Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head.
Today we know “the strips of linen” as the Shroud of Turin. What happened to “the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head?” There is good reason to believe that we know it today as the Sudarium of Oviedo.
What we know about the Sudarium? Among other things,scientific studies of the Sudarium have shows at least the following:
1. The Sudarium of Oviedo is a relic, which has been venerated in the cathedral of Oviedo for a very long time. It contains stains formed by human blood of the group AB.
. . . .
3. It seems to be a funeral cloth that was probably placed over the head of the corpse of an adult male of normal constitution.
4. The man whose face the Sudarium covered had a beard, moustache and long hair, tied up at the nape of his neck into a pony tail.
5. The man’s mouth was closed, his nose was squashed and forced to the right by the pressure of holding the cloth to his face. Both these anatomical elements have been clearly identified on the Sudarium of Oviedo.
6. The man was dead. The mechanism that formed the stains is incompatible with any kind of breathing movement.
7. At the bottom of the back of his head, there is a series of wounds produced in life by some sharp objects. These wounds had bled about an hour before the cloth was placed on top of them.
8. Just about the entire head, shoulders and at least part of the back of the man were covered in blood before being covered by this cloth. This is known because it is impossible to reproduce the stains in the hair, on the forehead and on top of the head with blood from a corpse. It can therefore be stated that the man was wounded before death with something that made his scalp bleed and produced wounds on his neck, shoulders and upper part of the back.
9. The man suffered a pulmonary oedema as a consequence of the terminal process. The main stains are one part blood and six parts fluid from the pulmonary oedema.
10. The cloth was placed over the head starting from the back, held to the hair by sharp objects.From there it went round the left side of the head to the right cheek, where, for apparently unknown reasons it was folded over on itself, ending up folded like an accordion at the left cheek. . . . It is therefore easy to deduce that the body was hanging by both arms. . . . [T]he only position compatible with the formation of the stains on the Oviedo cloth is both arms outstretched above the head and the feet in such a position as to make breathing very difficult, i.e. a position totally compatible with crucifixion. We can say that the man was wounded first (blood on the head, shoulders and back)and then “crucified”.
11. The body was then placed on the ground on its right side, with the arms in the same position,and the head still bent 20 degrees to the right, and at 115 degrees from the vertical position. The forehead was placed on a hard surface, and the body was left in this position for approximately one more hour.
12. The body was then moved, while somebody’s left hand in various positions tried to stem the flow of liquid from the nose and mouth, pressing strongly against them.
13. Finally, on reaching the destination, the body was placed face up and for unknown reasons, the cloth was taken off the head. Possibly myrrh and aloes were then sprinkled over the cloth.There are many points of coincidence between all these points and the Shroud of Turin – the blood group, the way the corpse was tortured and died, and the macroscopic overlay of the stains on sackcloth. . . .
The two original studies, with much additional detail (uber-Scholar would love it) from which the above conclusions were taken can be found here and here.
There are two implications. First, this information confirms the link between the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium reported in John 20:6-7 can be confirmed scientifically. As strong as the case for authenticity that has been built for the Shroud is, the case for authenticity of the Sudarium is much stronger.
The second implication is that the Sudarium challenges our faith in the Incarnation. The blood on the Sudarium is real human blood. Christ was fully human. The mysteriousness of the Shroud’s image points to the divine; the Sudarium to the flesh. Both the Sudarium remind us that Christ was a man as well as God.
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