New Testament interpreters have long puzzled over the meaning of the saying, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt 8:22; Luke 9:60), and although many ingenious solutions have been proposed, none has been generally convincing. It is surprising that Jewish burial practices have not been brought into this discussion. For the burial practices of first-century Jews in Palestine are well known: many tombs have been carefully excavated, and several rabbinic texts explicitly discuss the care of the dead. Yet this information has never (to my knowledge) been brought to bear on Matt 8:21–22. In this paper, I propose that secondary burial, a widespread burial custom among Jews in first-century Palestine, can solve the riddle of these verses. Against the background of secondary burial, both the meaning of the disciple's question and the force of Jesus' response become clear. In particular, it is not necessary to suppose, as many interpreters do, that Jesus was talking about the “spiritually” dead. On the contrary, if the references to the dead are taken literally, the saying sounds both ironic and eschatological.