The Christian Broadcasting Network


Development Coordinator, the Garden Tomb, 10 years

The Garden Tomb
P. O. Box 19462
Jerusalem 91193, Israel

The Garden Tomb

By Brian C. Bush
Guest Contributor - 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 ideal.

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 Miracle

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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