Monday, December 21, 2009

Shroud Discovery in Jerusalem

Archeologists have found the remains of a leper from the early first century and his burial shroud in Jerusalem (see also this video at Ben Witherington's blog). In first-century Jerusalem, bodies were normally interred in a family tomb wrapped in a shroud; then, a year later, the bones were placed in a small ossuary (or bone box) and reinterred in the tomb. This means that shrouds were unlikely to remain in the tomb. But this man was never placed in an ossuary; archeologists speculate that the family decided not to reenter the tomb because of the man's leprosy.

There are several interesting details about the find. DNA tests showed that the man had both Hansen's disease and tuberculosis. When the Bible uses the word "leprosy," is is using the generic term for a wide range of skin diseases, and does not necessarily refer to Hansen's disease - but this man had Hansen's disease.

The leper's shroud was in two pieces - one for the head, and one for the body. This matches the burial practice for both Lazarus (John 11:44) and Jesus (John 20:5-6). This gives another reason to doubt the genuineness of the Shroud of Turin (the supposed burial cloth of Jesus), since it was a single cloth, not separate head and body cloths.

The leper's shroud was a simple weave of wool and linen. Although some scholars are pointing out that this is another difference from the Shroud of Turin, my first thought was wondering why they used an unkosher cloth. Mixing any two kinds of cloth was forbidden in the Torah (Lev 19:19), and a linen-wool weave was specifically forbidden (Deut 22:11).

The picture: a diagram of the "Shroud Tomb" showing where the remains and shroud were found.

1 comment:

  1. Do we know the size of the leper's shroud?
    Please respond to


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