The Church of the Holy Sepulcher Vs. The Garden Tomb
A Historical and Scriptural Review
By A. True Ott, PhD
During a recent guided visit to Israel and the ancient city of Jerusalem, it was not hard to become personally immersed in the often heated controversy surrounding what is arguably the most important location in Christendom – the location of the empty tomb of Christ and also the location of His crucifixion. In Jerusalem, two different sites compete for this designation, the original “Church of the Holy Sepulcher” location and the 19th Century site called simply the “Garden Tomb”. While numerous scholarly papers have been authored on this topic over the years, I feel it is incumbent to add my research and insights on this topic as well.
Since the 4th Century AD, the official consensus of both mainstream archeologists and the world’s largest orthodox churches is that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and subsequently entombed and resurrected at the location enshrined by Constantine I (called Constantine the Great similarly to Herod the Great of Judea) and his mother Helena following a massive excavation concluded in the year 322 AD. Following “Empress“ Helena’s excavation efforts, her son Constantine and the Roman Church spared no expense in constructing a grand, massive cathedral at the site following her report and excavation findings.
Our small group of visiting pilgrims were blessed to have archeologist Joel Kramer share his knowledge and insights as we visited many of the most significant biblical sites in Israel and neighboring Palestine while in his company for three days. Mr. Kramer, an ardent self-professed supporter of the Holy Bible as the primary authoritative source, often finds himself at odds with his secular colleagues concerning modern archeology of known biblical sites. Kramer vocalized his unequivocal support of the long history of tradition associated with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – even going so far as to declare that a visit to the Garden Tomb is little more than a complete “waste of time and resources”. While I have great respect for Mr. Kramer and his valuable scholarly insights, it would appear that he has not given this particular topic the deeper biblical research that this paper will attempt to provide. In Mr. Kramer’s defense, it is quite easy for the trained archeologist to superficially dismiss the claims of the Garden Tomb as being a mere modern contrivance of well-meaning but hopelessly naive 19th century Protestant romanticists. In this closed mindset, the actual history concerning the work of “Empress” Helena and the Roman Church of 300 AD on the excavation site is seldom, if ever, objectively analyzed from a scriptural vantage point much less a historical perspective, and that is unfortunate for the honest, searching Christian.
What makes Christianity unique as opposed to the basic dogma of Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism is the provocative claim that Jesus Christ alone was/is God incarnate, and that he broke the bands of death by overcoming the grave through the power of His resurrection. Resurrection is the backbone of Christianity – therefore, the site of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a critically important place of high reverence to the true Christian believer. Though the wise Christian understands that giving reverence to an ancient site itself can all too often evolve into a very real form of idol worship, the proper location where the event happened can help bolster confidence in the “good news” of the Christian gospel to the heart of the searcher as the Holy Spirit testifies of the joy and peace inherent in the simple message: “He is Risen, Indeed”.
In that context, I find it quite revealing that there are two competing locations for this most sacred site in Jerusalem. Just as there is the real and authentic Jesus Christ and His Saving Grace, there is also a competing, evil demonic counterfeit full of darkness and deception as well. Only ONE brings true, lasting, inner peace and spiritual salvation – the other entity breeds darkness, conflict, hate, jealousy, and ultimately spiritual bondage. False religions would have the naive individual believe that salvation and remission of sin comes only through a CHURCH structure and the supposed “authority” of the ruling priestly class of men operating within it. Christ taught exactly the opposite thing to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, as He declared to her this basic truth: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Christ never told the Samaritan woman that there would be a special cathedral established and built at Jerusalem where she must go to worship Him.
I submit that understanding the core differences between the two resurrection sites presents a metaphoric microcosm of the larger conflict between the true Jesus Christ and false religions designed by the tempter of Christ to deceive and destroy.
THE BASIC PROBLEMS WITH CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHER SITE
The first problem with the claim of the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (CHS) is simply the dearth of reliable, purely objective archeological evidence of its excavation by Empress Helena back in 322 AD. Just because a specific claim has been presumed to be true for 17 centuries does not necessarily guarantee that it IS true and factual. One must ascertain the basis for the tradition and thereby determine if its origins can be fully trusted and the level as to which it is objectively viable and reliable. In other words, there appears to be no modern-style, objective archeological log of exactly what Helena and her excavators actually uncovered in their “dig” in order to conclusively prove this was the actual tomb of Christ. Kramer cited as his primary (and apparently sole evidence), the “earliest” record confirming the authenticity of the CHS site the following extant quote from one Eusebius Pamphili – a clearly biased and financially motivated early Roman Catholic bishop of neighboring Caesarea – (aka “Eusebius of Caesarea” ). In his blatantly slanted biography titled “Life of Constantine” we read the following concerning the tomb of Christ: “This sacred cave, then, certain impious and godless persons had thought to remove entirely from the eyes of men, supposing in their folly that thus they should be able effectually to obscure the truth. Accordingly they brought a quantity of earth from a distance with much labor, and covered the entire spot; then, having raised this to a moderate height, they paved it with stone, concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound. Then, as though their purpose had been effectually accomplished, they prepare on this foundation a truly dreadful sepulchre of souls, by building a gloomy shrine of lifeless idols to the impure spirit whom they call Venus, and offering detestable oblations therein on profane and accursed altars. For they supposed that their object could not otherwise be fully attained, than by thus burying the sacred cave beneath these foul pollutions.” (Life of Constantine, Book III, Chapter XXVII).
The hypocrisy of Eusebius should be fairly obvious. Who exactly were “they” who built the “gloomy shrine of lifeless idols” he so self-righteously castigates in his book? None other than Hadrian, the Roman emperor and ancestor of Constantine and his mother Helena, of course! Constantine and Helena in turn supplied Eusebius with ample money, power, and influence. How then, can he be in any way objective in his reporting? Furthermore, as “Bishop” of the Roman Church located in Caesaria, Eusebius was undoubtedly operating out of the early Catholic monument to the equally pagan Sun-god Mithras’ cathedral located in Caesarea!
Eusebius then writes: “…as soon as the original surface of the ground, beneath the covering of earth, appeared, immediately and contrary to all expectation, the venerable and hallowed monument of our Savior’s resurrection was discovered. Then indeed did this most holy cave present a faithful similitude of his return to life, in that, after lying buried in darkness, it again emerged to light, and afforded to all who came to witness the sight, a clear and visible proof of the wonders of which that spot had once been the scene, a testimony to the resurrection of the Savior clearer than any voice could give.” (Book III, Chapter XXVIII) Do you see the problem? What exactly is the “clear and visible proof” that this was in reality Christ’s tomb? We do not know, because such was omitted from the report! All we have to go on is the authoritative word of Bishop Eusebius, who is clearly not an objective witness. Do we have any non-Roman Catholic, objective source to back up this tale? Apparently not. All we really have here is the TRADITION of the Roman Catholic power called the Vatican over 17 centuries, which provides nothing original but more often than not, merely quotes “Eusebius”.
Eusebius then describes in remarkable detail (detail clearly lacking concerning “clear and visible proof” concerning the tomb itself) the building of the great cathedral that overshadowed the pure simplicity of the excavated tomb: “First of all, then, he (Constantine) adorned the sacred cave itself, as the chief part of the whole work, and the hallowed monument at which the angel radiant with light had once declared to all that regeneration which was first manifested in the Savior’s person. This monument, therefore, first of all, as the chief part of the whole, the emperor’s zealous magnificence beautified with rare columns, profusely enriched with the most splendid decorations of every kind. The next object of his attention was a space of ground of great extent, and open to the pure air of heaven. This he adorned with a pavement of finely polished stone, and enclosed it on three sides with porticos of great length. For at the side opposite to the cave, which was the eastern side, the church itself was erected; a noble work rising to a vast height, and of great extent both in length and breadth. The interior of this structure was floored with marble slabs of various colors; while the external surface of the walls, which shone with polished stones exactly fitted together, exhibited a degree of splendor in no respect inferior to that of marble. With regard to the roof, it was covered on the outside with lead, as a protection against the rains of winter. But the inner part of the roof, which was finished with sculptured panel work, extended in a series of connected compartments, like a vast sea, over the whole church; and, being overlaid throughout with the purest gold, caused the entire building to glitter as it were with rays of light. Besides this were two porticos on each side, with upper and lower ranges of pillars, corresponding in length with the church itself; and these also had their roofs ornamented with gold. Of these porticos, those which were exterior to the church were supported by columns of great size, while those within these rested on piles of stone beautifully adorned on the surface. Three gates, placed exactly east, were intended to receive the multitudes who entered the church. Opposite these gates the crowning part of the whole was the hemisphere, which rose to the very summit of the church. This was encircled by twelve columns (according to the number of the apostles of our Savior), having their capitals embellished with silver bowls of great size, which the emperor himself presented as a splendid offering to his God. In the next place he enclosed the atrium which occupied the space leading to the entrances in front of the church. This comprehended, first the court, then the porticos on each side, and lastly the gates of the court. After these, in the midst of the open market-place, the general entrance-gates, which were of exquisite workmanship, afforded to passers-by on the outside a view of the interior which could not fail to inspire astonishment. This temple, then, the emperor erected as a conspicuous monument of the Savior’s resurrection, and embellished it throughout on an imperial scale of magnificence. He further enriched it with numberless offerings of inexpressible beauty and various materials,–gold, silver, and precious stones, the skillful and elaborate arrangement of which, in regard to their magnitude, number, and variety, we have not leisure at present to describe particularly.” (!Book III, Chapters XXIV-XL)
While inside the CHS, I watched with amazement as dozens of pious “Christians” bowed and knelt at the worn red-marble slab that the sign above it declared to be the exact slab where the body of Jesus was laid while anointed with spices prior to going into the tomb on the afternoon of the crucifixion. Many people actually kissed the slab with tear-filled eyes as if they were kissing Jesus Himself! I took pictures, and hours later determined that the dark-red marble slab of stone was in no way indigenous to Jerusalem or any of the surrounding marble quarries of Israel or Palestine. I found that particular red-marble stone is only quarried and cut in Italy or other places in Europe! It was clearly brought in and placed in the CHS by the builders over three centuries later as Eusebius described in so much detail. Therefore, it simply could not have been the slab where Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of Christ, and therefore it is clearly a most artful deception. One has to ask, what else about the site is also deceptive?
ROMAN CATHOLICISM FOUNDED BY SIMON MAGUS – A FALSE CHRIST
Another rationale prevalent among secular archeologists is the broad-based declaration that Roman temples to Venus and other pagan deities were built directly over earlier Israelite holy sites of veneration as a means of eradicating them from the psyche of the people. Oddly enough, this is the same reasoning proffered up by Eusebius for Emperor Hadrian’s covering up the supposed Holy Sepulcher in the 2nd Century. The question is: why would Hadrian focus on the Holy Sepulcher rather than the much more significant site of the nearby temple mount largely destroyed in 70 AD by Titus? Moreover, such a blanket statement is fallacious and illogical and is the equivalent of declaring that since people have died of snakebite then all snakes must be poisonous. There are numerous Roman pagan sites built in Judea that have no earlier Israelite significance. I would submit that the site of the Jerusalem temple likely had much more to do with one Simon Magus’ tomb than that of Jesus of Nazareth.
Simon Magus was a powerful magician/sorcerer from the region of Samaria. Luke tells the basic history of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts Chapter 8: “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the LORD for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” (Acts 8:9-24).
This is a very important truth to understand. Simon Magus called himself a Christian. He was baptized and confessed that he believed – but did so only to obtain greater worldly wealth and power. He didn’t want to buy the free gift of the Holy Ghost, only the power to give it. Many historical sources from Rome detail that following his harsh rebuke at the hands of St. Peter, Simon Magus later established a popular “christian” church in Rome by the year 45 AD and called himself Simon Petras (or Father-Pastor) and declared he had the heavenly “keys” bestowed to him. This false, demonic counterfeit “christian” church eventually grew into the modern-day “Vatican” and eventually was 100% fully embraced by Constantine in the 4th century.
In the Dictionary of Christian Biography, Vol. 4, p. 682 we read: “When Justin Martyr wrote [152 A.D.] his Apology, the sect of the Simonians appears to have been formidable, for he speaks four times of their founder, Simon; and we need not doubt that he identified him with the Simon of the Acts. He states that he was a Samaritan, adding that his birthplace was a village called Gitta; he describes him as a formidable magician, and tells that he came to ROME in the days of Claudius Caesar (45 A.D.), and made such an impression by his magical powers, THAT HE WAS HONORED AS A GOD, a statue being erected to him on the Tiber, between the two bridges, bearing the inscription ‘Simoni deo Sancto’ (i.e., the holy god Simon)”
That fact is highly significant. To be “honored as a God” in Rome and to have a statue erected in such a prominent place literally had to have the approval of the Roman Senate, no small achievement for the magician from Samaria. His magic and sorcery included the art of divination and the invoking of infernal, demonic “familiar spirits”. But Simon’s most endearing trick to mesmerize the masses was his alchemical ability to spontaneously create fire to appear from no apparent source.
Simon clearly blended the tenets of Christianity with the pagan traditions of Babylon, Rome and Greece to form his “universal” (i.e. Catholic) church. His partner in this endeavor was a known prostitute dressed in scarlet and purple named Helen who taught that she was the re-incarnated soul of Helen of Troy. Much like the Oracle at Delphi, the scarlet whore literally of Babylonian descent prophesied that she would incarnate again in the future in the body of a Roman empress with the same name at a critical time in world history. (See Revelation Chapter 17.)
According to Hippolytus, following his death in Rome, Simon’s many ardent followers procured a rather prestigious tomb somewhere in the vicinity of the Jerusalem temple, and there his bones were interred. This is the most likely explanation why a pagan Roman temple to Venus was erected by the order of Emperor Hadrian – it was likely erected directly over Simon’s Jerusalem tomb in order to preserve his memory on the initiative of his wealthy disciples, many of which were members of the Roman Senate. I highly doubt that such pagan construction was designed to cover up the sepulcher of Christ as the Roman Catholic apologist Eusebius would have Christians believe.
THE CENTRAL TENET OF SIMON MAGUS’ SORCERY IS/WAS FIRE!
There are numerous ancient historians that have chronicled the basic teachings of Magus’ ever-growing cult of disciples seeking earthly power and wealth. One such writer named Hippolytus documented that Simon Magus’ taught how FIRE is the key to all wisdom and spirituality. Hippolytus wrote: “Now Simon in his paraphrasing of the Law of Moses speaks with artful misunderstanding. For when Moses says “God is a fire burning and destroying,” taking in an incorrect sense what Moses said, he declares that Fire is the Universal Principle, not understanding what was said, viz., not that “God is fire,” but “a fire burning and destroying.” And thus he not only tears to pieces the Law of Moses, but also plunders from Heracleitus the obscure. And Simon states that the Universal Principle is Boundless Power, as follows:
“This is the writing of the revelation of Voice and Name from Thought, the Great Power, the Boundless. Wherefore shall it be sealed, hidden, concealed, laid in the Dwelling of which the Universal Root is the foundation.” (I.e. the need for Temple secrecy and spiritual “endowment” within it? —— Ott) And he says that man here below, born of blood, is the Dwelling, and that the Boundless Power dwells in him, which he says is the Universal Root. And, according to Simon, the Boundless Power, Fire, is not a simple thing, as the majority who say that the four elements are simple have considered fire also to be simple, but that the Fire has a twofold nature; and of this twofold nature he calls the one side the concealed and the other the manifested, (stating) that the concealed (parts) of the Fire are hidden in the manifested, and the manifested produced by the concealed.
——To be brief, therefore, the Fire, according to Simon, being of such a nature—both all things that are visible and invisible, and in like manner, those that sound within and those that sound aloud, those which can be numbered and those which are numbered —in the Great Revelation he calls it the Perfect Intellectual, as (being) everything that can be thought of an infinite number of times, in an infinite number of ways, both as to speech, thought and action —-
—-And that, as he says, the beginning of the generation of things which are generated is from Fire, he understands somewhat in this fashion. Of all things of which there is generation, the beginning of the desire for their generation is from Fire. For, indeed, the desire of mutable generation is called “being on fire.” And though Fire is one, yet has it two modes of mutation. For in the man, he says, the blood, being hot and yellow—like fire when it takes form—is turned into seed, whereas in the woman the same blood (is changed) into milk. And this change in the male becomes the faculty of generating, while that in the female (becomes) nourishment for the child. This, he says, is “the flaming sword that is turned about to keep the way of the tree of life.” For the blood is turned into seed and milk; and this Power becomes mother and father, father of those that are born, and mother of those that are nourished, standing in want of nothing, sufficient unto itself. And the tree of life, he says, is guarded by the fiery sword which is turned about, (which tree), as we have said, (is) the seventh Power which proceeds from itself, contains all (in itself), and is stored in the six Powers. For were the flaming sword not turned about, that fair tree would be destroyed and perish; but if it is turned into seed and milk, that which is stored in them in potentiality, having obtained a fitting utterance, and an appointed place in which the utterance may be developed, starting as it were from the smallest spark, it will increase to all perfection, and expand, and be an infinite power, unchangeable, equal and similar to the unchangeable Aeon, which is no more generated for the boundless eternity.
Conformably, therefore, to this reasoning, for the foolish, Simon was a god!
The similarities between Simon’s basic dogma and the pagan Canaanite worship of the fire-god Molech is inescapable. This is exactly why innocent children were “passed through the fire” in such places as Gezer and Hazor – meaning they were sacrificed to the “fire-God” Molech (aka Baal) by being burned alive. The Irish archeologist McAlister uncovered undeniable physical evidence of this practice in his excavations, as Joel Kramer very poignantly shared with our group as we toured the ancient site known as Tel Gezer in Israel. Kramer explained this was the primal reason that Yahweh ordered the complete physical destruction of the Canaanite cults at the hand of Joshua and others – in short, the punishment had to fit the crime. Kramer explained that few sensible people would object to a modern court ordering capital punishment for the individual who consistently murdered innocent children by burning them alive in a ritual. So it was in the days of Joshua.
CONSTANTINE AND HIS MOTHER HELENA WERE PAGAN FIRE WORSHIPPERS
The Roman emperor Constantine, like all Roman emperors before him, had been a devotee of the Greek/Roman God Apollo before his supposed conversion to Christianity. The pagan world’s center, Delphi in Greece, was the historical seat of the fire-god Apollo and had been considered the omphalos (or navel) of the world by the ancient Greeks and Romans for many centuries. An “oracle”, or the equivalent of the Biblical “Witch of Endor” in 1 Samuel would be the “Voice of Apollo” and give paid consultations to potential Roman emperors while scantily clad in a scarlet robe.
Constantine had been told by the Apollonian Oracle at Delphi that Christians were interfering with the oracle’s ability to foretell the future. Constantine interpreted this to signify that Christianity (the corrupted form taught and practiced by Simon Magus) had somehow replaced Delphi and its famed oracle, by “divine decree”. Constantine shortly thereafter had his ‘sacred vision’ wherein he saw the FLAMING CHRISTIAN CROSS (the central symbol of Simon’s dogma was not an actual cross but a stylized X which is the Greek Symbol for 600) as the “symbol under which he would conquer” and attain earthly wealth and power. After adopting the flaming X cross and decisively winning key battles under its banner, Constantine the Great under the direction of his mother Helena, (supposedly the reincarnated prostitute wife of Simon, remember) decided that his new-found religion would now become the official religion of the state, and that it should establish a new world center of operations. The religious center of the faith would be Jerusalem, (specifically the site of Hadrian’s Venus Temple) while Constantinople, to which Constantine transferred all the wealth and power of Delphi, would replace Rome as the administrative center. Under Constantine’s order, Apollo’s historically most sacred statue from Delphi would grace Constantinople’s civic square. The rest is literally history, as the “Byzantine Empire” began from Simon Magus’s highly corrupt root of “Holy Fire” that elevates mere men into gods (the first lie of the serpent in the Garden and a basic precept of all false religions).
HOLY FIRE FROM THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHER!
Each and every year since the days of the Byzantine empire, a rather bizarre ritual called “Holy Fire” occurs at the CHS the Saturday evening preceding Easter Sunday. At the prescribed hour, an elderly Orthodox priest enters the tomb armed with 33 special “sacred” candles (symbolizing the years of Christ’s life) which he arranges around the red marble slab upon which they falsely teach that Christ’s body was laid. When the candles are in place, special chosen-one invitees are then admitted inside the crucifixion site to pray and wait to hopefully prove worthy enough to witness and observe the “miracle” of the candles spontaneously producing “holy fire” without being touched by visible human hands. The lighted candles then are taken outside the tomb to in turn light the many torches and candles wielded by thousands of pilgrims from around the world. This event quite often turns chaotic as frenzied worshippers push and jostle to be first in line to receive their sacred “holy fire”. From the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holy fire flames are distributed to Orthodox churches around the globe. Somewhere in Hades, Simon Magus is likely smiling broadly, for this is one of his Chaldean magician tricks he used so successfully to dupe the Romans in 45 AD. !
In Babylon there is an abundance of a natural substance called white phosphorus that ignites spontaneously when exposed to air. When mixed with certain organic solvents, phosphorus applied to a candle wick (or an olive oil lamp) will spontaneously burst into flame after the solvent dries out – usually in about ten to twenty minutes. In the hands of a charlatan like Simon Magus and his prostitute Helen, such a trick would be immensely powerful amongst those who worship the “eternal flame” of Apollo in their temples. Little wonder that Simon was so fixated about his teaching that Fire is God – because he undoubtedly had the secrets of white phosphorus at his command.
In the year 2005, a man named Michael Kalopoulos, an author and historian of religion, demonstrated this trick of Simon Magus live on Greek television – much to the agitation and chagrin of an attending Orthodox clergyman and church representatives in business suits that were also present at the taping. You don’t have to understand Greek to see how the “holy fire” hoax is perpetrated every year. You can see this on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S66f87b05oM
Upon entering today’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one cannot help but notice that the walls and furnishing such as the artwork in the tomb area are charred black from the cumulative soot and other effects of a millennia of “holy fire” episodes. The very air reeks of burned wood and cinders. This only adds to the darkness permeating the tomb area itself. When our group visited the site, we were startled to see a lone man sitting quietly in the cave darkness that could only be penetrated by our flashlights. The only word to adequately describe this is “creepy”, yet this is supposedly the place where the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of the world, was resurrected?
THE SECRET ORDER OF SKULL AND BONES
According to Eusebius and other 4th Century historians, Helena’s excavation of the “Holy Sepulcher” successfully found its target in the year 322 A.D. Since Constantine and Helena were seeking the ultimate source of the occult power of fire, could it be that their goal was to find the skull and large femoral bones of Simon Magus as directed by the Oracle of Delphi and the grimoires of Simon Magus? Considering the elite worldwide symbolism of the “Skull and Bones” as adopted in the “tomb” or “crypt” located at Yale University – I submit this is a distinct possibility.
This highly occult secret symbol has apparently been in use since the days of Babylonian magicians. Imagine my surprise at seeing this exact symbol prominently displayed in artwork on the eastern wall of the CHS in Jerusalem!
Notice the skull and crossbones underlying the crucifixion cross of Christ, with His shed blood anointing the forehead of the skull. Also notice two other skulls with a serpent present also in the photo below. What is the hidden symbolism behind these paintings?
An example of the charred wood within the CHS. Notice the red marble altar stone.
THE NEW TESTAMENT IDENTIFIES THE PROPERTIES OF THE TOMB
According to John, Matthew and Luke, the tomb of Joseph had these special characteristics: 1. It was near the place of crucifixion. (John 19:42) 2. It was in a garden. (v. 41) 3. It was carved out of the solid bedrock of a cliff. (Matthew 27:60) 4. It was a rich man’s tomb. (v. 57) 5. The disciples could look into the tomb from outside. (John 20:5). 6. There was standing room for a number of persons. (Luke 24:1-4) 7. It was a new tomb and not an old tomb renewed. (John 19:41) 8. The tomb was closed by rolling a GREAT stone over the entrance. (Matthew 27:60)
Again, the specific details of Helena’s 322 AD excavation are not available. According to our tour guide at the CHS, the excavated tomb at the CHS site was only one of many located in the original bedrock. While the tomb was apparently carved out of the solid bedrock, there was no evidence or even mention of it being sealed with a circular, rolled “great stone”, and the details of it being in an ancient garden appear to be totally lacking as well. Furthermore, it would not qualify as the tomb of a rich man who could afford to build his own family tomb on his own private section of land.
Years ago I corresponded with a man named Jonathan Gray who was part of an archeological team investigating the area surrounding the Garden Tomb during the late 70’s. He wrote: “The biblical writings inform us that Jesus was crucified “outside the city” (John 19:17,20; Hebrew 13:12) at a place called “the Skull” (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17) “Skull” translates to “Calvary” from the Latin, or “Golgotha” from the Aramaic. There is only one place around Jerusalem which has borne, and still bears, the specific name Skull Hill. It is just outside the North Wall, about 250 yards north-east of the Damascus Gate. A portion of this hill bears a striking resemblance to a human skull. It is also the traditional site of burials for Muslims, Jews and Christians. Here it was, according to local tradition, that criminals were stoned to death. In the Mishna this place is called Beth ha-Sekelah, literally, “House of Stoning”. Nearby is St. Stephen’s Church, built over an old basilica that was erected to commemorate the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr here, in 34 AD. This was the recognized place of public execution for Jewish criminals. As late as the beginning of the 20th century, Jews would spit at the hill, throw stones and curse the “destroyer of their nation”. It is such a site that the Roman authorities would have selected for executions. Skull Hill is just a short distance outside the Damascus Gate, the only direct exit from the Castle of Antonine (the alleged place of Jesus’ illegal night trial). Recent archaeological opinion also holds that the Damascus Gate, which today marks the northern boundary of the Old City, likewise marks the northern boundary of Jerusalem in 30 AD, the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. All this tends to add weight to the feasibility of Skull Hill, outside the wall, advocated by Otto Thenius (1842), Colonel Couder (1875) and General Gordon (1883), being the actual site. One might note, in passing, that this rocky outcrop contains also what is known as a large complex of Jewish tombs dating from the First and Second Temple periods – and in particular, what is known as the “Garden Tomb”, in which many believe Jesus was buried. The quarried face is hundreds of feet long.
The Romans liked to crucify victims as an example, or a warning, to the populace. And to erect the crosses beside a crowded thoroughfare fulfilled this purpose well. Pertinently, this crucifixion site was found to be up against the Calvary escarpment close to the place of the Skull. It was north of the Damascus Gate, on a ledge facing toward one of the busiest public roads of that era, the old highway that led to Samaria.
In 1867, in the same cliff face not far from where the crucifixion-site excavators would later work, a landowner was digging a cistern on his property, when he discovered a tomb cut into the cliff face. As with the crucifixion site, this tomb was beneath the current ground level, covered in the debris of many centuries.
Several cisterns were also unearthed at this spot. These suggested that an olive grove could have existed here. One of the cisterns was very large — and it dated back to the first century or earlier. Lying some twelve feet below the pavement against the east wall, it could hold about 200,000 gallons of water, sufficient to keep a large plantation green throughout the eight dry months of the year. In 1924, a very fine wine press was excavated near the present main entrance to the garden. This indicated that there had been a vineyard nearby.
Below is the earliest known photo of the area well before the tomb was discovered nor any excavation had occurred – circa 1855.
Next is a photo of the excavated Garden Tomb taken in 1950. Notice the angular “stopper stone” located just to right of the tomb entrance in the track of the circular “great sealing stone”.
Of course the discovery of a tomb in this vicinity could hardly be described as sensational. Many tombs had been found in this large, ancient burial area of Jerusalem. But this tomb was of special interest.
When a tomb is seen to be unusual and is seen to be adjacent to an ancient execution site, as well as in the setting of a garden, such a combination of factors is not to be taken lightly. In 1883, General Gordon, the notable British soldier, came to the area – and became convinced that the “skull face” was the true Golgotha. This prompted him to go looking for a tomb that was “near at hand”, as indicated in the Bible. And just a few hundred feet away was this tomb, today known as the Garden Tomb. Although first discovered in 1867, it was not excavated until 1891. At that time, Dr Conrad Schick prepared a report with diagrams, which was published in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly of April, 1892.
This tomb quickly became the prime suspect for being the authentic tomb of Jesus Christ. However, strenuous opposition immediately arose from adherents of the traditional “Holy Sepulchre” tourist site inside the Old City, and incredible political intrigue and manipulation (including large bribes and payoffs) to the ruling British Consulate began. This only intensified after the Jewish State was established in 1948. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre had been built by the Roman emperor Constantine in 333 AD, on a site selected primarily by his mother, Helena with little or no record of its archeology provided. Many scholars have asserted that this site of the Holy Sepulchre church could have been outside the city wall in Jesus’ time, but it clearly is INSIDE the wall today. However, prevailing archaeological opinion (despite wails of opposition from the secular apologists) is that the wall is now just where it was in Jesus’ day. And also that the actual place of Jesus’ crucifixion was indeed the “Skull Hill” outside the city wall.
Once excavation of the tomb was completed, characteristics were noted which did prove it to be dated to the first century of the Christian era, the time of Jesus. Dame Kathleen Kenyon, the famous British archaeologist, said in 1970, “It is a typical tomb of about the first century AD.” (Jonathan Gray, private files)!
Entering the tomb, one is immediately impressed with its size. Certainly, only a rich man could have afforded a tomb such as this. Inside the tomb, to the right, was a spot for the owner of the tomb to be laid – and close to that, another spot, possibly for his wife. To the left, a large room was cut out for mourners to stand.
But this tomb was not used by the person or persons for whom it had been cut out. Inside the tomb, one section carved out of the rock to fit one man, had clearly been enlarged for somebody else —someone who was taller than the man for whom the tomb had been measured. This enlarged section indicated that not the owner, but some other person, was laid in this particular rich man’s tomb. The ancient biblical record states that Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, took the body of Jesus and “laid it in his own new tomb”, “wherein was never man yet laid.” (John 19:41) A most remarkable feature of Jesus’ entombment is that, although he was executed as a criminal and so under typical Roman law should not have received the dignity of normal burial, yet his body was rescued from ‘disgrace’ and laid in a grave of the highest rank! Yet this very event was prophesied concerning the Messiah, many centuries earlier: “He made his grave with the wicked but with the rich in his death. (Isaiah 53:9-11) The mathematical odds against such an event happening are enormous.
THE MYSTERY OF THE “GREAT STONE” MISSING FROM THE TOMB
Matthew records that Joseph, after placing the body in his own new tomb, “rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” (Matthew 27:60) This clue, that it was a GREAT stone, is yet another evidence that the owner of the tomb was a rich man.
Immediately in front of the tomb is a stone trench, or trough. This was for the rolling of a stone to seal the doorway. At the left end is an incline. The stone was rolled onto the trough at this end. At the right hand end of the trough is a large stone block, positioned to prevent further movement of the seal-stone toward the right. Above that, on the right hand face of the tomb itself, a ridge was cut in the rock, which would block the stone from rolling further in that direction. In the face of the tomb were two evidences which showed that a very, very large seal-stone was once used to seal this tomb. In the right side of the tomb face, team member Dr Nathan Meyer had on an earlier visit pointed out a hole which was pierced into the cliff face. The hole held the oxidized remains of an iron shaft. This has since been removed, but the hole remains. On the left hand side of the tomb face, another hole had been pierced into the rock for the insertion of a metal shaft, to prevent the seal-stone from being rolled to the left and the tomb being opened.
But someone else was also interested in this tomb. The Jewish chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, the Roman governor, saying: “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead, so the last error shall be worse than the first.” Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. (vv.62-66)
Now let me share with you something intriguing. We photographed and video-taped the spot where the Romans drove the iron shaft into the stone face of the tomb at the left edge of where the thirteen foot seal-stone would have been. They had done this in an attempt to prevent the stone from being rolled to the side and the tomb being opened. The record states that the stone was “sealed”. (Matthew 27:60,66) The metal shaft on the left which held the stone in place was about two fingers in thickness. It would be impossible to bend this shaft, much less snap it off, simply by pushing the seal-stone against it. To move the great stone even one inch, the shaft must first be taken out. However, when we examined the hole that held the metal shaft, we found that the shaft was still in there! What was left of it, that is. It was sheared off, level with the wall. The appearance of the metal was consistent with its having been sheared off when struck with a tremendous force from the right-hand side. According to an engineer, the shear strength of this peg was approximately 60 to 80 tons. To put it another way, a metal peg of such thickness would withstand 60 to 80 tons’ pressure before it actually snapped off. Imagine, if you can, ten tip trucks all compressed together – or all the materials for two brick houses squeezed together – and suddenly dropped onto the iron peg. That is the pressure involved. However, being soft and malleable, the peg might have taken more than 60 to 80 tons’ pressure, bending first before it sheared right off. The engineer confirmed my conclusion. “I could see that the end had been torn slightly sideways – perhaps a quarter inch – to the left, even though it was now rusted some,” he said. “It was an incredible sight, to witness what had happened. Accomplished by moving the stone in one simple move.” He calculated that the stone itself weighed around 13.8 tons. It would be impossible, humanly speaking, to snap off that metal shaft from a dead stop. There was no leverage. The seal-stone has gone. Someone pushed the stone aside without taking out the metal peg… Who could have possibly done this? The disciple Matthew informs us that the power involved was non-human: … the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4) The evidence shows that the stone was moved with great s!peed, by some colossal force WITHOUT TAKING OUT THE METAL ROD.!
Could that sheared off metal shaft still visible in the wall be evidence of a supernatural opening of the tomb? Is this a physical witness to the miraculous resurrection of Jesus?
Then… advance forward to 2004. The metal of the shaft in the wall was at last being tested by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA). Eventually further information was released. IAA archaeologist Yehiel Zelinger wrote a short article stating that the metal object found in the wall of the Garden Tomb was consistent with metal pins used in Roman construction. He stated that samples taken from the metal object were tested at Hebrew University and shown to contain both iron and lead. You see, it was common in ancient times to set metal pins in molten lead. This would make them easier to drive into solid objects. While these tests do not determine the date of the metal object, they do show a consistency with metal pins used to construct the Coliseum in Rome and with those found in other Roman period sites. Bottom line… the findings are consistent with my conclusion that this metal pin was used by the Romans to seal the Garden Tomb. The metal pin is NOT shrapnel from an exploded shell, nor a stray bullet. It IS of ancient origin. Could this, then, be direct archaeological evidence of the supernatural shearing off of the peg to wall level as the seal stone was superhumanly rolled at high speed against it? Is this archaeological evidence of the resurrection event? More importantly, why is it that this evidence is clearly being suppressed by the “principalities and powers” c!urrently controlling the “Holy Land” and the story is effectively silenced?
So, we have the evidence of the metal peg sealing the “great stone” into place. What then happened to the “great stone”? Independent researcher Simon Brown may well have found the answer to this question back in 2011. His website http:// http://www.realdiscoveries.org/modules/articles/item.php?itemid=264 gives the details of his remarkable quest to verify that the great circular stone found at the monument to Moses at the top of Mount Nebo 25 miles away from the Garden Tomb is indeed the stone that originally sealed the Garden Tomb and was physically “rolled away” by the Angel of the Lord. I completely concur with Brown’s assertion that the early Byzantines removed the great sealing stone from the Garden Tomb and moved it to the top of Mt. Nebo in an attempt to honor Moses and to bring greater numbers of pilgrims to the Nebo site. Why? First of all, there was a Byzantine cross painted in red on the wall of the Garden Tomb proving that the tomb was earmarked by them as a special site. But wait, their EMPRESS HELENA had already declared where the tomb was. How could they hope to keep breathing if they challenged the official declaration? So the sealing stone which was touched by an angel was carried to another “sacred site” on neighboring Mount Nebo, and the “garden tomb” was buried and forgotten until being accidentally rediscovered in the 19th century! The reality is, this massive stone is legitimate and it had to originate somewhere. What other purpose could it possible have standing nakedly for centuries at the top of Mount Nebo?
Simon Brown gives the following summation on his website as to why this is the actual “great stone” that sealed the Garden Tomb.
1. The stone is in one circular piece as stated in the bible. The Angel rolled the stone away. 2. The stone is the perfect thickness to fit in the garden tomb’s frontal trough. 3. The stone is the perfect diameter. 4. The stone is the carved from the same rock as the garden tomb. 5. The stone has the same surface texture as the garden tomb stone. 6. The stone has matching chiseling marks as found at the garden tomb. 7. The stone is the same color as the garden tomb rock. 8. The stone fits the Garden Tomb like a glove. 9. The Garden Tomb originally had a Byzantine Church on its location – the location of the great stone is also at a Byzantine-era church. 10. The stone was found at a Byzantine Monastery. 11. There is no great stone in the world like it. 12. This great stone only fits one tomb in the world. The Garden Tomb. 13. Mark 16:4 states it is a very great stone. “And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.” 14. The Greek language states the stone was VEHEMENT TREMENDOUSLY! 15. The Byzantines moved it from the garden tomb to mount Nebo because they knew its importance. 16. The Byzantines knew that if they could lay claim to the famous stone made by Joseph of Arimathaea, that covered the body of Jesus and was sat on by an angel, it would be assured of a steady stream of visitors to their Monastery at Mount Nebo. 17. The Byzantines also believed that many people believed that any holy relic was invested with heavenly powers! 18. There is also a prophesy found in John 3:14 made by Jesus which connects mount Nebo where the stone remains to the place were Jesus was resurrected from. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 19. We know large trollies were made to carry large stones around the holy land during the Byzantine era, and they were pulled by up to 40 oxen. 20. There is no recorded history as to who made the Rolling Stone; how it got to where it is, or why it was made. Now for the first time, we can fill in the missing history of the Rolling Stone.
Read more: http://www.realdiscoveries.org/modules/articles/item.php? itemid=264#ixzz3TEefoYPw!
The final question must be asked in conclusion: Why is this important – does it really matter which tomb is legitimate and which is bogus for they are both empty and do they not both testify as to the biblical account? When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, as found in John 4:23, He gave us the answer to this question as well. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him”. True worship of Jesus the Christ must be done in Spirit, and just as importantly, it must be done in Truth. It never honors the Savior of the World to promote a lie and a hoax in His name – in fact, I submit it dishonors Him -especially when it comes to the evidence of His greatest gift to humanity – His victory over Death and Hell.
During my recent visit to the Garden Tomb site, I reveled in the sweet, peaceful spirit that emanated there. Our little group of pilgrims took the time to sit and take communion there following a short devotional service. Our tour guide bore his sweet witness of the Risen Lord, and all were moved to tears. As we exited the property, I complimented the staff members on their fresh and clean lavatory facilities (they were the cleanest and most modern in all of Jerusalem) and the fact that they never charged an entrance fee to the site. My comment to them was simply: “If this isn’t the actual tomb, it surely should be!”
Conversely, the minute I entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher site, the darkness and foul air of the tomb area screamed “UNCLEAN” so strongly that I felt quite ill and nauseated to the point I had to find a place to sit down. Was this the Holy Spirit witnessing to me, and prompting me to write this expose? I would have to answer in the affirmative. I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions. Just remember that there is only one true God and only one Savior – and thus there can only be one genuine tomb and one genuine resurrection site. !
For more information on Simon Magus and the truth about the origins of Catholicism – go to: