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The Red Cross, Revisited
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Wendy Wippel

A 14' by 4' piece of linen in northern Italy genuinely appears (after exhaustive scientific testing), to contain a picture of the crucified Christ.  The Shroud of Turin.  But what about the Shroud of Oviedo?  Their combined picture gives new significance to that old song 'nothing but the blood'.

The linen cloth housed in Oviedo, called The Sudarium, meaning "sweat cloth", measures 33" by 21" inches.  It contains no image of its own, only stains.

The Scriptures describe both a shroud and a smaller cloth at the tomb:

"And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself." John 20:6-7 (NKJV)

The Sudarium, by legend is believed to be the cloth that was used to clean Jesus' face and cover it in the tomb, and its provenance is well documented. 

Pelagius, bishop of Oviedo in eleventh century, wrote a history of the cloth in his Book of the Testaments of Oviedo, Chronicon Regum Legionensium.

According to Pelagius the Sudarium remained in Israel until 614, when it was removed  ahead of the attack on Jerusalem by the Persian king Chosroes II.  It was carried to Alexandria by the presbyter Phillip, but when Chosroes advanced on Alexandria the Christians fleeing Alexandria carried it across Northern Africa and into Spain.  Eventually reaching the city of Ecija, the Sudarium was taken into protective custody by Bishop Fulgentius, and eventually transferred to Seville.

By 718, Seville was in the path of a Muslim invasion and The Sudarium, in a chest with various other relics, was secreted in a cave ten kilometers from Oviedo.  King Alfonso II eventually had a chapel built in Oviedo for the Sudarium (the chapel called the Camara Santa) and eventually the cathedral of Oviedo was constructed around the chapel. There it has remained for a thousand years.

A record of the relics contained in the chest made on the 14th of March, 1075, made by no less than King Alfonso VI and El Cid, included the Sudarium.  A silver plating on the chest, applied in 1113, included an inscription inviting all Christians to venerate the relic which held the blood of the crucified Lord.

The Sudarium, like the Shroud of Turin, has been the focus of intense forensic analysis in recent years.  The testing of the Sudarium, like the shroud, speaks convincingly of authenticity.

The Spanish Center for Sindonology has overseen the bulk of the investigation.

The stains on the Sudarium reveal that man whose face was later covered by the cloth died in an upright position. One part blood and six parts fluid, the stains appear to be mostly fluids that collected in the lungs as an effect of suffocation and which then issued from the nose during successive attempts to move the body, drying in between.  These successive stains in the nasal area (research performed by Dr. Jose Villalain) show that the sudarium was almost certainly put in place after death but before the body was taken down  (not being wrapped around the whole head because the right cheek was laying on the right shoulder); that the body  was not taken down immediately upon death, and that the body laid at the foot of the cross for about 45 minutes before it was buried.  The stains also reveal that at death the man's head was tilted about seventy degrees forward and twenty degrees to the right. 

Smaller pinpoints of blood apart from main facial bleeding, dot the Sudarium, most likely a result of the crown of thorns.  Dr. Max Frei identified, on the Sudarium, pollen from species native to Jerusalem, as well as to North Africa, Toledo and Oviedo--the exact route described in the Sudarium's history, but not from any other place in Europe.  There are also residue of myrrh and aloe, described as part o the preparation of the body in John 19:39-40.

There are numerous points of similarity between the Sudarium and the Shroud of Turin.

The nose on the Sudarium has been measured at 8 cm, identical to calculation of length of nose on shroud.  When the facial stain on the Sudarium is superimposed on shroud the stains are identical.  The Sudarium clearly shows blood emanating from the right side of the man’s mouth.  No such stain was visible by the naked eye on shroud, but an identical stain appeared on the shroud when techniques that enhanced visual imaging were used.  Using the Polarized Image Overlay technique, seventy points of coincidence with the Sudarium can be identified with regards to the frontal stains on the shroud, and fifty points of coincidence with the rear side.

The conclusion, even among skeptics: the Sudarium and the Shroud retain an image of a man crucified in Jerusalem.  When two separate cloths, bearing identical information, have been preserved throughout 2000 years, in two separate locations, there is only one reasonable person this could be.  The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The two cloths have one other point of similarity.  The blood on the cloths is the same blood type.  AB.

As a molecular biologist, this used to keep me up nights.  Jesus was a virgin birth, but to be completely human, God, I think, would have constructed a human genetic complement for his infant son. The Lord God can do anything-- nothing is too difficult for thee-- I guess he could have constructed anything, but why AB? 

It wasn't even a common one in Jews, apparently.  Only 1% of the current Jewish population of Israel has AB.  So why that particular blood type?  (I don't think God does anything without purpose.)

Then it struck me.  God speaks to us in similes. (Hosea 12:10) He's painting us a picture with the blood type AB.

Blood types are defined by either the presence of two specific protein markers on a person's blood cells (A marker and B marker) or their absence (known as O)

I'm blood type O.  You've probably heard that O is the universal donor, because since it represents blood cells with no markers, it will not cause an immunologic reaction in anybody who receives it as a transfusion.

O, however can't receive anything but O.  Because O has no markers, it will react to both A and B.

AB, as it happens, is the universal ACCEPTOR.  It can receive blood from any other human, because it carried every marker known.

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)

Jesus is the universal acceptor, who paid for the sins of the whole world with that AB blood.

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." I Peter 2:24 (NIV)

Oh the blood of Jesus, who washed me white as snow.


Origianlly written by Wendy Wippel on August 31, 2011

Last week: Crocodile Rock

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