Moriah, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

Chapter 4. The Resurrection Garden - Part B

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The Viewing Platform (above) has a photograph of the Skull from well over 100 years ago, which shows how it has kept its shape. In fact, you can see an additional feature, the mouth, which is now covered up by the tarmac laid down for the bus-station.

The diagram opposite shows the relationship between the Place of the Skull (on the right) and the Garden Tomb (on the left). Notice how the Rock-Face continues from the Skull (on the right) into the Garden Tomb enclosure before turning through a right angle, to the north. Then after a short distance it turns through another right-angle, and continues to the west, going parallel to the part of the Rock Face containing the Skull. The Garden Tomb was cut into this part of the Rock Face. 

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Now we can see how perfectly this fits the unusual Biblical description that the Tomb was in the same Place (along the same Rock Face) as the Execution Site, yet it was also in a Rich Man’s Garden! How could these two opposing things be IN THE SAME PLACE? It seems an impossible requirement! Yet, now we can see how this could be. The Tomb, while being in the same Place (on the same Rock-Face) as the Crucifixion-Site, and nearby, as the Bible says, was also tucked away around a corner in an area that could have been a private Garden. In fact, there is good evidence that shows this was indeed a Garden at the time of Christ. Thus this 'Garden' area was very close to Skull Hill and yet largely tucked out of site.


The distance between 'traditional Golgotha' and the Sepulchre is that much less (just under 30 metres). The layout of the Garden Tomb enclosure certainly has some distinct advantages on this score, with its Garden Area being tucked round to one side of Skull Hill.

The Garden belonged to a very RICH MAN called JOSEPH of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus, who went to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to ask for the body of Jesus to be placed in his own unused Tomb which was nearby, in his Garden, tucked just around the corner from Golgotha (John 19:38-41). No doubt, to the displeasure of the Jewish leaders, this request was granted by Pilate, and so Joseph and Nicodemus were able to bury the body of Jesus there, before the start of the Jewish Sabbath. 

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The Bible tells us that: "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" (John 19:41). 

Thus according to the Bible, there must be 3 things close together:
1. The Skull Hill Crucifixion Site.
2. A nearby Garden belonging to a Rich Man.
3. A new Tomb that had not been used before.

So if we find a Garden containing a newly cut Tomb of a rich man, in close proximity to an Execution-Site, marked by a Skull, all on Mount Moriah, outside the City-Wall and Gate, but near (within sight of) the City, then we have a very strong basis for claiming this as the true Biblical Site. And this is exactly what we find!

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So we have a rich man’s TOMB cut into SKULL HILL itself, near to the Execution Site, but was there also a GARDEN here at the Time of Christ? This is the missing piece of evidence we need. 

When Christians realised this could be Christ’s Tomb, due to its proximity to Golgotha, they began to raise money to buy it in 1892, which they finally managed to do in 1894. Much digging had to be done to clear away a deep layer of earth and rubble from the derelict land. As digging proceeded various things came to light. 

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3 Cisterns were unearthed. One of these Cisterns, lying some 12 feet below the pavement against the east wall was very large, and it dated back to the first century or earlier. As early as 1885 we have a map showing this large Cistern, a Cistern obviously used to irrigate a large Garden, undoubtedly belonging to a very wealthy man. 40 feet below the present ground level is a very large rainwater cistern 65 feet by 40 feet. It dates back to pre-Christian times and holds nearly a quarter of a million gallons of water. That would prove a treasure-house in a Land, that is without rain for half the year.

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This vast water storage Cistern is Jerusalem's third largest rain water Cistern holding over 200,000 gallons (approx. one million litres) of water, almost 40 feet deep, sufficient to keep a large Plantation green throughout the 8 dry months of the year.

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This very large Cistern, decorated with a large Cross on its plaster walls, gave clear evidence there was a working GARDEN, such as an olive grove, a citrus grove, an orchard, or a vineyard, belonging to a rich man, at the time of Jesus. 

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The Winepress Then in 1924, after further digging, a very fine Winepress was excavated near the present main entrance to the Garden (see the photo opposite). See the diagram (above) for the locations of the Cistern and Winepress, which together provide excellent confirmation that this was a rich man’s Garden. Then in 1954, 2 smaller cisterns, below ground level and in front of the Tomb, were cleared and repaired. One of them had been used for wine storage.

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This Winepress is one of the finest preserved winepresses in the whole of Jerusalem. It means there was a Vineyard here. It is a large Winepress, actually one of the largest found in the Land of Israel, and that tells us it was a wealthy man's Vineyard in the time of Christ. The grapes would have been crushed underfoot, and then the new wine would flow down into wineskins at the bottom end. The rough stones would keep the skin and the seed back. So 2000 years ago, this Garden was an extensive Vineyard, no doubt the Garden of that rich man, Joseph of Arimathea. Thus, excavations in the area of the Garden Tomb have revealed that it was, indeed, an ancient Garden, of fruits and perhaps flowers also, a rich man's Vineyard.

The placement of a rich man’s Family Tomb within his Garden, makes perfect sense and agrees with the Biblical account.


Genesis told us that Christ had to die on the Northern Peak of Mount Moriah. Then the Gospels tell us that He was crucified just outside the City Walls at a Place called Golgotha, the Place of a Skull, next to a major Highway. The Letter to the Hebrews adds that it was near the main City-Gate. Then we are told He was buried nearby at the same place, in a rich man’s Garden-Tomb, cut into the Rock-Face. This rich man’s Garden was looked after by a full-time Gardener, so it was carefully cultivated by the owner: “Jesus said to her (Mary Madgalene), “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the GARDENER, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away” (John 20:15). 

All these pieces uniquely fit together at this special Place, at the Northern Peak of Mount Moriah. At this Place was the Jewish Execution-Site, and it was also perfectly suited for Roman Executions. Moreover, Golgotha, the Place of a Skull, is a name that exactly describes this unique location, due to the eerie Skull-shape in the Rock-Face facing Jerusalem. There is also a rich man’s Tomb nearby, cut into the same Rock-Face, and within a Garden. All the details fit remarkably well with what is described in the Gospels!

Next, we will go on to study the Tomb itself, and we will find even more exciting confirmations of the Gospel accounts that describe the events surrounding Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection.

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So, we have a rich man’s TOMB, in the setting of a rich man’s GARDEN, just around the corner from an ancient EXECUTION SITE, just outside the City Walls, near the main Gate, on the Northern Peak of Mount Moriah, overlooked by a unique SKULL shaped formation in the Rock-Face. Such a combination of factors isn’t to be taken lightly. This whole scene fits perfectly with the Biblical description of Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection.

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