The Garden Tomb

By Petal Mashraki | Published on 12/18/2018
3 min
The Garden Tomb lies outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls; it consists of a peaceful garden and ancient rock-cut tomb. The Garden Tomb is considered by some to be Christ’s burial tomb rather than the more commonly accepted site within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For this reason the Garden Tomb is a popular Christian pilgrimage site especially for Protestants and Evangelical Anglicans. 

In 1894 a British charitable organization called The Garden Tomb Association purchase the site in order to preserve and maintain the ancient remains and grounds. The association is made up of people of different faiths from around the world who want to preserve Biblical history. Volunteers from around the world join local Palestinians and Israelis in caring for the grounds.

Could the Garden Tomb have been Christ’s Burial Tomb?

The tomb was discovered in 1867 and dated to the 8th-7th century BC. At the time it was common to reuse old tombs so Jesus could have been entombed in a pre-existing tomb. However in John 19:41 and Matthew 27:57-60 we read that Jesus was buried in a new tomb. A trough in front of the tomb entrance could have been part of the system for sealing the tomb. However archaeologists have dated the trough to the 12th-13th century during the Crusader Era.
The scriptures describe the site of Jesus’ crucifixion as being at “Golgotha” an Aramaic word meaning “Skull.” The skull-like appearance of the rugged escarpment behind the Garden Tomb led some to believe that it was the site of Christ’s crucifixion. The rock’s proximity to the city gate, its association with executions and its resemblance to a skull reinforced the idea. In John 19:41 we read that there was a garden near the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and a new tomb that had never been used. However archaeological examinations have shown that the tomb was used prior to Jesus’ burial.

Garden Tomb versus the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

In the 4th century the site of Jesus’ Tomb and Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified were identified and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built around the holy sites. Today the large church lies in the heart of the Old City. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre site has been altered over the years; damaged by time; lost its authentic ancient appearance and is often crowded with tourists. The Bible describes the tomb as being outside the city walls. During Jesus’ lifetime both the Holy Sepulchre site and the Garden Tomb would have been outside the city walls. The walls were expanded in about 44AD bringing the Holy Sepulchre site within the walls and leaving the Garden Tomb on the outside. Both the Holy Sepulchre site and the Garden Tomb bear similarities to the Biblical description of Christ’s site of burial and resurrection. 

Visiting the Garden Tomb

Today the Tomb and surrounding garden are visited by many pilgrims who come here to experience the tranquil, spiritual atmosphere. The St. George’s Anglican Cathedral has been built a short walk from the tomb. Catholic Mass services are often held at the Garden Tomb and there are special services during Christmas and Easter. Whether the tomb is authentic or not is no longer the issue, instead it is a place for contemplation and peaceful prayer away from the busy Church of the Holy Sepulchre site.