The American peered over her assistant’s shoulder as he carefully brushed away the last vestiges of millennia of dirt from the stone. Holding the lamp, she could see that with each sweep of his brush the wording on the stone became clearer. Finally, the assistant stopped working, looked back at her, and in Hebrew asked, “Is it Latin?”
She stood up, clapped her hands over her mouth with joy, and then in her broken Hebrew exclaimed, “Yes! Get the Professor here! Quickly now!”
As the assistant rose and headed for the cave entrance, she grabbed the brush and continued to brush away at the stone, interpreting the embedded wording as she worked. Her Latin was only fair, so some of the phrases took her more time than others to understand. As such, the scribbled translation in her notebook was replete with corrections.
Within minutes, she heard her assistant and the Professor enter the cave. She smiled broadly as they approached and held the lamp close to the stone for the Professor to view it. She said nothing as the Professor knelt down in front of the stone and read silently for the next few minutes. Finally, he turned and looked up at her and asked, “A death announcement?”
“It may be more official than that. It might actually be a death certificate. Two certificates, to be more accurate, sir,” she replied, checking her notes, and pointing to two sections of the stone for emphasis.
“Hmmm, you may be right about that. But what do you make of the fact that each certificate, if you’re right, is for the same person, but three days apart?” the Professor asked. “Does that make any sense?”
She knelt down next to him and pointed to the date on the stone. “Ah, very interesting. That date fits, doesn’t it. But where’s the name of the deceased? I didn’t see it in my first reading.”
She pointed to two different phrases on the stone. “The deceased is referred to only as ‘The Troublemaker’, here and here. No name, but in the first section it says he died as a result of punishment at ‘the place of the skull’. See the word ‘calvaria’ in Latin, here. That’s Calvary, Professor.”
The Professor whistled softly. He pointed to another section of the stone and concluded, “Looks like three days passed and then this person was seen alive again. But I don’t see how or where it says he died the second time. Do you?”
“You’re right. The language about the second death is very vague. All it refers to is that after he was seen alive again, he was never seen alive after that. So, they concluded that he died again soon thereafter, but that’s it,” she added.
The Professor stood, brushed the dust off his pants, and waited for her to get up, too. Then he began, “Okay, so, the date is right, the two sequential deaths of the same person fits, and the use of the term ‘The Troublemaker’, while not conclusive, is very important evidence, especially since he died the first time at Calvary.”
Before he could continue, she interrupted him, “I know what you are going to ask. You want to know why this is even being reported by the Romans. I mean, the Romans must have understood the incredible significance of recognizing the escape from death by this person.”
“Exactly. Why give the followers of ‘The Troublemaker’ any grist for their mill?” the Professor added. “Why not just leave it out of written history altogether.”
“And in such a banal way,” she continued. “But I think I know why they did it. Look at this phrase here. It’s part of the second section.”
The Professor leaned in where her finger was pointing. He brought the lamp closer to be able to see the words clearly. Squinting a bit, he silently said the phrase to himself, nodded, and then drew back from the stone. “That explains everything. That was their motive. They wanted that phrase to explain who this person was. They wanted it to end there in Jerusalem, to go no farther, and they thought that phrase would do the trick.”
She underlined the phrase in her notebook. “Unemployed carpenter.”