Walmart Wonder

Jacob Simmons and Gentry Lee Sutherland, an engaged couple from Anderson County, South Carolina were shocked to see the face of Jesus looking out at them from a Walmart receipt. They had bought some pictures from the store on June 12th and left the receipt in Sutherland’s apartment. Three days later, Simmons was leaving the kitchen after the couple had returned from a church service and noticed the receipt on the floor. “I was leaving the kitchen and I just looked on the floor and it was like it was looking at me.” said Simmons.

“We had a message on knowing God, abiding in him,” said Sutherland. “If you know God, would you recognize him if you saw him?”

The couple deny tampering with the receipt and hope that it will show Jesus to everyone who sees it.

This story is similar to many that purport to show images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and icons from other religions on mundane objects. Assuming that the couple are genuine, they doubtless feel specially blessed to have been singled out as recipients of such a miracle but there are a few questions that are worth raising:

Firstly, many people will see the image of Jesus in this receipt, however, not one of them will know what Jesus actually looked like. There are no useful descriptions of Jesus from Biblical texts and no evidence beyond these texts that he even existed in the first place. No historian living during the alleged lifetime of Jesus gives any mention at all to him. (And, before anyone mentions Josephus Flavius – he wasn’t even born until 37CE and wrote Antiquities in 93CE which is later than the Gospels!). So, no-one knows what Jesus would have looked like but it is very doubtful that he would display the typical European features given to him by Christian artists over the centuries. So this being an image of Jesus is in the eye of the beholder.

Indeed, there are more direct comparisons that can be made of the image. It does bear a resemblance to self-proclaimed Messiah, Charles Manson. Not exactly a person whom any good Christian couple would wish to have staring at them from their kitchen floor.

To me it looks quite like the writer, Alan Moore, author of Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta and many other successful graphic novels. And Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters. In fact, it looks like lots of people to me, but not Jesus – because I don’t know what he looked like.

Clockwise from top L; Walmart receipt, Alan Moore, 
Dave Grohl, Charles Manson

Would the real Messiah please stand up..?

As to the miracle of the appearing image – the receipt has been produced on a thermal till printer. This type of printer uses heat to print the characters on the receipt. Exposure to more heat will blacken the receipt. I have seen the result of this from leaving a petrol station receipt in my car on a sunny day. When I returned to the car, the receipt was completely black. So a receipt left in a place with sources of heat, for example, a kitchen, could easily darken through exposure to heat. As patterns form, our natural tendency to look for significance in these patterns, pareidolia, kicks in and we see faces. In this particular case, the image is a very clear formation and I can’t help suspecting that the image has been ‘helped along’.

Even if it hasn’t had human assistance, I do wonder about Jesus’ choice to manifest himself upon a Walmart till receipt. If we take what has been written about Him, I cannot see Him choosing to announce His presence on a product from a company that, amongst other things, practices money-lending. Jesus was very much against this sort of thing and the practice of lending money and charging interest, usuary, was always regarded as a terrible sin. Then there’s all the pork products. And guns.

I don’t think he’d like Walmart very much.

Assuming that Jesus looked like Robert Powell in 'Jesus of Nazareth', had he survived the crucifixion, he would have looked like this in his later years...

Maybe Walmart should start stocking these?

Published in: on 28 July, 2011 at 11:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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