Questions and Answers


QUESTION:

Can you give me information on the method the Jewish people used in Christ’s time in preparing a body for burial?


ANSWER:

The body of the deceased was usually washed in warm water and-

Acts 9:37 (NASB) 37And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room.

-anointed the body with oil or some aromatic unguents. (Tract Shabbath of the Talmud, 151a)

The body was then wrapped in numerous folds of linen in which mixed spices were placed, including myrrh and aloes, with a separate napkin for the head –

 John 11:44 (NASB) 44The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said* to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” 

John 19:39- 40 (NASB) 39Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 

The spices were never used sparingly and the larger the amount the higher token of respect was given. The treatise known as Semahot or Ebel Rabbati states that no less than eighty pounds of spices were used at the funeral of Rabbi Gamaliel.

When our Lord Messiah Jesus was buried, Nicodemus brought about a hundred pounds which were bound in the linen cloths. This itself showed how blatant was the lie of the soldiers who had been paid to say that His body had been stolen, because the thieves couldn’t have had time to unwrap all this.

Matthew 28:12-13 (NASB) 12And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’

If we’re correct in concluding that these linens were still in the unwrapped position, as shown by the statement regarding the napkin-

John 20:6-7 (NASB) 6And so Simon Peter also came*, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw* the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 

— the evidence of a resurrection was absolute. This though, is only incidental since the positive proof rests in the fact that He was seen and touched after He was resurrected.

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