Inside the tomb

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Bible Land Explorers Joel Field and Brooks Talbott (?) explore niches (kokhim) inside a rolling stone tomb. This installation, located near Tell Abu Shusha, Israel, was highlighted in yesterday's post (see here).

While the "disk door" outside is quite rare, the arrangement of space inside this tomb is common. Finger-shaped tunnels for holding bodies radiate out from a central chamber. Three walls often hold niches. The fourth wall is marked by the entrance/exit.

Rock cut tombs like this were shaped and shared by a single family over the course of generations. They are also suggestive of (modest) wealth, as land ownership would be a precondition for digging such a tomb.

Those who lacked resources would be buried in a simple trench grave. Due to the vicissitudes of time, trench graves are less likely to survive, much less be identified, excavated, and known.

One would expect a crucified criminal to be buried in a trench grave. Oddly enough, however, the Gospels make it clear that Jesus was not buried as commoner. A rich (Gk. plusious) man claimed the corpse and buried it in his own tomb (see Matt 27:57-61 here). This seems to be an exceptional, if not an adoptive, move. This Joseph--from the end of the Gospel narrative--takes Jesus in as family. It rings a bell in the mind of the careful reader. A different Joseph at the beginning of the Gospel narrative did the same (See Matt 1:18-24 here)

Another bell rings as the mind drifts back to Isaiah 53:9 (see here).

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Chris Rockholt.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details.