Thursday, May 17, 2018

Burial Mounds – A Non-Jewish Idea – Part IV

Continued from the previous post, regarding the difference between ancient  Hebrew/Jewish burial practices and those of the rest of the world, including the so-called burial mounds, which had no place among Jewish practices.
    As indicated earlier, the Jews believed in a concept called kevod ha-met, honoring the dead by treating the body with respect, where an uninterred corpse was considered to be naked and humiliated. The injunction to bury Jewish dead with haste is given a lower priority only to saving human life. Archaeologists have discovered ornamented Jewish catacombs with hinged doors and gabled columns dating from the immediate centuries surrounding the time of Jesus, which suggests that the practice of cave burial increased in popularity from the biblical era through the Babylonian period and into Roman Palestine.
    In the Talmud Sanhedrin 96b (line 55) there is a clear reference to Jewish cave burial where Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (600 B.C.) is advised by his Palestinian agents that the Jewish catacombs surrounding the city of Jerusalem could shelter his army: “their graveyards are better [more practical] than your palace!”
Moroccan Jewish graves were unadorned and lay horizontal instead of positioned upright like many of their European counterparts. The Jerusalem Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 1:5) describes the practice of likut atzamot (gathering of bones), a two-phase procedure of burying Jewish bodies in deep pits (mahamorot) and waiting for the skin to dissolve before removing the bones for reburial. During this time, the body was laid on a shelf for the first year, while the flesh decayed, and the soul underwent the purifying process. The relatives laid tree branches on the corpse, and it was also customary to leave perfume tools in the tomb or pour perfume directly on the corpse. A year after the burial, the relatives returned to the tomb, collected the bones and put them in stone boxes called ossuaries. It was a celebration: the relatives were assured that the deceased finally arrived at his proper place, under the Seat of Honor and eternal, pure life. Now they collected the bones to the ossuary, and put the ossuary in a niche, carved into the tomb wall in anticipation of the resurrection of the dead.
    The Jewish acceptance of ossuaries was consistent with Ezekiel’s prophecy of the Valley of the Dry Bones (around 592 B.C.), but when the Romans lay siege to Jerusalem and Judea in 63 B.C., Pompey’s victory spelled the end of Jewish independence and the incorporation of Judea as a client kingdom of the Roman Republic. During the Roman occupation, they introduced the concept of ground burial in public cemeteries.  Eventually, burial in cedar coffins was seen as more hygienic than disinterring bodies and placing bones in ossuary boxes. Over time, ground burial in private plots became common practice in Judea.
   However, this was more than 50 years after Lehi left Jerusalem. Eventually, it became necessary for Jews, especially in foreign lands, to accept burial in the ground—especially as a result of the plague of 1347-1351 A.D., which killed nearly a third of Europe. At that time Gentile common burials became necessary and were required throughout Europe, Jewish law forbid sharing the same grave in the ground. This was adjusted to allow stacked burials, one above the other, as long as there was six tefachim (handbreaths) of soil separating them.
Burial Sepulchers for the wealthy were elaborately built, large, and imposing, whereas those of the average Jewish family were much smaller and very modest

Thousands of rock-cut tombs were constructed in Israel/Palestine in ancient times. They were cut into the rock, and for the wealthy, were sometimes elaborate facades and multiple burial chambers. Some are free-standing, but most are caves. Each tomb typically belonged to a single family. Bodies were laid out on stone benches. After a period, the bones were moved to a bone chamber or, later, into ossuaries and the benches used for new burials. Rock tombs were the province of anyone but the poor, who were buried in the ground. This was not the case in Jerusalem, where the ossuary boxes on the Mount of Olives date back at least four thousand years, covering the entire hillside.
    The Jewish custom of Lehi’s time was for the body to be elaborately wrapped in a shroud and the face was covered with a special cloth called a sudarium (a sweet cloth for wiping the face clean; also called a shroud); the hands and feet were then tied with strips of cloth. Once this was done, relatives and friends could come to the home to say goodbye to the deceased for the last time. All of this happened in very short order; burial usually followed within eight hours of death.
    Since Biblical times, specially trained members of the community called the Chevra Kaddisha ("the holy brotherhood"), or Jewish Burial Society, prepared the body of the deceased for burial. Following this, the funeral procession proceeded from the home of the deceased, who was carried in a kind of liter, to the place of interment. Pallbearers would include close friends, and family. The entire community stopped what they were doing and joined the funeral procession. This was especially true in the case of a Met Mitzva, a person who had died with no family to ensure a proper Jewish burial.
Top: Typical cave sepulchers in Jerusalem where the so-called “Middle Class” Jews laid their dead to rest; Bottom: Where the moderately poor laid their dead
In the rare case of a very poor person, who could not afford a rock-hewn tomb, or foreigners who had no land, they were buried within vertical shafts in designated fields. In the Gospels there is reference to the purchase of the potter’s field as a place to bury the poor and foreigners who died in Israel (Matthew 27:7).
    After a year, family members returned to the tomb and collected the bones, placing them in ossuary box and marking it with identifying information and placing it in the back room of the tomb where the bones of other relatives were also stored. This was the basis of the Jewish expression that the deceased “rested with his ancestors.” It also explains the concerns of the patriarch Joseph: Then Joseph took an oath from the sons of Israel, saying, “God will visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:25). And Scripture says that as Moses left Egypt he took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel, saying, “God will visit you; then you must carry my bones with you from here” (Exodus, 13:19). And Scripture says that after entering the land, The bones of Joseph which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt were buried at Shechem” (Joshua 24:32).
    Now, given all of this, from the Jewish attitude toward burial, to the Jewish burial practices, it should be a no-brainer that the Jews would never have conceived of burying people in the ground, especially for anyone that could afford or manage a cave or sepulcher interment. The very requirement of re-interment would have precluded any concept of burying people in the ground and covering them with tons and tons of dirt, making a revisit, cleansing and re-interment impossible.
Five skeletons in a seated position stretched horizontally on the original surface of the ground, parallel to each other, three with heads toward the east and two with heads west

This should make any Mound Building model and Nephite claims an obvious misuse and misunderstanding of the burial rites of the Hebrew/Jews of the B.C. period. When Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram left Jerusalem, each knew quite well the burial customs of the Jews, and the religious significance of interring the dead for a year and then re-interment in ossuary boxes in the tomb.
Analysis of remains from mass graves like this small, ridge-topped mound in Cahokia’s Mound #72 near Collinsville, Illinois, which shows that bodies were buried in the ground, not in separate chambers, or on stone loculi shelves. The Jews had a clear mandate not to bury people in such manner in B.C. times, and could never allow dead bodies to touch one another for any reason

The method of burial by the Mound Builders in ancient North America would have violated all the customs and practices of the Jews’ burial traditions and religious tenets toward interment. There is simply no way the Nephites, who lived under the Law of Moses, and obeyed the Jewish laws throughout their period in the Land of Promise until the advent of the Savior around 35 A.D.
Cutaway diagram of the Criel Mound, one of 424 mounds in South Charleston, Moundsville, West Virginia. Dated between 1000 and 200 B.C., called the Adena Period, they were a culture who built mounds over the remains of chiefs, shamans, or other people of high social standing. There are two bodies lying feet to feet near the top, and eleven bodies at the bottom, with one in the middle and five on either side, each wrapped in elm bark, in the midst of animal bone and hickory-wood ashes. All were covered with dirt

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