In Search Of The Tomb: Where Was Jesus Buried?

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Published by Kenneth Garcia

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Co-Founder of Biblekeeper, Author & Theologian

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A group of archaeologists and other experts were granted permission several years ago to remove the marble casing surrounding the burial shelf in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. However, the site’s authenticity has been called into question.

There are two more possible sites in Jerusalem that have been offered as Jesus’ “real” burial sites[1]. Regarding the death and burial of Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us a bit about where his body was placed and how long it took.

What Happened Before Jesus Was Buried?

Matthew 26:57–67 describes Jesus’ detention, trial, and death penalty for claiming to be Jesus Christ, God’s son. By committing this “blasphemy” in front of Caiaphas, Jesus incriminates himself.

Caiaphas executed Jesus because, according to Roman law, he was a danger to Caesar’s power (John 19:12). Furthermore, according to Jewish law, anybody who claims to be the Messiah shall be put to death (John 19:7, 15). The outraged crowd at Jesus’ hearing included both Romans and Jews, and they all claimed Pontius Pilate had crucified Jesus.

Accused criminals in the Roman Empire were subjected to harsh punishment both before and after their execution. Before His execution, Jesus was scourged, spit upon, punched, slapped, and insulted by Roman soldiers (Matthew 26:67; John 19:31a). Jesus was crucified on the cross in Golgotha (also known as Calvary), where he was mocked and insulted by onlookers and members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest court of priests, lawyers, and teachers (Luke 22:66).

Jesus’ crucifixion occurs against the backdrop of Jewish Passover celebrations in the gospels. Pilate expedites judicial proceedings so that Jews may celebrate Passover (John 18:28–29). Before the Passover sabbath on Saturday, the Friday of Christ’s death is called Preparation Day (Luke 23:54; John 19:31). Throughout Christ’s trial, crucifixion, and burial, the Jewish community continued to observe Passover.

According to the NIV Study Bible footnote on Luke 23:52, a condemned criminal’s body was typically put in a ditch for wild animals to scavenge and the remaining flesh to decompose. Pontius Pilate granted the request of the chief priests and Pharisees to have a big stone rolled over the entrance to Jesus’ tomb so that his body could not be stolen.

The Jewish Sanhedrin argued that a guard and a large stone were necessary to prevent Jesus’ supporters from snatching his body and staging a fake resurrection (Matthew 27:62–66).

Does The Bible Say Where Was Jesus Buried?

The four Gospel writers in the New Testament provide the strongest evidence for Jesus’s death and resurrection. These Gospels include crucial talks Jesus had with his closest followers right before and after his death, as well as the precise location of Jesus’ burial.

There is compelling proof that the Biblical representation of Jesus’ temporary cemetery is both historically and spiritually true, as evidenced by comparisons between the accounts of Christ’s crucifixion and confirmation from religious writings and archaeological evidence like coins featuring Caesars and Herods’ names.

How Long Was Jesus Buried?

It is estimated that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb for roughly two and a half days, from Friday night before sunset until early Sunday morning.

The Bible counts Friday as day one, Saturday as day two, and Sunday as day three when it says that He rose on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:4).

According to Matthew (27:62), Mark (15:42), Luke (23:54), and John (19:31), Jesus’ death occurred on the day of preparation. The day before the Jewish Sabbath is called “Preparation Day,” and it falls on Friday.

a tomb door open

Who Visited Jesus’ Tomb?

On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary, mother of James, set out towards the tomb of Jesus, where he was laid to rest. The question of who among them would be able to lift the huge stone blocking the entrance was a source of concern and debate. When they got there, however, they were taken aback to see that the rock had already been moved (Luke 24:1–2).

Even more shocking to the ladies was the discovery that Jesus’ corpse had vanished. They stood there dumbfounded, but then an angel of the Lord in white clothes with a lightning-like appearance approached and said,

“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day will rise again’” (Luke 24:6–7).

Confused and frightened, the ladies ran away from the tomb. They tried to brief the rest of the disciples on their experience, but only Peter and John were convinced. Witnessing the empty tomb, Peter went away bewildered. John 20:9 says that they “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

Where Is Jesus’ Tomb Located Today?

Two major places in Jerusalem have been proposed as prospective sites for Jesus’ burial. Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the traditional location) and the Garden Tomb (also called Gordon’s Tomb). It is believed that the church was dedicated and constructed in 335 A.D., that it was destroyed in 1009, and that it was reconstructed in 1048.

Church Of The Holy Sepulcher

Although it is impossible to prove with certainty that Christ’s reputed tomb turns out to be the one discovered in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and actually contains the remains of Jesus of Nazareth, there is circumstantial evidence to support the recognition of the site by representatives of Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, some 300 years after Jesus’ death.

Archaeologists have discovered over a thousand rock-cut graves in the Jerusalem region. One or more burial rooms with deep recesses carved into the rock walls were included in each of these family tombs.

Everything is perfectly consistent within the framework of the existing knowledge about the burial practices of wealthy Jews during Jesus’ day. Regardless of where the gospel accounts got their information, it’s clear that their authors were aware of these death and burial customs.

As the site of the final four stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City, the church has continued to be a popular destination for Christian pilgrims.

The Garden Tomb

In 1842 A.D., a man named Otto Thenius suggested that the place called Calvary (Golgotha) and the ‘site of the skull’ were in the same location. In 1867 A.D., a garden tomb was discovered close to the site where the skull had been found.

The British general Charles Gordon brought attention to the idea that the garden tomb where Christ was thought to be buried was also the site of Golgotha.

In 1883, General Gordon discovered a rocky ridge or plateau that, when viewed from behind a bus stop today, takes on the appearance of a skull when viewed from different directions. Jesus’ crucifixion site was called “Golgotha,” which comes from the Aramaic word for “skull” (Mark 15:21, 22).

After much consideration, General Gordon decided that the craggy peak that reminded him of a skull was almost certainly the site of the biblical Golgotha. This is why the area is sometimes referred to as Gordon’s Tomb.

According to the Gospels, Jesus was laid to rest not far from the Golgotha crucifixion site, outside of Jerusalem. This was because Jewish tradition prohibited burial inside the city walls. When Jerusalem’s walls were enlarged a few years after the burial was supposedly carried out, Golgotha and the surrounding cemetery became part of the city proper.

It is said that in about 325 A.D., when emissaries of the deposed Roman emperor Constantine landed in Jerusalem in search of Jesus’ tomb, they were directed to a temple built by Hadrian some two centuries earlier. Historical accounts suggest Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the temple constructed over the grave to displace Christian worship at the site.

paper tomb

Conclusion

Historians may never be able to settle once and for all which ancient tomb actually contained Jesus’ body. The tomb, wherever it was, is now empty. However, the fact that Jesus’ death and burial are specifically mentioned demonstrates that Jesus died. In doing so, it paved the way for his resurrection to be officially acknowledged. Christ has risen from the grave, triumphing over death so that we can have life.

To dispute or dismiss the fact that Jesus was buried is to deny or disregard a truth that Christians consider to be “of first importance.”

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