Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark, when not read through the lens of later Gospels, suggests that Jesus was not given an honorable burial: Jesus is buried in accordance with the Law and placed in "a tomb," without anointing or other niceties that were the norm when someone was buried honorably by their family. The use of a linen shroud may suggest that it was possible to be buried even more dishonorably - but not much (Nahum ben Yehuda has a collection of rabbinic references to burial shrouds).

A new article in The Bible and Interpretation by Eldad Keynan (HT Jim West) the customs of Jewish burial in the time of Jesus are explained. In addition, we get the important information that "the tomb beneath the Holy Sepulcher has no niches but only a shelf, and it is smaller compared to regular family tombs." This leads Keynan to suggest that this was probably the site used by the Jerusalem court for burial of criminals. It was used for preliminary burial, not being intended for final burial.

It is striking that the traditional site for the burial of Jesus (hidden for a while by a temple of Aphrodite) and the details of Mark's Gospel (obscured or even contradicted by later authors) converge in agreement on this point.

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