The Giv’at Ha-Mivtar Inscription And The Tomb Of Joseph Of Arimathaea -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 03:2 (Spring 1974)
Article: The Giv’at Ha-Mivtar Inscription And The Tomb Of Joseph Of Arimathaea
Author: Anonymous


The Giv’at Ha-Mivtar Inscription And The Tomb Of Joseph Of Arimathaea

In the summer of 1968, Israeli archaeologists found the first identifiable remains of a crucified man on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem at a site called Giv’at ha-Mivtar. This find, dating to the first century A.D., was reported in our Winter 1972 issue. More recently, the site was again the scene of a discovery relating to the New Testament.

During the course of continuing construction work at Giv’at ha-Mivtar in the autumn of 1971, another tomb-cave was found. Inside the tomb, opposite the entrance, a small chamber had been cut out of the rock for the body. The chamber was empty, but above the chamber was a very unusual inscription.

The inscription is written in old Hebrew script, but the language is Aramaic. E. S. Rosenthal of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who first translated the inscription, dated it to the first century A.D. His translation is as follows:

“I, Abba, son of the priest Eleazar, son of Aaron the Great, I Abba, the oppressed, the pursued, who was born in Jerusalem and went to exile into Babylonia and carried up (for interment) MTTY son of YHWD and I buried him in the cave which I purchased by the writ.”

Abba was evidently of priestly lineage. For some reason, unknown to us, he brought MTTY from Babylonia to Jerusalem to be buried. But the interesting thing about the inscription is that Abba placed MTTY in a newly purchased cave.

Jewish law at that time strictly stated that only family members were to be buried in a family tomb (normally a single tomb was used for many burials). Abba, then, couldn’t use his family tomb for burial of a friend; and in order to inter MTTY, he had to purchase a new tomb, one in which no one had previously been buried.

This is exactly parallel to the case of Jesus: “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them); he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulcher that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid” (Luke 23:50–53).

Inscription in the tomb of Abba at Giv’at ha-Mivtar.

Matthew tells us that it was Joseph’s “own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock” (Matthew 27:60, cf. ...

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