September 13, 2010

Is the Holy Sepulchre the Actual Tomb of Christ?

There are a few claims to the true burial tomb of Christ, but no claim has stronger evidence than the traditional site of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, whose consecration in the thirtieth year of the reign of Emperor Constantine in 335 AD the Orthodox Church celebrates annually on September 13th. For two excellent introductory resources to examine this issue I provide two links below, one a study of its authenticity from Biblical Archaeology Review and the other a documentary from the Secrets of the Dead series, as well as a homily on the feast of the dedication of the Holy Sepulchre we celebrate today. Of course, these two studies below are scientific studies that do not take account of the miracle of the Holy Light which annually takes place in this church on Pascha.

1. Does the Holy Sepulchre Church Mark the Burial of Jesus?

By Dan Bahat
Biblical Archaeology Review

Since 1960, the Armenian, the Greek and the Latin religious communities that are responsible for the care of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem have been engaged in a joint restoration project of one of the most fascinating and complex buildings in the world.

In connection with the restoration, they have undertaken extensive archaeological work in an effort to establish the history of the building and of the site on which it rests. Thirteen trenches were excavated primarily to check the stability of Crusader structures, but these trenches also constituted archaeological excavations. Stripping plaster from the walls revealed structures from earlier periods. A new, modern drainage system was put in place, but the work itself was also used for archaeological research. Elsewhere, soundings were made for purely archaeological purposes.

The results of all this excavation and research have now been published in a three-volume final report by Virgilio C. Corbo, professor of archaeology at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem. Father Corbo has been intimately involved in this archaeological work for more than 20 years, and no one is better able to report on the results than he.

Read the rest here.

2. Secrets of the Dead: The Tomb of Christ

This episode of the popular PBS series takes an in-depth look at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, long thought by many Christians to be the tomb of Christ before his eventual resurrection. An English couple investigates the truth behind the myths and tries to shed some light on the events of that long ago day, as well as other issues of the Crucifixion.

For centuries, visitors to the Church of the Holy Seplulchre in Jerusalem believed that they stood within what was merely a symbolic representation of Jesus' burial place. But what if the edicule within the church, and ancient crumbling structure, really does house Christ's actual tomb? Oxford archeologists Martin and Birthe Biddle reconstruct Jesus' final day and trace the history of the various incarnations of the edicule-looking for evidence that there is a tomb present, and trying to decipher whether or not Christ actually lay there. At the very center of Christianity, in one of the holiest cities on Earth, a mystery as old as the Christian faith is close to being solved. An academic couple from Oxford -- respected archaeologists both -- have within their grasp the proof as to whether or not Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher houses the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried.

Further resources can be read here and the DVD can be ordered here. The accompanying book also is worth a read as it goes into greater detail than the documentary, and it can be ordered here.

3. Homily on the Dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by St. Dimitri of Rostov

A summary of some proofs and the history of the Holy Sepulchre can be read here.