Where Was Jesus Buried?


KIM LAWTON, correspondent: During Holy Week, Christians remember the familiar story of Jesus’s death and resurrection. But exactly where does that story take place? The Bible offers only a few clues.

REV. MARK MOROZOWICH (Catholic University of America): The Gospels weren’t really written to record a history. They were written to provide a testimony of faith.

LAWTON: According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified at a spot outside Jerusalem called Golgotha, which in Aramaic means “place of the skull.” The Latin word for skull is calvaria, and in English many Christians refer to the site of the crucifixion as Calvary. The Gospel of John says there was a garden at Golgotha, and a tomb which had never been used. Since the tomb was nearby, John says, that’s where Jesus’s body was placed. The Gospel writers say the tomb was owned by a prominent rich man, Joseph of Arimathea. They describe it as cut out of rock, with a large stone that could be rolled in front of the entrance.

Father Mark Morozowich is acting dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America.

Father Mark Morozowich, acting dean, School of Theology and Religious Studies, Catholic University of AmericaMOROZOWICH: At the time of Jesus, when he was crucified, he was not really a significant feature in Israel. I mean, certainly there was jealousy, certainly he had his followers. But there was no church that was built immediately upon his death or to mark his resurrection.

LAWTON: In the fourth century, as Emperor Constantine was consolidating the Roman Empire under Christianity, his mother, St. Helena, traveled to Jerusalem. According to tradition, she discovered relics of the cross upon which Jesus had been crucified. The spot had been venerated by early Christians, and she concluded it was Golgotha. Constantine ordered the construction of a basilica, which became known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

MOROZOWICH: Now people throughout history have debated was it really there, or was it here? Traditionally in that fourth century time that was so amazing, they found this rock and this tomb not far from one another as we see even today in the church you know they’re just a short distance from one another.

LAWTON: Over the centuries, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was destroyed, rebuilt and renovated several times. There have been numerous power struggles over who should control it, and even today, sometimes violent squabbles can break out among the several Christian denominations that share jurisdiction. But it is considered one of the holiest sites in Christianity, a massive place of pilgrimage and intense spiritual devotion. At the entrance, visitors can kiss the Stone of Unction which, according to tradition, marks the place where Jesus’ body was washed for burial. The dark chapel commemorating the crucifixion is in one upper corner, and the place marking the tomb on the other side.

MOROZOWICH: What more of a moving place to walk in Jerusalem, the place of the crucifixion, to meditate at Golgotha where Jesus Christ died, the place where he rose from the tomb. So they are very beautiful and very moving moments when a person can have a very deep relationship with God.

LAWTON: During Holy Week in particular, the Holy Sepulchre is the center for special devotions, such as the Holy Fire ritual, where flames from inside the tomb area are passed among the candles of worshippers.

MOROZOWICH: The bishop brings out the light from the tomb and this illuminates and plays on this whole sense of the light of the world coming forth again.

LAWTON: But despite the history and devotion, some question whether that indeed is the true spot. Some Christians, including many Protestants, believe Jesus could have been crucified and buried at a different place in Jerusalem known as the Garden Tomb.

STEVE BRIDGE (Deputy Director, The Garden Tomb): The tomb was discovered in 1867. For hundreds of years before that it had lain buried under rock and rubble and earth and things had grown on top of it.

LAWTON: Steve Bridge is deputy director at the Garden Tomb, which is located just outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate. He says this site was promoted in the late nineteenth century by British General Charles Gordon, who argued that the hillside with the features of a human skull could be actual crucifixion site.

Steve Bridge, deputy director at the Garden TombBRIDGE: When we’re looking, now we’re looking side on, and you can see maybe what looks like the two eye-sockets there on the rock face. The Bible tells us Jesus was crucified outside the city walls at a place called Golgotha, which simply means the skull, and so many people believe that Skull Hill is Golgotha, the place of the skull where Jesus died.

LAWTON: This Skull Hill looms over an ancient garden, with cisterns and a wine press, which could indicate that it was owned by a wealthy person. In the garden was a tomb, hewn from the rock.

BRIDGE: The tomb itself is at least two-thousand years old. Many date it as older than that. But it’s certainly not less than 2,000 years old. It’s a Jewish tomb, it’s definitely a rolling stone tomb. That means the entrance would be sealed by rolling a large stone across.

LAWTON: Inside the tomb is a 1300-year-old marking of a cross with the Byzantine words “Jesus Christ, the Beginning and the End.”

BRIDGE: So there’s burial space for at least two bodies, probably more. That, again, matches the bible description. It was a family tomb that Joseph had built for himself and his family.

LAWTON: Bridge says Christians are deeply moved by this visual image of where Jesus may have been placed after he was taken down from the cross.

BRIDGE: On that day, as far as people were concerned, that was the end of the story, that was the end of one that they had hoped would be the Messiah, because a dead Messiah is no good. But three days later, we believe God raised Jesus to life and that was the start of what we now call Christianity of course.

LAWTON: According to Bridge, the Garden Tomb is not trying to set up a competition with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

BRIDGE: There’s no doubt that historically, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, has the evidence on its side, and we certainly wouldn’t want to do or say anything that would suggest that we think they’re wrong about the site or that we think that we’re right. What we say we have here is something that matches the Bible description.

LAWTON: And Bridge says, for him, it doesn’t ultimately matter where the actual place is.

BRIDGE: That’s very secondary to Jesus himself, who we believe he is, and why he died, and, you know, on that score us and the Holy Sepulchre would be exactly the same, telling the same story but on a different site.

LAWTON: Father Morozowich agrees that, especially at Easter time, Christians should focus more on what Jesus did, rather than on where he may have done it.

MOROZOWICH: Where he walked is very, very important. At the same time though, we know that Jesus is more than this historical figure that walked the earth, and in his resurrection, he transcends all of that. So he is as real and present in Mishawaka and in Washington, DC as he is in Jerusalem.

LAWTON: I’m Kim Lawton reporting.

  • david

    try the jesusneverexisted website for the answer to ?……..jesus is buried nowhere… like zeus,moses shiva,vishnu.satan,mithra and the other mythological deities.

  • Fred

    Yes, you are correct.
    Jesus is buried nowhere. For he was resurrected.

    But, he was buried for a short ime after the crucifician.
    He was buried in a tomb in the garden.

    Disciples of Jesus Help with the Burial: After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, a member of the Sanhedrin, and

    …a disciple of Jesus… besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave… JOHN 19:38
    With the help of Nicodemus,

    …took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices,…
    Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

    There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. JOHN 19:40-42

    Two Sabbaths in a Row: The scurrilous events of that day preceded the Passover which was due to begin any moment. The Passover (a special Sabbath or High Day) that week probably preceded the regular Saturday Sabbath.

    The Jews [Priests] therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,)… JOHN 19:31
    A Sign to the Pharisees: It is probable that there were two Sabbaths in a row that year (the Passover Sabbath and the regular seventh day of the week Sabbath). In that sense, Jesus was crucified on what we call a Thursday. (This fits in the time reckoning of Palm Sunday being five days before the Passover.) Then in fulfillment of prophecy, he really was in the tomb three nights; and on the third day he arose—

    …and be raised again the third day. MATTHEW 16:21 (see also MATTHEW 17:23; MARK 9:31)
    This is also the only “sign” Jesus gave the Pharisees.

    Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
    But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

    For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. MATTHEW 12:38-40

    In speaking to the Pharisees, he specifically connected himself with Jonah, who was in a great fish

    …three days and three nights. JONAH 1:17

  • Mary

    Historians will tell you that a historical, real Jesus absolutely existed – there is no question of that. There are independent Jewish historical recordings of His existance at the time he lived and died. The question is then, do you believe who He says He is?

  • Humanist

    There is no evidence that God exists.
    Jesus Christ was a good man who was brutally tortured and executed. He has been dead for more than 2000 years and is NOT coming back. He was not God, his mother was not a virgin, he did not turn water into wine, he did not walk on water…etc. Christianity minus all the superstitions attached to it is a good philosophy, which can stand on its own beauty.

  • Delia

    Sorry you are looking at old studies. Recent studies have proven a man named Yahshua did live and was crucified by the Romans for sedition. There are even scrolls that report he was alive after his reported crucifixion. One historian mentions the fact that Josephus found some of his family members being crucified by Titus and bade Titus take them down and about 50% survived with medical attention. The historian uses the scriptures to show that the grave was already empty at the end of the sabbath which would be saturday night so he postulates that being crucified (as he supposed) on good friday he was only in the grave for a short while and he was removed from the cross while still alive. He theorizes he was drugged by something on the sponge in the vinegar. He was correct that he was gone at the end of the sabbath (saturday night) but he was crucified on wednesday and spent 3 days and 3 nights in the grave.

  • Delia

    I believe he was crucified on Wednesday as prophesied by Daniel he was cut down in the midst of the week and the next day was a high sabbath the first day of unleavened bread and after the (high) sabbath the bought spices and prepared them and and then the rested on the Sabbath in accordance with the commandment (Sat) sat night he was gone. It was dark at the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week is sunset Sat by our count and Mary did not recognize him till he spoke cause it was dark. Then she thought he was the gardener and could not touch him because as the high priest he was in seclusion until after the offering of the first fruits. Which is the sunday in the middle of the week of unleavened bread which is fast approaching. One historian has stated that there are so many writings stating he was alive after his crucifixion he mentions Josephus who found family members being crucified and bade Titus take them down with medical care 1/2 lived. He mentions the fact he was gone saturday night and he mistakenly believes he was in the grave late friday so only in the grave a few hours and he believes he was drugged to appear dead. Read Resurrection of the shroud. That book convinced me of the resurrection, without scientific documentation there is no way I would believe anyone rose from the dead after 3 days and 3 nights.

  • Christian

    To Humanist:

    Hebrews 11:6
    “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

  • Joseph

    This is no shock at all because the high priests and the leaders of the church even with such little knowledge in research as compared to what we have today could intelligently device a way to convince the multitudes of the population in the land that it was the disciples stole the body of Christ. If the little knowledge that exist today gives such lights of deception that Christ’s resurrection never happened then this should only rather encourage us for this proof how important it is to the enemy to disprove Jesus at all cost. Faith is key that one needs to eternity and it is obvious that is missing in the comments presented above.

  • Mohammed

    A question to my Christan friends, Christan believes Jesus died on the cross and he was resurrected I believe the third day. My question is than what happened to Jesus, is he died again later if so where was he buried or if not than where is he now. Please forward the answer to me at jahangircanada@yahoo.ca. Thanks

  • Bro. John

    My friend the bible says that Jesus is sitting on the right hand side of the father which is where he was from the beginning. If you read Colossians chapter 3:1you will see it is written. Also Colossians chapter 1:15.Everybody knows about what the bible says,but can’t explain what the Us in Genesis chapter 1:26 mean.