If Christ Is Not Risen, Then Our Preaching Is Empty

Importance of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is said to be a fulfillment of the prophecy of David. When coupled with other Old Testament prophecies the resurrection was purported to be irrefutable proof that Jesus is a messiah and the son of God. Therefore its importance to Christianity cannot be understated.

Paul glorifies the importance of the resurrection of Jesus in (I Cor. 15:13-19) when he says “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable”. This in itself shows that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the foundation on which Christianity stands. It is little wonder that nothing other than this will even be considered.

Resurrected Christ

Paul states further that Jesus is “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). He emphasizes the importance of the physical resurrection by stating. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preach to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (I Cor. 15:1-5).

In Acts 2:22-33 Peter preaches to the men of Israel that God had raised him who was put to death by godless men. In his sermon he quotes psalm 16. He explains to his listeners that in the psalm David was referring to a messiah and not to himself. As proof of David’s intention he goes on to say that even to that day the tomb of David was to be found in Jerusalem and if opened it would reveal the bones of David, proving that David was not the one meant to resurrect bodily. This was Peter’s way of claiming that it was Jesus and not David who was the Messiah.

The Resurrection of Jesus does not find Universal Acceptance

Not everyone agrees that Jesus in fact resurrected. For instance Pellegrino suggests that the apostles hid in the burial tomb and stole the body of Jesus before the soldiers were posted. However Pellegrino does not seem to have taken into account the factor that the apostles were so scared for their own lives that they went into hiding. Their fear is borne out by the fact that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the apostles on the evening of the resurrection, they were hiding behind closed doors for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). It was only after the Holy Spirit descended on them, on the Day of Pentecost, that they regained any semblance of courage. Therefore the question of their being brave enough to have robbed the body of Jesus from the tomb does not arise. Besides, if the apostles had indeed robbed the body of Jesus, why would they fabricate a resurrection story and be prepared to die rather than deviate from their faith? (1)

It must be remembered that none of the disciples were witnesses to the resurrection. They were only told the story of the resurrection by a few. It is possible that this majority was victim to a “massive deception”. They were told a resurrection story that could not be verified. Jesus was a charismatic figure and such stories that were told immediately after his crucifixion were readily believable. These stories were retold numerous times, with versions being changed to suit a variety of circumstances till finally some versions found their way into the Gospels as we know them today.

When Pellegrino wrote to Fr. Mervyn Fernando in Sri Lanka and asked him a hypothetical question. “What if archaeologists actually found, say bones and DNA of Jesus? Would a discovery such as this necessarily contradict what Christians believe about the Resurrection story?” Fr. Fernando drew Pellegrino’s attention to First Corinthians 15:35 from which it would appear that Paul’s understanding of the resurrection “is, the risen body of Christ …………. is a spiritual one, not the material / physical one he had in this life. That physical body would have perished, and if any part of it (bones) are recovered/ identified, it would in no way affect the reality of His resurrection”. In fact verses 44 and 46 refer to a spiritual body. According to these verses believers will “get a spiritual body, one that will be raised in incorruption, glory and power (15:42-44).” Besides this explanation a point against physical resurrection is the fact that all the Gospels state that the disciples and family members of Jesus were surprised on seeing the empty tomb. (2)

Other Reasons as To Why the Tomb Was Empty

There are several theories as to how the tomb became empty. The earliest source regarding this is from Mark who states that on the Sunday following the crucifixion a young man waiting for Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome told them that Jesus had been taken up and that he would meet the apostles in Galilee. (3)

Another reason for the tomb being empty is that the tomb that was provided hurriedly was only temporary and that Joseph of Arimathea reburied the body of Jesus in a permanent tomb as soon as Jewish law permitted it. This may have been with or without the knowledge of the family. The visit to the tomb on that Sunday morning and the view that Jesus was raised bodily into heaven (Luke and John) a later apologetic position. Historians would reach the conclusion that the tomb was empty because the one originally provided near the site of the crucifixion in haste was temporary until a permanent one could be found. (4)

Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan refers to the period between the death of Jesus in 30 CE and the records of Paul in 50 CE of what the followers of Jesus under the leadership of James taught or learned about the death of Jesus. For hundreds of years many writers have tried to fill in those twenty years based on the accounts of Luke-Acts and the sharply polemical account of Paul in his letter to the Galatians. (5)

Another reason cited for the tomb of Jesus being empty is as suggested by Pellegrino: the disciples hid in the tomb of Jesus during the Sabbath and stole the body after sunset but before the soldiers were posted. (6).

According to I Corinthians 15: 6-7, the first account of the resurrection of Jesus is by Paul, where there are five hundred witnesses. James is also said to have been there. This account is not supported by any of the Gospels. There is no account of the resurrection in Mark. In Matthew 28:2 we are told that an earthquake announces the arrival of an angel from heaven who rolls away the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb of Jesus. In Luke (Lk 24:1-7) we are told that the women who went to the tomb see two men in dazzling clothes inside the tomb. Luke also states (Lk 24: 13-35) that the resurrected Jesus first appears to Cleopas and a companion on the road to Emmaus. However, they do not recognize Jesus until the evening. (7)

It was not only Cleopas and his companion that did not recognize the resurrected Jesus. Most of the people who saw the resurrected Jesus did not recognize him. Mary Magdalene does not recognize him. In fact she mistakes him for the gardener (Jn 20:15). Luke (Lk 24: 30-51) tells us that Jesus appears as a spirit, vanishes and then reappears and is finally lifted into heaven. This is said to have happened on the day his followers discovered the empty tomb. However as per (Acts 1: 3-10) Jesus appears to the believers for forty days and is then lifted to heaven. (8)

According to (Matthew 27:62–66) a guard of Jewish soldiers was posted outside the tomb of Jesus to prevent the apostles from robbing his body. According to (Matthew 28:1–4) an angel rolled away the stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus. And according to (Matthew 28:11–15) the chief priests bribed the soldiers to say that the apostles had stolen the body of Jesus. Some say that a decree by Claudius sometime between 41-54 CE states “It is my will that graves and tombs lie undisturbed forever. . . . I require that he be executed for tomb robbery,” in reaction to the Christian claim that Jesus had resurrected. (9)

Matthew describes the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and another Mary near the empty tomb. Matthew states that appearance occurred when Mary Magdalene and another Mary were going back to tell the disciples about the empty tomb. It also reports the appearance of Jesus to his eleven apostles to tell them to “baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to make disciples of all people.”

Mary Magdalene and Christ

According to Luke, Jesus appears to his disciples and shows that he is flesh and blood. During this appearance he tells them to wait in Jerusalem to begin their mission to the world. In Luke 24:13-32, Cleopas relates how Jesus makes himself known to him and his companion by breaking bread. This incident is said to have Eucharistic implications. According to Acts said to have been written by the same author as Luke, Jesus appears to his disciples and stays with them for 40 days before his ascension to heaven. The Acts also describe the appearance of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus.

According to John, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene when she is alone outside the empty tomb. John explains that Mary did not immediately recognize Jesus mistaking him to be the gardener. But John’s report of this appearance differs from the Synoptic Gospels in that Jesus appears to her when she visited the tomb the second time and remained there grieving after everyone else had left. He also reports a conversation having taken place between Mary and two angels that were inside the empty tomb. John’s narration of this encounter is the most descriptive as it details the conversation between Jesus and her (John 20:15).

John reports that Jesus later appears to his disciples – with the exception of Thomas – on the same day. A week later he again appeared to the disciples. It was during this appearance that he asks Thomas to touch his wounds to show the disciples that he is flesh and blood. He again appears to Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons and two other of his disciples near Lake Tiberias. The miraculous catch of 153 fish is said to be a consequence of this appearance.

Mark merely gives a brief of the appearances of Jesus reported by the other evangelists. While Mark also mentions the appearance of Jesus to Mary, he does not mention when this took place. While it is apparent that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first, Mark does not mention whether she was alone or if there was someone else with her. Scholars are in agreement that the reports of Mark vary significantly from other ancient manuscripts and that his report is probably a later addition. The Gospel of John gives the most detailed description of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. In fact John actually details the conversation between the two during this meeting (John 20:14-16).

The Gospel of the Hebrews describes the appearance of Jesus to his brother James. While Paul reports several resurrection appearances, he does not describe them. (10)

References:

(1) Stolen body hypothesis. (2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_body_hypothesis

(2) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb.Retrieved 2011, from http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/04/04/so-called-jesus-tomb

(3) Ben-David, Yirm?yahu . (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(4) Ben-David, Yirm?yahu . (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(5) Ben-David, Yirm?yahu . (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(6) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2022, from http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/03/the-so-called-jesus-family-tomb-rediscovered-in-jerusalem.aspx

(7) Where did Jesus appear first to His disciples after the resurrection? (2012). Retrieved 2012, from
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_did_Jesus_appear_first_to_His_disciples_after_the_Resurrection

(8) Talpiot Dethroned. (2000-2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/talpiot357921.shtml

(9) Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel., Chadwick, Jeffrey R., Judd Jr., Frank F. & Wayment, Thomas A . (2007). Roundtable Discussion. Retrieved 2011, from http://rsc.byu.edu/easterconference/2007/roundtable.

(10) Resurrection Appearances of Jesus. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection_appearances_of_Jesus#The_appearance_to_Mary_Magdalene

Picture Credits: 1) The Resurrected Christ https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5027/5671120531_ef8293397c_o_d.jpg

2) Mary Magdalene and the resurrected Christ https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/IVANOV_YAV_HRISTA_MARI1.jpg

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Is The Garden Tomb The Tomb Of Jesus?

Another Claimant To The Title “The Burial Site Of Jesus” Is The Garden Tomb

The burial cave that subsequently came to be known as “The Garden Tomb” was accidentally uncovered by a peasant who wanted to cultivate the area and was trying to cut a cistern into the rock. Soon after Conrad Schick, who was the Jerusalem correspondent for many erudite European societies visited the cave.

In 1874 Conrad Schick published his first report about the cave. This report was similar to his other reports that he made out for the learned societies that he represented. In 1892, he published another report hinting that this might be the tomb of Jesus. There were other reports by other correspondents who mentioned the presence of crusader remains in the vicinity. With the arrival of General Charles George in Jerusalem in 1883 the garden Tomb became decisively significant. (1)

General Charles George Gordon decided that the hill where this burial cave was located was Golgotha the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. However Gordon was not the first to think that this was the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. Other scholars had a similar view even before that. (2)

The Garden Tomb Was A Typical First Century Jewish Tomb
Many archaeologists of renown who studied the Garden Tomb have declared that it is typically a first century Jewish tomb belonging to a rich person. Like other Jewish tombs of the period this too is oriented toward the Temple Mount. Like the tombs of that time which it resembled in form, it had an outer “weeping chamber” and an inner chamber with burial niches for the dead.

The type of chiseling both inside and outside was the same as the other Jerusalem tombs of the period between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D. Besides the tomb conforms to “a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid” (Luke 23:53.) as described in the Bible. It has a nephesh (“soul”) which is “a window-like cut in the upper right-hand face”. According to Jewish tradition, it is through this window that the spirit of the deceased departs after being in the tomb for three days. Of the three burial niches inside the tomb, only one was complete. This is an indication that the tomb was new as is stated in the Bible.

Is The Garden Tomb The Tomb Of Jesus?

Scholars have tried to show that the Garden Tomb is the tomb of Jesus by saying that “Gordon’s Calvary”, also referred to as Golgotha is the northernmost part of the mount Moriah mentioned in the Bible and that the Garden Tomb is in the vicinity of this site. Tradition has it that this place was formerly a place of execution, where Jeremiah and Stephen were stoned and probably where Jesus was crucified. The discovery in 1882 of the 5th century Church of St. Stephen is offered as proof of the saint’s martyrdom here. Besides this excavations have shown that the Garden Tomb was indeed located in an ancient fruit garden bearing out the claim that Jesus was buried in a tomb located in a garden.

Garden Tomb1

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

However scholars not in agreement say that recent archaeological studies have shown that the Garden Tomb, together with two cave tombs at St. Étienne, was carved into the same rocky escarpment and that all the three tombs belonged to the First Temple period of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. We know now that the Garden Tomb was later reused. But this too was during the Byzantine period and in the Middle Ages and not during the time of Jesus. (3)

Probably more pertinent are the architectural and layout differences between Iron Age burial caves and burial caves of the Second Temple period. While Iron Age burial caves have two adjoining chambers one beside the other, Second Temple caves have the two rooms aligned one behind the other.
Another characteristic of Second Temple burial caves are distinct marks made by the use of comb chisels which had toothed edges. There is no evidence of the use of comb chisels in the Garden Tomb.

Moreover a comparison of the different traits of the Garden Tomb to typical First Temple tombs helps us to draw the conclusion the Garden Tomb is definitely an Iron Age tomb. A comparison to several Second Temple burial caves also brings out the significant differences. For instance burial niches called kokhim are absent in First Temple period tombs. They instead have burial benches that extend along the walls of the chamber. First Temple burial chambers also do not have arcosolia. (4)

Besides, not one single Second Temple period tomb has been found in the vicinity of the Garden Tomb. Enough study has been done relating to Iron Age and Second Temple period tombs that the differences are blaring. That said it can be stated with confidence that while Iron Age II tombs have been discovered in this locality, not one single Second Temple period tomb has been reported from here. (5)

A Misleading Inscription

However in 1889, the purported finding of an inscription at St. Stephen’s [St. Etienne’s monastery] (north of Damascus Gate) made news. The inscription is supposed to have read: “I, Eusebius, have desired to be buried in this spot, which I believe to be close to the place where the body of my Lord lay.” This was as per a note published in the Northern Christian Advocate (Syracuse, New York) by an anonymous correspondent from Jerusalem. However it was later found that this inscription actually read “The private tomb of the deacon Nonnus Onesimus of the Holy Resurrection of Christ and of this monastery.”

Deacon Nonnus Onesimus, a monk of the Church of St. Stephen, was also the deacon of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which during the Byzantine period was known as the Church of the Holy Resurrection held the second highest position in the hierarchy of the Jerusalem church. It was because of the high position that he held, he was given the distinction of a private tomb in the vicinity of the Church of St. Stephen.

In 1885 another inscription was found in a portion of the Garden Tomb complex. This inscription simply read “Private tomb of the deacon Euthymius Pindiris.” It is claimed that over-enthusiastic people who were determined to give the Garden Tomb a semblance of credibility corrupted the name Euthymius to read as Eusebius, then combined it with parts of the Nonnus inscription and came up with the inscription reported in the Northern Christian Advocate. The fact is that neither inscription was in any way related to what was part of the newspaper report. (6)

So now we have two serious contenders for the tomb of Jesus: the tomb within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb. The third contender is the Talpiot tomb. Which of the three if any of them actually is – is the real tomb of Jesus?

References:
(1) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy, Sara., Feldman, Steven & Laden, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society, Washington, DC.

(2) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(3) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(4) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(5) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(6) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

Picture Credits:
The Garden Tomb
http://www.cbneurope.com/news/the-garden-tomb-where-jesus-rose-again/

Burial Of Jesus – Was It In The Holy Sepulcher?

While there is overwhelming support for the claim that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, but there is hardly any consensus about the location of this tomb.

The exact location of the tomb of Jesus is one of the greatest mysteries. We only know from the Gospel of John (19:41) that his tomb is near the place of his crucifixion i.e. Golgotha. There is no mention of its location in any of the other three Gospels. (1)
There was a rabbinical ban that “carcasses, graves, and tanneries may not remain within a space of fifty cubits [i.e., approximately 25 meters] from the town” (m. Bava Bathra 2:9). (2)

The two principal contenders for the final resting place of Jesus have been the Garden Tomb which is just outside the Holy City and the other is the tomb located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher built by Emperor Constantine at the behest of his mother Helena and is located inside the walls of the Holy City.

Was The Burial Of Jesus In The Church Of The Holy Sepulcher?

The site of the Holy Sepulcher Church was a limestone quarry during the beginning of the seventh or eighth century when the area was under the late Judean monarchy. The area was famed for its high quality limestone. To the south-east of this location lay the city, which at a later date expanded northward. (3)

We will never know for certain that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was indeed built over The tomb of Jesus. But this spot seems to be a likely candidate (See fig. 11). Certain factors seem to point to the authenticity of this claim. For one the site is a turn-of-the-century cemetery. For another in spite of being buried for almost 300 years by Hadrian’s “enclosure fill” the spot was remembered as the burial site of Jesus by the Christian community that continued to live there without being affected by dispersions elsewhere. Besides this the succession of Jerusalem bishops was never interrupted. (4)

Does The Holy Sepulcher Enclose Golgotha The Hillock Atop Which Jesus Was Crucified?

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is said to enclose Golgotha the hillock atop which Jesus is said to have been crucified. However there is one factor that must be considered about Golgotha:

The name Golgotha has not been recorded in antiquity either in Jewish or non-Jewish sources.

Besides this the name is also not found in any list of geographical names of places in and around Jerusalem. (5)

Holy Sepulcher
First-Century Tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The best piece of evidence that the tomb of Jesus was in this area is the fact that other first-century tombs are still preserved inside the church. Called the “Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea,” these burial shafts (kokhim) are clearly from the time of Christ’s death and thus attest to some kind of burial ground in the area. Combined with the evidence from tradition, this church is probably the location of the Christ’s death and burial.

However in view of the many tombs of the kokh type found in the vicinity of the church it would appear that the place was a large burial ground. Besides, this site is just outside the city wall some 500 feet to the south and 350 feet to the east. This is in conformity with what the Gospels tell us: that is the burial tomb of Jesus was “near the city” (John 19:20). Evidence of the condition of the site during the first century shows that the place was a garden at that time confirming that the burial tomb was in a garden (John 19:41). (6)

Although it cannot be said with certainty that this is the burial spot of Jesus, it is a serious contender for that distinction.

Was The Tomb In The Holy Sepulcher A Temporary One?

Even if the tomb enclosed within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is not the permanent tomb of Jesus there are claims that it could be the borrowed tomb used to bury Jesus. The following explains why:

Amos Kloner suggests that the tomb of Jesus was a temporary one. He bases his conclusion on burial practices during the “Second Temple period and later”. Semkahot 13.5 endorses the primary and secondary burials practiced during that period: “Whosoever finds a corpse in a tomb should not move it from its place, unless he knows that this is a temporary grave”. Kloner explains that a “borrowed or temporary cave” was used only temporarily and that the act of borrowing it does not give the borrower ownership rights. He believes that the tomb in which Jesus was interred was a temporary one. (7)

However Kloner’s suggestion regarding temporary tombs implies that there were temporary tombs and permanent tombs and that Jews buried their dead in temporary tombs and later moved the bones to a permanent one. There are two issues with this suggestion: one that we do not know who owned the temporary tombs and that two this suggestion is in contravention of “Jewish law so clearly stated in Semakhot 13:7”. While private tombs took care of “familial and public emotions” and prevented any “leak” of the “corpse’s defilement out of the tomb”, Kloner’s suggestion defeats both these requirements. (8)

Was The Burial Of Jesus A Typical Temporary Burial Practiced During That Period?

Another implication of Kloner’s argument is that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was a temporary one. Kloner continues to say that the burial of Jesus detailed in the New Testament is a typical example of temporary burials practiced during that period. He cites Semakhot 13:5 in support of his claim. The overall message it would appear is that Jesus was buried in a temporary tomb that belonged to the Sanhedrin. (9)

But then the question arises: why would someone want to bury their deceased in a temporary tomb and then after a year move the bones to a private tomb? This seems even more unlikely when one considers the fact that there were familial tombs that served both the preliminary and secondary burials. The fact that there are so many tombs with burial shelves and slots for ossuaries makes this claim even more unlikely. (10)

However Kloner explains that the only tombs that were exempt from the Semakhot regulations were the Sanhedrin tombs as they were temporary. And being temporary they were small in comparison to familial tombs. Authorities on tombs of the Second Temple period agree that the tomb of Jesus must have been small. Kloner supports this conclusion stating that the tomb of Jesus was so small that “Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary could apparently see the body from outside”(Mark 15:47; see also John 20:1). (11)

An even more important piece of evidence that the tomb of Jesus enclosed within the Holy Sepulcher Church was borrowed, small and belonged to the Sanhedrin, is the fact that it is connected to another tomb purportedly belonging to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. It must be remembered that the Mishna forbids familial tombs from being linked or connected with other tombs. The only exception could have probably been the Sanhedrin tombs that were likely connected to allow “allow people to take care of bodies and bones, and then move them from one tomb to the other without being exposed to sunlight and to the danger of a defilement “leak”. This being the case the tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher could at most only be the temporary burial place of Jesus. The permanent burial tomb, if there is one, is elsewhere. (12)

Although it is popularly believed that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the spot where Jesus was buried, not everyone agrees. The shrine inside the church supposed to mark the “traditional burial site” is not of the first century. In fact it is said to belong to the beginning of the early 19th century. The shrine itself is covered with a slab which is not of the local bedrock. Only the bench on the right side of the shrine is thought to be original. Besides, no relationship has been shown between “the rock, the foundations and the aedicule as they exist today and the original burial cave”. In fact a burial cave a few yards away is the only indication that the spot where the shrine now stands may have once been a burial site. (13)

However scholars who contend that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was the site of the burial of Jesus state that the site qualifies on the counts that it was just outside the old city and that it was in a garden. Besides if tradition had not shown that this was the site in 325 AD how would anyone have known. Based on what has been said it must be accepted that this site is a serious contender for the distinction of being the burial site of Jesus. (14)

References:

(1) Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel., Chadwick, Jeffrey R., Judd Jr., Frank F., & Wayment, Thomas A.. (2008). Jesus and the Ossuaries: First-Century Jewish Burial Practices and the Lost Tomb of Jesus. Retrieved 2011, from http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/%E2%80%9Cbehold-lamb-god%E2%80%9D-easter-celebration/12-jesus-and-ossuaries-first-century-jewish-burial-pra.

(2) Gibson, Shimon. (2009) The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York.

(3) Bahat, Dan. (n.d.). Does the Holy Sepulchre Church Mark the Burial of Jesus? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/easter-06.asp

(4) Bahat, Dan. (n.d.). Does the Holy Sepulchre Church Mark the Burial of Jesus? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/easter-06.asp

(5) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(6) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(7) Kenyan, Eldad & Illan, Bar. (2010). Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tombs358017.shtml

(8) Kenyan, Eldad & Illan, Bar. (2010). Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tombs358017.shtml

(9) Kenyan, Eldad.& Illan, Bar. (2010). Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tombs358017.shtml

(10) Kenyan, Eldad.& Illan, Bar. (2010). Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tombs358017.shtml

(11) Kenyan, Eldad.& Illan, Bar. (2010). Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tombs358017.shtml

(12) Kenyan, Eldad.& Illan, Bar. (2010). Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tombs358017.shtml

(13) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy, Sara., Feldman, Steven & Laden, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society, Washington, DC.

(14) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy, Sara., Feldman, Steven & Laden, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society, Washington, DC.

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) First-Century Tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&newwindow=1&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1270&bih=582&oq=First-Century+Tomb+inside+the+Church+of+the+Holy+Sepulcher+&gs_l=img.12…14727.14727.0.16053.1.1.0.0.0.0.99.99.1.1.0…0.0…1ac..5.img.0DlrlH54fAI&q=First-Century+Tomb+inside+the+Church+of+the+Holy+Sepulcher&gws_rd=cr,ssl&ei=AHJMVrfDBJGgugTJzoT4BQ#gws_rd=cr,ssl&imgrc=5l1VXuFug3HQHM%3A

Guards Are Placed At The Tomb Of Jesus

Arimathea Lowers Body Of Jesus With Same Care As He Would A Wounded Friend

After Pilate gave Joseph of Arimathea permission for the burial of Jesus, he together with Nicodemus, another important member of the Sanhedrin, and Abenadar a centurion began to take down the body from the cross. There is information in the New Testament apocrypha that Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, testified in favor of Jesus during the trial and angered the accusers (1).

Abenadar was responsible for drawing the huge nails that were driven through the feet of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus held the upper body of Jesus with the same care as one would a badly wounded dear friend. The tenderness that the two showed would make one wonder if these two were afraid that they would cause Jesus more pain. According to some sources Joseph of Arimathea went about lowering the body of Jesus after he had obtained permission from Mary his mother.

According to Mark 15:42–46, after bringing down the body of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea took it to a place with water, presumably within his residence which was located just beyond the city walls. According to some sources the family tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was quite close to the cross and it would have been possible for Joseph of Arimathea to carry the body of Jesus all by himself, in spite of being past middle age. There they washed the body and anointed it with myrrh and aloe. According to (Acts 9:37), it is imperative that the body of a deceased is first washed before it is anointed and wrapped in linen. There is no reason to believe that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would not have done this. After that they wrapped the body in a sheet and laid it on the burial bench in a rock-cut tomb. He then rolled a stone across the doorway. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were present during the entombment (2).

Matthew 27:57-60 endorses Joseph of Arimathea’s involvement in the burial of Jesus. Based on the accounts of the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea is reported to have wrapped the body of Jesus in a linen burial cloth (sindon), known in Hebrew as a takrik and in the rabbinic sources as a sadin. According to the Gospel of Peter (6:24) the body of Jesus was first washed before it was wrapped in burial linen.

It was the Jewish custom to prop the body of the deceased and then wash it, making sure that the impurities from the feet do not reach the other parts of the body. It was only after this that the body was anointed with oils and perfumes and wrapped in burial linen (3).

Jews don’t embalm their dead. Instead they anoint them. It is for this that Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe to anoint the body of Jesus and treat the linen burial cloth, to counter the smell of death. Some believe that myrrh and aloe were dry aromatics that would help dry any fluids still oozing from the body of Jesus. Anointing the body and treating the burial cloth must have been done outside the tomb as it would have been impossible to carry out these tricky procedures with the confines of a dark tomb. It is quite likely that by the time the body was placed within the tomb it must have already turned dark (4).

Jesus Was Buried In The Tomb Of A Rich Man As Prophesied

Joseph of Arimathea had to complete the burial of Jesus before sundown on Friday to comply with Jewish tradition. Since there was no time to get a grave ready before the beginning of the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea offered to entomb the body of Jesus in an unused rock-cut tomb that he had got ready for his own family. All the Synoptic Gospels are in support of what is said about the entombment of Jesus’ body in the family tomb of Joseph of Arimathea a wealthy man (5). This is in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah who had predicted that the messiah would be buried in the tomb of a rich man. (Isa. 53:9).

The Stone Covering The Mouth Of The Tomb of Jesus Could Not Have Been Round

Not everyone agrees that the stone covering the mouth of the tomb was a round blocking stone. (See fig. 8). Of the hundreds of tombs that were uncovered only a handful of them had a round blocking stone. And these were found at the more sophisticated tombs that had at least two rooms or as in the case of one, a spacious hall. These tombs belonged to people who were rich and famous, such as Herod. Round blocking stones in such tombs as the one in which Jesus was buried were unheard of. The tomb of Jesus must have been of the regular type and would have had a square chunk of stone that served as a plug that blocked the entrance. Such a stone was called a golal.

A round blocking stone

The “Herod Family Tomb” in Jerusalem. This first-century BC/AD tomb is
the only major ancient tomb located west of the Old City of Jerusalem.
It features a round disk sealing stone at its entrance. (Fig. 8)

A Square Blocking Stone

In the case of square blocking stone the wider end of the stone remained outside the tomb, while the narrower face fit snugly into the tomb’s entryway.

Square Blocking Stone

Guards Are Placed At The Tomb Of Jesus

Matthew 27:64 tells us that the Pharisees went to Pilate to request him to guard the tomb in which Jesus was buried. Their reason “Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

According to some sources Pilate rebuffed the Jewish leaders. But according to others he accommodated them. It is not certain exactly how Pilate responded. When it was found that the tomb of Jesus was empty, according to Matthew, the guards report the incident to Pilate. This would make the guards Roman. But according to Peter, the guards report the empty tomb to the chief priest. This would indicate that the guards were Jewish. If in fact the guards were Roman, they would have been executed for dereliction of duty. And as there is no report of such an eventuality, it would appear that the guards were Jewish (6).

In further support of the guards being Jewish we must consider Pilate’s reply to the Jews telling them to make the tomb as “secure as they know how.”

This brings us to the question as to the number of guards that were posted to watch the tomb of Jesus. From a reading of Matthew 28 it is clear that there were more than two guards. Matthew 28 tells us that “some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests [what] had happened.” If what Matthew says is correct then there would have been a minimum of four guards in all. It must be mentioned that of the evangelists only Matthew records the posting of guards to watch the tomb of Jesus. The other story relating to guards at the tomb of Jesus is by Peter. It can be safely said that the two stories are independent of each other as the language of the two are entirely different from each other (7).

References:

(1) Joseph of Arimathea. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.lundyisleofavalon.co.uk/godsetc/joseph.htm.

(2) New Testament, An American Translation. (2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bible/gdsp.Mark.15.html.

(3) Gibson, Shimon. (2009) The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York

(4) Derstine, Todd. (2009). Acts 20:7- Chronological Landmark of the New Testament. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.todd-derstine.com/americaspropheticdestiny/category/articles/page/2/

(5) Gibson, Shimon. (2009) The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York.

(6) http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?60412-Peter-Kirby-will-speak-in-Los-Angeles/page2

(7) Craig, William Lane. (2007). The Guard at the Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.jesusemptytomb.com/the-resurrection/jesus-resurrection/the-guard-at-the-tomb.html

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Round blocking stone
https://rsc.byu.edu/easterconference/2007/roundtable

(Fig 2) A square blocking stone
http://www.appuntisugerusalemme.it/Dati/Like%20a%20Cork%20in%20a%20Bottle.htm

Burial Of Jesus Was To Be Completed Before Sundown

Joseph Of Arimathea Knew That He Had To Complete The Burial Of Jesus Before The Sabbath That Would Begin On Friday Night

A rich man named Joseph of Arimathea met the Roman prefect Pilate on the eve on which Jesus was crucified to request the Prefect for the body of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea knew that he had to hurry and complete the Burial of Jesus before the Sabbath that would begin on Friday night. But he knew that he would be taking a great risk. It was difficult to say how Pilate would react as he was already upset with the Jewish leaders as they had threatened to report him to Caesar if he refused to crucify Jesus. Besides Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin, the very body that wanted Jesus dead. So what was Joseph of Arimathea’s interest in burying Jesus? Furthermore bodies of victims of crucifixion were generally handed to members of the victim’s family. And Joseph of Arimathea was not a member of Jesus’ family.

Descent from the cross2

Jewish Leaders Were Anxious To Complete The Burial Of Jesus

However Jewish leaders too were anxious to complete the Burial of Jesus for the same reason. As for Pilate, even though he would have liked to let the body of Jesus hang from the cross longer acceded to Jewish sentiments and did not want to offend the Jews fearing adverse consequences. As opposed as he may have been, Pilate consented to Joseph of Arimathea’s request. According to some sources Pilate should not have had any hesitation in giving the body of Jesus as both Roman and Jewish laws required that the next of kin dispose of the body of a deceased immaterial of the manner of death. The hitch here was that Joseph of Arimathea was not a close relative.

Pilate Was Surprised That Jesus Should Have Died So Soon

We are told that at first on hearing Joseph of Arimathea’s request, Pilate was surprised that Jesus should have died so soon. Normally victims of crucifixion hung on the cross for many hours and in some cases for days before they died. Pilate did not believe that Jesus was dead. So he sent a centurion to verify that Jesus was no more. In those days the checks to verify that a person was dead was not the least bit refined. So probably the centurion decided that Jesus was dead through a visual inspection.

Pilate probably overlooked the requirement that the body be handed over to the next of kin in view of the Jewish leaders’ keenness to bury Jesus before the beginning of the Sabbath. A far as the Romans were concerned they generally allowed the people of conquered territories to follow their customs. As for the Jews, they did not attach any stigma to victims of crucifixion. Crucifixion was the Roman capital punishment. Jews had four options for capital punishment: stoning, burning, decapitating and strangling. (1)

Although it was the Romans that handed down crucifixion as capital punishment, the Jews did not hesitate to bury crucified bodies in accordance with Jewish law: “Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun” (Jewish War 4.5.2), and within 24 hours of death in order to preserve ritual purity. In fact there was nothing in the Mishnah that prevented Jews from burying crucified relatives together with others of their family (2).

This tradition is reinforced by John 19:31 “The bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath was an high day).” The Jewish leaders were very specific regarding this, as this was no ordinary Sabbath that was approaching; it was the Passover Sabbath. This is what John was explaining when he described it as “an high day”.

Besides this, Friday was the day of preparation for the Jews and the leaders probably wanted to rush through the Burial of Jesus and go about their business of getting ready for the next day. The Greek word paraskeue means preparation. It was called the day of preparation because Exodus 16:23-30 taught people to keep holy the Sabbath. That meant that even the food they require for the Sabbath had to be prepared the day before. Even when God provided the Jews manna from heaven, they had to gather what they would need on the day of the Sabbath, the day before (3).

Burying The Dead On The Day Of Their Demise Was A Tradition From Before The Time Of Moses

The tradition of burying the dead on the day of their demise was handed down from before the time of Moses who warned that if this tradition was not followed “their enemies will slay them and their unburied bodies will be food for birds and animals” (Deut 28:25–26). It probably had its foundation in the Mosaic law: “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance” (Deut 21:22–23) (4). However history shows that this rule was sometimes not followed. But this being the Passover Sabbath they did not dare flout the rule (5).

Josephus explains that it was also an ethical requirement : “We must furnish fire, water, food to all who ask for them, point out the road, not leave a corpse unburied [a1tafon], show consideration even to declared enemies” (Against Apion 2.29 §211; cf. 2.26 §205). Josephus notes that even the Romans rarely flouted this requirement in peacetime Jewish Palestine (6). The Romans used crucifixion to punish defiant Jewish leaders and let the bodies hang sometimes for days as a warning to others. However, such cases were rare (7).

In fact Jewish customs were safeguarded by kings and emperors “throughout all the preceding ages”. Roman law makes concessions in this regard. It states that the bodies of those who are condemned to death should be given to the relatives for burial. There were however exceptions. In the case of persons condemned to death for high treason Roman authorities refused the relatives the bodies (8). In the case of those condemned to death for sedition the bodies were left to the vultures adding disgrace and dishonor to the death penalty. In some cases instead of allowing the bodies of those condemned to death to be buried in family tombs, the Jewish authorities provided a burial site beyond the city (9).

In the case of Jesus, he was condemned to death under Roman law and the Sanhedrin had nothing against burying the bodies of such victims together with members of their family. As such there was nothing in Jesus’ case that “precluded a proper Jewish burial”. However victims of the death penalty for violation of Jewish laws were not permitted to be buried in family graves. “And they did not bury [the felon] in the burial grounds of his ancestors. But there were two graveyards made ready for the use of the court, one for those who were beheaded or strangled, and one for those who were stoned or burned” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:5) (10).

Primary Burial And A Secondary Burial

During Jesus’ time burial involved a primary burial and a secondary burial. Primary burial involved laying shrouded corpses on a rock shelf inside the tomb for about a year. There was an initial mourning period of seven days called shiva. This initial mourning period was followed by a secondary thirty-day period of less intense mourning called shloshim. However the mourning continued until the body was fully decomposed – usually a period of about a year. According to the Jerusalem Talmud: “When the flesh had wasted away, the bones were collected and placed in chests (ossuaries)”. On that day (the son) mourned, but the following day he was glad, because his forebears rested from judgment (Moed Qatan 1:5).” According to Tractate Semahot (“Mourning”) it says: “Rabbi Eleazer bar Zadok said: ‘Thus spoke father at the time of his death: “My son, bury me at first in a fosse. In the course of time, collect my bones and put them in an ossuary; but do not gather them with your own hands.” The practice of collecting the bones and placing them in ossuaries was called ossilegium (11).

Ossuaries were large enough to hold the longest human bones. The ossuaries were then kept in a loculus – a niche reserved for this purpose in tombs. It was not uncommon to use an ossuary to store the bones of more than one individual. More than a quarter of ossuaries were inscribed and some inscriptions not only bore the name of the deceased but also the name of the deceased’s father or the place of origin

The Reason For The Secondary Burial

The probable reason for the secondary burial was the belief that with the degeneration of a deceased’s flesh sins were also removed and the individual would become eligible for resurrection (Romans 7:24). The practice was thought to have commenced after the Jewish people were conquered and felt that a secondary burial absolved them of their sins. This practice is believed to have continued until the next Jewish uprising and their destruction by the Romans in 70 CE. Even though the practice may have continued after that period, it was believed to have been observed by a significantly smaller percentage of the population until finally the practice itself lost its importance. One other reason for a secondary burial was conservation of space. However this reasoning is faulty as coffins have larger storage capacity than ossuaries. The other argument that secondary burial aided resurrection is also not sound since during secondary burial it was quite possible for some bones to be lost or scattered.

Jews Entombed Their Dead During The Time Of Jesus

Jews entombed their dead during the time of Jesus. These tombs were cut into the limestone that was commonly found around the city. This practice was prevalent when the Jews enjoyed autonomy or even partial autonomy. But for a few exceptions all such burial tombs were located outside the city walls. The entrances to these tombs were usually square to rectangular. Two types of recesses were carved into the walls of these tombs to hold individual corpses. One type was about 6 feet deep and about 1.5 feet wide and high. They were called loculi – kochim in Hebrew. The other type was the shallow shelf-like recess that was about 6 feet long. If the top of this shallow recess was arched it was called an arcosolia and if it had a straight top it was called a quadrosolia.

At one time it was thought that such tombs were used by Jerusalem’s wealthy and that poorer Jews used trench graves. According to Shimon Gibson, in theory many cemeteries with trench graves may have been in use in the distant outskirts of Jerusalem. In fact a cemetery with trench graves was found at Beit Safafa a few kilometers south of Jerusalem. However this is the only instance of a cemetery with trench graves. The uniqueness of this cemetery is that it resembled the cemetery used by the sect that lived in the Qumran region on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. This resemblance prompted the Israeli excavator Boaz Zissu to suggest that the cemetery at Beit Safafa could have been used by the Essenes (12).

Shimon Gibson contends that to say that the rock-cut tombs of Jerusalem belonged to its middle class is incorrect. Since there is no evidence of any cemeteries with trench graves it may be concluded that rock-cut tombs were the order of the day used generally by all or most of the Jews in Jerusalem. Gibson argues that the poor of Jerusalem were not as poor as some people have supposed. It is reasonable to conclude that the Jews of Jerusalem were relatively well off when compared to the standards of most other villages in Judea (13).

Jerusalem probably owed its economic well being to the presence of the Temple which made it a place of worship and pilgrimage. It was obvious that Jerusalem became wealthy from the time of Herod until its destruction by Titus in 70 CE. Hence the argument that Jesus belonged to a poor family and could therefore not afford a rock-cut tomb is not correct. Beside if his friend Lazarus of Bethany could afford a rock-cut tomb, so too could Jesus (14).

Witnesses to the Burial of Jesus

In addition to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the other people present during the entombment of Jesus are “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses” Matthew 27:56-61. It will be of interest to note that Mary the mother of Jesus was not present. Mary the mother of Jesus was conspicuous by her absence. Presumably Joseph of Arimathea had asked John the beloved disciple to take her away not wanting her to suffer more than she already had.

References:

(1) & (2) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(3) Exodus 16:23-30; Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:13; Mark 2:27 (New American Standard Bible). (n.d.). Retrieved 2012 from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+16%3A23-30%2CExodus+20%3A8-11%2CExodus+31%3A13%2CMark+2%3A27&version=NASB

(4), (5), (6) & (8) Evans, Craig A.. (n.d.). Jewish Burial Traditions and the Resurrection of Jesus. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.craigaevans.com/Burial_Traditions.pdf.

(7) & (10) Miller, Kathleen E., Murphy Sara., Feldman, Steven.& Ladre, Susan. (2007). The Burial of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society . Washington, DC. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/9670347/The-Burial-of-Jesus

(9) Deffinbaugh, Bob . (1995-20120. The Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 19:38-20:9). Retrieved 2011, from http://bible.org/seriespage/burial-and-resurrection-jesus-christ-john-19388211209

(11) Franz, Gordon. (2012). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2012, from http://www.lifeandland.org/2009/01/the-so-called-jesus-family-tomb-rediscovered-in-jerusalem/

(12), (13) & (14) Gibson, Shimon. (2009) The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Descent from the cross https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1024&bih=635&q=jesus+is+brought+down+from+the+cross&oq=jesus+is+brought+down+from+the+cross&gs_l=img.3…5709.16982.0.17420.36.12.0.24.1.0.119.1176.8j4.12.0….0…1ac.1.64.img..24.12.1097.x1_cmYXpdNg#q=jesus+is+brought+down+from+the+cross&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbs=sur:fc&imgrc=lJBruWcO4vN71M%3A

Crucifixion Of Jesus – Were The Jews Responsible?

Crucifixion of Jesus is the sole responsibility of Jews. That was the long-held belief – a belief referred to as the Jewish decide was the cause of much suffering to Jews for 2 millennia.

Matthew 27: 24-25 is probably main reason for the Jewish decide:
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’ All the people answered, ‘His blood is on us and on our children!’

This account by Matthew directly linking Jews to the crucifixion of Jesus does not appear in any of the other Gospels.

According to John 18:31, Jesus was taken by the Jewish authorities to Pontius Pilate and sought his execution because they did not have the authority to condemn an accused to death. This reason is in all likelihood not correct as the Jewish authorities were subsequently responsible for “the stoning of Saint Stephen in Acts 7:54 and of James the Just in Antiquities of the Jews and did not require the consent of the governor.”

The reason for blaming the Jews directly and downplaying the role of the Romans was probably because that was a time “when Christianity was struggling to gain acceptance among the then pagan or polytheist Roman world.”

Matthew’s attempt at blaming the Jews as being responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus has at times been described as “redactional fiction” invented by the author. Some think that Matthew’s anti-Jewish polemic was responsible for sowing “the seeds of later Christian antisemitism.”

However the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) of the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Paul VI “repudiated belief in collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus.” It declared that “the charge can be made neither “against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today”. (1)

“On November 16, 1998, the Church Council of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a resolution prepared by its Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations urging any Lutheran church presenting a Passion play to adhere to their Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish Relations, stating that “the New Testament … must not be used as justification for hostility towards present-day Jews”, and that “blame for the death of Jesus should not be attributed to Judaism or the Jewish people.” (2)

Pope Benedict XVI also repudiates the Jewish decide charge in his 2011 book Jesus of Nazareth, in which he changes the translation of “ochlos” in Matthew to mean the “crowd”, rather than to mean the Jewish people. (3)

What is blatantly unfair is the two thousand year old accusation that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.

It is important to remember that like Judas Iscariot the Jews and the Romans were only a means to the fulfillment of the prophecies of David and Isaiah.

Probably Jesus himself is the primary cause of his own death. The Gospels tell us that Jesus was only fulfilling Old Testament prophecies, and he himself had predicted his fate. He reconciled himself to what was decreed in heaven and did nothing to change the course of events that eventually lead to his crucifixion. (4)

References:
(1),(2) & (3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_deicide
(4) Aiuto, Russell. (n.d.). The Trial of Jesus Christ and The Last Supper. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/classics/jesus_trial/10.html

Crucifixion Of Jesus – Bible Accounts And Controversies

Bible Narratives Of The Crucifixion Of Jesus And The Controversies Arising Out Of Them.

Crucifixion Was Foreseen By More Than One Old Testament Prophet

The prophet Zachariah foresaw that the people of Jerusalem would look upon the lord Messiah whom they pierced (Zech. 12:10; cf. John 19:37; Rev. 1:7).

Besides being king, David was also a prophet (Acts 2:30). Almost a thousand years before the crucifixion of Jesus King David had given a clear and prophetic account of the execution (Psalm 22). He had even foretold Jesus’ cry from the cross “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (22:1; cf. Matt. 27:46). David had even explained why God had forsaken his son. God could not look upon sin even when all the sins of the world were placed on the shoulders of his blameless son.

King David’s prediction of the crucifixion of Jesus was so vivid, that he described in detail the crowds mocking him when he was being crucified. (22:6-8, 12-13; cf. Matt. 27:39-44). He prophesied that the bones of Jesus would be out of joint and that His hands and feet would be pierced (22:14-17; cf. John 20:20). He even foretold that lots would be cast for Jesus’ garments by the Roman soldiers (22:18; cf. Matt. 27:35; John 19:24). Significantly David had foretold that not one bone in Jesus’ body would be broken (Ps. 34:20, cf. Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; see also John 19:36). This established the tradition that Jesus would be considered the unblemished Passover Lamb that was slain for sinners (I Cor. 5:7).

The prophet Isaiah foretold the reason why Jesus would die on the cross. He wrote “Surely He (the Messiah) has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:4-6). But did Jesus die on a cross?

A Cross Could Be A Tree And A Tree Could Be A Cross

The Greek word for tree is xulon, (xoo-lon). Literally the word could also refer to “a stick, club, tree, timber or other wooden article of substance, such as a staff, stocks, tree or wood.” On the other hand the Greek word for cross is stauroo (stow-roo), also meaning “to impale or crucify on a stauros (stow-ros) a stake, post set upright as an instrument of capital punishment.” Loosely the two words are sometimes interchangeably used. So a cross could be a tree and a tree could be a cross.

Luke used the word Xulon once in his gospel Luke 23:31 – “they do these things in a green tree”. He uses the same word thrice in the acts:

Acts 5:30 – “whom you murdered by hanging on a tree”

Acts 10:39 – “whom they killed by hanging on a tree”

Acts 13:29 – “they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb”

All three instances are in specific reference to the crucifixion.

Each of the above statements was made by Simon Peter the apostle.

In Peter 2:24 Peter himself uses the same word: “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” Since Peter uses the word xulon to refer to Jesus “hanging on a tree, taken down from a tree or bore our sins on a tree”, could it be that Jesus was in fact crucified on a tree rather than a Roman cross and that over two millennium the word tree was corrupted to mean cross (1).

Date and time of the crucifixion of Jesus

The year of the crucifixion of Jesus has been in dispute.

Some scholars have claimed that the year of the crucifixion is 30 CE. Others have claimed that the year was 34 CE. Both claims have merits and demerits. The merit has more to do with the time that the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Israel would require to develop (2).

There is controversy surrounding even the time that Jesus was on the cross before he died. By all accounts he was crucified on a Friday. But it has been claimed that after only three hours on the cross he died. Even the prefect Pontius Pilate was surprised that he should have died so soon. In fact he was so skeptical that he sent a centurion to Golgotha to verify if in fact Jesus was dead. It was only after ascertaining that Jesus was indeed dead that he granted Joseph of Arimathea permission to take down the body of Jesus from the cross. Mark 15:44-45 (3).

According to some accounts Jesus was crucified at 9 am and he died at 3 pm after being on the cross for six hours. A victim dying on the cross even after six hours was also surprising as experience showed that victims lingered much longer. In fact some victims lingered on for days. (4).

The bodies of the victims of crucifixion were removed from the cross only after they had died. So when Jesus and the other two who had been crucified along with him were on the cross for six hours Jewish leaders went to Pilate and “besought Pilate that their legs might be broken” (John 19:31). The Greek equivalent for broken also means to shatter to pieces. In practice the Romans smashed the legs of the victims so that the weight of their body now rested on the wrists that were nailed to the cross. When that happened the victims were unable to breathe and suffocated to death.

After they had smashed the legs of the victims on either side of Jesus, the Roman soldiers turned their attention to Jesus. But finding that he was already dead did not break his legs. This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of King David (5). Psalm 34:20 says explicitly of the crucified Jesus, “He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken.” John 19:36 says, “These things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.”

The Romans first pierced the side of the victims of crucifixion before they broke their legs. Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim referred to the piercing of the side as the coup de grace – a stroke of mercy or the death stroke. It is said that the soldiers did both this to expedite the death of the victim. However, Edersheim claims that the soldiers pierced the victim’s side to expedite death and then broke his legs to increase the pain as compensation for the reduced time on the cross (6).

In the case of Jesus as soon as the soldiers pierced his side, they saw that blood and water oozed out of the wound and concluded that Jesus was already dead and decided against breaking his legs. John 19:34 says, “One of the soldiers, with a spear, pierced his side, and immediately came there out blood and water.” The side being pierced is again in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zachariah. Psalm 69 contains prophecies relating to the crucifixion (7).

Who Were The Witnesses To The Crucifixion?

Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus seem to be based on eyewitness reports. Matthew 26:56 states that all the disciples fled for fear of their lives. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that they stayed away from the site of the crucifixion. According to John 18:15-27, Peter was so terrified that he repeatedly denied knowing Jesus. That being the case, who were the witnesses to the crucifixion?

Jesus was crucified atop a hillock called Golgotha which lay just outside the city walls. This hillock was probably located near one of the gates leading out of Jerusalem. A study of the Gospels tells us who in fact were present at the crucifixion.

According to Matthew 27:55-56 the followers of Jesus who watched the crucifixion from a distance were: “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” The women were present probably because they knew that they would not be arrested provided they did not interfere with the proceedings. Mark 15:40-41 also states that many female followers of Jesus were witnesses. He specifically names “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.” The Gospel of Luke merely mentions that some of Jesus’ followers were there but does not mention names. In John the witnesses are specifically named. According to him Jesus’ mother Mary, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clophas (or Cleophas), and Mary Magdalene and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” were all present.

The exact identity of the beloved disciple is a matter of dispute. Some scholars think that he is John the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, and the author of the gospel. However others have disputed this claim and the matter is still to be resolved.

The other Gospels make no mention of the beloved disciple as one of the witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus and according to them what Jesus spoke from the cross is entirely different from the account by John. It may therefore be construed that John’s source of information regarding the crucifixion is different from the source of the other three. There is no consensus regarding the source of the other three. However it is likely that one or more of the women present provided the evangelists the details.

Based on the accounts in the four Gospels the witnesses to the crucifixion were:

1. Mary Magdalene (cited in Matthew, Mark, and John)

2. Mary the mother of James and Joses (cited in Matthew and Mark)

3. The mother of Zebedee’s sons (mentioned in Matthew)

4. Salome (mentioned in Mark) — Many scholars are of the opinion that this person is the same as the mother of Zebedee’s sons

5. Mary the mother of Jesus (mentioned in John)

6. Mary the wife of Clophas (mentioned in John. She was quite likely the wife of Joseph’s brother)

7. An unnamed sister of Jesus’ mother (mentioned in John) — Scholars think that this is the wife of Clophas

8. The unnamed Beloved Disciple (mentioned by John)

However this list is not without controversy and the controversy is not limited to the identity of the “beloved disciple”. There is also no consensus regarding Mary the mother of James and Joses. Some believe she is the one referred to as the “other Mary”. She is the same person who is said to have accompanied Mary Magdalene to the tomb on the day of the resurrection. It has also been argued that she is the wife of Clopas and perhaps even one of the sisters or a half-sister of Jesus’ mother.

There have been claims that this “other Mary” is none other than the mother of Jesus. If this is so then the three evangelists Matthew, Mark and John would be consistent in saying that Mary the mother of Jesus was present at his crucifixion. The mention that this Mary is the mother of James and Joses lends credence to this claim thus making her the mother of the four brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3). However if this is indeed the case why were Matthew and Mark not explicit about this instead of referring to her as the “other Mary”? (8).

References:

(1) Mock, Robert D. (1999). Crisis in the Nazarene Ecclesia – The Sanhedrin and Rabbi Shaul are Coming. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblesearchers.com/hebrewchurch/primitive/primitive4.shtml

(2) Mock, Robert D. (1999). Crisis in the Nazarene Ecclesia – The Sanhedrin and Rabbi Shaul are Coming. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblesearchers.com/hebrewchurch/primitive/primitive4.shtml

(3) New International Version (NIV). (2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+15%3A44-45&version=NIV;KJV;YLT

(4) The Amazing Burial of Jesus, Part 1, Matthew 27:57-61. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://www.gty.org/resources/print/study-guide-chapter/2399

(5) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Matthew 27:57–28:15. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5178/The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Christ

(6) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Matthew 27:57–28:15. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5178/The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Christ

(7) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Matthew 27:57–28:15. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5178/The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Christ

(8) Who Was at the Cross? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gospel-mysteries.net/witnesses-crucifixion.html