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Calvinists and the Shroud of Turin

May 25, 2012

imageSkeptics have long maintained that if there was an image on Jesus’ burial cloth, at least one of the Gospel writers would have mentioned it. Calvin was an early skeptic in this regard. He wrote:

How is it possible that those sacred historians, who carefully related all the miracles that took place at Christ’s death, should have omitted to mention one so remarkable as the likeness of the body of our Lord remaining on its wrapping sheet? This fact undoubtedly deserved to be recorded. St John, in his Gospel, relates even how St Peter, having entered the sepulchre, saw the linen clothes lying on one side, and the napkin that was about his head on the other; but he does not say that there was a miraculous impression of our Lord’s figure upon these clothes, and it is not to be imagined that he would have omitted to mention such a work of God if there had been any thing of this kind.

Stephen E. Jones addresses this subject very well.

Now comes along a fan of the 17th century Calvinist Francis Turretin (he calls himself TurretinFan and the drawing of him is from his Facebook page) to take us a bit farther down this way of thinking in Thoughts of Francis Turretin and Reformed Apologetics.

Unfortunately for shroud advocates, these [= early historical] claims are not very reliable. I happened to be reading the Venerable Bede’s, "On Holy Places," in "Bede: A Biblical Miscellany," trans. Foley and Holder. In that work, chapter IV is titled: "Concerning the Lord’s head-cloth and Another Great Shroud made by St. Mary." [ . . . ]

Adamnan’s and Bede’s silence regarding the Shroud of Turin [I guess it would have been the Shroud of Edessa or somewhere in the 7th and 8th centuries] at this point is fully expected by those of us who recognize that the Shroud of Turin is a later creation. Had such a shroud been known to exist in Bede’s time, he could hardly be expected not to discuss it at this point in his work. So, while silence cannot prove the non-existence of the shroud, it certainly suggests that the most prominent historian of the age was not aware of it.

Categories: News & Views, Other Blogs
  1. daveb of wellington nz
    May 25, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Stephen Jones’ treatment is adequate, detailed, comprehensive, possibly even over-cooked, but probably that’s because as an evangelical pastor, Calvin is a giant figure for him. Essentially I feel there were probably two main reasons why the Shroud image didn’t get gospel coverage: (1) the burial cloths were unclean on about three counts – (they had wrapped a dead body, they were bloodied, the body they’d wrapped had been executed as a criminal); (2) Any image showing on the cloths would have been contrary to Jewish Law (no images allowed). Clearly the Jewish disciples would need quite some time to work through all the issues these matters raised.

    I checked out the Turretin site, but wasn’t particularly impressed. The guy running it seems to be a control freak, with several comments still “under moderation”, and the ones that were there, all studded with the moderator’s comments adding his 5 cents worth if bloggers dared to have any perspective different from his own, as if they were all little kids. We can all be grateful to Dan for his relatively open-door policy on this site and general freedom of viewpoints, unless we get too far into the out-field,

  2. May 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    With respect to Calvin’s point of view, I would have to say in fairness it would have to be admitted as is obvious in Scripture (Acts) that these followers of the way were not only rejected, but the leaders of the Jews, of which they were an original part, were thrown into prison and given stripes for speaking in the name of Jesus. To not publicize the Shroud is not even close to any kind of proof that it is a fake and wasn’t there at the resurrection. I would point Mr. Calvin to the end of John’s gospel in which the disciple Jesus loved, John, peered into the empty tomb before Peter went in and he came to believe. What does that mean? Well, he was there for the crucifixion and was most likely present for the burial. He saw a dead Jesus enshrouded and then on the third day he saw either a tied Shroud without a body or an untied Shroud with an image on it. Both of these conclusions to his involvement with Jesus’ crucifixion would certainly cause one to believe.

    This joined with the possibility that Jude took the Shroud to Edessa early could account for a lack of Scriptural evidence of this event. It certainly wasn’t core to the resurrection event. If it was core, obviously it would have been written down by one of them, unless they were instructed not to do so. The glorified Jesus taught them for some time after the resurrection.

    Based on all these unknowns, I don’t think Calvin’s skepticism can be taken very seriously.

  3. Ron
    May 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Very good points by both Jon and Andy. Calvin most likely was not aware of the Jewish law pertaining to burial cloths and being three times unclean. It would have been a death sentence to anyone whom had possesion of such an article. So not much of a mystery, it being not mentioned in scriptures-early writings. Also to the contrary it just may have been mentioned in John 20:11, (A mastery of the secret word?) I mentioned this before about reading the paper “Lazarus and Jesus” by Rev. Dreisbach, it may open some eyes! -I side with what it concludes. I’ve come to the notion that the disciples found the Shroud still (bound) in the tomb, which was the direct evidence to them that Jesus had risen, but they were not aware of the image as yet. (It would be pretty difficult to see the faint image in the darkness of the tomb I would think, especially since they would have to unravel it to see the image)… The discovery of the image most likely took place afterward, maybe even when Jesus first appeared to them in the room and he made them aware of it and it’s importance, and also the importance of protecting it. Then it is not too far fetched that an item of such importance would be wisked away to safety and away from prying eyes and hidden.


  4. Ron
    May 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Sorry, first line should read as: Very good points by Daveb and Andy. ;-S


  5. daveb of wellington nz
    May 25, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    “R: … Calvin most likely was not aware of the Jewish law pertaining to burial cloths and being three times unclean. It would have been a death sentence to anyone whom had possesion of such an article.”

    Like all the Protestant Reformers, Calvin maintained that the sole authority for God’s revelation was the Bible, and Leviticus spells out general rules for ritual purity; He should have known his Leviticus. Made more specific and rigorous during the time of the Pharisees (post-exilic). Numbers 19:11-16 governs touching of corpses,

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