Friday, 12 May 2017

Turin shroud

Until about 3 years after I submitted to Christ (2009) I had always treated the Shroud of Turin as some kind of medieval forgery and not the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Circa 1988 it had been announced that the radioactive carbon 14 dating put the origin of the Shroud to around the 14th century and this more less settled it for me.

 Before becoming a Christian I had been skeptical about the reality of the Resurrection. Even after looking at the evidence for the Resurrection, which I found wiped out the objections of the skeptics , and coming to believe in the historical reality of a supernatural Resurrection, I still dismissed the Shroud as a hoax or a confidence trick, as many Christians do today. In fact I was concerned that if it was a fraud it would only help to discredit the overall case for a Resurrection in the public mind, given the natural skepticism of some scientists who tend to be treated as guardians of truth, which they should indeed be but which, unfortunately, is not always the case (mainly because of philosophical naivety about the foundation of truth).

Recent YouTube presentations by respected scholarly teams (sindonologists) are making it difficult to ignore that this cloth defies natural laws by virtue of the unprecedented and unequalled nature of the image. It is most definitely not a forgery and I even saw BBC article by Philip Ball, the ex-editor of Nature, confessing to its extraordinary properties.

This could be world shattering for many and force those denying the resurrection on the grounds of conspiracy theories - which start from the assumption that the resurrection could not have happened- to reconsider their position.


The initial carbon dating exercise in the 1980s gave dates around 1400 years after the Crucifixion (33 AD), which led most people to dismiss the Shroud as a medieval fake. The dating had been carried out by a reputable international team. Since then the date has been shown to be highly suspect because it used a contaminated sample and in recent months it has been proposed that an earthquake which is fairly reliably known to have taken place in 33 AD, could have generated a neutron flux which would have affected the dating results by increasing the amount of C14 due to neutron bombardment of the C12 nucleus (the more C14 in the sample the younger it would appear to be). The latest date estimate puts the time of the cloth centrally within an error bar of several hundred years spanning the 33 AD date. Pollen analysis also backs this up. By itself this would not prove that the Shroud was the one that en-wrapped Jesus but the date is certainly much earlier than medieval and the Crucifixion date lies well within the error spread.


The trauma caused by the Crucifixion as described in the Gospels would have affected the physical nature of the blood emanating from the wounds caused. This is confirmed by analysis of the blood stains on the cloth. Moreover, the positions of the stains clearly correspond to the Crucifixion accounts. The evidence for this is startling in its detail. E.g. the spear wound indicated on the cloth is in forensic agreement with the John 19:34 account; the bloodstains on the head are clearly from a cap or crown of thorns as described in John 19:2.; 120 scourge marks on the body, front and back indicate about 40 lashes from a three-thronged whip, which was the standard whipping procedure adopted by the Romans at the time.

The colour of the blood stains is red. Normally one would expect it to be black after such a long period but in fact a body having undergone the trauma to which Jesus was subject would have chemically altered blood that would stay red , and containing bilirubin, and this is precisely what  the Shroud stains exhibit. The elevated levels of the bilirubin actually indicate the traumatic process of the Crucifixion as described in the Bible.


Biomechanical science indicates that a body pinned to a cross by nails through the palms could not bear the weight of the body – it must have been through the wrists, which is just what the image shows. The traditional belief was that the nails had been hammered through the palms, so any attempt at forgery would have tried to simulate this. All the iconography of the time indicated nails through the palms.


The image shows marks indicating a blow to the cheek as described in John 18:22: "And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand." As with most of the image features discussed these were invisible before the technology of the 20th century and there is no way anyone would have any motive for forging them, even if someone in medieval Europe had technology more advanced than any known or even envisaged today.


The image was formed by a process which no team of scientists has been able to reproduce over the last several decades, possibly one involving high energy radiation. It was not produced by any kind of pigmentation. One singular characteristic of the image is that it was in the form of  a negative which comes out as a positive on a photographic negative, much to the astonishment of Secundo Pia when he developed his two glass plates in 1898 when the Shroud was first photographed. In fact as photography advanced the image became increasingly clear. Had such technology not come along no one would ever have seen the image at all.

[ In addition to the evidence above there is a close correspondence to the results emerging from an investigation of what is probably the tomb of Christ and the head cloth used after the Crucifixion. New evidence on this subject is available and I hope to insert a link to it later.]

Very advanced technology has been applied to the Shroud, including the VP-8 Image Analyzer which NASA used to construct three dimensional images from ordinary photographs of, for instance, the moon’s surface taken from two different angles. When applied to the Turin Shroud image this has somehow yielded a 3D image of Jesus Christ that does not distort as it rotates. At this time I do not know the physics and mathematics behind this and believe there are aspects to this process which nobody understands.

The information extraction power of the VP-8 enabled experts to interpolate the presence of a lepton, a coin used at the time of Pontius Pilate, placed in each eye socket. It had been customary to do this. Even part of the inscription round the edge of the coin was determined and found to correspond to that used on the lepton at the time of Pilate. 


There is one aspect of the Shroud image which is so enormous in its implication for the human race and the entire universe that I am almost hesitant to mention it for fear that it will immediately label me as a crank in many people's eyes.

Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the image is that the markings penetrate barely a fibre's thickness down into the cloth, on both sides. Nobody has been able to produce such an image using any technology known to man. For reasons that at this time I do not understand it has been seriously proposed that the only possible explanation of this and other aspects of the image lies in the same theoretical domain as black holes and event horizons. 

The proposal is that information from Christ at the moment of death passed into the entire universe instantaneously and that a new universe and a new humanity is in the process of being created. (NB: modern physics posits that all particles in the universe can instantaneously interact by quantum entanglement with all other particles anywhere in the universe.)

A whole team of scientists is involved at both a theoretical and an experimental level. See this video by a particle physicist Dr Isabel Piczec


How did the Shroud get from Jerusalem to Turin, in Italy? Christian relics were frequently transported for safety because of Islamic and other attacks prior to the Crusades. The Moslem conquerors had reached Spain, having violently subjugated 2/3 of the Christian world (hence the Crusades), by the time of the Shroud’s final resting place in Turin, Italy. Before the Moslems there were still many enemies of Christianity, such as the Romans before Constantine, the non-Messianic Jews and the Vandals. So it is not surprising that the cloth did not begin to be openly talked or written about until it was safe.

I am in no way an expert on all this so let me refer you to some of the sites I came across in putting together the above:

There is also an iPhone app called Shroud 2.0 which pulls together a lot of evidence, as well as innumerable books.

Apart from online sources such as the above I used this book

So what if the shroud is indeed genuine, as looks increasingly likely?

It will add to the already substantial evidence for the reality of the Resurrection event which changed history and the meaning of which is still being hotly discussed and argued about 2000 years later after huge moral, social, artistic, scientific and technological upheavals made in its wake.

There is no doubt in the mind of any genuine believer that the Resurrection is as real as the other supernatural event which came to light only a few decades ago: the creation of space and time from existential nothingness 13.8 billion years ago, from behind an event horizon, i.e. the Big Bang, an occurrence for which the evidence has been steadily mounting since the 1920s.

The argument must at some point shift from whether there was a Resurrection to its deep significance for humanity. Forget religion. The implications could totally shatter our view of reality if the quantum aspects become widely accepted since it casts light on every aspect of life of every person on the planet as well as all of life and every particle in the universe.

So watch this space.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Friday 3 April 33 AD, 3 p.m.: the Crucifixion?

Scholars have previously looked at astronomical, historical and Biblical evidence and been unable to agree on the dates of Christ’s birth and Crucifixion to better than within than a few years. Nor have they known what to make of the reference to the star of Bethlehem in Matthew chapter 2 – was it a comet, a supernova or a planetary conjunction or a spiritual light? 

But as techniques of investigation improve this
situation is fast changing and I invite you to look at the YouTube video (endorsed by senior staff from NASA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science).

The following is derived mainly from this video and you may find it useful to read before and after watching - a kind of summary.

On the video Rick Larson explains  how he went about investigating these questions using

  • Computer simulations of the night sky seen from Jerusalem and Babylon in the first decade BC
  • Reasonable assumptions about the Magi based on the records of Philo of Alexander (15 BC to 50 AD), a Jewish philosopher

  • Careful reading of the biblical accounts of the conception, birth, ministry and Crucifixion of Jesus
  • The accurate prophecy of Daniel while a captive in Babylon
  • Historical records of the Jewish king Herod and the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate

  • Traditional Jewish feast dates (e.g. the Crucifixion must have been in a year in which Preparation Day fell on a Friday)

  • Astrological symbolism in the ancient world (including Roman and Biblical)

Putting it all together he arrives at entirely credible conclusions about the dates of history’s most important events. (NB: the dates giving Jesus’s life as appearing to occur before His birth arise from the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. It has long been agreed that Jesus was born some time in the first decade BC.)

Subsequent evaluations of Larson's analysis by scholars are unable to seriously question this work. It seems to me, as a layman, that the conclusions reached below rest primarily on the assumption that the Jewish historian Josephus (writing around 90 AD) gave 1 BC as the date of Herod the Great's death, since it narrows down the date of Christ's birth. Traditionally, there has been a consensus that Herod died in 4 BC but looking into it as far as I am able it appears that the earlier Josephus manuscripts do indeed give a date of 1 BC. Apparently, there was a misprint in subsequent copies. The evidence is, I understand, in the British Museum.

September 3 BC: The conception.

The Magi (wise men or astrologers, probably known as the Eastern School)) in Babylon would have seen the king planet Jupiter making a triple pass of Regulus, the king star of Leo (the symbol of the tribe of Judah; see, for example, Rev 5:5), also known as Rex by the Romans and Sharu (king) by the Magi. They would also have seen Virgo rising with the new crescent moon at her feet, reflecting the startling imagery of Rev 12:1-2. Larson confesses that much of Revelation is incomprehensible  and makes the point that it deals with past and future events. My view is that prophecies are rarely unambiguous until after the event, at which juncture they become understandable and serve to strengthen faith in the existence of order in God's overall plan which 'surpasses all understanding'. [I have recently read a commentary on Revelation by Bishop Tom Wright and he makes the point that much of the imagery refers to simultaneously existing aspects of reality, not a sequence of events (e.g. when each of the 7 trumpets is blown it portrays a different aspect).]

June 2 BC: the birth

Venus the mother planet was in conjunction with Jupiter the King. Venus is the brightest object in the sky, besides the sun and moon, while Jupiter is the second brightest. The two of them close together in the sky, appearing to be one, would have been a brilliant spectacle for the Magi as they looked west towards Judea from Babylon. 

Later in 2 BC: the Magi arrive in Jerusalem

They announced that the King of the Jews had been born, causing widespread puzzlement, sceptism and rejoicing by the Jews and paranoia by King Herod.

December 2 BC: the Magi visit the Messiah

As the Magi moved south from Jerusalem towards Bethlehem Jupiter would appear to be stationary in the sky over Bethlehem because of its retrograde motion, as calculated by the computer model, in accord with Matthew chapter 2.

3 April 33 AD: the Crucifixion

The accuracy of this date derives from the recorded fact that the event occurred at a particular time on the Jewish calendar of feasts and festivals. It also corresponds to Daniel’s prophecy (9:25) and circumstantial evidence in the Annals of Tacitus. Biblical data on the length of Christ’s ministry also helps tie it down.  Matthew gives the time of physical death as about 3 p.m. At this time the computer simulation shows that the moon was eclipsed, and would have appeared blood red as it rose above the horizon that evening at the feet of Virgo, in accord with biblical references which Larson gives (e.g. Acts 2:14-21, which quotes the Prophet Joel).

Quoting Larson:

the moon rose already in eclipse, already bloody, fulfilling Joel’s vision. Necessarily, this means that the eclipse commenced before moonrise. With software we can look below the horizon and see Earth’s shadow begin the eclipse. When we do, we find that at 3 PM, as Jesus was breathing his last on the cross, the moon was going to blood. 

The sky at Christ’s birth can be viewed as a kind of visual poetry, with the new moon symbolically “birthed” at the foot of Virgo, the virgin. To complete that celestial poem, on the night of Jesus’ death the moon had returned to the foot of the virgin. But now it was a full moon. A life fully lived, blotted out in blood.

The references in Matthew and Mark to the darkening of the sky  and to earthquakes are thought to be related to  terrestrial phenomena known to have occurred in the area. This is being investigated. Incidentally, in my view it is often the timing of biblical events which has a supernatural significance, rather than the event itself. On the other hand at least one quantum physicist investigating the Shroud of Turin claims to have found evidence of an event horizon associated with the cloth. If the cloth is genuinely associated with the Resurrection of Christ this would support the belief that the whole universe was affected, in a sense reborn (the Cosmic Christ, a belief which stretches back to the early Christian mystics).

  The DVD ends with a computer simulation showing what an astronaut standing on the earth-side of the moon would have seen in the sky at the time of Jesus’s physical death.  I don’t want to give this away but the position is of enormous biblical significance.

The website and DVD explain all this and much more. The research is attracting a lot of interest and is ongoing.

What all this means to me as a Christian I am not sure. I had always assumed that such a degree of certainty would never be reached and in a sense the details do not matter. Yet if further research makes this irrefutable it will strongly suggest that events in human history are indeed synchronized to the clockwork unfolding of the universe. It is already becoming accepted that much of the living world is governed by biological clocks, certainly in plants, and that these are even synchronised to each other - so why not the whole biosphere? Could there be a master clock that governs the unfolding of the entire cosmos? A kind of elementary particle, the U-bit , which interacts with every particle in the universe has already been discussed in an article in the New Scientist.

 These relationships between human history and the aspects of the stars suggest a profound cosmic significance in the manifestation of the Creator in our world and the unfolding of the entire Creation. Should the latest investigations and analysis of the  Turin Shroud prove it to be  genuinely the burial shroud of Jesus and to exhibit unique, scientifically inexplicable   physical properties, the reality of the Resurrection, it would seem to me, should get through to the entire human race more vividly and significantly than ever. 

What this would mean for the humanity no mortal could possibly know but it won't stop people like me speculating.

Author 2077: Knights of Peace
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Thursday, 2 March 2017

The domestic dog, our enigmatic friend

image from How Stuff Works
Humans have been training, using and relating to dogs for 15,000 years, since the dawn of civilisation. How the domestic dog emerged from wolves is not known: the DNA, archaeological and cultural evidence is confusing. Selective breeding is obviously involved but an experiment with a population of silver foxes in Russia shows that dog-like tameability can be cultivated over 50 years: millenia are not required. (I'm not sure why foxes were chosen, as opposed to wolves, but I imagine the principle must be the same.)

I have never owned a dog and have tended to be rather wary of them; but recent news items and documentaries together with the insights of Hugh Ross in his  Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job have caused me to appreciate what remarkable and unique animals they are. You have probably observed or heard about at least some of their attributes  but you may not have seen them listed together so I hope the following list will be interesting and inspire you to think more about them.

Diversity within the species

Size and appearance vary enormously over some 200 varieties, ranging from the Pekingese to the Great Dane, yet we all recognise them as belonging to the same species. They have a unique genetic code which makes it possible to achieve this diversity by selective breeding. Even character traits differ with the breed and I wonder if this could have something to do with epigenetics, by which learned behaviour (e.g. hunting or retrieving in the case of our canine friends) can be passed on to at least the 3rd generation.

Sense of smell

This is staggering. They can detect the presence of one spoonful of sugar in a million gallons of water ( = 2 Olympic swimming pools). They can also locate the source of a smell because they have a nose in which the nostrils are far apart in relation to the diameter of each and are able to tweek each nostril independently. This obviously makes dogs very useful – e.g. in explosives detection and tracking by scent. See also the dog's dazzling sense of smell

Facial expressiveness

Humans see them as able to smile and look guilty. It makes it easier to relate to dogs more than any (or almost any?) other animal. Research by Alexandra Horowitz  (‘Disambiguating the ‘guilty look’: salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour’, Behavioural Processes, July 2009, p.447-52) indicates that the guilty expression is associated with the desire to please the owner, not with any innate sense of guilt as is felt by humans.

Facial recogniton

Dogs are able to recognise the face, not just the scent, of their owners, see this abstract from the Journal of vision.  They can also pick one out in a crowd and, again, experiments have eliminated the possibility of scent. Dogs can recognise other dogs from hundreds of photographs of all shapes and sizes.

Ability to read cues or read minds

Dogs sometimes seem able to read minds but research by Mark Petter et al (‘Can dogs detect human deception?’, Behavioural Processes, October 2009, p.109-18) suggests that in fact they are picking up subtle visual cues. Yet there is so much anecdotal evidence of telepathy that this question must remain open. I know of cases where a dog can detect whether its owner is on the way home from work, although it could be that he is picking up the owner’s scent.

Consolation of humans in distress

Sensitivity to human distress is widely reported and research by Custance and Mayer reported in the Economist (July 30 2012) on a dog’s tendency to console a person who is crying confirms that this is a real phenomenon. The behaviour is definite but could it be that the dog’s hypersensitivity to smell detects certain olfactory signals which the body may emit when emotionally distressed? In any case, it is a remarkable gift to a person in distress.


It is well known that dogs normally show great loyalty to their owners and respond to their affections.


Many owners report signs of jealousy and I came across this report of an experiment reporting this.

Trainability and usefulness

Of all the animals there is something about dogs that makes them more trainable than any other. This together with their skills and attributes make them extremely useful and companionable to humans.

Servants to the lost, the blind and the sick

The ability of dogs to track escaped criminals, retrieve prey, catch pests, herd sheep, rescue victims in disaster zones, act as guides for the blind or partially sighted and sooth the anxious is well known. It is also generally accepted that owners of dogs live longer and healthier lives. However, recently there have been startling findings on their use in detecting dangerously lowblood sugar levels in diabetics and in warning of epileptic attacks, typically ten minutes ahead.  Dogs can also detect cancer long before it can be diagnosed by modern medicine.

All the above is not to say that dogs can’t also be problems if adopted as pets or working dogs by the wrong owners or owners in the wrong circumstances.  Yet in the history of civilisation they have had an overwhelmingly positive role, one that continues to grow.

 The average neo-Darwinist evolutionary biologist will interpret all this as the product of random mutations, the laws of physics, natural selection, domestication and breeding by human beings. This is a very restricted (boring?) and materialistic view of reality. As a Christian I think these remarkable creatures are also gifts from God to us and that we, unlike any other creature, are made in the image of God, the imago dei. Which is why we are writing blogs about dogs, protecting them against cruelty and organising dog shows; and they are not having international conferences on us. They are there to reflect the human soul and teach us how to relate to God, perhaps because they are in a sense closer to God, being free of egotistical self consciousness.

 See also Scientific American blog and links

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