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And now you have something to do this weekend

October 24, 2015

I must admit I feel a little sceptical, not based on the evidence, but from
an innate doubt that God would work in this way…


image image Joe Marino uncovered a weekend’s worth of reading and reflection, specifically a blog posting and two papers:

Posting:  The Turin Shroud: fake or genuine? by Eric Hatfield (pictured in white shirt)

Main Paper:  The Shroud of Turin – A Critical Assessment by Atle Ottesen Søvik (pictured in striped shirt)

Supporting Paper:  Excursuses to the Article "The Shroud of Turin – A Critical Assessment" by Atle Ottesen Søvik

Joe’s email to me reads:

Hi Dan,

I came across this interesting article at the "Is there a God" blog (from June 2015): 

http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/belief/the-turin-shroud-fake-or-genuine/

It references 2 substantial Shroud articles on academia.edu, one of which Barrie mentioned on his site back in 2014:

The Shroud of Turin – A Critical Assessment by Atle Ottesen Søvik – (This article is a translation of the article “Likkledet i Torino – en kritisk vurdering," published in Teologisk Tidsskrift (Journal of Theology), no 3, 2013: 266-294). The author holds a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion and teaches at MF Norwegian School of Theology. You can follow Atle and read some of his other papers (many in English) on Academia.edu. We have also added a permanent link to the article on the Scientific Papers & Articles and Website Library pages of the site. Here is the abstract:

This article discusses the question of whether the Shroud of Turin is the real burial cloth of Jesus, and it consists of four parts. First I present facts about the Shroud. Then I discuss whether the image comes from a corpse or is artificially produced another way, and conclude that it comes from a corpse. This means that if it is a forgery, a corpse was used to create the image. After that, I briefly discuss whether it may be the burial cloth of an unknown crucified man, and argue that it must be the burial cloth of Jesus or a forgery meant to resemble Jesus. Finally, I discuss the crucial question of when the image was formed: is it a forgery from the fourteenth century or is it the real burial cloth of Jesus from AD 30?

The author of the blog article states:

I was fortunate to come across a 2013 review of both sides of the argument by Atle Søvik, a Norwegian Philosopher of Religion and Professor of Theology. His review is based mainly on published peer-reviewed papers, and is found in a main paper and a supporting paper.

It may be thought that a Professor of Theology isn’t an impartial observer, but I believe this is the most balanced assessment I have come across, because he is an academic, he seems impartial and reliable, it is in a peer-reviewed journal, he is not Catholic and he is likely a liberal Christian who isn’t as strongly biased towards supernatural explanations as a naturalist would be biased against them. I am strengthened in this conclusion after brief correspondence with a sceptical member of his review team.

The link for the "main paper" is what Barrie posted.  However, Barrie apparently didn’t post the "supporting paper," which is actually 2 pages longer than the main paper.  Funny, I don’t even remember seeing the main paper from when Barrie posted it–I must have somehow missed it.  I’m getting more senior moments than I used to.  I did a search on your blog for article name and author and didn’t see anything.  Both articles are impressive.

I GO TO CONCLUSLIONS:  It is a bad habit of mine.  But then I do go back and read. Here is Eric Hatfield’s conclusion from his blog site:

It seems to be a case of the carbon dating vs the rest of the evidence. Søvik cautiously concludes that the evidence for a first century date is slightly stronger, but I think neither side has proved their case or shown the other side to be wrong. The sceptical case relies on a few old papers and a lot of bluster, but the case for authenticity stumbles on the radiocarbon dating. I don’t think we can be confident either way. (I’m sorry to have to sit on the fence.)

I must admit I feel a little sceptical, not based on the evidence, but from an innate doubt that God would work in this way – after all, Jesus refused to use spectacular signs to authenticate himself. I cannot remove from my mind the many other relics, some of which are quite impossible, and some of which (e.g. non-decaying saints) seem quite superstitious.

If only the radiocarbon and vanillin testing could be re-done by agreed best methods, we might get a better answer. In the meantime, both believers and sceptics would do well to avoid making over-strong claims.

Bravo!  I have always had a bit of that gut-over-brain skepticism. 

And thanks, Joe.

Categories: Other Blogs, Paper Chase
  1. October 24, 2015 at 2:29 am

    I have a terrible idea that may help to resolve two problems. Problem #1 is the Shroud of Turin the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ, Problem #2 How did the artist of the Prince of Peace (Akiane Kramarik) know how Jesus Christ looked.
    I have read that folks who have examined the photo image of the Shroud and weighed it against the image of the Prince of Peace have that it is about 85% accurate on all the comparable points. How can that be ? Get a few Federal criminologists, preferably non-Christian or Atheists and give them a series a questions to ask Akiane about her knowledge of the actual appearance of or what Jesus really looks like. I had read that she denies ever seeing the Shroud image before her so-called dream(s).
    In other words a series of Polygraph tests, Of course you will have to pay her. Then we have the problem with how the 12th century forgers knew ahead of time what Akiane’s painting would look like. Maybe Akiane is one of the old forgers reincarnated. That would have to be one of the questions to ask her.
    This has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever written.

  2. Sampath Fernando
    October 24, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Dan —I must admit I feel a little sceptical, not based on the evidence, but from
    an innate doubt that God would work in this way…

    If you are a true Christian (Catholic or non Catholic) or a follower of only Jesus (like me) we don’t want any sort of evidence like Shroud of Turin as a true burial cloth of Jesus.

    But for agnostics or atheists require some sort of evidence to accept the Shroud of Turin as a true burial cloth of Jesus. This may be the reason Jesus left his battered image on this burial cloth that he really lived on this earth and resurrected from the death.

  3. October 24, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Hatfield: “after all, Jesus refused to use spectacular signs to authenticate himself.”

    Does this guy really read the New Testament? Or is he just unbelievably selective in doing so?

    John 14:11. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

    Acts 1:3 — “after His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.”

    Spectacular signs? How about raising people from the dead?

    • October 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Add this to the arsenal as well, from Hebrews 2:3-4 “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

  4. Chuck Hampton
    October 24, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Thanks again Joe!!

    What? Jesus didn’t perform spectacular signs? The Shroud (the sign of Jonah) is the sign He promised a wicked and adulterous generation. The current generation qualifies. And the Burial Cloth of Jesus is far more spectacular than walking on water, raising Lazarus, or feeding 5000 with a sack lunch.

  5. Hugh Farey
    October 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Primary sources, primary sources. It is often claimed that ancient linen was bleached in hanks before it was woven into cloth, while medieval linen was bleached after it was woven. The alleged ‘banding’ on the Shroud would thus suggest the ancient method. Well, I’ve been scouring Pliny the Elder and find no reference to this at all. Quite the reverse. Ancient accounts are full of mentions of bleaching cloth, not hanks. Can anybody provide any sources for an ancient bleaching system involving hanks, not whole cloth?

    • daveb of wellington nz
      October 24, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Primary sources, primary sources, Hugh. Where are the sources for your assertion that ancient sources mention bleaching cloth not hanks? There is a problem. We now know that we don’t know the origin of the cloth. The practices might have been anything. I do recall seeing an elaborate Egyptian depiction of weaving and spinning, can’t remember if it included the bleaching process or not. What’s needed is an identification of source of the original flax. Can the flax DNA be extracted from processed linen, or is that not possible?

      • Hugh Farey
        October 24, 2015 at 5:07 pm

        Responding to one question with another is an evasion, not an answer. Entering “ancient linen bleaching techniques” in Google throws up a number of books, such as “Prehistoric, Ancient Near Eastern & Aegean Textiles and Dress”, ed. Marie-Louise Nosch, or R.J. Forbes, “Studies in Ancient Technology”, which describe, with sources, cloth preparation including bleaching. Cuneiform tablets, tomb paintings and archaeological remains of cloth preparation vats such as the fullonica of Pompeii seem the primary sources, although there are some mentions in papyri (such as the Papyrus Lancing in the British Museum), and Pliny himself mentions a plant used in bleaching cloth, not thread or hanks.
        Now, can anybody provide any sources for an ancient bleaching system involving hanks, not whole cloth?

        • daveb of wellington nz
          October 24, 2015 at 9:23 pm

          Not an evasion! Merely noted your objection, but your assertion did not comply. What were your sources? You have now supplied them, Thank you!

          As you have indicated, the banding has sometimes been attributed to use of differently bleached yarns, it seemed a plausible explanation, and I’m one of many who have accepted this at face value. It still seems a plausible explanation. Possibly it may indicate that the cloth might not have come from the Aegean, the Near East, Babylonia, nor Pompeii.

        • Matthew L.
          October 24, 2015 at 11:10 pm

          “Responding to one question with another is an evasion, not an answer”

          Try telling that to Jesus, Hugh. He did just that all the time.

        • Hugh Farey
          October 25, 2015 at 3:23 am

          Fair enough.
          Now, can anybody provide any sources for an ancient bleaching system involving hanks, not whole cloth?

  6. Matthew L.
    October 24, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Glad to see Sovik’s articles posted here…Those articles are in my opinion very good, and fair.

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