Development Coordinator, the Garden Tomb, 10 years
P. O. Box 19462
Jerusalem 91193, Israel
The Garden Tomb
By Brian C. Bush
- All the Features of the Biblical Tomb of Jesus
The site that is today known as the Garden Tomb, near the Damascus
Gate, was unearthed in 1867. While not all archaeologists agree
about its date, many have described it as a Jewish tomb of the
1st century A.D. In later years it was probably
used for Christian worship. There are indications of a church
structure, including early Christian crosses.
The Garden includes a tomb, a site for Golgotha, a winepress, and a water
cistern. Scripture tells us that after Jesus was crucified, a rich religious
leader of the Jews named Joseph (of Arimathea) was granted the Lord's body.
Matthew 27:59-60 says, "Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen
cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.
He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."
And John 19:41 states, "At the place where Jesus was crucified there was a
garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid."
The archaeological evidence found here indicates that this vineyard's owner
was a wealthy man. His tomb was cut out of solid rock, with a large weeping
chamber, and a channel for a rolling stone. It is remarkable that all the
features mentioned in the biblical account of Joseph's tomb can be seen at
the Garden Tomb.
At one end of the Garden is a cliff face of a nearby quarry with the features
of a human skull. The Bible tells us that Christ suffered outside the city
gate at "the place of the skull" (Golgotha in Aramaic and Calvary
in Latin). According to tradition, the quarry was used by the Jews as a place
of execution by stoning. Christian tradition links this site to Stephen's
martyrdom. The Romans carried out crucifixions along busy roads as a visual
deterrent against rebellion. This ancient execution site at the intersection
of trade routes to Damascus and Jericho, outside a main gate, would have been
At the site there is also a well-preserved winepress which was excavated
in 1924. It in one of the largest in Israel and is thought to be of pre-Christian
origin. It suggests that this Garden was originally an extensive vineyard.
There is also a water cistern that is the third largest in Jerusalem holding
250,000 gallons of rainwater. It is almost entirely cut out of solid rock.
It is confirmed to be of pre-Christian origin, giving evidence of a working
garden at the time of Jesus.
The Garden Tomb Today: Site of the Greatest Sacrifice and the Greatest
Reading the gospel account of Jesus' death and resurrection inside the Garden
Tomb is one of the most emotional experiences a pilgrim can have in the Holy
Land. The Garden Tomb is a place of prayer and worship where the gospel is
clearly and freely proclaimed every day in the heart of Jerusalem, just outside
the Old City walls. Here the nations of the world worship at the foot of Golgotha,
wander within the empty tomb, and walk away rejoicing in what God has done
for us. Located in a Muslim neighborhood, inside the Jewish state, visitors
learn that the Savior lives and that "He is not here; for He is Risen."
Today the Garden is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb Association,
a charitable trust based in the United Kingdom. The Association has undertaken
the conservation of the site. There is work aimed at stabilizing the cliff
and rock from which the tomb is cut. The Roman plaster inside the cistern
has begun to deteriorate. And there is a substantial vertical crack in need
of repair in order to retain the rainwater that is stored for watering the
garden in the dry summer months.
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism says tourism in Israel is down 90 percent
with the current intifada, and the events of September 11 have compounded
the problem. He encourages all Christians to make a life-changing pilgrimage
to the Holy Land, and like the angel on that first Easter morning, to "Come
and see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell his disciples
that He is risen from the dead."
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