Resurrection update

23rd March 2002

From: Jordan
Sent: 05 January 2002 19:46
Subject: Common Grave


I am quickly nearing the completion of my upcoming response to you.

At your earliest convenience, please forward to me your support links, books, etc. regarding the common grave hypothesis. I blindcopied some folks who might also have such.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Have a great 2002.


----- Original Message -----
Sent: 08 January 2002 00:33
Subject: Re: Common Grave

<< please forward to me your support links, books, etc. regarding the common grave hypothesis. >> is probably the best place to look for a scholarly summary and references, and makes the one of the most compelling cases I've seen.
Here are some more thoughts you may wish to look into.
Rabbinic law specifies that criminals may not be buried in tombs; rather, it instructs Jews to bury criminals in a common grave. Tosefta Sanhedrin 9:8; Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:5-7.  m. Sanh. 6:6 says that criminals condemned by a Jewish court were not interred "in the burial place of their fathers," but in a separate places kept by the court specifically for that purpose. See also the discussion in Thomas Sheehan, The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986), p. 254-55, n. 10.  Available electronically at (quoted below:)
[10] The Mishnah, in discussing the burial of criminals, notes that outside the walls of Jerusalem there were at one time at least two common graves for executed criminals: "And they did not bury him [the executed person] in his ancestral tomb, but two burial places were prepared by the Beth Din [the Jewish court], one for those who were decapitated or strangled, and the other for those who were stoned or burned. When the flesh was completely decomposed, the bones were gathered and buried in their proper place": Epstein, ed., The Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin (Volume V), Tractate Sanhedrin (Volume I), chapter VI, 46a; translated by Jacob Schachter, 1935, p. 305. (Concerning "the other for those who were stoned": "All those who are stoned are [afterward] hanged," ibid., 45b; p. 299, that is, on a cross [ibid., 46a; p. 304].) Likewise, the fact of common graves is mentioned in Jeremiah 26:23 ("the burial place of the common people") and in Matthew 27:7 and Acts 1:19 (the potter's field, known as Akeldama, the Field of Blood, for burying strangers)...
The "Common grave" and other ignoble ends are also mentioned in:
John S. Spong, "Resurrection: Myth or Reality?,"
and you'll probably be familiar with John Dominic Crossan (see links).
There are also references to this in my resurrection pages - e.g. and I'm sure it's sprinkled around elsewhere (e.g. - if I remember correctly, the relevant speaker there was Hyam Maccaboy. You could also try my search engine at and note the books at
However, Ludemann's "What really Happened to Jesus" claims that Jesus was not likely to have been buried in a criminals' grave (a Jewish practise) because he was not executed by the Jewish authorities (Ludemann also doubts the historicity of the Jewish condemnation of Jesus - I think due to his other criticisms of anti-semitism in the NT in his "The Unholy in Holy Scripture" book, but I need to read more to be sure). However, others point out that an ignoble burial in accordance with the Mishnah Sanhedrin would have been necessary, if the passion story is to be believed, because Jesus was condemned by the Jewish authorities in the NT as discussed at (Also see
St. Paul explicitly says Jesus was condemned by the Law, (which would invoke the ignoble burial code), quoting the Torah law: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, cursed is everyone who hangs on a post" (Galatians 3:13).  And in accord with the Torah law condemning blasphemers to death (Leviticus 24:16), three of the four Evangelists state unequivocally that Jesus was condemned to death for blasphemy by the Jewish high council (Mark 14:64, Matthew 26:65-66, John 19:7).  Mark (10:33) and Matthew (20:18) even have Jesus predict he will be condemned to death by the Jewish council.
Therefore if Joseph of Arimathea (or another Jew/Jews) really buried Jesus, then he/they would have had to follow the code in the Mishnah Sanhedrin above. Since at least a few of the Jewish leaders had been involved in the condemnation of Jesus, they had an obligation to bury him in shame. Many scholars have suggested that JoA is a sanitised version of the original memory of an ignoble burial, whether in a common grave, or a criminal burial plot. This all assumes of course that the gospels are basically trustworthy in the passion story rather than containing "historical" material mined from the OT (whole other digression...)
BTW, Richard Carrier speculates regarding JoA, "Is the word [Arimathea] a pun on 'best disciple,' ari[stos] mathe[tes]? Matheia means 'disciple town' in Greek; Ari- is a common prefix for superiority." Since commentators have seen the burial by the outsider Joseph of Arimathea as a contrast to the failure of the disciples and intimates of Jesus, the coincidence that Arimathea can be read as "best disciple town" is staggering. Indeed, it is good evidence that Joseph of Arimathea is a fictional character and that the tomb burial story in the Gospel of Mark is also fictional.
Either way, something's up. I'm keen to take this further, but I think it would be fairer to see what you've got to say, rather than chop our debate up into private emails and loose what cohesion we have on our webpages for our readers.
I know there are reasons to doubt some of this, and you will see that discussed in the links below in some detail.
For more recent argument see
and further food for thought both of which repay careful reading.
These also give many full links to books you asked for. In particular see which is probably the best place to look for a scholarly summary.
BTW, just incase you've only seen the old versions, a while ago I made some minor alterations to and 
I hope that's of interest, sorry it's a bit quick - I'll do a more polished version on my site once I've digested your new pages.
Leaving Christianity:

From: Jordan
Sent: 09 January 2002 01:51
Subject: Re: Common Grave

Got 'em, dowloaded them, and they are printing now. Thanks.

13th April 2002: Jordan has now written a response.

22nd October 2002: We had some more correspondance about the 500.

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