© Stephen E. Jones
Servant of the priest (3)
This is entry #9, part 3, of my "Turin Shroud Encyclopedia," about
[Above: The Apostle John, depicted in the Book of Kells, c. 800. It is my proposal in this post that the Apostle John was "the servant of the priest" to whom the risen Jesus gave His burial shroud [sindon], which is the Shroud of Turin.]
the term "servant of the priest," preserved in a fragment by St. Jerome (c.347–420), from the late first/early second century, "Gospel of the Hebrews," that "the Lord [Jesus] had given the linen cloth [sindon] to the servant of the priest":
"The Gospel that is called `according to the Hebrews,' which I have recently translated into both Greek and Latin, a Gospel that Origen frequently used, records the following after the Savior's resurrection: `But when the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, he went and appeared to James.' (Jerome, Illustrious Men, 2)".
It is a continuation of entry #9(2), "Servant of the priest (2)" in which, by way of introduction I stated:
"Several early Christian writings recorded that the resurrected Jesus gave His shroud to different individuals. The earliest and most highly regarded of these writings, the late first/early second century The Gospel of the Hebrews, recorded that after His resurrection Jesus gave his shroud [sindon] to "the servant of the priest." Since it seems unlikely that the risen Jesus would give His shroud indirectly to the High Priest, Caiaphas (r. 18–36), , who was the driving force behind Jesus' crucifixion (Mt 26:3-5,57-66; Jn 11:49-53), other explanations have been sought. It has been suggested that the original text had "Peter" but it had become corrupted by a copyist's error. Another possibility is that he was Malchus, `the servant of the High Priest,' who was in the party sent to arrest Jesus, and whose right ear Peter had cut off but Jesus had miraculously healed it (Mt 26:51; Mk 14:47; Lk 22:50-51; Jn 18:10), and so Malchus became a Christian. But both these possibilities have major problems."
Because of its length I had to split that entry into three parts. This is the first installment of this entry. For more information about this Encyclopedia series, see the Main Index "A-Z", and sub-indexes "S", "C," and "D."
Introduction. A third possibility, which seems not to have been previously considered, is that "the servant of the priest" was the Apostle John, of whom there is historical and Biblical evidence that he was a priest and that he may have even been a servant in the High Priest's household. This latter possibility, that Jesus took His Shroud with Him out of the empty tomb and later gave it to the Apostle John, seems the most likely.
• There is historical evidence that the Apostle John was a Jewish priest. Early Church historian Eusebius (c. 260-340) quoted from a letter by Polycrates (c.130–196), a Bishop of Ephesus, who wrote that "John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord; who also was a priest, and bore the sacerdotal plate (petalon)":
"THE bishops, however, of Asia, persevering in observing the custom handed down to them from their fathers, were headed by Polycrates. He, indeed, had also set forth the tradition handed down to them, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome. `We,' said he, `therefore, observe the genuine day; neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again in the day of the Lord's appearing, in which he will come with glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints; Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters. His other daughter, also, who having lived under the influence of the Holy Ghost, now likewise rests in Ephesus. Moreover, John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord; who also was a priest, and bore the sacerdotal plate (petalon), both a martyr and teacher. He is buried in Ephesus; also Polycarp of Smyrna, both bishop and martyr'"
New Testament scholar Leon Morris (1914-2006), commenting on Jn 18:15-16, that John "was known to the high priest," considers this historical evidence (and Biblical evidence that John came from a priestly family) as supporting "that John was a priest":
"John seems to have come of a priestly family. The woman Salome, who stood by the cross of Jesus, appears to have been his mother, as a comparison of Mark 15:40 and Matt. 27:56 shows. John does not mention Salome, nor his own mother specifically, but he does speak of the Virgin Mary's sister (John 19:25) in such a way as to lead to the conclusion that she is Salome. Now Mary was related to Elizabeth (Luke 1:36) who is called one `of the daughters of Aaron' (Luke 1:5). Salome thus had priestly connections. The conclusion is that John was of a priestly family and could well have come in contact with the high priest in connection with his priestly duties. This is supported by the passage in the letter of Polycrates (c. 190 A.D.) which says that John `was a priest wearing to petalon (Eusebius HE, III. xxxi, 3). ... Polycrates certainly supports the view that John was a priest"
There would surely be no contradiction in the first century by a priest being also a fisherman. After the settlement of Canaan in the 13th century BC, provision was made for priests to supplement support for themselves and their families by agriculture:
"Provision for support. - This consisted - 1. Of one tenth of the tithes which the people paid to the Levites, i. e. one per cent. on the whole produce of the country. Num. 18:26-28. 2. Of a special tithe every third year. Deut. 14:28; 26:12. 3. Of the redemption money, paid at the fixed rate of five shekels a head, for the first-born of man or beast. Num. 18:14-19. 4. Of the redemption money paid in like manner for men or things specially dedicated to the Lord. Lev. 27. 5. Of spoil, captives, cattle and the like, taken in war. Num. 31:25-47. 6. Of the shewbread, the flesh of the burnt offerings, peace offerings, trespass offerings, Lev. 6:26, 29; 7:6-10; Num. 18:8-14, and in particular the heave-shoulder and the wave-breast. Lev. 10:12-15. 7. Of an undefined amount of the first-fruits of corn, wine and oil. Ex. 23:19; Lev. 2:14; Deut. 26:1-10. 8. On their settlement in Canaan the priestly families had thirteen cities assigned them, with `suburbs' or pasture-grounds for their flocks. Josh. 21:13-19. These provisions were obviously intended to secure the religion of Israel against the dangers of a caste of pauper priests, needy and dependent, and unable to bear their witness to the true faith".
"Numbers. - If we may accept the numbers given by Jewish writers as at all trustworthy, the proportion of the priesthood to the population of Palestine, during the last century of their existence as an order, must have been far greater than that of the clergy has ever been in any Christian nation. Over and above those that were scattered in the country and took their turn, there were not fewer than 24,000 stationed permanently at Jerusalem, and 12,000 at Jericho",
but also that Israel had been under Roman occupation since 63 BC with the Jews since then having been forced to pay heavy taxes to Rome, would surely mean that most priests in Jesus' day would have needed to work in secular occupations in order to survive.To be continued with the second installment of this entry #9 (3).Notes
1. This post is copyright. No one may copy from it or any of my posts on this my The Shroud of Turin blog without them first asking and receiving my written permission. Except that I grant permission, without having to ask me, for anyone to copy the title and one paragraph only (including one graphic) of any of my posts, provided that they include a reference to the title of, and a hyperlink to, that post from which it came. [return]
2. "John the Apostle," Wikipedia, 12 November 2014. [return]
3. Green, M., 1969, "Enshrouded in Silence: In search of the First Millennium of the Holy Shroud," Ampleforth Journal, Vol. 74, Autumn, pp.319-345. [return]
4. Ehrman B.D., 2003, "Lost Scriptures: Books that Did not Make It into the New Testament," Oxford University Press: New York NY, p.16. [return]
5. Eusebius, "The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus," Cruse, C.F., transl., 1955, Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Fourth printing, 1966, Book V, Chapter xxiv, p.208. [return]
6. Morris, L.L., 1971, "The Gospel According to John," The New International Commentary on the New Testament," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Reprinted, 1984, p.752. [return]
7. Holden, J.M. & Geisler, N., 2013, "The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible," Harvest House Publishers: Eugene OR, p.192. [return]
8. Peloubet, F.N. & M.A., eds, 1990, "Smith's Bible Dictionary," , Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville TN, 1987, Revised, p.533. [return]
9. Ibid. [return]
10. "Siege of Jerusalem (63 BC)," Wikipedia, 7 November 2014. [return]
Updated: 23 November, 2014.