The Shroud of Turin is a mysterious piece of fabric that depicts the image of someone who looks remarkably like Jesus. It is believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus even though this claim is debated by those who have done scientific tests. Wikipedia has a fascinating article about it.
The question from Sunday was whether it is a fact or a fake. Honestly, I don’t know, and the jury is still out, but I will mention three reasons why I don’t put much stock in it being an authentic piece of fabric from the burial clothes of Jesus.
1. To me, the image looks remarkably medieval
My gut reaction to the image of the face on the shroud is that it looks very much like the depictions of Jesus from Medieval Europe. I don’t really know what Jews in the first century A.D. looked like, but something about the image on the shroud looks white European to me.
2. There is no “shroud” in Jewish burials.
We know for certain that Jews wrapped the bodies of their dead in strips of linen cloth much like the modern imagination of a mummy. Furthermore, John’s record of the resurrection shows us that the cloth covering Jesus’ face was separate from the cloth covering Jesus’ body. However, the shroud is a continuous piece of fabric that seems to depict an entire body.
3. Relics are insignificant to me.
This last statement isn’t a fact about the shroud at all. It’s more a fact about why I don’t really care about it all that much. If someone found a verifiable piece of wood from Noah’s Ark, a nail from Jesus’ crucifixion, or even the “Holy Grail,” and it were proven beyond doubt that the artifact was authentic, I would be fascinated and interested in it as a historical artifact, but I would place zero spiritual significance in that object.
Throughout the centuries leading up to Jesus, God made it clear that certain artifacts were special because of their purpose but not because of their existence. Furthermore, the veneration of objects was completely forbidden. As an example, even the Ark of the Covenant was never described as an object of worship; rather, it was depicted as a dangerous place where God met people and if you weren’t the right person meeting God at the right time on his terms, you’d get zapped… by God and not by the Ark.
On top of it all, at some point in ancient history, perhaps around the time of Jeremiah, the Ark disappeared, yet neither Jesus nor any of his followers refers to its absence or the desire to recover it even though some of the New Testament writers refer in detail to the Temple, the work of the Priests, and even the curtain in the Temple that separated the Most Holy Place (the location of the Ark) from the rest of the Temple.
If Jesus wasn’t concerned with the location of the most important ancient artifact to the Jewish people, then perhaps ancient artifacts don’t have any spiritual significance at all.
As a result, I consider any ancient artifact to be interesting from a historical and archaeological point of view but not from a spiritual point of view, and to take it even one step further, I see no reason why God would preserve any of these ancient artifacts to our current day.
But I Also Just Don’t Know
So, to close this blog post out, I want to say clearly that I don’t know if the Shroud of Turin is a Medieval hoax or an authentic piece of burial cloth from Jesus, but even if it were proven to be the cloth placed on Jesus, I’d personally be more interested in the mechanism of how the image was produced than I would be in any purported spiritual significance it held.