Burial of Jesus
The burial of Jesus refers to the burial of the body of Jesus after crucifixion, before the eve of the sabbath described in the New Testament. According to the canonical gospel accounts, he was placed in a tomb by a councillor of the sanhedrin named Joseph of Arimathea,. In art, it is often called the Entombment of Christ.
|Events in the|
|Life of Jesus|
according to the canonical gospels
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The earliest reference to the burial of Jesus is in a letter of Paul. Writing to the Corinthians around the year 54 AD, he refers to the account he had received of the death and resurrection of Jesus ("and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures").
The four canonical gospels, written between 66 and 95AD, all conclude with an extended narrative of Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.:p.91 All four state that, on the evening of the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body, and, after Pilate granted his request, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb.
Gospel of Mark
In the earliest of the gospels, the Gospel of Mark, was written around the years 50 to 70, Joseph of Arimathea is a member of the Jewish Council – the Sanhedrin which had condemned Jesus – who wishes to ensure that the corpse is buried in accordance with Jewish law, according to which dead bodies could not be left exposed overnight. He puts the body in a new shroud and lays it in a tomb carved into the rock. The Jewish historian Josephus, writing later in the century, described how the Jews regarded this law as so important that even the bodies of crucified criminals would be taken down and buried before sunset. In this account, Joseph does only the bare minimum needed for observance of the law, wrapping the body in a cloth, with no mention in the Gospel of Mark about washing or anointing it. This may explain why Mark documents an event prior to the crucifixion in which a woman pours perfume over Jesus (Mark 14:3–9): Jesus is thereby prepared for burial even before his death.
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew was written around the years 50 to 70, presumably using the Gospel of Mark as a source. In this account Joseph of Arimathea is not referenced as a member of the Sanhedrin, but a wealthy disciple of Jesus. Many interpreters have read this as a subtle orientation by the author towards wealthy supporters, while others believe this is a fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 53:9:
"And they made his grave with the wicked, And with the rich his tomb; Although he had done no violence, Neither was any deceit in his mouth."
This version suggests a more honourable burial: Joseph wraps the body in a clean shroud and places it in his own tomb, and the word used is soma (body) rather than ptoma (corpse). The author adds that the Roman authorities "made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of Mark is also a source for the account given in the Gospel of Luke, written around the year 60-61. As in the Markan version, Joseph is described as a member of the Sanhedrin, but as not having agreed with the Sanhedrin's decision regarding Jesus; he is said to have been "waiting for the kingdom of God" rather than a disciple of Jesus.
Gospel of John
The last of the gospels, John was written around the years 80 to 90, and it differs from Mark on this point, depicting Joseph as a disciple who gives Jesus an honourable burial. John says that Joseph was assisted in the burial process by Nicodemus, who brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes and included these spices in the burial cloth according to Jewish customs.
The comparison below is based on the New International Version.
|Joseph and Pilate||Matthew 27:57–58||Mark 15:42–45
||Luke 23:50–52||John 19:38
|High priests and Pilate||Matthew 27:62–66
|Mary(s)||Matthew 28:1||Mark 16:1–2
N. T. Wright notes that the burial of Christ is part of the earliest gospel traditions. John A.T. Robinson states that the burial of Jesus in the tomb is one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus." Rudolf Bultmann described the basic story as 'a historical account which creates no impression of being a legend'. Jodi Magness has argued that the Gospel accounts describing Jesus's removal from the cross and burial accord well with archaeological evidence and with Jewish law.
John Dominic Crossan, however, speculates that Jesus' body may have been thrown into a shallow grave and eaten by dogs, the bones scattered. Martin Hengel and Maurice Casey argued that Jesus was buried in disgrace as an executed criminal who died a shameful death, a view debated in scholarly literature.
Paul the Apostle includes the burial in his statement of the gospel in verses 3 and 4 of 1 Corinthians 15: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (KJV). This appears to be an early pre-Pauline credal statement.
The burial of Christ is specifically mentioned in the Apostles' Creed, where it says that Jesus was "crucified, dead, and buried." The Heidelberg Catechism asks "Why was he buried?" and gives the answer "His burial testified that He had really died."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, "It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb, reveals God's great sabbath rest after the fulfillment of man's salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe" and that "Christ's stay in the tomb constitutes the real link between his passible state before Easter and his glorious and risen state today."
Depiction in art
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|Death and Resurrection of Jesus|
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The Entombment of Christ has been a popular subject in art, being developed in Western Europe in the 10th century. It appears in cycles of the Life of Christ, where it follows the Deposition of Christ or the Lamentation of Christ. Since the Renaissance, it has sometimes been combined or conflated with one of these.
Notable individual works with articles include:
- The Entombment (Bouts, c. 1450s)
- Lamentation of Christ (Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1460-1463)
- The Entombment (Michelangelo, c. 1500-01)
- The Deposition (Raphael, 1507)
- The Entombment (Titian, 1525)
- The Entombment (Titian, 1559)
- The Entombment of Christ (Caravaggio, 1603-04)
- Veiled Christ (Sanmartino, 1753)
Use in hymnody
The African-American spiritual Were you there? has the line "Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?" while the Christmas carol We Three Kings includes the verse:
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the following troparion is sung on Holy Saturday:
The noble Joseph,
when he had taken down Thy most pure body from the tree,
wrapped it in fine linen and anointed it with spices,
and placed it in a new tomb.
- Entombment of Christ, 15th century, Belgium
- Henry Augustin Valentin after Hans Holbein the Younger, Iesvs Nazarenevs Rex Ivdaeorvm, 19th century, etching, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Entombment of Christ.|
- Tomb of Jesus, multiple sites purported to be Christ's burial place
- Descent from the Cross
- Empty tomb
- Epitaphios (liturgy)
- Life of Jesus in the New Testament
- Harrowing of Hell
- "The Entombment of Christ (1601-3) by Caravaggio". Encyclopaedia of Arts Education. Visual Arts Cork. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
- Kaitholil. com, Inside the church of the holy sepulchre in Jerusalem, retrieved 2018-12-28
- Watson E. Mills, Acts and Pauline Writings, Mercer University Press 1997, page 175.
- 1COR 15:3-4
- Powell, Mark A. Introducing the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8010-2868-7
- Douglas R. A. Hare, Mark (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996) page 220.
- Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching (Continuum, 2010) page 449.
- Witherington (2001), p. 31: 'from 66 to 70, and probably closer to the latter' sfnp error: no target: CITEREFWitherington2001 (help)
- Hooker (1991), p. 8: 'the Gospel is usually dated between AD 65 and 75.' sfnp error: no target: CITEREFHooker1991 (help)
- James F. McGrath, "Burial of Jesus. II. Christianity. B. Modern Europe and America" in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. Vol.4, ed. by Dale C. Allison Jr., Volker Leppin, Choon-Leong Seow, Hermann Spieckermann, Barry Dov Walfish, and Eric Ziolkowski, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012), p. 923
- McGrath, 2012, p.937
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- Donald Senior, The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Liturgical Press, 1990) page 151-2.
- Davies (2004), p. xii. sfnp error: no target: CITEREFDavies2004 (help)
- N. T. Wright, Luke For Everyone (Westminster John Knox Press), page 286.
- Luke 23:50–55
- It's not clear whether 'the Council' (τῇ βουλῇ) refers to the Sanhedrin (τὸ συνέδριον, Luke 22:66), but it's likely.
- Going by Matthew 27:56, this was Mary, the mother of James and Joseph.
- Wright, N. T. (2009). The Challenge of Easter. p. 22.
- Robinson, John A.T. (1973). The human face of God. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-664-20970-4.
- Magness, Jodi (2011). Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus. Eerdmans. p. 146.
- Magness, Jodi (2005). "Ossuaries and the Burials of Jesus and James". Journal of Biblical Literature. 124 (1): 121–154. doi:10.2307/30040993. ISSN 0021-9231.
- Crossan, John Dominic (2009). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. p. 143.
- Casey, Maurice (2010-12-30). Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching. A&C Black. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-567-64517-3.
- Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, translated James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 251.
- Heidelberg Catechism Archived 2016-10-17 at the Wayback Machine, Q & A 41.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 624-625 Archived December 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II,1972 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, p.164 ff, ISBN 0-85331-324-5
- "Cyberhymnal: Were You There?". Archived from the original on October 7, 2011.
- "Cyberhymnal: One Day". Archived from the original on September 24, 2011.