The Shroud of Turin: A Sunday School Lesson

By Sidney Terhune - Religion Columnist

Have you ever wondered about the famous shroud of Turin? Is there any way it could be authentic? Most probably, no. A “mystery” such as that surrounding the shroud must be considered in light of what the Word of God says. Even a brief study of the record of the burial of Christ tells us immediately that the shroud is a fake.

For this Sunday School Lesson, take your Bible NIV and turn to Matt 27:58-60: “Joseph took the [unwashed] body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.” (Also Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53, 54). This happened on a Wednesday, the 14th of Nisan, shortly after 3 p.m., the Day of Passover Preparation when the lamb was killed, roasted and was the main dish when the Passover meal was served after sundown, the 15th.

Therefore, Jesus ate at “The Last Supper” but not “The Passover Meal” because he was killed before it was served. The words “wrapped it” mean “rolled it up in.” This does not mean that he “wound” his trunk, head and limbs in a burial fashion. “Rolled up” is like spreading a bed sheet on the ground, placing a body on one end and then rolling the body with the boarder of the sheet over it until getting to the other end of the sheet. Like a cigar.

Joseph was a rich man (Matt 27:57) and a Counsellor (Luke 23:50), which means he would never have personally touched the body since he had plenty of servants (maybe a dozen or more) with him to get their hands dirty. These are the same servants that spent all day Tuesday (the day before the crucifixion) hewing out a tomb near Golgotha. When reading Matt 27:59, 60, quickly, the reader could get the impression that Joseph had the strength of Superman, i.e. “he wrapped it” “he laid it” “he had hewn out” “he rolled a great stone.” Common sense would dictate that “he” by himself could not wrap, hew, carry the body from Golgotha to the tomb and roll the great stone. The word “he” is a figure of speech meaning his power. It is like the heading above Matt 14:13 NIV reads, “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.” This does not mean that Jesus personally handed out 5,000 fish sandwiches. Matt 14:19 tells us it was an unknown number of disciples who did the distributing.

The same figure of speech applies to Nicodemus. (John 19:39 KJV). It is impossible that the “they” in Verses 40 and 42 are Nicodemus and Joseph. The “they” has to be only Nicodemus and his servants. He being a Pharisee was also rich, thereby affording a bunch of servants.

We know from John 19:40 KJV that Jesus was buried after the manner of the Jews, which included by first washing the body. Next, Nicodemus (no mention of Joseph because he was not there) used strips of linen to wind around Jesus’ torso, then strips around his arms, hands, legs and feet, individually. Again, Joseph and Nicodemus never physically touched Jesus’ body because doing so would subject themselves to legal defilement, thereby becoming ceremonially unclean to eat the Passover by Old Testament law. Like two rich and noble supervisors, they stood back and individually (at two different times) told their own servants what to do.

And now for the big difference. The shroud of Turin depicts what appears to be an image of Jesus Christ’s face on a large piece of linen whereas John 20:3-7 KJV & NIV says, “And the napkin (about the size of a pillow case) that was about his head, NOT lying with the linen clothes but wrapped together (folded) in a place by itself.” If I am not mistaken, isn’t the shroud of Turin much bigger than a napkin? You decide. Amen.

Sidney Terhune

P. O. Box 6, Wash. C H., OH

By Sidney Terhune

Religion Columnist