Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Death of Christ - part 2

In yesterday's post I demonstrated a strange archaeological lack of crucified skeletal remains: to this day only one archaeological find confirms the ancient practice of crucifixion inflicted on thousands for a period extending across multiple centuries. A key explanation for this is that the bodies were not commonly granted decent burials.

Like the case of Yehohanon ben Hagkol, for Jesus to be buried in a tomb would have required very special circumstances, without which his body also would have been subjected to the same humiliating and inhumane conclusion : animal scavenging by dogs,  birds etc. That would provide ample motivation for Joseph of Arimathea to request a much more suitable solution for Jesus' body. So yes,  for Jesus to be buried in a tomb following public execution absolutely necessitated Joseph's intervention.

In fact, one interesting question to ponder would be quite what Jesus expected to happen to his body. The evangelists retelling the Jesus stories are keen to remind readers (and listeners) that Jesus would have been in no way surprised at his resurrection, but nowhere does he seem to assume that this resurrection would take place in the confines of a tomb - all he is alleged to have specified was that he would arise "on the third day". Indeed he would have been well aware of the brutal treatment of such renegades. If he really did to and fro from Jerusalem as John recounts then he may well have seen others crucified and their usual body-dump zone.

The fact that special extenuating circumstances would have been necessary in no way diminishes the possibility of Jesus receiving a decent burial.  I have not yet had the courage to wrestle with Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (that day may never come - some of what I have heard of his history-writing appears to be nothing short of contrived speculation), but it would be a typical Bauckham argument to speculate that since Joseph of Arimathea was a follower of Jesus, that they might have discussed this arrangement prior to his execution. For my part, I would be quite skeptical of any such proposal, which would imply that Jesus was a bit hazy on the details in his own mind about quite where he would resurrect from, but we could reasonably imagine that he envisaged being raised from around other rotting corpses rather than from a quiet respectable tomb.

There are a couple of other details I still want to hash out, so there will probably be a Part 3 to this mini-series on the death of Christ.

Alternatively,  you can check out Part 1 to this mini series here.  

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