Ancient Christian Burial Practices: A Request for Help

Ancient Christian Burial Practices: A Request for Help September 3, 2012

I have a friend who has an interest in following the development of early Christian burial practices, and in particular those of Jewish Christians. Among non-Jewish Christians, we can pick up the threads of development in some other places, like Rome. And it has been suggested that some part of the necropolis on the Mount of Olives (see the ossuaries on display at Dominus Flevit) may have had a connection with ancient Jewish Christianity. But on the whole, there seem to be more pieces from the puzzle that are missing than ones that we have, at least for that “corner” of the puzzle.

So I thought I would appeal to blog readers, and see whether there is anyone who has useful bibliographical references or personal insights to offer. Are there any books about the burial practices and customs, or the tombs, of ancient Nestorian and other Eastern Christians, who often seem to have had a closer connection to Christianity's Jewish roots than the Western churches? Have there been any attempts to identify specifically Jewish Christian burial places, and highlight how they were different from those of non-Christian Jews on the one hand, and non-Jewish Christians?

Any recommendations of books and articles or personal insights will be greatly appreciated.



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  • Susan Burns

    The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity 🙂

  • Jessica Harmon

    My greek professor Honora Chapman lectured about early Christian/Jewish burials in Rome when she taught Josephus. Section iv of her paper “What Josephus Sees: The Temple of Peace and the Jerusalem Temple as Spectacle in Text and Art” is about a gold glass depicting perhaps the Roman Temple of Peace with the Jerusalem Temple artifacts found in a Roman catacomb. Was it Jewish or Christian? Does it matter? I have the pdf if you want. Her lecture was more enlightening about burials than the paper, but it still had interesting implications.

  • info seeker

    Susan – it’s a great movie indeed, yet it’s hard to quote. Jessica – you surely are on something. Jewish Burials in Rome do teach us a lot. Still it’s not enough. Anyway, your PDF sounds very interesting.
    Thanks, James.

    • Susan Burns

      I was referring to the book. (I did not see the movie)

  • Nicola Denzey Lewis

    You might try a book called Maranatha by Kathleen Corley on women’s roles in burial practices in early Christianity. Karen Stern has done some interesting and quite technical work on Jewish catacombs in Palestine. There’s also a book on death, burial practices, and so on, in the Eastern churches from 50 CE to late antiquity, by Antigone Samellas.