Garden Tomb sits among well maintained trees and gardens, providing a peaceful environment where visitors can pray and reflect. However, any claim that Christ was buried and rose from the dead here is not authentic.
The open tomb is carved into the face of the rock and features skull-like erosion in a limestone cliff nearby, which can be found down the alley off Nablus Road.
Protestant pilgrims especially love this spot and preferred it over the cluttered Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which could be found in the Old City. For some time, it was formally supported by the Anglican church.
“It is much easier to pray here than in the Holy Sepulchre,” said Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, who wrote the Oxford Archaeological Guide The Holy Land. “Unfortunately, there is no possibility that it is in fact the place where Christ was buried.”
The Nablus Road was proposed in 1842 by Otto Thenius, a German scholar. He said that the skull-faced cliff was the place Jesus was crucified, the hill of Golgotha. However, the rock-hewn tomb was found nearby in 1867. British army officer Major-General Charles Gordon was the main advocate of this site after visiting it in 1882-1883.
Though he had no archaeological experience, a dream helped him identify the cliff as the site where Jesus was cruficied. The site became known as Gordon’s Calvary in the years that followed.
Many thought “Place of the Skull” was named because of the skull-like hill,
but most early Christians said that the Golgotha was named that because
it was the place of execution where criminals’ skulls laid.
Gospel references don’t pinpoint a precise location for Place of the Skull. However,
they do say that Christ was crucified outside the city, but nearby,
and by a well-travelled road, since many people passing by mocked him.
They also say that he was buried in a new tomb, made from rock, in a nearby garden.
The Garden Tomb is outside Old City’s walls.
However, you can find the church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the walls.
It was outside the walls, though, where – until a decade or so after Christ’s crucifixion – that herod Agrippa I built the alleged third north wall.
The present 16-century battlements were constructed by Suleiman the Magnificent,
the Turkish sultan, in order to follow the course of the first century wall.
During General Gordon’s time, this information was not yet known.
Tombs located within Garden Tomb age back 7 to 9 centuries BC – the time of Isaiah or Jeremiah, not Jesus.
Garden Tomb may not be the site where Christ was buried and rose from the dead, but it still has an air of calmness that encourages visitors to meditate.
The Church of the holy Sepulchre has a longstanding tradition that says it stands over the sites where the early Christian community said Christ died, was buried and rose from the dead.
The Garden Tomb in Scripture, the site is referenced in:
- Matthew 27:57-66;
- Mark 15:42-47;
- Luke 23:50-56;
- John 19:38-42,
- Matthew 28:1-10;
- Mark 16:1-8;
- Luke 24:1-12;
- John 20:1-10
Just a small taste from the Garden Tomb, read about St Anne Chapel here