Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shroud News - August 2007

Here, belatedly, is my Shroud of Turin news for August 2007 (see

[Above: "Bust of Christ in the catacomb of Pontianus," Opus Dei Photography.]

also issue Jul-07). I have been so busy writing my paper, "A proposal to radiocarbon- date the pollen of the Shroud of Turin" (which is nearly finished as a first draft) that it was only when I realised that I had better post my September Shroud news this weekend that I realised I had not yet posted my August Shroud news! I will now try to soon post the September news (see issue Sep-07). My comments are bold and in square brackets. - Major Website Update Posted on July 31, 2007: Review of the Recent National Geographic Channel Documentary [According to Barrie Schwortz, "what started out as a reasonably fair and balanced debate about the Shroud of Turin, finished with a resounding thud"!] New Papers Added to Scientific Papers & Articles Page [This includes a paper, Szarvas, T., et al., "Model experiments and remarks on the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin," which concluded:

"Our model experiments ... on linen samples proved the probability of 14C contamination of the Shroud of Turin resulting in ... exchange reactions, which could influence ... the results of radiocarbon dating of the Shroud."

More evidence that, even if the Shroud originated in the 14th century, it should not have returned a 14th century date (as the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud did), but one even younger!]; ... British Society for the Turin Shroud (BSTS) June 2007 Newsletter [See below.]; ... Shroud Exhibit Opens In the Philippine Islands [As reported on in July's Shroud news.]; ... The Shroud Report - Online Streaming Video Interviews With Shroud Experts [Having watched all these online streaming videos at least once (some many times) I recommend them all.]; New Shroud Books and Book Reviews [Brendan Whiting responds to Ian Wilson's review of his book, "The Shroud Story." I own that book, and while I agree with Wilson's criticisms of Whiting's inclusion of material from Maria Valtorta's visions as though they were historical facts, I still think the book is otherwise a valuable resource, albeit overpriced at $52.00AUD.]; BBC Commissions New Shroud Film [Apparently David Rolfe, producer and director of "The Silent Witness" has been commissioned by the BBC to produce a new film on the Shroud, titled, "The Three Shrouds of Christ."

[Left: "The Silent Witness," David Rolfe's award-winning 1978 documentary on the Shroud.]

The press release implies that it will show "new evidence that challenges the validity of the Carbon 14 technique applied to the Shroud." The BBC has also commissioned Rolfe "to make a special 1 hour HD documentary for Easter 2008 - the 20th Anniversary of the carbon dating."] ...

British Society for the Turin Shroud (BSTS) Newsletter No. 65 - June 2007:

[Right: The cover of the June 2007 BSTS Newsletter.]

Editorial - by Mark Guscin; Book Reviews - Three reviews by Joanna Emery and Mark Guscin; Author John Loken's Response to BSTS Review of "The Shroud Was the Resurrection" [Loken's response contains a number of fallacies: 1) Christians, in my ~40 years experience, don't describe themselves or other Christians as "devout"; 2) Loken's claim in his book, "The Shroud Was the Resurrection," that the Jerusalem authorities stole Jesus' body and then disposed of it, is one of the weaker (to put it mildly) naturalistic theories to try to explain away the resurrection of Jesus. That is because (as Mark Guscin wrote in his review):

"Why would the authorities steal a dead body when to all effects and purposes Jesus had come to an end? And why would anybody believe in a physical resurrection from the dead just because they saw an image on the burial cloth?"

Also, if the Jerusalem authorities' aim was to prevent the disciples stealing Jesus' body to `fulfil' His predictions that he was going to be resurrected (Mt 26:61; 27:40; Mk 14:58; 15:29; Jn 2:19-20, then removing His body from the tomb was the worst thing they could do, because it would have the opposite effect! And then when Jesus' disciples started claiming that Jesus had been resurrected, the Jerusalem authorities could have admitted what they had done and produced the body or its remains, but they never did. Finally Loken's theory does not really explain Jesus' resurrection appearances to both His followers (Mt 28:8-10,16-20; Mk 16:9-19; Lk 24:13-51; Jn 20:10-29; 21:1-24) as well as to then non-follower James and arch-enemy Paul (1Cor 15:3-8)]; Interview with Mechthild Flury-Lemberg in Oviedo - by Mark Guscin; The Invisible Mending of the Shroud in Theory and Reality - by Mechthild Flury-Lemberg; [Strong, if not conclusive, evidence against the late Ray Rogers' re-weave theory.] The Second International Conference on the Sudarium of Oviedo by Mark Guscin. [This has the latest information on the Sudarium of Oviedo.]

On "The Physics of Christianity", The Conservative Voice, Timothy Scheiter, August 09, 2007 ... The Physics of Christianity. Doubleday. ... Frank J. Tipler, professor of mathematical physics, University of Tulane, New Orleans, LA ....

[Left: Tipler, F.J., The Physics of Christianity (2007),]

There are many other detailed fascinations of the book. Tipler's treatment of the latest Shroud of Turin evidence, for example, is impressive. I had personally written off the Shroud as a real stretch of credulity, but was impressed with many new facts and arguments surrounding its authenticity as portrayed by the author. ... [I have never read any of Tipler's books (apart from his co-authored with John Barrow, "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle"), the main reason being that, from what I have read, of his earlier book, "The Physics of Immortality," he seems to be attempting the impossible-to prove by advanced physics and mathematics that under his Naturalism (i.e. nature is all there is = there is no supernatural = there is no God) he can have all that Christianity offers, including God and immortality, e.g.:

"immortality and the resurrection of the dead [are] consistent with the known laws of physics, provided by a computer intelligence he ... identifies with God." (Frank J. Tipler, Wikipedia)

I agree with cosmologist "George Ellis's review" of that earlier book " in the journal Nature," [ElIis, G., "Piety in the sky," Nature, Vol. 371, pp.115-115] that it is:

"a masterpiece of pseudoscience ... the product of a fertile and creative imagination unhampered by the normal constraints of scientific and philosophical discipline." (Frank J. Tipler, Wikipedia)

However, I will check out this Tipler's latest book to see what he has about the Shroud.]

Posted 29 September 2007. Updated 5 May 2024

"But there is one example that is almost spectacularly different. ... one of Rome's least-known catacombs, the Catacomb of S. Ponziano, or St Pontianus. ... Importantly, since the whole catacomb was closed down after AD 820, any decoration inside it almost inevitably has to be of an earlier date. On one wall, slightly damaged, but its colours still fresh, is to be seen a very fine fresco ... of Christ Pantocrator iconographically so close to that of the coins of Justinian II that its date is almost certainly the same, the end of the seventh century. But its real feature of interest is the one which lies between Christ's eyebrows, and would be well nigh impossible to convey on anything as small as a coin. This is a sharply delineated topless square ... exactly corresponding in shape and positioning to that so unnatural mark between the eyebrows on the shroud. Now there can be no question of this feature perhaps being the result of some later tampering with the fresco. ... there are many indications that it was the work of the original seventh-century artist. Throughout the work, for instance, the artist used only a very limited range of colours, and it can be seen to have been painted in one of these. Furthermore, it has been created in fresco, thereby having been made integral to the original wall plaster, and can be adjudged as such by any expert. And if this originality is accepted, its significance in relation to the shroud's date is difficult to over-estimate. Just as the viewing of a single footprint on fresh sand provided for Robinson Crusoe the conclusive evidence that there was another human being ... on his island, so the presence of this topless square on an indisputably seventh/eighth-century fresco virtually demands that the shroud must have been around, somewhere, in some form at this early date. Since that form can have been scarcely other than the `holy face' of Edessa, the shroud's history is effectively established at least as far back as the sixth century, with the Abgar story offering a glimmer of how it may have arrived in Edessa back in the first. Of course, there is one alternative scenario that may occur to the more dogged sceptic. It is the inevitable chicken-and-egg one. Perhaps the hypothetical forger, in addition to his brilliance in creating the photographic quality of the shroud image, and his rendering of its bloodflows with such exactness, also knew of the strange markings on Christ portraits in art, and added these for yet more convincing effect? While such a possibility has to be acknowledged, it is equally important to stress its unconvincingness. As in so much else in his methodology, the hypothetical forger would have been alone among fourteenth-century artists, eastern and western, in taking an interest in these markings. Even in the Byzantine world the incidence of them fell away markedly following the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. Furthermore he would have had more than a little difficulty even finding out about the marking on the Ponziano catacomb fresco, for there seems no evidence that anyone knew of this catacomb's existence from its closure in 820 to the time the Italian archaeologist G. B. de Rossi began systematic excavation of all catacombs in 1852. Effectively, while there is a great deal to suggest that in the seventh/eighth century the Ponziano fresco artist might have taken his inspiration from a `holy face' cloth such as the shroud, there is absolutely nothing to suggest that in the fourteenth century the hypothetical shroud forger would or could have known anything of the Ponziano catacomb. Overall then, we have satisfied all the main requirements for confidence that something answering all the essential characteristics of the shroud was in existence as the `holy face' of Edessa between the sixth century and 1204. We have seen that the idea of Jesus imprinting the likeness of his face on cloth, and the physical existence of a cloth corresponding to this idea, goes back at least as far as the sixth century. We have found that the idea of Jesus imprinting wounds from his dead body (notably the wound in the side) onto this cloth, dates back at least as far as the tenth century. We have established that the idea of Jesus imprinting the full imprint of his body on cloth dates at least as far back as the twelfth century. Not least, we have identified markings that virtually fingerprint the shroud to having been in existence at least as early as the eighth century. Against all this we have been able to add virtually nothing to the credibility of the hypothetical fourteenth-century forger. So was there in the fourteenth century a brilliant unknown individual who transmuted the undeniably pre-existent idea of Jesus imprinting his image on cloth into the extraordinary reality that is the Turin shroud, embodying in it features it was virtually impossible for him to know of? Or could the accuracy of the shroud carbon dating somehow be not quite all that has been claimed of it?" (Wilson, I., "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, 1991, pp.167-169. My emphasis).