Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Scientific Evidence for the Virgin Birth of Jesus

[For Christmas Day this year, I am interrupting the series of posts on dating the Nativity to repost this article concerning some astonishing -- and still not widely known -- scientific evidence which, after the lapse of twenty centuries, provides strong confirmation of the Bible's account of Jesus having been born of a virgin. Tomorrow, I will return with the next post in the Nativity series, and conclude it on Thursday.]

A little over three years ago I put up this post to discuss Frank Tipler's argument, using available scientific evidence, for the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ (from chapter VII of his book, The Physics of Christianity). This Christmas, I want to examine in greater detail the evidence he presents -- in particular, the genetic evidence derived from DNA analysis of blood samples taken from the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo -- in the hopes that someone more familiar with this branch of molecular biology might pick it up, and either comment on it, take it further, or even (if possible) refute it.

[UPDATE 12/25/2010: A word to my readers: I am well aware of the scorn and ridicule that has been heaped upon Frank Tipler and his theories (here is just one such example). But it is far easier to denigrate than to engage. As you read the post that follows, I would ask that you keep the bigger picture in mind: We have two ancient artefacts, thousands of years old, each with its own independent history -- yet each of which has matching AB-type bloodstains, the source of which tradition assigns to the same person, who was unquestionably of the male gender. How does it turn out, after a scientific analysis possible only in the late twentieth century, that the stains on both cloths lack a key genetic identifier for maleness? That is the question I wish responsible people would address.]

First, some background: the Shroud of Turin, of course, is the name given to what traditionally has been considered as the linen burial cloth in which, as the Gospels all report, the women who prepared Jesus for burial wrapped His body. Its provenance and history are greatly in dispute, a dispute which was heightened by a radiocarbon analysis of a portion of the cloth done in 1988, which dated its origin to no earlier than the 13th century. However, evidence since that well-publicized test has accumulated to cast those results into doubt, and to validate the Shroud's origin as genuine (see the details discussed in this earlier post).

The Sudarium of Oviedo is the name given to the cloth which tradition assigns as the face cloth placed over Jesus' head when he was taken down from the cross, and which was found in the tomb, rolled up and separate from the other linens, after His resurrection (Jn 20:7). (It is not to be confused with the Veil of Veronica, another relic of the crucifixion, which was originally kept at St. Peter's, but is now at the Abbey of Monoppello, high in the Apennines.) The Sudarium's history is entirely different from that of the Shroud's. Its location in Oviedo has been documented since the eighth century; it was in Toledo for about eighty years before that.

Aged, brown blood stains have been described on both cloths for centuries, but actually documented to be human blood (type AB) only with the advanced analysis techniques of the twentieth century. And a recent, in-depth study of the Sudarium done in 1998 (the first ever performed, in contrast to the numerous advanced tests on the Shroud) confirms that the blood stains on each cloth match in placement, blood type, and pattern of spread, along with numerous other correspondences (such as pollen indigenous to Jerusalem) between the two cloths. If the two cloths at one time covered the head, the face and (for the Shroud) the body of the same person, then obviously the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud was thrown off due to some error in the sampling process.

If a match between the blood stains could be established by forensic analysis of their surviving DNA, then one could feel confident (a) of the Shroud's having a much greater age, and (b) of the absence of fraud or artifice in the creation of the stains and images on each cloth. And this is where Frank Tipler's book referenced above proved most interesting. For in the course of his investigations, he learned that a highly qualified team of researchers from Genoa, Italy -- including two molecular biologists who had invented the standard test for sex determination, had performed DNA analysis on the stains of both the Shroud and the Sudarium in 1995.

However, their results had been published not in a standard scientific journal, available easily to all, but only in an obscure journal in Italian devoted entirely to studies about the Shroud. As Prof. Tipler noted:
Furthermore, only the raw data were published. That is, the Genoa team published black-and-white Xerox copies of the computer output of the DNA analyzer. This is never, never done. Always, the data are presented in a neat table or figure, and they are accompanied by a discussion of their significance. The Genoa team made no effort to interpret their data. . . .
Prof. Tipler, in contrast, had no reluctance in interpreting the data -- that is, once it was arranged in standard tabular form, according to the number of base pairs in the amplicons on the agarose gel which resulted from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) involving segments of the sample DNA. Now, let me provide a little more background, so those unfamiliar with the procedures of forensic DNA analysis can make sense of that last sentence.

The technique of PCR was developed in 1983 by Kary Mullis, whose TED talk I featured earlier. The idea simply popped into his head one night as he was driving to his vacation cabin in northern California; he tried it, and the results surpassed all his expectations. The technique has been the foundation stone of DNA analysis ever since. Essentially, what it does, given a very small sample of DNA to begin with, is to make millions or even billions of copies of the sample in a "chain reaction" taking about three hours, so that there is enough ending material to analyze with standard laboratory techniques, including chromatography and gel electrophoresis. (Here is an excellent illustrated guide to the whole process.)

The way it works is by first heating the DNA samples to break the two strands of the double helix apart (this is called "DNA denaturation", or "DNA melting"). Once the strands have been separated, they are cooled down and put into a mix of DNA primers (short strands of DNA chosen for their complementarity with the sample being tested) and DNA polymerase -- a magic enzyme which, given a primer, goes to work and replicates the strands of the samples exactly. By successive heatings and coolings, more and more copies of the sample are created, separated into single strands, cooled, and then duplicated again, and again, and again, with the number of DNA copies roughly doubling each time -- hence the "chain reaction."

In running a PCR analysis on their samples from the Shroud and the Sudarion, the Italian researchers included a set of highly particular DNA primers generated from the gene for amelogenin, which plays a role in the building of tooth enamel. This gene appears on both the X- and Y-chromosomes in humans, but in distinctive forms: the allele (gene variant) on the X-chromosome is six base-pairs shorter than the allele on the Y-chromosome. ("Base pairs" are the pairings between the four fundamental nucleotides, or building blocks, of DNA.) And this very slight difference can be used to determine whether any given DNA sample comes from a male or a female, as a result. (Here is a link to a diagram of the genetic code for amelogenin, which shows precisely where the missing base pairs on the X-version differ from the Y-version; note that there are other slight differences between their codes, as well.)

Because of the difference in their respective lengths, the two alleles will show up at different places when the analysis is run on the results of the PCR amplifications (these are the amplicons I mentioned earlier) of the original sample. (In order to understand fully how the analysis produces its results, I highly recommend that those who have the time run through this interactive simulation of the process of gel electrophoresis in the lab.)

The results from female DNA will have only one band of the shorter base-pair length, while the results from male DNA will have two bands, one of the shorter, X-chromosome length, and the other from the longer, Y-chromosome variant of amelogenin. This was the DNA test for gender which was developed by two expert members of the 1995 Italian research team, as mentioned earlier.

The Italian team knew what they were doing. They took steps to eliminate "DNA noise" from contamination of the samples which might have built up from handling of the cloths by various people over the years. Even so, they apparently could not trust the results they ended up with, after all their careful analysis: the genetic signature of both samples, the one from the Shroud, the other from the Sudarium, showed only one band -- for the shorter (106 base-pairs), X-chromosome variant of amelogenin. (Depending on the length of the gene segment used as a primer for the PCR analysis, the X-allele of amelogenin will have either 106, or 212, base pairs, or "bp" -- see the diagram again for a depiction of the different segments used as primers in the test. The extra six base pairs for the Y-allele of amelogenin results in either 112 bp or 224 bp, depending again on the primer that is used for the test.)

With the foregoing as background, we are now ready to appreciate the results of the analysis by the Italian team, as reproduced by Professor Tipler in his book. Here are the results in tabular form, as he arranged them -- according to increasing base-pair length (click on the image to enlarge):




Professor Tipler does not elaborate on this tabular layout, and I have had to deduce, from my earlier experiences with forensic DNA analysis in court, just what the individual columns show. (If I err in any respect in what follows, I trust a knowledgeable commentator will correct me.) The left-hand column shows the index-mark, varying by time of retention, where the band in question appears in the results; in general, a higher index number means a longer retention time, because the segments with the greatest number of base pairs move slowest through the gel. The second column shows the average number of base pairs in that particular band, to a specified tolerance determined by the analysis software. The third column shows the height (intensity) of the band in question, which is proportionate to the amount of that particular allele in the amplified test sample; the total area of the band given in the fourth column also varies proportionately with the intensity. Finally, the number in the fifth column relates to the particular scan of the data run by the computer analyzer.

It is the numbers in the second column with which we are most interested. Both the analysis of the Shroud sample and of the Sudarium sample show results within the range expected for the 106 bp allele of amelogenin: 107.28 for the Shroud, and 105.27 for the Sudarium. (The variation of 1 in either direction from the specific bp number is due to a phenomenon called stutter which can occur during the PCR process -- see the article linked earlier for a more detailed explanation.) But there are no corresponding bands appearing in the 112 bp (+/- 1) range of the data.

This would ordinarily be the genetic signature of a female, with two X-chromosomes, and undoubtedly accounts in part for the reluctance of the Italian researchers to explain or comment on their results. With all of the precautions they took against contamination of the blood samples, how could the Y-allele of amelogenin have completely vanished from both samples, independently, over the years?

As Professor Tipler is at pains to point out, however, the presence of a single X-allele band, and the absence of any Y-allele band, is also consistent with another conclusion: that the person whose blood stained both cloths was that most rare of humans, an XX-male:
I propose that Jesus was a special type of XX male, a type that is quite rare in humans but extensively studied.17 Approximately 1 out of every 20,000 human males is an XX male. Such males are normal in behavior and intelligence but have smaller teeth, shorter stature, and smaller testes than normal males. They are usually identified as XX males because they cannot have children and ask doctors to cure the infertility. Normal males are XY, but there are only twenty-eight genes on the Y chromosome, as opposed to thousands on the X chromosome. Of these twenty-eight genes, fifteen are unique to the Y chromosome and thirteen have counterparts on the X chromosome.18 The genes with counterparts on both the X and the Y chromosomes are called homologous genes. An XX male results when a single key gene for maleness on the Y chromosome (the SRY gene) is inserted into an X chromosome. One possibility is that all (or at least many) of the Y chromosome genes were inserted into one of Mary's X chromosomes and that, in her, one of the standard mechanisms used to tum off genes was active on these inserted Y genes. (There is an RNA process that can tum off an entire X chromosome. This is the most elegant turnoff mechanism.) Jesus would then have resulted when one of Mary's egg cells started to divide before it became haploid and with the Y genes activated (and, of course, with the extra X genes deactivated).
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17 Chapelle, Albert de la. 1981. "The Etiology of Maleness in XX Men." Human Genetics 58: 105-116; Guellean, Georges. et al. 1984. "Human XX Males with Y Single-Copy DNA Fragments." Nature 307: 172-73; Page, David C., et al. 1985. "Chromosome-Specific DNA in Related Human XX Males." Nature 315: 224-26; Andersson. Mea. et al. 1986. "Chromosome Y-Specific DNA Is Transferred to the Short Arm of the X Chromosome in Human XX Males." Science 233:786-88; Petit, Christine, et al. 1987. "An Abnormal Terminal X -Y Interchange Accounts for Most but Not All Cases of Human XX Maleness." Cell 49:595-602; Chapelle, Albert de la, et al. 1988. "Invited Editorial: The Complicated Issue of Human Sex Determination." American Journal of Human Genetics 43:1-3.

18 Jegalian, Karin, and Bruce T. Lahn. 2001. "Why the Y Is So Weird." Scientific American, February, 56-61.
Because the full-body image we have from the shroud does not match the parameter of the usual type of XX-male (the 1-in-20,000 example mentioned in the text, in which only the SRY gene is inserted in the X-chromosome, with a resulting smaller stature than other males), Prof. Tipler believes that Jesus may have been an even rarer exemplar -- indeed, a one-time-only species -- of XX-maleness, in which most, if not all, of the fifteen Y-specific genes were inserted into the X-chromosome:
Such a virgin birth would be improbable. If the measured probability that a single Y gene is inserted into an X chromosome is 1 in 20,000, then the probability that all Y genes are inserted into an X chromosome is 1/20,000 raised to the 28th power, the power corresponding to the number of Y genes. (Assuming that the insertion of each Y gene has equal probability and that these insertions are independent.) There have been only about 100 billion humans born since behaviorally modern Homo sapiens evolved, between 55,000 and 80,000 years ago. . . . Thus, the virgin birth of such an XX male would be unique in human history even if there were only two such Y genes inserted into an X chromosome. (I assume an upper bound to the rate of virgin birth is 1/300. Then the probability of a virgin birth of a male with 2 Y genes is 1/[300][20,000][20,000] = 1/120 billion.)
How could it be determined if Jesus were in fact such a unique individual? Unfortunately, the tests run by the Italians in 1993 did not search for any Y-genes other than the Y-allele for amelogenin. (Their black-and-white reproduction of their computer data also unfortunately left out the information from the different dye colorings, which would have enabled one to determine just how many different alleles were present, and the degree to which any contamination might have occurred. As it is, their data from just the Shroud show fourteen different alleles present in addition to that from the X-variant of amelogenin, where one would expect at most eight from the four other specific genes for which they tested. Without more data, it is simply not possible to account for the extra six which they show.) Prof. Tipler recommends that more modern tests be conducted on the stains on the two cloths, which could help to determine whether the DNA contains more than just one Y-specific gene, or only one, or two, and could also help to pinpoint any possible sources of contamination. Such tests could moreover dramatically enhance the likelihood that the blood on the separate cloths is from one and the same genetic source. (As it is, the data shows they share three specific alleles already.)

What is one to conclude from all of this? (As I say, I hope that those who are more expert in these subjects will be stimulated to comment, or to write about it on their own blogs.) The point, I emphasize again, is not that science can offer any absolute "proof" or "disproof" of the Virgin Birth. (How God works His miracles will never be fully comprehensible to mortal understanding.) Instead, what fascinates in this investigation of artefacts which are in all likelihood at least two thousand years old is that they hold up so remarkably well to ever closer scrutiny and more extensive examination. There is plenty of room for skeptics to disagree, and for believers to find encouragement. With an open and contrite spirit, not being stubborn or willfully contrary, each individual must form his or her own conclusions, based on what is at hand at the moment. Such is the essence of the grace which God bestows upon us.

A Merry Christmas to all!

20 comments:

  1. No one today should believe that virgins magically have babies, that humans walk on water, or that dead men walk out of their graves to eat broiled fish sandwiches with their former fishing buddies. The whole Christian story is superstitious nonsense.

    If there is a Creator, he/she/it gave us a brain. Let's use it! Trust in reason and science, not in the tall tales of ancient, middle-eastern holy books.

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    1. You obviously did not read the post, Gary -- there is more science in it than you will ever appreciate. I have allowed your comment to be seen as a paradigm of the old saw "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

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    2. I am a physician. There is no possible way for a virgin to become pregnant without male human sperm, and I am unaware of any evidence that they were conducting fertilization procedures in the first century. Mary, if she existed, only became pregnant by a man's assistance.

      I'm not trying to insult you. I am trying to wake you from your delusion of believing silly superstitions found in ancient, middle-eastern holy books. Follow reason and science, my friend.

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    3. Gary, thank you for your reply. I also am trying to point out, as politely as I can, that the article documents a phenomenon known to science as "the XX male" -- a male human being with no Y chromosome, and therefore not the product of a mating with male sperm. The probability of such a phenomenon, again according to the references in the article, is 1:20,000. However, as the author goes on to argue, the probability of the birth of an XX-male like Jesus would be more on the order of one in 120 billion. So there is no claim here of an ordinary happening -- there have only been about 60 billion people born since man first appeared.

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    4. My point is that even XX males, which are very rare, MUST receive one of their "X"'s from a male human father. The mother cannot contribute both alleles. So even if Jesus was an XX male, he still had to have had a human father. The only way to have a virgin birth is to involve the supernatural and claim that God "poofed" the male genetic material into Jesus' chromosomes.

      You sound like a very intelligent man, but you are attempting to explain a first century mythical tall tale using 21st science. Let's simply accept the virgin birth story for what it is: a fascinating ancient myth--- and not try to make it into a literal, historical, fact.

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    5. Below is a citation from a genetics blog that explains the XX male phenomenon. What is important to note is that one of the "X"'s of this condition comes from the father. Both XX's are NOT coming from the mother. Therefore in order for Jesus to have been an XX male, he still would have needed a human father.

      A virgin birth is only possible outside of science and medicine. A virgin birth is mythological. It can only happen in the supernatural realm.

      I hope that this is helpful:

      People normally have 46 chromosomes in each cell. Two of the 46 chromosomes, known as X and Y, are called sex chromosomes because they help determine whether a person will develop male or female sex characteristics. Females typically have two X chromosomes (46,XX), and males usually have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (46,XY).

      The SRY gene, normally located on the Y chromosome, provides instructions for making the sex-determining region Y protein. The sex-determining region Y protein causes a fetus to develop as a male.

      In about 80 percent of individuals with 46,XX testicular disorder of sex development, the condition results from an abnormal exchange of genetic material between chromosomes (translocation). This exchange occurs as a random event during the formation of sperm cells in the affected person's father. The translocation causes the SRY gene to be misplaced, almost always onto an X chromosome. If a fetus is conceived from a sperm cell with an X chromosome bearing the SRY gene, it will develop as a male despite not having a Y chromosome. This form of the condition is called SRY-positive 46,XX testicular disorder of sex development.

      About 20 percent of people with 46,XX testicular disorder of sex development do not have the SRY gene. This form of the condition is called SRY-negative 46,XX testicular disorder of sex development. The cause of the disorder in these individuals is unknown. They are more likely to have ambiguous genitalia than are people with the SRY-positive form.

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    6. Yes, Gary, all true -- except that if Jesus had had a human father who gave him a defective X chromosome as described, he would not have grown up as a normal-appearing male. Not only do we have no references to an unusually short Jesus with small teeth, but the irrefutable medical evidence supplied by the Shroud of Turin (and see this post, too) is that Jesus was a fairly tall, fully developed adult male at the time of his crucifixion.

      I am an attorney by profession, Gary -- I am used to weighing and evaluating all sorts of evidence. I have a whole page at this blog devoted to posts that try to reconcile the claims of science with the claims of Christianity and the Bible. Like you, I was once pretty skeptical; but the overwhelming weight of the physical evidence that Christ lived, was crucified and died, and that the tomb where he was laid was found empty just two days later, convinced me that Jesus was no ordinary human. Since he had to be either a madman, a liar, or telling the truth -- there is no middle ground -- and since the only evidence we have points to the third alternative, I am now firmly convinced that what you call my religion's "first-century myths" are in fact historical and true.

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    7. So you believe that God "poofed" Jesus a Y chromosome?

      I agree with you that Jesus lived and was crucified. I am not a mythicist. Regarding the empty tomb, I don't think we have any evidence for that claim other than Gary Habermas' claim that 75% of "scholars" believe it to be historical. But let's say for the sake of argument that Jesus' tomb was found empty on that Sunday morning. If so, there are many very natural explanations of an empty tomb. The probability of a resurrection being the explanation is very, very far down the list.

      Bottom line: Could the resurrection have occurred. I say, "Yes, if we allow for the supernatural, and we should allow for the supernatural because no one can prove that the supernatural does not exist." But, the probability of a resurrection is so very, very low, so why believe it? If you are going to believe in Jesus' resurrection, why not believe in Mohammad's ride to heaven on a winged horse, as over one billion Muslims claim, or that the Buddha caused a water buffalo to speak in human language for over 30 minutes, as millions of Hindus claim?

      I have seen the evidence for the two Catholic relics that you discuss and I am very skeptical. Again, maybe the carbon dating of the Shroud was wrong. Maybe both relics belonged to a first century male Jew that was crucified. Maybe the stain patterns are consistent with the body suddenly disappearing and not "crawling" out of them. Maybe all that is true, but it still doesn't prove that either of these two items belonged to Jesus.

      Virgin births and the reanimation of dead people is the realm of mythology, science fiction, and magic. it is not science. It is not medicine. If the evidence were so convincing, the overwhelming majority of scientists and medical researchers would agree with your position. They don't.

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    8. "He either had to be a madman, liar, or telling the truth" are not the only options:

      The most likely cause for the development of the resurrection story is: a legend. I would encourage you to read the blogs and websites of resurrection skeptics who support this position. I think that most open-minded people, without a bias either way, would conclude that a legend based on a real death of a real Jesus is the mostly likely source for the resurrection story.

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    9. "So you believe that God "poofed" Jesus a Y chromosome?"

      No, Gary -- that is not what the evidence shows. According to the genetic tests described in the article above, the two blood samples -- from two different cloths, with separate histories dating back to the first century -- are not only of the same male, but they are the signature of a unique XX-male who did not fit the usual human XX-syndrome. Such a result is only scientifically explainable as the result of an extremely rare and unlikely sequence of changes in one of Mary's egg cells: " ... a number of rare events would have to occur in close succession, and the chances of these all happening in real life are virtually zero."

      Exactly right -- as the article I originally dealt with recites, Jesus' birth as a (physically normal) XX male, without a human father, had to be an extremely rare event -- but who better to command an extremely rare event than Jesus?

      The point is not that God had to "poof" anything -- just see to it that the right mutations happened in the right sequence in the Virgin's egg cell, and since mutations are a natural phenomenon, He violated no physical laws in doing so -- only statistical probabilities, which we all agree that, as God, He can do.

      And the point of my original article, as stated, was not to "prove" the Virgin birth of Jesus -- but only to show how some remarkably ancient blood-stain evidence, now capable of interpretation only with the massive recent advances in genetic science -- just happens to be consistent with the first-century "myth" of the Virgin Birth.

      It didn't have to be that way for me to believe in it, based on the other evidence. But it's nice that it is.

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    10. "Bottom line: Could the resurrection have occurred. I say, 'Yes, if we allow for the supernatural, and we should allow for the supernatural because no one can prove that the supernatural does not exist.' But, the probability of a resurrection is so very, very low, so why believe it?"

      You keep making my point for me, Gary -- thank you! As you say, science cannot judge the supernatural, so if you remain bound by the limits of science, it is not surprising that you are uncomfortable with entertaining thoughts of the supernatural.

      But even the supernatural, if it is real, leaves traces of its evidence in the physical world. And thus we have the matching of centuries-old blood stains (why keep two separate cloths of the same crucified man around for centuries, if it was only one of Rome's usual first-century victims?); we have the extraordinary medical evidence visible (but only with highly recent technology) on the Shroud; and we have the testimony of numerous first-century witnesses that they not only encountered the risen Christ, but so believed in the phenomenon that they all went to their (frequently cruel and violent) deaths still professing their belief. You don't have anything like such physical evidence for the night ride of Mohammed, or for the talking water buffalo of Buddha -- that's why belief alone cannot be the criterion. It is, as Plantinga calls it, only warranted belief that one engages in: that is to say, belief warranted by the available evidence.

      So you are free to blind yourself to the evidence -- God gave you free will. He is not interested in slamming his followers over the head, or in forcing belief by writing fiery messages in the night sky -- even though He certainly could do those things. No, if He wants you to come to Him, He wants you to use your God-given free will to make up your own mind first.

      And, hey -- if you decline, it won't be the first time that He has been rejected. But the nihilism of a world without Him in it can get pretty lonely and sad, so my prayer is that you might look once more at all the evidence, and see something you missed.

      I think we've carried this dialogue as far as it can usefully go, Gary. Thank you again for coming here, and may God bless you with warranted belief.

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    11. "and we have the testimony of numerous first-century witnesses that they not only encountered the risen Christ, but so believed in the phenomenon that they all went to their (frequently cruel and violent) deaths still professing their belief."

      Could you provide evidence of even one eyewitness to the resurrection who was willing to die instead of recanting his testimony of seeing a resurrected Jesus? I am not aware that such evidence exists. This belief is based on tradition.

      On the blood samples on the Shroud: How is it possible that Jesus had type AB blood? Again, either the A or B allele would need to come from his mother, and either the A or B allele from his father. He cannot inherit both from his mother.

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    12. Two of the most famous such eyewitnesses are Saints Peter and Paul. In Acts 10:39-41, Luke quotes Peter speaking to Cornelius (a Gentile) and his household:

      39 “As for us, we are witnesses of everything he did, both in the Judean countryside and in Yerushalayim. They did away with him by hanging him on a stake; 40 but God raised him up on the third day and let him be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by witnesses God had previously chosen, that is, by us, who ate and drank with him after he had risen again from the dead."

      And St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, within about 15-18 years after Jesus' death, and speaking of his encounter with the risen Christ just months after the crucifixion (way too early for a "legend" to have grown up):

      3 "For among the first things I passed on to you was what I also received, namely this: the Messiah died for our sins, in accordance with what the Tanakh says; 4 and he was buried; and he was raised on the third day, in accordance with what the Tanakh says; 5 and he was seen by Kefa [Peter], then by the Twelve; 6 and afterwards he was seen by more than five hundred brothers at one time, the majority of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Later he was seen by Ya‘akov [James -- the brother of Jesus], then by all the emissaries; 8 and last of all he was seen by me ..."

      Peter was crucified in Rome, upside down -- a most cruel death -- his crucifixion site became his tomb over which was built the Basilica of St. Peter. Paul, as a Roman citizen, was tried and beheaded by Nero (AD 64). James (Jesus' brother) was executed by order of the High Priest in Jerusalem in about AD 62, and died witnessing to Jesus as the risen Lord.

      As for the blood type, that is an interesting question. However, as one can see from the tables at this site, a child may inherit type AB blood from his mother if she also has type AB blood, and the father could have type A or type B -- it makes no difference.

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    13. There are many assumptions in your response, friend.

      The Book of Acts, as well as the four Gospels, were written anonymously. We have no means to verify the accounts written in these books. This is especially true for the Book of Acts as many of the stories in this book are found in no other book. So we really have no idea what Peter said. You choose to take the anonymous author at face value that everything he says in his book is historical fact. How do we know this? Maybe he invented stories, probably not to intentionally lie, but for the sole purpose of clarifying his theological concepts.

      I agree with most scholars that Paul was an historical person and that he wrote at least seven of the epistles ascribed by the Church to him. However, the Christ that Paul says he "saw" and the Jesus of the Gospels sound like two completely different people. It is odd that Paul never mentions not one of Jesus sermons; not one of Jesus' miracles; not one of Jesus' parables; nothing about Jesus parents, birthplace, or hometown. In fact, Paul tells us nothing about the historical Jesus of the Gospels except to mention of the Words of Institution of the Lord's Supper and an alleged list of witnesses to the Resurrection. For two thousand years Jews have claimed that Paul was a liar. After studying the evidence, he was either a liar or mentally ill.

      If someone today told you that he had seen a ghost on a lone desert highway you wouldn't believe him without corroborating testimony from other witnesses, so why do you believe Paul?

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    14. The question is not if Peter was executed but why? And the same for James. Many tens of thousands if not millions of people belonging to religious minorities have been persecuted and executed in human history. But the execution of religious minorities does not confirm the veracity of their very sincerely held beliefs, only that they sincerely believed.

      We have no proof that Peter, James, or any of the other Eleven were offered their lives in exchange for recanting their testimony of seeing the walking, talking resurrected body of Jesus. For all we know, if they were executed, they were executed simply for being members of a new, trouble-making sect of Jews; a group of people that already was giving Rome headaches.

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    15. I fail to see your point in the AB blood type analogy. Have I misunderstood your position? As a physician I can assure you that a baby MUST have two human parents (one male providing sperm, and one female providing an ovum) to have type AB blood. it is IMPOSSIBLE to have type AB blood with only one human parent.

      I thought that the point of your post (I did read it) is that there is evidence for the virgin birth: Jesus could have been an XX male, inheriting both sex chromosomes from his mother. I then thought you went on to say that the Shroud and Face Covering both have AB blood from an XX male. If these are not your positions, I apologize.

      If these are your positions, my point on the AB blood type is that a human being, male or female, who is AB blood type can only inherit one of these alleles (either A or B) from each parent. In other words, a man cannot inherit both the A allele and the B allele from his mother.

      Bottom line: Even if Jesus were an XX male with type AB blood, one of the X's and either the "A" or the "B" blood type alleles would need to come from a male human father. If Jesus were truly born of a virgin and the rules of science were not broken, Jesus would have been a being with only one sex chromosome (XO) and only one allele for his blood type (A,B, or O)...he could NOT be XY, XXY, or XX nor AB blood type, with all of this genetic material coming from his mother.

      So if you want to say that it was Jesus who was in the Shroud and under the face covering, both having type AB blood spots from an XX male, I can't prove you wrong. But I can tell you, as a medical professional, that there is absolutely no way possible that the XX man, with type AB blood, who left that blood on those two garments was born of a virgin, because any man with XX sex chromosomes and AB blood type absolutely HAD to have a human father.

      The only way to fix this problem is to say that God poofed/provided (by magic) Jesus' male genetic material by supernatural means.

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    16. Gary, you've been reading those atheist blogs too much. ;>)
      The Acts of the Apostles is not an anonymous work; it was written by St. Luke, and is the second part of his gospel. Luke was a real person, who actually traveled for a while with Paul. His descriptions of people, places and events in Acts have time and again been proved correct by modern archaeology, and as a result Luke has been ranked as "one of the greatest historians of all time."

      Moreover, if you think Luke was putting words into Peter's mouth, then I can cite you to Peter's own epistle to his followers in which he says the same thing: that he was an eyewitness to Christ's miracles and resurrection: see, e.g., 2 Pet 1:16ff.

      Likewise, the account of James's death was derived from eyewitnesses interviewed by the historian Josephus, who lived in Jerusalem at the time, so you can't get much closer to the source than that.

      And if you want an eyewitness account of a Christian martyr going to his death willingly after being offered his life if he recanted his faith, I can do no better than point you to the contemporary letter by the people who witnessed Polycarp defy the Roman authorities.

      That's much better evidence of what happened in those peoples' lives than we have of almost any other figure from antiquity -- accounts written by eyewitnesses at the time, or very shortly thereafter.

      On the AB point: where we seem to differ is just in the mechanics of the Holy Spirit's means of impregnating Mary. You say her egg was "poofed"; I say it had a sequence of carefully ordered mutations (according to the article I cited earlier) whose total probability is very, very small, but which are still possible. Either way, she ended up with a healthy zygote of AB blood type (which means that she was either A, B or AB herself). But the point remains: The blood on the Shroud (and the Sudarium) comes from the same, rather tall, and fully developed male, yet it seemingly lacks a Y-chromosome. No one could even have suspected such a thing before the early 20th century, when the science of genetics took off. That Jesus was both healthy and an XX male in and of itself speaks of some kind of supernatural intervention -- just as the gospel of St. Luke says!

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  2. Oh, yes -- and as for St. Paul: the reason he never writes about any of those things is that unlike all the other apostles, he never knew Jesus Christ as a live human being, with a mother and a family. Paul encountered only the risen Jesus, which is why the three separate accounts we have of that encounter are so special.

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    1. Lately I have been listening to a fascinating lecture series on the New Testament by an Episcopalian historian at Yale University. Here's a link to one of his most interesting lectures in the series. I'd be curious of your opinion of him and his views:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL279CFA55C51E75E0&v=d_dOhg-Fpu0

      I try to listen to both sides on the issue of the historicity of Jesus and the Bible.

      Gary

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    2. I was born as a result of human parthenogenesis. Given away at birth, for protective anonymity. The sealed records are on file at Women's Hospital [Detroit, Michigan], dated 02/25/1954. I am quite well-aware of this unique attribute.

      -Marc Breed
      America's Fetish Photographer
      http://artpostertheworldprogram.blogspot.com/

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