"The Nazareth Inscription is believed by many conservative Bible scholars to be a version of the Jewish High Priests’ explanation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as is found in the Gospel of Matthew 28:11-15; in other words, Jesus’ disciples stole his body and perpetrated a fraud pretending that he had resurrected from the dead. …
"It is likely that the Nazareth Inscription was ordered by the Emperor Claudius to be posted in Nazareth in order to counter what he considered to be a dangerous political-religious movement that said that their Jewish “king” had resurrected from the dead. The Nazareth Inscription threatens with death anyone who takes corpses from tombs in order to perpetrate a fraud."
"The Nazareth Inscription" is a bit misleading. It was not discovered in an archaeological context in Nazareth. It was merely named that as it was associated with Nazareth as the place from where it was sent on to Paris.
Concerning the origins and intent of the Nazareth Inscription we find it to have been more likely issued as a result of a rather nasty and vengeful desecration of the grave of King Nikias of Kos, considered a tyrant in his rule.
"Tell me not that death is the end of life.
The dead, like the living, have their own causes of suffering.
Look at the fate of Nicias of Cos.
He had gone to rest in Hades, and now his dead body has come again into the light of day.
For his fellow-citizens, forcing the bolts of his tomb, dragged out the poor hard-dying wretch to punishment."
The marble tablet measures 24 by 15 inches, with the koine Greek
inscription appearing in fourteen lines. It was acquired in 1878 by Wilhelm Fröhner
(1834–1925), and sent from Nazareth
to Paris. Fröhner entered the item in his manuscript inventory
with the note "Dalle de marbre envoyé de Nazareth en 1878." Though indicating that the marble was sent from Nazareth, the note does not state that it was discovered there. Nazareth was a significant antiquities market in the 1870s, as was Jerusalem, and may have been "nothing more than … a shipping center" for the item.
Since 1925 it has been in the Bibliothèque nationale
, Paris, displayed in the Cabinet des Médailles
(Note: Bob seems to acknowledge the inscription was not inscribed in Nazareth)
The text reads as follows.
"The Greek used in the inscription is relatively poor.
Clyde E. Billington provides the following 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."
Cultural background of the day
Violatio sepulchri ('tomb violation') was a crime under Roman law, as noted by Cicero (d. 43 BC). The Nazareth Inscription prescribes the death penalty for the offense. A tomb at which funeral rites had been duly performed became a locus religiosus, belonging to the divine rather than to the human realm.:144 Roman Imperial tombstones are often inscribed with a curse (defixio) against anyone who desecrates the grave.:144
Scholars have analyzed the language and style of the Nazareth inscription and attempted to date it. It has been discussed in the context of tomb-robbery in antiquity
Francis de Zulueta dates the inscription, based on the style of lettering, to between 50 B.C. and A.D. 50, but most likely around the turn of the era.
As the text uses the plural form "gods", Zulueta concluded it most likely came from the Hellenized district of the Decapolis
. Like Zulueta, J. Spencer Kennard, Jr. noted that the reference to "Caesar" indicated that "the inscription must have been derived from somewhere in Samaria
or Decapolis; Galilee
was ruled by a client-prince until the reign of Claudius
It was once of interest to historians of the New Testament.
Some authors, citing the inscription's supposed Galilean origin, interpreted it as Imperial Rome's clear reaction to the empty tomb of Jesus and specifically as an edict of Claudius, who reigned AD 41-54.[
If the inscription was originally set up in Galilee, it can date no earlier than 44, the year Roman rule was imposed there.
However, the 2020 isotope study of the marble published in the Journal of Archaeological Science clarified the origin of the tablet and points to another interpretation.
The scientists took a sample from the back of the tablet, and used laser ablation
to help determine the isotope ratio of the stone.
The enrichment of carbon 13
and depletion of Oxygen 18
allowed a confident identification of the source of the marble as the upper quarry in the island of Kos. The team proposed that the edict was issued by Augustus (27 BCE to 14AD) after the desecration of the tomb of the Kos tyrant Nikias.
In March of 2020 the Smithsonian also commented on recent analysis as well.
"In the 1930s, a mysterious marble tablet held at the Louvre in Paris started catching the attention of religious scholars. Etched with a warning to keep grave robbers away from tombs and accompanied by a cryptic note that claimed it “came from Nazareth,” the slab was soon linked to Jesus’ death—a written reaction, many theorized, to his body’s disappearance and biblical resurrection."
"...A more unsavory scenario might exist as well: that the tablet was inscribed by a well-informed forger in the 19th century, just before it was acquired by a French collector named Wilhelm Froehner in 1878, archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida tells Science News.
At some point, Froehner (or his seller) was probably duped into an expensive buy—though as Harper tells Science News, “how exactly Froehner acquired the stone will probably always remain obscure.”
Hobby Lobby and its Biblical Artifact obsessed owners recently got a taste of the problem with
forgeries in their Dead Sea Scroll fragments debacle
Dr Bob concludes:
"Excluding its journey by sea, the total overland shipping of the Nazareth Inscription from its quarry on Kos to Nazareth would have been only about 25-30 miles total; the fastest, easiest, and the least expensive way for King Herod Agrippa I to obtain and to post the Nazareth Inscription in Nazareth."
(Note: I have my doubts that Herod Agrippa was concerned about postage)
"In summation, based on the shipping routes of that day, King Herod Agrippa I could have easily ordered this Decree of Caesar to be inscribed on white marble at Kos and then had it shipped by sea to Ptolemais and from there overland to Nazareth where it would have been posted. This decree, that threatens with death anyone who removes corpses from tombs in order to perpetrate a fraud, fits very well with the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it does not at all fit the story of Nikias the Tyrant."
Note: It actually fits the story of Nikias the Tyrant, as motivation but not exclusive intent very well. Like with Jesus, that horse was already out of the barn and closing the barn door on an event that has already happened is rather moot. This decree was for all future antics on the part of anyone for any reason thinking to desecrate a grave in the Roman Empire.
The committing of "Fraud" was only one of a number of reasons for this decree. A Roman decree of the sort had much more to do with respect for the dead than debunking already past stories about Jesus resurrection or preventing anymore such shenanigans by Christians in the realm as if they had more bodies to be stolen from graves in mind to tell the story of Jesus.
A decree forbidding, upon pain of death, anymore grave robbing or desecration is certainly closing the barn door after the horse gets out if the motive in the day was to counter the story of Jesus resurrection. It would be an ineffective decree unless just repeating the story now was a crime of grave desecration punishable by death.
Nothing this specific about Christians or the Jesus story is remotely implied by the decree. It was most likely written and mailed postage paid somewhere before the story of Jesus to begin with. Or a long time after if proven to be a forgery after all. We may never know, but Bob cannot be as sure to know as he makes out to know.
Bob also fails to notice that Jesus was supposed to be resurrected from the dead in Jerusalem not Nazareth so one would expect to find multiple copies of such a decree plastered all over Israel of the day warning all Christians and not in just the backwater town of Nazareth as if Nazareth was the hotbed of the problem with Christians in the Empire. One might rather expect such a decree to be obvious in the town of Sepphoris, a mere four miles away from Nazareth, much much larger, totally Roman and never once mentioned in the OT or NT.
Cry not heard all over the realm. "Hey! Why didn't we get one?"