Jots & Tittles
Christianity’s most famous and controversial relic, the Shroud of Turin, is divulging more secrets. Two physicists from the University of Padua, Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, have discovered a second face on the shroud’s reverse side. The face is nearly—but not exactly—identical to the famous face that appears on the front side, which some believe to be the face of Jesus.
The reverse side of the shroud was concealed by a layer of cloth that had been sewn on for protection in the 16th century, after a fire slightly damaged the relic. During restoration work in 2002, this protective layer was removed, however, and photographs were taken of the underside before a new backing was attached. The second face is not visible to the naked eye but was discovered by analyzing those photographs.
The discovery is detailed in the April issue of Journal of Optics A: Pure and Applied Optics, a publication of London’s Institute of Physics. The scientists used a process called digital optical image processing, in which a computer is used to “clean” the background noise from a fuzzy or low-detail image to produce a sharper one. The process revealed a face corresponding almost precisely to the one on the front of the shroud, but with some differences in the nostrils. The hands were also visible on the back of the shroud, but the scientists could not detect the rest of the body image that appears clearly on the front of the cloth.
The obvious explanation—that whatever produced the image on the front just seeped through to the back—is rejected by the scientists. Fanti told the BBC: “On both sides, the face image is superficial, involving only the outermost linen fibers.”
Many believe the shroud, and its famous ghostly image of a naked man laid out for burial, to be a medieval forgery. Carbon-14 tests performed on the shroud by three independent labs in 1988 all agreed that the flax used in the shroud’s linen dated to the 13th or 14th century—not the first century A.D. But the validity of those tests has always been disputed, both by shroud believers and some scientists. Some sindonologists—scholars of the relic (from sindon, meaning “shroud”)—have claimed to have found other evidence supporting the authenticity of the shroud. In 1999, for instance, a team of scientists reported traces of pollen from Jerusalem on the cloth.a
The physicists have no explanation yet for the shroud’s second face, but Fanti does not see it as evidence of a forgery: “It is extremely difficult to make a fake with these features,” he told the BBC.
What America Believes
A growing minority of Americans believe the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, according to a national survey conducted in March by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Overall, 26 percent of Americans currently hold that belief, up from 19 percent as reported by a similar poll conducted by ABC News in 1997—a significant increase.
The Pew survey, which polled 1,703 Americans of all ages on a range of questions related to the Bible and Christianity, found that the belief in the Jews’ culpability in the death of Jesus had increased most dramatically among young people and African Americans. Thirty-four percent of people under 30 now say Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death—up from just 10 percent in 1997—and 42 percent of African Americans now hold that belief—up from 21 percent in 1997. The majority of Americans, of all ages and ethnicities, however, still believe the Jews weren’t responsible.
With its emphasis on the question of Jesus’ death, the new survey comes at a time when scholars and religious groups are worried over the impact of Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, which critics say offers an anti-Semitic depiction of Jews as “Christ killers” (see for example Stephen J. Patterson, Bible Books). The Pew survey did not measure what 011impact, if any, The Passion of the Christ had on the views of those who had seen it. It did however show that those who either had already seen or had plans to see Gibson’s film were about twice as likely to consider Jews culpable for Jesus’ death than those who did not intend to see the film—suggesting that the film appeals to the minority of Americans who already share its interpretation of the events surrounding Jesus’ trial and execution.
However, on other issues, the religious views of Americans seem to be holding fairly steady. According to the new poll, 92 percent of Americans believe Jesus did die on the cross, as the Gospels say, and 83 percent think he rose from the dead—numbers that were almost exactly the same in 1997. The belief that the Bible should be taken as the literal word of God is up slightly from 1997: 40 percent now hold that belief (up from 35 percent in 1997); 42 percent say it is God’s word but that it is not meant to be taken literally (down from 47 percent); and a steady minority, 13 percent (14 percent in 1997), say the Bible is a book written by men.
The Bible in the News
It was apparently the author of the New Testament Letter of James who coined the phrase “the patience of Job” (James 5:11) to describe what is required of those who await the coming of the messiah. And although the Job of the Hebrew Bible was anything but patient, the expression has endured, making frequent appearances in the daily press. As astute readers of this column, assuredly among those blessed with Job’s reputed patience, will soon observe, there is hardly a profession, from A to Z, that doesn’t require patience:
Athletic trainers: “It’s a job that often requires the patience of Job, the analytical qualities of Sherlock Holmes and the diplomatic skills of Colin Powell.”
Bass fishers: “Tabbed as one of the sport’s fastest rising stars, David Dudley had the casting skills of a veteran, an encyclopedic knowledge of lures and the patience of Job.”
Cigar rollers: “‘If smoking cigars is not permitted in Heaven, I won’t go’—Mark Twain. The creation of a cigar demands the patience of Job, the perfectionism of the purist, an eagle eye for detail, a refusal to be rushed.”
Drivers: “Trying to navigate Vero Beach’s barricade-lined Miracle Mile at lunchtime Friday did not require an act of God. Just the patience of Job.”
Entrepreneurs: “It would take the optimism of Pollyanna and the patience of Job to find much good business news in Texas during 2002.”
Footballers (Soccer players): “The patience of Job earns its reward as Boro [Middlesbrough] hits the heights: Cameroon striker [Joseph-Desire Job, by name] happy to be back in the team.”
Game-show fans: “Viewers of the world’s first internet reality game show finally lost patience with Job last night—and told him to walk the plank. Job is the first Bible hero to be voted off The Ark.”
High school seniors: “Selecting a college can challenge the bravery of a pioneer, the patience of Job.”
Italian developers: “The complexity, bureaucracy and parochialism in Italian planning law means that for a successful retail scheme to be developed, the patience of Job is a prerequisite.”
Journalists: “No journalist who’s worth the ink that runs in his veins can pass up a cheap biblical simile. (And Lord knows how I, with the patience of Job, have tried.)”
Knoxville judges: “Theirs is not an easy lot. Most, I believe, at least the good ones, are descendants of King Solomon. And while we’re throwing Bible terms around, they must have the patience of Job.”
Librarians: “Like the little train that could, [Delray’s 50-year-old library] keeps chugging along toward its goal: a brand-new building with lots and lots of rooms. It’s predicted to have a happy ending. After all, the characters in this tale have the determination of an ox and the patience of Job.”
Music directors: “With the patience of Job, choir conductor Sue Bohlin excuses one little girl after another to use the bathroom. She then giggles as she tells the girls the rules of break time, and one student asks her to add another rule: no playing with spiders.”
Net surfers: “Finding reliable information needs the patience of Job.”
Open winners: “Tiger Woods holed a succession of sizeable putts, many to save par, as he displayed what Open winners have to—the patience of Job.”
Perch anglers: “But anglers who would stalk jungle perch must be prepared to hunt their prey in often difficult jungle terrain, possess the patience of Job, accept failure readily and possess a pair of bionic legs.”
Queensland ski paddlers: “Having displayed the patience of Job, Townsville paddler Mick de Rooy will take his first steps to expelling ‘a few demons’ when he competes in a southeast Queensland ski paddling meet on the Gold Coast.”
Redistricters: “Redistricting takes the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon. Any shift poses a potential threat to a political stronghold, and what politician in his right mind will let you cut into his turf?”
Santa Claus: “It’s not all ho, ho, ho for Santa as Christmas approaches. But it’s lucky he has the patience of Job as hundreds of excited children line up for a few moments with a jolly old man.”
Teachers: “They not only teach our children how to read and write, but they also wipe runny noses, lend a shoulder or an ear and generally display the patience of Job.”
Umpires: “The perfect umpire would have the vision of Ted Williams, the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, and the ability of Thurgood Marshall for interpreting rules.”
Viewers: “Viewers will need the patience of Job to sit through ‘Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi,’ airing tonight.”
Whiskey bottlers: “Richard Patterson is a man of passion. Coupled with the kind of patience that would have had Job chewing his fingernails, this enables him to create whiskies that are not only excellent, but unique.”
Xmas-tree hunters: “My uncle would hitch our faithful horse, Bill, to the sleigh and off we would go in search of what would most certainly be the ‘perfect’ Christmas tree. This dear man seemed to have the patience of Job as he spent hours walking the woods with me looking for this elusive tree.”
Ymir-makers: “The making of Ray Harryhausen’s ‘Ymir’—the fork-tailed, fast-growing, upright lizard-thing from Venus that rampages from the farms of Sicily to the piazzas of Rome in the 1957 science-fiction favorite ‘20 Million Miles to Earth’—took the patience of Job.”
Zingers: “Are you talking to me? Language that could make a sailor blush. Attitude that could test the patience of Job. It’s called back talk and teens have it down pat.”
BR Grows Up
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