In this lecture from the 2006 Jerusalem Perspective conference, Dr. Gabriel Barkay discusses First Temple and Second Temple Jewish burial customs. In both periods wealthy Israelites of the Land of Israel buried their dead in rock-hewn family tombs with space for multiple burials. During the First Temple period bodies were laid on stone shelves within the tomb, but after a body had decomposed, the bones were gathered in a special chamber with those of previous family members, thus the recurring biblical phrase: “He was gathered to his fathers.” The plan of Second Temple tombs, like the one in which Jesus was buried, was much different than First Temple tombs. In the time of Jesus, after decomposition of the body, the bones of the deceased were placed in an ossuary (a small decorated limestone box) that was placed in an arched loculus (burial niche) inside the tomb. Barkay lavishly illustrates both types of Jewish burial with colored slides. Finally, Barkay demonstrates that the burial cave know as the Garden Tomb could not be the tomb of Jesus since this tomb dates to the First Temple period.
Special thanks to Bruce Okkema, who dedicated hundreds of hours to the creation of the videos in this series. This lecture, along with the rest of the presentations delivered at the 2006 Jerusalem Perspective conference, is available through the En-Gedi Resource Center. To purchase the lectures in audio MP3 format, or to purchase the eight-disc DVD set, click here.