Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 17:45:26 -0500
To: "Mahlon H. Smith" 
Cc:, crosstalk 
Subject: Re: 1st c. burials


There's a couple of important points in your post that I wanted to note.

On Sun, 1 Feb 1998, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:


> This leaves option 2 as the only type of "burial" that crucified bandits
> could plausibly have been allowed by their executioners. Mass
> executioners & murderers throughout history have regularly thrown the
> corpses of their victims into hand dug pits (with or without something
> to hasten the disintegration of the body) & simply covered them up. Such
> interment does not really qualify as "burial" in the ceremonial sense.
> It is more like burying garbage to composte it. 
> I personally lean toward this option for the disposal of corpses of
> victims crucified on the eve of Passover or other Jewish holidays. For
> these could not have been many & a such a practice would be consistent
> with the inhumane brutality of Roman crucifixion & would not have
> required an accomodation with families who own tombs around Jerusalem. 
> There is only one major problems with this position:
> (a) Lack of physical evidence. Excavations around Jerusalem have not yet
> uncovered any evidence of a mass grave for criminals crucified or not.

Well, I don't find this too significant. Lots of this area has not been
excavated. Buildings could well have been built over the centuries on such
sites. In every city there's a place where strangers and criminals and
slaves are interred. How can it be otherwise? Nobody wants to have dead
bodies lying around. Such places could have been different at different

Think of the times of wars, epidemics, famines and such. Thousands of
people would have been dying and buried in mass graves. Where are these
graves? Who knows? But there's no doubt that such mass graves are there


> If Jesus had a bandit's unceremonious interment, however, then Paul
> could have received a "tradition" that Jesus was "buried." What happened
> to Jesus' physical corpse & skeleton could matter less to Paul, since
> his view of resurrection is a theory of transformation that has nothing
> to do with the resuscitation of carcasses anyway.

Now, this is important. The conception of the spiritual resurrection is
clear in Paul.

> Witness 1 Cor 15:36-44:
> "You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And
> what you sow is NOT the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps
> of wheat or some other grain...So it is with the resurrection of the
> dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable...It is
> sown an ensouled (YUXIKON) body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there
> is an ensouled body, there is also a spiritual one."
> Paul knew nothing of a resurrected corpse of Jesus.

And this is probably because this was not the early Christian faith.

> For he does not
> exempt Jesus from his general theory of resurrection. Once buried,
> Jesus' crucified carcass was bound to disintegrate (by whatever means).
> For Paul, what is important is Jesus' spirit which was freed from its
> earthly shell and came to animate another "body": the Christian
> ekklesia. It is only gospel writers who did not share Paul's mystical
> perspective who needed an empty tomb as evidence of the resurrection.

This is so. The concept of the material resurrection came along at the
time of the later editing of the gospels and is reflected there in these
stories of tomb burial.

Best regards,


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