In considering whether Jesus was buried on the day of his death, does it matter what Roman typical practices were?  Or should these just be overlooked, not taken into consideration?

In addition to the rather general considerations I have given in my previous post for calling into question the idea that Jesus received a decent burial by Joseph of Arimathea, there are three more specific reasons for doubting the tradition that Jesus received a decent burial at all, in a tomb that could later be recognized as emptied.


Roman Practices of Crucifixion

Sometimes Christian apologists argue that Jesus had to be taken off the cross before sunset on Friday, because the next day was Sabbath and it was against Jewish Law, or at least Jewish sensitivities, to allow a person to remain on the cross during the Sabbath.  Unfortunately, the historical record suggests just the opposite.  It was not Jews who killed Jesus, and so they had no say about when he would be taken down from the cross.  Moreover, the Romans who did crucify him had no concern to obey Jewish Law, and virtually no concern about Jewish sensitivities.  Quite the contrary.  When it came to crucified criminals – in this case, someone charged with crimes against the state – there was regularly no mercy and no concern for anyone’s sensitivities.  The point of crucifixion was to torture and humiliate a person as fully as possible, and to show any bystanders what happens to someone who is a troublemaker in the eyes of Rome.  Part of the humiliation and degradation was being left on the cross after death, to be subject to the scavenging animals.

John Dominic Crossan has made the rather infamous suggestion that Jesus’ body was not raised from the dead but was eaten by dogs.  When I first heard this suggestion I was no longer a Christian, and so was not religiously outraged, but I did think it was excessive and sensationalist.  That was before I did any real research on the matter.  My view now is that we don’t know, and cannot know, what actually happened to Jesus’ body.  But it is absolutely true that so far as we can tell from all the surviving evidence, what normally happened is that a person was left to decompose and to serve as food for the scavenging animals.  Crucifixion was meant to be a public disincentive to engage in politically subversive activities; and the disincentive did not end with the pain – it continued on in the ravages worked on the corpse afterward.

Evidence for this comes from a wide range of sources.   We have an ancient inscription found on the tombstone of a man who was murdered by his slave, in the city of Caria, on which we learn that the murderer was “hung … alive for the wild beasts and birds of prey.” The Roman author Horace says in one of his letters, that a slave was claiming to have done nothing wrong, to which his master replied, “You shall not therefore feed the carrion crows on the cross” (Epistle 1.16.46-48). The Roman satirist Juvenal speaks of “The vulture [that] hurries from the dead cattle and dogs and corpses, to bring some of the carrion to her offspring” (Satires 14.77-78).  The most famous interpreter of dreams from the ancient world, a Greek Sigmund Freud named Artemidorus, indicates that it is auspicious for a poor man in particular to have a dream about being crucified, since “a crucified man is raised high and his substance is sufficient to keep many birds” (Dream Book 2.53).   And there is a bit of gallows humor in the Satyricon of Petronius, a one-time advisor to the emperor Nero, about a crucified victim being left for days on the cross (chs. 11-12).

It is unfortunate that we do not have from the ancient world any single literary description of the process of crucifixion, so we are left guessing about the details of how exactly it was carried out.  But consistent references to the fateMy view now is that we don't know of the crucified show that part of the ordeal involved being left as fodder for the scavengers upon death.  As the conservative, but brilliant, Christian commentator Martin Hengel once observed, “Crucifixion was aggravated further by the fact that quite often its victims were never buried.  It was a stereotyped picture that the crucified victim served as food for wild beasts and birds of prey.  In this way his humiliation was made complete.”

I should point out that other conservative Christian commentators have claimed that there were exceptions to this rule as indicated in the writings of Philo, that Jews were sometimes allowed to provide decent burials for people who had been crucified.  In fact, this is a complete misreading of the evidence from Philo, as can be seen simply by quoting his words at length (I have placed some of the key words in bold-face italics):

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 the birthday of the emperor and also that the sanctity of the festival should be maintained.

When the statement is read in toto, it is clearly seen to provide the exception that proves the rule.  Philo is mentioning this kind of exceptional case precisely because it goes against established practice.  Two things are to be noted.  The first, and less important, is that in the cases that Philo mentions, the bodies were taken down so that they could be given to the crucified persons’ family members for decent burial – that is, it was a favor done for certain families, and one might assume these were elite families with high connections.   Jesus’ family did not have high connections, his family did not have the means of burying anyone in Jerusalem, they weren’t even from Jerusalem, none of them knew any of the ruling authorities to ask for the body, and what is more, in our earliest accounts none of them, even his mother, was actually at the event.

The bigger point has to do with when and why these exceptions mentioned by Philo were made.   They were made when a Roman governor chose to honor a Roman emperor’s birthday – in other words, to honor a Roman leader on a Roman holiday.   That has nothing to do with Jesus’ crucifixion, which was not on an emperor’s birthday.  It was during a Jewish Passover feast – a Jewish festival widely recognized as fostering anti-Roman sentiments.  It is just the opposite kind of occasion from that mentioned in Philo.  And we have no record at all – zero record – of governors making exceptions in any case such as that.

In sum, it was the common Roman practice to allow the bodies of crucified persons to decompose and be attacked by scavengers on the cross, as part of the disincentive for crime.  I have not run across any contrary indications in any ancient source.   It is always possible that an exception was made, of course.  But it must be remembered that the Christian storytellers who indicated that Jesus was an exception to the rule had an extremely compelling reason to do so.  If Jesus were not buried, his tomb could not be declared empty.

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2023-07-25T12:10:00-04:00July 25th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

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  1. tomaldrich July 25, 2023 at 8:45 am

    Even if Jesus’s body were left on the cross or thrown in a ditch, you could still hypothetically have a missing body scenario, necessitating some sort of explanation among his followers, if somebody went back to take a look a few days later and couldn’t find it, i.e., the body was gone and in less time than it would typically take for the scavengers to complete their work.

    It is also interesting to note that post-execution abuse of the corpse as an ultimate humiliation remained a part of European criminal law until well into the 18th Century, e.g., heads on spikes, hanging pirates in irons, turning the corpse over to the anatomists for dissection.

  2. GeoffClifton July 25, 2023 at 8:58 am

    I suppose it is just possible that a birthday of a member of the Imperial Family may have happened to coincide with the Passover in the year Jesus was crucified. We know from a calendar unearthed at Dura-Europos that the Roman army was still celebrating the birthday of Germanicus, Tiberius’s nephew (and a man who was never Emperor) 200 years after his death. But it is a long shot, admittedly.

  3. Armas July 25, 2023 at 8:59 am

    Hi, Bart.

    I’m convinced by your arguments but I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on Jehohanan, the Jewish man condemned to crucifixion who was later entombed in an ossuary.

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 9:43 am

      I’ve talked about him on teh blog and will be reposting the (old) posts in a couple of weeks (do a word search and you’ll see the original posts). He was indeed given a burial, which was unusual. BUT, we don’t know it happened. Nothing at all suggests it was the day of his death. It cold have been a week later. My issue is not whether the remains of a crucified victim were disposed of, but whether it could plausibly happen on the afternoon of his death.

  4. brenmcg July 25, 2023 at 10:07 am

    “But it must be remembered that the Christian storytellers who indicated that Jesus was an exception to the rule had an extremely compelling reason to do so. If Jesus were not buried, his tomb could not be declared empty.”

    But if there never was a tomb there can be no compelling reason to have it empty.

    If no crucified enemy of the state is ever taken down from the cross why not just have him resurrected from the cross? At first light the Roman guards who had fallen asleep realise the body has disappeared!

    “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”

    Why the need for an empty tomb?

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 9:44 am

      The compelling reason to have it empty is to show that the body had been brought back to life.

      • rickgill July 26, 2023 at 11:24 am

        what are your thoughts on doctor goodacres claim that the tomb jesus waw buried in had other bodies?

        • BDEhrman July 30, 2023 at 8:44 am

          I’m not sure what hte evidence is for it. But I believe he’ll be talking about it at the upcoming Bible Conference on Sept. 23-24, so maybe he’ll concince me then!

      • brenmcg July 26, 2023 at 3:45 pm

        Well no, the resurrection appearances show the body has been brought back to life. But if the bodies of crucified victims are always left on the cross why not just have the body disappear from the cross and then appear to Peter? Why invent a story of it placed in a tomb to have it disappear from there instead? Especially if everyone knows that the bodies are always left on the cross.

        • BDEhrman July 30, 2023 at 8:58 am

          Because an empty tomb can be found to be empty. Crosses are eventually always empty — hence no proof.

          • Jon1 August 5, 2023 at 2:42 pm


            Can you please more thoroughly respond to brenmcg’s question above: “If no crucified enemy of the state is ever taken down from the cross why not just have him resurrected from the cross?” You responded, “Because an empty tomb can be found to be empty. Crosses are eventually always empty — hence no proof.” Your answer seems inadequate because Christians could easily have imagined Jesus’ body disappearing from the cross on the very first night, or at least by the third day, when crosses were never empty on your view. Also, tombs can be empty for reasons other than resurrection (theft/movement), so a tomb seems an even worse option. If Jesus wasn’t buried, why did early Christians conclude Jesus was “buried” (1 Cor 15:4) instead of being raised right off the cross? “Buried” seems an unexplainable development on your view that the Romans wouldn’t plausibly have let a Jewish criminal off the cross during Passover. Even if the creed formulating Christians were ignorant of Roman crucifixion practices, certainly Paul had to know what was plausible and Paul agreed Jesus was “buried.”

          • BDEhrman August 9, 2023 at 6:00 am

            I think you’re asking why Christians imagined one thing instead of another? How can a question like that be answered exactly? My point is that Christians argued that the empty tomb proved that Jesus had been raised. For that there had to be an identifiable tomb. For that he had to be buried in one. Pointing to a particular empty cross would not seem like a veyr persuasive argument. But if everyone knew where he was buried, it would be an argument.

          • Jon1 August 9, 2023 at 5:07 pm

            I see your point about a *known* tomb found empty adding to the argument for Jesus’ resurrection. However, the women in the gospel story *see* the cross Jesus was on, so from there it seems to me it would have been much easier and more effective for a legend to develop where the women went back to the same (and guarded!) cross the next morning or two and found Jesus gone, i.e., no need to add a wildly implausible (on your view) story of Pilate allowing Jesus off the cross to be buried. That an empty cross legend didn’t emerge seems to indicate that, at least among those from whom the gospel legend emerged, burial was plausible. But it seems doubtful that Paul knew of a discovered empty tomb, so I am thinking Jesus really was “buried” (1 Cor 15:4), probably by a disinterested Jewish burial crew in the ground in obscurity and shame (the *expected* burial), and then a legend emerged that the burial was conducted by a secret disciple or cut short by sunset so Jesus ended up in a *discoverable* rock-hewn tomb. Thoughts?

          • BDEhrman August 11, 2023 at 12:16 pm

            Just seems implausible to me. Anyone can go to a tomb and see that by god, no one is on it. Seems pretty easy to say that if there are a bunch of crosses on a hill, most of them empty, well, they’re all empty!

  5. michael2911 July 25, 2023 at 10:11 am

    I’ve never seen any evidence that Paul believed in an empty tomb and have doubted whether he did. it always seemed to me to be a later invention. Paul does, however, state that Jesus was buried within 3 days of his death (1 Corinthians 15:4), and (at least once in Romans 6:4, twice if he wrote Colossians 2:12) that baptism is a symbol for Christ’s burial. Yet your last sentence, “If Jesus were not buried, his tomb could not be declared empty.” indicates that Paul must have believed in Christ’s quick burial because he believed in an empty tomb. Do you, therefore, believe that Paul believed in an empty tomb?

  6. petfield July 25, 2023 at 10:26 am

    Mr. Ehrman, do you ever regret not using this particular material in your debate against Lane Craig? Because, oh boy, it would get really tough for him to keep up the smugness!

    A couple of days ago he issued a new re-re-re-response to your claims in Alex O’ Connor’s podcast, and had the naive nerve to challenge you to present evidence for your claim that Jesus probably did not get a decent burial! 😂😂😂

    I was like “just read the damm book, you ignorant conman!” How much confidence is left after that? A lot, I guess, if you are dishonest enough…

    When I first read “How Jesus Became God” exactly 2 years ago, I distinctively remember how shocking this part of the book was for me! I don’t think I’ve ever come across something more shocking than that while reading about these issues.

    I remember once talking about it with a deeply devoted Christian, whom I really appreciate and deeply respect, and it was very noticeable that this information was bearing down on her. I genuinely felt bad, because she’s a very good person and I didn’t want to press her.
    I think this information is too heavy for some Christians.

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 9:45 am

      Yeah, people keep mentioning WLC’s recent interview to me. Arg….

  7. Jon1 July 25, 2023 at 12:06 pm


    I’m having a hard time understanding why Jesus’ followers thought the Romans “buried” Jesus (1 Cor 15:4). Can you please provide one example where the Romans removed a crucifixion victim from the cross in peacetime to dispose of the remains? All the evidence suggests the Romans let crucified bodies be consumed by birds on the cross until the bones fell to the ground and were taken away be scavengers. Even if there were a foot or hand bone left on the cross held there by a nail, it seems like the Romans would just toss these final body parts a few yards away from the cross whenever they were prepping it for the next crucifixion victim.

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 9:48 am

      I”m not familiar with any evidence that the Romans let the birds eat all the flesh aay and that the bones then fell on the ground to be left by scavengers. What are you thinking of? (Two clear pieces of evidence against it are the two skeletal remains of crucified victims that have turned up)

      • Jon1 July 26, 2023 at 10:48 am

        I’m thinking of the quote from Hengel in your own writeup; “Crucifixion was aggravated further by the fact that quite often its victims were *never* buried. It was a stereotyped picture that the crucified victim served as food for wild beasts and birds of prey. In this way his humiliation was made complete” (pg. 87 in Hengel’s book, and for more on this see Hengel’s pgs. 9, 31, 43, 47, 51, 52, 54, 76, 77, 78). Other than exceptions where the Romans gave the body to *someone else* to bury it, or in wartime to rapidly reuse the crosses, there is no evidence that I am aware of that the Romans ever removed crucified corpses to dispose of them. Can you please provide one example where this occurred or of Hengel or any other expert in this area ever saying that this occurred?

        • BDEhrman July 30, 2023 at 8:41 am

          I’m not aware of the exceptions. Possibly Hengel has a footnote? I don’t recall.

          • Jon1 July 30, 2023 at 5:26 pm

            Nope, no footnote or main text from Hengel on exceptions to Roman policy. He doesn’t even mention those passages in which we know bodies were sometimes given to families on the birthday of an emperor. Hengel is only useful for showing what general Roman crucifixion policy was when they *didn’t* give the corpse to someone else: “Crucifixion was aggravated further by the fact that quite often its victims were *never* buried. It was a stereotyped picture that the crucified victim served as food for wild beasts and birds of prey. In this way his humiliation was made complete” (pg. 87, quoted in your own post above). This sounds like crucified bodies were consumed by birds until the bones fell to the ground and were taken away be scavengers. Can you please provide one example where the Romans removed a crucified skeleton from a cross in peacetime to dispose of it, or an expert in this area saying this ever occurred? You seem to be imagining the Romans doing this with no evidence, which is fine, but I just want to know if you have any evidence.

          • BDEhrman August 4, 2023 at 4:08 am

            I don’t know of any discussions off hand, and I’m out of the country and away from my books. I imagine they exist and should be that difficult to track down. The discussions I cite refer to corpses being left on the crosses for days. That bodies were eventually removed is suggested by tne need to reuse crosses instead of manufacturing new ones anytime someone was crucified. My interest is less in who buried Jesus’ remains than in whether he was buried the day of his crucifixion in a known tomb.

          • Jon1 August 4, 2023 at 1:59 pm

            If the Romans just left skeletons on the cross, they would have eventually fallen off and been taken away by scavengers, so there would have been no need to manufacture a new cross everytime someone was crucified. No discussion of Roman crucifixion practices that I’m aware of ever speaks of corpses being left on the cross “for days,” they speak of corpses “never” being removed from the cross (your own quote from Hegel). And your references in another thread show that the Romans purposely left criminals UNburied, so they never would have buried Jesus’ skeleton even if they did remove it from the cross. How then do you account for word “buried” in the 1 Cor 15:3-5 creed?

          • BDEhrman August 9, 2023 at 5:41 am

            Would they?

          • Jon1 August 9, 2023 at 12:06 pm

            If you’re asking would skeletons have eventually fallen off the cross and been taken away by scavengers, yes, I would think so as soon as the cartilage was weathered and eaten away by birds. Do you know something different?

            Also, can you please answer my previous question on how you account for the word “buried” in the 1 Cor 15:3-5 creed given that your references in another thread show that the Romans purposely left criminals UNburied, so even if they did remove skeletons from crosses they never would have buried Jesus’? As far as I can tell, your two positions are 1) the creed formulators erroneously thought the Romans would *bury* Jesus’ skeleton, or 2) the creed formulators know of a legend where the Jews buried Jesus in a rock-hewn tomb that was discovered empty three days later. Am I correct that these are your two positions, and do you have any others?

          • BDEhrman August 11, 2023 at 12:06 pm

            I believe I’ve answered these questions repeatedly. It’s clear that no matter what I say you’re going to disagree. So let’s move on to something else. (As an example: the two positions you attribute to me are precisely not what I’ve ever said)

          • Jon1 August 12, 2023 at 12:33 am

            All I’ve seen you say with regard to why early Christians would think Jesus was “buried” are things like: “Paul was repeating the early Christian views that Jesus was raised, and for that to happen, of course, he had to be buried.” Who did these early Christians think buried Jesus? And why does someone even need to be buried to be raised?

          • BDEhrman August 13, 2023 at 10:35 am

            As I’ve said, I’ve already answered this numerous times, and this needs to be the last: I do think Jesus’ remains wer disposed of somehow, probably in some kind of mass grave or just a sallow ditch. Thta would be his “burial.” “Burial in antiquity could involve nothng more than having some handfuls of dirt thrown on the body. What I’m arging is that Jesus wsa not buried on the afternoon of his death in an actual tomb, but wsamore probably left to deco,pose o the cross for a while. I don’t know whom the early Christians thought buried him. And Someone can indeed be raised from the dead without being buried. Any Christian who dies at sea will be, in Christian thinking.

          • Jon1 August 13, 2023 at 5:39 pm

            There’s no account that I’m aware of where the Romans ever covered criminal remains with dirt, even just a handful; as all of your own Roman references say, criminals were *intentionally* left UNburied. That’s why, respectfully, I think you need to more specifically defend how the word “buried” (1 Cor 15:4) got into an early Christian creed. The creed formulators either had to be idiots and thought the Romans would actually “bury” (in the Jewish sense of the term!) Jesus’ skeleton, or you need to propose some other specific explanation, i.e., your hypothesis is currently incomplete and all possible explanations look to me like a dead end. You said you “don’t know whom the early Christians thought buried Jesus,” but there are only two options — the Romans or the Jews. Follow both paths and think up anything you can and I bet you can’t account for the word “buried” in the creed and Paul without an *actual* burial by the Jews taking place (which BTW doesn’t require Jesus was buried in a *rock-hewn* tomb). Thanks for being an outspoken scholar on this difficult topic.

  8. wpoe54 July 25, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    Your recent posts answered some of my earlier questions (if you read this first, ignore the other ones I had posted). But I do have a remaining question I could have missed: Since Paul says Jesus was the first fruit of the end times resurrection of the dead, and Jews had specific requirements for burial (in order to be resurrected?) could that have been why burial stories were so quickly formed by Jesus followers? Since he clearly was “resurrected” then he must have had a burial according to Jewish law. I keep thinking there has to be a reason why the story began so early to part of the foundational narrative of Jesus’s life. I can see the details being formed later, but even if no one actually saw a tomb they must have assumed there had been one, not a rotting on the cross and dispersion of the body parts.

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 9:51 am

      I guess it depends what the very first disciples who came to believe in the resurrection thought, about the timing of it all. The remains would have been disposed of somehow. In my view, the discples had fled to Galilee. That wold have taken a week. If Jesus showed up soon after that, they wouldn’t have had any reason to think he had been buried immediately on the day of his crucifixion. They probablyt weren’t thinking at all about time factors. They knew he had died, and now he was alive again. Only later, when the word started getting around, did Jewish followers of Jesus who knew Scrxipture come to think the resurretion was a fulfillment of Hosea 6:2, and so began saying “on the third day.” See what I mean?

      • wpoe54 July 26, 2023 at 10:14 am

        Thanks. That helps. But did the ancient Jews believe that the resurrection at the end of time depended on a burial of the complete body, whether in an ossuary or other method? If so, then my query is that if Jesus was the template for resurrection (the first fruit), would Paul and others have assumed that Jesus was “buried,” that he “must” have been for him to have been resurrected?

        If so, I can see the details being invented later, such things as it must have been within three days according to scripture, etc. I am just trying to understand why burial was so important that stories developed about it.

        • BDEhrman July 30, 2023 at 8:33 am

          No, God raised everyone. Including, say, people eaten by fish.

  9. OmarRobb July 25, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    Hi Bart,

    There are two claims here:

    The “Was” claim: Jesus was buried in the same day.
    And the “Wasn’t” claim.

    The support for the “Wasn’t” is just the “Generalization” of the Roman practices, which you indicate that it might have exceptions, but the exception needs to have sufficient data.

    The “Was” claim is supported by Josephus (Book IV, section 314): “although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun” (credit to “Blackwell” for highlighting this).

    Also, it is supported by many accounts in the NT.

    However, there is another logic that can support “Was”:

    If the crucified died on the cross, then probably at the next day, their “fat” will start to drip drop by drop, their meat will start to rotten and crack, and the smell of it would be recognize from miles.

    So, let us take the extreme scenario of the “Wasn’t”:

    Jesus died on the cross and stayed there for few days, and his body rotted and cracked, then he was buried somewhere.


    • OmarRobb July 25, 2023 at 1:00 pm


      However, many followers claimed that they saw him afterward and they spoke to him. And in less than 20 years, the followers established that Jesus was buried in the same day, and this was the base for the accounts in the NT.

      Is this logical?

      In 20 years, there were many people who saw Jesus rotting on the cross, so the followers were just saying a bold-faced lie. Dictators can force a lie, but not the normal public. Also, the public can believe in illogical rumors, but I don’t think they could just believe a clear lie in a community that there were so many that saw Jesus on the cross.

      It should be noted that clear-lies can spread in the community, but they would need some time, at least until the witnesses passed away.

      Furthermore, the Jewish followers didn’t really need to fabricate a story, they can just say that Jesus was on the cross for several days, then buried, then God resurrected him. This would be more astonishing miracle for the Jewish followers of Jesus. So, I think the Jewish followers didn’t really need to lie about this matter.

  10. Alchemmist July 25, 2023 at 4:16 pm

    In your post on July 11, 2023, you said, “In any event, in our accounts, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin – that is, one of those who called for Jesus’ destruction the night before – takes it upon himself to request his body, and Pilate without a single hesitation cedes to the request.”

    I don’t see that it follows that Joseph of Arimathea called for Jesus’ destruction. In Mark 15:1 NIV, it says, “Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.”

    This certainly states that the whole Sanhedrin was present. However, it does not necessarily say that the whole Sanhedrin was unanimously in favor of crucifying Jesus. The verse appears to be ambiguous. Therefore, it seems possible that a member of the Sanhedrin, let’s call him Joseph of Arimathea, could have been a dissenter. Is that a fair statement?

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 9:58 am

      Well, in the Greek it says that the entire Sanhedrin had Jesus bound and taken to Pilate, so I assume it does mean the entire Sanhedrin of which Joseph was a part. Otherwise I don’t see why he’d emphasize that it was the *entire* Sanhedrin. (I’m not sure if it’s relevant, in the analogous case in the Gospel of John when there is a Sanhedrin member who objects, the author notes it) (Again, I’m not hinging my conclusion about Mark on what happens in John)

  11. Hank_Z July 25, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Bart, you’ve said that you are in the minority of scholars who maintain that Jesus was not buried after his crucifixion. The historical evidence appears to be so strong that I’m wondering on what grounds the majority of scholars deny it. Or does that “majority” of scholars consist mostly of non-critical scholars (religious believers whose religious convictions outweigh historical evidence)?

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 9:59 am

      My sense is that it’s just one of those things that is so firmly embedded in our brains that it’s common sense and any other view just seems weird, crazy, and sensationalist. At least that’s what *I* first thought when I read John Dominic Crossan propose it….

  12. andrewzood July 25, 2023 at 11:18 pm

    Hi Dr. Ehrman, I think there should be a participation certificate for the new NT conference, as this is an opportunity of a lifetime.

    • BDEhrman July 26, 2023 at 10:01 am

      Interesting idea. Would it really seem meaningful, though? (And how would we know people came if it’s remote?) (i.e. even if they bought a ticket…)

  13. Blackwell July 26, 2023 at 1:02 pm

    Crucifixion victims generally remained on their cross as a deterrent but but people outside Israel had little interest or knowledge of practices there whereas the point of Josephus’s comments is that Jewish burial before sunset was an exception to general practice.
    Jews did receive consideration for their religious beliefs, as when Pilate attempted to introduce Caesar’s effigies into Jerusalem but withdrew after massive protests. Mass crucifixions occurred in wartime and those people were not buried but PiIate’s nine year rule was not especially violent. The likelihood that Pilate allowed burial for Jesus depends on the frequency of crucifixions. If they occurred monthly, for a total of about 100 during his tenure, a single exception would be extraordinary but with a yearly frequency for a total of nine, a single exception would just be unusual. What was the frequency of crucifixions?

    Some reasons for Pilate to have allowed burial are:
    In exchange for some other deal with the Sanhedrin; Bribery; Insecurity due to association with Sejanus.

    If burial on the day of crucifixion was really unprecedented, contemporary critics should have noted that this basic Christian belief was absurd. Is there any evidence that anyone did so?

    • BDEhrman July 30, 2023 at 8:48 am

      I’m afraid we don’t have any contemporary critics; the first htat come along that we know about are about 150 years later, and that’s only one!

  14. Serene July 27, 2023 at 2:02 am

    This Jerusalem tomb had the ossuary of an unfortunate Jewish crucifixion victim of the Romans – so, buried at one point, with no dog or carrion marks on the bones:

    Similarly, this Roman Cambridgeshire crucifixion victim had all his bones and was buried. Announced kinda recently 12/21:

    Bribes maybe.

    “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. Greco-Roman texts show that in certain cases the bodies of the crucified were left to decompose in place. In other cases, the crucified bodies were buried.” – Crucifixion and Burial, Cambridge University Press, John Granger Cook, 2011. (I didn’t read the book).

  15. TimTheSkeptic July 27, 2023 at 2:19 am

    Hey Bart, I’m reading your book Misquoting Jesus and I’m absolutely loving it. I did have a question

    So, I’m currently at the part of the book where you talk about Antiseperationists alterations, antidocetic changes, and antiadoptionists changes. I was wondering do you think proto-orthodox Christians left out other Gospels and biblical writings from The New Testament because they had too many similarities with these other Christian beliefs? Thank you again for your time. I’m really loving this blog and I’m so grateful to be learning so much. This article about whether or not criminals were givin a proper burial or not was very interesting. Thanks again, can’t wait to read more of your books!

    • BDEhrman July 30, 2023 at 9:09 am

      Yes, the debates over what belonged in the canon were directly (and often explicitly) tied to theological controversies. Any book that toted an “unexceptable” view, had no chance…

  16. Bwana July 30, 2023 at 9:11 am

    I’m sure you’re right that the Roman invaders of Judea were not expected to follow Mosaic law. After all, the Romans didn’t have a reciprocal saying that when in Jerusalem, do as the Jerusalemites do. But perhaps this specific law about burying criminals was different because it carries an implicit penalty: “For you must not defile the land the Lord your God has given you”. A defiled land presumably cannot receive the Lord’s blessing, resulting in crop failure, resulting in famine. From that perspective this was pretty much a matter of national urgency. Furthermore, what is the use of priesthood (or a God, for that matter) if they can acquiesce to the land being defiled, and that land then continues to produce crops as if nothing’s happened?

    So, given the stakes, do you think that the religious authorities would imagine their God turning a blind eye when it was merely the Roman infidel doing the defiling?

    • BDEhrman August 3, 2023 at 12:40 pm

      My sense is that they thought that God wouldn’t punish them for the Romans not keeping their (Jewish) law; (i.e., the Law of Moses doesn’t say that God will punish them for what others do or don’t do, only for what they do. They didn’t kill Jesus and so weren’t responsible for when he was buried)

      • Bwana August 4, 2023 at 5:48 pm

        Sure, but the question is, even if the Jews were not responsible for the land being defiled, would the land still be considered defiled? I don’t think it’s primarily a question of punishment. Consider Num. 35:34, “You are not to defile the land where you will be living, for I’m living among you”. Would God, in the eyes of the priests, still be able to live among them when the Romans were defiling the land?

        • BDEhrman August 9, 2023 at 5:47 am

          Possibly. That would be one reason why many Jews wanted the Romans outta there.

  17. BibleGeek March 8, 2024 at 5:07 pm

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I heard William Lane Craig say that crucified criminals would only be deprived of burial during war time, but during peace time crucified criminals were buried. Is this true? And do you know why or where he is getting this from?

    Also, you have mentioned in a lot of your debates and discussions that 1 in 8 people have bereavement hallucinations. Where are you getting that stat from and has it been corroborated by other studies/psychologists/neuroscientists?

    • BDEhrman March 11, 2024 at 7:53 pm

      He obviously hasn’t read much ancient literature.

      I got the number from a wide range of modern psychological studies (not by religion scholars!!) ; I give discussion and bibliographical references in my book How Jesus Became God, pp. 193-201.disabledupes{9a1cd14319ee4c4574a20ffbf938c795}disabledupes

  18. markdeckard March 23, 2024 at 8:47 am

    This entire case comes down to the issue of plausability. Is it plausable that after a very tumultuous trial in which Pilate renders a deeply conflicted verdict on the execution of a man he beleived had done no wrong, might he be in a state of mind to grant the request of a highly connected Jew to take the body and give it a decent burial? Would such a move salve his conscious? Would it, in his own demented mind, possibly earn back some degree of appreciation from the Jesus followers? After all, building temples and showing various tolerances and favors were common political capitol for Palestinian Roman rulers.
    However, most problematic of all, how likely is it that the hostile Jewish witnesses and thier sympathizers stood by and acquiesced to the burial narrative for centuries when they all knew otherwise? Rather than dispute the burial, they insisted on a body stolen from a tomb.
    So it appears we have a bit of evidence in the case that is disputed by neither the then contemporary defense OR the the prosecution.

    • BDEhrman March 27, 2024 at 6:30 pm

      Part of the estimate of plausibility needs to be whether the rest of the story is plausible leading up to the crucifixion. Is it plausible that the trial was a large public event in front of Jewish crowds and that Pilate declared Jesus innocent?
      In terms of the after story, is it plausible that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem actually claimed the body had been stolen?
      From my reading of the historical sources, I would say not, in both cases.

  19. BibleGeek March 30, 2024 at 2:36 pm

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I recently heard someone make the argument (from John Granger Cook) that “Open mass graves in Judaea do not seem probable, given Jewish attitudes toward burial. At this time there are no known mass graves in Judaea which show evidence of being open burial grounds, where animals would have left evidence of gnawed skeletal remains.”

    Is this true? Is there no known evidence for any kind of grave pits or mass graves in Judaea during or around the time of Jesus?

    • BDEhrman April 1, 2024 at 7:30 pm

      With crucifixion victims we are not asking how Jews buried their dead but how Romans buried those they crucified. It’s true we have no evidence of mass tombs, but that’s true of most times and places. In any event, it may be Romans simply dug trenches to toss a bodies into; that’s what many archaeologists assume, but we just don’t have burial remains for 99.9% of the population, so there’s no way to know for sure.

  20. BibleGeek April 3, 2024 at 1:56 pm

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Where does the evidence come for the idea of grave pits or mass ditches to throw buried bodies into? The reference you used in your book didn’t indicate grave pits, but just that bodies weren’t given proper burials and that the animals ate them. I’m just curious where the idea of common grave pits for criminals came from, especially if there is no evidence for it. Do people write about it?

    • BDEhrman April 7, 2024 at 9:19 pm

      There’s no evidence for any mode of burial of most crucifixion victims, and so those who make proposals try to figure out what makes the best sense. As a rule crucified victims were not allowed decent burials; their bodies were left to decompose on the cross; something eventually had to be done with them. The vast majority were slaves and common criminals from impoverished backgrounds, so they would not be put into rock-cut tombs. Most people in general were buried in shallow trenches that someone would dig. So probably most were either disposed like that or Romans decided as many other conquering peoples have over the year that it is more efficient in man/soldier hours just to dig a larger pit for multiple burials at once. So, either way I suppose. But it’s hard to think of other viable options, given what we know about hte realitis of hte situation.

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