Monday, April 2, 2012

Where Was Jesus Buried?

Rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher with the Edicule 
It's Easter time, which means that questions begin to arise about the story and some of the details. One of the questions I am often asked by those who have visited Jerusalem is "where was Jesus buried?" I am asked this because there are two locations.

Over the years there has been a lot of debate about the location of Jesus' tomb. The traditional location has been inside the now Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This site was first identified by Constantine's mother in the fourth century. At one time there was a tomb in the center of the church, but it has since been destroyed. Nonetheless, even today visitors can see tombs from the second temple period that are now part of the church.

Church of Holy Sepulcher first century tomb
First Century Tombs in the Holy Sepulcher

Since the nineteenth century many Protestants have claimed the Garden Tomb (aka Gordon's Calvary) as the location of Jesus' tomb. Unlike the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden Tomb is located outside the walls of Jerusalem. This would seem, some argue, more accurate since Jews would not bury their dead within the city walls. While the Garden Tomb is certainly a beautiful and inspirational location, the facts work against it. First, the tomb is not a second temple tomb. It is much older and if we are looking for Jesus to be laid in a "new tomb" then this won't do. Besides, the Garden Tomb is actually part of a complex of tombs that were quarried away. If you go behind the tomb you discover more tombs that were once part of the Saint Stephen's Monastery and now are part of the French Archaeology School.


Exterior of the Garden Tomb
Also, those who point to its location outside the walls of Jerusalem fail to realize that the Garden Tomb location was also within the walls at one time. Beginning in 40CE the city of Jerusalem went through an expansion which saw the location of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb both end up within the walls. The current walls of Jerusalem were not built until the 15th century. I am unaware of any archaeologist who would point to the Garden Tomb as the location of Jesus's burial.

If you are interested in seeing both locations and learning more about the tombs PBS has posted a short story on the two locations of Jesus' burial in Jerusalem.


  1. aw thanks for the answer, now i can finsh my homework! ;)

  2. Hmmmm---outside the ancient walls refers to King David's walls--the Antonia was closest to the Damascus Gate-the gate was there during Herod's rule--the location is outside the Damascus Gate--
    Brother John

  3. There is no tomb because Jesus was a myth.