Moriah, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

Chapter 4. The Resurrection Garden - Part A

 

Thus the main evidence for the authenticity of the Garden Tomb is its location near the Biblical Golgotha. The case for the Garden Tomb is built on the case for Golgotha. Locating where Christ died is the necessary first step towards finding the exact place of Christ’s Resurrection, which is why it was necessary to cover this in detail in the last chapter. Since there is a conclusive Biblical case for Golgotha being on Mount Moriah, then the case for the Garden Tomb is much stronger than most realise, because it is unique in being the only Tomb in that location which satisfies all the other Biblical (New Testament) requirements, which are quite exacting, as we will show.

This combination in John 19:41,42 of an Execution Site and a Garden containing a rich man’s Tomb ‘nearby’, even ‘in the same place’ seems most unlikely, so if we can show how it could have fulfilled at a certain place, this would be good evidence in its favour. 

Interestingly, the paradoxical prophecy of Isaiah 53:9 (KJV): “He made His GRAVE with the wicked (criminals), and with the rich (man) in (after) His DEATH” seems to predict this very combination, that seems so unlikely. Notice that both phrases refer to the Place of His Burial, His grave being in the presence of the wicked, but also in a rich man’s tomb. As the context in Isaiah 53:7,8 makes clear, the Messiah would be killed by Capital Punishment, and therefore He would die at an official execution site amongst criminals. The prophecy indicates He would buried nearby, still in the presence of the wicked, but also it would be with the rich.

John 19:41,42 therefore confirms that this prophecy of Isaiah 53:9 was fulfilled. He was indeed buried ‘with the wicked’, that is, in the same place as the execution site, but also in a rich man’s tomb! We shall see that the geography of Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb, which is nearby and even in the same place (cut into the very same rock-face) perfectly fit and illustrate this scriptural description. 

Amazingly, in 1846, Andrew Bonar wrote this in his Commentary, 40 years before the Garden Tomb was even discovered: 

“Now in the Place where He was crucified there was a Garden; and in the Garden a new Sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid” (John 19:41). The very spot that criminals were put to death was where Joseph’s new Tomb was hewn out of a rock! The stony sides of the Tomb - the new Tomb - "the clean place" where Jesus was laid - were part of the malefactor’s hill. His dead body is: "with the rich man and with the wicked" (Isaiah 53:9) in the hour of His Death! His Grave is the property of a rich man; and yet the rocks which form the partition between His Tomb and that of the other Calvary malefactors, are themselves part of Golgotha."

It is inspiring to see how Bonar perceived the physical situation required by the scriptures, without even being aware of Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb, which perfectly fit his description of the necessary geography of the setting. The later discovery of the Garden Tomb perfectly confirmed the validity of Bonar’s perceptions. 

John 19:38-42: “After this (after Christ’s Death at 3pm), Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus (from the Cross). And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a 100 pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the Place where He was crucified, there was a Garden, and in the Garden a NEW Tomb, in which no one had 
yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the Tomb was nearby.”

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John 19:38-42 tells the story of how Jesus perfectly fulfilled the puzzling prophecy of Isaiah 53:9 (NKJV): “They (His people) made (assigned) His (Messiah’s) Grave with wicked men (guilty criminals - plural). But (instead He was buried)with a rich man (singular) at (after) His Death(s), because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth(because of His innocence).”

This more accurate translation brings out more detail which was perfectly fulfilled by Jesus. Clearly, in His Death and Burial, He would be associated with both ‘wicked men’ and a certain ‘rich man.’ He would be executed as a criminal by capital punishment (v7,8), being “numbered with the transgressors” (v10). As such, He would therefore be assigned a place in a common grave nearby, where all the criminals were quickly and dishonourably buried. However, because He is innocent, and as a sign of His innocence, after His violent Death, God will somehow overrides this decision of the rulers, and instead give Him an honourable burial in a rich man’s Tomb! 

John 19:38-42 tells us that is exactly what happened. Jesus would have been thrown into a criminal’s grave or pit, but instead He was buried in the tomb of a rich man (Joseph), who was one of his disciples, who happened to have his newly made tomb ‘in the same place’ as the execution site. God had arranged all the details so that this prophecy would be fulfilled. In particular, it is interesting that God had arranged that the Peak of Mount Moriah would be quarried to create Golgotha, ‘the Place of the Skull’, Jerusalem’s Execution Site, and just around the corner a rich man’s Garden, with his new Tomb, cut into the very same Rock Face (the Garden Tomb). In fact, nearby there is a whole complex of ancient tombs belonging to the very rich, but only the Garden Tomb fits the Biblical description.

It is also worth noting that the original prophetic Type of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 requires Christ’s Burial to be in the same place as His Death. For in the Type, on Mt. Moriah, the father both offered up his son and received him back from the dead, as well as every blessing of God released through his sacrifice. Then in Genesis 22:14, Abraham prophesied that God would fulfil this Type on this very same Mount, by providing Himself as the Final sacrifice. This means that both Christ’s Death and Resurrection had to take place on Mt. Moriah. Thus His Burial had to be near where He died.

 The Garden Tomb Story Once an increasing number of Bible students believed in the authenticity of Gordon’s Calvary as the place of Christ’s Death, naturally the search was on for the Tomb of Christ which had to be nearby. When news got out about a Tomb discovered by the owner of the land in 1867, there was a mounting excitement about it (see Appendix 4 for more of the story of the Garden Tomb).

The Garden Tomb Area was finally purchased by British Christians in 1894, who believed that it could be the Garden and Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and therefore the Site of Christ’s 

Resurrection. It is owned and administered by ‘the Garden Tomb Association’, a Charity based in the UK. It is an essential place to visit on any trip to Israel, as well as being an oasis in a busy, bustling city. Although many see the Resurrection Garden and its Tomb as just a good visual aid to the Bible, I believe there is strong evidence that this is the very place where these events took place! There simply is nowhere else that fits all the requirements given in the Bible.

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In the diagram above, you enter the Garden from the left-side and the Tomb is cut into the Rock-Face on your left. As you follow the Rock-Face around you reach the Viewing Platform on the right-hand edge of the Garden. From there you can get a good view of the Skull-Face, which overlooks a busy bus station (see the photograph on the next page). Notice that the Tomb is cut into the very same Rock-Face as the Skull (both are part of Mount Moriah). 

The greatest event of history is the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not a myth, but a historical fact. As well as fixing its exact date, we can also find the very place where this all happened! 

We have seen that the Bible clearly locates the place where Jesus was crucified. In Genesis 22, Abraham was told to offer up his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, the same Mount where the Temple was later built (2Chronicles 3:1). First, Abraham would have climbed up to where the Temple Plateau is today. However this was not the highest point of Moriah, where he would have had to make his offering to God. Mt. Moriah’s Peak is further to the North, outside the present Old-City Walls. Abraham and Isaac made the final ascent together with Isaac carrying the wood of his altar, just as Jesus, the Greater than Isaac, carried His Cross to Golgotha 2000 years later. There on the head of Moriah, he tied Isaac to a wooden altar, and offered him up to God. But as he was about to kill his son, God stopped him and instead revealed to him, that God would provide (from) Himself the ultimate sacrifice for man (Genesis 22:8), and that God would do this in this very same location that Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son. Thus Christ was ordained to be sacrificed at the HEAD of Mt.Moriah, which later became known as the PLACE of the SKULL.The New Testament records how Jesus perfectly fulfilled this.

Having established where Jesus was crucified, we can now go on to also investigate the location of His Resurrection, that is, of His Empty Tomb, from where He was physically resurrected. 

These 2 locations are closely related, because we are told in 
John 19:41,42: 
“Now IN THE PLACE where He was crucified there was a Garden, and in the Garden a new TOMB in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the TOMB was NEARBY.” 

Notice that John tells us that Jesus was buried in a Tomb that was ‘near’ to the Crucifixion Site. Moreover the Tomb was even in the ‘same Place’ as where Jesus was crucified. This means the Tomb was cut into the same Rock-Face in front of which Jesus was crucified. Thus if can definitely locate Golgotha, then the Empty Tomb must be nearby. John also tells us the Tomb was in a Garden, and that it was a new Tomb, in which no one else had been laid. 

Finding the true Tomb of Christ primarily depends on finding the true Golgotha, for they are ‘nearby’, even ‘in the same place.’ Then, having found this location, we must find a Tomb nearby that satisfies all the various detailed descriptions given in the Gospels. The case for the correct Garden Tomb necessarily rests on these 2 foundations. I will demonstrate there is one and only one Tomb nearby to the true Golgotha that matches the description given in the Bible, and therefore we can know the Empty Tomb’s location with reasonable certainty.

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