Holy Sepulchre Church

Holy Sepulchre Church

Holy Sepulchre Church

Holy Sepulchre Church

The Holy Sepulchre Church is located at the "traditional" site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial in Jerusalem. Above is the gate of the Holy Sepulcher Church on the road named after Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first "Christian" Roman Emperor who commissioned the construction of the Holy Sepulchre Church in 325 AD. Walking down the steps on the other side of this gate leads to the church's square (below), which in turn leads to the church's main door (bottom right of the photo).

Holy Sepulchre ChurchThe first Holy Sepulchre Church, commissioned by Constantine, was completed in 335 AD but burned in 614 AD.

The second Holy Sepulchre Church was completed in 630 AD, damaged by earthquake in 746 AD and by fires in 841, 938 and 966, and destroyed by the Muslims in 1009.

The third and current Holy Sepulchre Church (left) was built in 1048, expanded in 1149, fire-damaged in 1808, and repaired in 1809.

Just inside the door of the church is an almost perfectly flat, stretcher-sized rock (below) called "Stone of Anointing," which is claimed to be where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus anointed Jesus' crucified body for burial.

Stone of Anointing

Is it true?

The Gospel of John mentions Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus binding Jesus' crucified body with myrrh and aloes prior to burial, but there is no mention of them doing it on a rock,* let alone on such a peculiar one.

In reality, the Stone of Anointing was added to the Holy Sepulchre Church only in 1810 yet continues to be presented by those who manage the church and revered by uninformed pilgrims as having supported the crucified body of Jesus.

Holy Sepulchre ChurchThe interior of Holy Sepulchre Church is divided into six sections, each occupied and managed by monks from the Roman Catholic Church or one of five Orthodox Churches: Armenian, Greek, Syrian, Coptic (Egyptian), and Ethiopian. Their respective territories inside the church are demarcated by boundary markings on the floor and even the pillars, and there are set times for crossing those boundaries. Tensions between the six groups occasionally lead to verbal and even physical altercations.

Past the Stone of Anointing and under the church's rotunda is the Edicule (right) encasing the claimed burial place of Jesus.

Adorning the top of the entrance to this Edicule are inexplicably detailed and European-looking portraits (below) of the twelve Apostles as old men, despite the fact that all of them were Middle Easterners and most were martyred long before reaching old age.

Holy Sepulchre Church

Stepping into the Edicule and then ducking through a smaller, second entrance inside the Edicule leads to two almost identical and almost perfectly flat square stone plates (below) where Jesus' body supposedly lay entombed for three days.

Holy Sepulchre Church

Is this true?

No, and this church isn't where Jesus was crucified and buried. Presented below is the reason why the Holy Sepulchre Church is where it is today.

In 66 AD, the Jews rebelled against Rome. In 70 AD, the Roman general and future Emperor Titus sacked Jerusalem and scattered the Jews, but they soon trickled back into Jerusalem. A few decades later, the Jews in Jerusalem were a force to be reckoned with once again and in 132 AD rose up in what is known as the Second Jewish Revolt.

This time they were crushed by Hadrian, the sitting Roman Emperor, who decided after his victory in 135 AD that to prevent the Jews from rising up yet again he would have to do more than just re-destroy the Jewish capital, and promptly went to work to rebuild it as a pagan city. He re-laid the city except the Temple Mount like a Roman camp with main streets intersecting in the center,** where he erected a pagan Roman temple. Jerusalem was renamed "Aelia (the name of Hadrian’s imperial clan) Capitolina" and a large pagan population was brought it. All Jews were banished from the city under the threat of execution if they returned, and the Tenth Roman Legion took up residence to enforce the order. For the next two centuries, paganism was the dominant religion in Jerusalem.

In 325 AD, all Christian leaders in the Roman empire were summoned to the Council of Nicea by Constantine, the newly-minted “Christian” Emperor. Among them was Macarius, the leader of the small Christian community in Jerusalem. Macarius considered the pagan temple in Jerusalem an abomination and wanted it taken down but tabling the matter before Constantine was a delicate matter. After all, it had been built by the great Emperor Hadrian, who had tied the prestige and the name of his (and Constantine's) clan to it.

During the Council proceedings, Macarius, supported by the others assembled, asked Constantine if he would commission the excavation of Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem. The answer was yes. Great, and by the way, since Jesus' tomb is somewhere beneath the pagan temple that Hadrian had built, there would be no choice but to take it down... Would the Emperor mind?

The pagan temple came down and excavation started. In one area, they found a cave with a bunch of tombs, one of which they designated Jesus'. They also found a rock, which they named Golgotha, and even some wood, which they said were pieces of the crosses on which Jesus and the two robbers had been crucified. Mission accomplished, they sought and received permission from Constantine to replace the previous pagan temple with the first Holy Sepulchre Church.

But something isn’t quite right. As mentioned above, Hadrian re-laid Jerusalem like a Roman camp with main streets crossing at the center and built the pagan temple at that intersection. This means the temple was built in the center of the city. But the Bible says, "the place where Jesus was crucified was NEAR the city" (John 19:20, emphasis added), so Jesus' tomb couldn't have been in the center of the city.**

And the Bible identifies Jesus' Tomb as one that had been cut "out of the rock" (Matthew 27:60), not a bunch of tombs in a cave. Furthermore, the Golgotha in the Bible is a "place" (Matthew 27:33), not a rock, and what proof was there that the wood found were bits of crosses, let alone the very crosses on which Jesus and the two robbers had been crucified three centuries earlier?

Had they really found Golgotha and Jesus' Tomb, or were they digging up stories to justify knocking down Hadrian's pagan temple to the disgruntled pagans in Constantine's court in Rome? And is there a tomb and Golgotha that fits the Bible's details?

See Golgotha and Jesus' Tomb.

* 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)

** Supporters of the Holy Sepulchre Church claim that its location was just outside the city when Jesus was crucified around 30 AD. As presented above, this location was city center by 135 AD. A location just outside the city becoming its center requires the doubling of the city's width. According to the mathematical formula for the area of a circle (πr²), if a city's width and radius double, its surface area quadruples. For the claim of this church's supporters to be true, Jerusalem would have had to quadruple in size between 30 AD and 135 AD. Already a large city by 30 AD, Jerusalem suffered a major famine (see Acts 11:29) between 30 AD and 67 AD, a major war between 67 AD and 70 AD, and a genocidal massacre in 70 AD. Famine, war and genocide deplete a city's population, not grow, let alone quadruple, it.

Via Dolorosa Golgotha
Holy Sepulchre Church