Strips Of Linen

March 17, 2012
by Lori Ciccanti

John 20:6-7 – Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. (NIV)

Throughout the years, I have closely followed the fascinating debate among scientific experts regarding the most controversial ancient relic, the Shroud of Turin. This mysterious cloth bears the image of a crucified man whom many believe to be the risen Lord. The team of scientific experts who have extensively researched the Shroud of Turin are known as "sindonologists" from the Greek word, "sindon", meaning a one-piece linen burial cloth — a word that is mentioned in the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As I consider the Shroud, I wonder about the burial customs of Jesus' day. The original Greek language also uses another word, "othone", which is used only in the plural and is always translated as "strips of linen" to describe Jesus' burial cloths in the Gospels of Luke and John. This is perhaps the most challenging piece of evidence against the one-piece shroud.

In any case, I am struck by the evidential value of the linen strips and the neatly-folded, separate burial cloth, in light of the biblical account of the resurrection. It is believed that this cloth was used as a headband to tie around the chin in order to close the mouth of the deceased. These items are worthy of consideration, primarily because this account refutes the false report that Jesus' body had been stolen in the night. This plot is unreasonable, since it assumes that grave robbers would have had to take the time to remove the wrappings and leave them neatly folded and in good order before they removed His body.

But no doubt, in spite of the truth, there will always be sceptics who try to discredit the gospel. Yet, Old Testament prophecy predicted the resurrection hundreds of years in advance:

Psalm 16:10 – You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (NIV)

While many are comfortable with the humanity of Jesus, they cannot come to terms with His divine nature. Nevertheless, it is the resurrection which makes Christianity unique, thereby affirming the deity of Christ. And to believers whose lives have been transformed by the power of the risen Lord, the gospel records are undoubtedly the most reliable witness.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You are risen indeed! We rejoice in all that You have revealed to us through Your holy Word. May Your truth continue to enlighten us in the days to come as we seek to keep learning more about You. In Your precious name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Lori Ciccanti <dlalsina@mchsi.com>
Ocean View, Delaware, USA

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