The Face Veil: A Johannine Sign (John 20:1-10)

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Sage Publishing


In this paper I wish to suggest an interpretation of the face veil (soudarion) which, according to Jn 20:7, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple found in the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. This verse of the fourth gospel has occasioned some of the most ingenious hypotheses, not to mention some of the wildest flights of fancy, in the history of johannine exegesis. At risk of adding to one or both of these questionable categories, I would like to propose yet another interpretation which I will summarize here by way of introduction: The face veil is best understood as a johannine semeion, i.e., as a sign in and through which a properly disposed person can encounter the glory of God revealed in Jesus.