Home > Biblical Evidence > Jesus walked off with his shroud?

Jesus walked off with his shroud?

November 11, 2014

“the risen Jesus took His sindon with Him out of the empty tomb”

imageIn an update yesterday, Stephen Jones zeroes in on an apparent false dilemma to argue the point:

The fallacy is that of the "false dilemma … in which only limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option"[66]. In this case the fallacy is the assumption that, since the Shroud [sindon] must have been there in the empty tomb when Peter and John entered it, and there are only two alternatives, the othonia and the soudarion, but it cannot have been the othonia because that means "linen strips," therefore the soudarion must have been the sindon, even though soudarion means "the small handkerchief" that in this case was "placed on the head of the corpse." Or the othonia must have included the sindon despite their primary meanings. But there is at least one other option, apart from the sindon being there but both Luke (Lk 24:12) and John (John 20:5-7) simply failed to mention it, and that is the risen Jesus took His sindon with Him out of the empty tomb, as Beecher concluded:

"But the fact that St. Luke does not now mention the Sindon, which had occupied his attention previously, but speaks of cloths [othonia] instead, would indicate that the Sindon was not in the tomb. And this is very significant in connection with what St. Jerome tells us, on the authority of the Gospel to the Hebrews (a work from which he often quotes), namely, that Our Lord kept His Sindon with Him when He arose from the dead"[67].

That the soudarion in Jn 20:5-7 was not the sindon in the empty tomb is evident from the following. New Testament Greek lexicons never give the meaning of soudarion as a large sheet but only small cloths, such as: "a handkerchief" (Lk 19:20, Acts 19:12); "a head covering for the dead" (Jn 11:44; 20:7)[68]; a Greek loan word borrowed from the Latin sudarium[69], which in turn is from the Latin sudor, "sweat," hence a "sweat-cloth," "a handkerchief, napkin"[70]; "a cloth for wiping the perspiration from the face," and "also used in swathing the head of a corpse"[71]. The two words sindon and soudarion are never given as synonyms in any Greek lexicon[72].

But, in fact, aren’t only a very limited number of alternatives being considered in this analysis?  Maybe we are taking Luke and John too literally. Maybe Luke and John got it wrong. Maybe . . .

A few paragraphs earlier in his posting, Stephen tells us:

Despite it being by far the largest of Jesus’ graveclothes, John does not mention a sindon at all, either in his account of the raising of Lazarus in (Jn 11:41-44), or in his accounts of Jesus’ burial (Jn 19:38-42) and the discovery of Jesus’ graveclothes in the empty tomb (Jn 20:3-10)[9]. This omission cannot be accidental, because John goes out of his way to provide details of the different cloths in both the raising of Lazarus and in their arrangement in Jesus’ empty tomb[10].

Maybe we are creating a new false dilemma when we assume that an absence of evidence is evidence of absence as in “lexicons never give the meaning,” which means . . .  Or “John does not mention . . .”

Nonetheless, it is an interesting idea. 

  1. Louis
    November 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

    One has to be careful when interpreting apocryphal gospels, sometimes called “secondary orality”, although there were multiple versions of a story in texts that appeared to know one another at some level.
    Had Jesus taken the burial shroud with him out of the tomb he would show it to doubting Thomas as the “snapshot of the Resurrection” and do away with the need to allow him to probe his body. One does not have to be a biblical scholar to understand what the (canonical)Gospel narratives convey, even Caravaggio understood what was meant and expressed it in his Emmaus paintings.
    Tomorrow we will read the announcement about another “gospel” by Jacobovici/Wilson, where wild imagination has Jesus married to Mary Magdalene, with whom he had two children. Not only is this “gospel” very old, the evidence they claim is simply not there.

  2. daveb of wellington nz
    November 11, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    The gospel and apocryphal accounts concerning the Shroud are ambiguous, superficially contradictory, and a ripe ground for speculation. It is almost as if the disciples wanted to keep it a secret, and this might even suggest that the image became visible on it very early and so was concealed.

    Concerning the burial: All three synoptics say that Joseph takes Jesus down, wraps him in a SINDON, and lays him in a tomb hewn out of rock. It is John who says that Joseph and Nicodemus bind the body with OTHONIA along with spices according to the Jewish burial custom, with a garden close by, and lay him in a new tomb there.

    Concerning the resurrection: In Matthew & Mark, the women enter the tomb, see one young man clothed in a white robe, they are amazed, Jesus is not there, no mention of seeing the burial cloths. In Luke the women see two men in dazzling garments, Jesus is not there and they report to the apostles; Peter then runs to the tomb, sees the OTHONIA and goes home amazed (Luke doesn’t then mention the SINDON that he has said was used to wrap the body).
    In John, there is a different but more elaborate story. After Mary of Magdala has seen the stone rolled away, she reports to Peter and to another disciple ( = John?) that “they(?) have taken the body, and she doesn’t know where”. Peter goes into the tomb and sees the OTHONIA (John hasn’t mentioned a SINDON) and the SOUDARION that covered the head is rolled up separately. John? goes in, sees and believes (What did he see to make him believe?) They both go home. Meanwhile, continues John, Mary stays outside tomb weeping, bends down and sees two angels in white, one at the head and one at the foot where the body had been. (De Wesselow asserts that this seems to be a reference to the Shroud image.) She says “they’ve taken him, don’t know where”, she turns, sees the gardener, “Sir, where have you put him?” and then recognises that it is Jesus.

    Max Patrick Hamon has suggested that Mary’s mistaking Jesus for the gardener may have been because gardeners commonly wore a himation, a shroud-like garment. If Jesus was wearing the Shroud as a himation, this goes against De Wesselow’s hypothesis about the two angels being the ventral and dorsal images on the Shroud.

    There are various apocryphal stories concerning what happened to the burial cloth, the Gospel to the Hebrews being as early as the second century. One story is that it was given to Pilate’s wife, another that it was given to St Luke who passed it on to Peter, and another source says that it was kept by Peter. Adrie vd Hoeven has written a comprehensive paper that it was originally John Mark’s temple garment, picked up by the arresting guards at Gethsemane, given to Pilate, and recovered from him by Joseph for the burial. Later liturgical sources associated the eucharistic altar cloths with the burial cloths, whence the term “corporal ( = corpus)”.

    It is all something of yet another enigma concerning the Shroud. However if the images had formed at a very early stage, then it is not surprising that the disciples wanted it to be kept secret. One of Paul’s authentic epistles suggests that he might have used it as a visual aid for some of his missionary work, although on the face of it this would seem unlikely.

  3. Louis
    November 11, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    As I wrote in the previous comment, care and circumspection are needed when interpreting apocryphal gospels. It also becomes necessary to add that one has to be doubly careful when it comes to late gnostic documents that also have something to do with biblical figures.
    The latest byJacobovici/Wilson is some reweaving of gnostic documents with the Joseph and Aseneth (Old Testament) sixth-century story and the result is that we get Jesus and Mary Magdalene instead of Joseph and Aseneth. That is the “Lost Gospel” of Jacobovici/Wilson. It is not a Gospel at all.
    There seem to be no limits to this agenda-driven pseudo-scholarship.

    • daveb of wellington nz
      November 11, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Louis, I quite frequently have recourse to the very long article (some 24 separate chapters) on Biblical Literature from the Encyclopedia Britannica, which, although not the most cutting-edge research, has the advantage of some reputation as recognisable proven scholarship, even though some details will always be disputed. It has an excellent chapter on the derivation of the canon. I’ll copy it as an extract and send it to you. I think you might find it quite informative.

      A few extracts here:
      “The first clear witness to a catalog of authoritative New Testament writings is found in the so-called Muratorian Canon, a crude and uncultured Latin 8th-century manuscript translated from a Greek list written in Rome c. 170-180, named for its modern discoverer and publisher Lodovica Antonio Muratori (1672-1750). Though the first lines are lost, Luke is referred to as “the third book of the Gospel,” and the canon thus contains [Matthew, Mark] Luke, John, Acts, 13 Pauline letters, Jude, two letters of John, and Revelation. ”
      … …
      “Some principles for determining the criteria of canonicity begin to be apparent: apostolicity, true doctrine (regula fidei), and widespread geographical usage. Such principles are indicated by Muratori’s argument that the Pauline Letters are canonical and universal-the Word of God for the whole church-although they are addressed to specific churches, on the analogy of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation; in a prophetic statement to the whole church, seven specific churches are addressed, then the specific letters of Paul can be read for all. ”
      … …
      “The criteria of true doctrine, usage, and apostolicity all taken together must be satisfied, then, in order that a book be judged canonical. Thus, even though the Shepherd of Hermas, the First Letter of Clement, and the Didache may have been widely used and contain true doctrines, they were not canonical because they were not apostolic nor connected to the apostolic age, or they were local writings without support in many areas.”

      Thus it was not only the matter of heretical movements such as Gnosticism, that disqualified various writings, but other criteria also had to be satisfied for a book to be considered canonical. Conversely, there are clearly some writings that can be considered reliable, even though they may not be canonical. Of course I would not place the Gnostic writings in this category.

      • Louis
        November 11, 2014 at 7:45 pm

        Hello David
        I too like Encyclopaedia Britannica and also agree with you that some details can be disputed, so please send me the extract.
        There are some sayings that are not in the canonical gospels that could be considered as being uttered by Jesus and they are very few. It is a topic of discussion for some biblical scholars and the major problem is that the apocryphal documents are all dated to beyond AD 150. Did some sayings go unrecorded in the gospels? That has to be discussed.

  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: