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Biblical Evidence Against Talpiot Tomb Theory

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  • J. Phillip Arnold
    From the biblical documents, it appears to me that there is textual evidence against a connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the Talpiot Tomb. Read
    Message 1 of 1 , May 24, 2007
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      From the biblical documents, it appears to me that there is textual
      evidence against a connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the
      Talpiot Tomb. Read carefully, Acts 2 indicates that no one at that
      time knew of any claim that the dead body of Jesus Christ remained in
      a tomb anywhere. My position is expressed in the following three-part

      Phil Arnold, Ph.D.
      The Reunion Institute
      Houston, Texas

      I. Historical method insists that the historical and religious
      primary sources be searched for what evidence is present for belief
      in the existence of the Talpiot Tomb as the burial site for Jesus and
      his family. What do the texts, canonical or non-canonical, from the
      first century tell us about Talpiot and Jesus? None of these texts
      connects Jesus Christ to Talpiot. But, in my opinion, one passage by
      Luke in Acts 2 weighs strongly against any connection between Jesus
      of Nazareth and the Talpiot tomb. Before turning to this passage in
      Part III below, let's examine other New Testament evidence against
      Talpiot having to do with Jesus Christ.

      It is reasonable to suppose that had the Talpiot tomb been that of
      the Jesus Family, it would have been known to both friend and foe of
      the Jesus Movement. Family members waiting their turn to be interred
      in Talpiot would have been keenly aware of the existence of
      this "generational" tomb. This means that the Talpiot Tomb would
      have been known by Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the brothers and sisters of
      Jesus, including James of course; not to mention their wives and
      children, cousins, and household members. Many outside the immediate
      family of Jesus would have had to have known of the Tomb simply
      because their children had married into the Jesus family; not to
      mention outsiders in the "tomb" trade, such as stone cutters
      and "tomb gardeners."

      With such a large number of persons over the course of two, three, or
      more generations knowing about the existence and use of the Talpiot
      Tomb for the Jesus Family, it seems likely that the disciples and
      close followers of Jesus would have heard about the Tomb also.
      Hence, it is likely that word of the Tomb would have reached the ears
      of early converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. Thus, surely both
      the "Hebrew and Hellenist" Christians, such as Peter, Stephen and
      others would have heard of the existence and use of the Tomb--had
      there been such a tomb connected to Jesus.

      Even if the family members failed to identify this Tomb and kept
      it "on the quiet," those opposed to the Jesus Movement certainly
      would have been aware of it and would have used it as a tool against
      the Movement, publicly pointing to it as the final abode of Jesus and
      his family members. Talpiot would have surely been placarded as the
      tomb of a dead Jesus despite the claims of disciples who said
      otherwise. One would imagine that the authorities would have
      posted "guards" to watch over the Jesus Dynasty Tomb as a possible
      site for manifestations of Davidic "messianic fervor"--to make sure
      no stone was rolled away a second time! And this then would be very
      well known.

      But, the historical texts, canonical and non-canonical, know nothing
      of this.

      A person in the position of Paul would have surely heard of Talpiot
      from both sides. First, as an enemy of the Jesus Movement, he would
      have heard most evidence that the Jerusalem anti-Christian leaders
      would have had against belief that Jesus was resurrected from the
      dead. As the recipient of this "ammunition," Saul/Paul would have
      used it to wreak havoc on both Jewish and Gentile converts to
      Christianity. It seems most probable that before he resorted to
      extreme physical punishment, he would have presented reasons to those
      he persecuted to reject the belief that Jesus was resurrected from
      the dead. Even if some of these early believers understood the
      resurrection to be "merely" a non-physical spiritual life of the
      crucified one, surely Talpiot would have served as evidence that
      Jesus was indeed stone cold dead. In this way, the enemies of the
      earliest Christians could portray Jesus as remaining in the tomb at
      Talpiot, suffering corruption, and not in any special way ascended
      into heaven. The propaganda value of Talpiot would have gone a long
      way as a weapon in the quiver of Paul against the Christian sect.
      One wonders how Paul could have switched sides in the face of Talpiot?

      II. Since many of the objections used against early Christian belief
      in the resurrection of Jesus are "countered" in the gospels and
      letters of the New Testament, it would seem that there would exist in
      those pages some counter to the claims of Talpiot. Many claims are
      countered, but why no argument against Talpiot? No where do we read
      in our primary sources of any refutation of a claim that Jesus was
      buried in a family tomb at Talpiot.

      The absence of such a refutation in the sources seems deafening. If
      the Jesus stored at Talpiot was said by enemies of the resurrection
      to be Jesus of Nazareth, that charge would have had to have been
      refuted decisively. However, there is no historical evidence of any
      recorded response to such an explosive charge. There are responses
      given to the charge that Jesus was born at Nazareth. That his birth
      was not legitimate. That he was not Davidic. That he broke Jewish
      laws. That he was inspired by Beelzebub. That his disciples "stole
      away" his body. All these responses prove that there were such
      charges in existence that had to be countered. It seems reasonable
      to conclude that there was no charge or claim that Talpiot was a tomb
      containing the body/bones of Jesus Christ.

      And when we read of certain stories that come close to the subject
      matter of tombs, death, and resurrection, it would seem that an
      opportunity to "refute" the Talpiot charges would be at hand. But,
      when Jesus confronts the tomb of Lazarus in John, the author makes no
      attempt to play off this tomb story to refute a "prevailing Talpiot
      tomb" charge. And, when Matthew writes that the enemies of the Jesus
      Movement claim that his disciples came and took the body away, he
      stops on the dime. He does not write that such enemies also say that
      Jesus was reburied down the road at Talpiot in the family tomb. Had
      that story been in circulation, as was the charge that the body was
      stolen, Matthew would have needed to have responded to it also. It
      seems that it was not necessary for him to respond because no one was
      linking Talpiot to Jesus Christ.

      Paul's statement in I Corinthians 15:17-20 that if Jesus is not
      resurrected, Christian faith is in vain would surely mean that he had
      confronted the Talpiot charge had such a claim been hurled at
      Christians. How could Paul continue his new found faith in the
      resurrection of Jesus, if family members of Jesus, or Paul's former
      Jewish friends who were enemies of the Christians, had told him about
      Talpiot? Of all people, surely Paul would have heard of the Talpiot
      story--if it had been a story. So, we know, for a fact, that
      whatever Paul had heard about the Talpiot Tomb, if anything at all,
      it was not strong enough evidence to persuade him to drop his belief
      that Jesus was raised from the dead!

      One would have every reason to expect that during his visit with
      Peter and James in Jerusalem, after his escape from Damascus, Paul
      would have discussed Talpiot during his fourteen day visit
      (Gal.1:18.) It is not plausible to believe that Paul talks with both
      Peter and James, and neither one mentions Talpiot! Imagine, if you
      can: James has "buried" both his father, Joseph, and his brother,
      Jesus down the road in Talpiot; soon he knows he will inter his
      mother, Mary, and other dear family members. Now, are we to think
      that James the Righteous looks Paul in the eye and says nothing,
      after first "winking" at Peter? Again, at the conference in Acts 15,
      James has to "conceal" Talpiot from Paul and others? Meanwhile, Mary
      and the brothers and the sisters continue the cover-up, as they all
      die one by one. Could James be so "double-minded?"

      On the other hand, if everyone openly talks about Jesus' tomb
      remaining at Talpiot, and that his body is suffering corruption
      there, and that it has not been transformed and ascended in an unique
      way into heaven, how can Stephen, Peter, John, and others suffer
      persecution and death over how Jesus overcame death through
      resurrection from the tomb? And what on earth would Paul think when
      he got wind of these open discussions?

      None of these early sources provide any evidence for a connection
      between Talpiot and Jesus. From these primary sources, which we know
      for a fact speak of Jesus of Nazareth, there is no reference to or
      connection with Talpiot. This historian's judgment is that there are
      no reasons from these written texts to connect the two.

      III. But there is written evidence against Talpiot being the tomb of
      Jesus. It is found in Acts 2:29-34. Had anyone in the first century
      claimed that Talpiot was where the decaying bones of Jesus were kept,
      it would be very unlikely that Luke would have put the following
      words in the mouth of Peter while placing him next to the "Tomb of
      David," "I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and
      was buried, and his tomb is here to this day....He (David) spoke of
      the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the
      grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life,
      and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of
      God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father...for David did not
      ascend to heaven...."

      If Talpiot was said to have been the very tomb of Jesus where his
      body was decaying, why would Luke bring up the exact claim against
      David? If enemies of the resurrection were pointing to the Talpiot
      Tomb as the location of the decaying body of Jesus, it is unlikely
      that a writer would introduce the subject of another tomb in
      Jerusalem where a decaying body that had not been resurrected and had
      not ascended into heaven was located!

      Luke writes that we all know that this sepulcher is David's tomb. We
      know that he is buried in this tomb. We know that his body is
      decaying. We know that he has been abandoned to this grave. And we
      all know that he is not ascended into heaven. We know these things
      because this is David's tomb, and his decayed bones are inside.
      If Talpiot had been associated with the burial of Jesus, the reader's
      response would be to imagine a voice from the crowd piping up, "Yes,
      but his family knows, and we know, that Jesus, too, is buried down at
      Talpiot, next to his father Joseph. Everyone go down and see for
      yourself." Paul would have "fallen off his horse again" to get there.

      My point is that it is most improbable that Luke writing in the first
      century would put such words in Peter's mouth when there is a
      devastating charge in circulation that Jesus is the one who is buried
      in a tomb nearby. It does not depend on whether Peter himself spoke
      these words at the time that Acts 2 is said to have taken place. If
      historically Peter did say similar words on Pentecost after Jesus was
      killed, then it is even more unlikely that there could have been a
      charge circulating that Jesus remained buried in a tomb in
      Jerusalem. Peter would have been taking a great gamble to bring up
      what would have been taken as a parallel to the Talpiot Tomb. The
      crowd could have contradicted Peter on the spot. To go out of the way
      to have Peter say that which is being claimed against Jesus, would be
      a fatal flaw in the story line.

      Whether it is the author Luke, or the apostle Peter, it makes no
      difference for my point: to stand in front of what was thought to be
      the Tomb of David and point to the decaying king in order to "show"
      that Jesus is resurrected makes no sense when both the author and the
      characters "know" that the exact same thing is being said of Jesus
      down the road at Talpiot!

      Such a rhetorical strategy would be as foolish as for a Mormon
      apologist to write that we know David Koresh could not be a true
      prophet, like Joseph Smith, because we know Koresh forged his Seven
      Seals from some golden plates he found which were planted by a writer
      named Solomon Spaulding. That would be the last thing a Mormon
      apologist would bring up to spike a rival prophet! Similarly with a
      Luke confronted with Talpiot. An author would avoid bringing up such
      a parallel. Let sleeping dogs lie.

      Luke surely had never heard of any story connecting Talpiot to
      Jesus. He freely uses the Peter story about David's tomb without
      fear or hesitation.

      An interrogation of these texts yields no evidence of a claim or
      charge that the body of Jesus remained in a tomb in Talpiot or
      anywhere. The internal evidence suggests that no such story
      circulated, as it was bound to have done had there been such a tomb
      at Talpiot.

      Phil Arnold, Ph.D.
      The Reunion Institute
      Houston, TX.
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