March 3, 2020
Even though my pilgrimage experience is done, I am still very curious to learn more about the Holy Land. That means I may post some things I learn on this blog from time to time.
Today I discovered two very helpful pictures. They both came from the book “The Holy Land for Christian Travelers” by John A. Beck. I took this book with me on the pilgrimage, but did not have time to read it. Now that I am home, I can look through it and remember the places I saw.
The first picture is from p.94 and gives an example of what a home built over a cave could have looked like. Remember, caves were used for many things. When connected to a home, the cave was basically the basement and where the animals were kept. This also gives a new image to a possibility of the cave where Jesus was born. Although now the cave is in the Grotto of the Nativity under the Church of the Nativity, perhaps the cave was originally under a home. Or it may have been nearby a home. I don’t know. In either case, it was not uncommon for pregnant women like Mary to be taken away into a cave when it was time for her to give birth. It was a private area.
The second image is a possibility of what Jesus’ tomb could have looked like. The traditional site of his tomb is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. However, all that remains of the tomb itself is the burial shelf located inside the edicule. A first century tomb just around the corner from the edicule provides a glimpse of what it could have looked like. It is a small area with two burial nitches. (This is a different set up than the Garden Tomb which some people think could have been his tomb.) The picture given below from p.99 of the book shows a much larger tomb structure and how the burial shelf and the nitches were laid out. The text around the image – part of which is shown in the picture – says this.
The story of Jesus’ burial sounds just like you would expect a Jerusalem story of the first century to sound except for the interruption caused by Jesus’ resurrection. Following Jesus’ death, Joseph of Arimathea gained custody of Jesus’ body so that he and others could respectfully bury it, thus fulfilling Isaiah 53:9. They took Jesus’ remains to Jospeh’s new tomb and laid it on the preparation bench, one like the large three-surface bench that lies in the middle of the tomb before you. Here they washed and then lovingly wrapped Jesus’ body with linen strips, inserting aromatics between the layers. The setting sun marking the start of the Sabbath interrupted this process, so they left Jesus’ body on the preparation bench. They intended to return after Sabbath to complete this process of preparing Jesus’ body for burial and then place his body into one of the small chambers insert into the walls on the perimeter of the tomb. The Hebrew name of the chamber is “kokh.”……When Jesus’ disciples and friends began to arrive on Easter Sunday morning, nothing wad as they left it on Friday. Jesus’ body was no longer on the preparation bench, only the linens in which they wrapped it. The kokh awaiting the body lay empty. The unnatural appearance of things denanded a supernatural explanation, one that the Lord provided when he sent angels with this message: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matt. 28:6)The Holy Land for Christian Travelers, p.99-100
Although I appreciate seeing this picture and reading this description, I am confused about two things. First, would the women have really stopped the burial process halfway through when Sabbath began? I don’t know. Second, this description seems to confuse the preparation shelf with the burial shelf. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, these are two different things. The Preparation Shelf is just inside the door. You can kneel there and take your time in prayer. The burial shelf from inside the tomb is the one located in the edicule. I thought they were two different shelves. This description makes it sound like one shelf.
In one sense, of course, we’ll never know all of the details for sure. Did the women stop burying him halfway through the process? Was it one shelf or two? Was the tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Garden Tomb? Although fascinating to study, the real promise is that the tomb was still empty and resurrection happens.
Thanks for still following along.