Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bonus 107 - Nazareth Inscription

Nazareth Inscription
The Nazareth Inscription 1.  (SEG VIII no. 13; GBL Das Grosse Bibellexikon II.1037) is a marble slab, that first appeared on the antiquities market in Nazareth, and was shipped from Nazareth to the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale in 1878, according to Froehner’s catalogue. It was discovered in the archives by the historian Michel Rostovtzeff and published by Franz Cumot in 1930. 2.  It is presently housed in the Cabinet de Médailles in the Louvre.3. Metzger argues that the slab was originally discovered in the Decapolis, 4.  although this is doubtful 5.  as the exact location is unknown. 6.  Nazareth was a popular point of sale for antiquity dealers.

In 1932 Zulueta translated the text as:
Ordinance of Caesar. It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain undisturbed in perpetuity for those who have made them for the cult of their ancestors, or children, or members of their house. If, however, any man lay information that another has either demolished them, or has in any way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing or other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honor the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In the case of contravention I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charge of violation of sepulture.7.
More recently Clyde E. Billington provided the newest English translation:
Edict of Caesar. It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs—whoever has made them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household members—that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has moved sepulcher-sealing stones, against such a person, I order that a judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat with honor those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under the title of tomb-breaker.8.
Of interest to NT scholarship is the warning in lines 10 and 11 that prohibits the transfer of bodies from one grave to another. The Gospels record that the women visited the tomb and found it empty after Pilate ordered the tomb sealed. He claimed that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus (Matt 27:62-66; 28:11-15). Although some scholars have considered the inscription as evidence of the resurrection, 9.  others are more cautious about what the inscription does prove. 10.

F. F. Bruce cautions that there are: “too many uncertainties about the inscription to justify more than a tentative consideration of the possibility that it might have some bearing on the spread of Christianity in Claudius’s reign.” 11.

Metzger concludes: “If in fact the ordinance was published in Palestine some time prior to the death of Jesus, then... at the time of the resurrection there was in force a severe law against tampering with buried bodies, the consequences of infringing which the panic-stricken disciples are very unlikely to have braved.” 12.

But the inscription is still important to NT scholarship as Chancey points out that:
the inscription is unusual in several respects. Unlike typical imperial edicts, it is in Greek, though it appears to have been translated from Latin. Though epigraphic and literary evidence demonstrates that laws against tomb spoilation were common, this is the only known inscription recording an imperial decree on the matter. Furthermore, its prescribed punishment, the death penalty, is harsher than other such laws. It is difficult to establish when it was erected; dates based on epigraphical grounds range from the mid-first century BCE [reign of Tiberius (AD 14-37) or of Claudius (AD 41-54)] to the second century CE. 13.
Footnotes
  • 1. Not to be confused with the tablets discovered in 1962 from Caesarea Maritima, one of which is also known as the Nazareth Inscription, and contains the names of Nazareth and Maglala. Michael Avi-Yonah, “The Caesarea Inscription of the Twenty-Four Priestly Courses,” in The Teacher’s Yoke: Studies in Memory of Henry Trantham, ed. E. Jerry Vardaman, James Leo Garrett, and J. B. Adair (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 1964), 46–57; 1. Uzi Leibner, Settlement and History in Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Galilee: An Archaeological Survey of the Eastern Galilee, Text & Studies in Ancient Judaism / Texte Und Studien Zum Antiken Judentum (Leiden: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 404-20. Contra René Salm, The Myth of Nazareth (Cranford, N.J.: American Atheist, 2013), 275-78. Salm does not even consider the Hebrew priestly inscription (ca. 300 AD) that mentions Nazareth proving that it existed. Christoph Heil, Shawn Carruth, and James McConkey Robinson, eds., Q 4: 1-13, 16. The Temptations of Jesus - Nazara Volume, Mul edition (Leuven: Peeters, 1996), 415.
  • 2. M. Franz Cumont, “Un Rescrit Impérial sur la Violation de Sépulture,” Revue Historique 163 (Jan-Apr. 1930), 241-42.
  • 3. Edward M. Blaiklock, “Nazareth Decree.” Edited by Merrill C. Tenney and Moises Silva. Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009), 432.
  • 4. Bruce M. Metzger, “The Nazareth Inscription Once Again.” In Jesus und Paulus. Festschrift Werner Georg Kümmel, ed. E. E. Ellis and E. Grässer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1975), 233; Craig A. Evans, Jesus and the Ossuaries: What Burial Practices Reveal about the Beginning of Christianity (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2003), 35.
  • 5. Rainer Riesner, Paul’s Early Period: Chronology, Mission Strategy, Theology, trans. Douglas W. Stott (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998), 103.
  • 6. Cumont, “Un Rescrit Impérial sur la Violation de Sépulture,” 241-242; F. de. “Zulueta, Violation of Sepulture in Palestine at the Beginning of the Christian Era.” Journal of Roman Studies 22 (1932): 1-2.
  • 7. F. de. Zulueta, “Violation of Sepulture in Palestine at the Beginning of the Christian Era,” Journal of Roman Studies 22 (1932):185; also see S. A. Cook, “A Nazareth Inscription on the Violation of Tombs,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 64, no. 2 (1932):85–7; Edward M. Blaiklock, “Nazareth Decree,” ed. Merrill C. Tenney and Moises Silva, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009), 432.
  • 8. Clyde E. Billington, “The Nazareth Inscription: Proof of the Resurrection of Christ?” in Artifax, Spring 2005. 
  • 9. M. Franz Cumont, “Un Rescrit Impérial sur la Violation de Sépulture,” Revue Historique 163 (Jan-Apr. 1930), 241-242; Arnaldo Momigliano, Claudius, The Emperor and his Achievement. Translated from the Italian by W. D. Hogarth. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1934; Edward M. Blaiklock, The Archaeology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1970; “Nazareth Decree,” ed. Merrill C. Tenney and Moises Silva, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009); Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences, Rev Upd edition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2013) 206; Norman L. Geisler, ed., Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 1999), 48; Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict Fully Updated To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians Today, Rev Upd (Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson, 1999), 244-5. Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson, 1972, rev. in 1979), 218; Clyde E. Billington, “The Nazareth Inscription: Proof of the Resurrection of Christ?” in Artifax, Spring 2005.
  • 10. J. Spencer Kennard, Jr., “The Burial of Jesus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 74, no. 4 (1955): 232-233; Bruce M. Metzger. “The Nazareth Inscription Once Again.” New Testament Studies: Philosophical, Versional, and Patristic. NTTS 10 Leiden: Brill, 1980, 91; F. F. Bruce “Christianity Under Claudius,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library 44, no. 2, (1962): 320.
  • 11. F. F. Bruce “Christianity Under Claudius,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester  44, no. 2, (1962): 320.
  • 12. Bruce M. Metzger. “The Nazareth Inscription Once Again.” New Testament Studies: Philosophical, Versional, and Patristic. NTTS 10 Leiden: Brill, 1980, 91; see F. de. Zulueta, “Violation of Sepulture in Palestine at the Beginning of the Christian Era.” Journal of Roman Studies 22 (1932): 197.
  • 13. Mark A. Chancey, Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus (Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 56-57.
 
For Further Study
  • Blaiklock, Edward M. “Nazareth Decree.” Edited by Merrill C. Tenney and Moises Silva. Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009, 432.
  • Brown, Frank E. “Violation of Sepulture in Palestine.” American Journal of Philology 52, 1, No. 205, 1952), 1-29.
  • Bruce, F. F. “Christianity Under Claudius,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester  44, no. 2, (1962): 309-326.
  • Charlesworth, M. P., Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Claudius and Nero. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952.
  • Cook, S. A. “A Nazareth Inscription on the Violation of Tombs.” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 64, no. 2 (1932): 85–7.
  • Cumont, M. Franz. “Un Rescrit Impérial sur la Violation de Sépulture,” Revue Historique 163 (Jan-Apr. 1930), pp. 241-66 [French].
  • Davis, John J.  “Bones, Burials, and Biblical History: The Second of Three Parts: The Discovery of Ancient Tombs.” Bible and Spade 15, no. 1 (2002): 17-20.
  • Evans, Craig A. Jesus and the Ossuaries: What Burial Practices Reveal about the Beginning of Christianity. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2003, 35-37.
  • Garzetti, Albino. From Tiberius to the Antonines: A History of the Roman Empire AD 14-192. Routledge Revivals. New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 1974.
  • Kennard, Jr., J. Spencer “The Burial of Jesus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 74, no. 4 (December 1955): 227-238.
  • McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict Fully Updated To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians Today, Rev Upd. Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson, 1999, 244-45.
  • Metzger, Bruce M. “The Nazareth Inscription Once Again.” In Jesus und Paulus. Festschrift Werner Georg Kümmel, ed. E. E. Ellis and E. Grässer. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1975, 221–38 (reprinted in New Testament Studies: Philosophical, Versional, and Patristic. NTTS 10 Leiden: Brill, 1980, 75–92).
  • Momigliano, Arnaldo. Claudius, The Emperor and his Achievement. Translated from the Italian by W. D. Hogarth. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1934.
  • Rainer Riesner, Paul’s Early Period: Chronology, Mission Strategy, Theology, trans. Douglas W. Stott (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998), 103-104
  • Zulueta, F. de. “Violation of Sepulture in Palestine at the Beginning of the Christian Era.” Journal of Roman Studies 22 (1932): 184-97.

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