From the biblical documents, it appears to me that there is textual evidence against a connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the Talpiot Tomb.  A new analysis of Acts 2, in Part III below, indicates that no one at that time knew of any claim that the dead body of Jesus Christ remained in a tomb anywhere. My position is expressed in the following three-part summation.

I.  Historical method insists that the historical and religious primary sources be searched for what evidence is present for belief in the existence of the Talpiot Tomb as the burial site for Jesus and his family.  What do the texts, canonical or non-canonical, from the first century tell us about Talpiot and Jesus?  None of these texts connects Jesus Christ to Talpiot. But, in my opinion, one passage by Luke in Acts 2 weighs strongly against any connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the Talpiot tomb. Before turning to this passage in Part III below, let’s examine other New Testament evidence against Talpiot having to do with Jesus Christ.

It is reasonable to suppose that had the Talpiot tomb been that of the Jesus Family, it would have been known to both friend and foe of the Jesus Movement. Family members waiting their turn to be interred in Talpiot would have been keenly aware of the existence of this “generational” tomb.  This means that the Talpiot Tomb would have been known by Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the brothers and sisters of Jesus, including James of course; not to mention their wives and children, cousins, and household members.  Many outside the immediate family of Jesus would have had to have known of the Tomb simply because their children had married into the Jesus family; not to mention outsiders in the “tomb” trade, such as stone cutters and “tomb gardeners.”

With such a large number of persons over the course of two, three, or more generations knowing about the existence and use of the Talpiot Tomb for the Jesus Family, it seems likely that the disciples and close followers of Jesus would have heard about the Tomb also.  Hence, it is likely that word of the Tomb would have reached the ears of early converts to Christianity in Jerusalem.  Thus, surely both the “Hebrew and Hellenist” Christians, such as Peter, Stephen and others would have heard of the existence and use of the Tomb–had there been such a tomb connected to Jesus.

Even if the family members failed to identify this Tomb and kept it “on the quiet,” those opposed to the Jesus Movement certainly would have been aware of it and would have used it as a tool against the Movement, publicly pointing to it as the final abode of Jesus and his family members.  Talpiot would have surely been placarded as the tomb of a dead Jesus despite the claims of disciples who said otherwise. One would imagine that the authorities would have posted “guards” to watch over the Jesus Dynasty Tomb as a possible site for manifestations of Davidic “messianic fervor”–to make sure no stone was rolled away a second time!  And this then would be very well known.

But, the historical texts, canonical and non-canonical, know nothing of this.

A person in the position of Paul would have surely heard of Talpiot from both sides.  First, as an enemy of the Jesus Movement, he would have heard most evidence that the Jerusalem anti-Christian leaders would have had against belief that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  As the recipient of this “ammunition,” Saul/Paul would have used it to wreak havoc on both Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity.  It seems most probable that before he resorted to extreme physical punishment, he would have presented reasons to those he persecuted to reject the belief that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  Even if some of these early believers understood the resurrection to be “merely” a non-physical spiritual life of the crucified one, surely Talpiot would have served as evidence that Jesus was indeed stone cold dead.  In this way, the enemies of the earliest Christians could portray Jesus as remaining in the tomb at Talpiot, suffering corruption, and not in any special way ascended into heaven. The propaganda value of Talpiot would have gone a long way as a weapon in the quiver of  Paul against the Christian sect.  One wonders how Paul could have switched sides in the face of Talpiot?

II. Since many of the objections used against early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus are “countered” in the gospels and letters of the New Testament, it would seem that there would exist in those pages some counter to the claims of Talpiot.  Many claims are countered, but why no argument against Talpiot?  No where do we read in our primary sources of any refutation of a claim that Jesus was buried in a family tomb at Talpiot.

The absence of such a refutation in the sources seems deafening.  If the Jesus stored at Talpiot was said by enemies of the resurrection to be Jesus of Nazareth, that charge would have had to have been refuted decisively.  However, there is no historical evidence of any recorded response to such an explosive charge.  There are responses given to the charge that Jesus was born at Nazareth.  That his birth was not legitimate.  That he was not Davidic.  That he broke Jewish laws.  That he was inspired by Beelzebub.  That his disciples “stole away” his body.  All these responses prove that there were such charges in existence that had to be countered.  It seems reasonable to conclude that there was no charge or claim that Talpiot was a tomb containing the body/bones of Jesus Christ.

And when we read of certain stories that come close to the subject matter of tombs, death, and resurrection, it would seem that an opportunity to “refute” the Talpiot charges would be at hand.  But, when Jesus confronts the tomb of Lazarus in John, the author makes no attempt to play off this tomb story to refute a “prevailing Talpiot tomb” charge.  And, when Matthew writes that the enemies of the Jesus Movement claim that his disciples came and took the body away, he stops on the dime.  He does not write that such enemies also say that Jesus was reburied down the road at Talpiot in the family tomb.  Had that story been in circulation, as was the charge that the body was stolen, Matthew would have needed to have responded to it also.  It seems that it was not necessary for him to respond because no one was linking Talpiot to Jesus Christ.

Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 15:17-20 that if Jesus is not resurrected, Christian faith is in vain would surely mean that he had confronted the Talpiot charge had such a claim been hurled at Christians.  How could Paul continue his new found faith in the resurrection of Jesus, if family members of Jesus, or Paul’s former Jewish friends who were enemies of the Christians, had told him about Talpiot? Of all people, surely Paul would have heard of the Talpiot story–if it had been a story.  So, we know, for a fact, that whatever Paul had heard about the Talpiot Tomb, if anything at all, it was not strong enough evidence to persuade him to drop his belief that Jesus was raised from the dead!

One would have every reason to expect that during his visit with Peter and James in Jerusalem, after his escape from Damascus, Paul would have discussed Talpiot during his fourteen day visit (Gal.1:18.)  It is not plausible to believe that Paul talks with both Peter and James, and neither one mentions Talpiot!  Imagine, if you can:  James has “buried” both his father, Joseph, and his brother, Jesus down the road in Talpiot; soon he knows he will inter his mother, Mary, and other dear family members.  Now, are we to think that James the Righteous looks Paul in the eye and says nothing, after first “winking” at Peter?  Again, at the conference in Acts 15, James has to “conceal” Talpiot from Paul and others?  Meanwhile, Mary and the brothers and the sisters continue the cover-up, as they all die one by one. Could James be so “double-minded?”

On the other hand, if everyone openly talks about Jesus’ tomb remaining at Talpiot, and that his body is suffering corruption there, and that it has not been transformed and ascended in an unique way into heaven, how can Stephen, Peter, John, and others suffer persecution and death over how Jesus overcame death through resurrection from the tomb?  And what on earth would Paul think when he got wind of these open discussions?

None of these early sources provide any evidence for a connection between Talpiot and Jesus.  From these primary sources, which we know for a fact speak of Jesus of Nazareth, there is no reference to or connection with Talpiot. This historian’s judgment is that there are no reasons from these written texts to connect the two.

III.  But there is written evidence against Talpiot being the tomb of Jesus.  It is found in Acts 2:29-34.  Had anyone in the first century claimed that Talpiot was where the decaying bones of Jesus were kept, it would be very unlikely that Luke would have put the following words in the mouth  of Peter while placing him next to the “Tomb of David,” “I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day….He (David) spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father…for David did not ascend to heaven….”

If Talpiot was said to have been the very tomb of Jesus where his body was decaying, why would Luke bring up the exact claim against David? If enemies of the resurrection were pointing to the Talpiot Tomb as the location of the decaying body of Jesus, it is unlikely that a writer would introduce the subject of another tomb in Jerusalem where a decaying body that had not been resurrected and had not ascended into heaven was located!

Luke writes that we all know that this sepulcher is David’s tomb.  We know that he is buried in this tomb.  We know that his body is decaying.  We know that he has been abandoned to this grave.  And we all know that he is not ascended into heaven. We know these things because this is David’s tomb, and his decayed bones are inside.

If Talpiot had been associated with the burial of Jesus, the reader’s response would be to imagine a voice from the crowd piping up, “Yes, but his family knows, and we know, that Jesus, too, is buried down at Talpiot, next to his father Joseph.  Everyone go down and see for yourself.” Paul would have “fallen off his horse again” to get there.

My point is that it is most improbable that Luke writing in the first century would put such words in Peter’s mouth when there is a devastating charge in circulation that Jesus is the one who is buried in a tomb nearby.  It does not depend on whether Peter himself spoke these words at the time that Acts 2 is said to have taken place. If historically Peter did say similar words on Pentecost after Jesus was killed, then it is even more unlikely that there could have been a charge circulating that Jesus remained buried in a tomb in Jerusalem.  Peter would have been taking a great gamble to bring up what would have been taken as a parallel to the Talpiot Tomb. The crowd could have contradicted Peter on the spot. To go out of the way to have Peter say that which is being claimed against Jesus, would be a fatal flaw in the story line.

Whether it is the author Luke, or the apostle Peter, it makes no difference for my point:  to stand in front of what was thought to be the Tomb of David and point to the decaying king in order to “show” that Jesus is resurrected makes no sense when both the author and the characters “know” that the exact same thing is being said of Jesus down the road at Talpiot!

Such a rhetorical strategy would be as foolish as for a Mormon apologist to write that we know David Koresh could not be a true prophet, like Joseph Smith, because we know Koresh forged his Seven Seals from some golden plates he found which were planted by a writer named Solomon Spaulding. That would be the last thing a Mormon apologist would bring up to spike a rival prophet!  Similarly with a Luke confronted with Talpiot. An author would avoid bringing up such a parallel. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Luke surely had never heard of any story connecting Talpiot to Jesus.  He freely uses the Peter story about David’s tomb without fear or hesitation.

An interrogation of these texts yields no evidence of a claim or charge that the body of Jesus remained in a tomb in Talpiot or anywhere. The internal evidence suggests that no such story circulated, as it was bound to have done had there been such a tomb at Talpiot.

Phil Arnold, Ph.D.
The Reunion Institute
Houston, TX