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Jewish Burial Traditions and the Resurrection of Jesus

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author:
Craig Evans Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, NS, Canada

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Abstract

The burial of Jesus, in light of Jewish tradition, is almost certain for at least two reasons: (1) strong Jewish concerns that the dead—righteous or unrighteous—be properly buried; and (2) desire to avoid defilement of the land. Jewish writers from late antiquity, such as Philo and Josephus, indicate that Roman officials permitted executed Jews to be buried before nightfall. Only in times of rebellion—when Roman authorities did not honour Jewish sensitivities—were bodies not taken down from crosses or gibbets and given proper burial. It is highly improbable, therefore, that the bodies of Jesus and the other two men crucified with him would have been left unburied overnight, on the eve of a major Jewish holiday, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. Scholarly discussion of the resurrection of Jesus should reckon with the likelihood that Jesus was buried in an identifiable tomb, a tomb that may well have been known to have been found empty.

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