Shroud Controversy Won't Quit
Given the fancy equipment used to identify criminals and murder victims these days -- some of it seen on the popular television series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" -- you'd think modern scientists could determine once and for all whether the Shroud of Turin is artifact or forgery. Not so.
The latest twist in the centuries-old controversy involves Raymond N. Rogers, a retired chemist and a fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who last month challenged a 1988 finding by three Vatican-approved laboratories that the shroud is a medieval fake. Rogers agreed that the cloth analyzed by those labs was made hundreds of years after Jesus's death. But the sample was taken from material used to repair the shroud after it was damaged in a 1532 fire, he said.
Rogers based his assertion on a comparison of those labs' results and analysis done on samples taken in 1978, by a team of which Rogers was part, and on linens found with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rogers estimated the shroud's age at 1,300 to 3,000 years -- plenty of wiggle room for more debate.
Search for Cana Gets Competitive
Israeli archaeologists announced just before Christmas that they have uncovered -- maybe -- the biblical city of Cana, where the Gospel says Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine.
The remains of buildings, household utensils and a Jewish purification bath were discovered during excavations near modern-day Cana, an Arab town between Nazareth and Capernaum in the Galilee. Among the roots of ancient olive trees they found pieces of large stone jars of the kind mentioned in the biblical account of the wedding feast at Cana.
A group of American archaeologists countered that they had discovered the original site of Cana several miles to the north of the Israelis' excavation. And British archaeologist Shimon Gibson, criticized by some archaeologists last August when he announced that his team had uncovered the cave of John the Baptist, cast doubt on the Israeli dig at Cana.
The discovery of stone vessels from New Testament times "is not enough to prove that this is a biblical site," he said.
Many Doctors Believe in Miracles
Miracles are not just a thing of the past, according to a survey of 1,100 U.S. physicians from a variety of religious backgrounds.
About three-fourths of the respondents -- 73 percent -- said they believe that miracles can occur today. And a majority -- 55 percent -- said they have witnessed treatment results in their patients that they would call miraculous.
The study, conducted in December for the Institute for Religious and Social Studies of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, also found that 37 percent of the respondents believe that the miracles reported in the Bible are true; 55 percent believe that medical practice should be guided by religious teaching; 58 percent worship at least once a month; and 59 percent pray for their patients.
Popular Books Hurt Niche Stores
Independent Christian retailers are paying the price of success of such best-selling books as "The Prayer of Jabez," "The Purpose-Driven Life" and the "Left Behind" series: They are going out of business, while secular bookstore chains and discount warehouses have taken over a lion's share of the market.
About one-tenth of the country's 2,700 Christian retailers closed their doors in 2003, according to Bill Anderson, president of the CBA, the Christian booksellers trade association. Christian independents "have been thrust from a protected specialty niche into an open field with a price-driven market," he told Newsweek.
"I think there's an element of greed here," said Jo Panter, co-owner of the Rainbow Bookstore in Traverse City, Mich. Panter sees Christian titles selling at Sam's Club for a dollar more than she can buy them wholesale.
This month's spotlight: Ashura, 10th day of the Islamic New Year.