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reader comments: shroud of Turin

13 Feb 2014
As a person of faith, I do not follow superstition; nor believe that science-fiction stories are real. Will the discussion of the Shroud of Turin will never end?

The so-named Shroud of Turin, is not from the burial of Joshua ben Joseph. It more than likely relates to the destruction of the Templars. The last leader of the Templars was tortured in a manner similar to Jesus' crucifixtion. He was Geoffrey De Molay. King Philip of France (known as 'The Fair'; though 'Greedy' is more correct) was short of money for a war he was waging. He wanted to raid the coffers of the Templars for money. When he and his raiding party arrived, all the money was gone. He wanted and needed to vent his anger at having been made, to himself, to look stupid. He did as all bullies do when they want the answer they wish to hear, he inflicted pain and punishment. The flogging of the man, whose image appears on the shroud, is from a person standing in front of the victim. The blood flowing down the left arm flows like the blood of a crusified man. The blood on the right goes straight down his arm. During his torture, it is known that De Molay was nailed to a door frame. The image of the man on the shroud has the man's right arm nailed straight above him. His left arm was nailed lower, on the opposite side of the door frame. His heels nailed to the right side of the door pintel. His torturer stood in front of him, and whipped from there. The flesh is ripped on the left side of the body only, a technique devised and used by the French in the early 1100s for use in a small physical place. The Romans, on the other hand, bound their victims with their pectoral muscles to a post and caused damage all over the back. There are no wounds or chaffing on the image's victim chest from being bound to a wooden or stone post. The torture, attempted murder, and eventual burning at the stake happened in Paris.

The cloth was more than likely taken and hidden as a family treasure, being from a death it was stored in a family chapel. Later, the history forgotten, it was moved to Turin someway or another. The cloth, which has a herringbone weave, was not in production during the Roman times; but it was by the 1200s. The Carbon datings are correct; De Molay was murdered around 1309 to 1313. Why is the figure on the back larger than the front? Why do his hands cover his 'private parts'? Lying on our backs, we cannot provide some modesty to ourselves, we need to arch or curve our backs. This man was laid on his back after his scourging and propped up so he would survive. His hands would cover his private parts, as is instinct. When wrapped, he was probably slapped in the head; this would make for more detail. Hypothesis on my behalf, but is a better explanation than thinking it is Jesus.

The Romans destroyed all valuables of the Hebrews around 80 AD; which would have included the synagogs of those who became Christians. As to the cross, it is wood and was a valuable resource to the Romans; the true cross and the nails, would have been reused the next day for the continuing round of crucifictions. The crown of thorns was probably easily discarded, or used to start a fire later that day by someone else. The significance of these items were unknown at the time. I remain a believer, but not of superstition.

reply: Here's a link to somebody else who thinks the shroud had something to do with the Templars: The Shroud of Turin: medieval scorch? Separating the science from the pseudo-science…

p.s. I don't know what you mean by faith or being a believer, but around here the two are usually intimately connected to various superstitions, e.g., that spirits respond to prayers, that natural events are 'miracles' (involves intervention by spirits), etc.


6 April 2010
First, I must say that I truly enjoy your website! It's heartening to know that there are some healthy skeptics out there today, as there are entirely too many sheep among us. On one of the many popular cable channels which purvey supposed educational material, I recently viewed some "new" information on the Shroud of Turin. By way of introduction, I have been in the legal profession for many years and spent three years at an art college of some repute (mostly good), and I was raised in the strictest of Roman Catholic homes. I am not an idiot, but am convinced that the majority of "experts" who have investigated the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin surely must be.

It seems to me that it doesn't take a genius to see that it is an obvious fraud/hoax. I have not personally handled it, nor have I done any carbon dating of its samples. Neither have I Scotch-taped it for pollen, nor seen flowers in its stains. I have only seen photos of photos and images broadcast on television. But I can say with absolute certainty that it is not the shroud of Jesus (if indeed he did exist), but a bad artistic rendering of how his shroud might have looked.

It's plain to see if you are looking at it objectively and not through the veil of religion. I am so dumbfounded at the gullibility of some people, especially these "experts". My points for dispute follow:

* Dead bodies don't bleed. After death there is no heartbeat. No heartbeat, no pulse. No pulse, no bleeding. There should be no blood visible on the shroud.

* Jewish folks are pretty particular about the way in which they inter their dead. The body would be washed and perhaps have oils or perfumes applied. Again, there would be no blood visible on the shroud. (If there was bleeding, it means he didn't really die, right? So he couldn't have "risen from the dead", but was just in some sort of drug or pain induced unconscious state, but we won't go there now.)

* IF, by chance, there was some blood, it would not be in perfect rivulets anywhere, especially not on the hair. Hair doesn't bleed. Any blood would be absorbed by the cloth, making a blotch, not the image of a perfect rivulet with a perfect drop of blood at the end.

* In the shroud image, the hair is seen in perfect "columns" on either side of the face. Hair of this length would fall away from the face, not stand at attention while the body is prone (unless they did his hair with some early form of spike gel).

* If the shroud was wrapped around the body, there would be some sort of image left by the sides of the body; there wouldn't be just perfect front and back images. And there is no image whatsoever of the top of the head or the soles of the feet. (And was Jesus really a giant among men, at six feet tall?)

* As for the face: The only way to get such a perfect image (barring photography) would be to press the cloth onto the face, making sure to get it into all the crevices around the nose, mouth and eyes. BUT if this had been done, we would see a distorted face on the shroud, because when the cloth is removed and flattened, the nose, and indeed the entire face, would appear much wider (like a pie face). If the cloth had been laid over the face without applying any pressure, there would be no detail of eyes, side of the nose, etc.

* In all the artists' renderings of the supposed body (all that I have seen), the right leg is always bent at the knee. Why? Why would you lay out a dead person with one leg bent? Is there any good reason for this? Of course not.

* Any actual blood found on the shroud could be easily explained. It would be that of the artist or his pet hog.

* The three-dimensional effects produced can be easily found using most photographs.

Carbon dating, pollen testing, blood typing, negative imaging, blah, blah, blah . . . . . who cares?!! Can't they see what is staring them in their faces? Any layman with two eyes can see the truth. It seems all these professionals are trying to justify their education. It is an artist's rendering, a hoax. Why do they keep on with this instead of just looking at it, really looking at it??? If religion and the Catholic Church were not involved, any sane person would scream "FRAUD!" (and many have).

The carbon dating places the shroud at around 1370 AD (not sure of the exact date). So it is most likely a medieval production. Although that date is a little too early for it to have been created by Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps the dating is off, and Leo could now be rolling in his shroud with laughter at the extent to which modern man, with all his modern contrivances, has gone in order to prove a hoax real. One great, final joke (you go, Leo!)

Without the benefit of training in chemistry, botany, archaeology, pathology, or any exotic science, I, just your everyday artist and thinker, can say for certain that this shroud of Turin is not what believers think it is. If you can spot a Picasso fake, surely you can see this if you have a mind to. It's so basic, you'd have to be blind not to see the obvious.

Thanks for the soapbox.

reply: What? You don't buy the nuclear implosion theory? What a skeptic!


28 March 2009

I came in contact with the shroud over 30 years ago - at that time I had been assistant professor at the University of Munich (Operations Research) and a strong traditional Christian believer. At that time, the shroud was for me a kind of proof that my faith was right, because the image on the shroud must have to do something with energy, coming out of the body and where should this energy come from out of a corpse? So I thought at that time that there must have been something like an energy-burst during an event called resurrection that burned the image somehow into the linen. I had no doubt that the shroud was genuine, that a real crucified person must have lain under the shroud and that all evidence points to the historical Jesus.

Today I am a member of the shroud science group, an email group of about 100 people studying the shroud and I know many of the shroud researchers, like Whanger, Schwortz, the late Raymond Rogers, Meacham, Fanti, and so forth. Therefore, I know many details about the shroud, the facts, the observations, the beliefs, the controversies, the doubts, the hypotheses and counterhypotheses and so forth.

The shroud is like a screen on which people project their beliefs and always find a lot of proofs that just their belief is true.

But what is real about the shroud? Unfortunately, most shroud-researchers are “true believers”, who see the shroud as a kind of evangelistic means, like I did in the 70s. Therefore, much in shroud science is a kind of religious propaganda but not good science, which must be always open concerning the results.

One grand exception was Raymond Rogers. I like to remember our good discussions and I am just reading his book (published 3 years after his death): A Chemist's Perspective On The Shroud of Turin. His religion was science, he researched directly on the shroud as a chemist (I am not sure whether men like Joe Nickell or Steven Schafersman, who claim to know the truth about the shroud so well, have ever seen the shroud in real life).

So, if you want to come a little closer to the facts concerning the shroud, I recommend this book.

Why is the shroud so debated? I think the main reason is that there seems to be no natural explanation for the forming of the image except that it is artificial, man-made. Knowing almost all characteristics of the shroud, I am absolutely convinced that it can not be an artifact. No one (not even today) can imitate all the characteristics. Joe Nickell’s image is as if somebody makes an orchid out of plastic, which looks like an orchid and says: I can make an orchid artificially. In order to be really able to say this, he has to examine also the chemical (and other) characteristics of an orchid and will perhaps be amazed. It is the same with the shroud. But people like Joe Nickell are not interested in such facts. It is the same with many shroud scientists (especially if they are Christian believers): They are not interested to learn about facts (or better, observations), which are against their beliefs.

The shroud is a very interesting object: not only scientifically (it is the most examined historical object in the world), but also psychologically.

I think the shroud is therefore so much debated, because it reflects an almost unbelievable historical event: the survival of a crucifixion. This might appear somehow unreal to you, especially if you hear this view for the first time. But this opinion is very well known in shroud-interested groups in Europe. Almost all books that have been published in Germany during the last decade presuppose this assumption as the result of forensic examination. Yes: Forensic scientists say that the man under the shroud must have still been alive. If you are interested to study the evidence: www.shroud.info/a_living_among_the_dead.pdf .

Can I ask you to put this view of shroud-research and the link www.shroud.info also on your website?

Best regards from Germany

Helmut Felzmann

reply: I will say only this: the opinion of "forensic scientists" about the shroud being evidence of survival of a crucifixion carries little weight with me. Forensic scientists are wont to make extravagant claims with little science to back up those claims.

I have recently posted the following two items in my article on criminal profiling:

Report Finds Forensic Evidence Lacking (The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has issued a report that says much of so-called "forensic science" doesn't meet scientific standards. Of all the forensics used, only DNA analysis "has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.")

'DNA bungle' haunts German police (For fifteen years, German police have been hunting for a serial killer whose DNA has been found at numerous crime scenes, including six murder scenes. It turns out that the DNA came from contaminated cotton swabs from an unnamed worker in the Bavarian factory that supplied the swabs.)

I would trust an eminent chemist before I would trust a forensic scientist. As I write in the shroud of Turin entry:

Walter McCrone analyzed the shroud and found traces of chemicals that were used in "two common artist's pigments of the 14th century, red ochre and vermilion, with a collagen (gelatin) tempera binder" (McCrone 1998). He makes his complete case that the shroud is a medieval  painting in Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin (March 1999).  For his work, McCrone was awarded the American Chemical Society's Award in Analytical Chemistry in 2000.

I don't doubt that another chemist, even one not trying to support his religious beliefs, could come up with a variety of objections (contamination from handlers of the shroud is always a convenient one) to dismiss the "shroud-as-a-painting" hypothesis. It is doubtful the "shroud" is even a shroud, much less the shroud of a crucifixion victim who survived his ordeal.

Several scientific labs independently of each other have dated the "shroud" at about 1350 CE. Rogers's date of between 1,000 BCE and 1700 CE hangs, literally, by two threads and is not credible. In any case, his view is consistent with the view that the shroud dates from the 14th century.

Relics and other tangible items that connect us to the supernatural or the paranormal are fascinating entries into the human psyche, but I don't think they provide any information about other worlds.


21 May 2002

The reason why a fire can't change the apparent date of the Turin Shroud is that to do so, the fire should change the amount of C-14 atoms compared to C-12; to make the date 2/3 younger (e.g. 700 years old instead of 2000 years old) one should add so much modern C-14, that 2/3 of the carbon weight should be modern. If a fire would have added soot, then 2/3 of the weight by carbon, about 6/7 by total weight, should have been soot. So it's not so much the fact that the pieces were cleaned and burnt, but the fact that they weren't a large mass of black soot hiding the original cloth as a minor component.

The same goes for pollution with molds and bacteria. Only when photosynthesizing organism (e.g. algae or moss) had added about twice the original mass in dry weight they could have caused the decrease in age from 2000 to 700 years.

Alternatively, the fire or algae could have taken out C-12 preferentially, but then this preference would have to be so strong that (in the best case) 2/3 of the C-12 was taken out, and none of the C-14. However, none of the known processes that cause isotope separation can be so effective, so that possibility is also about as probable as a flying elephant. Moreover, you can't remove at least 2/3 of the carbon atoms from cellulose fibers without utterly disintegrating them.

JW Nienhuys

29 Apr 2002

I followed the link from your site to the ABC story about Turin Shroud, which includes the following:

 “In 1977, American scientists Eric Jumper and John Jackson processed electronically a negative photographic image of the shroud and discovered that it produces a three-dimensional image, a feature that is not possessed by normal paintings or photographs.”

I remember reading about this years ago in a spectacularly credulous Reader’s Digest article. It vaguely intrigued me then as it seemed to suggest that even photos of the shroud have some kind of magical property. If I remember correctly, the peculiar feature was not that a three-dimensional image was produced by the processing – they expected that – but that unlike “normal paintings or photographs” it was undistorted and actually resembled a human face.

However, there isn’t anything really remarkable about this. The type of image processing Jumper and Jackson did basically produced a 3D image which “raised” the light parts and “sunk” the dark parts of a black and white image – similar to the “embossing” option on many Photoshop-type software programs.

The image on the shroud is symmetrical, with uniform lighting of the features, hence a symmetrical, undistorted image after processing. Most photos and especially paintings show a person’s face from an angle with light shadowing one side of the face, which would produce a warped image. So if you photographed someone from directly in front, with a soft light source from the same point, you could produce your own “magic shroud” 3D image.

It’s a shame ABC simply parroted this actually-not-very-interesting-at- all factoid from the 70s without following it up – but I guess “Turin Shroud shares same property as other symmetrical images” doesn’t make much of a story. Keep up the good work on the site.

Regards, Michael Geissler

14 Apr 1997
Query,...why is it that people who choose to believe are labeled sadly misguided?

reply: I don't know about the "sadly," but we non-believers think anyone who believes in the occult, supernatural, paranormal or pseudoscientific are misguided because if they were properly guided they would agree with us!!

One must consider the aspects of faith.

reply: we have considered faith, and we have rejected it as a reasonable choice.

In fact, faith seems to be the predominant aspect in your views,...faith that what you perceive is true. You choose to perceive the shroud as a fake or a hoax when in fact to be quite honest the evidence to support either side is quite strong. You have made a choice based simply on faith contrary to
all the argumentative data and you find evidence to support it just as the believers do.

reply: you seem to know me better than I know myself! If I thought the evidence was as strong for the shroud being genuine as it is for its being a fake, I would not take the position that it is a fake. If I did, you would be right; but I don't, so you aren't. As I see it, there is overwhelming evidence that the shroud is a fake, and very little evidence to support the notion that it is the death shroud of Jesus.

For example, evolution cannot be proven as fact and is a theory but mainstream science chooses that alternative out of faith just as a Christian believes in the Creation.

reply: ??? How did we get into the topic of evolution? Are you insinuating that if a person believes the shroud is genuine, they are thereby committed to reject evolution in favor of creationism? For your information, many Christians believe in both the shroud and evolution.

Your real war is not to prove or disprove the shroud but to validate your own faith or you wouldn't even waste your time on such subjects.

reply: You should switch from critical theology to psychology. You seem to have a deep grasp of ulterior motives.

Even if you consider your aspirations as noble and are to save the poor pitiful believers such as myself who are sadly misguided, spare me, would
you, and be honest with yourself.

reply: Believers such as yourself are probably beyond redemption. My hope is that some of the younger generation will be stimulated to think about some of the things they have been asked to take on faith by their elders and that they will reject the crooked aspirations of their parents and take to the straight and narrow byway of skeptical righteousness.

It is true [that] whether the shroud is real or not doesn't validate Jesus as God,...but I choose to believe He is. And that is what it is really all about.
David Downs

reply: I respect that choice; please respect mine.

14 Apr 1997
It does not matter if the Shroud of Turin turns out to be a real burial cloth. I definitely agree with you on this. Even if the image is produced from a dead man, who is to say that man was Jesus? There were many crucifixions, and I suppose, many people wrapped in shrouds afterwards. Who's to say that it isn't all a hoax? A sick individual may have performed his own crucifixion of an individual similarly to the accounts of the Bible. Don't be surprised at what people will do for a little bit of money. After all, these are how many so-called miracle artifacts came about.

Like you said, it isn't the death of Jesus, but the Resurrection. I believe that abstract and creative thinking separates man from animals. This is how faith comes about. It's unexplainable how an individual can put their beliefs in something so out of touch with 'reality.' If an individual puts his trust in God, or any gods for that matter, then the individual must realize that science will not prove the existence of such deities because science is explainable and faith is not. So instead of individuals basing their faith on scientific evidence and/or debating with others about it, I suggest to them to keep their faith and look for no other explanations. If not, they may find their faith not enough and may find confusion intermingled with disappointment...like myself.

Great dictionary! I recently read the Feder book you mention in the section on the Cardiff Giant. In his chapter on the Shroud of Turin, he mentions that a 13th Century Pope (I'm sorry, I'm at work right now and the text is at home, so I'm paraphrasing here) issued an edict stating that the Shroud was a fake and could *not* be displayed as the actual shroud of Christ. Yes, written proof (sort of) that the Shroud's a phony.

Skeptically Yours,
--Cory Herndon

In regards to your information on the web about the Shroud of Turin - What about the claim that because of the supposed ability of the shroud to impress its image on other cloth that is next to it, during the middle ages, several "copies" (I believe six) were supposedly made of the shroud by placing clean pieces of cloth next to it. The original was hidden away or lost afterwards. What we know to be the shroud would actually be a copy of the original and, therefore, should date to be much younger than the actual shroud. I try to be very skeptical but have never seen any refutation of this claim. In fact, for some reason, whenever I see a show or read some material on the Shroud, this information is never discussed, even though all other material, no matter how insignificant, is discussed in full.
--RG Downey

reply: The reason this material is not discussed is probably because someone just made it up. No Church authority has ever claimed that the Shroud could magically transfer its imprint to cloth next to it. You can bet that if the Shroud had this magic power, the "miracle" would have been documented long ago and there would have been no need to do any carbon dating. In fact, I've never heard this claim until you brought it up. Where did you get it? It sounds like an ad hoc hypothesis to me. It's very clever, actually.

I read with interest the discourse on the Shroud of Turin. A friend asked me what I thought about its authenticity. I shared with him that, based on my reading of Scripture, it could NOT be genuine. I read from St. John Chapter 20, verses 6 & 7. Jesus had risen, the disciples came into the tomb and found the CLOTHS (plural) lying folded, and the NAPKIN THAT HAD BEEN WRAPPED AROUND HIS HEAD lying separate from the CLOTHS (plural). I checked the original Greek and found the translation to be accurate. If the Bible is to be believed, Jesus was wrapped in at least THREE cloths, one of which was wrapped about his head. The Shroud of Turin is supposed to be ONE cloth which wrapped the body from feet to head and back to feet. There is no evidence on the Shroud that would indicate that his head was bound with a napkin or that there were any other cloths used in the burial process. I would be interested in others thoughts on this subject.
--Joe Mallinson

24 Jun 96

Your item on the Shroud of Turin is rather sparse in information and the tone of the article is biased against the shroud. Let me offer the following items: 

  • the shroud image is limited to the first two or three fibrils of the surface, just a few microns and is composed of desiccated linen fibrils ... no pigments are present except for microscopic quantities of pigment presumably transferred to the shroud when it was brought into contact with paintings (this image transfer referred to in your listing is a misunderstanding of that process)
  • the image is not only anatomically correct, but its distortions are those which would be present if the image were directly transferred in some way to a cloth wrapped around a body.
  • the blood is real human blood and saturates the cloth (or did when the image was fresh) (this is determined by transmission tests)
  • there is no known way to duplicate the image on the shroud even with modern technology, making claims that it is a "fake" sort of silly -- a fake what anyway.
  • the shroud image on the evidence can only have come from a cloth wrapped body of a man showing all the signs of a brutal crucifixion.
  • several aspects of the carbon dating are highly questionable -- certainly the fact that no comparable samples of known provenance were used so the dating is highly suspect since there are no "benchmarks"-- tree samples don't count. There has been quite a lot of information coming out on the problems with the dating (1) linen selectively takes up Carbon 14 in its fibrils rather than its husk so this produces an artificially enriched sample vis a vis the whole plant, (2) the shroud was exposed to a severe fire in 1532 to reached temperatures high enough to melt the silver reliquary in which it was stored -- it was barely saved. Studies of this have shown that the resulting high temperature steam would have further enriched the carbon 14 contents, finally (3) recent work by the Health Science Center show that the linen does not remain passive but has taken up bacteria and fungi through the centuries -- this is also a source of carbon 14 enrichment. In view of the contamination it is hard to know what the dating of the shroud should be -- but certainly the subject is still open.

I just thought I'd drop you this jot -- as I've been a close student of the shroud for many years -- at least since 1960.

Regards, Ray Schneider

reply: Well, Ray, I don't know what to say. Seems like you've got this shroud covered!

04 Aug 1996
I just skimmed your Shroud of Turin information quickly, and thought you'd like to know that Ray Schneider's information on the Shroud is utterly incorrect. For example, he claims that the Shroud contains real blood, but, in fact, the bloodstains are actually red paint (not that it would prove anything if they were blood, of course- it would still be much more reasonable to assume it to be a fake.)

The real howlers come in his rather bizarre arguments about C14 enrichment by hot steam. The simple fact of the matter is that C14 isn't enriched by steam, linen doesn't magically absorb C14 better than C12, etc. etc. Since C14 and C12 are chemically virtually identical, there is no natural physical process which can significantly separate the two. Interestingly, creation "scientists" also make up strange arguments about isotopic enrichment to explain away the results of radioisotope dating of rocks.

Anyway, you probably know all this already; I just wanted to drop you a line just in case you hadn't, since I thought you'd be interested.

Ben Sandler

07 Jul 1996
Dear Bob,

I enjoy your column, which is what it amounts to thanks to your thoughtful inclusion of a Recent Additions page. I wish the people over at the Urban Legends page would follow your lead.

I would like to know how many scientists who have studied and supported the authenticity of the shroud were not Christians before they investigated it. I would guess that the number is small. Allowing a Christian to do the job is something like asking a Scientologist to examine Hubbard's claims or a Mormon to examine Smith's.

Anyway, enough of my blather; here's an article from today's Sunday Times (London).

Malcolm Davidson
Gdansk, Poland

28 Aug 1996
Your dictionary entry on the Shroud of Turin is biased towards inauthenticity for it does not describe numerous findings that point toward authenticity.

For example, it mentions the C14 dating but does not discuss many observations that support some other dates. It looks like one C14 dating is an absolute certainty. A critical mind should ask for more than this.

reply: There have been several datings of the shroud, not one, and all point toward a medieval origin. Absolute certainty? Now there is an expression which can muddy the waters, which I am sure you would not want to do..

Just to mention one fact: a reproduction of the Shroud has been found in the Hungarian codex Pray, dated 1192. But the C14 dating declare a 1260-1390 range. The Shroud is obviously before 1192, even before that if we study the iconography evidences. What does happen to the probability of the C14 dating if we change the range with 1192 as its mean? No one knows for the 3 laboratories never disclosed the raw data of the C14 dating!

Many irregularities occurred during the C14 dating. Just to mention one bad fact: the raw data of the dating were never disclosed and so far after many requests they were kept secret. Only the statistical results are known. But what is the problem about making them available? Of course the problem is that it is not possible to evaluate other range of dates by other scientists. After taking so much precaution to choose a method of dating that use a small amount of the Shroud it would be the least to publish all data.

reply: What "raw data" are you talking about? Do you think there was an academic conspiracy to hide the truth from scholars such as yourself?

Your observation that "the authenticity of the Shroud is of no interest to the skeptic" is strange. Is "authenticity of the Shroud" of any interest? If not, why discuss it? It sounds like "whatever the result" it does not change the skeptic point of view. Then the skeptic point of view would not be changed by whatever the truth is, which is a vacuum point of view.

reply: I would think a careful scholar such as yourself would have figured out that what I meant was that even if the Shroud is the one Jesus was wrapped in that would not be of evidentiary value towards supporting the claim that Jesus is God.

Taking Joe Nickell's book as a reference to support inauthenticity is a very weak handle. Joe Nickell displays a lack of understanding on many relevant fields too numerous to list. I'll mention only his handling of the 3D information of the Shroud. He argues based on some picture taken by some computer program that 3D information does not exist, not knowing how it was done. It is utterly nonsense simply because the naked eye can perceive the 3D information looking at the Shroud. No need of a computer here! 3D information can be carried in many ways and Nickell is simply using the wrong instrument. It is true that some studies were done using a computer but it was to study its 3D information objectively without an observer.

reply: Joe Nickel's work stands on its own and is not in need of any defense from me. The main instrument he seems to use is his brain, which seems to me to be the right instrument.

Another important fact: the Greek text of John 20:6-7 is often badly translated to suggest that the soudarion was apart from the othonia. It is not what the Greek text says, and this has been recognised by many koine greek scholars. It says that the soudarion (a piece of cloth to hold the jaw closed) was distinctly enrolled in its only and unique place. In other words no piece of cloth moved and everything looks like the body disappeared without any human external intervention. Moreover, the word soudarion is a diminutive and should not be taken as the cloth covering the whole body it is rather one of the othonia that should covered the whole body. The greek text has to be read to realise the beauty of the concise method used by the evangelist to describe this crucial and turning point of his finding.

reply: The diminutive soudarion was apart from the othonia, eh. Well, that wraps it up for me. This is definitely the work of divine inspiration and meddling.

The Shroud of Turin has to be studied with great care to realise its true source.
Mario Latendresse
University of Montreal
Parallelism Laboratory

reply: No doubt about it. But wait, Mr Latendresse of the Parallelism Laboratory is not finished with me yet.

5 Sep 1996
In reading your entry on the Shroud of Turin I was surprised to see the following sentence. (at least coming from a philosopher)

"Of course, the evidence is limited almost exclusively to pointing out facts that would be true if the shroud were authentic."

And the most troublesome for someone who believes in the scientific method

"Not only is consistency with the authenticity claim merely a necessary and not a sufficient condition for the claim to authenticity being true. ..."

But all natural science theories have necessary conditions and never sufficient ones! Can you name one theory of physics that have sufficient conditions? They all match the known data, but that does not prove that it describes reality. The Newtonian theory matches some data but that never proved its validity. And that is the same for all physical theories.

reply: I fail to see the significance of the conditions for establishing the reasonableness of a scientific theory and the conditions for establishing a factual claim. However, I will say that there seem to be many people who think that it is sufficient support for both facts and theories to find evidence consistent with them. These people are misguided, I believe. Scientific theories are explanations and while consistency with the facts is a necessary condition for a scientific theory to be considered worthy of acceptance, it is not a sufficient condition. Establishing that something is a fact, such as that it is a fact that the shroud dates from the time of Jesus, has very little in common with establishing a physical theory.

Moreover, the theory of a medieval forgery has been shown to be highly improbable. You have to address this question in your column: if it is a medieval forgery how was it done and what type of person could have done it. You'll soon discover that such a forger is beyond technical capability of the time.
Mario Latendresse

reply: I take it you think you are the one who has shown that it is highly improbable that the shroud is a medieval forgery, because that view is one that not even the Church holds. I think it has been adequately demonstrated that it is highly probable that the Shroud of Turin is of medieval origin, is painted with paint and not the blood of Christ or anyone else, that defenders have made false claims about pollens and other things to make it seem consistent with an origin in ancient Palestine, etc. Finally, the "forgery" is no more beyond the technical capability of the time than was the moving and carving of megaliths by ancient humans.

29 Sep 1996
As a "rebuttal" to your article on the Shroud of Turin, Mario Latendresse of the U. of Montreal writes:

"Just to mention one fact: a reproduction of the Shroud has been found in the Hungarian codex Pray, dated 1192. But the C14 dating declare a 1260-1390 range. The Shroud is obviously before 1192, even before that if we study the iconography evidences. What does happen to the probability of the C14 dating if we change the range with 1192 as its mean? No one knows for the 3 laboratories never disclosed the raw data of the C14 dating!"

If, in 12xx AD I were to create a "fake" of the burial shroud of Jesus, what would prevent me from using the Hungarian codex Pray as my reference, especially if I thought that the codex was regarded as authoritative of what the shroud was supposed to look like? I wish you had asked that question in your response to Mr. Latendresse's remark.

reply: I wish I had, too!

By the way, I admire your work in putting together the Skeptic's Dictionary. I'm about halfway through reading all of the articles. It amazes me how so many true believer's comments are to the effect that you "fail to disprove" so-and-so, when you make it abundantly clear that that is not your intent. There seems to be some fundamental inability on the part of many to see the difference between an "attempt to prove a negative" and a "skeptical view of 'proof' of a positive". I imagine that can be very frustrating.

Karl Jennings

reply: you imagine right, Karl. But there is a bright side, too, such as the missives from Mr. Latendresse, who has something to say to you, too.

7 May 1997
I was surprised to see my email message posted on your site. I believe the following answers should be posted as well !

Karl Jennings comments my remark about the codex Pray:

"If, in 12xx AD I were to create a "fake" of the burial shroud of  Jesus, what would prevent me from using the Hungarian codex Pray as my  reference, especially if I thought that the codex was regarded as  authoritative of what the shroud was supposed to look like? I wish you  had asked that question in your response to Mr. Latendresse's remark."

Of course this has to be addressed, and it has been addressed by the persons who first brought the subject about the codex Pray and the depiction of the Shroud in it. I thought that a skeptical mind would look at those arguments and address them head on. But nothing such appears in that comment.

And I am a skeptic ! I verify everything.

Now the codex Pray and why the evidence shows that the depiction of the Shroud in it is a copy of the Shroud of Turin and not the opposite.

But first a little explanation as this is necessary for any skeptical mind, including myself.

On the codex Pray not all details of the Shroud are depicted. It is clearly a depiction of the Shroud but a good simplification of what can be seen on it. One detail that the artist reproduced: tiny holes of the Shroud. They are indeed the small holes that can be found on the Shroud. That can be perceived simply by looking at both of them. We don't know how and when they were done.

Now you could still think that the forger of the Shroud reproduced the holes on the Shroud according to the codex Pray. But this does not explain why the artist of the depiction found in the codex would have done these random holes. There is simply no artistic value to them. They are just there without reason.

In this context it is much more likely that the copy was performed in the direction Shroud -> codex Pray. That would bring the Shroud before 1195.

I think this is common sense.

( I would add that among the publishers of dictionaries this is a common way to detect unlawful duplication: they purposely introduce mistakes here and there (like a misspelled word in a entry of a word) in their work. They could prove that duplication occurred base on these. Common sense again. )

You'll say that the codex Pray does not prove that the Shroud is still authentic. Granted, that is obvious ! But it makes one more fact against the range 1260-1390 of the C14 dating. You'll think one hundred years won't change the argument that much, but it probably brings the statistical base of the range out of wack !

To accept a date as early as 1260 for the Shroud we have to resort, once again, to the strange explanation that the artist simply put random holes on his depiction without purpose.

Another comment by Mr. Jennings:

"It amazes me how so many true believer's comments are to the effect  that you "fail to disprove" so-and-so, when you make it abundantly  clear that that is not your intent. There seems to be some  fundamental inability on the part of many to see the difference  between an "attempt to prove a negative" and a "skeptical view of  'proof' of a positive". I imagine that can be very frustrating."

On the contrary a positive is stated about the Shroud. The dictionary states that it is very likely a fake or if you like a forgery of medieval epoch. This is a positive statement. It is now the duty of the person that states a positive fact to sustain it with some evidences. And can many known facts be forgotten and still be taken seriously ? I think not, because otherwise Mr. X could sustain that my home town does not exist, which I would regard as not serious. Yes Mr. X could sustain that more than one hundred different maps found around the world do not show the town of Joliette of the province of Quebec(Canada). He would then have a case? But to many I think it is not serious, because I simply offer to show to Mr. X some other evidences to the contrary. These have to be looked at and discuss to realize that even one hundred maps still does not sustain well (not to say seriously) his argument.

This is a skeptical endeavor. Known facts has to be explained.

I address the comments made by the owner of the skeptical dictionary:

"I take it you think you are the one who has shown that it is highly improbable that the shroud is a medieval forgery, because that view is one that not even the Church holds."

I think this shows that you have been misinformed. It is customary to hear this comment that the Roman Catholic Church either declared the Shroud a fake or that it declared it unlikely to be authentic. Neither statement is true. And that is a fact that can be verified from the RCC itself.

Where did you get this information from ? Some argue that the RCC declare it a fake since the official authorities presented the 1988 C14 dating of medieval epoch. But they simply presented the final result and never declare it a fake. As a matter of fact, Pope John-Paul II made the clear statement that for the Church the OFFICIAL (his own words) scientific data were the 1978 scientific inquiry.

Whatever I think or any body think about such statement, the fact is that the RCC did not declare it a fake nor declare it to be authentic. It has never been officially done.

And to rebuke more this point, I'd like to point out that since the 16th century, may 4th is the official RCC day, celebrating the Shroud of Turin. So it is not declared authentic, but every member of the RCC has to make their own mind about it, and it is clear that the Pope John-Paul II believes it to be authentic. And John-Paul IIe is not alone among the Popes to have believed in its authenticity.

"I think it has been adequately demonstrated that it is highly probable that the Shroud of Turin is of medieval origin, is painted with paint and not the blood of Christ or anyone else."

It is quite obvious that you have not looked at the subject of the Shroud being a painting. Even Joe Nickell, who you believe to have shown the Shroud to be a fake, does not believe this possible. That is why they have now these strange methods to try to reproduce it. Painting simply does not work. Look with your own eyes ! Hundreds of artists copied it, and it never has the quality that the original has. Even, present artists cannot copy it and keep the anatomical details correct.

Blood has been shown to be on the Shroud. Do I have to bring up all studies that were done ?

"....that defenders have made false claims about pollens and other things to make it seem consistent with an origin in ancient Palestine, etc. "

No false claims were done about the pollens. To my opinion the pollens is simply too weak an argument. That's all. But false claims ? WHICH ONES ?

"Finally, the "forgery" is no more beyond the technical capability of the time than was the moving and carving of megaliths by ancient humans."

But can you show me ONE reproduction of the Shroud that has the same quality in anatomical details, the 3D information, the superficial image on the linen fibers ?

You claim that it is a technical capability of the time, but we cannot even reproduce one like it today. A major factual problem.

I guess you'll claim that Picknett & Prince and Nickell reproduced one. Once again, just look at their work, they do not reproduce the three elements stated earlier: 3D, anatomic details, superficial image. I am not asking for the same image or all identical details but similar physical property.

It all sounds as if you were saying that we can easily reproduce gold with iron. Just paint it gold and Voila ! It looks the same as gold therefore it is gold ! This is what Nickell and Picknett did: look we have something that resembles the Shroud. But is there some microscopic analyses done ? None whatsoever. And Picknett's method does not reproduce the 3D that we can easily perceived on the Shroud. They are really far off similarities.

"There have been several datings of the shroud, not one, and all point toward a medieval origin. Absolute certainty? Now there is an expression which can muddy the waters, which I am sure you would not want to do.."

You mean that there was one dating done by three laboratories. May I remind that one person saw all data and perform some statistical computation to publish one paper in a non peer-review magazine.

"What "raw data" are you talking about? Do you think there was an academic conspiracy to hide the truth from scholars such as yourself?"

The raw data is the data that were sent for final computation of the range 1260-1390, the data produced by the three laboratories. We don't have the raw data. What so difficult about publishing them ?

And may I remind what is a scientific experiment. It must at least have one quality: reproducibility. If from a scientific paper I cannot reproduce the experiment I cannot conclude it to be scientific. It is at the center of science: experiment must be reproducible for everyone to be able to verify what is stated by peer-review. This is a very basic quality of science and experiment that does not conform to that is no longer scientific.

Would you believe some scientists that proved in their laboratories that gravity is made of proton (!!) but that nobody could repeat this experiment to see for themselves ? Is this science ? Of course not. Who ever makes the experiment, reproducibility is at the heart of science (natural science that is).

Why is this so hard to see in this case (1988 dating), that it is not a scientific experiment ? Whoever performed it.

Mario Latendresse

reply: I'm sure you have convinced Mr. Jennings and the rest of the world as well. Then again, maybe not.  

28 May 1997
While your entry on the Shroud of Turin referenced Joe Nickell's excellent book, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin, it failed to cite the one central fact in that book that changed this Christian's mind about the shroud; namely, that "negative 3D" images abounded in medieval times, and are commonly know as rubbings.

In fact, I like to amuse my friends by taking a quarter out of my pocket and, with the aid of a pencil and a piece of paper, I magically recreate "the Shroud of George Washington."
Spencer W. Hunter

reply: I hope Mr. Latendresse does not see your reply. We may have to rent more space for his rebuttal and the ensuing discourse on Paintings and Rubbings: which side are you on? 

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