Mark 15 – Jesus Before Pontius Pilate & The Shroud of Turin Controversy

Archaeologists have found skeletons that are over a million years old, but would it be possible for clothes to last over 2,000 years? 

Archaeologists have unearthed six ancient skeletons dating back 1.8 million years in the hills of Georgia.
The Georgian bones – which include incredibly well preserved skulls and teeth – are the earliest humans ever found outside Africa.

I would have to say that wouldn’t be very likely.  Yet, in regards to clothing that Jesus wore, certainly because Jesus was and is life.

Remember the lady with the blood disease, how when she touched His garment He knew someone touched Him because power was taken out of His body (Mk 5:21-33).

Everything about Jesus is mysterious and powerful, his touch can heal or even rejuvenate.

Tomorrow we’ll read the last chapter of the Book of Mark and…

Mark 15
Jesus Before Pontius Pilate

1 And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.

“Straightway in the morning” – the working day of a Roman official began at daylight.

Even in Death We Do Not Part.
At Mantua, in an amazing echo of that heartrending story, archaeologists revealed the discovery of a couple locked in a tender embrace, one that has endured for more than 5,000 years.

“Morning” – Friday of Passion Week.

“Held a consultation” – apparently to accuse Jesus before the civil authorities for reason rather than blasphemy (see Lk 23:1-14).

“Pilate” – the Roman governor of Judea from 25 to 36 A.D., whose official residence was in Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast.  (In 1961 archaeologists working at Caesarea unearthed a stone contemporary with Pilate and inscribed with his name).

When he came to Jerusalem, he stayed in the magnificent palace built by Herod the Great, located west and a little south of the temple area.  Mark uses the Latin word “Pretorium” to indicate this palace in v. 16, and it was here that the Roman trial of Jesus took place.

2 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.

“Pilate asked him” – judgment in a Roman court was the sole responsibility of the imperial magistrate.

3 And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.

A late 19th-century photograph of the Chapel of the Shroud

4 And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.

“Answerest thou nothing” – if Jesus made no defense, according to Roman law, Pilate would have to pronounce against Him.

5 But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled.

6 Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

7 And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

“Barabbas” – probably a member of the Zealots, a revolutionary Jews group.

“Insurrection” – nothing from other sources is known about this insurrection, or uprising, though Mark speaks of it as if it were well known.  Under the Roman prefects such revolts were common (see Lk 13:1).

8 And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.

9 But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

10 For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.

11 But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

12 And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

Full length negatives of the shroud.

13 And they cried out again, Crucify him.

14 Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.

15 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

“Scourged” – the Romans used a whip made of several strips of leather into which were embedded (near the ends) pieces of bone and lead. 

The Jews limited the number of stripes to a maximum of 40 (in practice to 39 in case of a miscount), but no such limitation was recognized by the Romans, and victims of Roman floggings often didn’t survive.

16 And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.

“Pretorium” – the word was used originally of a genera’s tent, or of the headquarters in a military camp.

“The whole band” – the soldiers quartered in the Pretorium were recruited from non-Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land and assigned to the military governor.

17 And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

“Purple” – probably an old military cloak whose color suggested royalty.

“Crown of thorns” – made of a prickly plant (the Greek word means simply “briers”), of which there are many in the Holy Land.  Both robe and crown were parts of the mock royal attire placed on Jesus.

18 And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

Station biologique de Roscoff in Brittany, France where the first scientific analysis of the photographs of the shroud was performed by Yves Delage in 1902.

19 And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.

20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.

21 And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

“A Cyrenian” – Cyrene was an important city of Libya in North Africa that had a large Jews population.

“Alexander and Rufus” – only mentioned by Mark, but referred to in such a way as to suggest that they were known by those to whom Mark wrote.  Rufus may be the same person spoken of in Rom 16:13.  Otherwise, who would care to know the names of this man’s children?

“Bear his cross” – men condemned to death were usually forced to carry a beam of the ross, often weighing 30 or 40 pounds, to the place of crucifixion.  Jesus started out by carrying His (Jn 19:17), but He had been so weakened by flogging that Simon was pressed into service.

22 And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.

17th-century Russian icon of the Mandylion by Simon Ushakov.

“Place of a skull” – it may have been a small hill (though the Gospels say nothing of a hill) that looked like a skull, or it may have been so named because of the many executions that took place there.

23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.

24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

“Crucified” – a Roman means of execution in which the victim was nailed to a cross.  Heavy, wrought-iron nails were driven through the wrists and the heel bones.  If the life of the victim lingered too long, death was hastened by breaking his legs (Jn 19:33).

Archaeologists have discovered the bones of a crucified man, near Jerusalem, dating between 7 and 66 A.D., which shed light on the position of the victim when nailed to the cross. 

Only slaves, the basest of criminals, and offenders who were not Roman citizens were executed in this manner.  First century authors vividly describe the agony and disgrace of being crucified.

25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

A poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the shroud in Turin.
Secondo Pia’s photograph was taken a few weeks too late to be included in the poster. The image on the poster includes a painted face, not obtained from Pia’s photograph.

26 And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

“His accusation” – it was customary to write the charge on a wooden board that was carried before the victim as he walked to the place of execution, and then the board was affixed to the cross above his head.  THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The wording of the charge differs slightly in the Gospels, but all agree that Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the king of the Jews.

27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.

“Two thieves” – according to Roman law, robbery was not a capital offense.  Mark’s term must signify men guilty of insurrection, crucified for high treason.

28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.

Mark doesn’t include many Old Testament quotations, writing as he is for a non-Jewish audience, but these words are from Is 53:12.

29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,

30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.

31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.

32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

“They that were crucified with him” – one of the criminals later repented and asked to be included in Jesus kingdom (Lk 23:39-43).

The Garden Tomb is believed by many to be the garden and sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea, but it’s not for certain.
The Garden is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Christian non-denominational charitable trust based in the United Kingdom.
The Garden Tomb is an alternative site to the famous Holy Sepulchre for you to consider the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The words were spoken in Aramaic, but with some Hebrew characteristics, one of the languages commonly spoken in the Holy Land in Jesus’ day.  They reveal how deeply Jesus felt His abandonment by God as He bore the sins of mankind.

35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.

“Elias” – the bystanders mistook the first words of Jesus’s cry (“Eloi, Eloi”) to be a cry for Elijah.  It was commonly believed that Elijah would come in times of critical need to protect the innocent and rescue the righteous.

36 And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.

37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a Christian church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The ground on which the church stands is venerated by most Christians as where Jesus was crucified. It is said to also contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century.

“The loud voice and gave up the ghost” – the strength of the cry indicates that Jesus didn’t die the ordinary death of those crucified who normally suffered long periods of complete agony,  exhaustion and then unconsciousness before dying.

38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

“Vail of the temple” – the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place (Ex 26:31-33).  The tearing of the curtain indicated that Christ had entered heaven itself for us so that we too may now enter God’s very presence (Heb 9:8-10, 12, 10:19-20).

39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;

41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.

42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,

43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

“Arimathaea” – see note on Matt 27:57.

“Kingdom of God” – see note on Matt 3:2.

“Craved the body of Jesus” – He wanted to give Jesus’ a decent burial.  Many criminals didn’t receive such.

44 And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.

“Marveled” – crucified men often lived two or three days before dying and the early death of Jesus was therefore extraordinary.

45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

“He gave the body to Joseph” – the release of the body of one condemned for high treason and especially to one who was not an immediate relative, was quite usually.

46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher.

“Sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock” – Matthew tells us that the tomb belonged to Joseph and that it was new, i.e., it had not been used before (Matt 27:60).  The location of the tomb was in a garden very near the site of the crucifixion (see Jn 19:41).

There is archaeological evidence that the traditional site of the burial of Jesus (the Church of the Holy Sepulture in Jerusalem) was a cemetery during the 1st century A.D.  

However, there is also good evidence that the “Garden Tomb” was also used in the 1st century and that an early church was once constructed over the site as well.

47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.

The Shroud of Turin Controversy

No other artifact in the history of scholarship has been the subject of as much debate and study as the Shroud of Turin. This piece of linen cloth is said to bear the front and rear images of a man apparently crucified in Roman fashion. 

His injuries correspond to those suffered by Jesus. Proponents argue that this is the actual burial cloth of Christ, while opponents see to it as a clever hoax.

The History of the Shroud

The Shroud of Turin: modern photo of the face, positive left, negative right. Negative has been contrast enhanced.

The Shroud of Turin or Turin Shroud (Italian: Sindone di Torino) is a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion.

There is no consensus yet on exactly how the image was created, and it is believed by some to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, despite radiocarbon dating placing its origins in the Medieval period.[1] The image is much clearer in black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color.

The basic historical details, as we know them, are as follows:

– The shroud’s first known appearance was in France in the 1350s.The original owner died in 1356 without having revealed where or how he had acquired the cloth.

– A fire in 1532 damaged the cloth, and repair patches were added.

– It has been housed in Turin since 1578.

– Some theorize that the shroud is the same as the Mandylion, a sacred relic of Constantinople that was said to have borne the divine and miraculous imprint of Jesus’ face.

The Mandylion is said to have been discovered in 525 in Edessa in eastern Turkey. It found its way to the Byzantine capital in 944 A.D.

The shroud disappeared from Constantinople in 1204, when a crusader army looted the city. The leaders of the expedition were French, which could explain the shroud’s westward journey.

Basic Facts About the Shroud

The shroud is a swath of linen cloth measuring 14 feet 3 inches  by 3 feet 7 inches. The figure on the cloth is naked, with hands folded across the pelvic area. He is bearded and between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 1 inch in height. The cloth bears a number of extraordinary features:

– It’s purple stains may be from blood.

– Potsherds or coins may have covered the eyes. Some argue that the outline of a coin from the time of Pontius Pilate is present, but the fabric is so coarse and the image so unclear that substantiation is difficult.

– The image is barely visible up close, and only a rough outline can be discerned by standing farther away. However, when photographed and viewed in negative, the shroud reveals a clear image, formed in such a way that a three-dimensional reconstruction of the man’s appearance is possible.

Full-length image of the Turin Shroud before the 2002 restoration.
The origins of the shroud and its image are the subject of intense debate among theologians, historians and researchers.

Scientific and popular publications have presented diverse arguments for both authenticity and possible methods of forgery. A variety of scientific theories regarding the shroud have since been proposed, based on disciplines ranging from chemistry to biology and medical forensics to optical image analysis.

– The image, on the very surface of the cloth only, is said to be no more than two fibrils (filaments or fibers) deep.

– It was not painted on. Rather, some of the threads were themselves changed to produce the image. Adherents suggest that at the moment of the resurrection Jesus’ body radiated energy and fixed his image upon the shroud.

– The traces of flogging on the body are said to accurately depict Roman scourging. The 100+ lash marks evident on the image have a dumbbell shape, conceivably reflecting the use of a Roman flagrum.

– The shoulders are said to exhibit abrasions that could have been the result of the victim’s having carried the crossbar of a cross.

– Studies on the soil and pollen preserved in the fibers suggest that the cloth originated in or near Jerusalem.

Recent Developments

Supporters of the shroud’s authenticity argue that no individual in the Middle Ages could have had the expertise to deliberately create such a piece.

In 1988, however, British scientists released the results of carbon 14 testing that dated the cloth to between 1260 and 1390.

The shroud was judged to have been proven a fraud, yet subsequent researchers have argued that the sample for the carbon 14 test was taken from a part of the shroud that had been repaired and not from the original fabric.

In 2002 the shroud underwent substantial restoration, including the removal of the repair patches from 1532.

Some researches fear that this process will limit or invalidate any further testing.

The enigma of the shroud continues. It remains either the most significant archaeological artifact ever found or one of the most ingenious forgeries in history.

A poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the shroud in Turin.
Secondo Pia’s photograph was taken a few weeks too late to be included in the poster. The image on the poster includes a painted face, not obtained from Pia’s photograph.

It would be something else to find out that the shroud was the actual one that Jesus wore.  And if it is ever proven you know it would be worth millions and millions of dollars, if not billions.

I can’t find anything that states whether the shroud was seamless or not, like the robe Jesus had worn:

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did (Jn 19:23-24). 

…there are some questions about it.