Jewish Burial Places
In the New Testament era, the death of a relative required immediate attention, along with a period of mourning after burial.
This cave has apparently been inhabited since Stone Age times and has variously been a place of worship in Minoan and later times and was believed by the Greeks to have been the birthplace of Zeus. You can read a little more about the place here.
In more recent times, rebellious Cretans in the early 19th Century were causing untold trouble to occupying Turks and, when the Turks fought against their uprisings, those Cretan men, women and children in the area of Melidoni took refuge in this cave. When, in 1823, they refused to surrender, the Turks blocked the entrance to the cave with combustible materials, ignited them and gassed all the occupants. The bones of the dead were subsequently collected and placed in this marble ossuary which you can see to the left of the picture.
Because Jewish law prohibited dead bodies from remaining within the city walls of Jerusalem overnight, it was necessary to bury a corpse on the day of death. This tradition was practiced throughout Judea.
Corpses were immediately washed, anointed with perfumes or oils and wrapped in linen. The linen was typically in strips, though there is evidence that some bodies were wrapped in single garments.
The dead were carried to the place of burial on a bier (Lk 7:14), typically accompanied by a large procession. A eulogizer might have preceded the body, while dirge singers and pipers typically joined the mourners.
Depending upon the degree of wealth of the deceased, the body was either laid in an earthen grave to be covered with dirt and stones or placed within a tomb hewn from rock. Such tombs were often, but not always, sealed with rocks or millstones.
Interment often involved ossuaries, chests in which the bones of decayed corpses were collected and later reburied.
After burial, mourning continued for seven days (though it could last up to 30 days), as the family and community participated with dirge singing, weeping, the application of dust or ashes upon the head and/or fasting.
Within the context of such burial customs, Jesus’ words were radical; he insisted that pursuing and joining the advancing kingdom of God takes precedence even over family loyalty and social convention.
A lot of poor people buried their dead in the cave they were living in and that might have been because they didn’t have a back yard.
To me, funerals are ridiculous, when I die I don’t care if I’m buried in a cemetery, in the back yard next to my cats, or cremated. When you die the body is no longer need. The Bible says nothing for or against funerals or cremation.
I think when people die that person’s friends and family should have a bon voyage party and celebrate their good luck. I’ll tell you, when I die, if anyone has a funeral for me, I won’t be there.
When a you have a pair of clothes that you really like and it wears out you don’t continue to wash it, you throw it away. You may be unhappy that those clothes are gone, but you don’t mourn over it. So what do you do, you buy another pair and enjoy doing it.
This is the last chapter of the Book of Luke so tomorrow…
The Walk to Emmaus
1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
The front of the ossuary that was found is decorated with a stylized floral motif above which is a long Aramaic inscription engraved in Jewish script:
מרים ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהן דמעזיה דבית עמרי
‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priest[s] of Ma’aziah from Beth ’Imri’
or, an alternative reading
‘Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua Bar Qayafa, Priest of (the course of) Ma’aziah of the House of ‘Omri’.
“First day of the week” – Sunday began by Jewish time at sundown on Saturday. Spices could then be bought and they were ready to set out early the next day. When the women started out, it was dark, and by the time they arrived at the tomb, it was still early dawn.
2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher.
“The stone rolled away” – a tomb’s entrance was ordinarily closed to keep vandals and animals from disturbing the bodies. This stone, however, had been sealed by Roman authority for a different reason (see Matt 27:62-66).
3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
“Two men” – they looked like men, but their clothes were remarkable (see 9:29; Acts 1:10, 10:30). Other reports referring to them call them angels.
5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
8 And they remembered his words,
9 And returned from the sepulcher, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
A Jewish cemetery (Hebrew בית עלמין) (“beit alamin” or “beit kvarot”) is a cemetery where members of the Jewish faith are buried in keeping with Jewish tradition.
Known in Hebrew as “house of eternity,” the land of the cemetery is considered holy and a special consecration ceremony takes place on its inauguration. Establishing a cemetery is one of the first priorities for a new Jewish community. A Jewish cemetery is generally purchased and supported with communal funds.
“Unto the eleven, an d to all the rest” – “Eleven” is sometimes used to refer to the group of apostles (Acts 1:26, 2:14) after the betrayal by Judas. Judas was dead at the time the apostles first met the risen Christ, but the group was still called the twelve.
The “rest” included disciples who, for the most part, came from Galilee.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
“Mary Magdalene” – she is named first in most of the lists of women and was the first to see the risen Christ.
11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
“Their eyes were holden” – by special divine intervention, they cannot recognize Jesus.
17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
Ossuaries left in a cave.
18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done.
22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulcher;
23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulcher, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Ossuaries left in a cave
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Vandalized Jewish tombstones in Jerusalem.
34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
Jewish cemetery at Kasteelwal in Buren, The Netherlands.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
“Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms” – the three parts of the Hebrew Old Testament (Psalms was the first book of the third section, called the Writings), indicating that Christ (the Messiah) was foretold in the whole Old Testament.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
“Repentance and remission of sins” – see Acts 5:31, 10:43, 13:38, 26:18. The prediction of Christ’s death and resurrection is joined with the essence of man’s response (repentance) and the resulting benefit (forgiveness; cf. Is 49:6; Acts 13:47).
Exploring the First Jewish Burial Ground in Ancient Manhattan
This tiny National Historic landmark is tucked off of St. James Place near Chatham Square in Chinatown, The First Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of Shearith Israel may be small in size but the history of this place is enormous. The congregation was founded in 1656 and the cemetery built in 1683 is most likely the very first Jewish burial ground in the United States. It’s also one of the oldest historic sites still in existence in New York City.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
“The promise of my Father” – the reference is to the coming power of the Spirit, fulfilled in Acts 2:4.
50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
“While he blessed them” – this book begins with a priest who has no blessing to impart (Zacharias) and ends with our great high priest giving a blessing as he is departing from them.
“Carried up into heaven” – different from His previous disappearances. They saw Him ascend into a cloud (Acts 1:9).
52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
…we’ll start with the last Gospel, the Book of John, which is a bit different than the other three.