The Shroud and the Jew: Barrie Schwortz (Transcript)

Full text of researcher Barrie Schwortz’s talk: ‘The Shroud and the Jew’ at TEDxViadellaConciliazione conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Barrie Schwortz – Photographer & Researcher

Thank you.

Well, as you’ve heard, I was the official documenting photographer for the Shroud of Turin research project. Shroud of Turin research project was the first and only scientific team ever to be given permission to do an in-depth examination of the Shroud of Turin.

Now, I have to tell you this: I just finished a six-week lecture tour, three states, twelve cities, twenty-two lectures. All of them, two hours or more and all of them, extemporaneous. I often do eight hour seminars on the Shroud of Turin. Again, no notes, no lecture notes of any kind, but 15 minutes is hard.

And so, you’ll have to forgive me but there was no way that I could do this. You know, it’s not hard to get me to start talking but it’s hard to get me to stop. So, you’ll forgive me that I brought some notes with me and I’m going to have to refer to them just so that I stay on time and make sure that I do it correctly. So, there it is. That’s that piece of cloth that got into my life 35 years ago.

Well, as a professional photographer, I specialized in scientific medical and technical kinds of issues, so I had the skills and the qualifications that were necessary to be a part of the team that examined the Shroud.

But when they, excuse me, when they first asked me to do this, first thing I said was, no, no way. And why did I refuse? Well, answer is simple; I was very uncomfortable with the subject matter because I was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish home.

Now, I want to be clear about that, I am NOT a practicing Jew at this point in my life, but I was for that first 13 years. Both my parents immigrated to America from Poland when they were little kids, just before World War two. And so, my question and the question that went through my mind at the time was: why would a Jewish man want to get involved with this, what is probably arguably the most important relic of Christianity?

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That moment in my life I couldn’t see any benefit to being involved. Well, not only that, I was a total skeptic and figured that the Shroud was probably some form of a painting, which was the conventional wisdom in 1978.

I fully expected to get to Turin, take a quick look, see the paint and the brushstrokes and go home. I even stupidly said that publicly somewhere and of course for the last 35 years, I’ve been living to regret those words.

Anyway, in the end, I viewed this whole thing, and this is terrible to admit this close to the Vatican, this was going to be a free trip to Italy. That’s what I thought.

But, you know, my attitude was immature because I was only 32 years old at the time. My son just turned 33, so that… and I’m still waiting for him to grow up. So, I can imagine where my… I can’t even imagine where my head was in those days.

In the end of course, I did join the team because the image on the Shroud has some fascinating properties that piqued my scientific curiosity, but I still tried to quit twice again and in fact, as our team grew a few men from the Jet Propulsion labs became members of our team, one of them was a man named Don Lynn, may rest in peace. Don was an imaging expert from NASA, so he was my hero immediately. And he was the head of imaging on Voyager and Viking and Mariner and Galileo. You might have heard of some of them.

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