And on the first day of the week, Mary
Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the
stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to
the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the
What made John believe? He saw and believed. If he had seen only bloodstained burial cloths, he could probably have thought that the Lord's body had been stolen. But he saw his Rabbi's face. And it must have been the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings (the shroud, the sweat cloth or the headbands) but rolled up in a place by itself.
The aforementioned translations come from the Douay-Rheims Bible, the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible. Antonio Persili suggests an alternative translation in his treatise "Le tracce della Risurrezione in Giovanni" ("The traces of the Resurrection according to John"). The burial cloths, or othonia in Greek, were lying in keimena position which stands for outspread, intact, not unbound, undamaged, empty inside. However, the sweat cloths (the Sudarium of Oviedo, the Holy Cap) were not spread on the grave stone but were lying in another position as if His head had still been inside. Sister Blandina Paschalis Schlömer believes that this was caused by blood, sweat and plasma coagulation as well as aromatic oils and myrrh fixation in the sudaria fabric. This created a crust which held the shroud fabric where His head had been before. On top there was the Veil of Manoppello with the image of Resurrected Christ visible against the white cloth. Therefore Peter and John, the Apostles, saw "outspread bands and the face-cloth which had been around His head, not outspread with the bands but just the opposite, wrapped in one position" (John 20:7). Moreover, the Greek original of the Gospel mentions the horizontal position of the cloths outspread on the grave stone, yet the words alla choris entetyligmenon describe the veil still wrapped around where His face had been, in a surprising position i.e. "raised".
No matter how we interpret the Greek original, John's behaviour is worth noticing. He was younger than Peter (and the youngest of the apostles) so he reached the tomb a bit earlier. He stooped (tombs from that period were usually chambers cut in soft rock to form a hollow below the surface so in order to enter them one had to bend) but he did not enter the tomb. According to one hypothesis, he waited for Peter showing respect for his age and position. Maybe John simply got scared like a human being? However, one cannot say that he was a coward. He was the only one of the apostles to stay under his Rabbi's cross, he never denied knowing Him and died of natural causes not like a martyr. What did he expect when he was running towards the tomb remembering the words of Mary Magdalene "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him"? He must have expected to find an empty tomb but what he found stupefied him. Inside he saw intact burial cloths, arranged in a strange way...
A detailed language analysis reveals one more fact. Greeks used not fewer than six different words for perception. The word eiden used in this context means not only the fact of seeing something but also understanding what one sees. In Polish we sometimes say "reading comprehension" which is contrasted with thoughtless reading, without involving one's mind enough. Eiden means "to see and understand what one has seen". Therefore, having entered the tomb, John saw, understood what he saw and finally believed in Resurrection.
Why is there no other mention of the Veil in the Gospels? One must realise that in those days making any images of God was forbidden by religious regulations. It was considered a blasphemy and severely punished. That is why any keepsakes of the Rabbi's passion were thoroughly hidden and stored with due reverence. The precious Veil of byssus cloth was something completely exceptional for the followers of Christ. The linen Shroud was also unique although it did not directly show the image of the Crucified Christ. The Shroud's true message was discovered not before 1898 when its first negative photo was taken.
As any relic of this sort, the Veil arouses much controversy. The majority of disbelievers have not seen the fabric with their own eyes. However, one may make an effort and look in the eyes of the Person from the Veil. Personally, I am profoundly impressed.