imageYesterday, Stephen Jones published an introduction to his new section of postings about the shroud dealing with Jesus’ wounds. In the very first paragraph he writes:

The Shroud must be consistent with the Bible If the Shroud of Turin is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, then it must be consistent with what the Bible says about Him, and particularly about His suffering, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection[1]. (emphasis is Stephen’s)

That seems backward. I would say:

The Bible must be consistent with the Shroud. If the passion narratives are accurate, in a literal sense, then they must be consistent with what the shroud suggests about Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, death, burial and perhaps his resurrection[1]. Underlining as emphasis is mine)

I left the notation ([1]) in because in Stephen’s blog it points to Ken Stevenson’s and Gary Habermas’ book, "Verdict on the Shroud: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” which I think more accurately reflects my point of view. It is the skeptic, the one who thinks a forger created to shroud to reflect what was in scripture, who says that the shroud must be consistent with the bible.

Let’s look at one example from among several in a table in Stephen’s blog:

The first column is a summary of the biblical account referenced in the second column. John (or the author or authors of John) tells it this way:

31Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” (NSRV)

But did it happen this way? Literally? I like to believe it but I can’t know it. Was it prophesy fulfilled or a case of postdiction, what John Dominic Crossan (Jesus Seminar) calls prophecy historicized? Or is it a literary technique to remind us of Psalm 34 and Zechariah 12? We should note carefully what Raymond E. Brown (The Death of the Messiah) reminds us of:

[T]he Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission taught authoritatively that the Gospels are the product of considerable development—narrative, organizational and theological development. They are not simply literal accounts of the ministry of Jesus.

There is a clear wound, certainly a piercing wound, on the man of the shroud. I agree with Stephen on that. But nowhere on the shroud is there clear evidence that his legs were NOT broken. There is no evidence that his legs were broken, either. But from that it doesn’t therefore follow . . . .

The wonder of the shroud is that it supports the biblical narratives, not the other way around.

If you want to watch John Dominic Crossan (who disagrees with Brown in this video) on the passion story, here it is. I’m more inclined to side with Brown and N. T. Wright who argue that what happened is pretty much what is told in the gospels. Pretty much!


The top picture is from Stephen’s blog.