The Garden Tomb

Friday 4th July 2014

After visiting Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl, I caught the tram back to the Damascus Gate. I alighted there and visited The Garden Tomb which was only a block away, virtually across the street, outside the city wall.

Like many places in Israel, this site is an alternative. In competition with the Holy Sepulchre, it claims to be the place where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose. To be accurate, it does not make the actual claim, but asks the visitor to consider the possibility that it might be the actual site, but then hastens to add that “where” is not important when compared with “why“, that Jesus died and rose to save us.

As evidence for the claim, it is proposed that the cliff face remaining from the ancient stone quarry which provided some of the stone for Herod’s grand building projects in Jerusalem has a feature which resembles a skull, which gave rise to the nickname, the Place of the Skull, which is where the Gospels say Jesus was crucified.

The cliff face showing the proposed  "skull" image

The cliff face showing the proposed “skull” image

It is near the city, where there is a garden, a “tomb” hewn out of rock, inside of which is a small chamber with sufficient space for several people to stand, outside of which is a channel for rolling a stone into place to seal the tomb, all of which details correspond with Gospel accounts.
The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb

The garden is said to be that of Joseph of Arimathea. As in so many places of habitation and greenery, there is a cistern for water. Indicative of a wealthy man, such as Joseph of Arimathea is claimed to be, there is a winepress in the garden.
View of the burial place inside The Garden Tomb

View of the burial place inside The Garden Tomb

Whatever the merits of the claim, it is a peaceful oasis.

For myself, I am not convinced. This claim is only 200 years old, whereas the first Church of the Holy Sepulchre goes back to the early 4th century, and is claimed to be based on previous devotional practice of the first centuries of Christians.

However, I do agree that the “where” does not matter so much as the “why”. If The Garden Tomb inspires faith, hope and love for many pilgrims, then so be it. The Holy Sepulchre does the same for many others (as well as being a scandalous sign of Christian dis-unity!).

In the final analysis, Christian faith is based, not on sight and touch, as with Thomas, but on hearing and accepting the Word of God and the testimonies of those who walked with him before and after his death and resurrection from the dead.

For more information and pictures of The Garden Tomb see:

Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!


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