When a dead body in ancient Israel was prepared for burial, a large linen cloth was laid on a “shelf” carved in the tomb (or some other form of “table”). The body was placed on the linen and it was pulled up over the corpse so the entire remains were covered. The cloth was then tied tight with linen strips.
It is my understanding ancient Jewish law required the burial linens used to prepare a dead body for entombment must remain in the tomb with the cadaver. However, an interesting situation is hinted at in the Bible. I used this “hint” or possible verbal expression as a key part of my book The Sindon.
Consider Mark’s account of the tomb visitation after the resurrection. (Mark 16:5, 6). In it, some women go into Jesus’ tomb, encounter a young man sitting on the right side, and are startled. He makes a strange comment. He states, “He is risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”
Why would the young man offer to show them where Jesus had been laid if the shroud was still there? It would be obvious they would have laid Him where the burial linen remained. Consequently, it is possible the Shroud was no longer in the crypt at that time.
But who would violate Jewish law and remove it from the tomb and why?
Let’s look at the “who” first. The last person described in the Bible as seeing the linen is Peter, and he is by himself then. Refer to Luke 24. Women went to Jesus’ tomb, encountered two men, and ran to tell the disciples staying in the Upper Room. In Luke 24:12, Peter ran to the tomb alone and saw the linen cloths by themselves.
Peter found the linens as before. The linen was still folded in half so nothing inside would be visible. If Peter, for whatever reason, looked inside the two halves and found the image we now see on the Shroud of Turin, it would be easy to understand why he would want to take the Shroud from the tomb and keep it for the church.
Violating the Jewish Law to keep the linens in the sepulcher would be an easy decision for Peter to make, bolstered by the fact the Jewish Law assumed the body would remain in the tomb also. When it was no longer there, it would be easy to conclude the linens didn’t need to remain there either. Who would be better to take them than Peter?