Saturday, March 30, 2024

Easter - The Empty Tomb - Imagined in Manuscripts

British Library - Royal 19 A XXII fol-16 The Empty Tomb Resurrection, detail actually showing a garden

British Library - Harley 4328 fol-410 The Empty Tomb Resurrection

The Gospel of John 20 contains a narrative of an empty garden tomb including the appearance of Jesus:   
The Empty Tomb
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 

So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

In Christianity, the tomb of Jesus was found to be empty by the women who had come to anoint his body with spices & by pouring oils over it.  The empty tomb points to Jesus' resurrection, implicitly in the early Gospel of Mark & explicitly in the gospel narratives of Matthew, Luke & John. 

British Library - Add. MS 7170, fol-160 (detail) 1b - Syriac Lectionary Mosul (Iraq), 1216-1220 The Holy Women at the Empty Tomb - The Resurrection

For some people of antiquity, empty tombs were seen as signs of the dead person bodily entering heaven. In Chariton’s ancient Greek novel Callirhoe, the hero Chaereas finds his wife’s tomb empty & immediately assumes the gods took her. In Ancient Greek thinking, there are numerous examples of individuals conspiring, before their deaths, to have their remains hidden in order to promote postmortem veneration. Arrian wrote of Alexander the Great planning his own bodily disappearance, so that he would be revered as a god. Disappearances of individuals to the divine realm also occur in Jewish literature, but do not involve an empty tomb.

British Library - Additional 35254D-F fol-D The Empty Tomb - The Resurrection

A site in Jerusalem now called The Garden Tomb was unearthed in 1867 & is considered by some Christians to be the site of the burial & resurrection of Jesus. The tomb has been dated by prominent Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay to the 8–7C BC. However, the re-use of old tombs was common practice in ancient burial rituals. The Garden Tomb is adjacent to a rocky escarpment which since the mid-19C has been proposed by some scholars to be Golgotha. The traditional site where the death & resurrection of Christ are believed to have occurred has been the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at least since the 4C.

British Library - Lansdowne 383 fol-13 Holy Women at the Empty Tomb

British Library - Royal 20 B IV fol-142 The Maries at the Empty Tomb

The St Albans Psalter, owned by St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim now at University of Aberdeen, Scotland Maries at the empty Tomb of Jesus.