Twenty-Two New Songs

UPDATE: April 8, 2018: 22 New Songs – I have fallen far behind in posting our songs. The recordings for this group of songs are generated from the music notation software I have been using rather than being live recordings by a musician, so the chording will be rather artless.

Beautiful Savior Showering Grace

Dance of Salvation

Dear Brethren Love Each Other

Death of the Messiah

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Find True Wisdom

The Foot Washing

God Made It All

In My Gracious Lord

The Life and the Resurrection

Manifested Is the Spirit

Our Suffering Servant

The Promise

Second Exodus

Seventy Weeks

Sing Praise to the Lord

Song of Moses and of the Lamb

The Spirit Has Anointed

When He Comes

Word of Life

You Answered Me

You Are Lord

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The Worst Feast Ever!

So it’s the day before Passover. Jesus has had a Passover meal a day early with his disciples. What is up with that??? Is he about to take on the Romans on Passover? Is he about to unleash ten plagues on the Romans and tell them, “Let my people go!”?

He has taught them that he is about to be glorified. He has taught them that he will die. Talk about your mixed signals!

They go out to their favorite place of prayer and teaching, a garden. Jesus is obviously distraught, yet his disciples are tired and sleepy. His distress is so deep that he literally sweats blood as his disciples drowse on. He asks his Father if there is any other way to accomplish his mission than to “drink this cup,” but remains steadfast to accomplish his Father’s will regardless of his feelings.

The time comes. He rouses his disciples as an armed mob comes to arrest him. Betrayed to the soldiers in the mob by a kiss from one of his closest disciples, he prevents a bloody battle from ensuing after Peter cuts off the ear of one of the High Priest’s servants by healing the ear.

After identifiying himself as “I am,” (the Greek form of the name God told Moses to use for Himself) he orders the mob to let the others go, and they comply, allowing his disciples to escape. (Wait a moment, who is really in charge here, anyway?) And Jesus goes with them, alone.

The disciples scatter to their own homes, except for Peter and John, who go to the Temple. As Peter is questioned, he denies being a disciple three times (just as Jesus predicted), and leaves in shame. This leaves only John out of the twelve to witness the mistrial and execution. (Jesus’ mother and the two Mary’s later find out about the crucifixion and attend alongside John.)

Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin and found guilty in spite of conflicting witnesses and sent to Pilate, who cannot find any fault with Jesus. In spite of this he orders Jesus beaten and flogged (fulfilling prophecies of punishment on kings and priests of Israel) and humiliated publicly with a crown of thorns and regal robe even as his skin has been ripped to shreds and bleeding profusely. Covering it must have hurt immensely.

So weakened and tortured is he that he cannot even carry the crosspiece of his cross to the place of execution. After he falls, another must bear it for him. Spikes are driven through his hands and feet to fasten him to a cross. The angles designed to slowly suffocate him unless he tries to rise on his agonizing feet and hands.

Even on the cross, in extreme agony and short of breath, he thinks of others before himself.

He forgives the thief on one of the other crosses as that man expresses belief in Jesus.

He tasks John with the care of his mother (in spite of her having three other sons).

With his penultimate breath he asks the Father to forgive his executioners “for they do not know what they are doing.” This, of course, is because his entire mission was about saving rather than judging. (Don’t worry, judging comes later.) He died to pay the penalty for sin: death.

Anyone who believes in him and lives in him will live forgiven of their sinfulness. Of course, that won’t help much if you end up dying anyway. Unless… … someone can defeat death and offer eternal life! … which Jesus does three days later.

Naturally the disciples, in spite of Jesus’ teaching and warnings, are taken completely aback by the circumstances. As the rest of the remnant of Israel in Judea celebrate a memorial of freedom from Egyptian oppression in anticipation of a Messiah who will do the same to Rome, Jesus’ disciples languish in despair because the Messiah is dead. Who will save them now?

We who gathered last night and ate together in fellowship and laughter know the end of the story. They didn’t. Their meal that night was very subdued, sad and despondent. All they could do was wait until they could properly honor their dead after the High Day.

That had to be the worst Passover feast ever for them!

Fortunately they were to learn that it would get much, much better. So on the first day of the week, the day we call Sunday, Jesus’ mother and the two Mary’s go to the tomb before sunrise, hoping to do a better job of burial preparation. To their surprise the stone is removed from the entrance. (Not just “rolled back” but “removed” or “rolled away from the tomb” according to witnesses.) Matthew says that the angel who moved the stone away from the entrance (a superhuman feat!) also sat on it (Matt. 28:1-2).

Now it is perhaps possible for an angel to leap or fly to the top of a round upright stone in order to sit on it, but it seems more logical for it to be on its side, away from the entrance, for the angel to sit on it. That way there is also no danger of it rolling away (or back over the entrance).

After alerting Peter and John Mary stays near the tomb, where she encounters a man whom she eventually recognizes as Jesus. She falls to her knees, grasping his feet. Strangely, he asks her not to cling to him because he has not yet “ascended” to his Father. The significance of this request comes from an ancient ritual performed on the first day of the week during Passover week at sunrise. (This was also very likely the anniversary of the crossing of the Red Sea during Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Sunrise was when the waters of the Red Sea returned to its normal place, drowning the Egyptian army, signalling Israel’s complete freedom from fear of Egyptian reprisals.)

Meanwhile in another part of the outskirts of Jerusalem the priests were offering a “wave offering” to God as the sun began to rise, starting the seven-week countdown to Pentecost. This was to present the “firstfruits” (the first ripe grains of barley) of the harvest to God. Only when this offering was made was the harvest allowed to begin in Israel.

At the same time, sunrise, Jesus was about to offer himself as the “firstfruits” of the resurrection harvest to his Father. Since he was about to “ascend” to his Father, Mary needed to let go, lest she be dragged skyward with him. (It wasn’t a matter of ritual purity on Jesus’ part, as practical necessity for her safety.)

Later that day, Jesus shows himself, first to two disciples who were on the road to Emmaus. He explains how all the scriptures about the Messiah suffering and dying and living again applied to Jesus. They stop for supper, where they finally recognize Jesus as he blesses the meal… And he disappears!…

…Only to appear to a group of distressed disciples hiding out from the authorities in a locked room! Somehow Jesus seems to jump from one supper to another in different communities, perhaps instantaneously. Over the next 40 days Jesus appears to many disciples (not just the Twelve Apostles), teaching, eating and walking with them. Their world has changed forever! If we grasp the implication, our world changes forever, too. A man has come back to life from the dead, and now he lives forever! Not only that, but he offers eternal life to everyone who will trust in him and follow him!

The worst feast ever turns into the…

Best. News. Ever!

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Lord’s Supper Service

Each year we commemorate the last Passover supper Jesus ate with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. We have chosen to do this according to the Jewish calendar, on the 14th day of Nisan because of its original association with Passover (Jesus’ meal was the evening before Passover, for obvious reasons) rather than on Maundy Thursday. As it turns out, they were the same night this year, a rare occurrence.

We do not have a Passover Seder for the occasion, as it more closely resembles what we Christians refer to as a Eucharistic or Communion service. We worship in song and read from the Gospel accounts of the events of that night. Within our worship we recapitulate three symbolic acts from that night: washing of feet, sharing of bread and sharing of wine. This is the outline of our service:

Congregational songs written locally by members: You Are Lord & Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Introduction to Foot Washing with Solo Song: The Foot Washing (Based on John 13:1-12)

Pairing off to wash feet.

Reading to introduce Bread and Wine: Luke 22:13-20

Thanksgiving prayer over bread (body of Christ) and distribution.

Thanksgiving prayer over wine (blood of the new covenant) and distribution.

Reading from John 13:31-16:14

Closing songs of praise and thanksgiving: In My Gracious Lord & Sing Praise to the Lord 

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Passover Praise Song at the Last Supper

Jesus’ last evening with his disciples before his death was charged with powerful meaning and emotion. As they sat together for a Passover meal (a day earlier than the rest of the Jewish people) Jesus was preparing them for his own sacrifice. Centuries of history, tradition and prophecy were to become wrapped up together in this monumental evening.

The traditional Passover of Jesus’ time consisted of symbols of supper featuring an unblemished lamb eaten with certain foods, including unleavened bread (made without yeast) and four cups of wine taken at certain intervals during and after the meal. Jesus turns the bread and the wine  into the now well-known Christian symbols of Jesus’s “body” and “blood.”

Gospel writers Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn before leaving for Gethsemane. Many researchers have searched diligently to find out what hymn Jesus sang with his disciples on the night before his death. What they found is that there was a well-established liturgy of singing a group of Psalms that are referred to as the “Hallel Psalms,” consisting of Psalms 113-118. (This group of psalms was also sung at the other Jewish festivals mentioned in the Bible.) In English they would be called “Praise Psalms.”

It seems that these were interspersed throughout the meal, and it seems most likely that the one sung at the end was Psalm 118. Other researchers believe that all of them were sung together as one long praise hymn, so it is difficult for me to be sure how that went.

Psalm 113 praises God for caring for the weak and poor – those unable to help themselves. Even though God is higher than the heavens and master of all creation, He still cares for the lowest of people.

Psalm 114 praises God not only for His mighty power, but especially that He used that might to deliver an enslaved people from the mightiest empire of the time. God saved Israel through miracles such as the crossing of the Red Sea and allowed them to enter the Promised Land through the Jordan River, proving His dominion over the elements. Not only does He provide salvation through water, He even provides water to drink from an unlikely source: rock.

Psalm 115 praises God that He is not like the idols of all the nations. (The statement that “their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands” is all too true even today, in a world dominated by money and conspicuous consumption.) When God moves, the idolaters will become as silent in awe or intense fear as their graven images are.

Only the God of Israel is real. Only the God of Israel brings blessing and cursing. Only the God of Israel brings life to the dying.

Psalm 116 is the praise of a man delivered from death, who promises to “lift up the cup of salvation” in calling upon the name of the Lord. Verse 16 has the interesting note that he is “thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid.” This goes back to a promise made to Eve, that “her seed” would overcome the devil’s “seed.” In short, a Messianic psalm.

And yet precious in his sight is the death of his saints. Why is this statement in here if death is not part of the Messianic role?

Psalm 117 asks all nations to praise the Lord, not just Israel. This is because The Lord’s mercy encompasses all humanity. Salvation for both Jew and Gentile!

Psalm 118 praises God for deliverance from all enemies, personal and international. The same people who are asked to trust in Him in Psalm 115 (Israel, the house of Aaron and those that fear the Lord) are asked to say “his mercy endures forever.”

The one who destroys all the enemies does so “in the name of the Lord.” He is also the one that the enemy has harassed to the point of death, but the Lord is both his strength and his song, and has become his salvation. He enters “the gates of righteousness” where the righteous enter. (Remember that Jesus claims to be “the way, the truth and the light. He is the keeper of the “gate of righteousness.”)

Jesus is the “stone that the builders refused” and becomes “the head of the corner.” This is one of the most frequently quoted Old Testament verses in the New Testament. The day Jesus dies is “the day that the Lord has made.” and Jesus knew this. (Of course, three days later his disciples finally figure it out.)

Verses 25 and 26 reflect the activities of the day Christians now call Palm Sunday. The chanting of “Hosanna” (“save”) to the son of David. The chanting of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Verse 27 shows God as the true bringer of light, whom John the Apostle identifies as the Word who becomes Jesus. The statement “bind the sacrifice with cords” evokes the image of Abraham preparing his son Isaac as a sacrifice, binding him with cords. God willing to do with His own Son what he asked Abraham to do, but did not allow him to complete.

Praise the Lord, whose Son Jesus died and lives again to offer mercy to the whole world!

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John Lennox on the Book of Acts

One of our members has done me a favour by pointing out two YouTube videos by John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University. He is also a well-respected Christian apologist in the areas of science and philosophy.

In the two videos linked below he uses Luke’s own intentional literary structure for the book to point out the man emphases of two of the six literary divisions of the book.

In the first video, A Supernatural Invasion he discusses how Luke brings together the events of Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost to note that the main theme is “restoration in Jesus.” Restoration becomes a complex subject throughout the rest of Acts, as manifested in the work of the Apostles and other disciples. I thoroughly enjoyed his analysis of Peter’s two sermons.

In the second video, Christianity’s Worship and Witness he notices how the church begins to become distinctive from the Judaism of the day, while remaining rooted in promises to Abraham and the Patriarchs. He also notes that persecution begins as the religious authorities reject Jesus as their Messiah. His study of Stephen’s defence of the gospel is very illuminating in this regard.

Even his asides are often intriguing, but I won’t spoil them for you.

The original audience for these presentations was a group of pastors and church leaders, but I think most Christians would benefit from watching these videos.

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The Sanctity of Human Life

Sunday, January 21 was chosen by many churches to reflect on the “sanctity” of human life. Since we meet on Saturdays we took the liberty of discussing it a day early. Here are some of the biblical observations about human life that we discussed. (Bible quotes are from the New International Version throughout. Some of the links below seem to be intermittently wonky at the time of posting.)

 

Human Life in General

 In Genesis 1:26-28, 31 and in James 3:9 we are told and reminded that men and women are made in God’s image, unlike any of the animals. While we are not told exactly what that means, it must be very important in God’s eyes for us to be human.

 Even after Adam and Eve’s sin the image of God does not seem to be revoked, since it becomes the justification for the decree of capital punishment for murder, “for in the  image of God has God made humankind.” (Genesis 9:5-6)

 The phrase “be fruitful and increase (multiply) occurs 12 times in the Bible.

Twice it refers to animals, in Genesis 1:22  and in Genesis 8:17.  

 Once it refers to both humans and animals in a restored Israel: Ezekiel 36:11  

 

Nine times it refers to people that God is blessing, including:

 Adam and Eve: Genesis 1:28  

Noah: Genesis 9:1    and Genesis 9:7 

 Abraham: (“fruitful” and “increase” are in separate verses in this section) Genesis 17:1-7 

Ishmael: Genesis 17:20  

 Jacob/Israel: Genesis 28:3 Genesis 35:11   Genesis 48:4   Leviticus 26:9

And the remnant of Israel Jeremiah 23:3  

 In general terms this blessing means that God is pleased when humanity increases in number. More specifically, it is the first actual command by God to humanity as a whole. At no point is that command rescinded in the entire Bible. In short, God wants more of both humans and animals on this planet. This has implications for how we treat both life and death.

The taking of a human life means the destruction of a being that God has designed to bear his image to the rest of the created order. It is also in violation of his command to multiply humans on the earth (since subtraction is the obvious result). It should be obvious that deliberate killing, even when we call it euthanasia, is murder in God’s eyes.

 We can now turn to what many now see as a special case.

  

The Unborn

When abortion is the issue, the main question raised by modern jurisprudence and modern science is the question of when human life actually begins. Does it begin at conception or at birth, or at some point in between? Viability seems to be an uncertain standard for deciding about the humanity of the unborn. Perhaps a look at how God has related to the unborn might give us a clue.

 The stories of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Samson’s mother should help us see that conception and childbirth are of great interest to God. All of these mothers begin as unable to conceive children, but after a miraculous intervention, they bear children. God seems to care about reproduction in these examples.

 This perhaps shows that God cares about these individual mothers (and sometimes even the fathers), and about Isreael, but does God notice or care about unborn babies?

 Somehow God seems to know something about Samson, which he announces to Samson’s mother through an angel. This particular baby would begin to save Israel from its oppressive neighbors, and would need to avoid haircuts and grape or alcoholic products. This even before the child is conceived.

 Here are some other examples of whether God sees or cares about the unborn: 

In Genesis 25:23 God knows the character of two unborn babies, Esau and Jacob.

In Psalm 51:5-6 David believes he was sinful even in the womb.

In Psalm 139:13-16 David says, “God saw me in the womb, where He made me.”

In Isaiah 49:1-6 God knows Israel’s deliverer even before birth.

In Jeremiah 1:4-5 God knew Jeremiah even before forming him the womb.

In Luke 1:13-17 John the Baptist has the Holy Spirit even before birth.

 Here is the one that should really give us pause concerning deliberately harming an unborn child from the same law that gave us the 10 Commandments: Exodus 21:22-23.  Notice that causing even accidental serious injury or death to an unborn child in Israel results in the same penalties as deliberate harm or murder to an adult.

Human life is literally sacred because human beings are made in God’s image. Clearly God sees both the elderly and the unborn as human, and therefore worthy of protection. To deem them as unworthy of life or to deny them of their humanity is truly more than a crime – it is what God calls sin.

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A Shroud of Mystery

One of the strangest things I had ever heard of in my early Christian life is the supposed burial shroud of Jesus Christ, popularly known as the Shroud of Turin. It didn’t take me long to dismiss it as just another Roman Catholic faux relic. From reading the Gospel of John I had the impression that Jesus had been wrapped in multiple cloths, with a separate cloth covering his face. This suggested to me that a single body-length cloth could not have been what Jesus was buried in. Finally, reports of a medieval carbon 14 dating in the late 1980’s seemed to put a nail in that particular coffin as far as I (not to mention most of the world) was concerned.

That is, until a friend of mine loaned me a book by Dr. Kenneth E. Stevenson, Image of the Risen Christ: Remarkable New Evidence About the Shroud (Toronto: Frontier Research Publications, 1999). The information in this post will be based on Stevenson’s book because he was one of the original study team sanctioned to examine the shroud. As the official spokesman for the team, he is in the best position to comment on the scientific findings.

It turns out that most of the actual science about the shroud was never directly released to the general public, but rather to several obscure technical and scientific journals designed for specialists in their fields. Because of this, the opinion of the general public is based on a limited amount of information, provided primarily by people with an interest in either disproving or doubting that it might be what its seems: the burial cloth of Jesus.

Where Did the Shroud of Turin Originate?

But where did it come from, and how did it come to be associated with Jesus? It turns out that there is a series of extra-biblical stories and legends that may connect the shroud to Jesus of Nazareth.

It was “discovered” in the 1300’s in France, but there is evidence in art history that it was known before. Based on study of Byzantine icons, the shroud image must have been known in the 500’s AD., when the image of Christ in the churches became more standardized. (p.32). The image that changed how Christ was represented is known as the “image of Edessa” or “the holy Mandylion,” a cloth found in 525 buried in a wall in Edessa (now Urfa), Turkey. In 944 it was taken to Constantinople, where it was rarely displayed, but revered as the true likeness of Christ.

In 1204 the Mandylion disappears in the sack of Constantinople by a marauding mob of crusaders from Western Europe. Historian Ian Wilson proposes that the Knights Templar hid the shroud. As King Philip tries to destroy the Templars, he burns to death, among others, leaders Jacques de Molay and Geoffrey de Charnay, whose name is virtually identical to that of the man who mysteriously turns up with the shroud in the mid 1350’s. Perhaps the same family?

In legend it is said that Abgar V, first-century ruler of Edessa, was stricken with leprosy. He wrote to Jesus in Palestine, asking him to come and cure him. Jesus is said to have sent a letter declining to come, but promising to send a disciple instead. Jude Thaddeus arrives some time after Jesus’ death and resurrection, bearing a holy cloth imprinted with the image of the Saviour.

Abgar V really existed, and we know that his area was evangelized shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. There is a tradition that a holy image of the Lord was associated with this evangelization. Unfortunately his son Mannu reverts to paganism and persecutes the Christians, and the image disappears from history until the cloth is discovered in the wall of the city centuries later.

Now we have a historic link, however tenuous, with Jesus’ time and locale.

Scientific Study of the Shroud

A team of scientists and historians, invited by the Vatican, studied the cloth in 1970’s and 1980’s. Dr. Stevenson is among them from the outset. Among their discoveries that did not reach the public:

Pollen samples from the cloth indicate that it had spent time in Israel, Turkey and France before resting in Turin, which is backed up by a legends about where a remarkably similar cloth (by different names) was kept in ancient times.

Gilbert Raes, whose field is ancient textiles, concludes that the weave is consistent with the Middle East in the first century A.D. Microscopes show traces of cotton, which was not used in Europe, but was common in the Middle East. He concludes that the loom on which it was made was a first-century Middle Eastern loom and that the cloth is a genuine first century cloth.

Conclusion: A European forger would have had to go to a great deal of trouble to pick up cloth woven in the first century on a loom in the Middle East, and pick up pollen spores from non-European plants to rub into it. That would have been very unlikely unless the forger had been able to link the various legends together and then gather the proper materials to create the forgery.

Even if a particularly clever forger had access to all of the materials and information above, that would only account for the materials used, and not how the image was put into the cloth. This is where the real problem for the forgery theory begins.

The image itself has been applied in a way that resembles a photographic negative, in which the light areas and dark areas are the reverse of what one would expect of a painting. It seems highly unlikely that a medieval artist would have conceived of reversing the lights and darks until the advent of modern photography.

Even that isn’t the worst problem for the forger. How did he get the image there in the first place?

There is no dye, ink, stain, paint or acid residue on the cloth. The image is somehow imprinted on the surface of the fibres, but not the interior, defying explanation. Modern science has yet to be able to reproduce that kind of image by any known method. Any methods touted as successful by outside researchers have failed to reproduce the quality of the image and have failed to affect only the surface of the fibers. In addition, most have left residues or scorch marks that were not found on the original shroud.

The original shroud also contains what scientists call “three-dimensional data encoded in it.” This means it had to have been draped over (not wrapped around, like a mummy) a three-dimensional object to leave that kind of impression. Again, no process for leaving that kind of information is available to modern science. To imagine that a 14th century artisan could produce it staggers the imagination.

The scientists determined that the image could not have been painted or etched with acid using either ancient or modern technology. The closest thing to a theory about it is that it may have somehow been “scorched” onto the fabric. Nobody has been able to figure out how to do it without burning the fabric or going deeper than the surface. Perhaps a “burst” of radiation of a nature unknown to us could have been the cause. Whatever it was could not have been present in the body while it was still alive, because it would have killed the man. (There are many signs that he died of wounds, not radiation. More on that later.)

Conclusion: How the image got there is still a mystery that science has not been able to solve. It is difficult to believe that a 14th century forger had figured out a method that can baffle modern science.

 

The Carbon 14 Dating Issue

Dr. Stevenson points out that the highly-touted Carbon 14 dating of the shroud had several problems:

  1. Samples were not sent in a way that was double-blind. Researchers knew which samples were the shroud and which were the control fabrics, allowing bias to enter the testing.
  2. The labs that created the less-destructive technique that was used were eliminated from testing, leaving less experienced labs to do the testing.
  3. The method itself does not test well with artifacts of known ages, often 400 years or more off due to the “de Vries effect” and “secular variance.”
  4. The labs did not account for “bioplastic” film on cloth, which would make it appear younger. For instance, Egyptian burial cloths test younger than the mummies inside them by 400-1000 years. Now researchers know why. The exterior cloth would be invaded by bioplastic-forming bacteria, but not the mummy itself.

 

For all of the reasons above, we cannot allow the Carbon 14 test to be the ultimate determinant of authenticity, especially when so much other data points to an earlier date and the impossibility of reproduction by known methods, ancient and modern.

 

Evidence of a Unique Crucifixion

 

Mentioned earlier is the unlikelihood of death by radiation. The reason? The image shows remarkable anatomical detail of a sort that we do not see until the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Within that detail, the image itself shows clear signs of crucifixion.  Actually, they are signs of a very specific, historically-recorded crucifixion that was unique in several respects. Here are a few of the details.

 

  • We can see nail holes in wrists and feet. (Nothing unusual there in crucifixion.)
  • There are at least 120 gashes along his back and upper legs, complete with blood traces on the cloth. (Not always a feature of crucifixion, but definitely there in Jesus’ case.)
  • There is a wound that would have been between the 5th and 6th ribs on the right side, also with blood traces. (Very unusual for crucifixion, but definitely recorded for Jesus).
  • There are also signs of lacerations all over the top of the head of the person in the shroud, as if a “cap of thorns” had been placed on his head. (Only in Jesus’ case, so far as any records of crucifixion mention.)
  • The legs were not broken, but the knees had abrasions. (This suggests that the victim fell to his knees at some point while carrying something heavy, such as the cross. It also indirectly recalls that Jesus was so weak that Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross-piece for Jesus, who had probably fallen and could carry it no further.

In spite of the evidence of cruel death imprinted in the cloth, there is no indication of decaying flesh contaminating the cloth. Whoever the victim was did not stay in the cloth long enough to decay within it, as any other corpse would. If it is a burial cloth, it is unique in this respect.

 

What about the “head piece” that had me so convinced of the impossibility of it being for Jesus?  Scholars assigned to the shroud studied first-century Jewish burial customs. It turns out that Jewish burials usually used multiple cloths. Hands and arms were bound across the pelvis, with feet bound together. Another strip of cloth was wrapped around the chin and over the top of the head to keep the mouth shut. It didn’t cover the face (pp. 96-102).

 

So the “head cloth” described in the Gospel was more than likely used as a chin strap to hold the mouth shut, without hiding the face. (Modern morticians sew the mouth shut nowadays, as I discovered when I briefly worked in a funeral home. I suppose that nobody wants to see a corpse that looks like it is ready to speak at any moment.)

 

The image fades in the places you would expect that type of chin strap to be located. Go figure.

If not Jesus, who is it?

 

The research into ancient burial cloths highlights one more, very important question. Why is it the only such cloth ever discovered in the world? Jesus was not the only person buried in such a cloth, so why have there never been other cloths discovered that had a person’s image impressed into it?

 

Could that be because Jesus’ experience of resurrection from the dead as the Son of God is unique, and therefore created a unique artifact?

 

I think I’ll definitely go with a “yes” on that one.

 

 

 

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