On David Gibson

imageKate O’Hare, in the Catholic Channel of Patheos, discusses a conversation with David Gibson (pictured), one of the co-authors of “Finding Jesus,” the book on which the CNN TV series of the same name is based:

On the relics examined:

Some of them are not as claimed; some of them are probably forgeries. even; but some of them are the real deal. Some of them, all of them, open a window on history and onto the Gospels and what really happened.

Even if this piece of the True Cross isn’t the True Cross, what happened? How did these things migrate across centuries, why are they so important?

On why he’s a Catholic:

Honey, I don’t have enough time. That’s a whole other thing. I was raised Evangelical. My mom’s a Billy Graham Evangelical and very strong in her faith, but for me, I found a deeper tradition and a liturgical practice in the Catholic Church, like a number of Evangelicals have.

But again, not to diss anything else, there are so many aspects of conversion which are fascinating. Each conversion story stands on its own.

In the context of this book and this series, coming from a tradition where anything associated with relics was ridiculous or superstitious, to a tradition that reveres and venerates relics, and is also very strong on historical, Biblical research, there’s a common ground there that both sides can learn from the other on the value of looking for the Jesus of history.

After CNN

And so pending any new scientific breakthroughs, the mystery remains.

imageMUST READ:  Revisiting the Shroud of Turin – After CNN by Simon J. Joseph:

To my knowledge, that is where things stand with most Jesus researchers. They don’t know what to do with the Shroud. And so they do nothing. After all, the Shroud is not a "text" and does not enter the historical record until the fourteenth century. Moreover, Shroud-science, or "Sindonology," requires professional expertise in numerous scientific disciplines, none of which biblical scholars are qualified to adjudicate. This is a topic on which opinions divide and emotions run high. Some claim that the Shroud is evidence that God raised Jesus from the dead while others claims the Shroud is a forgery, a hoax, or an invented relic for the gullible medieval faithful. Furthermore, because the Shroud is seen as a Catholic relic and biblical scholarship is predominantly Protestant, Catholic/Protestant conflicts only exacerbate the controversy. In any case, biblical scholarship has done quite well for itself without appealing to or depending on the authenticity of the Shroud. But now that CNN has re-opened the debate with its new series "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery" and the Vatican will be exhibiting the Shroud again this spring in Turin (April 19 – June 24), it’s time to take another look at the Shroud.

Read the entire article on Dr. Joseph’s Blog.  Dr. Simon J. Joseph is a biblical scholar, author, and documentary filmmaker. An Adjunct Professor of Religion at California Lutheran University, Dr. Joseph holds a Master’s degree in Religious Studies from New York University and a Ph.D. in Religion/New Testament from Claremont Graduate University. His . . .


Checking In On Colin Berry: A New Image Model ‘forming in my mind’

So one mixes up some alum and some thickening agent – a gum or starch etc

imageColin is is toying with a new image formation scheme. He is blogging about it though it is difficult to know this. Instead of posting new entries in his blog, Colin adds more text to old ones, so much so that even Google is gasping for air.

In what follows, we are looking at some new text added to a posting for February 20, Might the Shroud of Turin properly be described as a ‘proximity imprint’ in sweat and blood, real or simulated, to distinguish it from Freeman’s faded painting? If you want to follow along you can find the latest text (as of this morning) roughly 4/5 of the way down what is now a very long webpage:

… Am presently  researching, thoroughly I hope, a distinctively different angle on the manner in which the Shroud image may have been produced. It’s a difficult call to beat contact thermal imprinting, while still  producing a negative  non-directional image with 3D properties etc etc. But the new model that’s been forming in my mind, with some prompting from the writings of Luigi Garlaschelli and Joseph Accetta, might be more suited to the medieval mind (and technology) than the heated inanimate  templates (horse brasses, brass crucifixes)on the cooker hob in this blogger’s 21st century kitchen.

A few paragraphs later:

Here’s a few broadbrush ideas to be getting along with.

Firstly, there had to be template.One does not paint a negative image freehand, at least not one so photograph-like as the TS (when submitted to 19th/20th century technology). The template may have been totally inanimate (14th century provenance), e.g. a metal or ceramic bas relief, or it may been a real person (allowing for a 1st century provenance, if one is willing to junk the radiocarbon dating – count me out).

So one mixes up some alum and some thickening agent – a gum or starch etc – applies it to one’s subject of template, then presses down linen to get an imprint. What then?  Knowing what we now know about the properties of alum, one could suggest an immediate roasting at a temperature that leads to chemical sehydration of the linen carbohydrates in areas in immediate contact with the alum paste. Knoock off the surplus paste when doen and one has (maybe) a faint yellow negative image.

clip_image001And – to be expected:

Briefly, the Lirey Pilgrim’s Badge provided a possible rationale for imprinting the image of a bearded man who was NOT Jesus, but a Knight Templar, indeed the most prominent, Jacques de Molay. Why? Because de Molay, Grand Master of the outlawed order was burned at the stake in Paris 1314. Alongisde him was a fellw Templar, Preceptor of Normandy, Geoffroi de Charney. That name is almost but not quite identical to that of the Lord of Lirey whose widow placed the Shroud on its first recorded public display in 1357, shortly after he husband’s death at the Battle of Poitiers. Her husband is said by celebrated genealogist Noel Currer-Briggs to have been the nephew of his quasi-namesake who died in 1314, some 43 or so years earlier.  Might the TS image have been intended to represent a Knight Templar and the manner of death, especially as the "burning at the stake" had in fact been performed sadistically by slow-roasting? Was it a tribute (initially) that had remained in the family, a closely guarded secret initailly for obvious reasons when Templars were still being dispossed and worse by an alliance of convenience between the then heretic-seeking Papacy and cash-strapped French monarchy? Was it ‘reinvented’ to represent the victim of crucifixion rather than "scorching".

Was there supporting evidence that might corroborate that interpretation?

More to come:

I can hardly wait.

Colin Berry: Stop Calling the Faint Image a Faint Image

And, as I see it . . . the word distance and the word body are both at issue.
Can we go on saying that no one has figured out how the image was formed
and at the same time objectively refer to cloth-to-body distance?

clip_image001I applaud Colin Berry’s attempt at helping to define the image:

Getting the right words to describe the Shroud image into the media and public domain has acquired a new urgency of late, given the recent claims that attempt to undo decades of research.  I refer to historian Charles Freeman’s claim that the TS is merely an age-degraded painting.  I’ve said quite a lot on that score already elsewhere, as indeed have others, and have little more to add, except to say that Mr. Freeman needs to get up to speed with Shroud science, and disabuse himself of the idea that it’s all about art history. The TS is arguably NOT about art. It’s an artefact, intended for purposes other than mere artistic expression. Works of art do not generally result in the issue of Pilgrims’ Badges (Lirey, France, circa 1357).

However, thanks to the robotic and mindless Google algorithm, Charles’s misguided notions will no doubt survive for a while, at least on the internet.  It’s no longer sufficient in this blogger’s view to continue describing the TS as a "faint image". That is too non-specific and makes it too easy for CF to peddle his antediluvian views (if STURP can be thought of as supplying a flood of new information).  "Faint image" or even faint NEGATIVE image simply does not do the business (CF having closed his eyes completely to the  implications of the tone-reversal implied by the descriptor "negative"). No, we need new updated terminology that makes it clear that the TS is not just any old "faint image", but one with very special, indeed unique properties that sets it apart from other pictorial representations of the human form. While that terminology cannot and must not attempt to impose a new orthodoxy regarding mechanism, actual or conjectural, it is entitled in my view to guide thinking in the right direction, while leaving key details unspecified.

So what is that terminology to be?

One has to be neither  pro- nor anti-authenticity to regard the TS image as an IMPRINT.

Definition of "imprint" (noun): Free Dictionary:



1. a mark or indentation impressed on something.

2. any impression or impressed effect.

And it is life-sized front and back, negative and contains seemingly 3D properties, Colin goes on to remind us.

Colin goes on to examine the definition issue from the point of view of a quote from a paper by Barrie Schwortz, Is the Shroud of Turin a Medieval Photograph?: A critical examination of the theory. That paragraph reads:

The STURP team concluded that there was a correlation between the density (or darkness) of the image on the Shroud and the distance the cloth was from the body at the time the image was formed. The researchers calculated that the image on the Shroud was formed at a cloth-to-body distance of up to approximately 4 centimeters, but beyond that, imaging did not occur. The closer the cloth was to the body, the darker the resulting image in that area, with the darkest parts of the image being formed where there was direct contact between the two. The image became proportionately lighter as the distance increased until it reached the maximum imaging distance. . . .

To which Colin responds:

Left to me I would have described the TS image as probably, indeed almost certainly a CONTACT imprint, such as can be modelled with hot templates. But the view exists, articulated above, and emanating in main from STURP physicist John Jackson PhD, that the TS image is not contact-only, but from modelling studies (at any rate)  appears to allow imaging across modest air gaps that do not exceed approx 4cm.  Personally, I think that latitude in allowing an air gap is a defect of the presumed imaging model, one that assumes a linen cloth spread loosely over a real corpse, and making only partial contact under gravity.  That’s a pro-authenticity scenario.

Forget that! The issue isn’t pro-authenticity. The issue is taking a leap too far making an observation into a theory. Consider what adding a short phrase does.

. . . there was a correlation between the density (or darkness) of the image on the Shroud and the [what might have been] distance the cloth was from the body at the time the image was formed. . . .

Colin’s take is just as correct:

Let’s not prejudge who is right, who is wrong.  Let’s assume that all that’s required is close proximity between a body and/or inanimate template that tolerates air gaps up to 4cm.

So the word distance and the word body are both at issue.  Can we go on saying that no one has figured out how the image was formed and at the same time objectively refer to cloth-to-body distance?

Colin’s caveat is fair:

Caveat: I’ve tried to be inclusive here, allowing for the possibility that  the image to have been produced by a burst of radiation (unspecified, see critique by the estimable Bernard Power ), and able to operate across air gaps. Without attempting to read  the minds of ‘resurrection radiationists’, whether it’s electromagnetic radiation or even wackier subatomic particles – notably neutrons-  that are proposed, might they consider the term "imprint", even modified with "proximity" as a potential poisoned chalice? Well, I’ve given a little thought to that, and followed up with some googling. What do I find?  Those ‘radiationist’ ideas have already filtered through to the mainstream media under the heading "imprints".

Of course, I’ve ignored Colin’s main point. We should stop calling the faint image on the shroud a faint image.  We make it to easy for the likes of Charles Freeman.

We should call it a proximity imprint, he tells us. 

No! Four syllables followed by two is a leap to far.  Remember, we are talking about the problems of a “robotic and mindless Google algorithm.”  

BTW:  I Googled “Faint Image.”  Not one picture of the shroud!  Most images were of people who had fainted.

Do read Colin’s entire posting.

Movement of the Shroud after 1355

Stephen Jones is putting together a useful movement history for the shroud beginning in 1355:

Montfort (c.1358-1359). In 1358, following the French defeat at the 1356 Battle of Poitiers in which Geoffroy I died, marauding bands of English soldiers attacked French towns, including nearby Troyes. So Jeanne probably took her young son Geoffroy II de Charny (1352–1398), and the Shroud, from Lirey south to the comparative safety of her castle atMontfort-en-Auxois[5].

[ Left (enlarge): Montfort-en-Auxois castle:Burgundy Tourism. ]

Anthon (c.1359-1388) . In c.1359 Jeanne married the wealthy Aymon IV of Geneva (c. 1324-1388) and took Geoffroy II and the Shroud from Montfort to one of Aymon’s estates in High Savoy (that part of France bordering both Switzerland and Italy), probably Anthon.

[ Right (enlarge): Chateau at Anthon built in 1315 by Guichard d’Anthon[6], presumably Aymon IV’s great uncle Guichard VI d’Anthon (c. 1278-1320), which Aymon inherited through his mother Isabelle d’Anthon (c.1307-1335). Presumably Jeanne, Geoffroy II and Aymon IV lived here with the Shroud for ~29 years between 1359 and 1388. ]

On Deaf Ears Here?

As Colin Berry writes in his own Science Buzz blog: The Turin Shroud is clearly a medieval fake – albeit a very clever one. What more is there to say? 

Well, he does say:

Having wasted thousands of words pressing simple straightforward logic, and getting little back by way of  return except ridicule and insults (the few exceptions to that broad-brush description know who they are) I decided to bow out, and do so in a way that makes a point. I posted images instead of text. Any words of my own, the minimum needed, were incorporated into the images to create a series of cartoons, billboards etc. Images are more powerful than words.

Images imprint onto the visual cortex, a major part of the hind-brain with a minimum of pre-processing that is in any case not under conscious control.

Words on the other hand get consciously pre-processed in many subjective ways, so much so that where Porter’s site is concerned, 99% or more of one’s words either fall on deaf ears or get hopelessly scrambled and commuted within seconds of receipt.

Or, as Eminem rapped it in Taking My Ball (as you read these four lines you need to bounce the upper half of your body straight up and down – you see, you can rap):

imageIt feels so wrong, does it feel so right? But its alright, it’s okay with me.

I’ll do my steps all by myself, I don’t need nobody to play with me,

But if you just give me a chance, I can put you in a trance the way I dance .

But don’t nobody wanna play with me so I’m taking my ball and going home (home).

Here is the topmost image from Colin’s posting. No sense messing with words:


Picture of Eminem with deaf ears is a publicity picture from eminem.com.

Maybe the Trickster Did It

when you eat of it your eyes will be opened

imageThe Stumbler, in this part of his “long and circuitous journey from a childhood with two alcoholic parents, through the weird world of anomalous phenomena, to an iconoclastic Christian faith based on experience, observation, study and intuition,” tells us in his blog posting, Oh, no, surely not that old fake the Shroud of Turin?:

It’s highly unlikely you know more about the Shroud than I do.  For one thing, since 1997 I’ve been a devoted follower of www.Shroud.com.  This amazing site was created in 1996 by Barrie Schwortz, Official Documenting Photographer for the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project.  It’s one of the truly great Internet sites, highly organized and with virtually everything published about the Shroud in every language.

The Stumbler tells us:

A First Century result from the carbon dating would’ve been nice, of course, but this didn’t happen.  The tests showed a date range of 1290-1360 AD.

I wasn’t fazed, for two reasons:

First:  As I’d said before the testing, there’s simply too much other evidence the Shroud dates to long before 1290.  Physical evidence, from the cloth itself.  Historical evidence, meticulously pieced together by Ian Wilson and other serious researchers…

Second: If the Shroud were a 14th Century fake, it’d still be the strangest artifact in the history of mankind.  When the carbon dating results were announced, it was very telling to me that the media and the great mass of casual followers seemed almost relieved and chortled at Shroud believers as though they were and always had been credulous fools….

The Stumbler goes on to tell us about “more recent test” with date ranges of 300 BC to 400 AD. And he believes these new tests why?


Please, don’t take my word for it.  Spend at least an afternoon on www.Shroud.com.  Even before you do that, spend a few bucks on Ian Wilson’s The Shroud: The 2,000-year-old mystery solved (2010), a wonderful introduction to Shroud studies. . . .

Just don’t do what too many people do: Don’t dismiss the Shroud because you “once saw a program” on CNN or “once read an article” in Time or on the Internet or, worse yet, “once talked with a guy” whose opinions you respect who thinks the Shroud is a blatant fake and not worth bothering with….

Then there is this. Does this trump the KGB Hacker conspiracy theory or what?

What about our old friend the Trickster?  Haven’t I suggested his antics have infected just about every other area of weirdness studies, from ufology to NDE-ology?  Just because I’m a Christian, do I think Shroud studies are immune to the Trickster?

imageNot at all.  The carbon dating results certainly could be the Trickster at work.  Some of the Shroud studies themselves are major turn-offs, at least for me.  A segment of the research fraternity has purported to find so many additional images on the Shroud we’re only a step away from someone spotting a Domino’s pizza box or a Ford hubcap.  This sort of stuff is eerily reminiscent of what the Trickster has done in ufology and NDE-ology, and I fear it has seriously diminished interest in the Shroud.

But did you notice what is says on the side of that Domino Pizza box?  Maybe there is a hubcap or a coin over the eye or a whole bunch of flowers. That’s got to be good for some strange speculation.  The Stumbler continues:

But still, the Shroud is in a different category from UFOs and NDEs. Unlike them, it isn’t a phenomenon.  It’s an artifact.  It’s right there in front of you.  It can be observed, photographed, handled and even sampled.  It challenges you, head on, to find an explanation.  The Trickster may divert your attention with his antics, but the Shroud remains.

Or has the Stumbler been tricked by the Trickster? 

It would help if we had a better understanding of what tricks the Trickster can do and which tricks he cannot do. Does he change carbon 14 content or does he hack the AMS Control Computer?


authentic or not

imageImagine that you are commissioned to create a shroud. That is what David Rolfe wants you to imagine.

You are to create a work that captures its essence and convince viewers both contemporary and beyond that they are in the presence of a most precious relic. However you go about it, and we may never know, we can see what you created. We can look upon it as it lies within these pages centuries after you created it. Does it fulfil the brief? Does it speak out as a great work should? Let us make an objective assessment of its observable subjective qualities and its simple facts. What do we see?

• Your choice of an image left on a Shroud is a perfect encapsulation of the mystery that surrounds him. After all, it is the reporting of his death by crucifixion that is the principal independent corroboration that Jesus lived at all. Congratulations

So read the whole list of "congratulations" in The Shroud’s Intrinsic Value – Authentic or Not in the latest issue of BSTS or on David’s site:

David Rolfe: The Shroud image makes no concessions to art

Could the Shroud become a symbol of interdenominational unity?
Could it even become a symbol of interfaith unity?

imageDavid emails to let us know that he has updated The Enigma of the Shroud of Turin website. It is a wonderful update. “The headline,” he writes:

. . .  is that the 2010 film is available in eight languages free to watch. All three films are available on the English page. . . .

That would be:

  • The Silent Witness
  • Material Evidence – The Shroud of Turin
  • The Case for the Turin Shroud

Select a flag (on David’s new page) to watch the films. 

clip_image001Now for a MUST READ. David writes in his email:

I have also created an editorial page on which I have posted some (I think) new and possibly controversial ideas.  I hope they get some traction and very happy if they raises discussion on your blog.

Read both the main content (The intrinsic value of the Shroud – authentic or not) and the right-hand column (A Campaign).

Here, from the right-hand column, is a snippet of what David posts:

Could the Shroud become a symbol of interdenominational unity? Could it even become a symbol of interfaith unity?

For almost 40 years I have watched the arguments for and against the Shroud’s authenticity ebb and flow. I have seen good friends fall out over them and many dedicated champions of the subject go to their graves without seeing any fundamental change in the status quo. I would like to see some wider recognition for what the Shroud could be before I get too much older and, with an exposition this summer (April 19th to June 24th.) 2015 is an auspicious year for such an aspiration.

Judaism and Islam eschew iconography and there are good reasons for that. The sentimentality of the Jesus of the Sacred Heart has “Disneyfied” Jesus.

Beautiful though it is, even Michaelangelo’s Pieta brings a level of sentimentality that can cloud judgement. Once the first Jewish Christians decided to include pagans in the new religious adventure inevitably the risk of idolisation returned and, I would argue, it did. This has been splendid news for proselytisation and art but bad news for clarity of thought. The austere and (so far) inexplicable shroud image makes no concessions to “art”.

Your thoughts?

Collimated Sweat Acting at a Distance

That should warm the cockles of Colin Berry’s heart

imageFrom a press release this morning:

JERUSALEM.- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, has announced the awarding of its 2014 Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography to American artist and photographer Lisa Oppenheim. Selected from among 160 applicants from 28 countries around the world, Oppenheim was awarded the prize for her outstanding body of existing work and prospective projects.

And one of the prospective projects is:

. . . said Noam Gal, Noel and Harriette Levine Curator of the Museum’s Department of Photography. “Her choices of subjects – including the future project she presented in her application, Imprint (Shroud of Turin) – give promise to the perpetuation of this fascinating artistic path.”

Imprint?  Shroud of Turin?  That should warm the cockles of Colin Berry’s heart. Colin is old fashioned enough and British enough to understand that expression.

Let me explain (or you can read Colin’s whole bloody post on his blog). Colin shows us the picture (below) and tells us: “The mechanism of imprinting of the body image? Can there be any doubt that the artist wanted us to know that the image was a SWEAT IMPRINT.”

Yes! There can be some doubt; for I must ask: Are Jesus followers lifting the cloth up and away from the body or putting it down over the body? If they are just getting ready to lower the cloth over Jesus, was the “imprint” caused by collimated sweat acting at a distance?

Colin writes:

Is this the definitive answer to the Shroud of Turin visible in old paintings? Answer: YES – almost certainly, as the above [=below now] paintings demonstrate, but I don’t suppose Dan Porter will be overjoyed at the use I’ve made of his website graphics.

But I am overjoyed; for I have always put pursuit of the truth about the shroud ahead of trying to convince anyone it is real. In accord with that I am NOT going to put a lot of stock into Colin’s interpretation of a 17th century artist’s artistic interpretation of events and call it definitive evidence of anything.  

Look closely. You can almost correlate the darker areas of the smudge-ish image on the cloth being held above Jesus’ body to the followers surrounding the cloth. Are those perhaps shadows?  Light seems to come from different places in this painting. 


Should we be rethinking the VP8 and 3D images?

Todd, a reader of this blog, just yesterday posted the following quotation from Peter Schumacher. It’s from a 1999 paper by Pete entitled Photogrammetric Responses From The Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud of Turin induces a [3D] result through photographic imaging that is unique, compared to all other photographic results taken from other objects of the same acknowledged period as the Shroud, of prior periods, and to the present day. It is the “data” existing on the Shroud of Turin, which induces the unique photographic results. Therefore, the Shroud image, itself, is unlike any other object or image known to exist. (Bracketed “3D” added by me for clarity)

imageThis obvious absence of evidence as evidence fallacy – call it what you want: argumentum ad ignorantiam, the black swan problem – has stood, it seems, since sometime after 1976, when (quoting from A Critical Summary of Observations, Data and Hypotheses – Version 2.1 by Bob Siefker, et. al.):

[John] Jackson, with the help of Eric Jumper (both on active duty and teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy) used a VP-8 analog computer furnished by Pete Schumacher, an engineer with Interpretation Systems, Inc., to make a brightness map of the Shroud image.

Then they tried to do the same thing with photographs of people and objects. Pete tried. Others tried over the years. Everything else was distorted; no real 3D.  There was, among those who understood that a normal painting or photograph of a person or object contained brightness information that was representative of reflected light while the image on the shroud contained brightness information that was not that but rather seemingly spatial data, a sense that the argument was safe. It has been repeated and restated over and over by others.

“OK Hugh [Farey],” wrote Todd, “Maybe you can respond to this quote. I ask again that you provide published evidence to refute this claim.

As long as we continue to think of just regular paintings or photographs of people or normal objects – and we ignore the cries from the fallacy police – we are on pretty safe ground.  It cannot yet be refuted.

But Colin Berry didn’t do what others had done. He made a scorch of an object on cloth. And he found that that scorch behaved like (or pretty much behaved like) the image on the Shroud of Turin. Colin found a black swan and we couldn’t say any longer that all swans are white.

That is published evidence; it is published on Colin’s blog and reshown here. It is not a painting or a photograph of an object; it is a scorch.

If we continue to speak only of normal paintings and photographs we are still on safe ground. But we have to drop the idea that the shroud image is unique.  It isn’t.

Click on the images to see larger versions

While we are at it, maybe we can drop the other fallacy, namely that the 3D data represents body to cloth distance.  That has not been shown to be true.

Revisiting Shroud of Turin and physics of resurrection

clip_image001After uploading and posting Louis C. de Figueiredo’s Science and religion meet in Shroud research, a reader sent me an article by Julian Sheffield that appeared in Episcopal Café back in April of 2013*: Shroud of Turin and physics of resurrection.

It begins this way:

Mr. Fanti’s hypothesis cited in “Turin Shroud Going on TV, With Video From Pope” (New York Times, March 30), that the image on the Shroud of Turin resulted from “a very intense burst of energy” recasts the Shroud as a testament to Christ’s Resurrection, and not, as currently revered, a relic of Christ’s passion and death. This is a crucial reconception, one that makes sense of the scriptural record, and suggests that the morbid, and ultimately destructive, fascination of Christianity with the suffering of Christ is misplaced.

The scriptural record of the Resurrection of Christ has been interpreted as hoax, mass hypnosis, metaphor, and fact. While we live, none of us will know for sure which interpretation is closest to truth, but assuming arguendo that it contains fact, assuming arguendo that there is a God who became human in an extreme act of solidarity with humanity, the question of how it can be true demands to be explored.

*When Sheffield’s article first appeared in Episcopal Café, I posted Why Giulio Fanti Matters, That article, Shroud of Turin and physics of resurrection, warrants revisiting.

The Episcopal Café is an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.

You can tell the good guys. They are wearing white shirts.

The alleged primary hacker,Timothy W. Linick (1946-1989),
is the one in the black shirt standing most prominently in the foreground.

imageFor those of you who like drip-drip-drip water torture blogging, Stephen Jones has just rolled out a next installment of the conspiracy theory that the KGB hacked the computers in three radiocarbon dating labs in order to make the shroud appear to be medieval. No, really, the KGB. Stephen started this this past May:

Introduction. This is the second installment of part #10, Summary (1), of my theory that the radiocarbon dating laboratories were duped by a computer hacker. I will add new installments to this part #10(1) until it gets too long, when I will then start a part #10(2). Previous posts in this series were part #1, part #2, part #3, part #4, part #5, part #6, part #7, part #8 and part #9, which this part #10 will summarise. To help prevent this summary becoming too long, I usually will not post full quotes supporting my points but will provide a reference and link back to the original post in this series where that particular quote appears.

Other than that we have a picture, shown above, with the following very interesting caption:

[Above: Arizona radiocarbon dating laboratory staff and Rochester radiocarbon dating laboratory’s Prof. Harry Gove (second from right) around the AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) computer’s control console terminal[2], on 6 May 1988, after it had, or was about to, display the alleged hacker’s first bogus radiocarbon age of the Shroud, "640 years"[3], which was then calibrated to the `too good to be true’ and, as we shall see, effectively impossible "1350 AD" date that the Shroud’s flax was supposedly harvested[4]. The alleged primary hacker,Timothy W. Linick (1946-1989), is the one in the black shirt standing most prominently in the foreground[5].]

It looks like it going to be summaries for awhile. You can follow along if you wish (on your own) or you can wait with me until the end of this series to see if any evidence of hacking emerges.

Jerry Coyne: Pope Francis endorses the fake Shroud of Turin

The shroud is covered with gesso, which was used as a ground for painting.
If it was the miraculous imprint of Jesus on a burial shroud,
there would be no reason for the gesso.

imageRenowned evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne, is well known for his best selling book Why Evolution Is True and his famous New Republic book review of, Of Pandas and People. Every now and then, mostly in his blog, also called Why Evolution Is True, he jumps onto the skeptical Shroud of Turin bandwagon.  I’ve mentioned him at times:

Now he has climbed aboard with our friend Charles Freeman and posted Pope Francis endorses the fake Shroud of Turin in his blog. Get this:

The image has degenerated substantially over the centuries. We know this because there are a fair number of paintings from centuries ago showing what it looked like. The degradation is due to its repeated unfurling and exhibition, which would crack and flake the paint, in addition to the fact (revealed in the article I’ll cite in a second) that in past times it was customary for supplicants to hurl their rosaries at the shroud and then recover them.

But we know the Shroud is a fake for several reasons. Carbon dating of the linen cloth (in three separate labs) has placed its manufacture between 1260 and 1390, which (if you know dating) is the time at which the flax plants furnishing the cloth would have been harvested, no longer absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Further, an Italian scientist managed to reproduce the Shroud by using materials that would have been available during the Middle Ages.

The other reasons for fakery (not fraudulence, as it apparently wasn’t designed to deceive people) are given in a very nice article by the historian Charles Freeman that just appeared in History Today, “The origins of the shroud of Turin.” (It’s free online.) I recommend that you read it, as it’s a fascinating summary of what we know about the shroud.

The other reasons for fakery are these:

  • The shroud is covered with gesso (calcium carbonate; ground-up chalk), which was used as a ground for painting. If it was the miraculous imprint of Jesus on a burial shroud, there would be no reason for the gesso.
  • [ . . . ]
  • Finally, the image changed over the year. In 1355 to at least 1559, Jesus was naked, with his hands covering his genitals. But in 1578, as Freeman notes, reproductions show it with a loincloth over Jesus’s groin and butt. Clearly there were some prudes, possibly the Bishop of Milan, who were distressed at the exposure of the Saviour’s bum.  The loincloth later disappeared, though there’s still a white patch on the Shroud showing where it was.
      Coyne summarizes the criticism of the carbon dating based on a single article,

 a recent news article by Inés San Martin on the Catholic Crux website


Other scientists, however, believe those results could be off by centuries, pointing to the possibility of bacterial contamination of the cloth. They note, for instance, that burial shrouds for Egyptian pharaohs sometimes test to centuries later than their known age for precisely that reason

Then Coyne lets loose:

In view of the multifarious evidence, the Church really should say that it was a medieval painting that could not have been Jesus’s burial shroud. But they won’t do that; it would turn off the supplicants who think it’s real . . . .

[ . . . ]

Now why would the Popes keep making pilgrimages to something that’s just a painting?

Catholics must have their miracles, even in the face of counterevidence. Just once I’d like to hear the Church declare unequivocally that the Shroud is simply a painting from the 14th century or so. And I’d also like to hear them say that Adam and Eve weren’t the historical ancestors of all humanity. (Genetic studies have disproven a two-person ancestry.) But it will be a cold day in July (in Chicago) when that happens!

I don’t have a problem with Coyne when it comes to evolutionary biology or his criticism of ID. Coyne and I don’t share the same beliefs about the existence of God, but that’s okay. He is one of the New Atheism crowd like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and I can accept that and disagree amicably. But, Coyle as a scientist – come on now, Jerry, are you sure that the shroud is a painting?  You know this how?

Gesso?  Are you sure?  Who said so?

The Makeshift Body Bag of Turin

New angle on that much over-hyped Hungarian Pray Codex . . .

image“Please be content for now with another new claim,” writes Colin Berry. . .

the so-called Turin Shroud was never intended to represent the final burial shroud. It was a makeshift body bag used to transport Jesus from the cross to his final resting place, the rock tomb. It was simply to provide a dignified transport of a blood and sweat-soaked victim pending the final washing and anointing prior to final burial, probably in WINDING sheets. It was the body bag that received the sweat and blood imprint, NOT the final burial shroud enclosing a washed, anointed, perfumed body.

(I used the same picture, above that Colin used because it effectively makes his point).

imageColin extensively examines scripture to support this contention. And then from left field:

New angle on that much over-hyped Hungarian Pray Codex: might that be Jesus on an opened-out body bag in the upper picture, with the replacement snake-like linen for winding in readiness?

But as Colin notes:

I never imagined for one moment that I was the first to propose the ‘body bag’ hypothesis, in view of the Gospel accounts making clear that ‘fine linen’ was used for immediate transport from cross to tomb. And here’s a comment from David Mo that includes a French quote (my italics) making precisely  the same point. My immediate response follows:

Here is what David Mo wrote (translation by Google):

More interesting: "The other Shroud which also bears an imprint of Jesus Christ is the one body called the Shroud of Besancon. The painting is not so strong or if the features that distinguish the Shroud of Turin. This is what has been told to those who gave the history of the one and the other, that of Turin had been used to wrap the body bloodied at the descent from the cross, and that of Besançon had been used to bury him after he was washed & embalmed. " It was a common belief que la mark Shroud of Turin Was Made with blood.

Colin tells us that:

Ian Wilson no less has expressed views that chime with mine (my bolding)

Wilson concurs with this as a possible explanation: "Although this may have been a me re chin band, it implies a more substantial piece of linen, and an alternative interpretation is that it could have been the Shroud we know today. The root meaning ofsudarion is sweat cloth, and the Shroud may have been intended as a temporary wrapping to soak up the sweat and blood from the body prior to a more definitive burial, which would have taken place after the Passover Sabbath." (emphasis is Colin’s)

A small catholic on relics

imageBill Tammeus, a Presbyterian elder and award-winning former faith columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the daily "Faith Matters" blog for the Star‘s website and a monthly column for The Presbyterian Outlook. He calls himself a small catholic and his work appears in the National Catholic Reporter, this time with a column entitled, Relics mean something, but they don’t mean everything:

What the whole of Christianity depends on is not whether the Shroud of Turin is the real burial cloth of Jesus but whether Jesus, in fact, was resurrected.

And yet there’s something about the human condition that makes it easier for us if we can hold onto something solid, something verifiably original and authentic.

So our hearts long for the Shroud of Turin eventually to be validated as the true burial cloth of Jesus. And we want to know that this or that particular cup is the one Jesus used at the Last Supper. And that someone saved the ax George Washington used to chop down the cherry tree and, while they were at it, also preserved his wooden teeth. (Good luck with both of those myths.)

I’m happy for Pope Francis to visit the Shroud of Turin just as I’m happy for Protestant tourists to stop at the front doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral. (The original wooden doors were destroyed in a fire and have been replaced with bronze doors.)

I just hope the pontiff’s trip won’t lead people to imagine that it ultimately matters whether what he sees there is Jesus’ burial cloth. That would focus on a dead man. By stark contrast, Christianity is about the living Christ and our commitment to follow where his Spirit leads.

St. John of the Shroud: Priest, Servant of the Priest, Cousin to Jesus

imageIn his serialized attempt to convince us that Jesus took his burial shroud with him following his resurrection and gave it to John the Apostle who was the servant of the priest mentioned in a fragment of text from St. Jerome that quotes the Gospel of the Hebrews, Stephen Jones explains that Jesus and John were first cousins and that the Apostle John was also a priest.

I know that, didn’t I? Did I?  If so, I didn’t know why. Very ingenious analysis by Stephen:

Mark and Mathew evidently record the three prominent women disciples standing by the Cross after Mary, the mother of Jesus, had been taken by the Apostle John (Jn 19:26-27), her nephew (see below), to his home[11]. That the remaining three women mentioned are the same group in each account is shown by Mark listing "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome" as the women who went to the tomb in the early morning after the sabbath to anoint Jesus’ body (Mk 16:1).

That means that Jesus and Apostle John were first cousins:

[ . . . ]

Mary was also a "kinswoman" of Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Lk 1:36 YLT)[13]. The Greek word for "kinswoman," sungenis, is simply the female of sungenes "a kinsman" (Mk 6:4; Lk 1:58; 2:44; 14:12; 21:16; Jn 18:26; Ac 10:24) including "of tribal kinship" (Rom 9:3; 16:7,11,21)[14]. Elizabeth was one of the "daughters of Aaron" (Lk 1:5), that is, she was of priestly descent and the daughter of a priest[15]. Therefore Mary, and Salome her sister, were descended from David (Lk 1:32) and so were of the tribe of Judah (Mt 1:1-6; Lk 3:30-31) and also they were descended from Aaron, and so were of the tribe of Levi (Ex 6:16-20). There is no contradiction in this, as while a priest had to be a descendent of Aaron, he was not required to take a wife from the descendants of Aaron but the only requirement was that she was an Israelite virgin (Lev 21:1,7,14)[16]. The conditions of Jesus’ descent from David (Mt 1:1; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16) are satisfied if at least one of Mary’s parents were of Davidic decent[17].

Therefore, for the Apostle John, the son of Salome, to be a priest, it was only necessary that his father, Zebedee (Mt 4:21; 10:2; Mk 1:19; 3:17; 10:35; Lk 5:10), was of Aaronic descent and therefore was a priest[18]. And that would have been so if Mary (and Salome’s) father, Heli (Lk 3:23)[19], i.e. "Eli" – a priestly name (1Sam 1:9; 2:11; 14:3), was a descendant of Aaron and therefore a priest[20]. And that would have been the case, if the father of Elisabeth, who was Mary’s and Salome’s kinswoman, was a brother of Zebedee, John’s father. Further Biblical confirmation that John was a priest is found in Jn 20:4-8, where John reached the empty tomb first but did not enter it until after Peter went in and confirmed that Jesus’ body was not there. It was forbidden for a priest to enter a tomb[21] where he might make contact with a dead body and so become "unclean" (Lev 21:1-3)[22].

I think HE sees?

Just in case you were wondering about the Machy mould being discussed in The Conspiracy of the Faux-Sweat Imprint, here is some more information. These images,above, are  from Colin Berry’s blog (in fact we are looking at them there through something of a wormhole in the way you can structure things on the web).

Tell me: do you see the image on the left? Are HIS eyes open? Compare the face on the left to the image of a face elsewhere on the mold of someone holding the shroud.

It helps to see the size of this thing. Here is a picture of  Alain Hourseau, the owner of the mold, holding it in his hands.

And finally here, below, is a good picture of the whole mold. Is that face from one of the Veronicas? Again, I ask: are the eyes open? Is this a case of I think I see too much?

Me thinks so! And does it really matter?

BTW: It was Colin back in February who wrote this healthy swipe:

That was in the mid-1350s, accompanied by at least two promotional pilgrims’ badges’  The first and better known lead/tin one in the Cluny museum, dredged up from the Seine in 1855,  without any obvious Christ-like figure, and the (later?) revisionist version (see Ian Wilson’s pdf  in the BSTS Newsletter on the Machy mould) that has the added Veronica- style in vivo motif of Christ’s face as an additional inset image above the word SUAIRE ( signalling a “sweat-imprinted face cloth” and no doubt attempting to suggest, even subliminally, that the entire Shroud image was likewise a sweat imprint, albeit post-mortem).

The surplus-to-requirements and source or confusion face and label on the Machy mould above "SUAIRE" (left) and one contender (right) for title of surviving Veil of Veronica (from wiki entry for latter), i.e. the Holy Face of Jaen.

The surplus-to-requirements and source or confusion face and label on the Machy mould above “SUAIRE” (left) and  just one several similar images that could have chosen  to represent the Veil of Veronica, the one shown here described as a 14th century “copy” ,  entitled the ‘Holy Face of Jaen’.

What better way than piggybacking, seen with the addition of a motif of the famed pilgrim-attracting Veil of Veronica  (Fr. Le voile de Véronique)  with its alleged imprint of the face of Jesus en route to Calvary, imprinted we are told in sweat.  Contrary view (or a prioriassumption): Mario Latendresse describes it as “the face of the man on the Shroud”.

And from Hong Kong

Angelo Paratico has a nice quick synopsis of the modern day study of the shroud in Beyond Thirty-Nine, a blog he co-authors from Hong Kong. The posting is called  The Turin’s Shroud – a Mystery hidden into a Riddle.

clip_image001In Hong Kong we have one of the world’s great experts in the science of Sindonology, which is the study of the Shroud of Turin, known as Sindone in Italian. A Hong Kong resident since 1970, William Meacham, is an archeologist and a professor at HKU. He has many books published under his name and in particular there is one which is often cited by sindonologists: The Rape of the Shroud published in 2005.

In 1978 a special commission received permission to investigate scientifically this mysterious fabric, which appeared out of nowhere in Lirey, France, in the year 1353. This commission was called STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project). It started well, but soon descended into a factional war between bickering scientists and reluctant cardinals. Being these the basis, it is not surprising that the results, instead of clearing the waters, made them even murkier.

The book of Prof. Meacham is an highly scientific and well researched work, as he was one of the experts summoned to Italy and involved in the dating project of the Shroud, but was later sidelined by a group of people with a narrow view of what they were examining and, perhaps, lacking the necessary expertise. . . .

[ . . . ]

The validity of the C14 radiocarbon dating was put in doubt from the very beginning, and for a number of good reasons. We’ll limit ourselves to the most basic ones, noting only that it is hard to believe how scientists could act so clumsily. . . .

They found that where the image appeared there were no traces of pigments or colors, and it was certainly not obtained by heating or printing. . . .

Did anyone tell Charles and Colin? Be right back

Here is some show off trivia:

This relict had remained a property of the royal house of Italy, the Savoy, until 1983 when it was finally bequeathed to the Vatican by the last king of Italy, Umberto II, in his testament. Curiously this donation had been challenged, because what did belong to the last king should have been taken over by the republican government of Italy in 1946 but this matter is still taking dust in the Italian Parliament, as more pressing matters concerning the economy are at hand.

The Conspiracy of the Faux-Sweat Imprint

Colin Berry: I have set out a possible scenario that led to the TS being
fabricated as a rival attraction to the Veil of Veronica, indeed one that built
on the established credentials of the Veronica . . . as perceived by those at the time,
and which later . . . came to supplant the Veronica as the Church’s new “central icon”
(to borrow Neil McGregor’s words re the 14th century Veronica).

Colin’s old blog site, Shroud of Turin Without All The Hype (or something like that) has sprung back to life after several months, reincarnated as The Shroud of Turin: medieval scorch? The blog that separates the science from the pseudo-science…. The first posting since March is The Shroud of Turin: probably not miraculous, just a simulated sweat imprint – a triumph of medieval joined-up thinking.

(the 3D, negative scorch image, right, resides
on Colin’s blog, click on the image to see
a larger version)

There must have been at least some who, viewing, or even hearing of the Veil, [ca. 1350] must have asked themselves: how can plain old perspiration (“sweat” in common parlance) imprint an image on cloth? What would it look like initially? What would it look like a day later, a week later, a century or millennium later? And among those people, might there be just one individual who then asked themselves an audacious question: could or might the process be simulated, or to put it baldly, faked? Could one pass off an entirely and audaciously  man-made image as that of a divine sweat image? And if that were the case, what would be the most profitable way of doing that? Content oneself with producing a face imprint that was superior to that on the Veil, and claim that one had the “real” version, and that the one in Rome was the fake? Or avoid any such controversy and unpleasantness. Instead, marshall one’s technology to make an even more audacious claim, namely that one had not only an image that captured the face of Jesus, but that of his entire body! How could that be done? Was there a scenario from the New Testament gospels that might be adduced to back one’s claim?

Certainly there was, and it’s one that occurred just a day or two AFTER the crucifixion. It was the initial placement by Joseph of Arimathea of Jesus on  a costly sheet of linen, conveniently with no reference at this stage to the body being cleaned of blood and other bodily secretions, notably sweat.

Already a plan for developing that germ of an idea was taking shape. What were the criteria that could be adopted first to produce a whole body imprint of the crucified Jesus that would pass muster, yet importantly pose no threat to the status of the Veil?

Just a sampling here to give you an idea of what Colin is talking about and to encourage you to read . . . just a simulated sweat imprint . . . :

1. The image must NOT be mistaken for anything but a burial shroud. A single image of the frontal side might be mistaken for some kind of painted portrait. Solution: imprint BOTH sides of the body, align them head to head making it seems as though  . . .

[ . . . ]

5. Choose a weave that is receptive to one’s imprinting process. A twill weave  (e.g. herringbone 3/1 weave) has more flat areas than a simple 1/1 criss-cross one.

[ . . . ]

13. Feet are a problem. Does one terminate the dorsal imprint at the heel, as would be expected, thereby leaving an image lacking feet? Or does one image-imprint off a template as if the linen had been pulled up around the heels and pulled tight against the soles to capture those surfaces as well (creating an option for adding blood imprints too on soles of feet issuing from crucifixion nail holes)? Go for that latter option, since human intervention with enveloping a  shroud around the feet is not inconsistent with the the 1st century rock tomb scenario and indeed serves to enhance it.

14. The chin and neck are also problematical. Cloth laid loosely over the frontal surface would tend to bridge from chin to chest, creating a detached floating head with no neck. But cloth that imaged the neck, as if it had followed all the contours would risk imaging the underside of the chin too, making the neck look too long. Some compromise is needed, to get some neck and not too much underside of chin. Maybe simulate a crease at the chin to suggest there had been pressure applied to the linen, manual, or maybe from having a ‘neck tie’ of some kind that would not itself be imaged.

15. Loin cloth? . . .  Finer sensibilities must take a back seat. . . .

16. Frontal nudity? Use crossed hands to cover the genital area. Take liberties with human anatomy if necessary (slightly overlong arms and fingers).

Is it fair to call this a conspiracy theory?  No!  That is why I didn’t use the word theory in the title. It sounds like a conspiracy theory but it is clear that Colin intends to support his conjecture, indeed subsume the conjecture under science.

Weakened image fibers

imageA reader writes:

I was reading Colin Berry’s recent posting which makes an important claim, namely that it is impossible for the image to have been formed without heat. He reasons that the mechanical weakness of image fibers is evidence of this.

The posting, for those who would like to refer to it, is Checklist of reasons for thinking the Turin Shroud image represents a dried-on sweat imprint. Real 1st century or simulated 14th century?  The following paragraph is certainly what the reader is referring to:

It’s entirely impossible for the image to have been formed with no application of heat. I have a permanently-stained shirt from the time I helped clear an overgrown garden. There are plant saps that leave yellow stains that are absolutely permanent – which will not wash out, even with hot water and detergent. But my money’s on a thermal component. Why? Because of a little-remarked upon property of TS image fibres, namely their mechanical weakness. Why should that be, given the core of each linen fibre is predominantly tough old cellulose? That’s a possible lead I’m chasing up right at this moment.

The reader continues:

When I Googled <weakened image fibers on the Shroud of Turin> I discovered a paper by Robert Villarreal called THE ALPHA- PARTICLE IRRADIATION HYPOTHESIS: SOLVING THE MYSTERY OF THE SHROUD. He speaks of weakened fibers caused by alpha-particle irradiation. That causes heat.

I think the reader is referring to the program for the St. Louis Conference (to the best of my knowledge, the actual paper has not been published yet). Therein we read Bob Villarreal saying:

In a personal communication with Ray, he related to me that the fibers from the body image areas of the shroud seemed to be removed more easily than those from non-image areas. It was as if whatever process created the body image had in some way slightly weakened the shroud fibers at that point they became more friable. Ray was a physical and thermal chemist and not an analytical or radio chemist. If he had been the latter, he might have recognized that he had stumbled on to what caused the images on the Shroud. . . .

Okay! But I don’t think Colin Berry and Bob Villarreal are going down the same path with this. 

God in his lab

It’s a reminder that God, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions,
can do whatever he likes

Never heard it expressed quite like that before. Mark Shea, over in his Catholic and Enjoying It blog is answering a reader.

A reader writes:

. . . Merely because there is no biblical reference to something does not make it a fake. The Bible is not intended to be the Big Book of Everything. John himself attests that there are plenty of things Jesus said and did that don’t make it into the biblical record (Jn 21:25). So lack of mention in Scripture does not necessarily make something a fake.

Likewise, the Shroud’s emergence into the documentary record in the 14th century doesn’t necessarily mean it was created at that time. Indeed, one of the problems of the Shroud is that nobody, even today, can make another one, which argues for its genuineness.

. . .  It’s a reminder that God, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, can do whatever he likes . . .

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