Category Archives: Apologetics

The Shroud of Turin: Resurrecting the Evidence (Part 3)

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The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most attested and contested narrative in history. The eyewitness testimony, archaeological evidence, historical analysis and mountain of evidence alone are convincing. Many a skeptic has set out to prove the narrative false and instead became a believer.

After all, IF Jesus did resurrect then it proves His claims of Divinity. And if Jesus was truly God then every other religion, ideology and philosophy fails. It’s no wonder Christ (and Christianity) is viciously attacked, lampooned and persecuted. It’s no wonder evidence that proves Christianity true is routinely ignored, revised or shrouded.

And no archaeological evidence has faced more scrutiny and shrouding than a piece of cloth known as the Shroud of Turin.

I’ll be honest, for years I never gave this evidence much attention. I’m not sure why, except that I never have been forced to fully evaluate it’s narrative and analyze the proofs for it’s veracity.

And yet, if this shroud is real it unequivocally proves not just the existence of Jesus, but supports his crucifixion and the power of resurrection. It’s entirely reasonable that of all the relics the disciples would’ve kept, treasured and memorialized it would be the burial cloth that wrapped their resurrected Messiah.  Surely a cloth that held the Messiah wouldn’t be abandoned (since the rest of Jesus’ earthly belongings were gambled away and in others’ hands).  We could also expect a disciple, like Peter and John, to retain the burial shroud as evidence Jesus was no longer in the tomb (John 20:3-10)–especially if that evidence showed markings of Resurrection.  It’s also reasonable, in the days, months, years and centuries that followed the resurrection of Jesus that this memorabilia would be properly preserved and occasionally displayed.

The fact it exists does not surprise me.  What’s shocking is the skeptic’s response.

They only answer they’ve got is the Shroud of Turin is fake. Somehow a medieval prankster, in their view, created a cloth bearing the crucified likeness of Jesus Christ and featured all the finer details of scourging and crucifixion. It’s a plausible option until you realize that no one TODAY can replicate this burial shroud, including its detractors! If it was so easy to do a thousand years ago why can’t we do it today? But the shroud is not art (there is no paint or other applied substance on it).  The image is burned into the cloth and yet no one can explain how it was done.

What do we know for sure about the Shroud of Turin?

First, we know it depicts graphically a crucified person.  It’s a cloth that shows a complete body–a scourged and crucified body (including bloody marks in the ankles and wrists, in the chest, on the back and head).

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Second, it’s the only known archaeological example of a burial cloth. Ancient ossuaries or bone boxes are a dime a dozen, but how many preserved burial cloths do we possess? It’s also fascinating because few crucified people were wrapped in shrouds (and given proper burials). The crucified were the lowest of the low in ancient culture.  And why would anyone retain a bloody burial cloth of a crucified person anyway?  The crucified were cremated.  In fact the ONLY evidence we possess for an ancient Roman crucifixion is one nail and ankle bone fragment.

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It’s why the Shroud of Turin, if nothing else, provides amazing evidence for the brutality of a Roman execution.

Third, a burial cloth proves Jesus was given a burial fit for a king. Only the rich and royal enjoyed the luxury of a sepulcher (Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb owned by the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea), as Matthew 27:57-61 records:

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The biblical narrative clearly speaks to a burial cloth. In fact, it gives a reason for its existence and preservation. Perhaps Matthew’s inclusion of this detail is a tip to his readers about a piece of evidence that early Christian believers surely would’ve have secretly and proudly mentioned.

After all, it’s clear evidence that Jesus was both dead and buried.

Ironically, it was two Pharisees who secured Pilate’s consent and performed the burial rites for Jesus.  John’s gospel adds that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, accompanied Joseph, also a member of the Council, and helped him wrap his body (John 19:38-42).  This is significant as none of Jesus’ disciples had such social and political standing to access Pontius Pilate but these two high-ranking Pharisees (who equally consented to Jesus’ execution). Without Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, Jesus probably never would’ve been buried. No good Jew (properly cleansed for Passover) would touch a dead body and definitely no right-thinking Pharisee would risk it (as everything he touched would also be defiled). Yet Joseph and Nicodemus were secret believers. And they were clearly aware of Jesus’ claims of resurrection. Consequently, they willingly risk reputation and forfeited their right to Passover.

These two Pharisees used two pieces of linen: a large piece of cloth to wrap the body and a facial cloth that covered the face. Most people have heard of the Shroud of Turin, but have you heard of the Sudarium of Oviedo? It’s a bloodier piece of cloth with no image and a harder historical timeline to follow than the Shroud, but remains another compelling evidence to the biblical narrative. The entire body was wrapped tightly (with up to 75 pounds of burial spices!).   John also explains how this burial shroud had strips woven into it that tied off the body.  This is significant because John records only Peter and John completely entered the tomb and handled the burial cloths.  Could the shroud have still been tied up but flat, absent a body?  It’s hard to steal a body, leaving behind the shroud, without unwrapping it.  Furthermore, again, who would risk becoming ceremonially unclean on the highest Jewish Sabbath just to steal the body of a dead man (and remove the shroud to do it)?  Rome had no motivation to steal.  The existence of this burial cloth suggests the body wasn’t moved or removed, but rather simply vanished!

Joseph secured the body of Jesus in a new tomb protected by a large rock.  The “new tomb” is significant as tombs often contained more than one body in various states of decomposition. Families often owned a tomb to share for loved ones.  Sepulchers were not permanent residences for the dead.  They only served to “rest” and decompose the body.  Once fully decomposed, the bones were transferred to an ossuary and stored elsewhere. The point here:  Jesus was dead. Joseph handled him as dead and wrapped Jesus as a dead body.

Two additional witnesses observed Joseph burying Jesus: Mary Magdalene and another Mary.  This is an interesting legal fact that Matthew inserts, as it takes two witnesses to corroborate any story in a Jewish court of law (Deuteronomy 19:15).  Surprisingly, it was the wrong sex to confirm this historical event, as women were considered unreliable witnesses.  So why would Matthew cite women?  First of all, because it adds two more witnesses to the burial (four witnesses is very strong testimony). Secondly, women plus two members of the Sanhedrin (Joseph and Nicodemus) gave them credence.  And, finally, if there were any doubt, you’d never confirm your story with women as your witnesses.

So the Shroud of Turin is compelling evidence to corroborate the burial narrative. It’s the type of evidence admissible before a court of law.

It is the BEST archaeological evidence for Jesus’ death, burial and Resurrection.

If you only choose to believe it is what it is.

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Resurrection Hoax? I Wouldn’t Bet My Life On It! (Part 2 of 3)

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Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)

Blessed are those who die “in the Lord,” John the Revelator wrote.

Blessed is the believer because death no longer stings, separates or steals.  The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ ended death’s long war of terror against the human race.  Death was vanquished and utterly “destroyed” by this historical event another apostle penned (I Corinthians 15:25-272 Timothy 2:10).

It is pretty good news.

Unless you don’t believe that it happened or, at least happened as we know it. After all, the skeptic has twisted, reimagined, dismissed and fabricated the Resurrection narrative since it occurred.  Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead. It’s a fairy tale penned by his devoted and desperate disciples, perhaps seeking religious power “in his name.”  Or maybe Jesus wasn’t really dead.  Maybe the whole event is nothing more than mass psychosis or delusion.  If nothing else, it’s pretty clear the body was stolen.  The Muslim argues that Judas Iscariot, not Jesus, was the one crucified (among other contentions).

There are plenty of alternative theories to counter the preposterous idea that a Jewish rabbi, two thousand years ago, raised himself from the dead. That’s crazy.

Yes, it is.

If Jesus truly was just a man.

But it’s certainly plausible (and equally possible) that he is WHO he claimed to be:  God in the flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

From that view, it’s far more crazy to think you could KILL God and keep the Almighty and Omnipotent in the grave.  A resurrection miracle for God is child’s play.  It pales in comparison to creating the whole universe, earth and all life in six days…out of nothing.  Sometimes we think too small of God.

The problem facing the skeptics, atheists and unbelievers is any alternative solution they offer only creates more questions.  Rather than resolving the resurrection puzzle they actually muddy the water more:

  • JESUS DIDN’T RESURRECT!  IT’S AN EARLY CHURCH LIE.  Okay, then why would every one of Jesus’ original twelve apostles–if in a collective and creative conspiracy to launch a new world religion–all die torturous deaths without a single recant?  Now, a group of deluded followers might die for a lie together but Jesus’ apostles, according to historical church testimony, died alone, far apart and with much pain.  Andrew was crucified in Asia Minor. Thomas was viciously speared in India. Matthew was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. James was stoned and clubbed to death in Syria.  Paul was beheaded in Rome.  And these are but a few of the apostolic martyrs.  And yet, not one recanted their Faith to save their own neck (including Saul/Paul who once viciously opposed and persecuted Christians).  It’s strong evidence that they not only believed the Resurrection happened, they knew it happened.  They witnessed the Resurrected Christ.  The resurrection of Jesus turned cowardice into courageous missionaries, doubt into daring leaders and downcast disciples into devoted evangelists.  The Resurrection creates positive and productive change to which skeptics have no apologetic.
  • JESUS DIDN’T DIE ON THE CROSS.  HE WAS STILL ALIVE!  Hmmm…then how could Jesus survive a Roman crucifixion and then revive his own strength, without medical care?  Also known as the “swoon theory,” this has been widely rejected (even among clear-minded skeptics).  Roman executioners were masters at murder and faced their own death sentence if they erroneously mishandled a death penalty case.  And let’s be honest, the reality is most crucified individuals died on their own.  Some hung on their crosses for days, while birds and wild animals ate their flesh, until they died.  Most passed away from asphyxiation, a well-documented consequence in crucifixion.  But the Christ narrative is even more gruesome than most.  Jesus also experienced an oft-deadly scourging prior to crucifixion. He was gouged with thorns. He was beaten in his long walk to Golgotha.  And then speared to prove his death.  In order to hasten death, bones were routinely broken but not so with Jesus (John 19:31-37).  He was already dead. Skeptics want reasonable people to believe Jesus somehow survived such tortures, but even if he had miraculous strength to revive, certainly the cool sepulcher would’ve finished him off.  No, Jesus was dead.  In fact, Jesus was buried as dead by grieving friends (who would’ve moved heaven and earth to hear even the faintest heartbeat or breath).
  • THIS IS ALL A MASS DELUSION!  Seriously?  Is it truly possible to devise a mass “resurrection” delusion of this nature (or is the skeptic the one living a delusion)?  According to 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Jesus appeared to multiple people in various places at different times, including as many as 500 people at once.  How could so many people experience the same reality (Jesus is alive) and come to the same conclusion (Jesus really is alive)?  We’re not talking temporary hypnosis or magic trick.  These disciples believed and lived with a willingness to follow Jesus to their own death.  The truth?  It would require a greater miracle to engineer a mass delusion of this magnitude than a resurrection.
  • EVERYONE KNOWS THE DISCIPLES HAD MOTIVE TO STEAL THE BODY.  IT WAS BURIED ELSEWHERE.  Nice try, but if the body was stolen, then why wasn’t it produced…ever?  This is the oldest lie in the book, even recorded by Matthew.  Just tell the people the body was stolen.  Case closed.  It might’ve worked if true, especially if the body was never found, but it fails miserably to explain why Christians, again, would give their lives for a lie.  Certainly one desperate disciple, wanting to save his neck, would’ve cracked and fessed up.  But the reason they didn’t “fess up” was because they couldn’t.  They had seen Jesus alive or heard from reliable witnesses of his resurrection.  So who do you believe?  A bunch of Roman soldiers under orders (and bribes)?  The religious leaders harboring a grudge?  Or do you believe followers of a resurrected rabbi that modeled his love, service, sacrifice, gifts, preaching and sharing like it was their last day on earth?  I’d believe his followers.  Dead men tell no tales.  Resurrected ones create new ones.

 

At the end of the day, the atheist, skeptic and nonbeliever can debate, denounce and denigrate Christianity and the Resurrection, but their arguments fail like cheap paper vessels:  they don’t hold much water very long.

The evidence for Jesus’ life is overwhelming.

The proof of his death and resurrection are compelling.

It requires far more FAITH to believe it didn’t happen.

And that TRUTH ain’t never going to change.

A Reluctant Follower’s Confession of Faith (Part One)

Jesus_ChristYou ask what inspires me? What drives my passion and purpose? What creates hope, peace and love in my heart? The answer isn’t a thing or a work or even another person, but simply Jesus the Christ. That’s right. The Galilean radical who revolutionized religion in His day, setting off a Movement that billions now follow in some form or fashion.

No other earthly philosophy, religion of man or spiritual quest will fill the God-shaped hole within (a quest of man since time’s genesis). In fact, the greatest lie ever proposed is that man can be whole and holy without God. It’s simply not true. The soul is a ravenous beast with insatiable hunger that creates either addiction or apathy. Additional fabrications suggest God is impersonal or a force of nature. Still other ideologies preach He is an inner light or a highly evolved former incarnation of man. To the contrary, God is Creator, Father, All-Powerful, All-Knowing and Sovereign.

I am convinced, based upon experience and long study, that no religion satisfies like authentic Christianity. At its heart is a simple Idea opposed by other religions: God longs to dwell with man. Think about it: the same God that created universes out of nothingness desires to make something of me and you! The same God that lives outside of Creation willingly left His Heavenly Home to dwell with man inside a human carcass. The same God who deserves crowns and thrones completed His earthly mission (to restore man) wearing a cross and thorns.

And then to prove, beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus was truly God in the flesh, He pulled off the greatest feat in all of history: The God-man rose from the dead! No other great teacher, guru, revolutionary, magician, politician or religious leader pulled that one off. And that’s why I follow HIM. Jesus is alive! He’s the Real Deal.

You see, Christianity isn’t about going to church and religion isn’t about attending a mosque or synagogue, but coming home to rest, reconciliation and revival. It’s not about being a good person but being God’s person. It’s not about channeling a higher power but letting Jesus change your heart. It’s not about “you” at all, but simply about Christ alone. It’s a clear recognition that NO ONE and NO THING–philosophy, person, product–can save you from yourself. You need something so much bigger than a mantra or prayer or ritual for redemption. What you need is Jesus and a new heart. Grace is far superior to karma.

And only Jesus offers Grace.

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