but it grew into something of a monster, so I decided to start a new thread.
Joan Taylor's Golgotha: A Reconsideration of the Evidence (1998)
https://biblearchaeology.org/research/n ... xnb3RoYSJd
After re-reading Joan Taylor's “Golgotha: A Reconsideration of the Evidence” (1998), I realize I misconstrued how her separation of the site of the crucifixion from the site of the tomb affects her current thesis that the latter site is authentic. Her case for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre marking the site of Jesus's tomb is actually weaker than I thought it was. I do not think that her change of mind from the theory that the site is inauthentic to the theory that is authentic is actually based on new evidence or better argument. I think she has simply changed her starting assumption on where the burden of proof lies – she's switched from assuming authenticity must be proven to assuming inauthenticity must be proven.
In her earlier work, The Christians and the Holy Places (1993), Taylor pointed out weaknesses in the evidence taken to support authenticity and concluded that it was insufficient to establish the authenticity of the site. In “Golgotha: A Reconsideration,” she offers a few (weak and inconclusive, in my opinion) arguments in favor of the authenticity, which I'll discuss below, but she mostly simply assumes authenticity and then explains how the evidence could be fit into that theory.
In my earlier post I laid out four points in favor of authenticity from Taylor's paper:
In fact, on Taylor's understanding, Melito of Sardis' Peri Pascha and Eusebius's Onomasticon are referring to the site of the crucifixion only, as, of course, are the New Testament passages referring to the crucifixion. She takes these to refer to a location different from that of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, so they have no bearing on the location of the tomb. This means her case for the location of the tomb rests on point (2) above, and that point is really weak.(1) The Gospels seem to place the crucifixion outside the city, but the tomb would have been inside the city in Eusebius and Constantine’s time (194)
(2) There is no authenticating miracle story to establish the tomb, which would have been necessary had there been doubts about the site (196)
(3) Melito of Sardis places the tomb “in the middle of the city” and “in the middle of the street”, which suggests the location of the tomb was pointed out to him when he visited Judea in the second century.
(4) Eusebius’ Onomasticon, written before Constantine’s choice of the site, locates the tomb to the north of (or on the northern parts of) Mount Zion.
Parenthetically, Martin Biddle has criticized Taylor's and Wharton's thesis (“The Tomb of Christ: Sources, Methods and a New Approach,” 1994; The Tomb of Christ 1999) on the basis of Eusebius Onomasticon, Melito of Sardis' Peri Pasha, and also the difficulty of relocating a sacred place. I've dealt with the Onomasticon and Melito briefly in an earlier post in this thread, but I may expand on the subject later.
An Argument from Silence on the Lack of Miracle Stories
I offered some criticism of this point earlier, but I'm going to expand on it here. Taylor writes:
Taylor is making an argument from silence:The people of the time were more impressed by attesting miracles, but there is no story of an attesting miracle to prove that this tomb was the right one. Had there been the least element of doubt, or the need for proof beyond what was absolutely self-evident, an attesting miracle would undoubtedly have been required. It is precisely the miraculous which attested to the discovery of the True Cross in the substructural areas of the Temple of Venus, possibly with the assistance of the empress Helena. (196)
(Premise 1) If there were doubts about the tomb, then we would have a miracle story.
(Premise 2) There is no miracle story
(Conclusion) Therefore there were no doubts about the tomb.
Arguments from silence are structurally valid. If A implies B, then Not B implies Not A. The problem with arguments from silence is that they are not necessarily sound. The truth of the premises would imply the truth of the conclusion, but it is possible for the premises to be wrong. Taylor's first premise is questionable and the second is mistaken.
The reason I say premise 2 is mistaken is that there are miracle claims attesting to the authenticity to the tomb. First, of course, there are the later reports of Helena finding the True Cross at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and using the cross to heal or resurrect. Taylor apparently dismisses this possibility because it's not found in the earliest sources. It first shows up in Ambrose of Milan c. 395, but probably dates back to a lost work of Gelasius of Caesarea some short time earlier.
This still doesn't get Taylor of the hook, because the earliest source we have for the discovery of the tomb. Constantine's Letter to Bishop Macarius, embedded in Eusebius Life of Constantine, calls the discovery of the tomb itself a miracle.
I have placed four parts of the passage in bold to emphasize two points made by Constantine's letter. The first three are meant to emphasize the miraculous nature of the tomb. The fourth is meant to demonstrate that there is a good reason that people accepted the authenticity of the tomb, or at least did not voice their doubts: the emperor issued a command which authenticated the site of the tomb and claimed divine authority for his actions. (This command was issued within about a year after Constantine's ruling at the Council of Nicaea c. 325).Victor Constantinus Maximus Augustus to Macarius.
So great is our Saviour's grace, that no words seem enough to match the present miracle. For the evidence of his most sacred passion, long since hidden under the ground, to have remained unknown for such a long period of years, until through the removal of the enemy of the whole republic it was ready to be revealed, once they were set free, to his servants truly surpasses all marvels. (2) If all those from every part of the world with a reputation for wisdom were to gather together in one place and try to say something worthy of the event, they would not be able to compete with the least part of it. The evidence of this miracle surpasses every natural capacity of human thought in the same degree that heavenly things are by common consent mightier than human. (3) That is why it is always my first and only goal, that, just as the evidence for the truth manifests itself with newer wonders every day, so all our souls may by utter seriousness and unanimous endeavour also become more earnest about the holy law. (4) The thing therefore which I consider clear to everybody is what I want you in particular to believe, namely that above all else my concern is that that sacred place, which at God's command I have now relieved of the hideous burden of an idol which lay on it like a weight, hallowed from the start by God's decree, and now proved yet holier since it brought to light the pledge of the Saviour's passion, should be adorned by us with beautiful buildings. (Eusebius Life of Constantine, 3.30.1-40, translation A. Cameron & S.G. Hall, 133; emphasis mine).
The Single Most Important Factor Pointing to Authenticity
On re-reading the paper, I realize that the factor that Taylor identifies as the single most important one supporting the theory that the tomb under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the actual tomb of Jesus is not any of the points I discussed above. Taylor says:
This claim is weak in at least three ways.Upon further consideration of this matter, it seems to me that the fact that the tomb was considered self-evident is the single most important factor that points to the probable authenticity of the site. The traditional view has in its favour (though one that is usually completely ignored): it gives us a perfect reason why no physical proof or legitimating miracle was required for anyone to believe that the tomb was genuine. (196)
First, saying that the tomb was self-evident puts off the question of what the evidence was. Scholars have speculated that it could have been oral tradition or an identifying inscription. If our sources claimed either of those things, that would be much stronger evidence than simply inferring from the lack of evidence that the identity of the tomb was self-evident. Deducing that the evidence must have been good because the sources don't tell us what it is is a bizarre way of doing scholarship.
Second, if we are going to deduce from the fact that fourth century Christians accepted the tomb as that of Jesus that it must have been self-evident, we cannot assume that what was evident to them would be evident to us unless we can first establish that they employed good standards of evidence. But we do not know that they did.. They were frequently convinced by evidence we (most of us) would not accept. Taylor suggests they found miracle stories convincing. Sozomen, writing in fifth century, on how the site, which had been lain buried under a pagan temple for so long, was discovered, says:
He thinks the site was likely revealed by a sign or dream from God, and he considers that good evidence. [As discussed above, whatever reason someone had for making the original identification of the tomb as that of Jesus, the fact that it received the endorsement of emperor Constantine is probably the single most important factor in making the identification accepted.]At length, however, the place was discovered, and the fraud about it so zealously maintained was detected; some say that the facts were disclosed by a Hebrew who dwelt in the East, and derived his information from some documents which had come to him by paternal inheritance; but it seems more accordant with truth to suppose that God revealed the fact by signs and dreams; for I do not think that human information is requisite when God thinks it best to make manifest the same” (Ecclesiastical History 2.1).
Just to be clear here, I am not claiming that we must assume that the evidence was necessarily bad. I am arguing that we cannot assume the evidence was good, because for all we know it could have been bad.
Third, I think Taylor is wrong that this argument is usually completely ignored. I think it is foundational to most of the arguments in favor of the authenticity of the tomb that I have seen. It amounts to: “We should believe it because they believed it” with the implication that they must have had good evidence. Scholars have been doing this for a long time; they speculate based on the fact that the site was accepted as the tomb of Jesus in Constantine's time that there must have been evidence, such as an oral tradition preserving knowledge of its location was or an inscription identifying it.
The Conclusion to Taylor's Reconsideration of the Evidence
Taylor's conclusion is also strange:
She's suggesting that the theory of inauthenticity, which she previously held, requires Hadrian to have built the Temple of Venus very close by the actual tomb of Jesus. The reason that this is odd is that, on the theory of inauthenticity of the site of the CHS, which she previously espoused, we don't know where the actual tomb of Jesus is, so we are in no way required to believe Hadrian built the temple very near it. Taylor seems now to be assuming the theory of the authenticity of the site and then deducing that the theory of inauthenticity would require a coincidence. This is bad logic. If we knew the site of the tomb to begin with, we wouldn't be arguing about the theory of inauthenticity, and any possible coincidences it might entail, at all. (If I have misconstrued Taylor's argument here, please tell me how).There is really nothing in-between these two alternatives regarding the tomb, for anything else would rest on amazing combinations of events and coincidences. It must be admitted that my previous suggestion does require a coincidence: that Hadrian built his Temple of Venus very close by the actual tomb of Jesus without knowing it. The traditional view has in its favor that the actions taken by both emperors. Hadrian and Constantine, were conscious and aware, and coincidences are avoided. In addition, one might wonder how likely it might have been that Constantine’s builders could have found another tomb fitting the Gospel description so precisely, in such an excellent position. (201)
There is another argument tacked on to the conclusion, almost as an afterthought, which is not clearly spelled out earlier in the paper. This is that the tomb matches the descriptions given in the gospels precisely and are in an excellent position. However, the information given in the gospels is scant and would apply to any number of tombs outside the walls of Jerusalem (wherever they were in the time of Jesus). The tomb would have to be large enough for five people (three men and two young men/angels, assuming for the moment that they occupy as much space as regular humans), there would have to be enough room for a young man to sit on the right of the entrance (Mark 16.5), and enough room for one angel to sit where Jesus head had been and another to sit where his feet had been (John 20:12; some have argued that the tomb must have been an arcosolium rather than a kokh on the basis that Mary was able to see both angels – they would have to have been side by side rather than front and back).
Archaeologist Jodi Magness of UNC describes a typical arrangement of an arcosolium type tomb as as having four sides – an entrance and three arcosolia (i.e., the benches on which bodies were laid). Any such tomb would fit the descriptions given in the gospels of the tom of Jesus. However, I get the impression from the tombs discussed in Rachel Hachlili's Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period (2005) that the “typical” arcosolium tomb was actually fairly rare (like the average American family). There is a great variety of tomb layouts, and many contain both arcosolium and kokh type tombs (as indeed does the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which contains two kokh tombs traditionally identified as those of St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus). The point, though is that there are a large number of tombs north in Jerusalem that would fit the location and descriptions given in the gospels. [Another caveat: I am not assuming the descriptions given in the gospels are necessarily accurate (contra Taylor 186 n. 16), I am examining only the theory that fourth century Christians would have taken them as accurate descriptions of the tomb when identifying the tomb of Jesus].
Taylor has not actually made any argument that serves to demonstrate the authenticity of the tomb from the evidence. Her arguments actually serve to show that the theory of authenticity is not inherently implausible, and if one adopts it as a starting hypothesis, one can hypothesize the existence of other factors to make it work.
Taylor is by no means alone in this. This approach is widespread. Israeli archaeologist Dan Bahat, in an often quoted summary from his article on the Holy Sepulchre, writes:
If we ask the question of whether there is better evidence for another site, or whether we can demonstrate the inauthenticity of the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the answer is no. But if we ask the question of whether the evidence available to us actually establishes that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks the site of the tomb of Jesus, the answer appears to be no as well.We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus' burial, but we certainly have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty and we have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site.” (Dan Bahat, “Does the Holy Sepulchre Church Mark the Burial of Jesus,” Biblical Archaeological Review 12.3 1986 26-45 at 38).