Joe Marino just published a new paper, “Musings Regarding the Shroud of Turin – Including ‘How is it that Practically Everyone Thinks They’re an Authority?’” For me, it was mostly a nice, well-written, organized refresher of some of the scientific investigations of the Shroud including radiocarbon dating. But the real focus of Marino’s paper is eleven questions that he wants to ask of skeptics.
But why just ask these questions of skeptics? I’d also like to pose them to those who believe in the authenticity of the Shroud. Take question number two, for instance: “Have you read the New Testament in the original Koine Greek language…?” How many people who believe the Shroud is authentic have read anything in the ancient Greek of the early church? And why not ask these questions of people who, like me, find ourselves betwixt and between? That should be interesting.
Having said that, however, I wouldn’t bother to ask these questions of two groups of skeptics. 1)the Atheists like those for which Marino provides YouTube links, and 2)certain fundamentalist Christians like the “Bible Christians” Marino draws attention to in question number five.
- The Atheists in the referenced YouTubes are surly diatribists who use mockery rather than rational arguments. They are completely unlike the Atheists I know or am familiar with, including family members—people I respect and often admire in their thinking and beliefs. Yes. I think of Atheism as a belief, not a lack of any belief. In one referenced video, Marino identifies a “female guest” who elsewhere goes by the moniker Heathen Queen. Her comments about the Shroud (at https://youtu.be/f7julPohlws?t=544) are 25 seconds of pointlessness. Don’t waste your time.
- Among certain fundamentalist groups, we find The Christian Biblical Church of God. It is probably a good example of Marino’s “Bible Christians.” This one group is possibly the largest and most vocal organized ecclesial group of “Bible Christians.” They have their own translation of the Bible by ancient Greek and Hebrew scholar Frank Coulter. They describe it as the “only complete Bible ever published—with Old and New Testament…that follows the original, canonical…order…[which is] completely faithful to the original Hebrew and Greek texts.” This church is decidedly fundamentalist based on scripture. They reject most orthodox Christian traditions, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. They are unwavering in their opposition to the use of idols and images as prohibited by Leviticus and Deuteronomy, as they interpret those books.
Why ask questions that cannot be doctrinally entertained? Why direct these questions to most Atheists, to strictly fundamentalist Christians, and for that matter to the practitioners of the world’s other great religions? Mark Antonacci’s stated desire to provide “thousands of unfakable items of scientific and medical evidence to prove the central premises of Christianity” is a proselytizing pipedream. Have we learned nothing these past few years? People believe what people choose to believe. As I’ve said before, we live, some of us (excuse the U.S. framing), in a country where only 60% of the adult population believes in human evolution, where only 58% of voters believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president, and where only two-thirds of both Catholics and Mainline Protestants believe in the foundational miracle of their faith, namely the bodily resurrection of Christ.
People believe what people choose to believe. If you could prove beyond a doubt that the Shroud is real, if you could even scientifically prove the Resurrection, not much would happen. And if you could prove that the Shroud was fake, not much would happen, either. The blowback might be more significant than we imagine in the way that Darwinism fueled creationism. Nonetheless, here are Marino’s questions.
The questions are in bold. My answers in regular font.
1) How would a Christian in 200 A.D., before the New Testament was compiled, have determined if the Shroud was authentic? We know of the significant oral and written tradition, of stories and logia, including the works of Paul and others. This was certainly the basis for the early church and the evolution of a New Testament canon. Many early Christians of that era had access to an evolving canon scripture. Does that answer the question? Maybe I just don’t understand it. I wonder how with the New Testament, we can determine whether it is authentic in 200 CE or now.
2) Have you read the New Testament in the original Koine Greek language, or have you relied only on English translations? No, I’ve relied on several English translations. My favorite is the NRSV, widely considered to be the most accurate translation from the original. The NSRV is extensively used in the Episcopal Church in the United States and is widely used by many Mainline Protestant churches. The Catholic Edition (no textual differences) is approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their Canadian counterpart. I also like some of the translations by N.T. Wright, an Anglican theologian.
3) How much reading have you done in the area of biblical exegesis? Did you know that many Protestant and Catholic clergy, with years of seminary training and with various degrees, believe the Shroud could be authentic? Is this not a tad bit ad populum? After all, many Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Coptic, etc. clergy, with years of seminary training and with various degrees, believe the Shroud is not or might not be authentic.
4) Are you aware of the Sudarium of Oviedo, which has been in Spain since 613 A.D. and is believed by many scholars to be the napkin mentioned in John 20:6-7? Did you know that by the 1st century, even the Egyptians had stopped wrapping their dead mummy style? Yes. But, I’m not sure the “napkin” and mummy-style wrapping are mutually exclusive. Moreover, I imagine that those who claim Jesus was wrapped for burial with strips of cloth are likely to accept the Sudarium as a valid relic.
5) Some distinguish “Bible Christians” from the Roman Catholic Church. Have you ever investigated the Catholic Church’s role in compiling the New Testament? Those who call themselves “Bible Christians,” as well as many Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox. scholars think of the Catholic Church as an emerging branch of the “early church.” I have not explored the subject enough to have formed an opinion, but I do think it really is a matter of historical interpretation (St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in particular). But is that even the issue? See “Roman Catholicism vs. Biblical Christianity.”
6) Have you ever thought to question Jewish rabbis about known Jewish burial customs of the 1st century or read a book about them? Are you aware of a book, for example, by the late Jewish archaeologist Rachel Hachlili titled “Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices, and Rites in the Second Temple Period,” which is about 600 pages? No, I’ve never thought of asking, but yes, I’ve heard of it. I have not read it and don’t plan to because I have no issues with this matter.
7) Have you ever done any research into art history, which suggests that paintings of Jesus that have come down to us may well have derived from the existence of the Shroud? Yes, but I don’t find much of it convincing. If the Shroud is fake, might its images have been derived (at least the face) from historical art?
8) Are you aware of the dozens of medical doctors and surgeons who believe that the Shroud images and blood are correct anatomically and physiologically? Yes. I need to look into this more.
9) How many books or peer-reviewed papers on the Shroud of Turin have you read? How familiar are you with the numerous peer-reviewed journals in which papers on the Shroud have been published? Very familiar and well-read. Some journals are highly suspect, particularly some of the pay-to-publish, open-source journals. Some used by Shroud researchers are particularly questionable.
10) Are you aware that the Shroud of Turin is likely the most intensely-studied artifact in human history and that no one knows how the image got on the cloth? I used to think the first part of this question was true but have since tentatively changed my mind thanks to a posting, The Most Studied Artefact? by Hugh Farey, in The Medieval Shroud blog. I do agree that no one knows how the image got on the cloth—so far, that is. On this subject, I like to quote the late Ray Rogers, someone Marino and I both admired, He wrote: “The 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.” I just cannot accept the it-is-a-mystery-so-it-must-be-authentic thinking.
11) How much expertise do you have in all the disciplines needed to create such an image? See my article “The Plethora of Disciplines Used to Study the Shroud of Turin.” None.
I would like to add three questions since the STURP summary is quoted in Marino’s paper.
12) The summary says, “Computer image enhancement and analysis by a device known as a VP-8 image analyzer show that the image has unique, three-dimensional information encoded in it.” Are you aware that such apparent 3D information is not unique? I believe this is true. Moreover, it is an unwarranted assumption that the image contains 3D spatial data. It is also an unwarranted assumption that the cloth covered a human body when the image was created. All of that, while it might be possibly so, is only speculative. There is not a scintilla of scientific fact in the 3D assertions shown above. See The Shroud’s 3D Problem Gets in the Way of the Truth and 3D? Yeah, right! (or something to that effect).
13) The summary says, “The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin.” Are you familiar with the recent explanations and clarification about the blood from Kelly Kearse? For instance, what is it that we really know and don’t know? See Q & A —The Shroud or Not the Shroud?
14) The summary says, “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.” Are you aware that Ray Rogers’ unfinished work on how the image was formed suggests that the summary is wrong and that the chromophore of the image might have been a chemical alteration to a coating on the fiber? Colin Berry has also demonstrated an artistic method that also challenges the dehydrated and oxidized fiber assertion. Are you aware of that? See What Do We Know About the Images? By Colin Berry
Speaking of Ray Rogers, Joe Marino has been busy in 2022 writing 3 papers about Ray and his work, as well as an appendix to the third paper: