There were more common and more noble sepulchres. The common were in public burying-places, as it is with us: but they were without the city. "And through that place was no current of waters to be made; through it was to be no public way; cattle were not to feed there, nor was wood to be gathered from thence."
"Nor was it lawful to walk among the sepulchres with phylacteries fastened to their heads, nor with the book of the law hanging at their arm."
Some sepulchres were extraordinary; that is, in reference to the place of their situation. As, 1. A sepulchre found; that is, when a sepulchre is in somebody's field without his knowledge; but at last the sepulchre is discovered. 2. A sepulchre that is publicly noxious; that is, digged near some place of common walk or travel: from the nearness of which the passengers contract pollution.
The more noble sepulchres were hewn out in some rock, in their own ground, with no little charge and art. You have the form of them described in the place noted in the margin, in these words:
"He that selleth his neighbour a place of burial, and he that takes of his neighbour a place of burial, let him make the inner parts of the cave four cubits, and six cubits; and let him open within it eight sepulchres." They were not wont, say the Glosses, to bury men of the same family here and there, scatteringly, and by themselves, but altogether in one cave: whence, if any one sells his neighbour a place of burial, he sells him room for two caves, or hollows on both sides, and a floor in the middle. Coffin is the very place where the dead corpse is laid.
The tradition goes on: "Three sepulchres are on this side, and three on that, and two near them. And those sepulchres are four cubits long, seven high, and six broad."
To those that entered into the sepulchral cave, and carried the bier, there was first a floor, where they stood, and set down the bier, in order to their letting it down into the sepulchre: on this and the other side, there was a cave, or a hollowed place, deeper than the floor by four cubits, into which they let down the corpse, divers coffins being there prepared for divers corpses. "R. Simeon saith, The hollow of the cave consists of six cubits, and eight cubits, and it opens thirteen sepulchres within it, four on this side and four on that, and three before them, and one on the right hand of the door, and another on the left. And the floor within the entrance into the cave consists of a square, according to the dimensions of the bier, and of them that bear it: and from it, it opens two caves, one on this side, and another on that. R. Simeon saith, Four at the four sides of it. Rabban Simeon Ben Gamaliel saith, The whole is made according to the condition of the ground."
These things are handled by the Gemarists and Glossers very curiously and very largely, whom you may consult. From these things now spoken, you may more plainly understand many matters which are related of the sepulchre of our Saviour. Such as these:
Mark 16:5: "The women, entering into the sepulchre, saw a young man sitting on the right hand": in the very floor, immediately after the entrance into the sepulchre.
Luke 24:3: "Going in they found not his body," &c. Verse 5: "While they bowed down their faces to the earth, Peter ran to the sepulchre, and, when he had stooped down, he saw the linen-clothes"; that is, the women, and Peter after them, standing in the floor, bow down their faces, and look downward into the place where the sepulchres themselves were (the cave of the graves), which, as we said before, was four cubits deeper than the floor.
John 20:5: "The disciple whom Jesus loved came first to the sepulchre; and when he had stooped down" (standing in the floor, that he might look into the burying-place), "saw the linen clothes lie; yet went he not in. But Peter went in," &c.; that is, from the floor he went down into the cave itself, where the rows of the graves were (in which, nevertheless, no corpses had been as yet laid, besides the body of Jesus): thither also after Peter, John goes down. And verse 11: "But Mary, weeping, stood at the sepulchre without: and while she wept, she stooped down to the sepulchre, and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and another at the feet, where the body of Christ had lain."
"She stood at the sepulchre without"; that is, within the cave, on the floor, but without that deeper cave, where the very graves were, or the places for the bodies: bowing herself, to look down thither, she saw two angels at the head and foot of that coffin wherein the body of Christ had been laid.