Daily Archives: April 11, 2009

The tomb of Jesus

The New Testament describes the tomb and burial of Jesus:

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61 ESV)

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre likely contains the empty tomb of Jesus. Since 1810 the tomb has been covered by a monument that hides the original appearance of the tomb. In fact, even in the 4th century Constantine changed the natural appearance of the area by cutting away some of the natural stone.

The tomb is similar to other tombs from the first century. This one is small, but that would be consistent with the fact that it was the personal tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in the Old City has a model of the tomb showing a side view. From right to left one enters the tomb when the rolling stone is moved away. The first room serves as a vestibule. The second room contains a bench or shelf cut into the rock. This was called the arcosolium. The wrapped body would be placed on this bench.

Model of the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Model of the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Believers appreciate the loving care Joseph gave the body of Jesus.