The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem: the real site of Jesus’s burial and resurrection?

Garden Tomb JerusalemThere are many awesome places of Christian pilgrimage in Jerusalem, and faith or no faith they just entice you in to visit them. The Garden Tomb is one of those special places where you feel humbled as you experience the emotions felt by other pilgrims as they gaze on these sites with wonderment…

The Garden Tomb is found just outside Jerusalem’s city walls, close to the Damascus Gate, and is considered by some to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Also known as Gordon’s Calvary, the Garden Tomb is what you could call the “rival” to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The tomb was discovered in 1867, unlike the evidence to support the Church site which dates back to the 4th Century, and is the site more favored by Protestants. Although the Anglican Church has withdrawn its support for the Garden Tomb being the authentic place of burial and resurrection, its attraction for pilgrims and visitors remains.

The case for authenticity

Garden Tomb JerusalemBefore you visit the Garden Tomb you might want to learn a little about its history and why people believe it is the site of the the burial and resurrection of Jesus. One of the keys points to support the authenticity of the Tomb is its location. Hebrews 13:12 states that the burial place is outside the city walls, which indeed the Garden Tomb is, unlike the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is within them.

One other point about the authenticity of the Garden Tomb is that archaeologists have put the date of the tomb as being 9th-7th BC, corresponding with the late Old Testament era. There are several references to Jesus’ burial place being a new tomb, including Matthew 27:60 and John 19:41.

Lastly, the burial benches in the Garden Tomb were cut down during the 4th – 6th century Byzantine period. This gives credence to historians who claim that if it had been a site of such significance it wouldn’t have been disfigured in this way. At the time the tomb was being altered, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was already being revered as the most important Christian shrine.

What to see

Whatever your beliefs and your thoughts on its authenticity, the Garden Tomb is still a magical place to visit; and is usually far easier to get “up close” without fighting the crowds you might encounter at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

One thing not to miss is the multilingual signs marking the site and a wooden door bearing the words “He is not here – for he is risen” (about 100 yards from the shape of a skull in the cliff-side). Powerful words…

You can see the deep channel claimed to be the groove in which the tomb’s closing stone was rolled, but there is nothing that can substantiate this. There are doors and windows in the face which are generally thought to date from the Byzantine or Crusader times. Once inside you will see features that have also contributed to the debate about the tomb’s supposed occupant. The tomb itself is carved out of the rock while the burial chamber is located on the right, just as described in the Bible. This is one of very few tombs in Jerusalem that have the burial chamber located on the right…

You can also still see where the body benches were cut down by Byzantine Christians and also signs of where the Crusaders of the Middle Ages lowered the rock surface in front of the Garden Tomb in order to convert the site to a stable.

Whether you are making a visit to the Garden Tomb as a pilgrimage or out of fascination, the site is a wonderfully tranquil place for quiet contemplation of perhaps the greatest story ever told.

The Garden Tomb is open to visitors Monday through Saturday between 8:30 – 12:00 and 2:00 – 5:30pm. English tours are available but must be booked in advance. Visitors are serviced with good facilities which include toilets, drinking water, benches and a well stocked gift shop. There is also wheelchair access to the garden.

For a glimpse of the Garden, take a peek at this great video…

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