1 Corinthians 15:3-8: 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures 4 and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.Theissen and Merz write:
The analysis of the formula tradition about the resurrection of Jesus allows the following conclusion: a tradition in 1 Cor 15.3b-5, which goes back very close to the events themselves, attests appearances to both individuals and groups. The credibility of this tradition is enhanced, because it is in part confirmed by the narrative tradition, which is independent, and because in the case of Paulwe have the personal testimony of an eye-wtiness who knew many of the other witnesses. There is no doubt about the subjective authenticity of these testimonies; they come from people who attest an overwhelming experience in good faith." [The Hitorial Jesus A Comprehensive Guide, pg 490]Joseph Fitzmyer writes:
Because Paul cites a bit of the early Christian kerygma about the risen Christ, this passage is usually regarded as preserving the oldest record of the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Along with 1 Thess 1:10 and Rom 4:25; 6:3–4, which echo the same pre-Pauline kerygma, it is older than any of the reports in the four Gospels, and for that reason is highly esteemed. [Anchor Bible, 1 Corinthians]Paul provides contemporary-primary date that predates the Corinthian community (he is handing it on and) that goes back to the earliest days of the church and to Jesus's original followers. One thing that is very curious as well, if we are allowd to peak at some later narrative details, is that of all the individuals listed, Paul persectued Jesus, Peter denied him and fled and James may have been unbelieving at first. Dale Allison tells us the verb bury
"would hardly be used of the unceremonious dumping of a criminal into an unmarked trench as dog food: that was not burial but its denial. Now whether or not 1 Cor 15:4 summarizes an early form of the story about Joseph of Arimathea, "it would be strange," as Barnabas Lindars observed, "to include this detail in the statement if the burial of Jesus was in fact unknown." [Resurrecting Jesus]It seems then that we have strong evidence for the belief that Jesus was in fact buried in the earliest church. Unfortunately, Paul doesn't tell us anything specific so we cannot use him as evidence to validate the details of empty tomb story first found in the Gospel of Mark. For example, Paul doesn't help us decide if it was an expensive tomb -- hewn in rock with a fancy, expensive and uncommon rolling stone, or a common tomb Jewish leaders would use for executed criminals? Was Jesus given an honorable burial or simply wrapped in linen and put in a tomb to satisfy Jewish piety and the commands of God? Paul doesn't help us resolve that issue.
There is no mention of the empty tomb in this kerygmatic fragment, and its absence has often been used to question the Gospel accounts of it or to maintain that it was an item that was only added to the primitive preaching at a later date. What is usually overlooked, however, is the stereotyped four-part formulation of the tradition cited here, which presents the essentials of death, burial, resurrection, and appearance in a well-established enumerative mode of expression, but not with all the details. It presumes that Christ's risen body (unmentioned) was no longer where it was laid in burial. [Anchor Bible Commentary,1 Corinthians]Paul was not actually making a historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus. Gordon Fee writes:
Although the enumeration of appearances might suggest otherwise, Paul is not here setting out to prove the resurrection of Jesus. Rather, he is reasserting the commonly held ground from which he will argue against their assertion that there is no resurrection of the dead. To do so he appeals to "the tradition" of the whole church, which he preached and they believed, namely that Christ died, was buried, and was raised on the third day. The emphasis is threefold: First, he reiterates both at the beginning (vv. 1-2) and the end (v. 11) that this tradition is something they have indeed believed. Two points are made here: (a) In keeping with the emphasis at the end of the preceding argument (14:33,36), what Paul preached and they believed is the common ground of the whole church (cf. vv. 3-5, 11). (b) Alongside that emphasis is the reminder that their very existence as believers is at stake on this matter. That is, any deviation from this gospel which "saved them" and "in which they stand" puts them in danger of "believing for naught." [New International Commentary, 1 Corinthians]We have good reason to believe this very early tradition Paul hands on is but a summary statement. Dale Allison writes:
"A Jew or Gentile God-fearer, hearing this formal, extremely abbreviated report for the first time, would have difficulty understanding it; at the least a number of questions would certainly occur to him, which Paul could only answer through the narration and explanation of events. Without clarifying delineation, the whole thing would surely sound enigmatic to ancient ears, even absurd." [Hengel, "Begrabnis," 127. Cf. Marco Frenschkowski, Offenbarung und Epipbanie^ vol. 2, Die verborgene Epipbanie in Spatantike und frubem Christentum (WUNT2.80; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 229]So we know there was much more to the story at this point. Since Paul does not give us further details we cannot be certain of exactly what they were or were not. But we can certainly use this to raise a very wary eye at the dubious claim "Paul invented Christianity." Gordon Fee writes:
"and that he was buried," functions to verify the reality of the death. In the present context it emphasizes the fact that a dead corpse was laid in the grave, so that the resurrection that follows will be recognized as an objective reality, not merely a "spiritual" phenom- enon. Therefore, even though the point is incidental to Paul's own concern, this very early expression of Christian faith also verifies the reality of the empty tomb stories.6 1 It is common in some quarters of NT scholarship to deny this latter;62 but that seems to be a case of special pleading. The combined emphasis on death, burial, and third-day resurrection would have had an empty tomb as its natural concomitant, even if not expressed in that way. Given this language, embedded in the heart of the earliest tradition, the early Christians and Paul would find it unthinkable that some would deny that they believed that the tomb was also empty, or that those stories were the creation of a later generation that needed "objective verification" of the resurrection. One may not believe that Jesus rose and that the tomb was therefore empty; but one may scarcely on good historical grounds deny that they so believed/ [New International Commentary, 1 Corinthians]314-316
Although Crossan considers Joseph of Arimathea "to be a total Markan creation in name, in place, and in function,"605 fictional names do not seem to be standard fare either in Mark or his tradition. Surely most of the named characters must on any reading be historical persons, and Joseph of Arimathea is, apart from late legend, known only as the one who buried Jesus. The person and place are both obscure, occur- ring outside the four canonical gospels only in late, apocryphal sources, and they have no obvious biblical or theological or apologetical significance. So one might suppose that "Joseph of Arimathea" is historical memory, like other names in Mark, such as John the Baptist, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Judas, James the brother of Jesus, Mary the mother of Jesus, Herod Antipas, Pilate.There is not gurantee Mark doesn't do this here or that he cannot use names so creatively any history behind the details could be lost. Brown thinks Mark has no reason to invent a bold and couragous membr of the Sanhedrin who is described as eagerly anticipating the arrival of God's kingdom. Mark makes it clear all the Sanhedrin have just falsely condemned Jesus as deserving of death. Raymond Brown wrote:
That Mark created such an identification is most unlikely since it runs counter to his hostile generalizations casting blame on all the members of the Sanhedrin for the injustice of sentencing Jesus to death (14:55,64; 15: I).I share Brown's sentiments that Mark does not present Jospeh as a disciple of Jesus and he argues for the antiquity of the burial tradition on the following grounds:
The contention that Mark was presenting Joseph as a pious Sanhedrist but not as a disciple of Jesus makes sense of a detail that is the Achilles' heel of the disciple interpretation. No canonical Gospel shows cooperation between Joseph and the women followers of Jesus who are portrayed as present at the burial, observing where Jesus was put (Mark 15:47 and par.). Lack of cooperation in burial between two groups of Jesus' disciples is not readily intelligible, especially when haste was needed. Why did the women not help Joseph if he was a fellow disciple, instead of planning to come back after the Sabbath when he would not be there?32 Lack of cooperation between the women followers of Jesus and a Sanhedrist responsible for the death of Jesus whose only wish was to get the criminal's corpse buried is quite intelligible. He would not have allowed them near precisely because they were followers of Jesus. GPet 12:50 dramatizes what Mark implies by specifying that (on the day of death) the Jews had prevented Mary Magdalene from rendering at the tomb the customary burial services to the beloved.Joel Marcus (Mark Anchor Bible V2) summarizes Dale Allison's arguments for historicity in Resurrecting Jesus:
This interpretation of Mark also makes sense of some other notices about the burial of Jesus that may represent ancient tradition. (With effort all the following are capable of being explained in another way, but their wording favors a burial of Jesus by Jews condemnatory of Jesus rather than by his disciples.) A sermon in Acts 13:27-29 reports: "Those who lived in Jerusalem and their rulers ... requested Pilate to have him killed; and when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb." John 19:31 tells us that the Jews asked Pilate that the legs of the crucified be broken and they be taken away. A variant reading at the end of John 19:38 continues the story: "So they came and took away his body." Similarly in GPet 6:21 we read, ''And then they [the Jews] drew out the nails from the hands of the Lord and placed him on the earth." Justin (Dialogue 97.1) phrases the burial thus: "For the Lord too remained on the tree almost until evening [hespera], and towards evening they buried him"-in a chapter where the context suggests that the "they" may be the Jewish opponents of Jesus rather than his disciples. The plural may be simply a generalization of the memory of Joseph who was one of "the Jews," i.e., not a disciple of Jesus at this time but a pious Sanhedrist responsible for sentencing Jesus and acting in fidelity to the deuteronomic law of burying before sunset those hanged (crucified) on a tree. [Death of the Messiah V2 pg 1218]
Allison cites in favor of its historicity, among other points, its conflict with the overall tendency of the Gospels to depict the Sanhedrin negatively; its linkage of Joseph with Arimathea, an obscure and unimportant place; the pre-Pauline reference to Jesus' buria in 1 Cor 15:4; the evidence that Roman bodies sometimes released the bodies of eecuted criminals, including the crucified, to their families and friends; and the likelihood that the earliest Christians knew where Jesus had been buried, since his death had occurred in public nd had generated enormous interest. In Allison's opinion, moreover, if Jesus' corpse had been dumped by his enemies into a mass grave for criminals, early Christian authors would probably have interpreted this action as a fulfillment of Isa 53:9 ("They made his grave with the wicked").It must also be noted that Mark's account is far less adorned than the three authors that came after him but it also shows some signs of apologetical embellishment. It seems to presuppose a very expensive tomb for crucified criminal but more on that below. No one can definitively say that Jesus was not buried in a wealthy sympathizers tomb but in my estimation, but even if this is denied, the evidence is against wholsale creation. Jesus was buried in a tomb by the Jewish leaders, including one named Joseph or Arimathea, after his death in accordance with Deut 21:23.
|Mark 15:42-47||Matthew||Luke 23:50-56||John 19:38-42|
|42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead, and summoning the centurion he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then Joseph bought a linen cloth and, taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.||57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who also was himself a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.||50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph who, though a member of the council, 51 had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.||38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.|
"Matthew adds important details, noting that the linen cloth was “clean” and that the tomb was Joseph’s (i.e., “his own”) and was “new.” These details mitigate the shame of a dishonorable burial. The newness of the tomb probably means that the tomb had not been used before, which is exactly how the evangelist Luke understands it (cf. Luke 23:53, “where no one had ever been laid”). If the tomb had not been used, then no criminals had been buried in it. Thus the tomb was not yet a “place of dishonor”. But because no righteous person had been buried in it, it was not yet a “place of honor,” in which an executed person like Jesus could not be buried. The tomb of Joseph was, in a sense, a neutral place – neither dishonorable nor honorable."Matthew also adds in a guard story as well and the very strange scene most commentators quickly brush over where corpses of the many dead saints are said to come out of their tombs: "The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many." Some refer to this less reverently as "Matthew's zombies" who curiously wait inside their tombs until after Jesus's resurrection. Why do they do this? Matthew may be putting out an eschatological fire of his own making: they preceed Jesus in rising from the dead. Did Matthew, who is probably drawing off of Ezek 37, think Jesus was the "fruit-fruits" as Paul relays (1 Cor 15:20-23) if a bunch of dead saints rose before him?
From the LXX of Neh 3:16 we learn that the sepulcher of King David was in a garden, and Acts 2:29 shows that David's tomb was popularly familiar in NT times. Was the garden burial of Jesus remembered because it was seen as symbolically appropriate for the Son of David? Was the tradition recalled by John in particular because of his emphasis that Jesus of Nazareth on the cross was triumphantly pro- claimed as "the King of the Jews"? The evidence for this thesis is not sufficient to establish proof, but such a symbolism would be a most appropriate conclusion to John's PN.Curiously, Luke adds the same detail Matthew does and claims the tomb had never been used. History remembered, evidence of Luke's usage of Matthew or coming up with the same apologetic regarding Jesus's burial? Mark Goodacre wrote an article, How Empty Was the Tomb? [JSNT 2022] and said:
The difficulty with standard approaches to these narratives is that scholars seldom discipline their imaginations by looking at real first-century tombs in Jerusalem. It is in some ways unsurprising given that the majority of excavations of tombs in Jerusalem have happened since 1945, many over the last 30 to 40 years, and a good number of these are simply accidental discoveries that have resulted from new building projects, like the discovery of the Talpiot Tombs in 1980 and 1981. Moreover, the indispensable study of Jerusalem’s necropolis by Amos Kloner and Boaz Zissu appeared as recently as 2007 (Kloner and Zissu 2007), and Rachel Hachlili’s definitive work on Jewish funerary customs, practices and rites was published just two years earlier (Hachlili 2005), and New Testament scholars are still catching up. . . .The key point that emerges from the study of Jerusalem’s necropolis is that rock-cut tombs of the kind mentioned in the gospels are always multi-person tombs. The tombs house families. They contain multiple bodies and multiple ossuaries. They never appear to have been built to contain just one body.Goodacre says, "Apologetic anxiety leads to the characterization of the tomb as ‘new’ (Matthew and John), ‘in which no one had been laid’ (Luke and John), but it is possible that the appearance of Mark’s young man ‘on the right’ is significant." We wouldn't want Jesus's body confused with somone elses and hence the "newness" of the tomb being introduced to Mark's version.
At Bethany Mark 14:8 had Jesus' body anointed by a woman beforehand for burial, and this was proleptic precisely because Mark had no tradition of an anointing (or of other kind acts) done for Jesus' body after his death. The anointing at Bethany before the passion was the only item appropriate to an honorable burial that the Marcan Jesus is said to have received; and Mark's audience would have been expected to remember it since '''Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.".Brown writes:
By the little they narrate about Joseph's actions, the evangelists (even those who make him a disciple of Jesus) give an impression of an expeditious burial without frills. Joseph requests the body of Jesus from Pilate; the request is granted; Joseph takes the body, wraps it with cloth(s), and places it in a tomb (nearby). No mention is made of washing the body or anointing it immediately before burial. Only as the basic account is modified in the later Gospels under the impact of the increasing ennoblement of Joseph is it stated that the cloth was clean white, that the body was washed (GPet), that there were spices (John: but even then, no anointing), and that the tomb was new and even Joseph's own. While the need for haste was certainly a motive for the frugality of the burial in the basic account, such a burial also matches the account's portrait of Joseph: one who was motivated by God's rule (kingdom) expressed in the law that the crucified should be taken down and buried before sunset, but one who at this stage had no reason to honor the condemned criminal.Brown further lays out arguments for historicity:
How much of that is history? That Jesus was buried is historically certain. That Jewish sensitivity would have wanted this done before the oncoming Sabbath (which may also have been a feast day) is also certain, and our records give us no reason to think that this sensitivity was not honored. That the burial was done by Joseph from Arimathea is very probable, since a Christian fictional creation from nothing of a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right is almost inexplicable, granted the hostility in early Christian writings toward the Jewish authorities responsible for the death of Jesus. Moreover, the fixed designation of such a character as "from Arimathea," a town very difficult to identify and reminiscent of no scriptural symbolism, makes a thesis of invention even more implausible. The very fact that the later Gospels had to ennoble Joseph and to increase the reverence of the burial given to Jesus shows that Christian instincts would not have freely shaped what I have posited for the basic account. While high probability is not certitude, there is nothing in the basic preGos- pel account of Jesus' burial by Joseph that could not plausibly be deemed historical.Once we remove all the bells and whistles of the later accounts, and get past the "rolling stone." the basic details behind Mark's narrative are likely historical. Jesus was buried by pious Jews --the same ones partly responsible for his death--shortly after. This would have outside the walls of Jerusalem and possibly in a place reserved for the burial of criminals.
"We have to assume that the story in the synoptics has been narrowed down in its focus to Jesus, ignoring the two others who were no longer theologically or dramatically important. Craig, Assessing 176 raises the possibility that if Joseph were both a delegate of the Sanhedrin and a secret disciple, he obtained all three bodies but disposed of the criminals' bodies in a common grave." [Death of the Messiah pg 1216]John Nolland writes:
None of the Evangelists has any interest in the fate of the bodies of the two criminals. But Jewish sensibilities would have been as much concerned about the disposal of their own bodies as of that of Jesus.[NIGTC: Matthew]We must also contend with the notion that the tomb story and burial may be historical whereas details about the two individual on the Cross with Jesus are largely fictional. It may also be true that all three "criminals" were buried in a commons tomb reserved for such persons by the Jewish authorities and that while Jesus's burial is very secure historically, our earliest acount may have already embellished it. He may have been buried with the two criminals in the same tomb by the Jewish athorities.
To this one could retort that the imaginations of Jesus' adherents transferred Jesus from a criminal's pile to a tomb in order to spare him dishonor. But if so, such a move must have been taken quite early in- deed, before the tradition in 1 Cor 15:4, and the suggestion misses a blindingly obvious point. Christians did not save Jesus from the fact of crucifixion but rather redeemed the cursed cross. In their own way they even gloried in it. People capable of that incredible and unprecedented theological move could surely have redeemed burial in a trench or a corpse on a cross if circumstances had presented them that lesser challenge. Are we to believe that Christians who acknowledged the hu- miliation of crucifixion were somehow unable to allow that Jesus was denied a decent burial, as though the latter were so more dreadful than the former?If Jesus was buried in a mass grave Christians would probaly have appealed to Isaiah 53:9: "They made his grave with the wicked. . .". With that being said, we cannot confirm that Mark's details about a huge tomb hewn out of rock being sealed with a rolling stone are necessarily historical. In the same way Allison suggests Christians "redeemed the cursed cross" they may have redeemed a less honorable burial. I am not suggesting Jesus was tossed in a mass grave but that he was simply wrapped in linen and and placed in a common tomb. Washing his bloody body and annointing it as John suggests with 100lbs (75 in modern measuring systems) would have been an honorable Jewish burial. Jesus may have had a no-frills Jewish burial by those who condemned him of death and handed him over to the Romans. We cannot rule this out on historical grounds. While Mark did not invent Joseph of Arimathea, if we have single attestation for details that appear 40 years after Jesus's death, we cannot axiomatically grant them all historicity. Jesus could have been buried in a common tomb Jewish leaders used for executed criminals, possibly like those two crucified along side of him. Rolling stones were extremely uncommon at the time and a sign of being very weathy and that detail does not immediately commend itself as history.
Most Second Temple cave-tombs in and around Jerusaoem are sealed with square or rectangular stones; only four of the nine hundred-plus tombs so far discovered are sealed with circular stones, and those tombs apparently belonged to rich and prominent people (most famously, the Herodian family and Queen Helena of Adiabene). The rectangular stones, weighing roughly five hundred pounds, are chiseled to fit like stoppers into the tombs' openings and would have been difficult to maneuver into position (see Kloner, "Rolling Stone"; McCane, "Stone, 33). The round disk-shaped stones, though much more massive, (some fiteen hundred to three thousand pounds, by Kloner's estimate), are set upright in transverse channels, which would have afacilitated their rolling into plac with the aid of levers (cf. Finnegan, Arhcaeology, 202).Matthew has the stone rolled back in front of the women, contradicting what Mark narrates, and he seems to presumes a boulder as the angel sits on it. But round stones which were rare in antiquity would commonly be rolled into a recess in the wall. The image to the left depicts this but this was not universal. Nothing is impossinle in this scenario but we have two unlikely situations compounded together. Kloner poses a solution:
But we must remember that "rolled" is a translation of the Greek word kulio, which can also mean "dislodge," "move back" or simply "move." THis ambiguity in the test, combined with the archaeological evidence, leads me to agree with the scholar Gustave Dalman, who, as early as 1935, suggested that Matthew 27 does not refer to a round blocking stone. In Matthew 28 and angel sit on the stone afer "rolling" it back. If the stone had been rolled back between two walls, as was the case with Second Temple period round stones, it would have been impossible to sit on it. Indeed, it would be difficult to sit on the edge of a disk-shaped stone even if it had been pulled back from the tomb entrance. A square blocking stone would make a much better perch. Of course, with angels anything can happen, but it seems likely that the human author of the Gospel would have described the angel sitting on a squae stone. It may be worthwhile returning for a moment to the Hebrew word for these blocking stones, both round and square: golal or golel (plural, golalim). The root means "to roll" as well as "to move." [BAR, 1999, Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus' Tomb?]There are three options here. 1) Joseph of Arimathea is very rich (see Matthew) and has one of these extremely rare and exotic tombs in Jerusalem. The strength of this will probably depend on whether Joseph is viewed as a follower of Jesus or not. In that case burial in this tomb makes sense but if he were simply burying a criminal to satisfy Jewish piety, this is much less likely unless it was out of extreme necesseity. 2) The description could mean moving a rounded object. While referencing Kloner's article Dale Allison says "This seems plausible; cf. Josh 10:18 LXX; 2 Kgs 9:33 LXX; Diodorus Siculus 17.68.2." Markus is critical of such an interpretation and thinks a round, rolling stone with an ornate tomb is meant. 3) The final option is the round stone is a legendary development and part of Mark's otherwise sober narrative aimed at drammatizing Jesus's burial. He gives him a kingly tomb. Note that John avoids this issue and simply states the stone was "taken away" and we know Mary has to look down to see in.