Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Shroud of Turin: How Can We Be Sure?

I've always been a sucker for a great conspiracy theory. I think one of the most interesting legends of our time is The Shroud of Turin. According to www.shroud.com, "Modern science has completed hundreds of thousands of hours of detailed study and intense research on the shroud. It is, in fact, the most studied artifact in human history."

Many people over many hundreds of years have put faith in this burial cloth, believing it not only to be an authentic and miraculous transference of the image of a crucified man, but believing that man to be Jesus Christ.

Those who have studied it are divided as to the age of the cloth, the medium used to create the image (was it painted? miraculously transposed?), and the identity of the person pictured.

The Catholic church has taken a big leap of faith in allowing the Holy Face Medal to be depicted after the image of the man on the shroud. While they apparently don't take a solid position on the authenticity of the shroud, they've gone ahead a
nd "approved of the image in association with the Roman Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus". I think they're making a pretty big assumption here. Not only have they made a graven image of a man that they're not so sure is really God (see Exodus 20:4: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth."), but they're ignoring what the New Testament has to say about the details surrounding Jesus' burial cloths.

Each of the gospels describes Jesus as having been buried in a linen cloth however, John gets very specific as he describes the Jewish custom of wrapping the body. John describes two cloths: a linen wrapping for the body and a separate cloth for the face:

"So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself" John 20:4-7.

This attention to detail shows us that the answers to the "mystery" of the Shroud of Turin have been in the Word all along. The Shroud is one piece of cloth showing a crucified man from head to toe. The Bible clearly shows us that this can not be the image of Christ as he was wrapped in more than one wrapping and his head was wrapped separately from the rest of the body.

What bothers me about all of this is not so much that there are still people out there debating the Shroud's "authenticity", but that this is the first time I've taken the time to open up my Bible and investigate the veracity of the myth for myself. The answers really are all there---if I'd take the time to find them!

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