The Garden Tomb

The Traditional Garden Tomb in Jerusalem- Gordon’s Calvary

A trip to Israel to walk upon the Holy Land is life-changing to say the least. In many ways, words cannot articulate what it does to a person. There is something spiritually rich about that land. Jesus’ life played out there. His miraculous human life is embodied in that small nation, his final days in the heart of Jerusalem.

Historically, Jerusalem is the only place where God put His name. That city goes back to day one with Adam. On that Temple Mount, God created Adam from its earth. The divine council of God met there: God and His lead angels. God planted a garden eastward of the mount where He placed Adam and gave him his purpose: To be an imager of Yahweh in the earth. Upon that very same mount Abraham took his son Isaac to perform the hardest task God had ever asked of him: to slay his child. Of course, we all know the story. God stopped Abraham before he brought down his blade. It was but a test of faith(fulness). The point is, there is something to be gleaned from seeing that history firsthand.

But due east of the Temple Mount, on the other side of the Kidron valley, is another mount known as Mount Olivet, or “the Mount of Olives.” Two key things are present on it’s hillside: Tombs and a garden, a garden known as Gethsemane. Jesus prayed three times before His passion, sweating drops of blood, in this garden….and there were tombs nearby.

View of the Temple Mount from Gethsemane

In the Google Earth image below, we have an aerial view of the Temple Mount. The compass to the left is pointing due north. I’ve etched a red arrow onto the image pointing northwest toward the site of the traditional Garden Tomb and, within its compound, a small rock formation claimed to be Golgotha hill (because it “kind of looks like a skull.” Also in the image, I’ve etched a golden arrow pointing due eastward from the temple mount. Why did I do this? The gold arrow is the direction the veil of the Temple would have faced. It points directly to the hillside of the Mt. of Olives where there are multiplied thousands of tombs, sepulchers, and the garden of Gethsemane.

Notice the green pin locating the traditional Garden Tomb exhibit in the upper right of the image, in the directional northwest corner. That is the Catholic Church site we all visit as the supposed burial site of Jesus. And that is perfectly fine. But for theologically correct locations we must allow the Word of God to be our guide.

In the gospel accounts of Jesus’s passion, when He gave up the ghost on the Cross, His murderers and all witnesses to His death beheld the veil of the Temple split from top to bottom. There is only one vantage point in all of Jerusalem from which this could be witnessed: the head of the Mount of Olives. It is impossible to even see the temple mount today from the traditional Gordon’s Calvary tomb location or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (which was behind the temple to the west), let alone see through three historic openings of the temple plaza in a straight line to witness the temple veil split. Even if the Temple was visible in that day you still could not witness the veil split. You had to be east of the temple facing due west for this to be possible. Jesus Christ carried His cross up the hillside of Mt. Olivet, a very grueling, steep climb, especially with the load of a crucifixion cross, and He was crucified nearby to the Garden of Gethsemane. Golgotha, known as the place of the skull, was that hill. It was simply the place where David is believed in Jewish tradition to have returned to Jerusalem, after his victory over the Philistine’s giant, and buried the head of Goliath.

The view of the Temple mount from the midst of the hillside graves of Mt. Olivet

Matthew 27:51-55

“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar.”