The Garden Tomb

When St Helena uncovered the True Cross in Jerusalem, she also identified what she believed was to be the location of Calvary, and a tomb nearby was identified as being the one Joseph of Arimathea donated for Jesus’ burial.

But there is another spot that makes more sense. It is located close to the alternative spot for Golgotha. Today, it is visited by Christians who believe it is the tomb of Jesus, and who refer to it as “The Garden Tomb.” It was first discovered in 1867, and excavated in 1891. In 1970 Dame Kathleen Kenyon, the famous British archaeologist, said that  “It is a typical tomb of about the first century AD.”

In identifying the tomb of Jesus, we will turn to the Gospels of John, Matthew and Luke:

  • The tomb was near the place of crucifixion. (John 19:42)
  • It was in a garden. (John 19: 41)
  • It was carved out of the solid bedrock of a cliff. (Matthew 27:60)
  • It was a rich man’s tomb. (v. 57)
  • The disciples could look into the tomb from outside. (John 20:5).
  • There was standing room for a number of persons. (Luke 24:1-4)
  • It was a new tomb. (John 19:41)
  • The tomb was closed by rolling a great stone over the entrance. (Matthew 27:60)

The Holy Sepulchre site is located west of where the city wall was situated in the time of  Jesus. Because of the prevailing winds, no tombs were allowed within 25 metres of the city limits. Therefore Joseph of Arimathea would have not carved a tomb for himself there. Helena’s discovery has no evidence of a garden, nor having a stone rolled in front of it.  The Garden Tomb has all this, and more:

  • The tomb is the size that only a rich man could have afforded.
  • It was located in a garden, as proven by the discovery of a water cistern.
  • Upon entering the tomb there was a room large enough to hold several mourners.
  • By stooping and looking in, it is possible to see the spot which has been cut out for its sole occupant.
  • There was a spot for the owner of the tomb, and for another person. Only one section had been cut out, and it has been enlarged to fit a man taller than the man for whom the tomb had been measured.
  • A trench in front of the tomb indicates a stone rolled in front of its entrance.

But there’s more! You remember that the stone was ordered sealed by Pilate to prevent Jesus’ body from being taken by the disciples. In the cliff face there are two holes  that show that a very large seal-stone was once used to seal this tomb by two iron shafts being driven into the rock. To reopen the tomb, the shaft on the left would be removed and the stone rolled away for them entrance.

The shaft on the right has been removed, but the hole remains. The shaft on the right is still there, sheared off level with the wall. It would take a force of 60-80 tons to shear an iron shaft of this diameter. Matthew 8:2-4 tells us it was an angel who moved the stone. The metal was tested and found to be consistent with that used in Roman construction. Furthermore, it was shown to contain both iron and lead. It was common in ancient times to set metal pins in molten lead to make them easier to drive into solid objects.

The gap between these holes shows the stone was larger than the diameter of any other such seal-stone found in Israel.







There is a great stone at a monument to Moses at Mount Nebo that is believed to have been the one that sealed the tomb of Jesus.

  • The stone is the perfect thickness to fit in the garden tomb’s frontal trough.
  • The stone is the perfect diameter as shown by the location of the holes in the face of the cliff.
  • The stone is the carved from the same rock as the garden tomb, and has the same surface texture.
  • The stone has matching chiseling marks as found at the garden tomb.
  • The stone is the same colour as the garden tomb rock.

The there is no way we will ever be able to prove or disprove, but consider this: the Garden Tomb originally had a Byzantine Church on its location – the location of the great stone is also at a Byzantine-era church.  The Byzantines  believed that any holy relic was invested with heavenly power. In John 3:14 Jesus makes a prophesy which connects Mount Nebo where the stone remains to the place were Jesus was resurrected from: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Where was Golgotha?

DISCLAIMER:  This post reflects my own views, which of course will never be proven or disproven. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter where Jesus was crucified. What really matters is that He DID die for us.

St Helena erected the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to mark the spot of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. She based her assumptions on the oral tradition of an elderly man by the name of Judah. He told her of how Hadrian had Calvary levelled the holy spot and built a temple  to the Roman goddess Venus.

Helena and her travelling companion, the historian Eusebius, ordered the temple to be torn down, and tradition says that she found three crosses buried in the rubble beneath it. Although crosses were reused as soon as the bodies were removed from them, it is very likely that the cross of Jesus was removed and buried to prevent his followers from claiming it. Credibility is given to the discovery, since  Helena also found the sign that was nailed to the top of the cross, and mentioned in the Gospels: “Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek” (John 19:20)

Helena also found the evidence of the land being levelled to build the temple, and she found a tomb nearby. There is much to lend credibility to this being the location of the crucifixion and burial, as the location of the city walls during that day were further south than today, so it was indeed outside the city, as according to customs and mentioned in the Gospels: “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood (Hebrews 13:12). In addition, the tomb dates back to the time of Jesus.

This was to be the consensus for over 1000 years…

We will never know for sure, but I join many others in believing that she may have misidentified the location.

The name “Golgotha” is derived from the Aramaic word gulgulta. Matthew 27:33 and Mark 15:22 give its meaning as “place of the skull.” When Saint Jerome translated these verses into Latin, he used the Latin word for skull, calvaria, which was later converted into the English word Calvary. There is no foundation for the common belief that the crucifixion took place on top of a hill.  All four Gospels say they took Jesus “to a place.”

Two hundred meters from the Damascus Gate, literally just across the street, there is a cliff containing caves that very clearly show the face of a skull. It is commonly referred to as the “Gordon’s Calvary,”  after the British general Charles Gordon who visited Jerusalem in 1882 and was intrigued by it.


This spot is located on the northernmost part of the mount called Moriah in the Bible. This was where Abraham brought Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22),  a symbolic prophecy of the sacrifice of Christ to come. The site was later purchased by David and used by Solomon to construct his temple at the midpoint on the north-south line of the hill. Significantly, sacrificial animals, whose deaths also symbolized that of Christ, were slain to the north of the temple altar, as in Leviticus 1:11.  This location would place the crucifixion  on the northernmost part of the hill where that altar was situated.

Golgotha is separated from the main body of Mount Moriah by a chasm created by an ancient rock quarry. The skull face on the cliff was cut away by the quarry, so it is a crucial fact that the quarry predates Christ.

Immediately to the west of the southern cliff stands Damascus Gate, where Herodian stonework is found, along with remnants of a  gateway and towers. This proves that Golgotha was—as the Gospels state—not far outside the city walls near the gate. It was also situated beside the main northern road—an ideal place for a public execution because of the numerous passersby, who, in the New Testament story, mocked Christ as he hung on the cross (Mathew 27:39)

Nearby, again in accordance to the Gospels, is a garden and a tomb, that shall be the topic of my next post…



Women in the Bible

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.


Women are mentioned in the Bible 188 times. That’s fewer than men to be sure, but given the cultural aspect of Biblical times, that’s not bad!

More importantly, who were these women? Women like Eve, Sarah, Rachel in the Old Testament… Deborah, a female judge… Ruth, who became an ancestress of Jesus… Esther, who saved the Jewish people…the Blessed Virgin Mary, chosen by God to give birth to our Saviour…

Let’s not forget a woman who didn’t have a name: The Proverbs 31 Woman!

And let’s not forget the woman who were the disciples of Jesus: Mary Magdalene…Mary and her sister Martha…

And the woman who were leaders among the early Christians, even hosting meetings in their homes: Phoebe, Dorcas, Priscilla, and Susanna…

Jesus placed a very high regard on women, and if you ever doubt our importance, consider that it was women who were chosen to be the first at the tomb!

Don’t Skimp on the Water

Water helps you lose weight. When we aren’t drinking enough water, our bodies start to store it in anticipation of a drought. This extra water weight is released when we begin to drink enough.

Water helps you think more clearly. It makes sense: if the oxygen in the blood that flows to the brain is low, the function will be also. In the same way, water keeps oxygen supplied to the muscles. After all, the oxygen is the O in H2O!

Water also helps balance your moods and emotions. Who knew?

Water surrounds and protects your joints, eyes, brain and spinal cord. Your kidneys and colon need it too; in fact, digestion depends on it.

Water prevents headaches, lightheadedness and fatigue. It even improves your immune system!

So for all these reasons, Dave and I use our new bottles daily. We keep a jug of filtered water in the fridge and we refuse to buy bottled water. All that plastic is so bad for the environment. And besides, there are parts of the world where the water is so scarce and undrinkable that we are arrogant if we complain about ours!

Love those who hate you


Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.


We’ve all heard this before: We are to love those who are mean to us. But how many of us believe it’s possible? How can we love someone who tells lies about us, gossips about us, and makes us feel bad about ourselves?

The truth is, it’s not possible on your own strength alone. In fact it’s one of the most difficult things we can do. But it’s very possible if we rely on Jesus to help us do, following His example and remembering how He was mistreated by His enemies.

People who hate you are often jealous, or they see something in you that they lack in themselves. That is not your fault, and there is nothing you can do to make them like you. Just show them love and let them see Jesus in you. Does that mean you must continue to let them mistreat you? Not at all — intact it may be necessary to remove yourself from their life. But do it from a position of forgiveness, not out of revenge.

It is so easy to fall into self-pity when we did nothing to deserve the bad treatment. But neither did He, and His was much worse than ours. Jesus had more “haters” than we ever will. Pray for them.