An edict believed to have come from either Tiberius Caesar, who was Roman emperor at the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or from Claudius Caesar who ruled shortly afterward, was uncovered in 1878, in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth.
This edict better known as the Nazareth inscription was engraved in marble with the following words:
"Proclamation of Caesar. It is my desire that graves and tombs remain sealed for the benefit of those who have made them and for their children, family members, and their religion. If, however, anyone accuses that another has either destroyed them, removed the buried, or with ill intent has taken them to other places in order to wrong them, or has removed the sealing on other stones, I order that person be brought to trial. Just as a man should respect the gods, so also with regard to men, for all should respect the buried. It is therefore forbidden for anyone to disturb them. Should this edict be violated, the offender is to be sentenced to capital punishment on the charge of violating a sepulcher."
The inscription seems to be the Roman Emperors' response to a request from Jewish leaders to prevent grave robbing and the removing of seals placed on burial stones.
Evidently some major event must have occurred involving an unauthorized opening of a tomb that really ticked off the Jewish leadership.
The question is why the Romans would care if a Jewish grave was violated and why would they threaten the death penalty for such an offense?
And why would the edict be placed in Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus?
The answer can be found in the Gospel of Matthew, who gives an account of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth:
"On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate (Roman procurator of Judea), saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' "Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other
Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."
So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!"
So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."
Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, "Tell them, 'His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.' "And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure." So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."
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