Two Claims on Christ's Tomb


I occasionally attend service at my wife’s church, a non-denominational ran by a pretty anti-Catholic pastor. He’s big on archaeology and science and brought up the fact that there are two claims on the location of the actual tomb of Christ. He believed the later tomb discovery to be the correct one (so not the one we would recognize). Like I said, this guy is vocally anti-Catholic and lots of times doesn’t have his facts right about what we teach or believe. I’ve not researched the tombs and I didn’t even know there was a second one until he spoke about it. I was hoping someone with more knowledge could clue me in, maybe point me in the direction of some articles or something I could read. Thanks!


Here’s an article to get you started.

The article states … “while it is achaeologically impossible to say that the tomb recently uncovered in the Church of the Holy Supulchre is the burial site of an individual Jew known as Jesus…”

So bear in mind, it is equally archaeologically impossible to state it is not.

The traditional tomb location was recently renovated, so you will likely have a wealth of information that has just recently become available … a good time for your investigation!


My understanding of the “Garden Tomb” that many protestants are enamored of, has never been claimed by anyone, not even the tomb’s proprietor, to have been the tomb of Christ. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has always been known to house the real Tomb. Think about it - there is no place in the land where Jesus walked that hasn’t been greatly changed. There are churches on every spot where something important took place.

Then you have the Garden Tomb, exactly like it was when first built. There is no evidence that Christians ever worshiped there. If it had actually been the place of the Resurrection, you can bet Christians would have marked the spot and worshiped there.

Here is a picture of the supposed “Golgotha” that is near the Garden Tomb, taken in the 1800s. I added the red arrows so you can orient yourself:

golgotha 2

Here is a recent picture:

golgotha 3

As you can see, “Golgotha” has had a little work done to make it appear more skull-like. An eye was added, and a nose carved out. So when non-Catholic Christians visit the site, they can say “This must be the place! Look at the skull!”, not realizing the face lift that was done for the tourists.


The scientists that opened the Tomb also said that their electronic equipment went bonkers and malfunctioned when near the bench Our Lord was placed upon.


Right, that was my first line of thinking. I mean even if you disagree theologically with Catholics, I just don’t see how you circumvent the fact that people have been going there an awfully long time. It’s not likely they were mistaken or forgot.

But my wife’s pastor goes well out of his way to take shots at Catholicism so I was doubtful of the claim from the getgo.


And sort of unrelated I find it peculiar that a lot of the non-denominationals and other Protestants I’ve known over the years have absolutely no interest in visiting the Holy Land, and if they do they almost never go to the “Catholic” sites. Makes no sense to me.


Some people can’t stand the thought that a Catholic/Orthodox Church is covering the Lord’s tomb. They would rather stare at a hole in a wall and convince themselves that it’s something it’s not. It’s sad.


Yes, there are different Holy Land tours for protestants and Catholics. The Garden Tomb is big for protestants.


Yes, I remember reading that … but don’t remember if that was mentioned in the linked article or not … now I’ll have to go back and look.

I have to say I have pondered this over the years though … the freshly hewn tomb was VERY close to the site of crucifixion, per the Gospels. So the part I’m having trouble with is WHY would a rich man (who could be buried anywhere) choose to have his burial place so close to a roman execution place? Doesn’t make sense to me…??? I know I must be missing something.


Perhaps the site of the rich man’s tomb had been in the family before the Romans started executing people there. Who knows?


Archaeologist Jody Magness didn’t sound too convinced the Holy Sepulchre is THE place Jesus was buried. Or am I wrong?


Even if the Holy Sepulchre isn’t in the exact place, it’s still probably very close. The Holy Sepulchre tomb has shown to be a much better option than the “Garden Tomb” by both historical and archaeological data. Since the Holy Sepulchre is under the supervision of both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, it seems like many Protestants felt left out and wanted to try and “one up” us by “finding” their own site despite the evidence being heavily in favor for the Holy Sepulchre and heavily against the Garden Tomb.


I don’t know anything about the woman. I did find this:

Magness was widely quoted noting “that at the time of Jesus, wealthy families buried their dead in tombs cut by hand from solid rock, putting the bones in niches in the walls and then, later, transferring them to ossuaries.” Whereas "Jesus came from a poor family that, like most Jews of the time, probably buried their dead in ordinary graves. “If Jesus’ family had been wealthy enough to afford a rock-cut tomb, it would have been in Nazareth, not Jerusalem,” she said.

Magness claims to be an historian of Biblical and Holy Land studies. How does she not know He was buried in Joseph of Aramethea’s own tomb?

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock.”


Good question. I don’t know. I’ve corresponded with her a number of times, though, in email, because I got really rattled about that stuff on the news and tv when James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici thought they found Jesus and His family’s tomb/bones.
She told me she doesn’t believe it’s their tomb, so she knows that much and seems like a very intelligent woman.


If we go by the gospels, ‘Golgotha’ is the name for a region or area that encompasses both the execution spot and the garden where Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was. It wasn’t until later that it became specifically applied to that rocky outcrop we call the ‘Rock of Calvary’ today.


Nah, it was damaged during a recent storm in the area. And this is actually a good argument against Gordon’s Calvary: the hill does sort of look like a skull (well, at least until 2015), but how do we know it looked like that 2000 years ago?


I sort of covered Gordon’s Calvary in a former thread (way before the forum revamp): Will the Real (Insert Place Here) Please Stand Up?

In a nutshell: ever since the 17th-18th century there have been people have begun to express their dissatisfaction with the traditional site, first and foremost because it is now currently within the city walls - whereas it is clear from the gospels that Golgotha was outside the city. It happened that most of these people were Protestants who did not have any territorial claims at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and who felt that the traditional site is too cluttered.

In 1841 Dr. Edward Robinson’s Biblical Researches in Palestine, which at the time was considered to be the standard work on the topography and archaeology of the Holy Land, argued against the the traditional location (p. 407-418). He believed that the traditional location would have been within the city walls also during the Herodian era (something modern scholars now dispute), and he argues that the tradition surrounding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre isn’t as authentic or as reliable upon closer scrutiny as supporters would have them. He was careful not to name any specific alternate candidate; he did, however, suggest that the crucifixion would have taken place “upon the western or northern sides of the city, on the roads leading towards Joppa or Damascus.”

Motivated by Robinson’s research, a German author named Otto Thenius proposed that a rocky knoll north of Damascus Gate, which, as Thenius noticed, resembled a skull, was the biblical Golgotha. Thenius’ identification of the skull-looking knoll as the biblical Golgotha became popular and was repeated by a number of people, but it wasn’t until the famous Major-General Charles Gordon expressed his support for this location - based on a rather peculiar (okay, to be blunt, ‘weird’) kind of typological/mystical reading of the Bible - that the site received major attention. And that’s why the area is known as ‘Gordon’s Calvary’ today.

And here’s the thing. Gordon’s claims gained fame and publicity, not so much for any scientific validity but because of Gordon’s compelling personality, his heroically tragic death, and his fame in contemporary British society. In other words, the site became popular because Gordon was a popular guy, so everything he says must be true. :roll_eyes: Critics would say that the weakness of Gordon’s theory is precisely because Gordon seemed to be over-reliant on his emotions (he didn’t feel anything special about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but when he encounters this site he’s like “I feel this is the real place”) and personal interpretations of Scripture rather than any solid research.


What denomination was Gordon I wonder? And thanks for the write up.


Gordon was an Anglican. In fact, Gordon’s Calvary was apparently originally big among many (not all, I think) Anglicans before other non-Catholic denominations jumped on the bandwagon.

I’ll give out a couple of links here:

The Burial of Jesus by the Biblical Archaeology Society, especially the articles ‘The Garden Tomb: Was Jesus Buried Here?’ (Gabriel Barkay, pp. 27-36) and ‘The Garden Tomb and the Misfortunes of an Inscription’ (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, pp. 37-40)

Revisiting Golgotha and the Garden Tomb, by Jeffrey R. Chadwick. The author, a Mormon, upholds the identification of Gordon’s Calvary as the biblical Golgotha, but he does give some very good and detailed arguments against the authenticity of the Garden Tomb, which he once supported.)


Awesome, thanks Patrick!

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