A Spirtual Look at the Shroud of Turin
One of my earliest hubs was on the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is a piece of yellowed linen about fourteen feet long and three and a half feet wide. The cloth contains faint Image of 6’ tall Man who was beaten and crucified with wounds that have an uncanny resemblance to those in the gospel accounts of the crucifixion of the Christ.
In that hub, I primarily discussed certain unique scientific properties that have eluded definitive analysis, with as much fairness and objectivity as I could. In my conclusion I stated that although the authenticity (or lack thereof of the Shroud) is not necessary for faith, I believe it to be authentic.
I believe that the shroud, whether it’s the authentic burial cloth of Christ, or a piece of devotional art (much like Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”) the image on the shroud, as well as it’s unique features can graphically illustrate some profound spiritual truths about a God who loved the world much that he “gave his only begotten Son” to die for us.
When I published that first hub, I promised Sufidreamer that I would write a hub on the spiritual significance of the Shroud. Sorry it took so long, Sufi, but here it is.
The shroud, more than any other single thing speaks to me at all levels of my being. By profession, I am a Software Engineer with a background in science and engineering, so it fascinates me on that level. But spiritually, it is the point at which the greater reality meets physical time and space, being truly neither and yet also both.
If it is art it is the most inspired work of art I've ever seen. And if it is, in fact, the burial shroud of Christ ... it speaks to the compelling reality of the death, burial and resurrection of Our Lord.
At every point of distress in my life, education, career, divorce, loss something on the Shroud, about the Shroud, the analysis of the Shroud has touched me. It is, to me, truly "The Holy Grail" the vessel that contains the real blood of the covenant.
He is Not Here
In 1997 Robert Bucklin, M.D., J.D. a veteran of over 25,000 autopsies wrote an autopsy on the "Man in the Shroud". He wrote, "The body appears to be in a state of rigor mortis which is evidenced by an overall stiffness as well as specific alterations in the appearance of the lower extremities from the posterior aspect."
The body that was placed in the cloth was in rigor mortis, (3-12 hours after death) but was removed before any stains from decomposition could develop.
As I read the report two things struck me. First, there was a dead body. Second the body was removed before it decomposed.
The shroud (whether art of artifact) shows a man was dead and the body was there. But the body was gone before it could decompose. And not only that, the stains were definitively identified as human blood (type AB positive) but there was no smearing as would occur if a body was placed on the cloth and then removed.
I can't help but think about Luke 24:5-6: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee"
Why is this significant? It is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 15:14-15 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.
As a devote Jew, violating one of the ten commandments (do not bear false witness) especially about God was unthinkable to Paul.
To this day, in Christian Liturgy, the leader will often say, "He is Risen" and the congregation will reply, "He is Risen Indeed".
So, the first spiritual feature is that if it is an artifact, it bears witness to (and if it is art it illustrates faith in) the cornerstone of Christianity, the Resurrection of the Christ.
Before modern forensic science was applied, the blood stains were considered to be one of the major proofs that the shroud was a fake. Why? The blood stayed red.
Most people who have bandaged themselves know that blood stains do not normally stay bright red. Yet, these did.
I've seen some good scientific explanations as to how it happened, but one of the questions I asked myself was why?
Psalm 16:10 says: "you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay". The blood on the shroud stayed red because it did not decay.
Like the Resurrection, the blood of Jesus is a major cornerstone of Christianity. We see in Hebrews 9 that the ritual sacrifices of early Israel, were symbolic to the final sacrifice (once and for all) of the Christ.
Hebrews 9:11-12: 11When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
The blood, not just blood, but graphic images of un-decayed blood from grievous wounds stands as a testimony that death is not our final destination, and that the Kingdom of God is greater than death. It adds so much more depth to Revelation 12:11: And they overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death
Especially in the Old Testament, bones, as the inner most parts of the body, poetically parallel the soul (Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.)
With that understanding of the poetic parallel, we take a new look at how Psalm 34:19-20 says: Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
Now, we can see that this is a poetic promise that the Lord delivers the righteous soul from afflictions.
There is no evidence of broken bones on the image on the shroud, being consistent with the account in John's gospel:
Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, "Not one of His bones shall be broken." John 19:32-36
John, quoting Psalm 34, reminds his readers, who he presumes are familiar with Hebrew poetry, that the physical crucifixion, is a picture of a spiritual reality. Even in death, the soul of the Christ was unbroken.
The unbroken bones of the Shroud speak a reminder to me that as we draw closer to God, the Kingdom of Heaven within our soul impacts our physical reality, often in spite of extreme physical affliction. Because in God, physical affliction does not break our soul, but an unbroken soul impacts the physical world.
I was watching a documentary on the Shroud (I'm sorry, I don't remember which one) and the host asked one of the forensic scientists what the most compelling feature of the Shroud was to him. What he said startled me. He said, "The peacefulness of the face."
He went on to state that whoever the Man in the Shroud was, he had undergone a horrifically cruel death, and yet rather than being contorted in agony, the face was peaceful, almost serene.
The gospel accounts tell us that Jesus was struck on the face. He was spit upon. He was mocked.
Isaiah 50:6-7 says prophetically: I gave my ... cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.
When I see that negative image of the man on the shroud, it reminds me of a "Face like flint".
This is the face of a man who has, after being cruelly and unjustly tormented and mocked can say "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."
Isaiah 50:6 also says, "I gave my back to those who struck Me". and Isaiah 53:5 tells us, " he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Peter, an eyewitness to the Passion tells us in 1 Peter 2:23-24: "...when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness by whose stripes you were healed."
The Shroud shows wounds of a horrific scourging, not only on his back, but on his thighs, calves and buttocks. He bore the pain. He bore the injustice. He bore these things because He trusted God with His justice. He knew that the Father is faithful.
This death invites us to connect with a righteous God so we may live in and for righteousness. Because as horrific as the death was. God is greater than death. God is greater than injustice.
These scourge marks, along with his peaceful face show us the depth of his faith in the Father. The missing body shows us that this Faith was not misplaced.
In Isaiah 49, God declares that he will not forget His people in verses 15 and 16: "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb ? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;"
And John 20:24-28 tells us: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord !" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands ; and reach here your hand and put it into My side ; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God !"
Every time the Father sees the nail prints in His Son's hands, it reminds Him of the compassion He has for His creation. As we see the nail prints on the Shroud, we are invited to faith. To me, it's like Jesus saying, "See my hands?" Do not be unbelieving, but believing. "
These scars are a reminder to me of the relational covenant I have with the Christ.
I was in the midst of writing this hub when the History Channel aired "The Real Face of Jesus?". Ray Downing of Studio Macbeth, pointed out that the shroud was a two-dimensional image that showed three dimensional data. He also explained the spiritual ramifications of this. It was a "slap self in the forehead" moment for me.
I was privileged to attend a seminar at the US Air Force academy and listen to then, Captain, John Jackson explain his three dimensional discovery. Hidden for hundreds of years, this 3D data, like a hologram, contained information that we were incapable of understanding until the 20th and 21st century.
In the History Channel program, Ray Downing and John Jackson described
how no known form of radiant energy could have made such a clear image on the shroud. However, radiant energy intersecting the body from a hypothetical parallel dimension could have encoded 3D "data" on a 2D image. The computer modeled how it would look. This was consistent with the 3D encoding on the Shroud.
I am also privileged to have been present when someone has actually died, gone to heaven and come back to life. (Pastor Lonnie on Hub Pages)
Lonnie describes it as a veil that was so close to earth he could almost "reach out touch earth". And it was like we could almost "reach out and touch heaven". In my conversations with him, the best description I can come up with is, that heaven is a parallel dimension that intersects ours in ways that we cannot fully perceive with our normal senses.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us we are "surrounded" by a "cloud" of witnesses. From both scriptural and "eye" witness testimony I know that there is a hidden dimension that is more real than I can experience in "just" the 3D world I live in.
Perhaps, just as the Shroud is a 2D Image that points to a greater third dimension, the formation of the image itself, points to a greater Hidden Dimension.
Proverbs 25:2 says: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Consider Proverbs 22:5, with the mystery of the Shroud in light of Revelation 5:9-10: And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And that is why I love the Shroud. It's hidden secrets show me a map to a greater truth.