Review of The Jesus Microbiome by Ian Wilson, author of several international best-sellers on the Shroud of Turin

“Dr. Stephen J. Mattingly is retired Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and as such is a serious scientist who can and does speak with real authority on the subject of microbes. … According to Mattingly, the apparent removal of the body from the cloth (by whatever means), would leave behind ‘a massive presence of bacteria’, the ensuing ‘oxidation of fatty acids and phospholipids’ resulting in ‘a permanent insoluble record of the crucifixion and death of the Man of the Shroud.’ In other words, what the eye sees as an image on the Shroud would have been largely, if not entirely, created by microbes. …

It is a unique and undeniably remarkable argument, and to back it up Mattingly even provides detailed instructions for how any keen DIY experimenters can check it out for themselves, taking swabs from their skin and watching their microbes multiply exponentially. … Having known him for more than twenty years and personally seen and handled some of the results of his experiments I have absolutely no doubt that it all works. …

But quite aside from the image-making properties of microbes, Mattingly is similarly impressive in his arguments for the very significant part that they likely played in skewing the 1988 carbon dating. … as Mattingly points out, the 1988 carbon dating scientists failed to carry out any chemical test on the samples that they worked with. Being specialists in nuclear physics rather than biology they were unaware that any accretions of living and dead microbes from the handlings, because such accretions are effectively cellulose, would have been indistinguishable from the cellulose of the Shroud linen proper, thereby ineradicable by decontamination methods, and rendering any radiocarbon test a non-starter. Mattingly similarly rips into another common misconception, that because it would need a Shroud sample to have been 60% contaminated to change a true first-century radiocarbon date into a false medieval one, any such high proportion of contamination is unbelievable, and in any event would have been readily visible. As Mattingly shows, not only would such massive proliferation of microbial activity have been near inevitable in the course of a human body’s reactions to crucifixion, quite aside from the effects of centuries of historical handlings, even when 60% contamination is present the surface characteristics of the affected linen fibrils are such that to all normal appearances they do not look significantly changed. 

The Jesus Microbiome is, therefore, a fascinating and important contribution to Shroud studies, compellingly written and readily intelligible to the non-scientist.”

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