17.02.02 Jn. 19:38b-40; Mt. 27:59-60a; Jn. 19:42; Mt. 27:60b Lk. 23:55-56 Calvary; Jesus Is Buried.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 17.02.02 JESUS IS BURIED

17.02.02 Jn. 19:38b-40; Mt. 27:59-60a; Jn. 19:42; Mt. 27:60b Lk. 23:55-56 Calvary



Jn. 38b Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took His body away. 39 Nicodemus (who had previously come to Him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. 40 Then they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the aromatic spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

Mt. 59 So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, 60a and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock.  

Jn. 42 They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation and since the tomb was nearby.

Mt. 60b He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb.

Lk. 55 The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed along and observed the tomb and how His body was placed. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Stoning was both the form of Jewish execution and a method of burying a criminal.  But on the other hand, Gentile criminals were often not buried. Their bodies remained on the crosses until natural processes and wild animals devoured all flesh, and only a few bones remained on the ground.

“Nicodemus… (and) Joseph took the body.”  This action caused them to become ceremonially impure.  Therefore, they could not participate in the Passover celebration (Num. 19:11). The placement of the body in the tomb and the burial process clearly demonstrated that their love for Jesus was greater than their love for the law, their social reputation, or personal safety. They removed the body of Jesus because,

  1. They performed this last act of kindness for a dear friend, as they grieved in great sorrow.
  2. It would have been a disgrace to leave a body on the cross overnight, especially on the eve of a holy day.
  3. Furthermore, since the disciples and the family of Jesus were all from the Galilee area and, therefore, would not have possessed a family tomb in the Jerusalem area. This may have been an additional reason as to why Joseph of Arimathea donated his tomb to Jesus.

“About 75 pounds.” This huge amount of spices was generally reserved for royalty, as recorded when King Asa died.  His body was also “covered with spices and various blends of perfumes” (2 Ch. 16:14).[1] The treatment of the body of Jesus was the cultural norm for anyone of wealth, but quite unusual in light of His peasant lifestyle. In this case, both men and women, who dearly loved Him, placed spices upon His body.

The care given to the body is another sign that He had died.  Any sign of life would have immediately brought forth those who would have nursed Him back to health.  However, this was not the case.  The fact that the body of Jesus was placed in a new tomb of Joseph of Aramathea, fulfills a prophecy of Isaiah who said,

9 They made His grave with the wicked,

and with a rich man at His death,

Although He had done no violence,

and had not spoken deceitfully.


10 Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely.

when You make Him a restitution offering,

He will see His seed, He will prolong His days,

and by His hand, the LORD’s pleasure will be accomplished.


Isaiah 53:9-10

17.02.02.Q1 How was the burial of Jesus similar to the Exodus?

The burial of Jesus was similar to the hasty exodus by the children of Israel as they left Egypt, when they barely had time to gather their belongings and leave.  Jesus was crucified at 9:00 a.m. and was dead by 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon.  There was very little time left before the Sabbath would begin about three hours later.  So the body had to be taken down in haste, properly prepared for burial, and buried before three stars appeared in the sky (the sign of the end of the day and the beginning of the day of Passover). Jews did not practice any type of embalming, but washed the body and wrapped it in spices and linens.[2] The burial process included pronouncing a blessing over the spices.[3]  The burial rituals for Jesus were hastily performed as the sun was setting.  Just as the Israelites had walked through the Red Sea into a new life and new freedom, Jesus walked through the gates of hell and arose to give humanity a new life and new freedom.

There are two significant issues here:

  1. The importance of a proper burial and
  1. The law of unrelated identities.[4]

At this time, a tomb was a cave-like chamber carved out of the rock with a shelf or bench to one side, where the body would be placed.  After the flesh was completely decayed, the bones would be collected and placed in a clay, wooden, or stone box known as an ossuary.  Wealthy families acquired stone ossuaries, while common peasants acquired ones made from wood or clay. The name of the deceased was placed on the box and, at times, his occupation was mentioned as well.[5]  Tombs were used repeatedly by the same family. It was said that the deceased was “gathered to his kin” (Gen 25:8) or was “sleeping with his fathers” (1 Kg. 11:23).

17.02.02.Q2 Why was Jesus buried in a new tomb?

Jesus was buried in a new tomb, because failure to do so would have broken the law of unrelated identities. This law originated with Moses and was, therefore, deemed highly important. The Jews believed, for example, that mules and donkeys could not be yoked together for any type of agricultural activity, nor could Jews marry non-Jews. Likewise, New Testament teaches that believers and unbelievers were not to be married. Rules of such unrelated identities were extended to include burial tombs and stated that only family members could be buried in family tombs.

Since Jesus was the Son of God and not the son of two earthly parents, He was buried in a new tomb that never had been used by anyone’s family.  Even after His death, Jesus honored the Mosaic Law of unrelated identities. To have buried Him in a family tomb would have identified Him with that particular family.   Jesus was both Son of Man and Son of God and, hence, He was in need of a new tomb.

The Babylonian Talmud, on the other hand, indicates that executed criminals were not buried in the family tomb, but in one of two cemeteries as determined by the mode of death.  The Talmud reads:

And they did not bury him (the executed person) in his ancestral tomb, but two burial places were prepared by the beth din, one for those who were decapitated or strangled, and the other for those who were stoned or burned.

 Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 46 a-b

Although this regulation was not always observed, it was a way to disconnect the shame of the criminal from his family.  Nonetheless, innocent victims who were crucified were buried in family tombs. The possible separation of burial apart from former family members served to discourage those who entertained thoughts of committing a crime.

17.02.02.Q3 Where was Jesus buried?  

For centuries the burial tomb of Jesus was accepted as being in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. However, for more than a century, Protestants have followed the opinion of a General Gordon who said Jesus was buried in the Garden Tomb. A third site has emerged and, all three are listed below, followed by a brief discussion of each.

  1. The Mount of Olives
  1. The Garden tomb
  1. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre


  1. The Mount of Olives

In the spring of 1988, a book titled Secrets of Golgotha[6] challenged the prevailing opinions of scholars with the argument that Jesus was crucified on the Mount of Olives. While the fact that Jesus died when the Passover lamb was sacrificed is undeniable, the author also connects the burning of the red heifer[7] symbolically to Jesus.[8]

 The Jewish records state that the altar for the red heifer sacrifice was located east of the temple.[9] To accommodate the priests, Herod the Great had built a double-tiered arched bridge that connected the Eastern Gate to the Mount of Olives. That bridge was known as the Bridge of the Red Heifer and, in fact, appears to have been constructed solely for that purpose and to lead the scapegoat out of the temple and into the desert.[10]  The bridge did not connect to any highways and there were no major communities east of the Mount of Olives; only a village known for its lepers, a huge olive grove, and an altar that has been lost in history.  It would have been most unusual to build a huge bridge for merely a small village and olive grove. Therefore, its purpose had to be connected to sacrificial observances.  While the sacrifice of the Passover lamb is well established in Christendom, the meaning of the sacrifice of the red heifer and how it relates specifically to Jesus is seldom discussed. In fact, it appears to have been forgotten in history.  The author of Secrets essentially states that Jesus was crucified on the Mount of Olives as a sin offering just as the red heifer was previously burned as a sin offering.  An interesting statement in the Mishnah says that the eastern wall of the temple was lower than the other walls so the high priest, when burning the red heifer, could look directly into the temple.

All the walls there were high, save only the eastern wall, because the [high] priest that burns the [red] heifer and stands on the top of the Mount of Olives should be able to look directly into the entrance of the Sanctuary when the blood is sprinkled.

Mishnah, Middoth 2.4[11]

An essential question he proposes is this: Why have so few theologians, archaeologists, and historians been interested in finding the site of the red heifer altar on the Mount of Olives?[12]  Maybe in the future this question will be answered, but until then, Martin’s thesis is set aside and additional attention is given the two other sites.[13]

Concerning the two most popular sites, there are two views as to determine which site is authentic.  Many Protestants believe it is the Garden Tomb, while Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox Christians believe it is the tomb within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  These differences may be anchored more by theological biases than by scientific research, especially since the 1990s have revealed the identity with overwhelming evidence.  There are those, however, who continue to insist that the Garden Tomb is authentic, in spite of its shaky history.

  1. The Garden Tomb

When evangelical Christians think of the burial place of their Lord, they generally think affectionately of the Garden Tomb. It is certainly a beautiful garden with its winding walkways, shrubbery, and trees — a peaceful and quiet setting in a modern city that never sleeps except on high holy days. But is it really the place where Jesus was buried?

17.02.02.Q4 What are the arguments for Gordon’s Garden Tomb? 

The Garden Tomb as being the tomb of Christ was the site suggested by Otto Thenius in 1842. It was investigated again in 1883 by British General Charles George Gordon, and his name has been associated with the tomb ever since. The decisions by Thenius and Gordon were based upon three observations, but apparently without any review of the first century history of Jerusalem.

  1. Their location was along the road leading to Damascus. It was one of seven main roads that went to and from the city.[14]
  1. They observed two holes in the side of a small rounded cliff and imagined it to be the “place of the skull,” because it also contained an old tomb.
  1. They realized the small cliff was outside the Old City wall, and were convinced they discovered the authentic site were Jesus was buried.[15] The fact that the wall they saw did not exist at the time of Christ was obviously unknown to them. The northern city wall that they observed and based their decision on was reconstructed by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1530s (17.02.02.Z2). It did not exist in the first century.



17.02.02.A. THE TOMB AT GORDON’S CALVARY.  Also known as the Garden Tomb, Gordon’s Calvary has unquestionably been identified as a late Iron Age (8-7th Cent. B.C.) tomb, and hence, not the tomb of Jesus.  However, while it is not the authentic tomb, it has become the symbol of the resurrected Christ.  Photograph by the author.

In 1885 the Gordon popularized the site in an article published in the Palestine Exploration Fund’s Quarterly Statement.[16] His theory was quickly accepted as fact by Protestants, who at that time were forbidden entry into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  To aid their argument, an inscription on a stone found nearby was incorrectly translated and published on November 7, 1889 in the Northern Christian Advocate (Syracuse, New York).[17]  The science of archaeology was still in its infancy and whatever “archaeological proof” that would have been uncovered at that time would have been challenged and probably revised within a century.  This was one of many articles that attempted to prove the identification of the tomb of Christ, although there was no archaeological evidence to support the theory. Furthermore, this tomb is significantly different from first century tombs.[18]  As a result, many Christians visiting the Holy Land today are incorrectly convinced of the authenticity of the site.

In the first century, residents of Jerusalem had their gardens and orchards around the entire city, and the level area on the north side of the city was especially ideal for gardening. In order to protect this valuable area, in the years A.D. 41 to 44 Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, built the Third Wall that enclosed the gardens as well as the tomb of Christ (see 17.02.02.Z1).[19] However, since the Holy City was the scene of many wars and suffered many destructions, this wall was eventually destroyed and its exact location is unknown today.  The northern city wall seen today was constructed by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1536-1538 (see 17.02.02.Z2).[20] This lead to an incorrect identification of the Garden Tomb in the 1800s by General Gordon because he believed that the Old City wall standing today was the same as at the time of Christ.


17.02.02.Z1. MAP OF JERUSALEM WITH VEGETABLE GARDENS AND HEROD AGRIPPA’S THIRD WALL.  In the years A.D. 41 to 44 Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, built the Third Wall with Women’s Towers that enclosed the gardens on the north side of Jerusalem as well as the tomb of Christ. This wall was later destroyed and its precise location is unknown today. Map courtesy of Dan Bahat.[21]


17.02.02.Q5 What are the arguments against Gordon’s Garden Tomb?

What Gordon did not realize was that within fifteen years after Jesus, Herod Agrippa (reigned 41-44), constructed a new city wall that Josephus referred to as “The Third Wall.”[22]  In the centuries that followed there were many conflicts and destructions of the Holy City.  As a result, the Third Wall was destroyed and its precise location is still unknown today.  However, in the years 1538 to 1541, the great Muslim ruler Suleiman the Magnificent employed two architects to determine where the ancient wall once stood. Based upon their findings, the Old City Walls seen today were constructed.[23] However, after the reconstructed wall was finished, Suleiman discovered the architects made an error and had them decapitated.

As to General Gordon, there are five significant points that he never considered.[24]

  1. He failed to consider the historical background of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
  1. The Middle East is subject to frequent earthquakes. While the hill he identified does look like a skull, he never considered the fact that it probably did not look like a skull in the first century.
  1. A century after Jesus Emperor Hadrian declared victory over Christianity by building a pagan shrine over the burial site of Jesus.[25] He never touched Gordon’s Garden Tomb.
  1. The site Gordon identified is known in the Bible as “the place of the skull.” In Western thinking, this is generally interpreted as being an area that has the appearance of a human skull. However, in Eastern thinking – as in first century Jewish thinking – it was the place of death, not the physical appearance of a hill.  The place was probably where the Romans had crucified many other Jews and hence the name, “the place of the skull.”[26]
  1. Finally, the tomb of Jesus has always been a challenge for some people. Like visitors of today, Gordon realized that it does not look like a tomb – and that is because in the 11th century a demented caliph entered the church and destroyed as much of the tomb as he could that was not previously destroyed by Hadrian.[27]

If General Gordon were alive today, he would be discouraged to learn that archaeologists clearly identified his Garden Tomb to be a Late Iron Age tomb (8th or 7th century B.C.).[28]

 Video Insert    >

17.02.02.V1 The Garden Tomb. Archaeologist Dr. Bryant Wood discusses the date of the Garden Tomb as an Iron Age II tomb, meaning it was used in the 8th to 7th century B.C.

17.02.02.Q6 What descriptive biblical parameters aided archaeologists in identifying the kind of tomb in which Jesus was laid?

The descriptive parameters are as follows:

  1. It was the tomb of a wealthy individual named Joseph of Arimathea (Mt. 27:59-60)
  1. It was a new tomb, never used previously (Mt. 27:60)
  1. On Sunday morning, John came to the tomb and saw the burial clothes neatly folded, lying on a bench, and the body missing (Jn. 20:3-8). This suggests a single chamber tomb as the body would probably not have been visible in the dark second chamber of a double chamber tomb. However, the light from the rising sun or a lit oil lamp could have made a body or burial cloth visible from the outside.
  1. Mary came to the tomb and had to stoop down to look inside and saw the linen clothes lying on the bench (Jn. 20:5). She saw angels seated at both the head and foot of where Jesus had lain (Jn. 20:11-12). This affirms the single chamber tomb, possibly like the type Caiaphas was buried in.[29]
  1. On Sunday morning, Mary spoke to a gardener (Jn. 20:15). This points to a large area on the northern side of the city where many people had vegetable gardens. This area was enclosed in the early 40s by King Agrippa.
  1. The stone was “rolled” to the side. This often is interpreted that the stone was round, like a large disc. However, square stones were also rolled, although that is more difficult to do. The fact remains, however, that only four large disc stones have been found of the time of Jesus, while there have been more than a hundred square blocking type stones found that were commonly used to cover tomb entrances.[30] It took several men to move such a heavy and clumsy stone, which is why entrances were small – the larger the opening; the larger the sealing stone would be needed.


17.02.02.Q7 What were the typical first century tombs like?

In the first century, the tombs in the Jerusalem area were of two distinct styles, uniquely different from each other and from prior centuries.

  1. One style, known as the “shaft tomb,”[31] consisted of a large room with a number of finger-like shafts (or niches) carved into the cretaceous limestone hillside (see photo 17.02.02.B and illustration of plan 17.02.02.C).

Each shaft or niche, called a kokhim in Hebrew, was approximately six or seven feet long and one and one-half or two feet wide, large enough to lay a body (see photo 17.02.02.B). That matches the rabbinic directives that stated that a niche had to be four cubits long and seven handbreadths high and six handbreadths wide.[32]  After a year, when the flesh had decayed, the bones were collected and placed in a small ossuary made of wood or soft limestone.  This was the most common and typical first century tomb.


17.02.02.B. TWO SHAFT TOMBS IN THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE. In one of the small rooms within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are these shaft tombs which were used by common Jewish peasants of the first century.  The arcosolium tomb of Jesus was destroyed by Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 135. Photograph by the author.

The origin of the shaft tomb is unknown. Some scholars believe it originated in Egypt, others believe it came from Phoenicia and was popularized by Alexander the Great.[33] The wealthy arcosolium tomb is believed to have originated in the late Inter-Testamental Period, replacing bench tombs such as the Garden Tomb of the Iron Age as was typical in the First Temple Era.[34]

  1. The second style was for the first century’s rich and famous. This tomb had an indented shelf or bench, known as an arcosolia, cut into the chamber wall, large enough to lay a body.[35] Again, after a year when the flesh had decayed, the bones were collected and placed in a small ossuary made of limestone. The arcosolia was the preferred tomb of the first century and was the only tomb style that would have permitted an angel to sit at either end of the body of Jesus (Jn. 20:12).  It would have been impossible for an angel to sit at either end of the body of Christ in a shaft tomb or in a Late Iron Age tomb.


17.02.02.C A FLOOR PLAN ILLUSTRATING A COMMON SHAFT TOMB. This plan depicts six shafts or “niches,” where the bodies of common people were laid to decompose. The entrance on the right opens into the main chamber that is about three meters square. After the bones were collected and placed in ossuaries, the ossuaries were placed anywhere within the tomb. Illustration by Amos Kloner.[36]

Scholars believe it was an arcosolium tomb in which the body of Jesus was laid (see 17.02.02.D below) as this was an expensive style that only the wealthy could afford.[37] The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shown in 17.02.02.D because the hillside in which the tomb was located was destroyed by Hadrian who quarried the stone and built the shrine over the tomb to honor the Roman goddess Venus.


17.02.02.D AN ILLUSTRATION OF A DOUBLE CHAMBER ARCOSOLIUM TOMB WITH SHADOW OF THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPLUCHRE. This illustration depicts a possible reconstruction of the tomb of Aramathea. Mourners visiting this tomb would have sat on a bench in chamber “A,” them moved through a small opening “B” to the second chamber “C” where the body was laid on a bench under an arched ceiling. The hillside was eventually destroyed. Illustration by Diana Clegg.

  1. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Determining the identity of Christ’s tomb was a great challenge since the Church of the Holy Sepulchre claimed to be both the authentic crucifixion and burial sites, the two being merely some fifty or sixty feet apart.  The following is a brief overview of the historical events that reveal the identity of the authentic tomb of Jesus.

Video Insert    >

17.02.02.V2 The Two Types of First Century Tombs. Professor Gordon Franz discusses the differences between the two types of first century tombs. His emphasis is on the distinctive features of the Garden Tomb and those of the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.



17.02.02.D. AN EXPOSED TOMB. An exposed tomb, the top removed, shows an arcosolium (plural: arcosolia) tomb on the left, three conventional tombs, and a bench in front of them. Bodies of the deceased were laid in these tombs until the flesh was decayed, then the bones were collected about a year later and placed in an ossuary. Photo by Jeff Herot.

After the Romans destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the city was rebuilt. But six decades later, the Jews revolted again which resulted in yet another destruction in the year 135.  In both wars, the Romans spent three years besieging the Holy City. Since there were thirteen rebellions between 63 B.C., when the Romans came, and A.D.70, by the time they defeated the Jews again in A.D. 135, Emperor Hadrian and the rest of Rome had enough of them and decided to permanently eliminate them. Like Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Egyptian Pharaoh of previous centuries, he wanted to remove any trace of these aggravating people.

Likewise, Hadrian had no great love for the new religious sect known as “Christians,” since, like the Jews, they also refused to participate in emperor worship.[38]  Therefore, if he was going to get rid of the Jews, why not the Christians also?  He determined to destroy whatever people, symbols, shrines, and buildings that existed in the Jerusalem area, although he was more sympathetic to those living in the countryside villages.

He found the site where local Christians said Jesus was crucified and buried.  To celebrate his victory over them, he built a shrine to the goddess Venus over the site of the tomb.  He took Herodian ashlars (large rectangular stones cut by Herod the Great) from the ruined temple and reused them to build rectangular retaining walls for the shrine.[39]   Upon these walls, he built a platform for his shrine to (Latin) Venus (also known as Aphrodite to the Greeks), the goddess of love.  His goal was to forever obliterate the tomb of Jesus, as well as the nearby rock of Golgotha.  He never touched Skull Hill or Gordon’s Garden Tomb and, therefore, it remained undisturbed for centuries, until 1883.[40]

Hadrian was determined to eradicate anything Jewish – and Jesus and His disciples at this time were still considered part of Judaism. However, with the construction of the shrine, he permanently identified the site, because, when Emperor Constantine sent his mother Queen Helena to the Holy Land in 325-326 to locate the sacred sites, she quickly found the remains of the sacred cave and ruins of the shrine.  Some fifty feet nearby was another Roman shrine which had been built over the crucifixion site.[41]  Helena employed skilled workers to tear down the shrine and construct the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  When Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea Maritima, heard of her plans, he voiced support for the adornment of the building as follows:

It is my wish, then, that you should be especially convinced of this, which I suppose is clear to everyone, that of all things it is my chief concern how we may splendidly adorn with buildings that sacred place which, under divine direction, I freed…Not only shall this basilica be the finest in the world, but that the details also shall be such that all the most beautiful structures in every city may be surpassed by it….As for the columns and marbles, have a care to tell us in writing, after you have inspected the plan, whatever you judge to be most precious and serviceable so that those materials, of whatever sort and in whatever quantity, may be procured from every quarter. 

Eusebius, The Life of Constantine 3.29-32

Because of this unusual history, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is, without question, one of the most accurately identified biblical sites.[42]  It was so significant that it later appeared on the sixth century mosaic Madaba Map on the floor of a Byzantine church in Madaba, Jordan.[43]  Extensive research conducted in the 1990s firmly identified the church as to where both the crucifixion and burial sites are located. Ironically, little did Hadrian know that by destroying the holy site, he was in fact, preserving it.  Eusebius described the construction work of Hadrian’s slaves and soldiers, they…

… Brought a quantity of earth from a distance with much labor, and covered the entire spot; then, having raised this to a moderate height, they paved it with stone concealing the holy cave (tomb) beneath this massive mound.  Then, as though their purpose had been effectually accomplished they prepared on this foundation a truly dreadful Sepulchre of souls, by building a gloomy shrine to the lifeless idols to the impure spirit whom they call Venus.

Eusebius, The Life of Constantine 3:26[44]

From the time of Hadrian until Constantine, nothing changed. Then, in 326, Queen Helena identified the crucifixion and burial sites by finding the ruins of the shrine of Venus.[45] She immediately removed all traces of pagan worship and again Eusebius preserved the account.

He (Constantine) gave orders that the materials of what was destroyed, both stone and timber, should be removed and thrown as far from the spot as possible….he directed that the ground itself should be dug up to a considerable depth, and the soil which had been polluted by the foul impurities of demon worship transported to a far distance place.

Eusebius, The Life of Constantine 3:26


The site identification in the early fourth century was relatively easy.  The destruction of Jerusalem and the work of Hadrian were still common knowledge.  Queen Helena’s accuracy cannot be disputed and when the clearing work was completed and a new church built, Constantine said this:

…I have disencumbered as it were of the heavy weight of foul idol worship; a spot which has been accounted holy from the beginning in God’s judgment, but which now appears holier still, since it has brought to light a clear assurance of our Savior’s passion.

Eusebius, The Life of Constantine 3:30

Eusebius wrote of Constantine’s desire to build “a house of prayer” upon the site where Jesus was buried:

He judged it incumbent on him to render the blessed locality of our Savior’s resurrection an object of attraction and veneration to all.  He issued immediate injunctions, therefore, for the erection in that spot of a house of prayer.

Eusebius, The Life of Constantine 3:25

Were it not for Constantine and his mother Helena, many sacred sites would have been lost in history. The new church was called the Church of the Martyrion, a portion of which remains. The word “Martyrion” (Gk. witness) meant the site was the witness of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[46] Years later the name was changed to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In the second half of the last century, a number of repairs were made to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which exposed a number of stones that scholars believe were part of the original Constantine structure.[47]  Furthermore, in 1975 construction workers found, near St. Helena’s chapel (part of the Holy Sepulchre) a red and black picture of a Roman sailing ship with the Latin phrase Domine iuimus, meaning Lord, we went (cf. Ps. 122:1). Historians believe this graffiti was placed on the wall in 330, only a few years after the completion of the church.[48]


Video Insert    >

17.02.02.V3 The Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the Former Shrine of Venus. Dr. Petra Heldt discusses the reconstruction of Jerusalem by Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 135, and how his work is believed to have preserved the identity of the tomb of Jesus. Dr. Paul Wright discusses some stones in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that may have been used previously in Hadrian’s shine to the Roman goddess Venus. Introduction and comments by Dr. Bill Heinrich.



17.02.02.E. HADRIAN’S WALL AT THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.  Some rooms of the church have an unusual mix of stones. Some scholars to believe the smooth stones are “second use stones” that were originally part of Hadrian’s shrine of Venus.[49] This opinion is based on the logical idea that when Queen Helena built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she used stones from the shrine that were already cut and smooth.  Photo by the author.

Many ancient sites have been easy for archaeologists to identify since Queen Helena built churches over them with a foundation of a unique architectural style.  Fellowship churches were constructed in the form of a cross, whereas memorial churches were built in the shape of an octagon.[50]  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been partially destroyed and rebuilt several times, but it has maintained a continuous history.  The queen, just like General Gordon centuries later, was faced with “the wall dilemma,” because she, too, had to contemplate the tomb location in light of the city walls. The local residents told her of King Agrippa’s third city wall and, hence, she rendered a better decision. Christianity will always remember her work because it preserved the site of the tomb of Jesus.[51]

17.02.02.Z2. MAP OF JERUSALEM’S OLD CITY WALLS AS SEEN TODAY. In the years 1536 – 1538 Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire employed two architects to determine where the original city walls were located. The walls were repaired, and some sections rebuilt, according to their recommendations. However, it was later discovered that they made some errors and consequently, were decapitated. In the 1800s General Gordon mistakenly believed that the walls he saw were the walls standing at the time of Jesus, and therefore, he concluded the tomb was outside Suleiman’s walls. Map by Dan Bahat.

17.02.02.Q8 Is the burial cloth of Jesus, known as the Shroud of Turin, authentic (Mt. 27:59)?

There has been a great controversy concerning a burial cloth that was hidden in a small northern town of Turin, Italy for many centuries. Known as the Shroud of Turin, the ancient burial cloth is said to have been the shroud that was wrapped around the body of Jesus as He lay in the tomb.[52]

The Mishnah and Code of Jewish Law,[53] both provide some interesting insight into this question. John 11:44 states that Lazarus came out of the tomb with his face wrapped in a cloth. In other words, his chin was bound up “that it may not sink,” as described in the Mishnah below. Later, John said in 20:7, in reference to where the body of Jesus was laid, that the wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths, but was folded and placed elsewhere. Twice John mentioned the head wrapping, a cultural custom mentioned in the Mishnah, and is also noticeable on the Shroud of Turin.

They may make ready [on the Sabbath] all that is needful for the dead, and anoint it and wash it, provided that they do not remove any member of it.  They may draw the mattress away from beneath it and let it lie on sand that it may by the longer preserved; they may bind up the chin, not in order to raise it, but that it may not sink lower.  So, too, if a rafter is broken they may support it with a bench or with the side-pieces of a bed that the break may grow no greater, but not in order to prop it up.[54] They may not close a corpse’s eyes on the Sabbath; nor may they do soon a weekday at the moment when the soul is departing; and if he closes the eyes [of a dying man] at the moment when the soul is departing, such a one is a shedder of blood. 

Mishnah, Shabbath 23:5[55]

The most unusual feature of the shroud is that it contains an X-ray type image of a man with all of the wounds and bruises that are normally associated with a crucifixion execution,[56] that also match all related biblical passages.[57]  The image is on the surface of the fabric and not through the fibers of the fabric. In 1978 a team of 32 scientists examined it for five days with the most sophisticated scientific testing equipment and, as of this writing, there has not been a definitive decision rendered as to its authenticity.[58]

Note the following signs of human injury on the shroud compared to the injuries suffered by Jesus:[59]

  1. The burial cloth shows marks throughout the scalp from sharp objects.
  1. A swollen face, evidently from repeated blows.
  1. Large bruises to the forehead and cheeks.
  1. A twisted nose
  1. An eye swollen shut
  1. An upper lip cut
  1. An estimated 120 scourging wounds on nearly every part of the body with the exception of the face, feet, and forearms.
  1. Large rub marks on the part of the shroud that once covered the shoulders.

In addition, there are five major wounds associated with death by crucifixion.

  1. Puncture wounds through both wrists (the wrist was considered as part of the hand in ancient times).
  1. Puncture wounds in both feet
  1. Puncture wound in the right side of chest.

In light of these details, it is also noteworthy that it was common practice for the Romans to break the legs of crucified criminals to hasten death and, thereby, reduce their suffering.  There is no sign of leg fracture in the shroud.  While this is an argument from silence, in light of the fact that the shroud shows such vivid details, if the person who was crucified had his legs broken, there surely would be signs revealing these.

While several other so-called antiquities have been identified as fakes that certainly does not prove the shroud is also a forgery.  Yet, there is no longer any blood on the shroud.[60] Furthermore, could such a medieval artist have the skills to outwit today’s sophisticated scientists and technology?  It appears impossible since today’s scientists cannot even reproduce it.[61]  The blood stains, indicating the flow of blood from the wounds and other injuries, are too incredibly accurate to have been the work of a medieval artist.  Furthermore, there has never existed an art form of painting burial shrouds, so how could such a highly skilled artisan have originated a masterpiece and not have any other similar works of art?[62]

In addition, the discovery of 28 different pollens in the fabric that existed only in Jerusalem in the first century intensifies the scholarly arguments.[63]  A review of published scientific literature seems to indicate the scientific conclusion on the authenticity appears to reflect the theological position of the individual scientist performing the research.[64]


17.02.02.G. THE SHROUD OF TURIN WITH ITS IMAGE OF JESUS.  Many believe the image of a man’s face on the Shroud of Turin is the image of Christ that was transferred when His body was placed in the tomb.


Video Insert    >

17.02.02.V4 The Shroud of Turin. Michael Keating, a research and development engineer discusses the amazing discoveries concerning the Shroud of Turin that some say was the burial cloth of Jesus. Introduction by Dr. Bill Heinrich. Click here if Internet connection is available.



17.02.02.H. THE SHROUD OF TURIN ILLUSTRATED. The Shroud is believed by many to be the prayer shawl that is shown being neatly placed under and over the body of Jesus. The custom was for a man’s prayer shawl to be placed over him in burial. The shrouding (Giulio Clovio, 16th century aquatint composed in honor of the Holy Shroud of Turin), has scenes from the life of Christ set in medallions.


17.02.02.I. CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE. Recent extensive research has determined that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is, in fact, the actual site of both the crucifixion and burial.[65] Photograph by the author.

[1]. See New International Version Study Bible footnote on John 19:39.

[2]. Mishnah, Shabbath 23.5.

[3]. Babylonian Talmud, Seder Zera’im Berakoth 53a.

[4]. The law of unrelated identities includes principles of kosher foods, not being unequally yoked, not mixing different materials to make fabrics, etc. See Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 26, page 14.

[5]. Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 237-39.

[6]. Martin, Ernest L. Secrets of Golgotha: The Forgotten History of Christ’s Crucifixion. Associates for Scriptural Knowledge: Alhambra, CA. 1988. See also Ritmeyer, “A Response to Dr. Ernest Martin.” 117-121.

[7]. The red heifer was a necessary component for the purification of a person who came in contact with a dead body. There was a special ritual entailing the sprinkling of its ashes. See Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 115.

[8]. See a book review by W. H. C. Frend (1989) of Ernest L. Martin’s “Secrets of Golgotha. The Forgotten History of Christ’s Crucifixion.” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 40, 449-449.

[9]. Mishnah, Middoth 1:3; 2:4; Mishnah, Yoma 7:2; Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 68a; Babylonian Talmud, Zebhim 105b.

[10]. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 1:83-84.

[11]. Inserts by Danby, ed., Mishnah.

[12]. The whole matter involving the red heifer sacrifice is one this writer believes is in need of further study.  See Appendices 6, 26, and 33.

[13]. A summary of Secrets of Golgotha can be found at, Ernest L. Martin, “The Crucifixion Site of Jesus.” Archaeology and Biblical Research 5:4 (Autumn, 1992). 113-121.

[14]. Kloner and Zissu. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. 22-23.

[15]. See also Zondervan’s New International Version Archaeological Study Bible. (2005, ed.). 1615.

[16]. Alden, “Golgotha.” 2:772; Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus Knew It. 146.

[17]. Murphy-O’Connor, “The Garden Tomb.” 12.

[18]. Biddle, The Tomb of Christ. 56-58.

[19]. Map courtesy of Dan Bahat. Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. 35.

[20]. Map courtesy of Dan Bahat. Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. 59.

[21]. Bahat, Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. 35.

[22]. Bahat, “Does the Holy Sepulcher.” 37.

[23]. Shanks, Jerusalem, An Archaeological Biography. 241.

[24]. See Kloner and Zissu. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period.  Note: Amos Kloner is considered by scholars to have completed the most comprehensive study of hundreds of tombs (First and Second Temple Periods) in the Jerusalem area.

[25]. In a similar manner, centuries later the Muslims build the Dome of the Rock over the temple site and converted St. Mary’s Church, located on the Temple Mount, into a mosque. They never touched Gordon’s Garden Tomb.

[26]. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 4, Session 1.

[27]. Nelesen, Yeshua; the Promise, the Land, the Messiah. (Video Tape 2).

[28]. Price, The Stones Cry Out. 313.

[29]. Kloner, “Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb?” 29.

[30]. Kloner, “Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb?” 28.  Kloner also indicates that the Hebrew word for both round (or rolling) and square blocking stones is golal or golel (plural: golalim).  See also Kloner and Zissu. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. 54-56. Note: Amos Kloner is considered by scholars to have completed the most comprehensive study of tombs in the Jerusalem area.

[31]. For an exhaustive study on burial practices and tombs during the era of Jesus, see Rachel Hachlili, Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period. Boston: Brill, 2005.

[32]. Mishnah, Baba Bathra 6.8.

[33]. Kloner and Zissu. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. 77.

[34]. Kloner and Zissu, The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. 85.

[35]. For an exhaustive study on burial practices and tombs during the era of Jesus, see Rachel Hachlili, Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period. Boston: Brill, 2005.

[36]. Kloner and Zissu, The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. 688.

[37]. Illustration modified from Bahat, Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. 57.

[38]. Bahat, “Does the Holy Sepulcher.” 32.

[39]. Price, The Stones Cry Out. 314.

[40]. Maier, The First Easter. 84.

[41]. Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 248-49.

[42]. Biddle, The Tomb of Christ. 56-57; Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 5; Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travel’s. 146-47 quoting Egeria’s Travels.

[43]. See “Madaba Map” in Appendix 26; See also 14.02.03.D and 05.02.03.Z.

[44]. Parenthesis mine.

[45]. Thiede and d’Ancona. The Quest for the True Cross. 62.

[46].  Pixner, “Church of the Apostles Found.” 24, 60 n20.

[47]. Wiseman and Yamauchi, Archaeology and the Bible. 84-86.

[48]. McDowell, “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament.” 48.

[49]. Bahat, “Does the Holy Sepulcher.” 33.

[50]. Bahat, “Does the Holy Sepulcher.” 34-35.

[51]. Shanks, “After Hadrian’s Banishment: Jews in Christian Jerusalem.” 33.

[52]. For further study, see two articles by John Long: “The Shroud’s Earlier History. Part 1: To Edessa.” Bible and Spade. 20:2 (Spring, 2007). 46-52 and “The Shroud’s Earlier History. Part 2: To the Great City.” Bible and Spade. 20:4 (Fall, 2007). 120-128.

[53]. The Code of Jewish Law, a/k/a the Shulchan Aruch, is the Jewish code of law written by Rabbi Yosef Kara about 500 years ago. It summarizes and lists the halachic decisions of the Talmud as well as the author’s own view based on halachic opinions and discussions of the commentaries after the Talmud. Topics discussed are divided into chapters. It is mentioned here because it refers to second temple period traditions, but it is not quoted as it is not an ancient source. See Code of Jewish Law, “Laws of Mourning.” Chapters 351-354, 362-64;  http://www.shulchanarach.com/

[54]. This sentence that pertains to a broken roof rafter is a comparative statement. It suggests that just as a bench or the side piece of a bed is used to prevent a rafter from bending or breaking any further, so too, the chin of a corpse is tied to keep the jaw from “sinking,” or opening, any further.

[55]. Bracketed inserts by Danby, ed.

[56]. Wild, “The Shroud of Turin: Probably the Work of a 14th Century Artist or Forger.” 31-32.

[57]. Hands and feet were nailed to the cross: Lk. 24:40; Jn. 20:20,25,27; Col. 2:14;  Scourging wounds: Mt. 27:26; Mk. 15:15; Lk. 23:16, 22; Jn. 19:1; Thorn impressions on the head Mt. 27:29; Mk. 15:17; Jn. 19:2; Bruise marks to the shoulders (from carrying the cross?) Jn. 19:17; Bruise and blow marks to the face Mt. 26:28; 27:30; Mk. 14:65; 15:19; Lk. 22:63-64; Jn. 18:22; 19:3.

[58]. Nelesen, Yeshua; the Promise, the Land, the Messiah. (Video Tape 2).

[59]. Habermas, “The Shroud of Turin and its Significance for Biblical Studies.” 51.

[60]. McCrone, “The Shroud Painting Explained.” 29.

[61]. McCrone, “The Shroud Painting Explained.” 29-30.

[62]. Vikan, “Debunking the Shroud.” 28.

[63]. For more information, see Vaughn M. Bryant Jr. “Does Pollen Prove the Shroud Authentic?” Biblical Archaeology Review 26:6 (Nov/Dec, 2009). 36-44. See also Alan D. Whanger, Uri Baruch, and Mary Whanger. Flora of the Shroud of Turin. St. Louis, MO: Missouri Botanical Garden Press, 1999.  


[64]. See also Long, “Closing in on the Shroud’s Early History. 20-22.

[65]. Biddle, The Tomb of Christ. 56-58; Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 5.

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