Abstract There can be little question man in the Turin Shroud is unnaturally tall for an ancient Jew (6’1 to 6’2), something which has led pathologist Fred Zugibe to propose that Jesus of Nazareth suffered from Mafan Syndrome (Marfan Syndrome sufferers are tall and thin with elongated sculls, limbs and fingers). An alternative explanation is that the man possessed a homozygous C677T mutation of the MTHFR gene, possibly adaptive in countries where malaria is endemic, and known to cause a mild from of Homocystinuria, a condition that mimics Marfan Syndrome. The C677T mutation may also account for the elongated physiques of the Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty known as Akhenaten, and Abraham Lincoln, both believed at times to have suffered from Marfan Syndrome…
Those suffering with Marfan Syndrome are generally taller than average, with a long, thin faces and elongated limbs and skulls. Like Abraham Lincoln (1), the man in the Turin Shroud (believed by millions to be Jesus of Nazareth) as been posthumously diagnosed by Marfan Syndrome. According to the late pathologist Fred Zugiby (2):
The body image on the shroud has been determined to be about 6 feet tall, unusual for the average Hebrew of that era. The distance from the groin to sole measurement is markedly greater than the distance from the groin to the top of the head; the arm span exceeds the height; long, spidery fingers appear pronounced; and the face appears long suggesting a Lincolnesque appearance, a characteristic named after Abraham Lincoln, who was purported to have had Marfan’s syndrome.
The late Denis Dutton (3), and many Shroud-skeptics, have interpreted Zugibes’ proposal as an attempt to explain why the man in the Shroud possessed anatomically impossible features drawn by an incompetent artist, but this is a mistake of their part:
any apparent impossibility is attributable to the mistaken and perplexing assumption by these skeptics that the man is lying flat, when it is fairly clear to the eye alone that he is lying with his head bowed and his knees bent, the posture of a crucifixion victim, and one that inevitably produces the apparent foreshortening of the forehead, and the lengthening of the arms. However the limbs of the man are nonetheless long and thin, and if the man in the Shroud is Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus was a Marfan Syndrome sufferer, then this would explain his premature death on the cross, and perhaps the flow of blood and water that followed the penetration of his chest by a Roman spear. Also those with Marfan Syndrome often have problems with their eyes and are prone to strabismus. A 1994 study found that 19.2% of 570 patients had strabismus (4). Extropia -where the eyes turn outwards- occurred in 11.7 %. of these patients. A detailed view of the face of the man in Shroud reveals that he was suffering from extropia, something that may -but may not- be attributable to injuries suffered at the hands of his Jewish and Roman assailants:
An objection to Zugibe’s thesis is that Marfan Syndrome considerably weakens the body and the man in the Shroud was evidently very strong. The victim of a Roman scourging (flagellation) was bound to a post or frame, stripped of his clothing, and beaten by two “lictors”, one on each side, from the shoulders down, with a flagellum or flagrum. This was instrument of torture similar to the cat-o-nine tails involving a wooden handle, and strips of leather to which were attached sharpened pieces of lead (or sometimes bone). According to Wikipedia, flagellation was referred to as “half death” by some authors, since if the victim didn’t die while still bound to the post, they often died shortly thereafter, and the back and legs of the man in the Shroud are literally peppered with -scourge-wounds ((322 in all) inflicted by a Roman flagrum:
Someone with Marfan Syndrome, or any serious medical condition, would be unlikely to walk away from an assault as brutal as this, and if the man in the Shroud is Jesus of Nazareth, then judging by trauma to his shoulders, he both walked away from the scourging and beating that preceded and followed it, and was able to carry the heavy patibulum (between 80 and100 pounds) of the cross he was to be crucified on at least part of the way to Golgotha (about 600 meters). John says only that he carried his cross, the synoptic gospels say that Simon of Cyrene carried it, we can infer that he began to carry it, and that weakened by the scourging and the beatings, fell under its weight, at which point Simon of Cyrene carried it for him. And there is evident damage to the right knee of the man in the Shroud). This was a rarely strong man. Many men by now -if they were alive at all- would be unable to walk, let alone carry something as heavy as the patibulum on their shoulders.
There is a similarly explanatory but subtler possibility than Mafan Syndrome, which can be introduced by reference to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (usually known as Akhenaten) of the 18th dynasty. Depictions of the body and head shape of Akhenaten and members of his family, including the boy king Tutankhamun, show the Pharaoh and relatives to possess unusually elongated sculls, and elongated limbs and fingers. Akhenaten:
Akhenaten, Nefertiti and children:
Elongated sculls were once supposed to be a reflection of an artistic style adopted in the ‘Amarna Period’ during and just after the reign of Akhenaten (r. 1351 – 1334 BC), but it has since been determined from the discovery of the scull of Akhenaten, and the mummified body of his son Tutankhamen, from the KV55 Tomb in The Valley of the Kings (5), that these people really did have an elongated sculls (and the Egyptians are not known to have practiced artificial cranial deformation). Below some reconstructions of Tutankhamen’s head based on his skull:
These features are consistent with Marfan Syndrome, and it was argued by Burridge (6) that Akhenaten suffered from the syndrome. But DNA tests on Tutankhamun in 2010 came back negative for Marfan Syndrome, and in the same year the alternative theory was put forward by Cavka et al that Akhenaten suffered from Homocystinuria (7):
Pharaoh Amenophis IV (Amenhotep IV), also known as Akhenaten, is the most mysterious person in Egyptian history and he still remains the object of academic argues. This revolutionary king introduced a new concept in Egyptian religion and arts. It is still unexplained if images of him and his family were just an artistic outbreak from old Egyptian canon or an excellent paleopathological study. Several pathologic conditions were proposed to explain his appearance but neither is completely acceptable. We propose a different disease that he could have suffered of: homocystinuria \[Dash] lack of cysthationine-synthase. Our conclusion is that in comparison with up to date most convincing theory, that he was suffering of Marfan syndrome, our theory equally well explains his physical appearance but is better in explaining affecting and unaffecting of his relatives. This is the only theory about Akhenaten’s disease that could be checked in the near future.
Homocystinuria – which is associated with a similar set of physical manifestations as Marfan Syndrome- is caused by mutations of the CBS (cystathionine beta synthase) gene, and involves ‘hyperhomocysteinemia’, a fancy word for an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the blood (homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid, and high levels in the blood make that person prone to inflammation). But mutations of the MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene such as C677T can also produce a form of Homocystinuria (8):
While rare, severe MTHFR deficiency, due to mutations in the MTHFR gene, also cause homocystinuria. Individuals who are homozygous for the common C677T mutation (HGVS:c.665>C) may develop mild hyperhomocysteinemia.
While both CBS mutations and MTHFR mutations cause hyperhomocysteinemia, and while there have as far as I know been no comparative studies, there can be little question the signs of an MTHFR mutation that has resulted in hyperhomocysteinemia will be the similar to the signs of a CBS mutation that has resulted in hyperhomocysteinemia.
Some of the highest frequencies of the C677T mutation in the world are to be found amongst those living in Mediterranean countries, where malaria is endemic. We learned in 2008 from Nerlich et al (9) that this has been the case since ancient times, when DNA analysis performed on 91 skeleton and mummy bone tissues led to the discovery of DNA traces of Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest and most frequent of the 4 pathogens that cause malaria. Nerlich stated afterwards
We now know for sure that malaria was endemic in ancient Egypt.
In 2014, Meadows et al (10) examined mice for a link between the C677T mutation and the prevalence of malaria. They studied different groups of mice with varying levels of the C677T mutation who had been infected with malaria and found that mice infected with malaria that also had the C677T mutation survived longer, and also had increased levels of immunity. Their conclusion was that the high rates of C677T mutations in Mediterranean counties may be due a protection provided by the mutation against malarial infection:
We suggest that mild MTHFR deficiency protects against malarial infection and that this phenomenon may have led to the high frequency of the 677C>T/c.665C>T variant in human populations.
It might be argued then that the possession by the man in the Shroud of a homozygous C677T mutation -which could explain via the association of this mutation with Homocystinuria more or less everything that Marfan Syndrome can explain – is also consistent with the identity of the man as Jesus of Nazareth, an ancient Mediterranean living in an area rife with malaria, and judging by the work of Nerlich, and Soren and Sallares (11, 12), possibly the predominant killer of that time and place.
THE PARACAS SCULLS
A “farfetched” but more interesting possibility, and one that better coheres with the gospel accounts, is that the man in the Shroud aka Jesus of Nazareth was an alien-human hybrid. Almost certainly, he could not have resurrected otherwise. And there is arguably concrete independent evidence of the presence of alien-human hybrids on the planet arising from the existence of a number of the elongated sculls, excavated by Peruvian archeologist Julio Tello between 1927- 8 (13), and on display in the Paracas History Museum:
The official explanation of the Paracas sculls is that they are result of the practice of artificial cranial deformation described in the following way in a 2003 paper by anatomist Valerie Dean O’Loughlin (14):
Cultural cranial deformation could be intentionally induced in a variety of ways. The vault could be tightly encircled by bandages, producing a cylindrical or conical head shape (e.g., in South America). Securing the skull between two boards flattened those portions of the head in direct contact with the boards (e.g., on the Northwest Coast of North America). In some cultures, the deformation may have been unintentional, as when an infant was secured on a cradleboard for a long period of time, consequently flattening the back of the head (e.g., the Southwest US).
Reasons for modifying cranium shape were varied and sometimes culture-specific. Northwest Coast, Columbian, and Peruvian cultures viewed males who had deformed skulls as more brave and powerful. Most cultures that practiced intentional molding viewed a “molded” head as a sign of high status. Often, slaves were not allowed to practice cultural cranial deformation, and so their head shape was a physical sign of their social status (e.g., Northwest Coast). In addition, culturally modified skulls were viewed as a sign of beauty, and the more marked the deformation, the more beautiful the person was regarded as being.
The assistant director at the Paracas History Museum, Brien Forrester maintains however that the cranial volume of some of these sculls is up to 25% larger and 60 percent heavier than conventional humans sculls. (15) If he is is right, then some Paracas sculls could not have been produced by any form of artificial cranial deformation which, will it distorts the length of the scull, does not change the original volume of the scull. Forester also maintains that DNA analysis performed on one of these sculls showed revealed unknown mitochondrial DNA mutations. He quotes from the scientists that performed the test:
Whatever the sample labeled 3A has came from – it had mtDNA with mutations unknown in any human, primate or animal known so far. The data are very sketchy though and a LOT of sequencing still needs to be done to recover the complete mtDNA sequence. But a few fragments I was able to sequence from this sample 3A indicate that if these mutations will hold we are dealing with a new human-like creature, very distant from Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans. I am not sure it will even fit into the known evolutionary tree…
The Paracas sculls echo a sourceless story circulating on the internet about Akhenaten and his higher cranial capacity of Akhenaten:
A brain tissue sample and a bone sample belonging to Akhenaten both produced the same results. They showed that his strange appearance, his larger cranial capacity and elongated skull needed to house a larger brain. He was found to have had a genetic anomaly that caused his brain cortex to grow. When a sample of his DNA is compared against another mummified person of the same age, gender and period, it is very clear that his DNA is quite remarkable.
The story reads like a hoax, but it is a hoax expounding an idea that is -like Forester’s claims – interesting, and not unsupportable.
The skeptical response is uniformly this:
There is nothing at all unusual about the population of the Paracas Necropolis Culture, apart from the extreme nature of the head-binding they practised. DNA or no DNA, they are fully human: every aspect of their skulls can be explained in terms of genetics (such as the large wormian bone) and culture (such as the cranial deformation). Any statements to the contrary contain a mixture of deliberate deception, ignorance of anthropology, lack of archaeological knowledge and jumping to wild conclusions using “sketchy” data. They are not evidence for aliens or an otherwise unknown hominin species. (16)
DNA testing is irrelevant because, no matter what the results, the Paracas sculls surely must be the sculls of ordinary humans? This position has -like many skeptical responses- the general form of David Hume’s position in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding = if he, Hume, finds something too far outside his normal experience or what he takes to be the normal experience of others, he prefers to suppose that it isn’t real and is due to “knavery” and/or “folly” (17):
But suppose, that all the historians who treat of England, should agree, that, on the first of January 1600, Queen Elizabeth died; that both before and after her death she was seen by her physicians and the whole court, as is usual with persons of her rank; that her successor was acknowledged and proclaimed by the parliament; and that, after being interred a month, she again appeared, resumed the throne, and governed England for three years: I must confess that I should be surprised at the concurrence of so many odd circumstances, but should not have the least inclination to believe so miraculous an event. I should not doubt of her pretended death, and of those other public circumstances that followed it: I should only assert it to have been pretended, and that it neither was, nor possibly could be real. You would in vain object to me the difficulty, and almost impossibility of deceiving the world in an affair of such consequence; the wisdom and solid judgement of that renowned queen; with the little or no advantage which she could reap from so poor an artifice: All this might astonish me; but I would still reply, that the knavery and folly of men are such common phenomena, that I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise from their concurrence, than admit of so signal a violation of the laws of nature.
Hume’s reasoning is invalidated by a fallacy that is rarely thought about (ironically a fallacy discussed elsewhere in this same volume by Hume himself). I refer to the fact that in, so far as there is such a thing as a law of nature discoverable by experience, it is is based on the possibility of extrapolating from a very narrow band of experience to the universe at large, from a very narrow and filtered perspective on reality, to the whole of reality. Metaphorically, the assumption of all scientists is is that by making observations and performing experiments in your bedroom you can say how things are outside your bedroom. But as one’s band of experience is expanded, one’s vision of the universe changes, and things can easily turn out to be completely different outside your bedroom to how they appeared inside your bedroom. There are future shocks ahead of anyone who sets great store by the bedroom experience, but common sense alone should tell us that, if our best theories are effected -as are the theories of Relativity, QED, and Evolution- by gaping holes and paradoxical anomalies, then there is more to be learned that we are presently aware of. Man need not fall victim to the fallacy of the ant, which is to assume that the world is no bigger than its tiny mind imagines it to be, for unlike the ant, the man can recognize the reality of a world beyond himself)… The elusive, objective truth, of any matter, it follows, is independent of its means of discovery – one can be scientifically scrupulous according to the conventions of the times and arrive at all the wrong conclusions, and conversely one can leap to all the right conclusions by ignoring or violating these conventions.
Two observations on cranial deformation: the origin of the practice thereof is a mystery, and whilst it is undoubtedly the case that many elongated sculls were produced artificially, the possibility exists that the practice results from an attempt to emulate those for whom an elongated head shape was a natural condition.
Some of a Christian persuasion hold that the owners of the Paracas sculls were descendants of the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6: 1 – 4 (18):
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose… The Nephilim were on the earth in those days\[LongDash]and also afterward – when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
Rabbinic Judaism has tended to interpret this mysterious passage to mean that the Nephilim were “the sons of nobles” rather than the “sons of God” or “the sons of angels” (19), and a common Christian interpretation is that the sons of Adam’s son Seth intermarried with the daughter’s of his “evil” son Cain (20), but these interpretations fail to explain why the offspring of these liaisons should result in Nephilim (usually translated as “giants”) and ceatures with unusual physical size and strength. The only other direct reference to the Nephilim in the bible is in Numbers, when the men Moses can sent to explore the land of Canaan returned with their report, and this passage emphasizes the great physical statue of the Nephilim:
What does explain this giantism is the interpretation according to which “בני האלהים” or “Bene alohim”, from which we get the translation “the sons of God” refers to angelic beings. This interpretation is given a detailed and lengthy exposition in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (21). Here is my idea: like the Nephilim, Jesus of Nazareth was according to the gospel accounts the result of a union between an alien being and a human woman And like the Nephilim, Jesus was -as he said himself and was crucified for saying- the son of God. The Nephilim are evil, Jesus is good, but nonetheless both are sons of God conceived by the impregnation of a human woman by a non-human entity of the same origin. It is to be expected therefore that both Jesus and the Nephilim -cut as it were from the same genetic cloth- will be physically extraordinary (unusual height is something that is generally stressed in the case of the Nephilim and so it is not unexpected that Jesus was like the man in the Shroud taller than other men of his time). Since the head of the man in the Shroud is bowed, it’s hard to tell if his scull is elongated, but it may be. Certainly he is tall – around 6’1- 6’2 when the bent knees and the bowed head are accounted for- even by today;s standards. Shroudies argue that Jesus physique wasn’t unusual, but the height of Yehohanan the only other 1st century crucifixion victim was 5’6 the average for Mediterranean people of that time (22)), skeptics point to his unusual physique as as evidence that the Shroud is a medieval fake (I’ve even heard to argued that since Judas was required to point Jesus out in the Garden of Gethsemane, he can’t have been very tall, and thus that the TS is a medieval fake). A third position is that Jesus’ physique was as the skeptics say unusual (especially for that time) and that this to be expected from someone who was an alien-human hybrid. The orthodox Christian view is that Jesus was completely man and completely God, but that’s like saying that the liger is completely lion and completely tiger – a logical impossibility. Also it is bad theology. Jesus represents God descending to a human level so that we might meet with God; we can’t reach up to God -the gulf separating man and God is too great- but God can reach down to us, thus bridging that gulf. This is the essence of the metaphysics of Christianity, and to maintain that Jesus was completely God, rather than God descended to a lessor plane of existence, destroys this metaphysics and a) makes incomprehensible those times in the gospel narratives when Jesus is revealed to be fragile and unsure of himself (prior to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane for example he is pleading with God to spare his life) and b) it puts God beyond human reach.
(1) Krigel,K (2013). Did Abraham Lincoln Have Marfan Syndrome?
(2) Zugibe, F (2005), The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry
(3) Dutton, D (1984), Requiem for the Shroud of Turin
(4) Hawass, Z et al (2010), Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family” The Journal of the American Medical Association
(5) Izquierdo N et al (1994), Strabismus in the Marfan syndrome
(6) Burridge, A (1995), Did Akhenaten Suffer From Marfan’s Syndrome?
(7) Cavka, M et al (2010) Homocystinuria, a Possible Solution of the Akhenaten’s Mystery
(8) Leonard, D (2016), Molecular Pathology in Clinical Practice
(9) Nerlich, A (2008), et al. Plasmodium falciparum in Ancient Egypt
(10) Meadows, D (2014), et al. Increased resistance to malaria in mice with methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (Mthfr) deficiency suggests a mechanism for selection of the MTHFR 677C>T (c.665C>T) variant
(11) Soren, D and N (1999), A Roman Villa and a Late Roman Infant Cemetery: Excavation at Poggio Gramignano Lugnano in Teverina
(12) Sallaries, R (2004), The Spread of Malaria to Southern Europe in Antiquity: New Approaches to Old Problems
(13) Burger, R (2009), The Life and Writings of Julio C. Tello
(14) O’Loughlin, V (2003), Effects of Different Kinds of Cranial Deformation on the Incidence of Wormian Bones
(15) Childress, D (2012), The Enigma of Cranial Deformation
(16) Mathews, K (2014) The Paracas skulls: aliens, an unknown hominid species or cranial deformation?
(17) Hume, D (1748), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
(18) Mazulli, L (2016), Nephilim Hybrids: Hybrids, Chimeras & Strange Demonic Creatures
(19) The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of the nobles would come to the daughters of man, and they would bear for them; they are the mighty men, who were of old, the men of renown.”\[LongDash]Genesis 6:4 (chabad.org translation)
(20) Later Judaism and almost all the earliest ecclesiastical writers identify the “sons of God” with the fallen angels; but from the fourth century onwards, as the idea of angelic natures becomes less material, the Fathers commonly take the “sons of God” to be Seth’s descendants and the “daughters of men” those of Cain.
\[LongDash]Jerusalem Bible, Genesis VI, footnote.
(21) Charles, R (1912) trans. The Book of Enoch
(22) Tzaferis, F (1985), Crucifixion and Archeological Evidence