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Burials for the Crucified. Most-commented Blog Post: #9

April 19, 2022

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #9:  Decent Burials for Crucified Victims in antiquity, with 180 comments.



Decent Burials for Crucified Victims

October 20, 2017

My post a couple of weeks ago about the burial of Jesus (understandably) struck a nerve for some readers; I was just now digging around in the archives, and see that I addressed most of the important issues, head on, in this rather controversial post I made back in 2012.  All these years later, I’m still open to being convinced otherwise!!!


In my previous post I quoted a number of ancient sources that indicated that part of the torture and humiliation of being crucified in antiquity was being left, helpless, exposed not just to the elements but to scavenging birds and other animals. These sources suggest that the normal practice was to leave the victims on the cross to be pecked and gnawed at both before and after death; in some instances there are indications that this would go on for days.

And so the question naturally arises if the same thing could be expected in the case of people being crucified in Judea around the year 30 CE. As I pointed out John Dominic Crossan maintains that this was indeed the case and that Jesus’ corpse probably met the same fate. I used to think that was a ridiculous position to take, but now I’m not so sure.

To decide the issue, one needs to consider the ancient evidence, not simply go on what your personal opinions are based on what you’ve always heard and read about Jesus being buried by Joseph of Arimathea.  The question is whether it is likely that some such decent burial was allowed by the Romans.  To answer the question one has to look for instances in which Romans allowed such a thing.  To my knowledge – and I will be very happy indeed if someone can tell me of more evidence! – there are four pieces of evidence that can be cited, and are cited, to suggest that the Joseph story could well be historical.  None of them, however, seems to me to apply .

  1.  As I noted in an earlier post, some people have pointed to the fact that Jews took the teaching of Deut. 21:22-23 seriously and would not allow a body to remain on a tree overnight.  But that is hardly relevant, since Jews were not the ones who crucified Jesus and they would have had no say in what happens to the disposal of the body.  This was the Romans’ doing, and they would do whatever they wanted.  And there is nothing to suggest, as we have seen, that Pilate was generally inclined to try to please his Jewish subjects.
  2. It is pointed out sometimes that we have the remains of one crucified man, Yehohanan, whose skeleton – ankle pierced with an iron stake from crucifixion – was decently buried in an ossuary.  This shows, it is argued, that it is conceivable that something similar happened with Jesus.  I would agree that this makes it conceivable.  Unfortunately, as I have also pointed out, we do not have even the slightest bit of evidence to tell us what happened in Yehohanan’s case, and so we have no way of knowing if it is analogous to the case of Jesus.  And other scholars have pointed out that with the many thousands of crucified victims in antiquity, and this being the only skeletal remains of a crucified victim to survive, it appears that Yehohanan’s case was HIGHLY exceptional, not typical.
  3. Some have pointed to a passage in Josephus’s book The Jewish War where Josephus indicates that when the rebels were being crucified by Titus outside of Jerusalem in the year 70, he pled with the general on behalf of three of his associates, and they were taken down from their crosses at his behest.  One of the three actually survived the ordeal.   This is a fascinating story, but I’m afraid it is not relevant to the question, since in this case it is not a matter of asking the Roman governing official to allow for a decent burial, but to stop an execution.
  4. The one piece of evidence most frequently cited is from the first century Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo, who does indicate that corpses sometimes were taken down and allowed decent burials.  Unfortunately, it is not clear that what he says – despite what modern people sometimes claim – is of any relevance to the case of Jesus.   Here are his words:

“Rulers who conduct their government as they should and do not pretend to honour but do really honour their benefactors make a practice of not punishing any condemned person until those notable celebrations in honour of the birthdays of the illustrious Augustan house are over… I have known cases when on the eve of a holiday of this kind, people who have been crucified have been taken down and their bodies delivered to their kinsfolk, because it was thought well to give them burial and allow them the ordinary rites.  For it was meet that the dead also should have the advantage of some kind treatment upon upon the birthday of the emperor and also that the sanctity of the festival should be maintained.  (TRANS in Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 159)

In assessing the relevance of this statement, the following points should be noted.

  1. The instance that Philo mentions appears to be the exception that proves the rule.  That is, Philo mentions this one exception to the practice of leaving bodies to rot or be scavenged precisely because it goes against established practice.
  2. Philo is talking about Roman governors who allow for decent burials as a way of honoring the Roman emperor’s birthday.  That has no relevance to the case of Jesus, when his crucifixion came during the Jewish celebration of Passover, an indigenous population’s special celebration.  Nothing that Philo says indicates that there is any other exception to the normal practice (except, that is, for the emperor’s birthday).
  3. Even in the case mentioned by Philo, it is only relatives who were given this privilege of providing for special burial.  This again has no bearing on the case of Jesus.

I am not saying that this proves that Jesus was not given a decent burial.  But I am saying that if he was (unless someone knows of more evidence that is escaping me?), it would have been highly unusual and exceptional and so must strike us as historically improbable.   But I am completely open to being persuaded otherwise!

2022-04-11T09:48:07-04:00April 19th, 2022|Public Forum|

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  1. kenw54 April 19, 2022 at 7:56 am

    1. Why does Pilate refer to Jesus as the Christ [Matthew 27:17,22]? I thought Jesus became Christ only after his death.

    • BDEhrman April 20, 2022 at 10:17 am

      It’s a Christian author putting words in Pilate’s mouth.

  2. TomTerrific April 19, 2022 at 8:41 am

    It seems to me Jesus’s burial in a tomb is not a necessary part of the Xtn theology of his death and resurrection. He could have been cast into a common grave and it wouldn’t make any difference theologically. The tomb story could have been added at a much later date.

    Happy anniversary. I thought I was one of the original members but must just be an early one. Keep up the good work.

  3. Yosefel April 19, 2022 at 9:44 am

    One thing that is still a mystery to me is that we don’t have a shred of any other competing burial narrative. I would think that if Christ was thrown to the dogs, there may have been some historical recollection of this. Allison claims that the gospel writers and the early Christians in general seem to highlight Christ’s suffering, so it would seem strange that, given their admission of torture and shameful crucifixion, they wouldn’t feel comfortable with his shameful burial in a common criminal grave – – instead opting to clean it up by fabricating an honorable burial.

    Do we have any insight on what early Christians thought about the tomb burial narrative? Did they see it as highly unlikely as we do today?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:46 pm

      I don’t see any motivation for an alternative burial narrative; but they wanted a single tomb to make it more convncing that his body wasn’t there. It’s much harder to identify corpses thrown together in a pit.

      • Yosefel April 22, 2022 at 5:21 pm

        Always appreciate how you respond to nearly all the questions on your blog 🙂

        I mean probabilistically if you were crucified you’d end up in a common grave, but how does an empty tomb narrative get circulated to the point that it’s taken as fact by the time Mark pens it down? Deliberate deceit? Did the disciples genuinely believe he was buried in a tomb, or would they have known he wasn’t?

        • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:21 pm

          I think it starts as a rumor and spread quickly as rumors do. Rumors are almost *never* started by deceit. The disciples had fled to Galilee; it would have taken them about a week to get there. Then for news to reach them later would take a week. I don’t think they had any idea what happened to the body, till they too heard or started the rumor.

  4. RICHWEN90 April 19, 2022 at 10:06 am

    Is there any evidence at all for use of crucified bodies by necromancers, for ritual purposes, in which case the body might have been stolen, or for the use of nails used in crucifixions as talismanic objects? I ran across that idea somewhere (James Tabor??). What are we to make of Joseph of Arimathea? The assumption is that the body was placed in a temporary grave near the site of the crucifixion with the intention of transferring it to a more permanent grave. But it could have been stolen before that transfer. And then dumped after extraction of the nails, for instance, or… what a tangled tale. But why would an exception be made for Jesus? Most of the crucifixion story seems to have been made up. Or major pieces of the puzzle are missing.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:47 pm

      The nails were definitely used for magical purposes. I can’t think of any uses of crucified corpses, but I don’t really know. Yes, I too don’t think an exception would be made, just because he was, after all, Jesus.

  5. rezubler April 19, 2022 at 10:39 am


    Missing data: B-day of Tiberius: Nov16, Augustus: Sep23

    One other reason for a short(er) crucifixion time would be a logistical reason if there was a backlog of people to execute and that space was needed. Since there was no Roman crucifixion log and we do not have a detailed understanding of the probable site and layout (capacity) for crucifixions during that time, it is likely a stretch to consider that reason.

    The one case for Pilot being open to pleasing the Jews could relate to the story of the appeasement of releasing Barabbas over Jesus. Even if the Jews wanted Jesus crucified, would they not also prefer that their burial laws still be observed? Or could Jesus have been considered a non-jew due to the nature of the accusations?

    Timing variations of the relative day of Passover as it relates to the crucifixion and resurrection (per J.S. Spong’s theory in his book on Biblical Literalism) may also factor in.

    ‘Something’ needed to occur to not allow Jesus to be left on the cross for days… but that is only supported by faith. Discrepancies of on-the-cross stories across the gospels allow wriggle room for missing information.

  6. KevinK April 19, 2022 at 11:31 am

    It seems that Paul believed Jesus was buried in a tomb (or in a more typical fashion) rather than buried in a mass grave. How do you reconcile the independent attestation of all four gospels and Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians about Jesus being crucified and buried (in a tomb or typical way)?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:49 pm

      When Paul says that Christ “was buried” — that’s the language used simply to indicate that the body was disposed of. He doesn’t say anything about a rock tomb, or Joseph of Arimathea, or anything else. A person was “buried” if they had a few handfuls of dirt thrown on them. In any event, I’m sure that the tradition that Jesus was buried in a solitary tomb was way before Paul’s day; if that was the story originally circulating, there would be no trouble with people 30 years later agreeing about it.

      • Jon1 April 25, 2022 at 12:53 pm


        What evidence is there that the Romans threw a “few handfuls of dirt” (as you say above) on top of the bodies of crucifixion victims they threw into a pit instead of just leaving the corpse uncovered and letting scavengers finish their work?

        • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:59 pm

          I’m not talking about Roman practices specifically. I’m saying that in the ancient world, as far as we have literary references to burial (e.g., in Homer), it was considered a “burial” if even a few handfuls of dirt were thrown on the corpse — it didn’t mean necessarily having a well tended rock tomb, etc. If Jesus was “buried” it could have been in any number of ways.

  7. JAS April 19, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    Rules or no rules, no one, not even the Roman Empire, can be expected to be fully consistent all the time. The rules recorded are the stated preference or ideal. Most exceptions were probably frowned upon, which is sufficient reason not to record them.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:49 pm

      The question is always: why should we think an exception was made in *this* case?

      • JAS April 22, 2022 at 8:36 pm

        I can suggest several reasons, with no great difficulty. The problem is that they can only be suggestions, with no means of proving or disproving. At the time, Jesus was not a particularly important figure, nor a leader of a group of any great significance. Soldiers might be bribed, or just lazy. As I suspect you would agree, it is a mistake to attribute to Jesus at the time of his death the role he has since come to play as the center of a major religious movement.

        • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:27 pm

          I’m afraid I can’t think of any that are plausible. We just tend to think Jesus was the exception because he’s so important. He wasn’t then. Especially to the Romans. And to the Jewish leaders. He was just no one anyone had heard of thought to be calling himself the king of the Jews.

          • JAS April 25, 2022 at 8:16 am

            Exactly. So why would anyone with an official position care what happened to the body after crucifixion? The only people with such an interest would be the handful of followers that remained. They would presumably have preferred a respectful burial. All that remains is whether or not the officials would have allowed it. And I see no reason for not allowing it, especially for a nobody. That status is why no special reason is needed to explain it all.

          • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:55 pm

            The point is that officials did *not* allow it since part of the punishment was to let the person rot and be eaten by scavenging birds, so everyone else would see what happens whenever you cross a Roman. It was precisely the “nobodies” who were crucified — slaves and insurrectionists. They got the worst punishment, and not allowing a decent burial was part of it.

  8. brickleytre April 19, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    If we take Josephus at his word that he was able to convince the Romans to allow him to take his friends down from their crosses, I think this counts against the idea that a Jew such as Joseph of Arimathea couldn’t have convinced the Romans to allow him to take Jesus down from the cross because the Romans “would do whatever they wanted”.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:51 pm

      The striking thing is that Josephus was an incredibly highly placed figure in the Roman siege of Jerusalem favored by the Roman emperor himself. A local Jew in Jerusalem just doesn’t have that kind of clout. And it’s important to recognize that we don’t ahve any other record of this ever happening, over the hundreds of years of Roman crucifixions….

  9. jbhodge April 19, 2022 at 7:15 pm


    Would the authors of the Gospels as well as Paul (1Cor 15:4) proclaim in their writtings that Jesus was buried, for an audience that would have known that Romans did not allow burials of those crucified? If the recipient readers would have felt at that time that the Gospels and Paul were creating up a story untrue, I find it hard to believe that Christianity would have any traction. The Jews of the time would surely have disputed such account pointing out the inconsistancy of the “tale” vrs the reality of the time. Such has not been found to my knowlege. Thus I believe in this case, the written text and audience is the most substantial proof that Jesus must have been buried after the crucifiction. It may have not been comon, but it was not out of the question for the Jews nor the gentiles of Roman empire. Possibly why Philo gave such example of exception. So in my view, the weight of non dispute from the time, is heavier than the lack of “proof”… We know positively that exceptions were made.. That’s probably the most factual thing we will ever know.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:54 pm

      Sure — that kind of thing happens all the time in ancient writings, saying things that we know simply could not have happened. It happens a lot in the New Testament itself (Luke’s statement that under Caesar Augustus there was a census of the entire world that required Joseph to go to his ancestral home, as one obvious instance); and outside of it. For what it’s worth, the vast majority of the empire’s population — 80-90% lived in rural areas and would never have seen a crucifixion, or, indeed, a Roman soldier. So most would have no idea.

  10. mini1071 April 19, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    With respect to Yehohanan. Apparently Joe Saiz , curator of the Israeli Dept. of Antiquities, re-examined the contents of Yehohanan’s ossuary and noted “Some of the bone fragments were from another individual.” [Zias; Sekeles (1985). “The Crucified Man from Giv’at ha-Mitvar: A Reappraisal”. Israel Exploration Journal. 35.]

    This seems consistent with your argument in (I believe) How Jesus Became God and that also cited Dr. Crossan. At some point likely after severe exposure and animal damage the victims were taken down and disposed of. That Yehohanan’s remains were retrieved and processed eventually to an ossuary as was custom only proves someone cared enough to do so; and, theRoman disposal was not individual. Certainly something similar could have occurred with Jesus… or Jimmy Hoffa for that matter!

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:55 pm

      Yes, that’s right. It’s an important article.

    • tom.hennell April 25, 2022 at 5:03 am

      mini1071; you are absolutely right to note the corrections in the Zias article; but, from your comments I suspect you may not have grasped what he is saying. Higher status families in Jerusalem (and Jericho at this time) practiced “secondary burial”. Bodies would be laid out for ‘primary burial’ in a rock-cut “oculus tomb”; and left to skeletonise (which in the Jerusalem climate took around 12 months). Then the bones were gathered into an ossuary, usually along with others of the same family, and reburied. In Yehohanan’s ossuary there was also the whole skeleton of a child . Zias is pointing out that the original publication omitted the presence of bones from an additional adult; “This confusion, in which partial skeletal remains are found in ossuaries, was a common occurrence, due to the fact that the relatives or friends of the deceased who placed the remains in the ossuaries had no anatomical knowledge.”

      Yehohanan short-term primary burial must have been in a individual tomb – whether done by the Romans; or by Jews – for his skeletonised remains to have been wholly recovered by his family a year later.

      • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:50 pm

        For what it’s worth, as I guess you know, I have no problem with that.

      • mini1071 April 26, 2022 at 4:36 pm

        Thanks Tom, I have been aware of the tomb decomposition and then ossuary process; and, that relatives like a child might share an ossuary. That said, it was my understanding remains were handled as an individual for those families wealthy enough to afford it. So, while a child’s remains (buried with a relative) don’t seem out of place another adults do – particularly partial remains. Certainly the decomposition tomb (niches lined up in a larger cave/tomb) could have been the source of extra bones, as could a common grave used by the Romans. As to which is more likely? I would think the Roman common grave just from the point of view of who was likely to have been careful. But, it is likely a toss up.

        • tom.hennell April 28, 2022 at 6:31 pm

          From what Zias sats; it is very common for there to be additional (or missing) bones, when otherwise complete skeletons are found in secondary burial in an ossuary. This would be especially likely when the primary decomposition chamber was outside the secondary tomb complex in a re-used single-occulus tomb; since smaller bones (in this case a cuboid bone from a foot) could easily have been left behind by a previous occupant.

          Had Yehohanan’s bones been recovered after a year in a common grave, then it would not have been possible (given the anatomical knowledge of the period) for the relatives to have recovered what was otherwise a complete skeleton. So, not a toss-up; the additional individual small bone is rather strongly indicative of primary burial in a single-occulus tomb; or possibly an individual rock-cut trench tomb, such as the (slightly later) examples excavated in Beit Safafa.

          Given the distance from Giv’at ha-Mivtar to the probable crucifixion site (in the worked-out quarries just north of the Praetorium), a primary burial site for Yehohanan would most likely have been excavated in the softer limestone of the quary walls or floor, outside the northern city wall.

  11. AngeloB April 19, 2022 at 9:10 pm

    Images of Jesus on the cross in Orthodox and Catholic churches only depict some blood stains. Definitely not eyes gouged or skin ravaged by scavengers!

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:55 pm

      Nope! It’s a trope in Roman literature though, and, even though most of us would never have thought of it, makes perfect sense.

  12. Clair April 19, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    If as stated, it was organized by the priests with Pilots permission, they would have been hard pressed to leave a Rabbi, Jesus rotting on a pole, perhaps angering many Jews and their sects? Something the Romans did not want. But, as you say, sorting the historical from the story, is not simple.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:56 pm

      Yes, Jews would have very much wanted to remove the bodies for religious reasons. And Roman authorities would very much not cared a bit. They were a tough lot.

  13. Firefighter54 April 20, 2022 at 7:34 am

    Not to complain, but I wish all the previous comments were listed here. They are interesting to read. I know I could go back in the archives.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 4:57 pm

      Sorry ’bout that. Yes, just find the original post (look for something like Arimathea and you’ll find it), and you’ll get all the comments as well.

  14. tom.hennell April 20, 2022 at 9:05 am

    Without duplicating ongoing discussions on another thread:

    – but the the 2012 article requires updating in one important respect. In the ten years since then, there has been a steady trickle of reports of the skeletons showing characteristic signs of crucifixion; in Egypt, Italy and Fenstanton in Cambridgeshire. All were buried; none have been found in a rubbish pit. So, I would propose that burial following Roman crucifixion was not at all exceptional.

    Other than in the case of Yehohanan – who belonged to a higher status family, and is more likely to have been condemned for political offences than as a slave or brigand – we cannot speculate what these persons were crucified for; but it does now appear that for some categories of crucifixion, decent burial was the commonest form of subsequent disposal.

    Nor can we tell in these recent discoveries, whether those condemned were buried immediately after death; or otherwise remained on the cross for a period of days, exposed to the dogs and birds.

    But either way, most of these bodies appear to have been released by the Roman authorities to the local community for disposal according local practices.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:00 pm

      Steady stream? I know of the Cambridge case; the others are up in the air, right? IN any event, finding skeletal remains of somoeone who had been crucified does not tell you WHEN the person was taken off the cross. So given the circumstance that the few literary referencs we have all indicate the bodies were left on the crosses, what would make us think that these bodies were not, before being buried? My point is less about the common grave than about the apparent fact that htey didn’t allow bodies to be removed until they had deteriorated a bit.

      • tom.hennell April 22, 2022 at 6:49 pm

        I have not been able to track down the full reference fot the two Egyptian burials at Mendes harbour – cited as “Redford and Lang” 1996 in “The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict”; eds Christopher Knüsel and ‎Martin Smith – reporting penetrating injuries to the body of the calcanei.

        The Italian burial was in Gavello; and is published at:

        I absolutely agree that nothing excludes any of these four bodies having been left exposed on the cross after death. The evidence for Jesus burial having been allowed immediately after death is essentially 1 Corinthians 15:4 “.. that he was buried; and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures”. Maybe ‘third day’ was flexibly interpreted, but it envisages a short post-death hanging, if any.

        Where I don’t agree is your statement “Roman authorities would very much not cared a bit”. The evidence rather is that the Romans considered dead bodies to be seriously polluting – and those who had died by ‘hanging’ (whether suicides or crucified) to be especially polluting. Roman authorities always insisted on bodies being properly disposed of.

  15. petfield April 20, 2022 at 10:04 am

    This information was one of the things that really struck me upon reading How Jesus Became God. I have no idea how you get around this as a Christian believer! I mean, I too genuinely would be very much interested in evidence that shows that Jesus could really get a decent burial in this particular historical setting.

  16. Vincent April 20, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    Hi, Dr. Ehrman. In his 2011 paper, “Crucifixion and Burial” (New Testament Studies, Volume 57 , Issue 2 , April 2011 , pp. 193 – 213), John Granger Cook contends that the story of Joseph of Arimathaea burying Jesus is well within the bounds of possibility, even if he were condemned on a political charge: “A survey of the statutes governing the burial of criminals and governing the prosecution of those accused of seditious activity indicates that provincial officials had a choice when confronted with the need to dispose of the bodies of the condemned.” In his subsequent paper, “Resurrection in Paganism and the Question of an Empty Tomb in 1 Corinthians 15″ (New Testament Studies, Volume 63 , Issue 1 , January 2017 , pp. 56 – 75), Cook also argues on linguistic, historical, and cultural grounds that it is unlikely Paul would have mentioned a burial and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 without presupposing an empty tomb. How would you respond to Cook’s claims? I understand that Cook is widely cited by contemporary apologists. (See for instance .)

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:10 pm

      1. I would need to look at his evidence for point 1, since I don’t remember it and I can’t think of any evidence to support it. 2. I agree with point 2 to an extent. Paul does presuppose that wherever Jesus’ body was disposed of, the body was no longer there after the resurrectoin. It wa a real bodily resurrection that did not leave the body in its burial place. He doesn’t call it a rock tomb, of course. But the burial place was vacated for Paul, I agree.

      • mini1071 April 23, 2022 at 8:34 pm

        Professor, so if Paul did believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus crucified body; and, as an apocalyptic preacher also believed Jesus was the first of all to be resurrected at the end for admission to the kingdom, I’m confused with his line in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44:

        “ So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

        Could he also have meant the spiritual body would be raised despite the damage to the natural body so that it would not matter how quickly Jesus was taken down? Or whether there was an empty tomb?

        • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:46 pm

          I’ll be posting on that in a couple of weeks! But yes, the spiritual body is a transformed version of the mortal body; Jesus was raised immortal. It wouldn’t have mattered when he was buried, excpet Paul had learned it was on the third day and thought that this fulfilled scriptural prediction (possiblyl Hosea 6:2).

  17. JesusChristDivided April 20, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    Why was this not a convincing argument that Jesus was removed from the cross on Friday?

    I would add some things. The Roman soldiers were probably Judeans, being a cohort and not a legion. The city was already politically charged. Pilate was not kind, but he also was not stupid. There were Nazarene witnesses; that they blatantly lied is also not indicated by any evidence.

    How does Christianity come from this? At some point, we have to address that people did find Jesus worthy of remembrance and a candidate for Messiah, even after being crucified. Even without a supernatural explanation, some traditions might actually reflect the historical reality.

  18. Aaron.Lucipher.Smith April 21, 2022 at 10:49 am

    Strange that so many millions of people would experience a profound and debilitating life crisis if they were brought to the (logical) conclusion that this one particular ancient person’s body was probably not put into a tomb. How strange and precarious that an entire religion would fall apart over this silly little detail. Certainly there should be better ways to construct a religion.

    • Yosefel April 23, 2022 at 1:56 am

      Would it though? I’m not trying to defend Christianity but if Bart is correct and Jesus was cast to a common criminal grave with the empty tomb being fabricated a generation later, the first disciples and early Christians probably didn’t believe in an honorable burial/empty tomb. If the empty tomb story cane around several decades after the disciples began preaching Christ raised, then obviously it wasn’t essential to their religious belief.

      • Aaron.Lucipher.Smith April 27, 2022 at 12:34 pm

        Maybe the religion wouldn’t fall apart totally and completely, per se. I just hear so many evangelicals harping on and on about how their belief “hinges” on the empty tomb since they think an empty tomb somehow proves a resurrection.

  19. brickleytre April 22, 2022 at 4:33 pm

    If we take Josephus at his word that he was able to convince the Romans to allow him to take his friends down from their crosses, I think this counts against the idea that a Jew such as Joseph of Arimathea couldn’t have convinced the Romans to allow him to take Jesus down from the cross because the Romans “would do whatever they wanted”.

  20. maslovsky April 23, 2022 at 8:56 am

    My version is unlikely, but there is at least some chance for the crypt. What if the crucifixion actually was taken place on the birthday of the Emperor, not on Pesaсh? In this case, Jesus could be taken by relatives. It is quite possible that Jesus had relatives in Jerusalem. Of course, it was important for Christianity that Jesus was crucified on Pesach. However, we know that Christ was not born on December 25. What if we have a similar situation with resurrection? Of course, this version cannot be proved.

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:31 pm

      You’d have to find some reason to think it was, given teh overwhelming evidence from every surviving source (starting with Paul) that it was at Passover.

  21. AngeloB April 24, 2022 at 3:51 am

    I highly doubt that Jesus, a crucifixion victim, would have received a decent burial. Burial in an unmarked grave makes the most sense to me!

  22. bsteig April 24, 2022 at 3:26 pm

    Two comments: 1) I have never read anything about how bodies were removed from whatever they were nailed to, if this were ever done before the body had significantly dried and partially disintegrated. I believe claw hammers had not yet been invented, and rather large “nails” had to be used.
    2) I never cease to be amazed by how so many people accept what they read in the Bible as being unquestionably true. I have read that It was not unusual for an author who wants to praise someone, to write imagined things that the person did or said. Today, such an occurrence is condemned, but not 2,000 years ago. Also, during the second century, religious authorities in multiple locations undoubtedly began to want their followers to believe what they believed, and were not reluctant to tweak texts they received (such as a copy of one of Paul’s letters that was not yet in wide circulation). Tweaked texts may well be the ones that were subsequently widely copied and eventually — after a central Christian sect authority was named — became part of the “official” compendium that was eventually labeled “Holy Scripture.”

    Bill Steigelmann

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:35 pm

      1. I’m not sure how they got the nails out, but since carpentry was widely practiced, they must have had some appropriate tool. For the bodies themselves, the ancient sources say they used hooks. It was probably a nasty business. 2. Yeah, I know….

  23. ClaudeTee April 24, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    I have always assumed that Joseph of Arimathea was a fictional character (there is, after all, no record that there was a place called Arimathea, is there?). Is there any reason to believe that he was anything other than a creation in the early narrations of the Passion story? And, if he is a fiction, doesn’t that leave us with a dead Jesus hanging on the cross, ultimately eaten by dogs once the body sloughed off onto the ground, as Crosson suggests?

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:44 pm

      No, we don’t now of a place named Arimathea, so yes, that makes it a bit suspicious. The reason to think it’s historical is that it is reported in all of the Gospels; so at least Mark and John knew of it. But it seems unlikely to me. I’m not sure about that dog business; the ancient sources speak of birds; I can’t remember where Crossan finds the dogs.

      • tom.hennell May 4, 2022 at 12:59 pm

        Possibly from Horace; Epode V.

        “The crowd will crush you, obscene old hags, pelting you
        With stones from every side:
        And then the wolves and birds of the Esquiline,
        Will scatter your unburied limbs,”

  24. DanielB22 May 9, 2022 at 8:53 pm

    In one of the classes I attended long ago, the professor made the argument that as the oldest texts of Mark end with the finding of the empty tomb, rather than any visions of the resurrected Jesus, this supports the position that the original word-of-mouth story about Jesus’ death and resurrection focused primarily on the claim that there was a tomb of Jesus and it was found to be empty – not on visions of Jesus after the resurrection. So, if there was no tomb and no burial, what point is Mark trying to make by ending his gospel with the empty tomb story and not including even one vision/appearance by the resurrected Jesus?

    • BDEhrman May 10, 2022 at 4:43 pm

      The problem is that Paul was writing years before Mark and he knows about the appearances but not the tomb.

  25. jakejones September 11, 2022 at 5:03 pm

    professor ehrman,

    1. if paul knew that jesus was left on the cross, would he have revealed that jesus stayed on the cross?

    • BDEhrman September 12, 2022 at 1:02 pm

      I don’t know. But I also don’t know how he would know that.

      • Vazquez Jd December 24, 2023 at 7:21 pm

        Wouldn’t it have been somebody’s birthday or coronation? From what I’m reading the Gospel of Luke has Herod Antipas in Jerusalem and he supposedly became friends with Pilate. Some suggest that Herods birthday in early March. Or much more likely it was about same date that Herod Antipas became tetrach of Galilee between March/April.

        It seems extremely realistic and the gospels don’t seem to try to force anything in that. Herod being in Jerusalem for passover makes sense as his father was a convert.

        The independent tradition of John with the priesthood wanting Pilate to fix the inscription that Jesus claimed to be king of the Jews seems to fit this well. There was no reason for Christians to invent that.

        It looks like it was all about Pilate trying to insult the Sanhedrin and give a gift to Antipas who wanted to become king of the Jews as he did later request. Political maneuvering.

        Allowing the burial of Jesus to add insult to injury by honoring the tradition of allowing a crucified man to be properly buried at the request of an observant Sanhedrin Joseph. But I agree that Arimathea is probably just a made-up name term of endearment.

  26. Vazquez Jd December 24, 2023 at 7:41 pm

    Honestly it seems probable that Pontius Pilate would actually do this even for someone who claimed to be king of the Jews. To insult the priests who angered him when they refused to allow him to set up roman standards in the temple by sarcastically honoring a tradition at the request of an observant Jew.

    At the same time writing an inscription to insult the Priests who wanted to kill Jesus for claiming to be king of the Jews and saw him as a type of threat to stability or position of power after the temple incident. While using it as a way to give a gift Herod Antipas who might become the next king of the Jews and important ally near his coronation date as Tetrach and potential birthday. Flattery of sorts. And who is documented for wanting to become king of the Jews and making that official request to the Emperor at the request of Herodias. It’s recorded.

    It’s brilliant political maneuvering that fits the situation perfectly. And it’s not something the gospels are trying to invent it would appear. Just seems like very clever payback and alliance making to fit the political climate.

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