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The Shroud of Turin

The shroud and the biblical text:

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What the Bible says:

Of the 50 gospels about Jesus' life that were written by authors in the early Christian movement, only four made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). All four contain descriptions of Jesus burial, and his subsequent resurrection approximately 36 hours (about a day and a half) later. The passages are:

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Mark 15:42 to 16:8,


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Matthew 27:57 to 28:7,


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Luke 23:44 to 24:12, and


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John 19:28 to 20:18.

The linen used to wrap Jesus is mentioned in all four of the canonical gospels:

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Mark 15:46: "And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher." (KJV)


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Matthew 27:59: "And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth."


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Luke 23:53: "And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulcher that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid."


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Luke 24:12: "Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass." The New International Version (NIV) renders this passage: "Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves..."


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John 19:39-40:  "And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
"



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John 20:6-7: "Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself." Again, the NIV refers to "strips of linen."

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Interpretation of the Gospels, according to conservative theologians:

Christians differ in the way in which they interpret the Bible. Fundamentalist and most other Evangelical Christians believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible so that they wrote text that was inerrant: free of error. Taking this approach, it is apparent that the details of the linen clothes described in Gospels appear to conflict with the Shroud of Turin:

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Mark 15:46 states that Jesus was wrapped in linen. "The Greek verb used means 'press in,' "pack,' 'force in.' Matthew and Luke obviously found the word somewhat unseemly and replaced it with one that means 'envelop.' But the clear implication of all three synoptics is that the material was bound tightly round the body." 1 The Shroud of Turin shows an image made by simply lying a linen shroud on top of the front of the body, over the head and down the back.


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Matthew 27:59: is ambiguous. It describes Joseph wrapping the body "in a clean linen cloth." The "cloth" could have been broad linen fabric in the shape of the Shroud of Turin, or could have been in the form of narrow linen bandage(s).


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Luke 24:12 says that Peter observed the "...linen clothes laid by themselves..." If Jesus had not been wrapped in linen strips, but had been enclosed by the Shroud of Turin, one would expect Luke to have written that Peter saw the "...linen cloth laid by itself..." And the NIV translation would not have mentioned "strips of linen."


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John 19:40 indicates that Jesus burial was a normal one, following the Jewish traditions. Thus, Joseph of Arimethea would have washed the body. The body shown in the Shroud of Turin was not washed.


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John 20:6 repeats the events recorded by Luke; he mentions that Peter saw "the linen clothes," not the linen cloth.


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John 20:7 makes a point of mentioning that there was a head covering -- a napkin -- as well as the (plural) "linen clothes." This passage describes multiple clothes. It does not match the shroud of Turin which is a single panel of linen.

Many conservative Christian theologians point to the many passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) which discussed the Messiah who was expected to come in the future of the Hebrew Scriptures' author's. Modern-day theologians note that Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies. 2 One is described in Isaiah 50:6 about Jesus' suffering:

"I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting."

Yet the Shroud of Turin shows a man with a full beard as called for in the Jewish law in Leviticus.

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Interpretation of the Gospels, according to some post-Christian and some liberal theologians:

Christians from the most liberal wing generally do not believe in the inspiration or inerrancy of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). They view the Bible as having been written by a number of male authors -- and perhaps by one women in the case of Luke. They believe that each author attempted to promote their own evolving religious beliefs and those of their faith group. Religious liberals also believe that Mark was the first Gospel to be written, and that Mark & Luke were written later, using Mark for much of the material. They also believe that none of the Gospel writers had actually met Jesus; they relied on the verbal legends of the Christian community. The crucifixion, burial and resurrection passages were largely fiction. The authors created events so that prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures would be fulfilled. Many very liberal Christians believe that Jesus' body was handled just like those of the thousands of other crucifixion victims: the corpse was left hanging for some time in order to allow it to be devoured by birds and animals. It was then thrown on a garbage dump to be completely consumed. This was part of the occupying Roman Army's psychological terrorism of the Jewish people. By preventing Jews from being given a proper burial, to the horrific nature of the crucifixion process was augmented.

With no proper burial, there was no need for a shroud or linen strips to enclose the corpse.

Also, there is no indication on the Shroud of Turin of any attacks by predatory birds or animals as one would expect to be seen on he body of a crucifixion victim.

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Reference:

  1. G.A. Wells, "The historical evidence for Jesus," Prometheus Books, (1988), Page 193. Read reviews or order this book
  2. "Pastor Bob," "Was Jesus’ Beard Plucked Out During the Crucifixion?," River of Life Church, 2013-APR-02, at: http://www.portagechurch.org/

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Copyright � 2003 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JAN-10
Latest update: 2015-AUG-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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