Monday, December 15, 2014

Figure 88

Ossuaries in the Dominus Flevit Church
In 1955, during construction of the Dominus Flevit (“The Lord wept”) Church, a burial chamber was discovered. Excavations uncovered a number of ossuaries (bone boxes) from the time of Jesus with numerous inscriptions of biblical names and geometric shapes.

While the Egyptians embalmed their dead bodies, and the Romans and the Greeks cremated theirs (Dionysius Thuc. 2.34.5; Herodotus Hist. 9.85.2),1. during the Second Temple period (between 530 BC and AD 70), the Jewish burial practices were different and carried out in two stages. First, the body was placed in a cave for a period of about one year (b. Qidd. 31b), where the flesh would decompose and fall off the bones (m. Sanh. 6:6). Then the bones were collected and placed in inscribed ossuaries (Limestone bone box, Lat. ossilegium; b. Sem. 3.2; 12.9), then placed in small niches in caves (see Fig. 89, and 90). This two-stage practice was only popular during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.2.

1. Philip Sabin, Hans van Wees, and Michael Whitby, The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare: Volume 1, Greece, The Hellenistic World and the Rise of Rome (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 175.
2. Craig A. Evans, Jesus and the Ossuaries: What Burial Practices Reveal About the Beginning of Christianity (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2003), 28–29.

  • The Talpiot Tomb    p. 201
Fig 89 Ossuary of the high priest, Joseph, son of Caiaphas (Yosef Bar Kayafa)
  • The James Ossuary    p. 203
Fig 90 Close-up of the Aramaic inscription on the James ossuary
Fig 91 The James ossuary (bone box)

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