Historical questions

Could The Garden Tomb have been the actual resting place of Jesus?

It is impossible to study ‘The Garden Tomb’ without the question of its authenticity arising as many support the view that the resting place of Christ was in fact ‘The Church of The Holy Sepulchre’, however, there is evidence to the contrary. The most weighted argument in favour of The Garden Tomb surrounds its apparent likeness to the tomb which is specifically detailed in the Bible. John 19:41 states, ‘Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no-one had yet been laid.’ This would seem to perfectly fit the description of the physical tomb which we have now come to discover. Matthew 27.60, Mark 15.46 and Luke 23.54 all appear to corroborate this theory, speaking of a new tomb cut into the rock, ‘And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock’ (Mark 15.46). 

A wine press has been located in the garden, which may suggest that the garden was owned by a rich man. Many people believe that this could have been Joseph of Arimathea who is said to have procured Jesus’ body from the authorities and buried him in an empty grave, perhaps one made initially for Joseph himself. Matthew 27.60 plainly expresses that it was ‘his own new tomb’, speaking of Joseph of Arimathea. A large rolling stone has also been found on the site in keeping with the biblical accounts. Matthew 27.60 says, ‘And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away’, and Mark 15.46 too echoes this almost exactly. Since it was unearthed there has been debate as to whether this was really in fact the tomb of Jesus? One of the key arguments has been the location as it can be located near “skull hill” which has been linked to the biblical place of Golgotha, which translates as, place of the skull. This is fundamentally based on the fact that a number of people on seeing the rocky hills have noted that they do in fact look like a skull face. If this were the case the positioning of the site would be in keeping with what is said in the Bible. For example, Hebrews 13:12 describes Jesus’ burial site as ‘occurring outside city walls’ and the Garden Tomb is located outside city walls so there is clear continuity here.

Another argument for the tomb being Jesus' actual resting place is that there might have been a succession of oral tradition passed down from the time just after Jesus' death to Constantine's era. However, this argument is not particularly strong. Had there been a tradition, this would have surely been more well known and potentially written about. Historical evidence actually suggests that bishops around the time of Constantine had deep doubts about the tomb's authenticity. 

There is also a lack of archaelogical evidence suggesting that the tomb is legitimate. Bishops around the time of its discovery, such as Eusebius and Cyril. publicly could not show any evidence for its authenticity when asked about it. It was Constantine in the early 4th Century who made the claim that the tomb was the resting place of Jesus. Constantine famously was the first Christian Emperor of the Roman Empire as well as being the Emperor who legalised its worship. Whilst being an able statesman, he didn't have adequate academic credentials to make such a claim, though it is quite likely the discovery of the tomb would have strengthened Christianity in the region and subsequently strengthened the state of the Empire. There is strong evidence that Eusebius, a Bishop and someone very close to Constantine, had major doubts about the legitimacy of the claim.