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Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher

Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher

Jesus' permanent burial tomb cannot be in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We must search somewhere else.

See Also:
Jewish Burials
Talpiot Dethroned
The Talpiot Tomb: What are the Odds?
Inside the Numbers of the Talpiot Tomb

By Eldad Keynan
Bar Ilan
November 2010

Jesus' burial has, and still does, occupy much scholarly attention. For the vast majority of scholars and Christians, Jesus' tomb is in the traditional location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Traditional tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

In my recent article on Bible and Interpretation (, I attempted to demonstrate that the tomb beneath the Holy Sepulcher rotunda was the tomb in which Jesus' body would have been placed immediately after his execution. I further indicated the differences between public trench graves, privately owned tombs, and the Sanhedrin tomb. Yet, there are still questions that need to be addressed.

Amos Kloner argues, "Jerusalem tombs in this period were typically family tombs carved into the limestone caves found throughout the region. The entrances to the most common type of burial caves were generally rectangular (nearly square in shape) and low."1 Kloner maintains that "Two kinds of recesses were carved into the cave walls for individual corpses: deep cavities, about 6 feet deep and 1.5 feet wide and high, called loculi (kochim in Hebrew); and shallow shelf-like niches, about 6 feet long. These shallower niches are called arcosolia if the top of the niche is arched and quadrosolia if the niche is rectangular with a straight top. About a year after the primary burial in one of these recesses, after the body had decomposed, the bones were reburied in a bone storage chamber, or during the first century C.E., in a stone ossuary, or bone box."2

Where were these bone storage spots, or the space for the ossuaries? Kloner strongly implies that both were part of the tomb. That seems reasonable enough and verified by Jewish law as written in tractate Semakhot, 13:7

"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."

Here we face a slight problem. Kloner writes: "I would go one step further and suggest that Jesus’ tomb was what the sages refer to as a borrowed (or temporary) tomb."3 During the Second Temple period and later, Jews often (my underline) practiced temporary burial. This is reflected, for example, in two quotations from rabbinic sources involving burial customs and mourning: "Whosoever finds a corpse in a tomb should not move it from its place, unless he knows that this is a temporary grave" (Semahot 13.5). Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar said: “Rabban Gamliel had a temporary tomb in Yabneh into which they bring the corpse and lock the door upon it …” (Semahot 10.8).

Kloner insists that "A borrowed or temporary cave was used for a limited time, and the occupation of the cave by the corpse conferred no rights of ownership upon the family. Jesus’ interment was probably of this nature." Here, Kloner is correct. Jesus' burial was indeed of a temporary nature. But the last paragraph cited implies that there were generally two kinds of burial caves: one of a temporary nature, the other for permanent, eternal burial. If we follow this, we are supposed to accept that Jews were buried for limited time periods in temporary tombs of which they did not have rights of ownership. If so, then the bones must have been transferred most likely to their own private tombs; however, we are not told who owned these temporary cave tombs. It appears that this suggestion violates the Jewish law so clearly stated in Semakhot 13:7 (above) and that it also contrasts even human nature and emotions. 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. Kloner’s suggestion somewhat diminishes both effects.

Still, we are told that "This suggests that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea was temporary, and – in the words of the Sages – a 'borrowed tomb'." Kloner argues, "It can be clearly seen that the burial of Jesus as described in the New Testament is an excellent example of the practice of temporary burial among Jews of – and following – the Second Temple period."4 At this point, he cites the same rabbinic sources he cited previously. The sources actually do not mention the word "temporary." But they state:

שמחות פי"ג ה"ה:

"המוצא מת בקבר, לא יזיזנו ממקומו, אלא אם כן יודע שהיה מקומו שאול לו".

Semakhot, 13:5:" He who finds a corpse in a grave will not move it from its place unless he knows that the spot (place) has been borrowed to him (the deceased)." The Hebrew word שאול (shaul) means borrowed, not temporary.

The second source states:

שמחות פ"י ה"ח

"רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר קבר שאול היה לו לרבן גמליאל ביבנה. . . "

Semakhot, 10:8: "R. Shimon son of Ela'zar says: Rabban Gamliel had a borrowed grave in Yabneh."

Again – no mention of the word "temporary." Why? The first source deals with a rule and its exception. Jewish law prohibits moving bodies from one spot to another in a tomb unless this tomb is a borrowed tomb. Actually, it concerns who lends a tomb and who borrows a tomb. Tombs were of strictly familial nature. Jews did whatever they could to keep strangers away from their own family tombs. Indeed, Jews could sell niches in tombs according to the Jerusalem Talmud (Ba. Bav. 3;1, 13d.) But this source elaborates the risk of losing the entire tomb to the buyer. Selling means a permanent trade, while borrowed means temporary and free of charge. If so – does "borrowed tomb" mean that the owner allows a dead stranger to "use" his tomb for a period of a year? And what if one of the owner's family members would die during that year? Who would wish to own a tomb if the use is temporary?

The answer is – the Sanhedrin. This formal judicial body was the only entity that would need such a tomb in the first place. 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. Rabban Gamliel of Yabneh was the head of the supreme Jewish court and this explains the meaning of "his" borrowed tomb. It was not his family's tomb, nor was it any other familial tomb. Familial tombs, even if they differ in size, were built to serve both stages of the Jewish burials of the time, preliminary and secondary. As Kloner states, the body was laid on a burial shelf or in a shallow niche for a year (preliminary) during which the flesh decayed, and at the end of that year the relatives would collect the bones for reburial (secondary and eternal). If Kloner is correct, then we have to ask: did the relatives collect the bones for reburial in another tomb? If so, why do so many tombs have burial shelves and niches for ossuaries or for bone storage? Why allocate such precious space, land, and so much money for the purposes of having two tombs for one family when one tomb is enough? Tractate Semakhot, 13:7, clarifies the entire issue:

חות פי"ג ז': ש

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.

"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 [tomb], even from an honorable place to a despised place – this is permitted, since it is his honor."

This source resolves the burial issue: no relatives could move a corpse or bones out of one tomb to another, but they could move their relative's corpse or bones from one spot to another inside their tomb with no limitations. Thus, no Jew who had a tomb needed any borrowed tomb when he died, since his preliminary burial took place in the same tomb as his secondary burial. Moving his body or bones out of his tomb was strictly forbidden. This particular source uses the Hebrew word שלו – his, thus leaving no doubts regarding ownership.

The only tombs that were not under these regulations were Sanhedrin tombs simply because they were temporary by definition, as the Mishna in Sanhedrin 6:5-6 firmly dictates. This is the reason that they were small, compared to regular familial tombs.

As to the size of Jesus' burial, Kloner argues, "Most likely Jesus’ tomb was a standard small burial with a standing pit and burial benches along three sides. It may or may not have had loculi. Scholars who have studied burial caves from Second Temple times have concluded that primary burials were often performed in small, hastily dug burial caves—and only later were loculi, arcosolia and bone storage chambers, or additional rooms added".5 Apparently, here we return to double-purposed tombs, that is, regular family tombs.

However, we encounter another problem that seems to be a contradiction. Kloner explicitly writes, "In any case, among the hundreds of Second Temple tombs in Jerusalem, none has been found which consists only of a small room containing a passage having one or two burial shelves along its sides and also situated right next to the outer entrance, through which one could look inside.6 Kloner continues, "Now let us try to picture the interior of the tomb in which Jesus was buried. That the tomb was small is suggested by the fact that the corpse could easily be seen from the entrance: Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary could apparently see the body from outside" (Mark 15:47; see also John 20:1).7

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus Tomb

According to Kloner, Jesus' tomb was smaller compared to standard tombs in Jerusalem, and, at the same time, the tomb was also standard or normal. We do know and agree that Jesus' tomb was indeed smaller than a normal, standard family tomb. Furthermore, according to Don Bahat, "In the course of restoration work in the Holy Sepulchre Church a hitherto unknown passage to this [Jesus'] tomb was found beneath the rotunda" (Bahat, 16, 18). This tomb, Bahat says, is the so-called Nikodemos' (or Joseph of Arimathea's) tomb, about 25 feet west of the Edicule, the structure that preserves the traditional location of Christ's tomb under the rotunda.8 A passage has been discovered that connected both tombs, yet according to the Mishna, familial tombs are not supposed to be linked or connected. The tomb beneath the rotunda was not a "normal" or a "standard" tomb. However, we believe it is indeed the temporary tomb of Jesus. It was significantly smaller than the standard\normal tombs; it was different in structure; it was connected to another tomb nearby. What does this "link" mean? The best and probably the only answer is that they were both Sanhedrin tombs. Moreover, they were linked when built to 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". If we are correct in our interpretation and both tombs were the Sanhedrin tombs, then the tombs were meant to be borrowed and temporary by their purpose and structure. Neither tomb can be the permanent burial place of Jesus. Jesus' permanent burial tomb cannot be in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We must search somewhere else.

Byron R. McCane, "Where no one had yet been laid, the Shame of Jesus' Burial,” B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998):431-452.


1 Kloner, stone, p. 9.

2 Ibid., p. 9.

3 Ibid., p. 12.

4 Kloner, rotunda, p. 274.

5 Kloner, stone, pp. 11-12; see also: Kloner, rotunda, p. 275.

6 Kloner, rotunda, p. 275.

7 Kloner, stone, p. 11; see also: Kloner, rotunda, p. 274.

8 Bahat, church, pp. 16, 18.

Comments (20)

This information, though fairly technical in nature, is fascinating even to a Buddhist such as myself. Fact is always far more interesting that fiction. Having read the NT documents a number of times, the stories are simply fantastic. Similar fantastic tales are told of Gautama the Buddha. It seems that we Buddhists, however, have far less trouble in seeing the fictional nature of these strange adornments to the accounts of the life of Gautama than Christians have in discerning the fictional nature of the fantastic stories about Jesus.

It seems to me that the Christian world is living in momentous times. It's future as a viable faith in a modern scientific world hangs in the balance as educational levels rise and information becomes available via the Internet. Christianity must grow up and lose it's credulous state of mind, and understand the nature and purpose of myth.

To the author of this article, Eldad Keynan, thank you for a very informative and thought-provoking read. I look forward to future installments and developments.


Venerable Tam Luc Do
Chua Tu Hieu Buddhist Temple
Buffalo, New York
#1 - Ven. Tam Luc Do - 11/17/2010 - 13:46

Thank you Eldad for your informative article. You are correct that Jesus' permanent burial tomb cannot be in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but why do you search for something that does not exist?
"He is not here: for he is risen, as he said...." (Matthew 28:6)
To Venerable Tam Luc Do, I do freely admit to having trouble discerning the fictional nature of the fantastic stories about Jesus.
#2 - Arthur Chrysler - 11/17/2010 - 19:18

To Arthur; yours is a very good question. The answer is, of course, the line that must be drwan between objective study and religious belief. A wise man told me recently: "whatever the case is, Jesus is alive as long as people believe he is and follow his way and teaching". This concept is right and requires no support by evidence; it depends on pure emotions which I seriously respect. Jesus' eternal burial site is nothing but another objective question. The concept I cite above must not be affected by any scientific study.
#3 - Eldad Keynan - 11/18/2010 - 01:05

I can see a logical link between 'burials were often intended to be temporary' and 'there is a certain probability that the burial of x was intended to be temporary'. But our assessment of that probability has to be tempered by what we know of x.
Where x = Jesus we have to ask how much reliance we can place on the NT account. If the answer is "full reliance" then the intention of the burial hardly matters, since the body vanished in the course of the supreme miracle. Why seek the living among the dead?
If we are prepared to trust the non-miraculous elements in the Gospel stories we would have to say that Evangelists in some sense knew what they were talking about. They tell us that Joseph of Arimathaea by way of courageous demonstration of loyalty to Jesus provided a burial spot. This is by no means the same as provision by the Sanhedrin for a felon it had condemned. And Joseph is not presented as intending to treat this particular body - presumably that of a prophet and a king in his estimation - as if he were just anyone. Remarks of much later sages about ordinary burials seem barely relevant to such a dramatic context.
Again, I can't see much indication that the Evangelists thought of the tomb as small or modest, rather as somewhat de luxe. It took a very great stone to close off the entrance. In Mark, the two women are not confined to what they see ab extra. There's room inside the tomb for both of them. In Jn Mary does have to bend to see inside but the interior is presented as quite spacious. We read that Mary sees two angels, presumably large and rather luminous beings not in an undignified cramped position.
At this rate, archaeological studies of ordinary tombs would tell us little. It might be quite unlikely that the original tomb would have survived all the vicissitudes of the city and of the Christians over the next few centuries.
Some might say that the discrepancies among the Gospels and their imperfect (and not always too friendly) ideas about Jewish things show that the Evangelists understood very little of the scene, even that they were making things up - even perhaps the involvement of Joseph. But if we took that view we would gain little by trying to rationalise what we would on this showing regard as basically a fabrication.
The conclusions we can draw from the 'often temporary' nature of burials where x = anyone and wher x = Jesus are very different.
#4 - Martin Hughes - 11/18/2010 - 09:40

The Sanhedrin regarded Jesus as a felon according to Jewish law. This dictated his preliminary burial site.
To make thing clearer: every private tomb was intended for both preliminary and secondary burials. The only tomb that was not private was the Sanhedrin tomb. Thus this was the only tomb that meant to be temporary by nature and structure; the felon's relatives would have the felon's remains after a year of preliminary burial. This is in sharp contrast comparing to the paractice of private tombs.
#5 - Eldad Keynan - 11/18/2010 - 11:39

Despite your very informative article, mainly based upon literary sources, I don't agree with your conclusions. You forgot to deal with the archeological evidence, that is, the work on the Holy Sepulcher done by the late Franciscan Vittorio Corbo. He had found beneath the church the remains of a pagan temple and a paved street dating to the 1st century. So, this is (very probably) the place where Christians thought Jesus was buried. Another tomb is just a speculation based upon literary sources and Jewish practices, but that is not confirmed by the memories of the first Christians.
#6 - Antonio Lombatti - 11/18/2010 - 13:07

Antonio - I think you should read both my articles again. I said clearly and I will again now: the tomb beneath the Holy Sepulcher Rotunda was, and is, the tomb in which Jesus' body was buried by Joseph Arimathea immediately after he removed it off the cross. That is: you do agree with me and with the archaeologists I correctly cite.
Now, with your permission, I'll cite you: "Another tomb is just a speculation based upon literary sources and Jewish practices, but that is not confirmed by the memories of the first Christians." A. There is another tomb nearby the Rotunda tomb, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (its photo is presented above). B. You seem to underestimate the Jewish practices: Jesus was born a Jew, he lived and was judged a Jew, he died a Jew and was buried a Jew. Jewish practices were the only practices that were reasonably applied in his case.
And C. With all due respect, it seems that the memories of the first Christians (by the way - almost all of them were Jews) came down to us in the form of literary sources. Do we have to dismiss them now?
#7 - Eldad Keynan - 11/18/2010 - 14:18

There might have been some misunderstanding. What did Antonio mean when he wrote:"another tomb"? If we agree that Jesus' preliminary burial took place in the tomb beneath the Rotunda, and the NT is correct and corresponding with the Mishna in this point, then the subject is not the other tomb in the Holy Sepulcher. Therefore, when Antonio wrote "another tomb" he probably meant a tomb in which Jesus' secondary\eternal burial took place. This tomb is what implied in the last line of my article. I would not expect any confirmation by the the first Christians for the existence of Jesus' secondary burial site. I wonder who would.
#8 - Eldad Keynan - 11/21/2010 - 09:40

The proposition that Jesus was Jewish doesn't entail that the fate of his body was determined according to rules which also were Jewish but were not written for long years after his time and after extremely traumatic intervening events and disputes. These documents offer especially little guidance for the behaviour of a sectarian group much aggrieved by the death of its leader whom it regarded, as far as we can see, as a king, deserving of an especially honourable burial.
The NT record states or implies, rightly or wrongly, that Joseph (existed and) was a sympathiser acting from personal commitment, not one to accept that Jesus was a felon. There is also the very strong implication, clearly a sore point between Christians and Jews, that Jesus' body could not be produced or located anywhere: if it could in fact have been located the whole record is severely fabricated and there is little point in taking its details seriously. As for memories, they faded: no interest is shown in the burial place - the Lord had risen, after all - and no suggestion is made that Christians should visit it. The later Christians would have had little opportunity to keep track of a place in which they had little initial interest and which was becoming part of an area of pagan building, as the archaeological record seems to show. By Constantine's time attitudes had changed and things that needed to be found were found - true crosses, the cellar where Solomon tortured demons. These findings deserve to be looked at critically.
We need to recognise, whatever our personal commitments of belief, how little we really know.
#9 - Martin Hughes - 11/21/2010 - 12:28

Martin, what you call "sect" was Jewish. We don't know how, actually, they saw their leader, but we do know what later authors tell us about them. The Mishna, while describing the Sanhedrin tombs, doesn't tell us that the Sanhedrin executed and buried any specific felon. It only describes the law and the "tools" for its application. It's the same with the Roman Law of the 12 Tables; it's written, but there's no formal record, as far as I know, for specific application. We accept it as the law that was valid. This is why we should accept the Mishna law, especially when it tells us what were the laws in earlier times, when the Sanhedrin actually existed. That is: before the destruction (70 CE).
You say: "The NT record states or implies, rightly or wrongly, that Joseph (existed and) was a sympathiser acting from personal commitment, not one to accept that Jesus was a felon." I accept this description of Joseph. Why? Because I don't see a reason why would the NT authors fabricate Joseph; the person of Joseph was not that important, but what he did and why he did it. The act(s) is the subject. Still, immediately after Jesus died on the cross, there was no other law according to which he must have been buried, BUT the Jewish law - and this is what happened. I also agree that Joseph could not and did not accept that Jesus was a felon. So - what would you do instead of Joseph?
#10 - Eldad Keynan - 11/21/2010 - 16:58

Some of this discussion is too obscure for an outsider to follow. Some is not. What is easy for anyone to detect, whether English is the language of ones birth or not, is the brittle-ness and edgy-ness of those who embrace and hold fast to the fairy tales of their childhood. I have heard it jokingly said on more than one occasion that "Jesus is Santa Claus for adults." Perhaps the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy should be added to the bundle as well.

Most educated Asians hold Jesus in high regard, but not the tall tales told about him, nor the bloodthirsty monster called Christianity which hypnotizes itself into believing it is following Jesus.

I am unsure what to make of the level of sanity of those who believe in things far more fantastic than a mere Santa Claus. Santa's miraculous deeds in one night are nothing when shown side by side with those deeds attributed to Jesus. So, why is belief in Santa Claus and his miracle working reindeer too incredible to believe, but the miracle working carpenter whose death somehow placated an angry deity, who rose with his body intact from death, and then flew away into the sky without an aeroplane or so much as a balloon or giant kite, credible?

Santa Claus is far less of a strain on my adult mind than the tall tales about Jesus that most Christians are unable to extricate their minds from.

Buddhism is from 4 to 6 hundred years older than Christianity, yet...

Few Buddhists are so foolish as to believe that the mother of Gautama, Queen Māyā (Perhaps Mary was modeled after Maya?) was a virgin impregnated by an elephant god sans intercourse, or that Gautama flew through the sky on a plume of fire and smoke. So many strange fables were fastened to Gautama, fables that somehow filled a need in the minds of our pre-scientific ancestors. Apparently, they still fill a need in the minds and emotional make-up of millions and myriads of Occidental Christians.

Christianity would be so much more if it simply admitted to itself that Mary did not give birth as a virgin sans intercourse, that Jesus did not raise anyone from actual death, that he did not rise physically from death and fly away. It would not be the intellectual laughing-stock it has become in this modern scientific world.

Present Jesus as what he actually was: a Jewish male by race and religion, a man of his time, a man deeply inspired by an inner vision of his identity which was suggested to him by the sacred writings of his people. A man who gave his life for his convictions. A martyr most certainly. His resurrection a timeless spiritual event, transcending history.

The vast majority of people remain in the religion in which they were born. This is as it should be. What a terrible place the world would reveal itself to be if everyone everywhere was an American Christian Caucasian, eating hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza, throwing their trash all over the planet.

Christianity has two thousand years of foul blood on it's maniacal hands. Those not born into a Christian nation view it as a dangerous mental illness, for we can read your history and the hellfire deeds performed by pious and devoted Christians. Or our fathers and grandfathers were victims of heinous crimes done for the glory of Jesus.

A bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. A very wise man uttered that truth. He was probably a Buddha. His followers are something else altogether.


Venerable Tam Luc Do
Chua Tu Hieu Buddhist Temple
Buffalo, New York
#11 - VenerableTam Luc Do - 11/22/2010 - 02:26

Venerable Tam Luc Do, you mentioned that, being of Buddhist faith, you felt that you were an "outsider" to Mr. Keynan's discussion. I don't know what makes anyone an "outsider" to the enlightening presentation, since Mr. Keynan never mentions his religious affiliation, and rather sticks to the facts concerning the possible burial site of the historical Jesus/Joshua.

Admittedly, he does reference Jewish sources, but it is unlikely that too many, if any, related and reputable sources from other faiths would be available from that time and place that could assist in this research. I was unable to detect any of the extreme Christian traits that you criticized in your response to Mr. Keynan's argument, and in any case, I fail to see the relevance to his arguments.

Had Mr. Keynan assumed some of the legends attesting to the reputed miracles of Jesus, he would most certainly never have written an article searching for the tomb of Jesus, since in some accounts of his miraculous nature, Jesus rose materially into "heaven" leaving no corpse to bury.

Thus it seems clear to me that Mr. Keynan is attempting to look for the tomb of a historical, mortal, Jewish man, under the influence of Jewish and Roman law and tradition, not a miraculous one of legend as you seem to suggest.

John Koopmans
Ontario, Canada
#12 - John Koopmans - 11/23/2010 - 18:19

Greetings John Koopmans of Ontario, Canada

I addressed your concersn before you even elucidated them in a response that was not published.

My remarks were not directed toward Dr. Keynan, nor any specific individual. You are not that unintelligent by any means to think so.

It would not be possible to make it more glaringly obvious that my remarks are directed toward Christianity and credulity of its adherents.

Further, what we are really skirting around the issue here is the Talpiot Tomb. Jesus is dead. He did not rise from the dead, except in the sense anyone does. The TT both anchors Jesus in history and demonstrates he was indeed Divine and human, as we are. Mortal.

I have much enjoyed the noisy raucous circus surrounding a mere tomb that housed a dead Jewishh male and his family.
I have had my say. The world will have the last laugh on biblical literalists in the Christian camp. Goodbye and good luck
John Koopmans of Ontario, Canada

Venerable Tam Luc Do
#13 - Venerable Tam Luc Do - 11/25/2010 - 00:40

Greetings again, Venerable Tam Luc Do,

You said:

"It would not be possible to make it more glaringly obvious that my remarks are directed toward Christianity and credulity of its adherents."

Thank you for the clarification. I still fail to see how that relates to Mr. Keynan's article or to any of the discussion.

John Koopmans
#14 - John Koopmans - 11/25/2010 - 18:22

Interesting reading are there any copies of you books still available...
#15 - elisabeth - 05/01/2011 - 00:03

Article: "Obscurities around the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher"
Mr. Keynan:
This concerns Sanhedrin tombs being loaned to executed Jewish felons until the passing of a year, after which survivors could retrieve and relocate the bones for permanent burial in an ossuary. The New International Version of Matthew 27:60 indicates that Joseph placed Jesus' body in "his own new tomb that he cut out of rock". Assuming this distinction is accurate -- and feel free to respond as well to this assumption -- would such a tomb still be considered one of those used "on loan" by the Sanhedrin?
Don Dickerson
#16 - Don Dickerson - 01/30/2012 - 12:15

Eldad, it makes sense that Jesus' body was placed in the Sanhedrin tomb, Joseph of Arimathea was indeed a member of the Sanhedrin and a discrete follower of Jesus, and it being Preparation Day the body needed to be entombed quickly. Joseph must have said to himself, "I knew I bought or made that tomb recently for something! God does speak to me!" And it also makes sense in the spiritual sense that it was a temporary tomb and not a familial "eternal" tomb because indeed on the first day of the week, Jesus' body was risen. Hence, it was quite temporary indeed. Not even three full days. I see no problem with this being a new tomb that Joseph acquired for whatever purposes...or could we say God's will? It does not have to be his familial permanent tomb.

So I think your whole paper serves only to reinforce the account of all four Gospels. In fact, I'm not sure what you are inferring about Jesus' body at all with this article. Is it that because this was a temporary tomb whose purpose was for members of the Sanhedrin to bury felons they condemned for a year (which makes no sense to me but is quite beside the point anyway) that Jesus was a felon? That seems in no way good logic and I hope you wouldn't go to court with that. Let's remember that this was a new tomb which no one had laid in Jesus was the first. Or that because it was a temporary tomb Jesus' body was moved after a year to somewhere else? Then surely someone who was not a fan of Jesus (of which there were many in the Sanhedrin) should have written that down somewhere as well. Why is it not in Josephus' works? Seems like a pretty big deal that after a year Jesus' body was still there and moved. I don't think that would have gone unnoticed or talked about or written down and confirmed in numerous accounts to simply disprove the claims that he was risen and squash the movement that threatened Jews' idea of who God is and what he wants.

Instead what we have are four different accounts of Jesus' body not being in the tomb and nothing else substantial to say otherwise. I would assume this is important because of claims Jesus made and the sole reason the Sanhedrin had to condemn him. Yet, have you found any of the contrary in your research? So what exactly are you saying anyway?
#17 - Val Jensen - 01/13/2013 - 06:56

Don and Val. I am amazed (positively) that people are still responding. Thanks! To the point, the tomb in which Joseph put Jesus' body right after the crucifixion, belonged or has been under the Sanhedrin's authority. This establishment didn't "loan" it to executed felons; it was its duty to take care of the felons it sentenced to death. since the Romans conquered the Holy Land (63 BCE)the Sanhedrin lost its authority to execute felons. Therefore, when Jesus died - ca. 30 CE - the Sanhedrin tomb was not in use for almost a hundred years. Jesus' body was the first to be intombed there after 100 years. No, it's not "brand new", but it looks like. It wasn't Joseph's tomb; Matt 27:60 says so, but other Gospels report different details. As the Sanhedrin's tomb, it couldn't accommodate Jesus' body for more than one year anyway. I never said His body was moved a year later - it's not what I think. I do not infer anything about Jesus' body and what happened to it later, only that we have to look for His eternal resting place elsewhere. That is provided that we leave theology aside. As for Josephus' reports, I believe there's quite a large body of scholarly works that question his reliability and the fact that events that took place in his own time escaped him, not to mention things that preceded his time by decades. True - he said nothing about Jesus' burial. As far as I remember, he also said nothing about Mary, Jesus' mother, and not a word about Mary Magdalene, or even Joseph, but no one questions their existence.
#18 - Eldad Keynan - 01/13/2013 - 15:58

Thanks Eldad for your response. Indeed Matthew says it was Joseph's tomb but you are right that the other Gospels simply say he was laid in a new tomb (perhaps it hadn't been used for a 100 years and it looked new as you say.)

I did not know exactly what you were inferring about Jesus' body but thanks for clearing it up. Leaving Josephus aside, I still believe members of the Jewish community or whomever would make a big enough deal if Jesus' body was still there and moved to an eternal resting spot somewhere else yet I have heard of no such accounts. It would have to take an enormous amount of effort I think to destroy all the evidence thereof written and spread. Since Jesus caused such a great stir within Roman occupied Israel at the time surely someone would be interested in knowing if Jesus' body was still in there after a year. I'm just surprised at the lack of any evidence. If it were true and it was moved, the Jewish Christians at the time had no political, economic or spiritual motive to continue to believe what they believe even unto persecution not far away. Why would they? What would they have gained?
#19 - Val Jensen - 01/14/2013 - 19:56

Val; what if someone came back to the Sanhedrin's tomb on Saturday night ot early Sunday and took the body away secretly? How could anybody report such an event? BTW: we find physical finds, of which there is no ancient account. The Roman Theater in Tiberias, for instance. Probably of Jesus' times, but no written account. Still - it's there. Visit Israel, I'll take you there to see with your own eyes.
Now: if an idea is built on the absence of a body, why find it?
#20 - Eldad Keynan - 01/17/2013 - 02:03

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