I had asked Teddi Pappas in a comment to a previous posting, if since she was ‘doubtful that [Colin Berry] will get the highly detailed image that is seen on the Shroud with a photographic negative of its image,’ what method has been proposed (or even tried) that does? And Teddi had commented thoughtfully in return. Her arguments sounded a lot like mine in the days when I was more convinced that the Shroud was authentic. She inspired me to do a lot of thinking. I must respond, so here goes. 

Dear Teddi, you wrote:

The method that has succeeded is singular –the Holy Shroud in Turin, Italy. It has a storied history of containing an image not created by human hands. 

I think now, that I would say it differently: — It has a tentative and gap-riddled history of containing an image purportedly not created by human hands, often described in fanciful legendary ways

The adjectives we choose can say a lot. But Teddi, you continued:

Moreover, I will go farther than that and say that I believe that it cannot –with ALL of its special features– be reproduced naturally. What evidence is there to support this thought? The fact that Jews and Muslims have traditionally wrapped dead bodies in Shrouds. Yet, we have no cloths with images like what we see with the Shroud.

Isn’t the reason we have no cloths with images because shrouds covering buried or entombed bodies quickly decompose? Are there actually some ‘used‘ examples of burial shrouds with which we can examine this premise? Christian burial shrouds should probably be included as well. But I know of none that exist.

Logically, and by a process of elimination, it seems that there can only be two conclusions to the fact that we only have one shroud with images. 1) The Shroud of Turin is fake or 2) it is genuine because a circumstance allowed someone to retrieve the cloth from the tomb. We can assume that circumstance was the Resurrection, which according to scriptures included an open and empty tomb. This is something which many contemporary scholars question. Two postings, one at Reasonable Faith and one at The Biblical Archaeology Society illustrate this: The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus and The “Strange” Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Why It Makes All the Difference. Because we are perhaps expected to believe in an empty tomb (resurrection/theft/swoon/etc.) to conclude for point two, we find ourselves in a paradoxical pretzel: believing in order to believe.

Until recently the empty tomb has been widely regarded as both an offense to modern intelligence and an embarrassment for Christian faith; an offense because it implies a nature miracle akin to the resuscitation of a corpse and an embarrassment because it is nevertheless almost inextricably bound up with Jesus' resurrection, which lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. But in the last several years . . . [read on]  -- William Lane Craig

Teddi, you continued:

This, along with the many attempts that have been made to reproduce this image –and the repeated FAILURES to reproduce a cloth with all of its special features– gives the Shroud a rebuttable presumption of authenticity.

Rebuttable presumption? An interesting and apropos appropriation of a mostly legal term. Nonetheless, I can’t see it. I can’t see it with such an uncertain, broken history. I can’t see it with the paltry evidence about imaged or non-imaged shrouds. Nor can I see the presumption warranted by the failure to reproduce a cloth with many special features. Little work has been done; we have only begun to scratch the surface. Collin Berry went as far as he probably could at the kitchen table. Ray Rogers had just started when he became ill. In 2002 he wrote: “[My] observations do not prove how the image was formed or the “authenticity” of the Shroud. There could be a nearly infinite number of alternate hypotheses, and the search for new hypotheses should continue.”

STURP and all of the science since the mid-1970s, has failed to give us a clear picture of the special features. We don’t even know the chemical and physical nature of the most basic image element: the chromophore. STURP’s summary, which is what is most visible to the public, reads in part: “The scientific consensus is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself.”

The word consensus should serve as a warning flag to everyone.

Walter McCrone, whether actually a member of STURP in a legalistic sense, was closely associated with STURP. He was certainly not part of the consensus. Nor was Ray Rogers who was part of the STURP leadership. He collected particle samples from the cloth and loaned them to McCrone. As a chemist, he strongly disagreed with McCrone’s conclusions made by microscopic analysis. Rogers thought the image might be from Melanoidins, a brownish material derived from a Maillard reaction of something existing on the fibers of the cloth, perhaps an evaporation concentration of a Saponaria officinalis washing solution. “Such sugar-amine reactions may offer a simple, realistic, natural explanation for the colour on the shroud,” he wrote in 2002.

Colin Berry, more recently, has proposed and demonstrated something else. It could also be a Maillard product from flour used to impress an artistic picture on the cloth. His work needs to be written up formally and he should publish in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. I don’t think that will happen. Whereas Colin has perhaps chosen not to run the publishing-gauntlet, he has boldly tossed down the challenge-gauntlet in a series of blog postings. As such his hypothesis is a possibility. Since he might be right, his work is at least worthy of consideration.

Teddi, you wrote:

A simple way to determine if Colin’s experiment is viable or not is to check and see what the photographic negative looks like. That’s something that would be very simple to do. If it’s not performed, especially with my offer to provide a camera and film, and publicly shown, then the question will be “WHY NOT?”

But he has! This is it.

This is the “photographic negative” before using VP-8-like 3D plotting software. Perhaps with a full-sized actual human body instead of plastic toy soldier lacking good facial detail, Colin might be able to achieve a ‘Secondo Pia.’

And this is Colin’s Own Face

“Shame about that beard and moustache – both of which I lack, generated as an artefact of imprinting a facial prominence (chin!) under applied manual pressure (face first coated with imprinting medium – a wet slurry of flour and water – then pressed down onto a sheet of linen with underlying pillow to help mould the fabric to the facial contours – with a little flattening of the nose. Do these incidental details – “beard”, “moustache”, “flattened nose” ring any bells?”

It is still a work in progress, but quite impressive.

Teddi, you also stated:

People who want to debunk a miracle need to prove that it’s either a painting of some sort or prove that it can be created through some other means that has, heretofore, not been accomplished.

I’m confused. Are you talking about 1) a resurrection miracle only, 2) a stand alone miracle that created the image, or 3) the Resurrection which somehow kicked off a process that created the image (e.g. radiation)?

So you fully understand where I come from on this, I do believe in the Resurrection of Christ. Moreover, I believe it was physical, at least in some sense of the word. It hasn’t always been that way for me. My beliefs have progressed from a belief in a metaphorical ideal to a belief in a spiritual encounter to, now, a belief in the Gospel stories of the apparitions of the physically-transformed Christ. In most of the particulars, my beliefs conform to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to common Protestant apologetics. I am, however, an Episcopalian, an Anglo-Catholic. It helps to remember, that at least in America for which statistics exist, a third of all Catholics and a third of all mainline Protestants find it difficult to believe in a physical resurrection of Christ.

I should also state that while I believe in a physical resurrection, I don’t believe — not for a moment — that the Shroud’s images were caused by any byproduct or consequence of resurrection. That includes radiation. See my post, The Shroud and Resurrection Mechanics.

I don’t care much what others believe about the Resurrection or if they believe in it at all. It doesn’t matter to me and I don’t think it matters to God. So, I think we are chasing our tails when we try to validate the Shroud in order to validate any one particular notion of resurrection. And I think it is a mistake, as well, to use the Shroud as an evangelizing tool. The Resurrection is not about an empty tomb. It’s not about images or shrouds. It’s about Christ overcoming death. It’s about a “rebuttable presumption” of everlasting life. And it’s about these words from Father Kim Dreisbach, an Episcopal priest and a friend:

That “special responsibility” is to get beyond the linen to the Lord – to see Him in the faces of the dispossessed, the victims of injustice, the poor, the neglected and all the others for whom He died. “Facts” learned about the Man of the Shroud do not guarantee dedicated service in His Name, Alas, these “facts” can become nothing more than religious erudition in pious garb unless they lead to the deepening of the student’s own faith reflected in concern for and service to those for whom the Man of the Shroud came to minister.

Given that the history is so tentative and the science of the Shroud, once promising but now so almost meaningless, how can I not easily refute “a” miracle? Depends, doesn’t it. I have no idea about how the image was formed. I’m thinking it’s about time to reconsider medieval photography and some other ideas.

Doesn’t the carbon dating also provide us with a rebuttable presumption? It should be redone. That may be the best way to address and finally put to bed all of the questions that have arisen.

I’m trying to find a reason to continue to believe the Shroud is authentic. It’s not easy.

What about another idea that originated with Colin about seven or eight years ago: Suppose that another shroud was used to transport the body of Jesus to the tomb or to cover the body while awaiting permission to bury it. My additions to this notion, and that is all that it is right now, are that the 1) image was somehow formed naturally in the hot sun and 2) the existence of this Shroud, now in Turin, was explained away by supposing the tomb was open and empty. I’m just thinking out loud. I still believe the tomb was empty.

Teddi, thanks for your input. It helps me to think. It helps all of us that way.