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                                            Could Jesus be buried elsewhere?
                                                    Updated April 9, 2012

Background

This line of argument sounds deceptively simple.  Opponents of the Talpiot tomb argue that the Talpiot tomb can not
be the family tomb of Jesus because if Jesus was buried he would have been buried someplace else.

This argument is actually much more complicated than it seems.  This is so because opponents of the tomb have taken
a variety of positions with regard to this question, most notably:

  • Bodily Resurrection:  Jesus mortal remains were buried following the crucifixion in a rock-hewn tomb but his body
    was resurrected on the third day.  We can be certain that the Talpiot tomb is not the tomb from which he was
    resurrected.
  • Not Buried in a JerusalemTomb:  Even if Jesus was not resurrected, he would have been buried in his homeland
    of Galilee.  Also, it is unlikely that his family could afford the price of a family tomb site in Jerusalem.
  • Survived the Cross:  Jesus survived the crucifixion and never ascended into heaven.  He could be buried
    anywhere, including India.
  • Left to Scavengers:  The body of Jesus met the common fate of others crucified by the Romans.  His body was
    left to the scavengers.
  • Other Sites: There are other well known possible alternative tomb sites in the Jerusalem area.

The arguments for and against each of these positions will be reviewed briefly below.

Bodily Resurrection

“Bodily Resurrection” is the primary argument used by Christians for why the Talpiot tomb can not be the tomb of Jesus
of Nazareth.  Note however, that this is an argument against the Talpiot tomb being the actual long-term tomb of Jesus,
but it still leaves the possibility that the Talpiot tomb is associated with the family of Jesus.  

The standard Christian view is that Joseph of Arimethea arranged for the burial of Jesus immediately following his
death by crucifixion.  Many Christians endorse the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchres as the most likely place for
the location of this tomb.  See Gibson for a discussion of this point. [5]

But…

It may be that Jesus was buried initially at the site of this church.  However, this is essentially irrelevant to our questions
regarding the Talpiot tomb.  Based on the New Testament accounts it seems quite likely that this initial tomb was
opened by someone on or before the third day and that the body of Jesus was removed.  Setting aside supernatural
explanations, we need to ask what happened to the body.   The most likely scenario is that Jesus was buried a second
time in accordance with then current Jewish burial practices.

Not Buried in a Jerusalem Tomb

Jesus was a poor, Aramaic speaking Jew from Galilee.  He was not a resident of Jerusalem.  So, if he was reburied
following his initial burial, surely his body would have been transported to Galilee for final burial. Also he and his family
were poor and they could never have afforded an extensive rock-hewn tomb with ossuaries as is the case with the
Talpiot tomb.  See Magness [31].

But….

It is clear that the family of Jesus relocated to the area of Jerusalem around the time of the death of Jesus.  It is well
documented that his brother James became the leader of the followers of Jesus following his crucifixion and that this
took place in Jerusalem.  Therefore, the expected burial site for Jesus would be in Jerusalem.

While Jesus personally may have been too poor to afford a tomb of the Talpiot type, it is clear that there were followers
of Jesus who did have these resources, potentially including Joseph of Arimethea.  Given the mobility and size of his
group it is also possible that Jesus and his followers may have had access to more resources than has generally been
assumed.  Certainly his followers would have made sure that Jesus would have had a fitting burial according to
prevailing Jewish practices.  

Therefore we should not be surprised to find Jesus buried in a rock-hewn tomb in the area of Jerusalem.

Survived the Cross

Jesus did not die on the cross.  Rather his tomb was opened and he was resuscitated.  Following the path described
for the Messiah he sought to unite the twelve tribes of Israel, perhaps by traveling to India.  There is evidence that a
“lost tribe” of Israel found its way to India.  There is also evidence for an actual burial site of Jesus in India.

The Jewish religious historian, Hugh Shonfield makes the expands on the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross.  He
argues that Jesus managed the outcome of the Crucifixion event, which included successfully surviving in the rock-
hewn tomb until he was resuscitated on the third day [16].  

But…

The large majority of scholars feel that the position taken by Shonfield is highly speculative and that it is far more likely
that Jesus died on the cross.  

It is correct to say that one of the “duties” of the messiah was to reunite the twelve tribes of Israel.  It may even be
possible that some of these Jews reached India.  However, the evidence pointing to a burial in India is slim.  

Even if Jesus did survive the cross, he would have died eventually and the Talpiot Tomb would still be a good
candidate for that burial.

Left to Scavengers

It was common practice for the Romans to leave a body to be devoured by scavengers.  The case of Jesus would have
been no different.

But….

The New Testament narrative seems reliable on this point.  The body of Jesus was removed from the cross and buried
in accordance with established Jewish burial practices.

Other Sites

Several tomb sites have been given as possible locations for the burial site of Jesus.  One of the primary reasons this
occurs is that “Jesus” was a somewhat common name and other tombs have been uncovered that contain ossuaries
inscribed with the name Jesus.  Depending on ones criteria, there could be as few as 1-2 and perhaps as many as half
a dozen other candidates for tombs of the biblical Jesus.   Consider the case if Dominus Flevit.

Dominus Flevit:  One of the candidates is actually a necropolis or tomb complex known as Dominus Flevit.  This
necropolis located in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives contains 43 inscribed ossuaries, which is a very large number
to be concentrated in one area.  What makes Dominus Flevit interesting is that we find many names associated with
the family of Jesus, including the name Jesus, distributed amongst these 43 inscribed ossuaries.  Therefore some
scholars suggest that Dominus Flevit should also be considered a candidate for the family tomb (complex) of Jesus.

But….

Yes, Dominus Flevit should be considered a candidate for the Jesus family tomb.  However, the Talpiot tomb is a much
more likely candidate.  The foremost reason is statistical in nature.  Given the much smaller number of inscribed
ossuaries in the Talpiot tomb, it is much more statistically “surprising” for the Talpiot tomb to produce multiple names
from the Jesus family than for this occur at Dominus Flevit.  Also, the potential association of the Talpiot tomb with Mary
Magdalene and James the brother of Jesus strengthens our interest in the Talpiot tomb.  The Talpiot tomb also has
several noteworthy findings that increase the likelihood that this is the family tomb of Jesus.  This is discussed more
fully in the Line of Argument “Symbols and the Talpiot tomb?” (
click here)

Editorial Position

The editorial position of the project is that Jesus died on the cross and was buried immediately thereafter in a manner
consistent with prevailing Jewish burial practices.  On or before the third day, the original tomb was reopened and the
body was moved to another location for reburial in the Jerusalem area, again in a manner consistent with prevailing
Jewish burial practices.  This could have meant burial in a tomb of the Talpiot tomb type. The project does not take a
position of the sequence of events that may have preceded this reburial.

It is possible that Jesus may somehow have survived the cross, but in some ways this is not a critical question.  He
would have died eventually and the most reasonable thing to expect is that he would have been buried in a rock-hewn
tomb in Jerusalem.

If there is a Jesus family tomb, the Talpiot tomb is the most likely candidate we have, by a substantial margin.  Dominus
Flevit and a small number of others tombs containing ossuaries inscribed with the name Jesus in Hebrew/Aramaic
remain much less likely candidates.  

References

See in particular bibliographic references 5, 12, 16, 31

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