© Stephen E. Jones
Servant of the priest (2)
This is entry #9, part (2), of my "Turin Shroud Encyclopedia," about
[Above: "Apostle Peter striking the High Priests' servant Malchus with a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane," Giuseppe Cesari (1568–1640), c. 1597]]
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, "Servant of the priest (1)" in which, by way of introduction I stated:
"The Gospels don't record that Jesus' burial shroud [sindon] was in the empty tomb. Indeed, despite the desire by most Shroud pro-authenticists to place the Shroud in the empty tomb, included among the othonia, or even as the soudarion, both mentioned in Jn 20:5-7, the evidence is that sindon wasn't there. What Peter and John saw in the empty tomb, as recorded in Luke 24:12 and John 20:5-7, was the linen strips [othonia] which had bound [edesan] Jesus' hands and feet and the spices (Jn 19:40), as well as the sweat-cloth [soudarion] (the Sudarium of Oviedo) which had been on [epi] Jesus head, but no Shroud [sindon]. From seeing this arrangement of the othonia and soudarion but no sindon, John believed that Jesus had risen from the dead (Jn 20:6-9). A reconstruction of Jesus' resurrection and its immediate aftermath in the tomb is proposed."
Because of its length I have had to split that entry into three parts, entry #9(1), this entry #9(2) and next entry #9(3). For more information about this Encyclopedia series, see the Main Index "A-Z", and sub-indexes "S", "C," and "D."
Introduction. 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. A third possibility, that "the servant of the priest" was the Apostle John, will be considered next in entry #11, part (3).
Several early Christian writings recorded that the resurrected Jesus gave His shroud to different individuals. In the second century several early Christian writings stated that Jesus' shroud had been saved from the tomb and was given to different individuals. These texts "show us that second century writers knew about the Shroud in their day. They disagree about who saved it from the tomb, but they agree that it had been saved":
"In the second century (about 100-200 A.D.), several accounts were written about the life of Christ. These biographies are similar to the Gospel accounts in the Bible. For various reasons the early Church Fathers did not include them among the `official' texts of the Bible. Some of these writings contain incorrect religious teachings; some are just copies of the Gospels with a few additions. Hence we have called them `unofficial.' The usual word for these books is `apocryphal' or `hidden' books. But because they were excluded from the Bible does not mean that they are utterly false. They agree with the Gospels on many points. As books actually written in the second century, they are valuable source materials for that time. Most importantly, these texts say that Jesus' shroud was removed from the tomb and saved. Writers of the second century, therefore, knew of the existence of this sheet in their own day. The first of these apocryphal books is called the Gospel of the Hebrews. The author is anonymous (unknown) as is the case with all these apocryphal books. We have only fragments from it, for most of it has been lost over the centuries. One key surviving passage says, `After the Lord gave his shroud to the servant of the priest [or of Peter; the actual word is not clear], he appeared to James:' The Acts of Pilate is another apocryphal book of the second century. It states that Pilate and his wife preserved the shroud of Jesus. It suggests that they were sorry for their part in his death and were now Christians. These two books, along with the Gospel of Peter, The Acts of Nicodemus, and The Gospel of Gamaliel, show us that second century writers knew about the Shroud in their day. They disagree about who saved it from the tomb, but they agree that it had been saved. The silence of the `official' Biblical stories about the preservation of the shroud is countered by these books".
The Gospel of the Hebrews recorded that after His resurrection Jesus gave his shroud [sindon] to "the servant of the priest." As we saw above, St. Jerome in the fourth century quoted from the now lost, The Gospel of the Hebrews, that Jesus after His resurrection gave His shroud [sindon] to "the servant of the priest." This Gospel of the Hebrews stemmed from very early Judeo-Christian circles, at the end of the first, or the beginning of the second, century. The gospel was originally written in Hebrew letters but its language was Aramaic, which was the language of Jesus and the earliest Church (Jn 5:2; 19:13,17,20; 20:16). The early Church Father, St. Ignatius, who died in 107, cited a passage about the resurrection that might have been from a Greek translation of this gospel. Quotations from other early Christian writings prove that the Gospel of the Hebrews definitely existed in the middle of the second century (c. 150), and therefore it is possible that it originated even earlier. Since the four canonical gospels do not say what happened to Jesus' burial cloths at or after their discovery by Peter and John in the otherwise empty tomb (Lk 24:12; Jn 20:4-9), this reference in the Gospel of the Hebrews is the earliest to Jesus' shroud having been saved. Many of the Church Fathers held that the Gospel of the Hebrews was the original Hebrew version of Matthew's Gospel. Great authority was attributed to this gospel among the Christians of the earliest centuries, and so it was the common early belief that Jesus' shroud had been preserved. Even if it is unclear who "the servant of the priest" was, this account is evidence that in very early Jewish-Christian circles, it was known that Jesus' sindon was saved from the tomb by Jesus.
As it is unlikely the risen Jesus would give His shroud indirectly to the High Priest, other explanations have been sought. Since it seems unlikely that the risen Jesus would give His shroud indirectly to the High Priest, Caiaphas, who was the driving force behind Jesus' crucifixion (Mt 26:3-5,57-66; Jn 11:49-53), other explanations have been sought.
■ The "servant of the priest" was the Apostle Peter? Oxford barrister John Theodore Dodd (1848-1934) in 1931 conjectured that the original text of the Gospel of the Hebrews had Petro ("Peter") but a copyist mistook it for puero "servant" in Latin. The original reading would then have been "the Lord had given the linen cloth to Peter" but the copyist mistakenly copied it as, "the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant." Then another copyist assumed that by "the servant ," the "servant of the High Priest" in Mark 14:47 was meant, so he added "of the priest" after "servant"", thus arriving at the "Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest." To support his conjecture, Dodd appealed to a Latin translation of the Bible, Codex Bobiensis, which had the shorter ending of Mark:
"8 But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation"and in that passage a copyist had mistakenly translated Petros ("Peter") as puero ("servant").
But while Dodd's conjecture is superficially attractive because 1Cor 15:5-7 & Lk 24:33-34 record an appearance of the risen Jesus to Peter before He appeared to James, it is highly unlikely, if not impossible. First, in Mark 14:47 and its parallel passages Mt 26:51; Lk 22:50 & Jn 18:10 the title is "the servant of the high priest." If Dodd's conjecture were true, the second copyist would have added not just "servant of" before first copyist's error "priest" but "servant of the high." Second, Mark's gospel was written in Greek but the Gospel of the Hebrews was written in Aramaic with Hebrew letters, but Codex Bobiensis is a Latin translation. What Dodd needed to show was a plausible way to get from, "the Lord had given the linen cloth to Peter" to, "the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the [high] priest" in Aramaic/Hebrew. That would require one copyist substituting "Kepha" ("Peter") with "ebed" ("servant") and then another copyist adding "[of the] cohen ("priest"). But as can be seen, this fails at the first substitution because "Kepha" looks and sounds nothing like "ebed". After an exhaustive linguistic analysis of Dodd's conjecture, Diana Fulbright concluded:
"There are so many obvious problems with this spurious `solution' that it is difficult to understand why anyone would ever have taken it seriously, but it is still cited, after almost eighty years"
■ The "servant of the priest" was Malchus, "the servant of the High Priest"? Another possibility is that "the servant of the priest" 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). I am not aware that anyone else had proposed this and I am only presenting it for completeness, not because I believe it to be true. This gets around the original objection that it would be unlikely that the risen Jesus would give His shroud indirectly to the High Priest, by the addition of the claim of leading New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham that Malchus became a Christian. It could then be argued that Malchus would not pass on Jesus' shroud to the High Priest, but to one of the Apostles, such as Peter or John. Here are the relevant quotes from Bauckham's "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" (2006). Bauckham asks, "Why should" insignificant persons such as "Simon of Cyrene be named?" Why did "John alone" identify "the man who cut off the ear of the high priest's slave as Peter, and the slave himself as Malchus":
"There is one phenomenon in the Gospels that has never been satisfactorily explained. It concerns names. Many characters in the Gospels are unnamed, but others are named. I want to suggest now the possibility that many of these named characters were eyewitnesses who not only originated the traditions to which their names are attached but also continued to tell these stories as authoritative guarantors of their traditions. In some cases the Evangelists may well have known them. ... Public persons ... would have been known apart from the story of Jesus (John the Baptist, Herod, Herodias, Caiaphas, Pilate, presumably Barabbas) are usually named. The beneficiaries in stories of Jesus' healings and exorcisms are usually unnamed. Persons who encounter Jesus on one occasion and do not become disciples are usually unnamed. Some of the unnamed persons are so insignificant in the narratives that we would not normally expect them to be named. ... Why should one of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus be named (Cleopas) and the other not? ... Why should Simon of Cyrene be named? There are also cases where a person who is anonymous in one Gospel is named in another. For example, John alone identifies the woman who anoints Jesus as Mary of Bethany, the man who cut off the ear of the high priest's slave as Peter, and the slave himself as Malchus.".
"Finally, John names four characters who do not appear at all in the Synoptics (Nathanael, Nicodemus, Lazarus, and Mary of Clopas) and also gives a name to one character who is anonymous in the other Gospels, the high priest's slave Malchus. Even if we add that John identifies who cut off Malchus's ear, anonymous in the Synoptics, with Peter, and the woman who anointed Jesus, unnamed in the other Gospels, with Mary of Bethany (12:3), herself known also in Luke, this does not provide strong evidence of a counter-tendency to invent names for characters who had been anonymous at earlier stages of the tradition. After all, John still has quite a number of unnamed characters. Why should he have been influenced by a novelistic tendency to name unnamed characters in the case of Malchus but not in the cases of the Samaritan woman, the paralyzed man, or the man born blind, all of whom are much more prominent characters than Malchus?".
"The phenomena described in Table 5 have never been satisfactorily explained as a whole, but an explanation that could account for all the names there except for Jesus' father Joseph and the names in Luke's birth and infancy narratives is that all these people joined the early Christian movement and were well known at least in the circles in which these traditions were first transmitted. This explanation has occasionally been suggested for some of the names, such as Bartimaeus, Simon of Cyrene and his sons ... Mary Magdalene and the sisters Martha and Mary. But these piecemeal uses of the explanation can well be superseded by the proposal that this explanation provides a comprehensive hypothesis to account for all or most of these names. ... In fact, they comprise just the range of people we should expect to have formed these earliest Christian groups: some who had been healed by Jesus (Bartimaeus, the women in Luke 8:2-3, perhaps Malchus) ... It is striking how many of these people can be localized in or near Jerusalem ... this would also be true of Bartimaeus, Malchus, Simon of Cyrene and his sons, Zacchaeus, and (after the resurrection) Jesus' brother James and probably other relatives. So they would have been known in the Jerusalem church where stories in which they are named were first told".
However, while this is evidence that Malchus did become a Christian, presumably by the experience of having had his severed ear healed by Jesus (see above), this does not explain why Jesus would give His shroud to Malchus, for him to presumably pass it on to one of Jesus' Apostles, such as Peter or John, rather than Jesus simply give it to one of His Apostles direct (see next). But as we shall see, the previous objection that Malchus' title was "the servant of the high priest" but the Gospel of the Hebrews stated that Jesus had given His shroud to "the servant of the priest" does not apply to this or the next possibility. Because unlike the first possibility, Dodd's conjecture, it is not the case of copyists altering a text to make it conform to the Gospels' "the servant of the High Priest" (see above). And the Jewish High Priest was commonly called "the Priest" for short.
Concluded in entry #9, part (3).
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. "Saint Peter," 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. Scavone, D.C., 1989, "The Shroud of Turin: Opposing Viewpoints," Greenhaven Press: San Diego CA, p.74. [return]
6. Bulst, W., 1957, "The Shroud of Turin," McKenna, S. & Galvin, J.J., transl., Bruce Publishing Co: Milwaukee WI, pp.87, 142 n206a. [return]
7. Guscin, M., 2004, "The History of the Sudarium of Oviedo: How It Came from Jerusalem to Northern Spain in the Seventh Century A.D., Edwin Mellen Press: Lewiston NY, p.17. Also Guscin, M., 2012, "The History of the Shroud: Part One – Before the Thirteenth Century," 1st International Congress on the Holy Shroud in Spain - Valencia," Centro Español de Sindonologia (CES), April 28-30, 2012, Valencia, Spain. [return]
8. Dickinson, I., 1990, "The Shroud and the Cubit Measure," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 24, January, p.10. [return]
9. Guscin, 2004, p.17 & Guscin, 2012. [return]
10. Ibid. [return]
11. Ibid. [return]
12. Schonfield, H., 1932, "Historical Supplement," in Proszynski, K. & Schonfield, H., ed., "The Authentic Photograph of Christ: His Face, and Whole Figure as Marvellously Appearing on the Shroud which was Thrown Over His Body after the Crucifixion," The Search Publishing Co Ltd: London, p.54. [return]
13. Savio, P., 1982, "Sindonological Prospectus," Shroud Spectrum International, No. 5, December, pp.11-21, p.11. [return]
14. Bulst, 1957, p.142 n206a. [return]
15. Fulbright, D., 2010, "Did Jesus give his Shroud to `the servant of Peter'?," Proceedings of the International Workshop on the Scientific approach to the Acheiropoietos Images, ENEA Frascati, Italy, 4-6 May 2010. [return]
16. Fulbright, 2010. Not leading New Testament scholar C.H. (Charles Harold) Dodd (1884–1973) as assumed by Guscin, 2004, p.18 & 2012, following Green (1969), who was in turn following Schonfield's (1932, p.55) inadequate reference of just "Dodd." [return]
17. Dodd, J.T., 1931, "The Appearance of Jesus to 'The Priest's Servant,' as Recorded in the Gospel of the Hebrews and 'The Holy Shroud,'" The Commonwealth, October, pp.189-194; in Fulbright, 2010. [return]
18. Guscin, 2004, p.18 & Guscin, 2012. [return]
19. Schonfield, 1932, p.55. [return]
20. Ibid. [return]
21. Ibid. [return]
22. "Mark 16," Wikipedia, 30 October 20142. [return]
23. Schonfield, 1932, p.55. [return]
24. Ibid. [return]
25. Guscin, 2004, p.18 & Guscin, 2012. [return]
26. Guscin, 2004, pp.18-19 & Guscin, 2012. [return]
27. Fulbright, 2010. [return]
28. Ibid. [return]
29. Fulbright, 2010. [return]
30. Bauckham, R.J., 2006, "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, pp.46-47. [return]
31. Bauckham, 2006, pp.38-40. [return]
32. Bauckham, 2006, p.43. [return]
33. Bauckham, 2006, pp.45-46. [return]
Created: 15 November, 2014. Updated: 18 December, 2014.