Was Jesus Christ Really Buried After His Death?

Craig Evans’ article Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right addresses the thought of Bart Ehrman who takes issue with the claims that Jesus Christ was buried after his death on the cross.  The basis of his argument rests on his faulty stance on Roman execution practices.  Yes, crucifixion was indeed a brutal and perhaps the cruelest method of torture and execution that the Romans could inflict on a person.  Ehrman believes that a significant part of the horror of crucifixion was the refusal of proper burial.  This is true in some cases, but Evans provides evidence that it was not always the result in many instances.  He sites Philo’s account of Flaccus in which it is stated that the bodies of those who had been crucified were given back to friends and families for burial as an act of mercy on Roman holidays.  This was done in an effort to keep peace and also to celebrate the emperor.  He also sites the Digesta which was the summary of Roman law.  Perhaps this source is one of greater credibility as it shows so clearly the Roman instruction that “the bodies of those condemned to death should not be refused to their relatives.”  Cases of those charged with high treason would be grounds for a denial of burial, but there are many other accounts which involve the return of a corpse to a family member.  In addition to this evidence, had there been a common practice of crucifying people with no intent to bury them, the Jewish people would have me furious and demanded that the rite practice of their faith be honored.  The last thing that the Romans would have wanted would be an uprising and a disturbance of the peace.  Furthermore, since Jesus was executed as a criminal, it would have been the responsibility of the Sanhedrin to arrange for a burial.  This was the practice of the time in Jerusalem, but it is not clear as to how far the practice was spread thought Israel.  The point is that it was perfectly normal, and in fact expected, for Joseph of Arimathea to request the body of Jesus for burial.  In short, the clear evidence provided by the burial traditions of the age lead anyone to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was buried after his death on the cross.

4 thoughts on “Was Jesus Christ Really Buried After His Death?”

  1. This article left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. what do I mean by that? The fact that a Bible Scholar shows himself obstinate in denying that Jesus had a proper burial, constantly suggests it’s according to the Roman custom. How you might ask? Well, the bodies of criminals were left on the cross to feed the animals, even though this clearly contradicts some ancient sources, which raises red flags on the way one does textual criticism. Craig A. Evans exemplifies a prudent way of showing the correct way of looking up the evidence that exists regarding the Roman practice of crucifixion. Evan does not exclude aspects of the evidence, as does Bart Ehrman. Rather, Craig. A Evans considers his arguments. Furthermore, at the same time he expands and considers the same way of thinking for other valid arguments.
    Lou, you did a great job showing the problematic presented by Ehrman’s arguments and showed how Evans handle it. Great job.

  2. Lou, you did a very good job of presenting Ehrman’s arguments and Evans’ corrections and critiques. Ehrman’s assertion that a cruel aspect of crucifixion is the refusal of burial may be a valid one, provided that it is coupled with the admittance that there is historical evidence (Philo, Digesta, etc.) that some of the executed were buried. I think that to assert that because “some” people were denied a burial gives evidence that perhaps Jesus wasn’t buried is a mistake and poor historical examination. There is nothing in the tradition of Jesus’ death that suggests, in any way, that he was not buried. Further, there is ample evidence that he was buried- in fact, the entire faith of Christianity rests upon this fact, does it not? Outside of the Gospels and the tradition, the extra-biblical evidence that burial for the crucified was an accepted practice lends great weight to the assertion that Jesus was buried. I completely agree that, when you look at the specific circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, it is logical to assume that the Romans would allow Jesus to be buried according to Jewish custom.

  3. There is archaeological evidence that the bodies of the crucified were given to the families. Evans points to the ossuary found containing the remains of the Jewish man named Yehohanan, who was obviously crucified. His ankle bone still had a crucifixion nail embedded in it. Further evidence of the historically accurate account of crucifixion in Matthew’s Gospel is the this man’s legs appear to be broken to hasten death as the criminals were who were crucified with Jesus.

  4. I am sadden to see that in this day and age, there are still “scholars” arguing to the contrary the generally accepted traditions regarding Christ’s death and burial. At the same time, I am thankful to the authors like Craig Evans who has effectively, logically and historically taken down that argument for good. Thank you, Lou, for the good summary.

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