On the Funeral of Jesus

Standard abbreviation: unassigned

Other titles: Fragment über die Bestattung Jesu Christi.

Clavis number: unassigned

Category: Pilate Cycle

Related literature: Acts of Pilate, Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea

Compiled by: Tony Burke, York University (tburke@yorku.ca)

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Burke, Tony. “On the Funeral of Jesus.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/on-the-funeral-of-jesus/.

Posted July, 2016.


On The Funeral of Jesus is a portion of a medieval homily similar in form and content to other such homilies that draw upon traditions from the Acta Pilati cycle. The homiletic character of the text is apparent in two places—once at the start of the fragment, and once at the end of the text—where the author breaks the flow of the narrative to offer explanatory comments. The text begins in media res with an unnamed figure, presumably Pilate, granting the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimethea. He is joined by Nicodemus and the two prepare the body for burial in a sequence that incorporates passages from the canonical Passion accounts. Jesus is identified several times in the text as a “foreigner.” If the text is understood correctly, there seems to be some dispute about the appropriate burial responsibilities when it comes to foreigners; Nicodemus overhears the priests questioning whether a foreigner is to be buried “differently than a family member and heir.” They worry that granting Jesus such honours would bring “every dying foreigner into Jerusalem from the temples” looking for similar treatment. Concern is shown in the text also about the burial cloths of Jesus—with special mention of the face cloth (sudarium), linen wrappings (othonia), and burial shroud (entafia). When the priests and scribes hear of Jesus’ resurrection, they conspire to tell the people that Joseph and Jesus’ disciples stole Jesus’ body, thereby evoking Matt 28:12–14. The people take Joseph to the high priests for questioning and then to Pilate for trial. The people lay out three charges: preparing Jesus’ body out of their own means, taking the entafia from the temple, and stealing the body of Jesus and claiming he rose from the grave. In response, Pilate washes his hands of Joseph’s blood (cf. Matt 27:24). The text’s final episode recalls portions of the Acts of Pilate and the Narrative of Joseph of Arimethea. While Joseph laments his fate in prison, Jesus appears, accompanied by the Good Thief of Luke 23:39–43. Jesus then brings Joseph to Galilee so that he might proclaim to the disciples his resurrection. When the priests discover Joseph’s absence, they fall to the ground as if dead. The text concludes with the comment, “Oh their stubbornness, Oh their misery, not wishing to show kindness to those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Named historical figures and characters: Joseph (of Arimathea), Good Thief, Nicodemus, Pontius Pilate.

Geographical locations: Galilee, Golgotha, temple (Jerusalem), tomb (of Jesus).



3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

ma-bulletVienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. hist. gr. 91, fol. 18r–18v (14th/15th cent.)

Burke, Tony. “Two New Witnesses to the Acta Pilati Tradition.” La Muséon 129 (2016): 251–78 (introduction, critical edition, and English translation).

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Burke, Tony. “Two New Witnesses to the Acta Pilati Tradition.” La Muséon 129 (2016): 251–78.

3.3 General Works

McCulloch, John A. The Harrowing of Hell: A Comparative Study of an Early Christian Doctrine. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1930 (a discussion of medieval homilies that incorporate material from the Acta Pilati cycle).