Holy Sepulcher Church

Holy Sepulcher Church

Via Dolorosa Tomb of Jesus?
Holy Sepulcher Church

Holy Sepulcher Church - Jerusalem

The Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem was built at the "traditional" site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. Not unlike the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulcher Church is a hulking, rather odd looking structure comprised of three different Catholic and Orthodox churches built adjacent to - almost on top of - one another, apparently when those groups held sway in Jerusalem.

Today, the interior of the Holy Sepulcher Church is divided into six sections, each occupied and managed by monks from the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Egyptian Coptic Church, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

I was dismayed to learn that the tensions between the monks representing the six groups often led to shouting matches and occasionally to fist fights. Today there are strict demarcations between them, including thick boundary markings painted on the floor and even the pillars, as well as set times for crossing those boundaries. The Muslim residents of Old Jerusalem mock that when they want to see a good fight, they go to the Holy Sepulcher Church.

Photographed above is the top of the entrance to the supposed sepulcher of Jesus, adorned by inexplicably detailed and European-looking portraits of the twelve Apostles as old men, when all of them were Middle Easterners and most of them were martyred long before reaching old age.

Near the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher Church is an amazingly flat, stretcher-sized rock called, "Stone of Anointing," which is claimed to be the rock on which Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus anointed Jesus' crucified body for burial. 

Stone of Anointing

Stone of Anointing

The issue with this claim concerning the Stone of Anointing is that while the Gospel of John mentions Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus binding Jesus' crucified body with myrrh and aloes prior to burial (the other three Gospels do not mention it), there is no mention of them doing it on a rock:

Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. (Matt. 27:57-60)

Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. (Mark 15:42-46)

Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. (Luke 23:50-53)

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 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. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby. (John 19:38-42)

If the Stone of Anointing were a more ordinary piece of rock, it wouldn't raise as many eyebrows. But how did Joseph and Nicodemus get such an almost perfectly flat rock stretcher for someone whom they didn't even know would need to be buried until just a few hours earlier?

As it turns out, Joseph and Nicodemus had nothing to do with the Stone of Anointing, which was added to the premise in 1810.

Is the supposed tomb of Jesus, whose entrance is shown above, any more authentic?

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