Moriah, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

Appendix 4: Christian History of the Garden Tomb

1867 The Garden Tomb was discovered cut into the same cliff-face as the Skull-Face, making it close to the crucifixion-site, as the Bible requires. At that time, the property was owned by a Greek family, who were looking for water. The Tomb was beneath the ground level of that time, covered in the debris of many centuries. As the landowner dug, he found what he thought was a cave, so they asked Conrad Shick, a noted Swiss architect and archaeologist in Jerusalem, to advise them if they could use this cave as a water cistern. Shick, looked at it and said: “That's not a cave, it’s an ancient Jewish tomb. Leave it, don’t use it as a cistern.” 
He made a brief report in 1874.



This is what the Garden Tomb looked like after the 1st excavation in 1873.

1883 The idea had been growing since 1842 that ‘Skull Hill’, near the Damascus Gate, could be the site of the Crucifixion, which meant Christ’s Tomb was nearby. Then General Charles Gordon on sabbatical in the area (1883) began to publish and support this idea with great conviction, also drawing attention to the Garden Tomb nearby, which he believed had to be the Tomb of Christ. His fame and great importance in British society at that time meant that many began to look seriously at these claims that the area at the base of the Rock Cliff was Golgotha, and many began to believe that these were indeed the locations of Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection. Once people realised this Rock-Face was the location of Golgotha, they naturally looked for a suitable nearby ancient tomb, as indicated by the Bible, and just around the corner was this Garden Tomb, that had been discovered a few years before in 1867! All the pieces seemed to fit together, with this Garden Tomb looking remarkably like the one described in the Gospels. 

Having now a site of the crucifixion and a tomb, people were eager to further explore the area. Further excavations confirmed that the area was indeed a garden in Jesus' day. As early as 1885 we have a map showing a large cistern, used to irrigate a large garden, undoubtedly belonging to a wealthy man. 

With the mounting interest in this tomb as being possibly the Tomb of Christ, Dr Conrad Schick was instructed to inspect the Tomb and prepare a more detailed report with diagrams, which was published in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly of April, 1892. He pronounced it a Jewish tomb. This was questioned on the grounds that it bore signs of Christian burials. It was at once pointed out that although in Byzantine times, some centuries later, it was certainly used for Christian burials, this was no criterion as to the original date of the Tomb. Marks of Jewish identification were pointed out, and from these evidences we have no cause to doubt it was a Jewish Tomb, most probably of the Herodian period, and in existence in the time of our Lord. Among the experts who pronounced it a Jewish Tomb of the Herodian period were Sir Flanders Petrie, Sir Charles Marston and Dame Kathleen Kenyon. In following years, a fair amount of evidence was discovered that supported the thesis that this was, indeed, where Christ was laid to rest.

1892 A campaign was mounted to collect funds in England to purchase the Tomb and its surrounding Garden, in the belief that the place ought to be preserved. Christians, already excited about the discovery of Golgotha, now got doubly excited when they heard about this Garden and its Tomb just around the corner.

1893 The Garden Tomb Association was established in 1893: “for the preservation of the Tomb and Garden outside the walls of Jerusalem, believed to be the true Holy Sepulchre and Garden of Joseph of Arimathea.” Its function was defined as: “instituted so that the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, may be kept sacred as a quiet spot, and preserved on the one hand from desecration, and on the other hand from superstitious uses.”

1894 The plot of land (west of the Skull-Face) was purchased, although the completion of all the legal formalities took a few more years. 2 ladies in particular, Charlotte Hussey and Louisa Hope, were the driving force behind this purchase. 

In 1924, a Wine Press from the late Second Temple Period was discovered, confirming that in Jesus' day, this was indeed some rich man's Garden-Vineyard. 

*Christian markings on the exterior and interior of the Tomb. 

On the outside wall is an 'anchor-cross', one of the symbols commonly used by the early Christians in the pre-Constantine era. The anchor, along with the fish, was a very early Christian symbol and may indicate a first-century veneration of the Tomb Site. It is to the left and just above the height of the doorway. In the middle of the anchor is the cross, speaking of our hope, the anchor of our soul, even the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 6:19). Wherever the emerging Church met they carved the upturned anchor on the rock face with the cross running through the middle. It was often used to indicate the place where the church met. There is also a large Cross cut in the Rock-Face itself above and to the right of the Tomb, and a large embossed Plaster Cross in the larger Cistern.


Inside the Tomb: When the Tomb was first discovered 2 crosses were found painted in red on the East Wall, with Greek letters that speak of the Lord Jesus Christ being the Alpha and Omega. One of them was in the centre (above position 6 in the plan opposite), and the other over the main (finished) loculus (above position 8). Exposure to air and light caused these to fade away, but copies were made, one of which is seen below). These are Byzantine crosses. By this time the cross had come into common use as a Christian symbol. Early records state 2 similar painted crosses were found on the rock-face outside on the left-hand side of the entrance. But these were not copied, and through exposure to air and light soon faded away.



There are evidences of a Church Building having been erected outside the Tomb

This evidence takes the form of mosaic decorations found at the site (remnants of flooring). Also on either side of the Garden Tomb are the springs of an arch cut into mother rock indicating an arch passing right over the entrance of the Tomb. These are so cut as to indicate 2 other arches springing outward from the rock, showing that a large stone building had been erected covering the whole area in front of the Tomb. This was confirmed by later excavation, disclosing walls and portions of stone pillars.





That it was a Church is firstly indicated by the Byzantine Crosses. It's generally accepted that this was a Byzantine Church, also confirmed by the remains of an ancient heart-shaped Baptistry (typical of these Churches) outside the Tomb; apparently built out of wicker, standing upright. It measures 10 feet across. There is a channel for water to run away and the remains of steps down to it were found. There is also a rectangular area cut for foot-washing. Long grooves in the bedrock floor in front of the Tomb may have supported a low screen, typical of Byzantine churches. The screen separated the congregational area from the area where the priest officiated, with the Tomb, possibly serving as a shrine in the three-part set-up. 

The construction of this Byzantine Church is probably the reason why the right-hand section of the Garden Tomb’s front wall was missing when it was discovered. It is now filled in with modern block-work. 


It is likely that later on there was also an 11th century Crusader Church or Stable in front of the Tomb. The Rolling-Stone Groove may have been adapted to be a Water Trough, by chiselling away part of the edge furthest from the Tomb, creating an angle that made it more accessible for the animals. It is possible that the Crusaders also repaired and replastered the large Cistern, placing the large Cross in the plasterwork. However, this does not mean, of course, that the Cistern is of Crusader origin. It was originally dug and constructed in pre-Christian times.

The use of the Garden Tomb in Byzantine and Crusader times do not contribute much to the arguments for or against the authenticity of the Garden Tomb.Certainly the use of the Tomb in later times says nothing against its original use in the time of Christ. The argument for its authenticity is based upon the location of Golgotha on Mount Moriah as required by Genesis 22, for the Tomb must be nearby, even ‘in the same place.’ It is an amazing fact that a Tomb actually exists in the right location that satisfies ALL the requirements of the New Testament account. 
Moreover there is ONLY ONE such Tomb - namely the GARDEN TOMB!



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