I’m doing a brief study on the foundation of Christianity for our Bible
study group and have been browsing your website. Am I correct in that in
accordance with Jewish burial customs Jesus’ body would have been wrapped
similar to that of an Egyptian mummy? If so would that not be further
evidence against the swoon theory? Seems it would have been rather
difficult to unwrap oneself given that your arms were folded across your
chest and then your upper body wrapped. The Burial of Jesus John 19:38-40
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph
was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With
Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by
Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus
brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking
Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of
linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. Matthew 27:59,
Mark 15:46, and Luke 23:53 describe Jesus’ body being wrapped “in linen
cloth,” not “in a linen cloth.” John 19:40 is much more specific,
describing strips of linen cloth (not a single sheet, as is the Shroud of
Turin), “in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”

Please comment

It would not be completely accurate to say that Jesus? body would have
been wrapped as Egyptian mummies, especially if you mean by this the
burial customs in Egypt of the second millennium BC. I am sure you know
that the Egyptian aristocracy in the second millennium BC were very
elaborately embalmed and wrapped in several layers of material. Jesus?
body certainly was not treated in this way. His body was wrapped in strips
of cloth along with aromatic herbs. I would say that if Jesus had been
embalmed and wrapped up as were the mummies of ancient Egypt , it truly
would provide a significant additional argument against the swoon theory.
However, it is worth noting that by the Roman period, even the wealthy
Egyptians were not using such elaborate methods for preparing their dead
bodies, never mind a relatively poor Jew.

Getting to your question, I would say that there is a massive body of
evidence against the swoon theory, but mentioning the difficulty of a
supposedly revived Jesus escaping from the cloth strips which were wrapped
around his body does not do a lot to add to the argument. It seems
reasonable to say that if an injured person was revived after being
wrapped in the strips of cloth, unless he was extremely weak from his
injuries it is not hard to imagine this person being able to escape from
the cloth strips wrapped around his body. I am not saying it is an invalid
argument. I believe that even if Jesus had recovered, it would have been
tough to escape the linen wrapping. I just would not make a big deal about
this aspect. The difficulty of surviving scourging to near the point of
death, crucifixion, stabbing in the heart, lack of food and water for two
days, having to move the stone, fight his way through the guards?? All of
these arguments are stronger than the difficulty of getting out of the
strips of cloth, in my opinion.

You ask a great question. I respect those who, when thinking of a
potentially useful argument, take the time and mental energy to ask
whether that argument will truly hold up to scrutiny. It seems that is
exactly what you are doing.

By the way, I notice your careful study in finding the description of the
strips of cloth in John. In the interest of being careful, I would say
that just because John describes strips of cloth, does not preclude the
use of a burial shroud in addition underneath the strips of cloth. Let me
make a suggestion. Why not do your own little research project to see
whether it was common tradition of the first century AD for the Jews to
use burial shrouds underneath the linen wrapping. If you find out, let me
know. FYI the Shroud of Turin was tested by the carbon-14 dating technique
and found to be linen from the twelfth century, so it certainly can not be
the burial shroud of Jesus, at least according to scientific study.

John Oakes, PhD

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