Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jesus' "Temporary Tomb"

Over the years there has been a lot of debate about the location of Jesus' tomb. The traditional location has been inside the now Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This site was first identified by Constantine's mother in the fourth century. At one time there was a tomb in the center of the church, but it has since been destroyed. Nonetheless, even today visitors can see tombs from the second temple period that are now part of the church.

Since the nineteenth century many Protestants have claimed the Garden Tomb (aka Gordon's Calvary) as the location of Jesus' tomb. Unlike the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden Tomb is located outside the walls of Jerusalem. This would seem, some argue, more accurate since Jews would not bury their dead within the city walls. While the Garden Tomb is certainly a beautiful and inspirational location, the facts work against it. First, the tomb is not a second temple tomb. It is much older and if we are looking for Jesus to be laid in a "new tomb" then this won't do. Also, those who point to its location outside the walls of Jerusalem fail to realize that the Garden Tomb location was also within the walls at one time. Beginning in 40CE the city of Jerusalem went through an expansion which saw the location of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb both end up within the walls. The current walls of Jerusalem were not built until the 15th century. I am unaware of any archaeologist who would point to the Garden Tomb as the location of Jesus's burial.

There is an interesting article in Bible and Interpretation today that looks at the possibility that Jesus' tomb, in the now Holy Sepulcher, was intended as a temporary tomb. Eldad Kenyan has previously argued that the Holy Sepulcher is the correct location of Jesus' tomb. Today he looks at what Jewish law has to say about moving the dead and whether or not Jesus' placement in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb was intended to be a temporary measure.

In conversation with Amos Kloner, Kenyan notes that the placing of Jesus in Joseph's tomb could have been problematic since it was Joseph's family tomb. Kloner suggests that it was a temporary burial until Jesus could be moved elsewhere. He notes "

Privately owned tombs were meant to cover familial and public emotions – they were designed to prevent the presence of unwanted strangers and any "leak" of the corpse's defilement out of the tomb.


Kenyan agrees that Jesus' burial was probably intended to be a temporary one. But he suggests that the tomb of Jesus was probably one owned by the Sanhedrin. He notes:

Since the Sanhedrin owned its tombs, it could "lend" a burial place "on demand" when the Sanhedrin executed a Jewish felon. We've already seen that by law, felons' bodies had to "dwell" in the Sanhedrin tomb for a year.


Since it was against Jewish law for a family to move a body, Kenyan argues that the best identification for Jesus' borrowed or "temporary tomb" would be a tomb owned by the Sanhedrin and used for just such a purpose. This might make sense since Joseph of Arithamea was a part of the Sanhedrin and would have had access to such tombs.

You can read the whole article here. I found the discussion interesting but not completely convincing. There is a lot to the article and I cannot do it justice here. I suggest you read it to understand all that Kenyan is arguing.

The biggest hurdle is the degree to which both Kenyan and Kloner use the Mishnah as an authority on Jewish burial. While many of the legal prescripts in the Mishnah probably have some connection to first-century practice, the fact is that these laws were not compiled in their current form until 190 CE. This means that a full 160 years had passed between the death of Jesus and the codification of the Mishnah. A lot can and does change in that time. Using the Mishnah as a source here presents at least three problems.

  1. It assumes that the all of the laws that were in vogue in 30 CE were still known and active in 190 CE. It is quite possible that there were other practices that were dropped or introduced during the interval.

  2. It assumes that the Mishnah is descriptive rather than prescriptive. What I mean is, it assumes that because something was legislated that it actually happened. We could point to many instances in which things happen that are contrary to the law. Just because something is prescribed does not mean that it always (if ever) happened that way.

  3. It assumes that we have enough information in the Gospels that we can use the Mishnah to interpret them so easily. But the Gospels do not promote a "temporary burial". Their focus is on the claim of resurrection. Thus while there are certainly some historical facts that might tease us, the authors were not trying to provide us a legal description of Jesus' burial. The purpose was to move the story on to its climax. Thus, a lot of important details are not present and makes a full legal analysis impossible.

So while I still believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the best location for Jesus' tomb, I am not convinced that we can adjudicate whether or not it was a tomb of the Sanhedrin used for temporary burials.

57 comments:

  1. A couple quick questions from a layperson. Was there anyone found in this "temporary tomb" when it was discovered? And if not, wouldn't someone have been in it if it was temporary?

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  2. Jim, no the tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulcher was only identified as Jesus's tomb some 300 years later. But there was a strong tradition to the tomb and some of other related evidence that suggests it is the best location. But I am not sure that the "temporary tomb" line of thinking is all that helpful.

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  3. Jim, the Mishna describes the Sanhedrin tombs using past terminology, and There was no Sanhedrin when the Mishna was compiled; are those facts enough to claim that there was no Sanhedrin at all? Jews in Palestine continued to bury their dead in private tombs at least until the 4th century CE Galilee. Mishnaic Jews buried their dead in private tombs, and they never saw the Sanhedrin tombs; still they understood the obvious difference between private tombs and Sanhedrin tombs. Thus, I think, the Mishna's Sanhedrin tombs description is expressing this understanding. In any rate, there is no doubt that the tomb beneath the Rotunda and the tomb nearby are smaller than familial tombs. This fact is corresponding with the Mishna description of the Sanhedrin tombs and the use they meant for.
    (I'm having problems with the URL - I am Eldad Keynan, surelu not anonymous).

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  4. Eldad,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    As I noted, my pause is the use of the Mishnah here. I am not opposed to such connections with the NT, but I am curious if we have any of these sentiments echoed in other first century literature?

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  5. John,
    Thank you too. I'm not arguing for any ancient written source undisputable credibility. Josephus is a well known exellent example: shall we dismiss the Masada story since the rabbinic sources completely ignored it? True - they had a reason. But this suggestion does not change the facts: we don't have any other contemporary source other than (the suspected) Josephus, but we accept his story and try to match it to the relevant archaeological finds.
    Do we have any doubt that Jesus was a felon in the eyes of the Jewish court? Or that he was buried as an executed Jewish felon? Other scholars agree on that points, and they are well known. All agree that the NT is correct in this regard. It is reasonable, then, to assume he was buried in the Sanhedrin tomb. This assumption is backed up by the structure of the tomb beneath the Rotunda. If we converge the physical find and the written sources, then we may suggest that Jesus' body was laid in the Sanhedrin tomb for preliminary burial, according to Jewish law; this burial was located in the site known today as the Holy Sepulcher. His relatives would have his bones after a year for reburial.

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  6. I am a Buddist and a priest. Sukhavati. I have stated elsewhere that to someone not raised in a Judeo-Christian culture, the NT documents are clearly full of fantastic impossible stories. Such fantastic and impossible stories are also told of the historical Buddha, Gautama ("GAW ta ma" not "gaw TA ma" as Occidentals mispronounce it). Christians see these fantastic adorning
    stories attached to the accounts of the life of Gautama Buddha and they recognize these stories immediately for what they are. Myths. Yet, their critical thinking abilities become inert when confronted with the same fantastic adornments in the accounts of the life of Jesus. Buddhists in general do not have a problem in seeing the mythical nature of these fantastic adornments to the stories of either Buddha or Jesus.

    Time is passing by for Christianity. It a time when educational levels increase worldwide and information written by critical clear thinkers is available on the Net, the Christian religion must enter adulthood and think as an adult in all areas of life, including religion. Christians must cease and desist with their credulity in believing myths to be history or science. The world laughs and scratches its head as Christians attempt to force Theism into the educational systems of America.

    Why not Deism? Why not Pantheism or Panentheism?
    Why Theism? Many who would say they believe in God would not stanp their approval to Theism. Clearly, it is the deity found in the Bible that these covert enemies of science and reason wish to inject into the schools of the public.

    To conclude: Time to grow up, Christianity, and learn the purpose and power of myth, as the rest of the world has done. Or be left behind as mere detritus in the march of ideas.

    Namaste,

    Venerable Tam Luc Do

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  7. Eldad Kenyan wrote: It is reasonable, then, to assume he was buried in the Sanhedrin tomb.

    Alex: I'm just not sure we need to assume this at all though, since we don't have any actual historical account of this ever happening. Nothing in the Gospels (the only accounts we have) indicate that Jesus was buried in a Sanhedrin tomb.

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  8. The evidence of the Gospels and Acts 8:2 would seem to indicate that burial of executed criminals in Sanhedrin tombs was not the norm in the first century. I'm pretty sure, per McCane, that the Mishna forbids mourning for executed criminals as well, and Acts 8 also indicates that this was not practiced in the first century. So it is not just that the Mishna is late and may or may not apply. It is that the earlier evidence indicates that it does not apply.

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  9. Further, Paul makes much of the shame of Jesus' death theologically. Why, if Jesus had received such a dishonorable felon's burial, would he not mention the shame in this event as well? Given that burial is so important culturally to Jews of the time period, it would seem an inexplicable silence.

    Dr. Byron's point #2. is very pertinent IMO. Even in Josephus, we have these prescriptions for dishonorable burial of the executed. But there is no reason to suppose these were always followed. Unique circumstances would have often brought about deviation. During war, we know that burial would often not have even happened.

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  10. Alex, to your first comment: the NT accounts regarding Jesus' burial are quite inexplicable unless we match them to the contemporary Jewish burial laws. Again: according to Jewish laws (the only laws reasonably applied to Jesus, I believe), Jesus' body HAD to be buried in the Sanhedrin tomb. The Mishna gives us the law, the NT decribes its application.
    Your second comment: when the Romans, and only the Romans, sentenced a Jew to death, the poor Jew was not considered a criminal according to Jewish law. This is why executed felons' burials was not the norm; that is: not a norm according to Jewish law. We do know that the Romans did not allow the relatives to bury the crucified bodies immediately, but after a few days. That was the norm in the case of executed felons according to Roman law. The Mishna Maqot, 1:11 (and parallels), tells us: "a Sanhedrin that executes only one felon in seven years should be called "destructive"; R. Elazar son of Azaria says: even once in seventy years". It appears that the Mishna agrees with you: if executing Jewish felons was THAT rare, then burying them in the Sanhedrin tomb was simply not a norm. But it was not the case with Roman executions. We may well assume that when the Romans did, the family buried its relative normally according to Jewish law (and after a few days).
    The Mishna does forbid mourning for executed Jewish criminals; but it doesn't forbid taking care of their bodies; it seems that this was what Mary and Mary returned to the tomb for: taking care of the body.
    To your third comment: I'm not a NT expert, and I'm not sure we do know Paul's drives fully. I do believe that none of Jesus first followers was happy with their master's dishonorable death and burial. Paul was a Jew, he was addressing Jews; to him and to his audience, Jesus' death and burial were dishonorable. I would go one step forward: since the resurrection was that important and crucial, why describe a permanent burial in the first place?
    I agree that laws were not always followed. Jesus' trial before the priests was not according to the law, to start with. The crucifixion its self is not one of the legal forms to execute according to Jewish law. The Sanhedrin was not allowed to execute ever since the Romans conquered Israel (which might explain the Mishna Maqot 1:11 above). Most "details" of Jesus trial and execution were not "following the laws". Only his burial was. Why? Probably because it was the only act that could follow the Jewish law; and there was someone, a Sanhedrin member, who could perform the acr of burial - Joseph Arimathea.

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  11. Eldad -

    Surely your argument is stated too strongly ("HAD to"). I've studied the burial accounts for quite a while and I see that you have a hypothesis, but I find it unlikely. You seem to be quite in line with others who have argued the same (Ray Brown, Byron McCane, and James McGrath). I don't see how the Gospel accounts are inexplicable unless matched to Mishnah. Maybe you can elaborate on that.

    The problem is that the hypothesis you're presenting does not account for the evidence, as much as it re-interprets it. The Gospels and Acts are the accounts of the burials of felons (convicted by the Sanhedrin), and they provide counter-evidence to the claims of the Mishnah (which is a much later source). That is the state of the evidence we have. You are simply retro-fitting the Mishnah to the Gospels. But there is nothing in the Gospels that indicates that Jesus was buried according to this practice, and much to indicate the opposite.

    I think you only strengthen my case by mentioning how often Mishnaic law was not followed in other instances in the Gospels.

    You write "We do know that the Romans did not allow the relatives to bury the crucified bodies immediately, but after a few days. That was the norm in the case of executed felons according to Roman law."

    I thought it was the norm for the Romans to deny burial of the crucified altogether? What Roman source do you have that says that they were eventually released to their family for burial?

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  12. Alex, when you say "I've studied the burial accounts" you apprently mean Jesus' burial. So the accounts are the NT accounts. Right? Now suppose my hypothesis is completely wrong. In that case, we have to assume that Jesus was buried in his own familial tomb; in line with your argument. Now let's test it, using the NT accounts. The NT tells us that the tomb in which Jesus' was buried was newly carved, or that it has never been used before. If we accept the first account, then you have to explain: it was Friday afternoon, the eve of Passover - too short a time to carve a new tomb. If we accept the second, you still have to explain: if it belonged to Jesus' family, how come Jesus was the first interment in it? I think these accounts add problems, rather than reduce them.
    Now we can follow the other NT account for Jesus' burial: that he was buried in Joseph Arimathea's newly carved tomb. Do you accept that one? It's quite different comparing to both the former account.
    These contradictions, or rather - discrepancies, do not match each other. I believe that the only way to explain them is the theological motive behind them which was indifferent to contemporary-applicable laws, and for all the good reasons.
    Basically, I argue that we don't and can't understnad Jesus and his place in his time unless we accept his national-religious identity: a second Temple era Jew. Thus - Jewish laws were applied to him (and, of course, Roman laws) when personal "affairs" are under discussion, like birth, life, burial and many other personal details. If you reject this basic suggestion - then you have to suggest another legal "background" according to which Jesus was buried.
    You say: "The Gospels and Acts are the accounts of the burials of felons (convicted by the Sanhedrin), and they provide counter-evidence to the claims of the Mishnah". Can you point at the verses on which you base this argument, other than the Gospels accounts for Jesus' execution and burial? Or we may agree that these accounts are the only we have?
    You say: "But there is nothing in the Gospels that indicates that Jesus was buried according to this practice, and much to indicate the opposite." Can you indicate this opposite?
    You say: "I think you only strengthen my case by mentioning how often Mishnaic law was not followed in other instances in the Gospels."
    I don't think so; I only said that that Jewish laws were not followed with regard to Jesus' trial and execution. But on top of that, I have to ask: following your arguments, it seems that discussing the Mishna is pointless all together; so how can we argue that its laws and statutes were not followed in the first place, if it's not relevant to Jesus time?
    "What Roman source do you have that says that they were eventually released to their family for burial?" You are right - we don't. So - the rottening bodies remained on the crosses, never to be buried? Google this, please: http://www.english.imjnet.org.il/htmls/popup.aspx?c0=13141&bsp=13027
    Still, your argument in this point is right: the Romans denied burial of the crucified as a norm, across the Empire. They were more "flexible" in this regard in Judea. See what the NT tells us about the permission Joseph Arimathea was granted to remove the body off the cross. It proves that the Romans considered special circumstances and acted accordingly. That is - although we have no written Roman source, we have the NT and an archaeological find that match each other on that point. Mark, 15:42, Luc, 23:54, and John, 19:31, 19:42, describe the situation: Friday, Passover eve, afternoon. I guess you do accept this description. Why was it so important and urgent to remove the body off the cross immediately? Becuase Jewish laws dictate so, and they are written in the Mishna as well. Now - would we dismiss the NT burial accounts on the ground that they match the Mishna? I doubt it.

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  13. Alex, to study and understand Jesus one must accept his Jewish identity a-priori; Jewish laws were applicable to him, in every aspect of personal-civil life. If we want to understand the Gospels account, we have to match them to the Mishna.
    Brown, McCane, and McGrath, accept this match, knowing that the Mishna is later than the events. Other scholars tend to keep Jesus away from the Sanhedrin jurisdiction; Prof. Magness, for instance.
    You rightfully question the Mishna credibility since it is much later than the events. If we accept your attitude here, then there is no reason to state that a few, or many, Jewish laws were broken much earlier than the Mishna compilation, I guess. You have studied the Gospels accounts on Jesus' death and burial, and they don't match the Mishna - but the opposite is true. let's test this argument. Mark. 15:42, Luc. 23:54, and John 19:31, state Jesus died on Friday afternoon, the eve of Shabbat. John 19:31 adds that the Jews asked Pilate to hasten the crucified people death since it was Friday late afternoon, shortly before the Shabbat starts. It sounds reasonable to me, and I'm sure you do agree.
    But leaving bodies on the cross over night is prohibited by Jewish law; see Mishna Sanhedrin 6:4. Here the Mishna quotes Deuteronomy 21:23, "you shall not leave the corpse on the tree over night but bury it". The severity of this command is even sharper when "over night" means Saturday.
    Now what are we to do with the fact that the Gospels account on Jesus' burial do match the Mishna? Following your method, we have to dismiss the Gospels, because the Mishna here supports the Gospels; or to state: well, sometimes the Mishna, altough later comparing to the events, might help us accept the Gospels accounts on particular points.
    So, since the Mishna reaffirms the Gospels on the practice of not leaving a corpse on the tree/cross, we need good arguments to dismiss its relevance in the practice that follows the corpse removal off the cross - the burial of dead felons (according to Jewish laws) in the Sanhedrin tomb.
    Tthe Romans normally denied burial of the crucified criminals across the Empire. Since you accept the Gospels account - they state that it was not the case in this particular burial. I suggest you visit : http://www.bible-archaeology.info/crucifixion.htm, to see that Jesus was not the only Judean Jew who was buried according to Jewish law after the Romans crucified him. True - we dont have any Roman report on this practice, but we have the Gospels and an archaeological find. the Romans were probably smart enough not to deny burial of dead Jewish criminals - it could end up with riots. none of the Jewish criminals, executed by the Romans, was entitled a burial in the Sanhedrin tomb - unless he was sentenced to death also by the Snahedrin. Fortunately, we know one: Jesus.
    Therefore - archaeology supports the Gospels on one aspect of Jesus death and burial. The Mishna supports the Gospels on other aspects of his death and burial.
    The last note I wish to add: I never said that Mishnaic law was not followed in other instances in the Gospels - I don't think so. I will clarify my statement: Jesus' trial before the Priests was not according to Jewish legal procedure. His crucifixion was not according to Jewish law since this "form" of death penalty is not listed among the legal "forms". But it did not break any Jewish law simply because the Romans executed Jesus actually, not the Jewish Sanhedrin.

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    1. His crucufixion was according to Mosaic Law. He was hung on a tree and stoned to death close to the top of the Mount of Olives. We know this because the Roman centurian saw the curtain rip outside the Holy Place. The only place to view this would have been East of the Temple on the Mount of Olives. Also he was killed outside the city. Pilate told the Jews to judge Him according to 'their law' so they replied that they could not execute Jesus. Then Pilate had him hung on a tree by a nailing a crosspiece to a living tree, then the Jews stoned him. Why am I so sure?
      1. The Talmud states that for forty days before the trial witnesses were sought for the defense of Jesus, it also says he was stoned to death the day before Passover.
      2. He was a Jew who was convicted of blasphemy, therefore they were eager to follow the Mosiac prescriptions to the letter.
      3. The Jews had attempted to stone Jesus for blasphey on two other occasions. Both attempts failed.
      Those are just three reasons but there are many more reasons I could name.

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  14. Eldad - looking over your article again, I have many questions, so I hope you do return to discuss some of these issues.

    One issue that stands out for me is that you feel that Kloner's conception of the temporary/borrowed tombs (being separate from the final burial tomb) is in violation of Semakhot 13:7, which reads:

    "moving the corpse, or the bones, from a despised place to an honorable place is forbidden, not to mention from an honorable place to a despised place; but in his own, even from an honorable place to a despised place – this is permitted, since it is his honor."

    But the Sanhedrin tombs that you propose for temporary/borrowed burial plots would violate the same law. They are an allotment for dishonorable burial, and the felon's bones are allegedly later moved to their ancestral tomb.

    You say this is ok, because they are, by definition, temporary. But this is exactly what Kloner is saying about some privately owned tombs. It is disputable whether or not such privately owned temporary/borrowed tombs exist on other grounds. But if they did, and exceptions to this law can be granted, I don't see why they wouldn't have the same definitional exception of the Sanhedrin tombs.

    As many scholars have noted, these Mishnaic "laws" seem more like general rules, and the substance of debates, as evidenced even by your own acceptance of the Sanhedrin being able to get around Semakhot 13:7.

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  15. I'm delighted to see such vigorous discussion of this topic! I think therre is a sense in which we can initially set aside the question of whether secondary burial was allowed in a family tomb after a temporary burial in a dishonorable tomb for criminals. That question only becomes relevant if one believes that Jesus' body decomposed for a year in a Sanhedrin tomb and thereafter his bones were moved. We might want to discuss that, but I think we can treat it as a separate issue.

    As for the matter of the burial, our earliest account in Mark has Jesus buried in "a tomb" by a righteous member of the Sanhedrin, with no involvement by Jesus' family or disciples. Joseph of Arimathea is not said to be a disciple, and there is emphasis on Jesus being anointed beforehand for burial, as well as women going to the tomb after the fact to anoint the body, both suggesting that Jesus was not given the sort of honorable burial which his disciples lt he deserved. Later Gospels "improve" the burial further still, until we reach John's Gospel with it's burial fit for a king, complete with anointing.

    And so there are Mishnaic laws which are relevant and may help us make sense of these details. But even if those laws were not in effect in the time of Jesus in every instance, some of them mesh well with what we find in the Gospels.

    A few other points are worth noting. One is that Josephus mentions the concern in his time to bury even criminals before sundown on the day of their death because the Law required it. If the Romans completely disregarded this Jewwish scruple, we would expect to hear about it as we do about other instances of Roman insensitivity to Jewish practices. The other is that, while the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was indeed identified much later as the site of Jesus' burial, the fact that it was so identified in spite of having had a temple of Aphrodite built over it in the intervening years suggests that it must have had a strong local tradition indicating it as the site for it to have been so identified in the time of Constantine.

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this fascinating topic!

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  16. Alex, Semakhot 13:7 defines what actions are allowed in PRIVATELY OWNED FAMILIAL TOMBS. Families carved them into the rock, or ordered professionals to carve them (more likely) in order to have a tomb in which they would perform both stages of familial burial: preliminary, for the first year after death, and secondary - eternal. Since after a year only the bones remained, and the families collected them into ossuaries, moving the bones from their initial place to another, INSIDE the familial tomb, was a must. Thus Semakhot 13:7 allows for that move and describes it.
    It is completely different when the Sanhedrin tomb is under discussion. The Mishna Sanhedrin 6:5-6 is explicitly dealing with executed Jewish felons' burial, while it clearly states that after the first year, the relatives will have the bones for familial reburial. By the way, Mishna Sanhedrin 6:5 atresses again that the felon's corpse is to be buried the same day he was executed (in line with the Gospels accounts).
    The difference dictated the structure: Kloner is very clear when he describes the tomb under the Holy Sepulcher rotunda: smaller than ordinary familial tombs, with limited space meant for the storaging of the body, no space for storaging ossuaries.
    I don't see how the Sanhedrin got arround Semakhot 13:7, since it did not have to. The Sanhedrin tomb is not violating Semakhot 13:7 because it was not the same tomb, nor was it the same use.
    I know what Kloner said about some other privately owned tombs. The only physical find is the Holy Sepulcher tombs, and the only written Jewish source is Semakhot 10:8, which relates the borroewd tomb to Raban Gamliel, who headed the Jewish supreme court in Yavneh ("supreme court" since there was no Sanhedrin after the destruction, 70 CE).
    As much as I know the research literature, untill today, and not surprisingly, no privately owned temporary tomb has been found. The archaeological finds and the written sources complete each other on that point, including the Gospels.
    Anyway - using the Mishna and its "derivatives" like Semakhot, whether to agree on or dismiss assumptions, is a step forward indeed.

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  17. Hi Eldad – I’ve studied the burial traditions in general, in addition to the NT burial accounts (Eric Meyers, Rachel Hachlili, Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, Jonathan L. Reed, etc.). No, we don’t have to assume Jesus was buried in his own family tomb. If we suppose Jesus was allowed burial, there have been various proposals: Joe of A.’s family tomb out of expediency, Romans buried him in a limed pit, he was “tossed” into a shallow trench grave, etc. Also – a newly carved tomb doesn’t mean it was JUST carved within a couple of hours; I’m not sure why you would assume that. Let me be clear that I have no problem with a Jewish Jesus. Arguing that laws in a text dated as late as the 8th century CE, apply to first century Judaism is another matter though. There, the burden of proof would be on you to show that they were in effect/applied.

    You ask me what in the Gospels/Acts indicates the opposite of later Rabbinics. I mentioned Acts 8:2. After Stephen makes his speech before the Sanhedrin, he is stoned and is mourned publicly. Semakhot 2:9 reads: "No rites whatsoever should be denied those who were executed by the state." That would include mourning, would it not? As for the Gospels, see Matt 27:59, which clearly says Joseph of A. owned the tomb and it was new. Whether or not we accept that as reliable, the account is not in accord with the Rabbinic laws you are referencing. A new tomb owned by an individual would not be the Sanhedrin tombs.

    Also – I don’t think it is pointless to discuss the Mishna altogether. In a post-Neusner world, we just have to actually make a case for these “laws” actually being in effect in the first century. Some of the practices obviously did apply, can be corroborated with other earlier sources, are rooted in the Hebrew bible, etc. It is fine that the NT burial accounts “match the Mishna” on the urgency of removing the body from the cross. We both know that they are dependent on the Hebrew bible for that though, so it is a bit beside the point.

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  18. Eldad – I’m familiar with the remains of “Yehochanan”. Since we don’t have any evidence that he was originally buried in a Sanhedrin tomb, this doesn’t really support your particular case though. For all we know, Yehochanan went straight from the cross to his family tomb. The Sanhedrin need not have condemned this man at all.

    You write that Jesus execution “did not break any Jewish law simply because the Romans executed Jesus actually, not the Jewish Sanhedrin.” That is correct, but in that technicality, you actually provide the reason why, assuming Mishnaic burial laws did apply to Jesus’ time, even an honorable burial for Jesus would not have actually violated Jewish law.All the rabbinic law seems to stipulate dishonorable burial for those who are specifically *executed*, not just accused or condemned by the Sanhedrin. Jesus was not executed by the Sanhedrin, but the Romans as you say.

    There’s another issue with supposing Jesus’ burial was in a criminal’s tomb owned by the Sanhedrin. Compounding the problem that no early Christian documents make any mention of this, were it known to be the case, they would’ve had good motive to report it. Early Christians already believing Jesus fulfilled the servant passages in Isaiah, such a burial would’ve provided the perfect opportunity to reference a literal fulfillment for Isaiah 53:9 “he was assigned a grave with the wicked”.

    I’m not really clear on your clarification of whether or not the Mishnaic laws were followed in other places in the Gospels. It is simply a fact that there were a multitude of Mishnaic laws that were not followed in the accounts of the trial of Jesus in the Gospels. On this, see Cohn, Haim. _The Trial and Death of Jesus_. New York: KTAV, 1977.

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  19. Eldad, you write: “Alex, Semakhot 13:7 defines what actions are allowed in PRIVATELY OWNED FAMILIAL TOMBS.”

    Actually, it does more than that. Again, the translation of the text you gave reads:

    "moving the corpse, or the bones, from a despised place to an honorable place is forbidden, not to mention from an honorable place to a despised place; but in his own, even from an honorable place to a despised place – this is permitted, since it is his honor."

    This is a general rule against moving buried people from one place to another. Obviously the first portion, “moving the corpse, or the bones, from a despised place to an honorable place is forbidden, not to mention from an honorable place to a despised place”, applies to movement of corpses from one place of entombment, to an ENTIRELY different location, otherwise there would be no need for the exception of movement allowed *within* tombs that follows it. In the next portion (“but in his own”), we see an exception made for movement WITHIN one’s tomb. Thus, if someone moves a corpse from the Sanhedrin tomb, to a family tomb (as the Mishna allows for), this would NOT be allowed by Semakhot 13:7, as it is NOT a movement of a corpse within one’s own tomb.

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  20. What translation of the Tractate Semakhot are you using here? Is this Zlotnick? I thought Zlotnick translated 13:7 as:

    "Neither a corpse nor the bones of a corpse may be transferred from a
    wretched place to an honored place, nor, needless to say, from an honored place
    to a wretched place; but if *to* the family tomb, even from an honored place to a
    wretched place, it is permitted, for by this he is honored."

    I own it but do not have it handy. If this is the correct translation (rather than the one you give), then the issue of relocation of a corpse from the Sanhedrin tombs does not contradict Semakhot 13:7.

    But then again, if this is the correct translation, then your argument against Kloner also cannot be made.

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  21. Eldad writes: "As much as I know the research literature, untill today, and not surprisingly, no privately owned temporary tomb has been found."

    If people were lending their own familial tombs for the temporary burial of others, then we would not expect to see a sign posted that tells us this. I think you are confused about what Kloner's scenario requires. What exactly would you exepect to find? If someone buys a plot of land and carves out a tomb there, and they have no dead family members yet to bury there, it could be quite lucrative to loan it out to others who may not be able to afford a tomb for primary burial as yet, a group that may need an emergency burial during travel (esp. around Jerusalem during festivals, etc.). This doesn't require that it is ONLY ever going to be used for temporary burials and that we should be looking for tombs designated as such.

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  22. Alex, it will be a long, divided reply. I anticipated the name Neusner. We will not start discussing "Neusnerism" here, but if you apply it to the Mishna, then it is applied to the NT as well. We both would not be happy with that draw. I know the proposals regarding Jesus' burial. Now I ask you: which of them seems most logical, at least regarding his primary burial? Besides - I like the one related to Joe of A. I never assumed that (quote): "a newly carved tomb doesn’t mean it was JUST carved within a couple of hours". I only use it to show that people might interpret the sources as they wish. I heard great scholars claim that there was no time to carv a new tomb for Jesus. I'm glad we agree here. Still: a Sanhedrin tomb was there for generations before the crucifixion, but unused for almost a hundred years ever since the Roman conquest (63 BCE). I guess you know the NT account that state it was never used before. Mat. 27:60 states it's Joe of A's newly carved tomb. Mark. 15:46 - just "a tomb". Luc. 23:53: a tomb, never been used before. John, 19:41 - a new tomb, unused before.
    What would you say about these discrepancies?
    I wonder: after you dismiss late sources, you still use one of them to make a point. You quote Semakhot 2:9, but it seems you miss the meaning of the word "Malkhut". It is translated to "state", as you wrote. But the "state" is the Roman rule, not any Jewish authority. Jewish law naturally do not deny any right these executed Jews were entitled of according to Jewish law. It's not the same with Jesus: he had two death verdicts, one by Pilate, one by the Sanhedrin. The Romans executed him, but since there was a Jewish verdict as well, he was under Jewish law for all matters after his death.
    Again - I agree that a tomb owned by an individual (whether or not it's Joe of A.) was not, and can't be considered, the Sanhedrin tomb. I believe that if we explain and simplify the discrepancies mentioned above, we will understand who owned each tomb in the NT accounts.
    Last point: I don't see why the dependence on the Hebrew Bible "is a bit beside the point." Jesus' teachings are depended on the same Hebrew Bible; thus we may conclude some continuity of this dependence on this source in the Jewish society before, during, and after Jesus' time. That is: they were relevant, to one degree or another, during many centuries.

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  23. Alex - I never said “Yehochanan” was buried in the Sanhedrin tomb! It never even crossed my mind! Read my post on that point again - I am sure he was not convicted by the Sanhedrin. I only said that “Yehochanan” proves that the Romans did allow the families to bury their crucified relatives. I did not connect the Sanhedrin to “Yehochanan”.
    Again: since Jesus was convicted by the Sanhedrin (and the Romans), he was under Jewish law and Sanhedrin Authority according to Jewish legal concept. The fact that the Romans sentenced him to death and eventually executed him made no difference.
    I don't think the early Christians would reaffirm Jesus' dishonorable burial, when this was one of the heaviest arguments the contemporary Jews used as a weapon against them. They already had a dishonorable birth (according to Jewish law) to deal with. Reaffirming Jesus' dishonorable burial would not help them.
    I know Cohen's book (originally - Hebrew). I agree that some laws were violtaed "around" Jesus' trial and death: the trial did not take place in the Sanhedrin, thus violating Jewish legal procedure. Crucifixion was not listed as a legal execution form (the list includes 4 forms). But burial in the Sanhedrin tomb was a great opportunity to demonstrate the Sanhedrin's authority and its Roman back up.

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  24. Alex, Semakhot 13:7 again. My translation that you quote:
    "moving the corpse, or the bones, from a despised place to an honorable place is forbidden, not to mention from an honorable place to a despised place; but in his own, even from an honorable place to a despised place – this is permitted, since it is his honor."
    Now I quote you: "This is a general rule against moving buried people from one place to another." Then you conclude: "Thus, if someone moves a corpse from the Sanhedrin tomb, to a family tomb (as the Mishna allows for), this would NOT be allowed by Semakhot 13:7, as it is NOT a movement of a corpse within one’s own tomb."
    Again, Semakhot 13:7 is dealing, clearly and explicitly, with PRIVATE TOMBS. The Mishna 6:5-6 is dealing, clearly and explicitly, with the Sanhedrin tomb(s). The difference is so important, that Semakhot and the Mishna separated both "sorts" so sharply, to avoid any risk of confusion. Still - Semakhot 13:7 allows moving inside a private tomb, because the bones had to be moved a year after the burial into an ossuary and then to a niche. All these moves had to be done INSIDE the private tomb, since familial tombs were menat for both preliminary and secondary (eternal) burials."Within one's tomb" is, thus, not an exception, but the regular situation in a privately owned tomb. The entirely different location, as you define it, is ONLY within one's tomb.
    IT IS NOT THE SAME WITH THE SANHEDRIN TOMB! The Mishna Sanhedrin 6: 5-6 states that the Sanhedrin has tombs under its own control and authority. They are not privte by definition, and never meant for both preliminary and secondary burials. Therefore it states clearly that a year after the preliminary burial the felon's relatives will return to the Sanhedrin tomb to get the bones back for reburial in the family tomb.
    There is a huge difference between private tombs and the Sanhedrin tombs - and Jesus' burial shows this difference.
    Semakhot 13:7 has nothing to do with the Sanhedrin tomb; therefore the Mishna Sanhedrin 6:5-6 is not violating it.

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  25. Alex, I hope the Hebrew source will be readable here:
    שמחות פרק יג הלכה ז

    אין מפנין לא את המת, ולא את העצמות, ממקום
    בזוי למקום מכובד
    ואין צריך לומר ממקום מכובד למקום בזוי
    ובתוך שלו, אפילו ממקום מכובד
    למקום בזוי הרי זה מותר, שכן הוא כבודו
    If you are fluent in Hebrew, or you can ask for help in translating it, please show me where is the "but if *to* the family tomb". The word "family" is simply missing here. The only hint for "family" in the source is: ובתוך שלו
    which I translated "but in his own".
    True, that means a familial tomb. But it doesn't mean "to the family tomb" but "inside the family tomb". If we accept the translation you quote, then the "wretched place" is out of the family tomb. Do you think Jews accepted the idea of burying their relatives in a wretched place, meant only for preliminary burial? I don't think so. By this I disagree, again, with the concept of Jewish private tombs meant only for preliminary burials.
    As for Kloner: much of what I know anout actual tombs comes from Kloner's works, including the special features of the rotunda tomb, that make it a special, rather than regular tomb. I have no argument against Kloner, but all the arguments for accurate translation. As for conclusions - you know how wide this field is.

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  26. Alex - we have to return to Kloner; he concluded that the rotunda tomb was temporary since its STRUCTURE was different comparing to regular familial tombs: smaller, no niches for storaging ossuaries. Except for the rotunda tomb - we have no other such archaeological find.
    "If people were lending their own familial tombs...etc." You are right.
    Then you say: "This doesn't require that it is ONLY ever going to be used for temporary burials and that we should be looking for tombs designated as such."
    Right again. I don't think someone is "looking for tombs designated as such." If someone will ever look for such a tomb, how someone will identify it a temporary burial? It will be samller than familial tombs, and will have no niches for storaging ossuaries. We already have one (and only one, naturally) tomb carved and designated as such - the tomb beneath the Holy Sepulcher rotunda.
    One last point: as I said above - you are right. Jews were allowed to lend, grant, and even sell niches and eventually entire tombs for both stages of burials (we know it from the Jerusalem Talmud, which is even later than the Mishna, but it supports your point strongly!). Thus - why could one of these options be connected to Jesus' burial?

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  27. I had a scribal error: in my last post I wrote:
    "Thus - why could one of these options be connected to Jesus' burial?"
    It should be :"Thus - why COULDN'T one of these options be connected to Jesus' burial?"

    Besides the Jerusalem Talmud, another rabbinic source allows for tombs ownership transfer: Semakhot 13:9.

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  28. Eldad – thanks for continuing the discussion. Yes, I think we must be as critical of the NT as we are of the Mishna. Both contain historical error, idealization, exaggeration, etc. Neusner is not the only scholar to put the burden of proof on those using the later rabbinic writings. Anthony Saldarini, Shaye Cohen, E.P. Sanders, A.E. Harvey, Raymond Brown, etc., all believe we must sift these sources critically as they often present us with an inaccurate idealized version of earlier times, that even conflict with much earlier sources (e.g. Josephus) – Brown even saying this specifically with regards to burial practices (p. 1206 and 1210 of his The Death of the Messiah). You seem to have trouble with the fact that I am also using these sources that I say, in general, are very late and may not apply. I think the Mishna and Tractate Semakhot are valid where they can be corroborated by archaeological and textual evidence (isn’t this sort of standard for late documents, known to have inaccuracies elsewhere?). What we’re debating is whether or not they can be so corroborated, so I’m just continually puzzled as to why you have trouble with my reference to these sources. Even if I rejected them entirely, because they are late, I could still argue that they are *also* not consistent with contemporary sources, or internally consistent, and thus I would reference them.

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  29. Eldad - What discrepancies are you talking about with Joe of A.’s tomb? The fact that not all accounts tell us that it is a new tomb? Why is it significant that Mark’s account omits that detail? We’re dealing with stories originally circulated as oral tradition. What we expect to see in oral tradition is variation of detail around fixed points. But regardless of how we see these accounts, surely there is no indication that this is a Sanhedrin tomb. Do we even have any evidence that the Sanhedrin had actual *tombs* instead of just some common burial grounds/fields?

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  30. Eldad - I’m glad you brought my attention to Semakhot 2:9, because that was a mistake on my part. I meant to quote 2:6: "For those executed by the court, no rites whatsoever should be observed…." In Acts 8:2 Stephen is stoned before the Sanhedrin then publically mourned, which would contradict this statement. The Mishna prohibits mourning as well. Sanhedrin 6:6 says “they did not go into mourning” for the executed. According to this passage, Jews were not even allowed to publically mourn for *secondary* burial, let alone primary.

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  31. I think one of the biggest problems for your scenario is that, in assuming that later Rabbinic laws were meticulously followed, you render your account less likely. The scenario you are arguing for actually is in technical conflict with the Mishnah. The Mishnah is very specific about how it can execute and what kind of crimes merit these forms of execution: beheading, strangling, stoning, and burning. In Sanhedrin 6:5, it even designates specific separate graveyards; one is for strangling/beheading, the other for stoning/burning.

    The problem is that Jesus was not beheaded, strangled, stoned, or burned. Indeed, he was executed by the state. This whole idea of a double verdict is rejected by the majority of the scholars who study the Gospels. And that is where Semakhot 2:9 comes in: "No rites whatsoever should be denied those who were executed by the state." So, if we were to accept the Mishnaic and later rabbinic statements, there would really be no reason to bury Jesus in a Sanhedrin tomb or Mishnaic provision for this. As Geza Vermes has said, “"Yet even those who are able to believe that a real trial occurred are compelled to admit that when the chief priests transferred the case from their court to Pontius Pilate's tribunal, they did not ask for their findings to be confirmed, but laid a fresh charge before the prefect of Judea, namely that Jesus was a political agitator with pretensions to being the king of the Jews. It was not on a Jewish religious indictment, but on a secular accusation that he was condemned by the emperor's delegate to die shamefully on the Roman cross." (Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p. 36-37)

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  32. Regarding dependence on the Hebrew Bible being beside the point – we would simply expect the rabbinic laws to at least follow the biblical commands. This doesn’t corroborate anything unique to the rabbinics that we are debating though (which is really what your account turns on).

    You write: “I don't think the early Christians would reaffirm Jesus' dishonorable burial, when this was one of the heaviest arguments the contemporary Jews used as a weapon against them.”

    When do contemporary Jews ever use Jesus’ dishonorable burial as a weapon against Christians?

    Regarding temporary tombs...My point is that, if people were using their OWN unused *familial* tombs for temporary/loaned burial, they WOULD have niches in them by the time we find them, as they would later be used for their own family. And this is why, as you say, “no privately owned temporary tomb has been found”.

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  33. We seem to be running in circles on Semakhot 13:7. Maybe someone else can jump in and assist with a resolution? I think there are either language barriers keeping us from communicating properly on this, or one of us just has a mental block (or both). And those could be on me, because I am not getting why you are not getting what I am arguing.

    You keep telling me Semakhot 13:7 “ONLY APPLIES TO PRIVATE TOMBS”. Again, here is the text, divided by my commentary so you can see my view:

    "moving the corpse, or the bones, from a despised place to an honorable place is forbidden, not to mention from an honorable place to a despised place…”

    Commentary: This is a *general* rule about moving bodies from one place to another (e.g. one tomb to another). It is telling people not to move buried corpses. Continuing with the passage:

    “…but in his own, even from an honorable place to a despised place – this is permitted, since it is his honor."

    Commentary: This is a *particular*statement that is an exception of the general rule. If it is WITHIN ONE’S OWN PRIVATE TOMB, you are permitted to move the body (e.g. secondary burial). The first rule *cannot* apply to JUST privately owned tombs, otherwise we wouldn’t need the statement of exception for corpse movement WITHIN privately owned tombs. Basically, you can’t move corpses around – unless its within the same tomb.

    I don’t understand how you are disagreeing with that. If you look at the first portion, this would apply to the Sanhedrin tomb, and seem to contradict the Mishnah 6:5-6. Moving from the Sanhedrin tombs, to a privately owned tomb for secondary burial, would be moving from a despised place to an honorable place.

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  34. Lastly, I'll throw out one more argument against Jesus' burial in a Sanhedrin grave for criminals.

    If early Christians were aware of such a burial, it probably would’ve been mentioned explicitly in one or more of the Gospels. This would’ve provided the perfect opportunity to create a literal fulfillment for Isaiah 53:9 (“he was assigned a grave with the wicked”), which the early Christians already believed applied to Jesus. Matthew, who will even stretch the truth to fulfill the Jewish scriptures for his audience, could not have missed this. Instead, he goes in the opposite direction, and tells us that it is a new privately owned tomb.

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  35. Hey Alex, as to the first in the "group" above: no one is completetly right, including Neusner, Cohen, the rest in the list and you can add C. Hezser. They all have made serious points - but not enough to "wipe out" all historicity of the sources, whatever these sources are.
    I have no problem with the fact that you use any source - none at all. On the contrary - I am happy that you find the way to use the sources you criticize. Josephus is problematic -it's a well known fact. I suspect him of fabricating the suicide story of Yodfat according to a suicide story of Massada. So: are we to dismiss him altogether?
    The Mishna and tractate Semakhot are valid when burial laws\customs are under discussion exactly because I can personally show you a few tombs that exemplify the applications of these laws in them - actual tombs. I hope we do not debate the validity of physical finds - while we may debate the interpretation.
    Visit my humble site and see for your self:
    http://jewishholygraves.com/
    AS to your second comment here:we are dealing with stories that circulated originally orally indeed. We may also assume that their original language was Aramaic. We do have evidence that the Sanhedrin had tombs - Mishna 6:5-6. You may continue to reject this evidence, while you keep rejecting any possible connection between this Mishna's and the fact that the Holy Sepulcher tomb is different, could not be familial by its structure, and was temporary by this very structure - just as the Sanhedrin tomb should be.
    In fact, Alex, I do have a question: why is it so crucial for you to reject the Sanhedrin tomb as Jesus' first\preliminary tomb?

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  36. Alex, Semakhot 2:6, I have to quote the original Hebrew source here:
    שמחות פרק ב הלכה ו

    הרוגי בית דין אין מתעסקין בהן לכל דבר, אחיהם וקרוביהן באין ושואלין את שלום העדים ואת שלום הדיינין, כלומר שאין בלבנו עליכם, שדין אמת דנתם, ולא היו מתאבלים אלא אוננים, שאין אנינות אלא בלב, ואין מברין עליהן שנאמר לא תאכלו על הדם, ורבי נתן אומר אין בין שתיקה לבכייה כלום.

    "public" or rather "open" mourning is forbidden, as you say, but not quiet mourning. R. Nathan says: there is no difference between silent and crying.
    Now for Stephan's death story: I've just read it again. He was brought before the Sanhedrin, but there is no official verdict - it was a simple lynch, eventually. He is not what the legal sources define: executed by the court. Remember: the Roman rule did not allow the Sanhedrin to execute. As you say - the stories initially circulated orally; small details might "disappear"; cross reading of sources might help in reconstrution.
    As for Acts. 8:2. The Hebrew version I read tells us that righteus people carried Stephan and then they buried him and eulogized him. Eulogy is part of funerary practices, but it's not mourning. In Judaism mourning is allowed only to family members. Eulogy is allowed to every body (Deutronomy 34:8, Moses death, is an exception!). I think Acts. 8:2 is a perfect demonstration of the difference between family mourning and general\public eulogy.

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  37. Alex - your number 4: well, it seems you've found the written evidence of the Sanhedrin tomb. You state: "This whole idea of a double verdict is rejected by the majority of the scholars who study the Gospels". Technically, but yet seriously: majority, any majority, is not the decisive element in any field of study and research. Remember Galileo (yes, for this statement's double meaning). Still - I know some of these scholars, and I respect them and their opinions - I just don't agree. Some of them rejected the need to study Jesus against his Jewish identity - I hope they agree now. I might think that the Sanhedrin had good reasons to control the body; the Romans couldn't care less. For that end, the Sanhedrin had a good formal claim: they were the supreme Jewish court, with tombs under its authority, and a verdict they issued - even as a result of illegal procedure. They don't seem to be enthusiastic law and justice keepers, as they were great keepers of their selfish interests. Still, in this point, they had a claim. I may add: there is a strong tendency, among scholars, to keep Jesus away from the Sanhedrin. It's not new, but this tendency is increasing for the last years. I wonder why?
    You say:. . ."your scenario". . . What scenario are you talking about?

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  38. "When do contemporary Jews ever use Jesus’ dishonorable burial as a weapon against Christians?"
    OK- you are right; I was wrong; contemporary Jews did not. Later Jews did (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a). Anyway - I repeat what I stated: early Christians had a serious birth- legal problem to deal with (the scandal Josef the carpenter was afraid of). The last thing they needed was to reaffirm another heavy weapon their rivals COULD use against them. Thank you for the correction.
    "Regarding temporary tombs...My point is that, if people were using their OWN unused *familial* tombs for temporary/loaned burial, they WOULD have niches in them by the time we find them, as they would later be used for their own family. And this is why, as you say, “no privately owned temporary tomb has been found”.
    but facts are facts: only one "unfamilial" tomb has been found: the tomb under the Holy Sepulcher.

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  39. Alex, you say:
    "You keep telling me Semakhot 13:7 “ONLY APPLIES TO PRIVATE TOMBS”. Again, here is the text, divided by my commentary so you can see my view:

    "moving the corpse, or the bones, from a despised place to an honorable place is forbidden, not to mention from an honorable place to a despised place…”

    Commentary: This is a *general* rule about moving bodies from one place to another (e.g. one tomb to another). It is telling people not to move buried corpses."

    Wrong, Alex, by all means: this is a rule about NOT moving bodies from one place to another IN the family tomb. You must study ancient Jewish burial laws and customs seriously. What you see as a "particular" exception of the "general rule" is simply not. It only allows for moving the remains from the initial pit\shelf to an ossuary and then to a niche, all these actions IN the family tomb. Read Kloner, Magness, Bahat and others on that topic: burial caves, AKA tombs, meant explicitly for both the preliminary and secondary burials. Thus there is no exception in this source. The only exception pertains to the Sanhedrin tomb which was no familial by its nature, structure and use.
    Alex - please find someone to translate Semakhot 13:7 for you. It's OK with me that you don't accept my translation or commentary. But again: start with correct translation, and then figure out the meaning.
    "Moving from the Sanhedrin tombs, to a privately owned tomb for secondary burial, would be moving from a despised place to an honorable place." I wholeheartedly agree! Do you mean this is what really happened when Jesus died?

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  40. To your last in this "group": we can only suggest the NT authors' drives and motives. They were Jews by all means; they knew very well what a burial in the Sanhedrin tomb means. Accepting this burial and its negative-criminal implications would mean accepting the Priests' accusations against Jesus as a divine-authority breaker. Jesus' body really disappeared from the Sanhedrin tomb on Sunday morning. For his followers, God saved him from this dishonorable burial and from the accusations. Mentioning the Sanhedrin tomb would "revive" the negative implications.
    One last question, Alex: do we agree that Joe of A. was involved, to some degree or another, with Jesus' eternal burial?

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  41. Eldad – when I say “scenario”, I’m referring to your hypothesis that Jesus was buried in Sanhedrin tombs reserved for executed criminals.
    I’ve come across some new data from historian Richard Carrier’s essay on Jewish burial. He writes:“…it was forbidden to bury on the first day of any festival (Talmud Beitzah 6a, 22a; Sanhedrin 26b), and Jesus died on the first day of Passover (1 Cor. 5:7; Lk 22:7-15, Mk 14:12-16, Mt 26:17-19; John is ambiguous: 18:28, 19:14; but 13:1 and 18:39 are consistent with the synoptics).”If this data is correct, and the Jewish burial law prohibits this, then we have a clear example of at least one later rabbinic burial law that was not adhered to in the first century.

    More problems - the rabbinic writings mention two common graveyards for executed felons. As far as I can see, there is no textual evidence that says these were rock-hewn tombs. Rock-hewn tombs were generally costly and owned by the wealthy, employed in a more prestigious sort of burial. How likely is it that the Sanhedrin would designate a rock-hewn tomb, rather than simple shallow trench graves, for the burial of the most despised members of society? Probably not very likely. Do any mentions of the Sanhedrin graves say they are rock-hewn tombs? I’ve seen the three mentions of the Sanhedrin burial grounds in the rabbinics and they do not.

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  42. Eldad – you essentially concede my point with regards to scholarship on the Mishna. Since these scholars all make good points as far as questioning the applicability of the Mishna, the burden of proof is on you to show that the Mishnaic burial laws were followed. This is what I had originally said. On the other hand, we can’t dismiss a source because it has errors. That would rule out almost all ancient history. So it just comes down to providing evidence that these laws were a) in place and b) actually followed. You may be able to show me some tombs that show certain practices mentioned in the Mishna. What you haven’t shown is that there actually were Sanhedrin burial grounds for crucified victims, or that the tomb that Jesus was buried in was indeed one of these tombs. There is no crucial need to reject Jesus’ burial in such a manner as you say. I will entertain any hypothesis, except that Jesus was denied burial altogether (which I find impossible). I just don’t find your Sanhedrin tomb burial to be the most probable explanation at present. The best way to assess it, is to discuss the matter, and consider all of the evidence, no?

    What is the evidence that the Sepulcher tomb was not familial? That it lacked the niches? Perhaps no one just ever got around to using it, so no niches were dug?

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  43. You show an extreme double standard on the burial of Stephen. Firstly, my translation says Stephen was “mourned deeply”. KOPETON MEGAN is a loud lamentation – literally a beating of the chest and wailing. This is not a eulogy. Stephen is accused of blasphemy, just like Jesus. He stands before the Sanhedrin and makes a very similar statement about the Son of Man at the right hand of God, and they are enraged, and “they all” (this would include the Sanhedrin members) stone him. The burial laws you use would actually apply to this scenario MORESO than to Jesus’ scenario, because Stephen is actually *executed* by the Sanhedrin. But you want to split hairs and claim this was not actually an “official verdict”. Of course, we say the same exact thing – and many scholars have – about the verdict on Jesus. I think this passage creates real problems for you and you are refusing to acknowledge them. Whether it was official or not, wouldn’t the Sanhedrin want to deny honoring the blasphemer they just stoned to death, and disallow public mourning? "Official" means very little if you suppose the Sanhedrin could not "officially" execute anyway.

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  44. Further, what evidence is there that the Romans did not allow the Sanhedrin to execute besides the statement to the effect in the Gospel of John? If the Jews hardly ever executed anyone, do you really think they would go ahead and allocate two separate graveyards just for Roman executions? In fact, what would be the point of separating graveyards according to different methods of execution if these methods of execution were simply never employed?

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  45. Your reading of Semakhot 13:7 is obviously inaccurate. The first clause is a general statement about not moving bodies. We are getting nowhere though and just repeating the same arguments over and over, so I will send this off to some authorities on the matter and see what they say. If both parts of Sem. 13:7 are about family tombs, then you thereby make the passage completely unintelligible. Here’s how your interpretation would look:

    “"moving the corpse, or the bones, from a despised place to an honorable place [IN THE FAMILY TOMB] is forbidden, not to mention from an honorable place to a despised place [IN THE FAMILY TOMB]; but in his own [FAMILY TOMB], even from an honorable place to a despised place – this is permitted, since it is his honor."

    So the passage then becomes a blatant contradiction. Basically you give us: "Don’t move corpses from one place to another in the family tomb; but you can move corpses from one place to another in the family tomb."

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  46. In your last response, you write: “Accepting this burial and its negative-criminal implications would mean accepting the Priests' accusations against Jesus as a divine-authority breaker.” This also is a very weak argument. Accepting the negative implications of the burial would no more mean accepting the Priests’ accusations than recounting the crucifixion does! Crucifixion is MORE shameful than dishonorable burial! Jesus is a curse, not just a criminal. And the Gospel authors embrace that. You don’t seem familiar enough with how the Gospel narratives invert dishonor. Look at the report of women at the tomb in Mark. It is scandalous to the core as women are widely seen as unreliable witnesses (though they could testify in some situations), prone to hysteria, these travel with Jesus (and not their husbands) which would make them vulnerable to charges of prostitution, one of them was exorcised of “seven demons”, and they are made into the sole witnesses in Mark of a vision of a spiritual being at a tomb (the regular haunt of unclean spirits)! And this is the first resurrection witness! Think about it. If Mark was really keen on fabricating stories to cover shame, he certainly would not have left this one in there.

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  47. You tell me I “must study ancient Jewish burial laws and customs seriously”, but your argument betrays a lack of understanding of what shameful burial is. See McCane’s _Roll Back the Stone_. The key elements of a shameful burial are denial of public mourning and denial of the ancestral tomb. Mark and all of the other Gospels DO NOT deny that these key categories of shame were imposed on Jesus’ burial. Mark in particular, our earliest source, really has nothing honorable about Jesus’ burial to speak of. So the “negative implications” associated with Jesus’ condemnation are in full effect. Further, if the Gospel authors wanted to minimize the damage, they could’ve just as easily done away with the blasphemy charge (John comes fairly close to doing this). It would have been less of a stumbling block to potential Jewish converts to do so. But on your account with these burial laws being followed in the first century, we are expected to believe they thought it more reasonable to portray the utterly improbable scenario of a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin violating these known Jewish burial laws (Matthew trying to convince Jews in particular). For all of these reasons, I think your response fails.

    BTW - I would say I tentatively accept the probability of Joe of A.’s involvement in the burial. Certainly there are problematic aspects though and a whole host of questions must be addressed.

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  48. Alex, wellcome back. First to Dr. R. Carrier's statment: the Jewish day (Hebrew: Yemama) is not starting on midnight, but on susnet. The To be precise: when humans can see three stars. This ends the present day and starts the next. Thus what ever happened while it was still the present day light, but brfore three stars could be seen - belonged to the present day. Therefore - no law was broken when Jesus was buried.
    Besides: Dr. Carrier denies Jesus' hisoricity completely. His interpretation is aimed at this end. He misinterpret this law to support his own view, thus he misled you.
    Hebrew doesn't have any word for "tomb". It does have "grave\graves"; rabbinic literature uses the Hebrew word "Me'ara" (cave) to designate tomb rarely. Anyway: when the Mishna describes the Sanhedrin tomb it clarifies that the burial in the Sanhedrin tomb is TEMPORARY by definition. This stage of burial could only, and naturally, take place in a tomb, and definitely not in an ordinary trench grave, meant for one and only burial that "covers" both preliminary and secondary burial.

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  49. Alex, the last paragraph of your second comment makes life easier for me. Quote:"What is the evidence that the Sepulcher tomb was not familial? That it lacked the niches? Perhaps no one just ever got around to using it, so no niches were dug?" Tombs were carved to be used, and to serve family funerary needs for generations - thus they all had shelves or shallow pits and niches. Assuming that any private Jew would order (or carve) a tomb, made only with shelves and without any niche is nice, but contradicts practice and therefore unlikely. The Holy Sepulcher tomb is smaller than usual. Why? because it was never meant to serve both preliminary and secondary burials - just as the Mishna puts it explicitly.

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  50. Alex - you can't blame me of double standard when you reject the Mishna as "too late" and use it to show that its laws and statutes were broken.
    Anyway - comparing Jesus death to Stephan's death generates another problem you have to cop with; Jesus trial was not conducted according to legal procedure. Never the less, it was still official. Read the Mishna (we have no other source) regarding the actual execution by stoning. The instructions are very clear - and in sharp contrast to Stephan's lynch by stoning. The same comparison poses another problem against your argument: at the end of Jesus' trial, the Sanhedrin issued a death verdict. We don't have such a verdict in Stephan's case, but a direct lynch; even if some of the Sanhedrin members took part of this horrible act - it was still informal. I do not reject the evidence in this case, simply because there is no evidence. The people who buried him were Jews, and therefore only his relatives could and would mourn him. As Jews, they were Henrew\Aramaic speakers and cultured. When the story turned from oral Hebrew\Aramaic tradition to Greek written one - things chainged to fit or serve the purposes of the authors.

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  51. The Sanhedrin was active many decades before the Roman conquest (63 BCE); when it ordered its tombs, the Romans were still far away. It had to plan the means it needed, including its tombs.
    Besides: the Romans allowed the poeples they conquered to keep their ancestors' laws, all of them except whipping and capital punishments. Please read some Roman provincial history. I recommend Cambridge Ancient History, the relevant volumes. By the way - I accept almost every evidence, when I can converge it with other sources.

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  52. My reading of Semakhot 13:7 is accurate, and even takes into account the structure of the tombs I personally know. Now let's do it again: there is no reason to move bodies or bones within the family tomb. Thus this is forbidden -except for when the relatives had to collect the bones and put them in the ossuary - they simply had to move them to do that. Don't you think so? Further: when the ossuary is "full", they moved it into a niche. THIS move is legal. If, for certain consideration, the owner\relative wanted to move one ossuary from one niche to another, to make room for the next dead, or inside the niche (like pushing it to the end of the niche to make room for the next ossuary) - this is legal and permitted. As I said: a rule and explanation. Not any exception.
    Still - if you wish and can, please show me another temporary tomb that we can define by its structure (exept the Holy Sepulcher tomb).
    Which reminds me: why you (and others) are so "disturbed" by the Sanhedrin tomb?

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  53. Alex - now I'm sure I am familiar with the argumnts and logic you use. I read and heard them before. Yet I will reply: the authors of the NT had no problems with casting dishonor on women. Do you really compare their honor and importance (in the NT) to Jesus' honor and importance? Jesus' death and burial provided the "parts" of the resurrection. He was crucified by the enormous power of the time - Rome! But he won them easily, while clearing himself of the religious accusations (much more important if the audience is Jewish). This is what I think. Two birds by one stone.

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  54. So - do we agree? the Sanhedrin wanted to "give" Jesus a dishonorable burial. They were his toughest enemies, right? They were also human beings, as much as we know, right? What the authors did was simple and clever: the divine power is so great, that it can wipe out human decisions in no time. (Bad) humans issued a lethal verdict, the son of God was executed by this human decision, and was buried in a dishonoring manner; both meant to dishonor the son of God. But his father, God, rescued him and cleaned him up of all accusations and shame. God preferred him over his judges and their "teachings". The shame became honor. Theology takes over history. If we want metaphysical naturalism to prevail, we must wipe out every single letter that stands in its way.
    By the way, I still expect the answer: what do so many people have against the Sanhedrin tomb as Jesus' preliminary burial site? The resurrection could take place here or every where. Isn't it?
    Why can't we all wait untill Eerdmans will publish its two volumes regarding the most famous burial in history?

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  55. Alex - I'm sure you know who wrote the following quotes. I quote accurately; note my replies, immediately following every quote.
    ". . .that the stories would be told and disseminated orally, adapted to local deities, throughout the pan-Mediterranean. This actually would be more in *favor* of their veracity, than against." A good description of the "literary" process. I buy it.
    "Let me tell you a little something about history. It is done in primary sources, and then if you MUST deviate from a primary source (do you even know what that is?), you use the most rigorous academic scholarly sources". I buy this too.
    ". . .Josephus – our most reliable Jewish historian of the time period". Josephus? Reliable? He is the only Jewish-Palestinian historian of the time. Period. This is why we use him, rather than his reliability. This is why we use the Mishna as evidence to the legal situation that it describes and defines as "what was the legal situation when we still had the Temple and the Sanhedrin". We don't have another primary source for that topic.
    "I haven’t seen any archaeological evidence that contradicts anything". A strong argument. I adopt it. Especially because there is no archaeological evidence that contradicts the Mishna and my theory regarding the Sanhedrin Tomb.
    ". . .EXTREMELY thorough essay citing academic scholarship and primary sources. . ." Agreed!

    "3. The background for the New Testament is now seen to be in Judaism and the OT, instead of the cults of the Roman Empire." So – Jewish legal content as well?

    ". . .the Gospels though, which were written by first century Jews. . ." But transmitted orally and by Aramaic\Hebrew speakers.

    ". . .Christianity would need to borrow, because it was already inherent in Judaism." To which I agree, but then I have to ask: Only holidays? No legal content that was inherent in Judaism? The answer is, I guess, the next quote: "Christianity is an outgrowth of Judaism and pretty much every element within Christianity, can be found in a rudimentary form within 2nd Temple Judaic literature." The author probably meant another point; I agree with the idea of similarities, even "identities", 2nd Temple Judaism and early Christianity had in common.

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  56. Eldad - I'll respond when I have some more free time this coming week. In the meantime, I'm curious as to what Eerdmans volumes you're referring to.

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