The Holy Sepulcher PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
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The Holy Sepulcher
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They brought him to the place called Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, “The place of a skull.” They offered him wine mixed with myrrh to drink, but he didn’t take it. Crucifying him, they parted his garments among them, casting lots on them, what each should take.  
(Mark 15:22-24).

Ever since Christian pilgrimage began, almost 1700 years ago, its chief goal has been the place of Jesus' death and resurrection. Until the end of the 19th century, no one questioned where it was. Nor has an acceptable alternative been found. The Garden Tomb, sometimes presented as such, belongs to a series of tombs in the area dating back to the 7th century BC (Barkay. ) (The others in the series are north of the wall, in the grounds of the Ecole Biblique.) The tomb of Jesus, however, had never been used (Luke 23:53 and John 19:41 ). Nevertheless, the garden of the Garden Tomb offers a lovely, quiet place for devotion.

An excellent example of tombs from the mid-1st century AD are the Tombs of the Kings on Nablus Road, just south of the American Colony Hotel, but in recent years they have been closed. They belonged to Queen Helena of Adiabene and her family, converts to Judaism who came to live in Jerusalem. A good example of a rolling-stone tomb is the so-called Herod Family Tomb (which may indeed have been for members of Herod's family), located just south of the King David Hotel. It too is shut, but the rolling stone is clearly visible. Very few such stones have been found in the land from the period of Jesus' crucifixion, although a smaller version became fashionable in the Byzantine period under the influence of the Gospels.

Archaeology helps us to visualize Jesus' death in another respect as well. An ossuary has been found containing the bones of a crucified man. Ordinarily, the relatives removed all the nails, so we can't know that the bones belonged to someone who was crucified. In this case, however, one bent nail proved too difficult. It went through his ankle, and a fragment of olive wood was attached. The wrists, it is thought, were bound by ropes to the crossbeam. Researchers believe the man was sitting on a board. If he had simply hung, as in most representations of Jesus, he would have died quickly by suffocation. The Roman idea was to bring about an excruciating and deterrent death by exposure: to hunger and thirst, to the elements, to the beasts and the birds.