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days of youth. Now another Joseph is intrusted with the care of his burial when dead.
vii. Having obtained Christ's body from Pilate, Joseph “ wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,” i that is, very fine, and very costly linen. In this manner persons of distinction were of old accustomed to be buried; cover. ings of silk, as Maimonides* testifies, being forbidden even to a Prince. The body of Christ was attired somewhat more splendidly when dead than when newly born, because he was born to undergo all the sorrows of a mortal life in our stead, but finished his sufferings at death. Hence some beginnings of his glory shone forth in his burial; but they were only beginningsfaint and almost imperceptible dawnings; for all this splendour was due to the liberality of others.
VIII. To the fine linen of Joseph was added the magnificent offering of Nicodemus, “ who brought a “ mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound “ weight.”j This was intended either for an honorary embalming, or as others conceive, an honorary burning, to be performed at the first opportunity of shoving this mark of respect; for both were in use among the Israelites. The custom of embalming corpses with spices was probably borrowed by the Israelites from the Egyptians. There was, however, a slight difference betwixt them. The Egyptians, anointing the internal as well as external parts of the body, took out the bowels, and even extracted the brain through the nostrils. f The
The name here given in the Original to this celebrated Jewish writer, is Moses Ægyptius-a designation which he sometimes receives, because, though a native of Cordova in Spain, he resided in Egypt. T. + This mode of embalming is called by Herodotus, Tapixtures. i Mat. xxvii. 59.
John xix. 39.
Jews, on the contrary, anointed only the external parts; but liberally, if the deceased were a person of rank. Nicodemus accordingly prepared a large quantity of spices, with which the whole body of Christ might be profusely embalmed. 20
ix. But that spices were employed also to make a burning at funeral solemnities, appears from the history of Asa. It is recorded, too, that such a burning was refused to Joram, as unworthy of the honour. Not that the Jews burned the corpses themselves, which was the practice of the Greeks, and Romans, and several other nations. Tacitus expressly informs us, that, “ according to the Egyptian custom, they chose “ rather to bury, than to burn the bodies."* They did not derive this custom, however, from the Egyptians, but from their ancestors; as appears from what the Scripture relates with regard to the burial of Sarah, and others. But the Jews burned spices over the dead, to do them honour. This was done, as Josephus seems to intimate, with very great pomp, to Herod the Great. “ Five hundred servants,” he affirms, “were employed "to bring spices,” at his funeral solemnities. † And for what purpose were those spices brought, but in order to be burned? It is elsewhere said expressly: “ Fifty of his servants surrounded his bed, having each * a golden censer in his hand, and burned aromatic " wood in great abundance; and all who encompassed “ his bed, were constantly throwing into it the purest “myrrh.” Į This honour, however, was usually con
Corpora condere, quam cremare, more Ægyptio. Hist. lib. v. + Antiq. lib. xvii. c. 10. et Halos. lib. i. c. 21. Chronicon Regum sub templo secundo, fol. 54. col. 2. * 2 Chron. xvi. 14.
2 Kings xxi. 19.
80 See Note XX. VOL. II. R
ferred on none but a King, or the Principal of an Academy.* That it was done to Kings, is well known. In respect to Principals, an instance is adduced in Rabbi Gamaliel Senex, upon whom, after his death, Onkelos the proselyte is said to have burned aromatics to the value of seventy Tyrian pounds. Nicodemus, therefore, in bringing so copious a supply of myrrh and aloes at the burial of Jesus, virtually recognises him as a King, and a Principal Teacher.
x. Nor was it altogether without reason, that funeral solemnities were conducted with such anxious attention, and that so great solicitude was discovered to preserve as long as possible the bodies of the dead, and to make them send forth a fragrant odour. Most probably, the pious intended to express in this manner, not only their love to the deceased, but also their hopes of the resurrection. The attempt, indeed, to preserve from putrefaction, by aromatic ointments, him of whom David had foretold that he should “ see no corruption,”m appears to have resulted from some weakness in faith; and it is sufficiently evident, that Joseph and Nicodemus had but very indistinct conceptions of the approaching resurrection of Christ. Yet what they did, was the fruit of love and of faith, striving with weakness and darkness of mind. They could not be wholly ignorant of the prediction of his rising again after three days; which was not unknown even to his enemies :: and it were contrary to their piety, to intend, by the performance of funeral solemnities, to charge that prediction with falsehood. Ignorant, meantime, of the manner in which the prophecy was to receive its fulfil
ment; and, instead of indulging a presumptuous curiosity, committing it to God with the humility of faith, they were determined not to neglect their own duty. But whatever thoughts may have been entertained by them, the spices with which the body of Christ was anointed, ought certainly to remind us, of the sweet and reviving odour which flows to us from his death and burial; and in this view also, it is pleasant to praise him in the following words: “ All thy garments "smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.”
XI. Having thus embalmed, or at least prepared with spices, the body of Christ, they laid it in the tomb; not inclosed in a coffin, according to our custom, but merely wrapped in the linen. The form of the Jewish sepulchres was not a little different from ours. They were accustomed, at least the more wealthy amongst them, to dig out a cavern in a rock; which had first an area in the middle fronting the entrance, and on each side a recess four cubits lower than the area, which again had its own cavities or niches, * in which the corpses were laid, about eight or sometimes thirteen in number, that a whole family might be buried in distinct receptacles in the same tomb. See what Lightfoot has collected on this subject.f These minute matters must not be overlooked, if we wish to understand in what manner the women, and John and Peter, are said to have entered into the sepulchre of Christ, and, stooping down, to have looked into the place where he lay. All of them, we conceive, stood in the area, and looked downwards into that lower
.כוכין These cavities are called by the Jews *
. + Ex Bava Batra, cap. vi. Lightfoolus, in Centur. Chorograph. Mat. præemissa, cap. 6.
• Ps. xlv. 8.
place, where the receptacles for dead bodies were formed; and into which Peter even descended.
XI. Further, five remarkable circumstances respecting the sepulchre are noticed by the Evangelists. Ist, It belonged to another, to Joseph, and not to Christ. 2dly, It was hewn out of a rock. 3dly, It was dew, a sepulchre in which no one had previously been laid. 4thly, It was in a garden. 5thly, It was in the place where Christ was crucified. None of these particulars is unworthy of our attention.
xi. The Lord of all was deposited not in his own, but in another's sepulchre. Thus did poverty attend him even to the last. When newly born, he was laid in a cradle which was not his own. When living, he had not " where to lay his head" to sleep. When dead, the liberality of another supplied him with a tomb. This is the poverty by which he makes us rich.9 Why, too, should he have a sepulchre of his own, who was to continue only three days in the grave? Why should not he be buried in another man's tomb, who having died for the sin of others, was buried for the salvation of others ?
xiv. The tomb, besides, was hewn out of a solid rock, that the perverseness of the Jews might have no pretence for alleging, that the disciples of Christ had stolen through concealed passages in the earth, and clandestinely removed the body.
xv. It was also new, that calumny might not pretend that another was raised in place of Christ, or that Christ was raised by the merit or power of any other formerly buried in the same sepulchre; and that none, from weakness, might suspect that something had hap