Why would there be few direct references, either textual or art, to the shroud in the first few centuries? Why is the post resurrection shroud not explicitly mentioned in the Bible?
Several reasons why there are no direct references to what happened to the burial cloths:
1. Among the Jews, articles associated with the dead were unclean – even stepping on a tomb
without realizing it required ritual purification. Burial shrouds would therefore not generally be
handled or displayed.
2. The Jewish authorities very much wanted to conceal the fact that Jesus’ body had disappeared, and
they paid the guards of the tomb to lie about what had happened (Matthew 28:11-15). The Roman
authorities would also not want any evidence that Jesus had escaped from the crucifixion that they
had performed. So if the existence of such an object became known, it would probably have been
seized and destroyed by either the Jews or the Romans.
3. Extreme suffering in those times was considered to be the judgement of God, whereas wealth,
military might, and power were typically viewed as marks of God’s approval. A good example is
the book of Job, possibly the oldest in the Bible, in which Job suffers a series of calamities and
winds up sitting in ashes and scaping his boils. His friends could not understand how a wealthy
and upright man as he had been could ever experience such disaster – when bad things happened
to you it had to mean that God was against you. Therefore, people could easily have wondered
how attractive Christianity could be when its founder, the son of God, was displayed as dying in
such a humiliating and gruesome manner. A different mindset was required for the Christian
message to be understood and appreciated.
4. Related to the previous item is the issue of oriental sensitivity. Christ as depicted on the Shroud is
brutally beaten, wounded, and dead. He is also naked, and all of these characteristics were not just
disagreeable to the society of that era, they were abhorrent, especially to spiritual and ascetic
minds of that time. Even after understanding the message that Christ had suffered and died for the
sins of humanity, it was another matter to reveal the grisly details.
Now on the Shroud the effects of Christ’s crucifixion are visible in all their stark reality, more vivid and more appalling than in any artistic work …. It is reasonable, therefore, to suppose that the Shroud was kept more or less hidden for centuries and a prudent silence observed about its imprint… Those who imagine that the guardians of the Shroud should have gone about waving it like a banner show little understanding of the Christian Orient (Humber 1978: 91).