Date: Sat, 31 Jan 1998 13:57:18 -0500
To: Stevan Davies 
Subject: Re: 1st c. burials

On Fri, 30 Jan 1998, Stevan Davies wrote:


> It would be inconsistent for Pilate to approve Jesus INRI's burial
> in a rich man's tomb. But we aren't talking about burial but 
> temporary storage.


This seems like special pleading. Please define "temporary".

> Furthermore, whether Pilate was a bad character or not, it was his 
> duty to keep the peace in Judea. It was NOT his duty to stir up anger 
> and rebelliousness among the citizenry. If he did the latter, he was
> acting against orders, for which he eventually was removed in 
> disgrace. But we cannot assume that going along with the desires
> of his local allies (a member of the council) would be something he
> would not do. Certainly not. One MUST assume he tried to keep
> the peace in the province for that was his duty... even if one can 
> observe that sometimes he did things that he shouldn't have done
> to effect that duty.

This conflates two different things:

1. There was a burial.
2. There was a tomb burial.

You should make it clear what you're arguing here for. Your above argument
is reasonable if arguing for 1, but not so reasonable if arguing for 2.

> When Mark writes:
> It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). 
> So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member 
> of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God,
> went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. 
> The motive attributed to Joseph seems quite defensible in light of 
> Torah and other considerations... to dispose of the body over the 
> Sabbath.

Defensible if arguing for 1. But not for 2.

> It is also reasonable to think that a wealthy man would have
> a tomb available.

Why? The reasonableness escapes me here. The tomb just happened to be

> It would be virtually impossible to carve a fine 
> tomb out of rock in time for a funeral and so tombs would be carved
> ahead of time.

Please clarify your position. Are you arguing that the burial was in a new
tomb? In Joseph's family tomb?

> As Mahlon, I think, remarked, it surely was not the 
> case that criminals were buried right nearby.

Mahlon has not demonstrated this.

> And it probably was the 
> case that the wealthy had tombs nearerby. 



> Put the corpse in Joseph's tomb temporarily. Remove it at the 
> earliest possible time to the usual place for such corpses.



> So IMO we not only have multiple attestation, etc. We have in Mark
> a solid coherent tale

You've got to be kidding.

> wherein the principal actors behave in their
> own self-interests consistently some from religious motives (Joseph)
> and some from political motives (Pilate).


Clearly we're dealing with probabilities here. Certainties are few. One
thing that seems reasonably certain is that Jesus was crucified some time
during the Passover. Beyond that, there're only glimmers of reality here
and there. 

It is quite clear to me and many other commentators that our gospel
accounts of burial cannot be considered as historical. They are
contradictory and confused accounts. The confusion continues with the
defenders of such accounts. Since you have now gone into biblical
(quasi)inerrancy, it would be nice if you clarify the inerrancy of which
passages is superior to the inerrancy of others. Such as with what kind of
a tomb was it, and why was it near the place of the crucifixion? Carrying
a body for burial some distance would have contradicted the sabbath

I agree with Mahlon that I see more than enough elements of deus ex
machina here. 

I note, Steve, that you have not replied to my other post where I outlined
many more improbabilites of these burial accounts.

Best wishes,


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