During this week many will have their mind on the events leading to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. With this post I propose to begin a short series of blogs in which I will post pictures of some of the rock-cut tombs from Israel and Jordan that have rolling stones.
Why is it important to notice rock-cut tombs with rolling stones? It is because these illustrate the type of tomb in which Jesus was buried.
And Joseph [from Arimathea] 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. (Matthew 27:59-60 ESV)
Here is the entrance to the rock-cut tomb at what we call the Tomb of the Kings. Notice that the rolling stone is set in a grove that more or less holds it in place. Perhaps tourist of past centuries have chiseled a souvenir to take back home with them.
J. A. Thompson describes the large tombs where several people might be buried as well as the smaller tombs like the one where Jesus was buried.
These larger tombs provided for the burial of a number of people. They were entered by a comparatively small opening which could be closed by rolling a stone in a groove across the entrance. After each burial the large stone was rolled across the door and the tomb sealed up until the next burial. Some of these stones, which are still to be seen in parts of Palestine, were so big as to require the effort of more than one man to move them. Such a discovery explains the concern of the women who came to the sepulcher where our Lord was buried. Joseph of Arimathaea “rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre” (Matt. 27:60), and later the angel came and “rolled back the stone from the door” (Matt. 28:2). Other passages in the Gospels which refer to the rolling of the great stone from the door are Mark 15:46; 16:3f.; Luke 24:2; John 11:38, 39, 41; 20:1. Even comparatively small tombs had this rolling stone, but angle graves were normally carved out in the rocky hillside and the body interred there. (Thompson, J. A. The Bible and Archaeology. 3rdrd ed., W. B. Eerdmans, 1982, p. 334.)