DISCUSSION

Mount Ephraim and Benjamin

39. The (place) of Joseph - (Qabr an-Nabi Yusuf)


The Madaba map, as in other similar cases, simply states "of Joseph", nowadays in the area of modern Nablus. The Onomasticon of Eusebius (54:20) refers clearly to a tomb. Already the Old Testament (Gen 33:18-20) betrays an aspect of popular religion in stating that Jacob erected on the parcel of land that he bought from the Canaanites an altar with the name "El, the god of Israel". This implies that the spot, whether it contained a temple or an oak-tree, was already sacred, and was taken over by the Israelites or transmitted to them as such. In the Book of Joshua (24: 32) we read that the bones of Joseph were buried there. Again there is an element of popular religion involved, since the burial took place near a shrine or a holy place. The New Testament (John 4: 5-6) mentions the place only in connection with the episode when Jesus rested at Jacob's Well. It is not a tomb but a village that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. The veneration of Joseph and Jacob, and ultimately David and Abraham, can perhaps be seen in the genealogy of Jesus introducing the Book of Matthew. The map shows the presumed tomb of Joseph as a building, which does not seem to be a misrepresentation of the mosaicist. The building shown in its facade only is divided into three parts, the lowest of which has a pediment in the middle. The two other similar structures of Elisha and Jonah have a dome instead of the pediment and one is identified as a church. One could imagine that Joseph had already become a holy figure by then, and deserving a monument of his own. As has been observed before, the title "saint" was used earlier by Theodosius. The Palestinians continued to venerate Joseph as a saint in the same place as the Madaba map, as well as in other locations such as Bayt Ijza, northwest of Jerusalem, and as a shrine in the Haram el-Khalil in Hebron. The main site, called Qabr en-Nabi Yusif represents a simple domed structure enshrining the tomb. It is typical of the many Moslem sanctuaries in Palestine where mainly Biblical characters are venerated.

Khalid Nashef, "Tradition and Reality of Holy Tombs in the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997, Jerusalem 1999, 234-235 (extract)

Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 34)
West of Sychar we see a village (representing by mistake a building) inscribed: TO TOU IOSEPH, 'Of Joseph'. The usual 'Saint' is omitted here. According to Gen 33,18-20 amd Joshua 34,32 Joseph was buried in the parcel of a field bought by Jacob his father. The site is mentioned in Jewish tradition (Gen. R. 79,7) followed by the Bordeaux pilgrim and the Onomasticon (54,23); the latter places the tomb in the suburds of Neapolis; Teodosius (Geyer, p. 137) also mentions it, but adds the title 'Sanctus'.

Editors' note: In fact the village represented above the inscription 'to tou Ioseph' may well be a vignette belonging to the nearby place of Sychar [see no. 38], and not the Tomb of Joseph. Accordingly, there is no need to suppose a mistake on the part of the Map's author


General plan of the historical sites around Nablus

Khalid Nashef ("Tradition and Reality of Holy Tombs in the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 234)
The map, as in other similar cases, simply states "of Joseph", nowadays in the area of modern Nablus (see Canaan 1927: 195). The Onomasticon of Eusebius (54:20) refers clearly to a tomb. Already the Old Testament (Gen 33:18-20) betrays an aspect of popular religion in stating that Jacob erected on the parcel of land that he bought from the Canaanites an altar with the name "El, the god of Israel". This implies that the spot, whether it contained a temple or an oak-tree, was already sacred, and was taken over by the Israelites or transmitted to them as such. In the Book of Joshua (24: 32) we read that the bones of Joseph were buried there. Again there is an element of popular religion involved, since the burial took place near a shrine or a holy place. (See also the complete article)

Map Section 5 Place Sources

logo logo

Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:39:27
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
Webmaster: John Abela ofm - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex
copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000