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Tomb of Jesus

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The Tomb of Jesus is the location where Jesus' body was laid following his crucifixion. Since Jesus Christ was resurrected, these claims are very important to Christians. There are two sites that lay claim to being that tomb and both have supporting data and problems.

Background

After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph of Arimathaea got pilot to give him Jesus’ body for burial. With the help of Nicodemus; they buried Jesus’ body in Joseph of Arimathaea’s own tomb, which he had had carved out of solid rock and in which no one has been laid. That Sunday morning Jesus rose from that tomb. For more information see:

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The original church was built in 330 A.D. Emperor Constantine’s mother (Saint Helena) in the location she considered to be where of both the crucifixion and the tomb where Jesus rose from the dead. This occurred during a trip to Jerusalem on which she was commissioned by her son to build churches on sites associated with Christ’s life she is also the discovery of the “True Cross” and the inscription that was placed on it.

It was destroyed in 614 A.D by the Persians and only to be rebuilt destroyed again in 1009 at about this time the cave believed to be the tomb was completely carved away by a Muslim ruler. The church was later rebuilt by crusaders.

Supporting data

The sites main support comes from the tradition mainly of the Greek Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Since the original church dating to 330 A.D. it does have a long history more than 1600 years. It is also supported by the presence of other 1st century tombs is side the church called the "Tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea." They clearly show that this area was used for burials during the 1st century A.D.

Problems

The main problem with this site is that it is inside the wall of the old city; however there is evidence that Herod Agrippa expanded the wall in 41–44 placing the site out side the wall. However, it is still too close to (less than 3,000 ft) to the temple mound for a tomb of the 1st century. At that time the Sanhedrin apparently required tombs to be more than 3,000 ft from the temple. [1]

One big problem for this site is the fact that the cave believed to be the tomb had been destroyed and is not available for study this means that all we really have to go on is tradition. It is a best untestable.

Other issues

One negative issue is that even if this site is authentic, it is totally ruined. Not only has it been built on several times; three church buildings and but a roman temple; but the cave believed to be the tomb had been destroyed. This fact means even if this site is authentic there is nothing to see, it end up a case of worshiping the site rather than God.

The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb was unearthed in 1867 and first proposed as the tomb of Jesus by Charles Gordon after his visit to in Palestine in 1884 along with his proposed site for cavalry right next to it. Charles Gordon noticed that the rock face resembled a skull suggesting to him that it could be the “place of the skull" mentioned in the Bible. Many Protestants and Baptists consider this site to be Jesus’ tomb.

Supporting data

It is outside the walls of 1st century Jerusalem about 400 m from the wall along the Nablus Road. Many; but not all; archaeologists have described it has a 1st century Jewish tomb. There evidence of Christian worship on this sight including an early Christian cross with the letters α and ω under the cross bar. [2] [3]

Archaeological evidence shows that the owner was a wealthy man, who has his tomb caved out of rock, including a large weeping chamber and a grove for rolling a stone over the door. These features are consistent with the Biblical description of Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb. [4]

Its internal structure includes a place to lay the body and a shelf for ossuaries which would be consistent with a 1st century tomb. [5]

Problems

Some archaeologists claim that the Garden Tomb dates to about 7th century BC, which would be the 1st Temple period making it too old to be a “new tomb” at the time of Christ. This claim is based in part on a near by tomb complex known as the “St. Etienne tombs” that does date to 7th century BC. Unfortunately in most cases this claim is repeated with insufficient information to check it out.

One problem with this claim is that the St. Etienne tombs have bone repositories but the garden tomb has not Instead it has a shelf that could be used to hold ossuaries, this would place it in the 2nd Temple Period; (6th century BC – 1st century AD) making it consistent with being a 1st century tomb. The Garden Tomb also lacks the decorative features of the St. Etienne tombs. Its door is 4.5 feet tall as opposed to the 6 foot tall doors of the St. Etienne tombs. Its ceilings are also lower than those of St. Etienne tombs. These differences make it unlikely that the Garden Tomb is associated with or dates from the same time as the St. Etienne tombs.

The Garden Tomb lacks the lengthy history like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher has, but the same thing can be said about relatively recently discovered site. While it is a negative point is not fatal. [6] [7] [8] [9]

Other issues

Unlike tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden Tomb is intact and available of study. This makes it, the Garden Tomb the more attractive of the two sites.

Conclusion

It is not possible to prove conclusively if either the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden Tomb is Jesus’ tomb. It is possible that His real tomb may still remain undiscovered.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher main support is tradition dating back to the 4th century. Unfortunately, since the original tomb on the churches site was destroyed about 1009 AD it can not be investigated.

Of the two, the Garden Tomb is more likely to be the authentic tomb. Its only real problem is a disagreement about its date. The Garden Tomb’s inside has markings connecting it to early Christians.

Ultimately, knowing exactly where Christ’s tomb was is not as important as Jesus Christ Himself and his death, burial and resurrection. Jesus died to save us from our sin. While knowing for certain where the real tomb of Jesus Christ is would be interesting, it is ultimately unimportant compared to His person and His Redemptive work, because after all He is not there for he is risen.

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