes us closer to RD, not to Jesus, it tells us more about human nature, not about how we can learn more about the Shroud.
    With your expertise, you are an asset in the realm of Shroud studies and we are lucky to have Dan Porter’s blog as he is fair to everyone. I have not seen this elsewhere in this field.

  10. I first became aware of Max Frei’s work from Ian Wilson’s 1978 book. From 1948 until his retirement in 1972, Frei was head of the Zurich Police Scientific Laboratory. He had worked on many important crimes and accidents including the air crash which killed UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold. Although retired, Frei was still in 1978 consulted on crimes by police forces of many nations. He had established an international reputation for himself by the analysis of microscopic substances. Up until that time it seems that the more usual application of palynology had been confined to the examination of core samples for archaeology and palaeontology purposes. Frei first became involved with the Shroud in 1973 under Cardinal Pellegrino’s Turin Commission, and was appointed for the purpose of notarising the photographs taken by Judica-Cordiglia in 1969. Frei had previously published an article on the faking of photographs in 1955. He was given his first permission to take his sticky tape samples at this time in 1973.

    Wilson makes the point that, although Frei was initially skeptical about the authenticity of the Shroud, this skepticism had gone as a result of his own work, an admission which apparently caused him some emotion. His upbringing was Zwinglian Protestant, and he was far removed from Catholic leanings.

    In his 2010 book, Wilson traces some of the subsequent history of the pollen investigations including the involvement of Whanger, Danin, Baruch and Litt. Wilson concludes: “While there remains good reason to believe the fundamental soundness of Frei’s identifications, the argument for the presence of Middle Eastern pollen grains on the Shroud can no longer be advanced with quite the assurance it could thirty years ago.” It seems to be a most unusual and almost self-contradictory conclusion.

  11. I know the reason why Max Frei Sulzer’s collection is now out of bounds. There may actually be two reasons, but I prefer not to reveal anything at this stage till the rationale behind one of them is proved to be something beyond doubt. It will take a few days.

  12. There are some unjustifiably strong views both in support of Frei and against.
    Clearly, in my view, his line of research needs to be followed up on and corroborated.
    I find Daveb’s support rather uncritical. There are significant questions around Frei’s work.
    This doesn’t mean all his findings are wrong, or insignificant. It just means there are questions.
    But as is always the case with the Shroud it seems hard to think that meaningful follow ups will occur, unfortunately.
    So for me, the jury is out on Frei.

    1. “I find Daveb’s support rather uncritical.” See my later posting above, Aug 24 at 5:04pm. Clearly by 2010, Ian Wilson had become ambivalent about Frei’s pollen sampling, and I had wondered why. Gian M Rinaldi’s comments above answer that to some extent, but do not address the specifics of Frei’s Shroud pollen samplings but rather other matters where it is asserted that Frei failed. In his criminal work, Frei was clearly a pioneer. He was following the methods of Edmond Locard who established the first ever police laboratory at Lyon in 1910. Locard was famous for his important doctrine in criminology that “every contact leaves a trace”, which was the principal that Frei was following in applying his sticky tapes to recover pollen samples. So it was pioneering investigation methods that he was attempting.

      Even from Hugh Farey’s paper and the other investigators who have had access to Frei’s tapes, I am still left with the impression that there remains a residuum sufficient to corroborate a Jerusalem sojourn for the Shroud, and clearly this had to be some time before 1355. Either it was in Jerusalem or it wasn’t, and to my mind the findings of the various investigators make an adequate case, however imperfect, that indeed it was.

      1. I never heard of Edmond Locard before …If I travel to New Zealand one day, I really must visit Queenstown, afterwards I certainly will need to meet you Daveb. Dave has so many interesting things to talk about.

  13. Faidherbia albida is the first pollen on Frei’s list. It used to be called Acacia albida. It is the only member of its genus and is an acacia tree of considerable height, found in sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia and the Israeli desert. The Acacia genus has actually been redefined since Frei’s time and its species divided among a number of new genera all in the sub-family mimosoideae, none of which are native to Europe. Faidherbia’s pollen is particularly disctinctive because of its size. I do not know how easy it is to confuse Faidherbia pollen with any other, but if it – or any pollen from closely related species – is actually found on the shroud, then a Middle Eastern derivation cannot be rejected.

    1. Comprehensive article on Faidherbia albida is at:

      Article’s geographic emphasis is mainly Africa where it seems pervasive and is highly valued there for a variety of purposes, but it does occur as far north as Israel. There’s not much mention there on pollen aspects, except that it’s distinctive. I’ve been trying to find out when it flowers, but its behaviour seems to be linked to the cycles of “wet and dry” seasons. Various claims for Shroud pollens have been made that many of the pollens are said to flower during March-April, i.e. at time of Passover festival. I still don’t know when F. albida flowers in Israel. Pollination seems to be by insects, as apparently the tree is valued by apiarists. Perhaps F. albida flowers at some other time there?

    2. Further article on Faidherbia albida in Israel, with useful illustrations (by Yaakov Gerson) is at:

      Quote: “Flower buds appear soon after leaves on current season’s growth. It blooms during the summer months, but most flowers abort and normally 5 or less mature into pods 3-4 months later.” It would seem that flowering occurs in Israel during summer months, which would place it outside of Passover season. If F.a. pollen was found on Shroud, it would seem not to have occurred during burial rite, as flowering would have been later than Passover. Perhaps if it’s on Shroud, it may have been as a result of exposing the cloth at some time during summer months.

  14. Thanks, Hugh. Helpful to work from.

    Frei was a busy man – I did not know he had done this as well:

    “The Dr. Max Frei found pollen from North Africa on the Sudarium, consistent with the traditional story of its transfer from Jerusalem c.614 A.D. via Alexandria to Cartagena, Spain, later to Toledo and finally in 711 A.D. to Oviedo.’
    From a presentation by the Pontifical Institute : Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre. ‘Who is the Man on the Shroud?’

    Anyone know more about this journey??

    1. All the alleged scientific evidence concerning the Sudarium of Oviedo, from its carbon dating to its blood or pollen identification, is shrouded (good word) in obscurity. I do not think I have have read a single primary source on the subject, and secondary sources are vague or muddled about where their information comes from from. Try to find out when any investigation happened, or where, or who carried it out, and you quickly get bogged down in circular references which lead nowhere. I find it difficult to credit any of it.

      1. I was completely surprised when I first started looking into Shroud material that the sudarium was isolated by the ‘Shroudies’ as the (varying) legends say that there was a chest of relics containing part of the Cross, some of Christ’s blood, bread from the Last Supper, a stone from the tomb, a robe of the Virgin Mary and some of her blood as well as a shroud’ -presumably the sudarium. The legend went on that the disciples had gathered all these relics and made the chest themselves. The closed chest left Jerusalem c. 600, then made its way along the north African coast until it appeared in Toledo via Cartagena.
        Guscin has a go at all this but even he has to admit that ‘in these manuscripts [of the transfer of the relics] we are told that the ark left Jerusalem over the Mediterranean Sea, not overland, and that it entered the Iberian peninsula via the port of Cartagena. The curious thing about these manuscripts is that the sudarium does not appear in the list of relics, although it should also be pointed out that no two lists are the same in any document.’

        I can see why Hugh is getting confused!!! Was the sudarium there or not? It may be, of course, that a sudarium was not considered as prestigious as some of the other relics- certainly it would not have been more important than a piece of the Cross, but Guscin is hopelessly confusing over the relationship between the sudarium and what he calls the ‘ark’. He implies that the sudarium was somehow independent of the other relics but, without going back to my research, I think the story was that all these relics were together in the chest from after the Crucifixion.

        There were all kinds of taboos about opening the chest and only in 1075 when king Alfonso VI was present was it opened and the relics discovered. I have no idea what happened to all the other relics but it is hard to know how all the pollen got into the sudarium when it was supposed to have been closed up in the chest. Still Frei was clearly a genius for discovering pollen from wherever it needed to be discovered!

        Guscin seems to believe that all these legends about the ‘ark’ which may or may not have contained the sudarium, represent some sort of historical truth. My own opinion was that they were typical of many other backstories developed to explain why a relic might be authentic and was just more interesting that some of the others which is why I put it in my book.
        Anyone who had a relic in western Europe had to develop a story of how it got there and there are lots of legends of boats setting out from the Holy Land and drifting to the coast of Italy or Spain (e.g the arrival of the bones of James on their way to Santiago is very similar). I think it is wrong to assume that the Oviedo one is more likely to be historically accurate than any of the others. Understandably as these stories were essentially made up they were discrepancies between them according to whom you listened to and, as Guscin recognised, this is an issue here. Of course, if you accept that these are legends then there is no historical problem involved – I was more interested in how similar the drifting boat legend was ( the Volto Santo in Lucca arrived in the same way – or at least that was their story!!).

        And, for the sudarium- there is this little problem of the carbon -14 date of 700.

        I am sure someone will tell us when faidherbia acacia arrived in Palestine from its native Africa and at what time of year it pollinates – apparently beekeepers love it because it pollinates at a time of year when not much else does but I have no idea when this was in Palestine. Answers please.

        1. Charles, don’t cry so much outloud your crocodile tears.

          Anyone who had a relic in western Europe had to develop a story of how it got there and there are lots of legends of boats setting out from the Holy Land and drifting to the coast of Italy or Spain (e.g the arrival of the bones of James on their way to Santiago is very similar). I think it is wrong to assume that the Oviedo one is more likely to be historically accurate than any of the others.

          Yes, no more likely to be historically accurate, and no less. The arrival of the bones of James to Santiago is very similar, because it seems they arrived there roughly in the same time and the same circumstances -transferred there from Jerusalem, when it was captured by Persians in 614. This is discussed by Micheal Hesemann in his latest book about Shroud and Sudarium Legends do not get created around nothing, Charles -there is always a grain of truth. I can’t tell you everything about ‘who, where, when and how’, but I can tell you there is more then unimaginative sceptic think.

          Meanwhile read this:

          I recommend also Janice Benett’s presentation:

          and her book:

        2. O.K.’ Legends do not get created around nothing, Charles -there is always a grain of truth.’

          So what do you think about the legend that Belsdon Scott has in his book on the Shroud (pp.32- 33) that Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem gave the Shroud to the king of Cyprus in 1087 and it was kept on the island until the Turks overrran Cyprus. Then Margarite de Charny escaped with it and the reason that the Savoys were keen to have it was that the duke of Savoy’s wife Anne of Lusignan came from a family that had claimed stewardship of the holy places of Palestine as well as the crusader kingship of Jerusalem.
          All quite plausible, don’t you think?
          This is another of those backstories that explain why a particular family or shrine had the right to a particular relic and there must be hundreds if not thousands of them. As many are contradictory (unless you are prepared to accept this one for the Shroud and reject any others), historians simply discount them UNLESS there is subsidiary evidence.
          I spent many months reading up these legends- I recommend Jacopo de Voragine’s The Golden Legend if you are into this kind of thing- and very seldom was there the ‘grain of truth’ that you suggest is ALWAYS there.

        3. Janice Bennet makes my point for me perfectly. Attempting to explain the journey of the sudarium from Jerusalem ,she highlights the number of DIFFERENT versions of the same background story. This is very typical of competing legends and it is impossible to say that one is more likely to be true, or indeed that any of them are true.

          ‘According to some versions, the chest was taken from Toledo to the coast, and placed in a boat that carried it to Subsalas. Another legend relates that it was carried in a boat to Luarca. Still another version says that the chest crossed Castile, passed through Babias, stopped in Torrebario, entered through the Port of Ventana and through Quiros in Asturias. From Mount Aramo they were probably taken to Montesacro [where it may have been hidden for fifty years] . . . Another version confuses [ YES, it does!] these relics with those brought from Jerusalem by St. Toribio in the fifth century ,and says that the saint arrived in Aviles with his divine cargo,and then placed the chest of relics on a peak of a high mountain called Monsacro . . .’

          And it is not even clear whether the sudarium was in the chest anyway!!

          So I am absolutely at one with Hugh on this!

    2. Charles, you have raised an important point, showing why it is necessary to provide references. I know of several top biblical scholars and archaeologists both in and out of Israel, Catholics included, who have dismissed the Shroud, unwilling to entertain any talk about authenticity. .

  15. Sorry, OK, we have to be as objective and convincing as possible, that is why I agree with what Dan wrote above. I know, and have spoken to, some top biblical scholars, they believe in the Resurrection without hooking it on to the Shroud.
    Have a look at what has been published about the relic in Shroud websites and publications, think about the infighting that has gone on, the evident favouritism involved in who can or cannot publish anything and so on.
    They have not even convinced the Holy See, although some clerics are involved in public relations. Why be surprised if no Pope has bothered to answer the petitions?

  16. My point exactly. References? Primary Sources? Nope…

    Well, in this documentary there are just interviews with the guys who perfromed primary research…

    I would be glad to see primary reports, just like I have STURP papers at hand. Unfortunately, this is not yet available in case of the Sudarium.

    The pollen resaerch in case of Sudarium have been completed (after Frei’s deatcth) by Carmen Gómez Ferreras, from the Madrid University.

    See ‘Select Bibliography’ form Janice Bennett paper:

    Click to access bennettpantxteng.pdf

  17. Also don’t forget that Middle East pollens have been claimed not only on the Shroud and Sudarium, but also on the Tunic of Argenteuil (some 20 years after Frei’s death). So it is definitely not only issue of Frei, and cynical search for some dirties in his life, so common method used by sceptics, with a (dis)honorable mention of Gian Marco Rinaldi, who as I see, has specialised in it.

  18. So what do you think about the legend that Belsdon Scott has in his book on the Shroud (pp.32- 33) that Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem gave the Shroud to the king of Cyprus in 1087 and it was kept on the island until the Turks overrran Cyprus. Then Margarite de Charny escaped with it and the reason that the Savoys were keen to have it was that the duke of Savoy’s wife Anne of Lusignan came from a family that had claimed stewardship of the holy places of Palestine as well as the crusader kingship of Jerusalem.
    All quite plausible, don’t you think?

    Plausible, yes. It is plausible that Shroud spent some time on Cyprus on one point of its complicated history -but not necessarily at the precise time and circumstances that legend says.

    We will discuss it another time.

    1. ‘It is plausible that the Shroud spent some time in Cyprus’. So we need to look for some Frei pollen that is from a plant that flowers exclusively in Cyprus!
      Daveb’s hypothesis that the Shroud was exhibited in Jerusalem in the summer of the Crucifixion adds another dimension. Who is saying we are resting on our laurels? – and there is still all the excitement of the conferences to come!

    2. Charles, I could not assert that it was exhibited as such, but if the Faidherbia albidia pollen is indeed present, then the presumption has to be that it was exposed to it in a location where the tree grew and at a time when it flowered. The tree is pervasive throughout Africa which might be a plus for your Egypt hypothesis. It’s habitat extends to northern Israel. The “wildflowers” web-site I quoted at Aug 25, 6:19pm says it flowers in the summer months, which I would have presumed excludes Spring. It is apparently valued by apiarists as it flowers at a time when other flowers don’t (presumably the pollen might therefore be insect-borne). Hugh’s BSTS paper, asserts that the pollen is wind-dispersed, and that it flowers during the period March to September, which could place it within Passover, if his information is correct. From his table I deduce that the Genus/Family of F.a. was also detected by Baruch. Make of this what you might!

      1. This is interesting. We often theorize what happened to the cloth after Easter weekend – what journey it took. But what about the journey beforehand? How old was the linen before it was used as a burial shroud? Where was it from? How much pollen was already on the linen before it even got to Jerusalem? (Assuming the TS is authentic of course).

      2. David, the origins of the burial cloths have been discussed here from time to time. Mark’s gospel says that Joseph “bought” a shroud, but this might be just a shorthand way of providing some explanation of his having it. John’s gospel has it that the Friday was Preparation Day before an important festival; that year Passover was to fall on the sabbath which made it special. What was the state of the Jerusalem markets that Friday afternoon? Had they closed early for a public holiday? How could he purchase it in the limited time available to him? Was it originally intended as Joseph’s own burial shroud? A. van der Hoeven published a paper suggesting that it may have been John Mark’s temple garment, and the same cloth dropped by him in the garden when he fled naked; she suggests that it was recovered by the guards, and that Joseph retrieved it when he went to seek permission from Pilate; which makes it close to writing a novel; but she does have a case that it may have been a temple garment. Or did Joseph use it as such. Charles has mentioned that most Middle East weaving thread was spun as “S” twist, whereas the Shroud’s linen is “Z” twist. That might argue for a northern European origin. Had a Roman soldier acquired it when he was stationed in Gaul, and brought it to Jerusalem and disposed of it there. Perhaps some of the European pollen might date from that time. All speculation, and nobody knows!

    1. In her 2011 paper (and also previously) Van der Hoeven casts John Mark in the role of Secretary to the Council. Like many commentators, she also identifies him as the young man who ran away naked in the garden. She also believes he was the young man who said to Jesus that he had observed all the commandments from his youth, as this passage is also found in Mark. She writes:
      “In my earlier articles I showed that John Mark can be identified as the secretary of the Council of the Temple, which formed a distinct priestly block within the Great Sanhedrin. In this office he had to wear ritually clean and white linen temple garments (Ex 28: 5-6). But, as the young man who ran to Jesus and said that he had observed all the commandments from his youth (Mark 10:20), he had also fulfilled the commandment of Nu 15:38, (etc)”

      I believe that much of her paper seems speculative and if I understand her rightly in some passages she seems to confuse John Mark with the writer of the fourth gospel. I tend to view it all as little more than a fascinating speculation. But I could admit that the Shroud may have been some form of temple garment.

  19. Quite correct, it could have been some form of Temple garment, one that Joseph managed to get hold of easily, given the hurry with the approaching sabbath. Perhaps the speculation derives from Mormon customs today.

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