Church

Christ in the Tomb

Holbein, Hans the Younger
The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb
1521

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– Book of Common Prayer

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Bible Archaeology

Burial in Ancient Israel: Rock Cut Tombs

This is an ongoing series about graves and tombs in the ancient Levant, from the Paleolithic Period until the time of Christ. The entire series can be found here.

Rock cut tomb, Talpiot

During the Late First Temple Period (8th to 6th century BC), we begin to see the creation of multichamber rock-cut tombs. Reached by rock-cut stairs leading to an unadorned opening, these tombs were carved into the living stone, with a central space opening into subchambers. Each subchamber was lined–often on all three sides–by low benches. Over time, narrower loculi (fit for a single body) also began to appear.

The dead were wrapped in a shroud (and, on occasion, placed in a coffin) and then placed on these benches. Bodies may well have been treated with oil, herbs, resins, and other methods, many of them adapted from Israel’s extensive experience of foreign cultures. As the tombs were used and reused by families over many generations, bones would be removed to make way for new bodies. (We will address what happened to them in the next post.) Thus, we have a practical connection the Biblical phrase. “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers” (Judges 2:10 and elsewhere). People were, quite literally, gathered to their fathers.

Because cutting a tomb of this type was extremely expensive, they were only used by wealthy Jews. That’s why they were reused for many, many generations. Tombs were almost always located outside the walls of the city, unlike some earlier burials which were inside the city and even the home.

Foreign influences began to creep into the designs of these tombs, with carved headrests on the benches and various architectural details betraying the Phoenician, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman influences over time. We may speculate that this shows the tendencies of the upper classes to adapt to foreign influences: a complaint also reflected in the scripture.

Tomb of the Sanhedria, showing loculi for bodies

Read on at God and the Machine.

 

Bible Archaeology

Ark of the Covenant Found in Greece?

Don’t bet on it! Anyway, here is the Huffington Post with the news:

Reports are cropping up that the fabled Ark of the Covenant, said to contain the remnants of the Ten Commandments, has been discovered along with the Tomb of Alexander the Great on the Greek island of Thasos.

The Focus Information Agency, a Bulgarian outfit not exactly renowned for accuracy, is reporting that Grekomania.ru, a Russian web portal that purports to be an “official information partner of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Greece,” has claimed that a group led by Nikolaos Kumardzis, an archeologist apparently unaffiliated with any other dig, has identified one of the world’s great treasures. At least one Armenian newspaper is running a similar story.

What more confirmation could anyone possibly want?

Thasos, which is near Macedonia, has long been rumored as the potential resting place of Alexander the Great, who died in Babylon in 323 BC after conquering Persia and consolidating Eurasian power. The connection between the great military leader and the ten commandments — none of which he could truly be said to have followed — is unclear, which makes the news that they were discovered together even less credible.

That being said, the Ark of the Covenant has inspired travelers and explorers for hundreds of years and is likely to continue to do so. It is worth remembering that pilgrimages remain part of the modern travel culture and that visiting relics or searching for them is quite popular in much of the world…

These sorts of purported sensational finds perpetually pop up in the news. Nothing new. Same old trash.

Bible Archaeology

Tomb of St Philip Discovered in Turkey

That’s the claim:

The tomb of St. Philip the Apostle, one of the original 12 disciples of Christianity’s central figure Jesus Christ, has been discovered during the ongoing excavations in Turkey’s south-western province of Denizli.

Italian professor Francesco D’Andria, the head of the excavation team at the Hierapolis ancient city in Denizli, told reporters on Tuesday that experts had reached the tomb of St. Philip whose name is mentioned in the Bible as one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

Professor D’Andria said archeologists had been working for years to find the tomb of the Biblical figure, and finally, they had managed to reach the monument while working on the ruins of a newly-unearthed church in Hierapolis.

D’Andria said the structure of the tomb and the writings on it proved that it belonged to St. Philip the Apostle, who is recognized as a martyr in the history of Christianity.

Describing the discovery as a major development both for archeology and the Christian world, D’Andria said the tomb, which had not been opened yet, was expected to become an important Christian pilgrimage destination.

Hierapolis, whose name means “sacred city”, is an ancient city located next to the renowned Pamukkale, white Travertine terraces, in Denizli province. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city, famous for its historical hot springs used as a spa since the 2nd century, is a mixture of Pagan, Roman, Jewish and early Christian influences.

Ancient tradition associates Hierapolis with St. Philip the Apostle, who is believed to have died in the city around 80 AD. The follower, who is known as the apostle who preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia, is said to have been martyred in Hierapolis. The legend is that St. Philip was crucified upside-down or martyred by beheading.

After the apostle’s death, an octagonal tomb named “The Martryium” was erected for him where he is believed to have been martyred.

Fox also reports on the news here.

As does Hurriyet Daily:

… We are extremely happy and proud to have discovered the grave of a saint whose name appears in the bible – this surely is an important discovery for religious tourism, archaeology and Christendom,” the professor said.