Chapter 5: The Garden Tomb - Part A

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.” 

Luke 23:53 adds: “Then he (Joseph) took it (His body) down (from the Cross), wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a Tomb, that was hewn out of the Rock, where no one had ever lain before.”

Matthew 27:59,60: “When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new Tomb which he had hewn out of the Rock; and he rolled a large Stone against the door of the Tomb, and departed.” It was Joseph’s own Tomb.

This confirms that it was: (1) a new and unused Tomb, and (2) it also adds that it was not a natural cave, but it was instead carved by hand out of the Rock-Face, and (3) it had a Rolling Stone Entrance.

The Garden Tomb clearly fits this description. It is evidently a man-made Tomb cut out of the Rock-Face (see the picture of the inside of the Tomb Chamber on page 124). Moreover, as you can see in the picture opposite, the Burial Place on the left was finished, while the one on the right was left unfinished. The top picture on page 124 shows 2 unfinished burial places. In fact, only one Place was finished and presumably used, while the others were unfinished. There are also other features that mark it out as an unfinished Tomb. It’s as if it were a newly made family Tomb, not quite finished, yet one place was quickly made ready for an unexpected arrival. Afterwards the Tomb remained uncompleted and unused by the family. No doubt, they felt unable to use it, due to the holiness of the One who had been laid there! 









Mark 15:46 adds: “Then he bought fine linen, took Him down (from the Cross), and wrapped Him in the linen. 
And he laid Him in a Tomb which had been hewn out of the Rock, and ROLLED a STONE against the door of the Tomb.”

(3) This tells us that it was a Tomb with a Rolling Stone. According to Matthew 27:60 it was a GREAT STONE. This confirms it must have been a rich man’s Tomb. Now the Garden Tomb fits this description perfectly. It would have had an unusually large Rolling Stone. There are a few Jewish Rolling-Stone Tombs from this time, but they are relatively rare. There are only 3 other such Rolling-Stone Tombs in Jerusalem from that time. Most importantly, it is the only Rolling-Stone Tomb near Golgotha, on Mount Moriah. 


One of the other Jerusalem Rolling Stone Tombs is: "Herod's Family Tomb" in the grounds of the King David Hotel: 


Another is the so-called "Tomb of the Kings" (actually built by Queen Helena of Adiabene in the late first century BC, after her conversion to Judaism), across from St. George's Cathedral):


The 3rd such Tomb is in the Church at Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, en route to Bethany: 


*Does the Garden Tomb have a Rolling Stone Entrance? 
Immediately in front of the Garden Tomb is a stone Trench or Trough (see the photos overleaf) which clearly served to guide a Rolling Stone to seal the doorway. It is interesting that it has exactly the same width as the Rolling Stone Trough at the “Tomb of the Kings” (see the photo on the left). It is approximately two feet wide. 


By the way, when the Tomb was discovered, the front wall to the right of the door had fallen in, so they built that up with block work.


So the Garden Tomb’s distinctive block work is modern, not original.

There is an incline downhill from left to right. The stone was rolled onto the trough at the left-hand end. At the right-hand end of the Trough is a large stone block, positioned to prevent further movement of the seal-stone toward the right. Above that, on the right hand face of the Tomb itself, a ridge was also cut in the rock, which would block the Stone from rolling further in that direction.

Some have argued that the Trough is Crusader in origin, built as a manger for feeding or watering animals, based on some of its chisel marks. However the low wall forming the front part of the Trough is 8 inches higher than the bedrock forming a court in front of the Tomb. If the Trough was made after the Tomb, then it would have had to have been formed by lowering the entire rocky courtyard by chiselling, which is not the case. A new Trough for food or water would not have been made in this way, it must be an adaption of a pre-existing structure. If there is some chiselling from the Crusader period, then it is from efforts to alter the angle of the edge of the Channel that is furthest from the Tomb (from vertical to 45 degrees), in order to make it more suitable for animals, rather than to create it.


Its Rolling Stone is missing. However a small rolling stone (above) that came from Samaria has been placed near the Tomb. However, the original Rolling Stone would have been much larger. Kathleen Kenyon estimated that it would have weighed about 7 tons. 

Such an opening as we see today for the door would require an extremely large Rolling Stone to block the entrance, much larger than any of those known from other tombs of the period. Now an examination of the chiselling on the door on the left-hand side of the doorway leading into the tomb (the only side which is complete) reveals that its original height was significantly less than it is now (perhaps 2/3 of the present doorway). The top portion of the doorway has evidence of very rough chiselling, done when some stone was later removed to heighten the door. However, the width is the same as the original, as is evidenced by the fact that its side is still partially marked on the lower right. Despite this, the Rolling Stone would have been unusually large. This agrees with Matthew 27:60.