Category Archives: Jerusalem

Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene — Now Open . . . but

There is a tomb complex north of the Old City of Jerusalem that is variously called the Tomb of the Kings or the Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene.  It is owned by the French Government and for many years it has been closed to visitors.  It is now “open,” but visiting times area very restrictive and the interior of the tomb itself is not “open.”  Because of this, I thought I would share a few images of the complex from the 1970’s—when it was more available to the pubic—including the interior.

This is a view looking down into the courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings. Click on image to enlarge and/or download.

Three steps lead up to the monumental entrance of the tomb that is partially preserved. On the top of the tomb entrance, there were originally three pyramids—none of which are preserved.  The courtyard measures 90 x 82 ft. and is carved out of the solid rock. It is about 30 feet deep.

This is the 30-foot wide 23-step staircase that leads down to the courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings. It was carved out of the solid rock.

View inside the Courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings looking southwest.

On the right side of the image, three steps lead up to the monumental entrance of the tomb that is partially preserved. On the top of the tomb entrance, there were originally three pyramids—none of which are preserved.  On the left (south) side note the solid rock wall that separates the Courtyard from the Staircase. The “door” opening on the far left leads to the staircase.

A detail of the small square entrance to the multilevel burial chambers of the Tomb of Queen Helena.

Note especially, the slightly broken rolling stone that was used to cover the entrance to the tomb. Rolling stone tombs are very rare in Israel.  There is a tradition that this tomb would open automatically on a certain day of the year, but this seems very far fetched!  BTW — You have to get down on your hands and knees to enter the tomb at this point—although once in, it is possible to stand erect in some chambers.

A detail of an arched burial bench (arcosolium) found in the chambers of the Tomb of Queen Helena.

This type of burial, plus niches into which bodies were inserted are found in this tomb.  One of the sarcophagi found in the tomb is now in the Louvre in Paris.A detail of the very small interior staircase inside of the Tomb of Queen Helena that leads from one level of the tomb to another.

A detail of the very small interior staircase inside of the Tomb of Queen Helena that leads from one level of the tomb to another.

A detail of the Architrave above the entrance to the Tomb of Helena, Queen of Adiabene.

From top to bottom note: the carved upper portion, the circular wreaths surrounded by Acanthus Leaves and below that, the not-too-well preserved triglyphs and metopes.  Originally, two columns would have supported this Architrave.


For more on the “Opening” of the Tomb, see: “Tomb of Kings Now Open!” in Bible History Daily — Biblical Archaeology Society (June 1, 2020)

The Dead Sea Scrolls and COVID-19

An articleThe Dead Sea Scrolls are in self-isolation – but they mean more than ever in Forward, contains quite a bit of unique and interesting information regarding the display and storage of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include some of the earliest biblical texts, are considered the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century. [the curator, Hagit] Maoz is one of the people charged with their safekeeping . . . knows exactly where the museum’s scrolls are: behind five locked doors in a humidity and temperature-controlled vault at the Shrine of the Book.

The Dome covering the central display area of the Shrine of the Book. In the background the Israeli Kenesset (Parlament). To the right, the black wall. Note the contrast, the light vs. the darkness.

Many of you have visited the exhibit inside the Shrine of the Book.  The article states that it takes four days to clean the ceiling inside the “dome” of central display area and they have done it this year (2020)

This [year, 2020] marks the first time since a 2004 renovation that all of the scrolls have moved into the vault.

In the article, the move of the scrolls from under the dome is described in detail—and worth a read in the article.  From under the dome two people

. . . slowly walked the scroll section into the vault, passing through five open doors to place it onto a shelf in the innermost room, so secure that only Maoz and three other museum employees have permission to enter. When they returned, they closed the case, opened the next one, and started the process over again. The vault is just 10 or so yards from the exhibit, but it took around 90 minutes for them to complete the task.


Since they do not allow photography in the Shrine of the Book, here is a sample of a Qumran Scroll from the Archaeological Museum in Amman, Jordan.

This is one of the very important Hebrew texts that was discovered in Cave 1 in 1947 (1QSa/1Q28a).  It is related to the longer “Rule of the Community Text.”  The two preserved columns describe the community in “the Last Days” and include information about a communal meal and a startling (and controversial) passage on how G-d will “father” the Messiah (descendant of David), thus “if the traditional reading is correct, then this Qumran text is describing a messianic figure who is in a special way a ‘son of God'” (Wise, p. 144)!

For a translation and commentary on this text please see Michael Wise, pp. 143–147 in Wise, Michael O., Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

This text is/was on display in the Jordan Archaeological Museum located on the Citadel in Amman.

 

Site of Crucifixion of Jesus?

Probably the most sacred place in the whole of Christendom is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (aka Church of the Resurrection) in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Since the first half of the fourth century a church has encased both the places of crucifixion and burial of Jesus.

Greek Chapel at Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

View looking east at the focal point of the Greek Chapel at Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

In the center of the image is the altar beneath which is located the traditional spot where Jesus was crucified.  Behind it is a silver iconostasis.  On both sides of the altar portions of the bedrock are visible behind the glass.

View looking northeast at the general area of Calvary.

From right to left note the “Latin” Calvary with the Medici Altar that commemorates Jesus being nailed to the cross (= Station XI of the Via Dolorosa).  Just left of center is a small shrine that commemorates that this is the spot where Jesus was removed from the cross (= Station XIII of the Via Dolorosa).  On the far left is the Greek Chapel (see above) where Jesus was crucified (=Station XII of the Via Dolorosa).

To view 15 images of this place Click Here.


Coming soon: Tomb of Jesus; Gordon’s Calvary; Garden Tomb.

Gordon’s Calvary

North of the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem is the site of the Garden Tomb and Gordon’s Calvary.

View of the “skull” – looking northeast.  In the center of the image the “skull” is visible.  Note the modern Arab bus station in the lower right portion of the image.

In 1842, Otto Thenius proposed that this was Calvary (Golgotha) – the place of the skull – the site of the crucifixion of Jesus. This proposal was given prominence by the British general Charles Gordon in 1883 in combination with the nearby tomb that had been discovered in 1867. For a more general view of the area, click here.

Luke 23:32     Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  33 When they came to the place called the Skull [Golgotha/Calvary], there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.  34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:35     The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.

Since the Romans normally crucified people right along the roads, so passersby would be intimidated, the crucifixion was probably not on top of Golgotha, but along side a nearby road.

Gordon’s Calvary June 1967 — after the Six Days War.

Crucified Man from Jerusalem

It is well–known from literature that the Romans crucified rebels and criminals.  In 1968, an ossuary (bone box; see below) was found, among others, in a tomb in north Jerusalem in which were the bones of a 28 year old man and those of a child.

This is a replica of a right heel bone of a 28 year old man who was crucified in Jerusalem prior to its in AD 70. This replica is presented in the Israel Museum.

A 4.3 inch nail penetrated the right heel bone of the man.  A piece of wood was placed on each side of the heel prior to the pounding of the nail to affix the person to a cross.

The skeletal remains of the man with the nail in his heel bone were found in this ossuary that was discovered north of Jerusalem.

Clearly visible is the Hebrew writing of the name “Yehohanan son of Hagkol.”  Note the two clear lines.  Above and to the right of the name “Yehohanan,” in the first line, is another faint inscription (click on image to enlarge to view inscription).

A diagram in the Israel Museum.

The above picture represents a scholarly reconstruction of how Yehohanan son of Hagkal was crucified.  Note how his arms are tied to the cross—no nails were found in his hands or wrists.  In contrast, Jesus of Nazareth’s hands were nailed to the cross—Thomas wanted to see the “mark of the nails in his hands” (John 20:25).


Revision — In a PBS program on Jesus, (aired 4 April 2017) the heel bone with nail were taken out of a small storage box located in a huge warehouse.  Thus, it does not appear that the original comment (deleted) regarding its “location” was correct.

For a convenient description of this find see pp 318–22 in Clyde E. Fant and Mitchell G. Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible — Understanding the Bible Through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

A Jerusalem Cross — An Unusual Photo

One of the sites that all Christian groups visit in Jerusalem is the site of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives (see below for a description as to why this church is important).  Although the view from within the church, overlooking Jerusalem, is justly famous (see below) on that day I took the following photo.

View of Jerusalem from Dominus Flevit. Under the cross is the Dome of the Rock. To the left of the Dome is the bell tower of the Church of the Redeemer. To the right of the Dome is the bell tower of Saint Savior’s Church.

I have not added anything to the above photo!  For those of you who have visited Jerusalem you may be saying, “what in the world is this?”   This is what I saw—although I have flipped the photo horizontally 180 degrees.  (Ok, I cleaned up a few spots—the window was dirty!).

Yes, this photos was taken outside of Dominus Flevit looking back at the reflection of Jerusalem in its main window!

By the way — please notice the “crown of thorns tree” on the left side of the image.


Dominus Flevit is a Roman Catholic Church (compound) located on the upper third of the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem to the west.

This church was designed by Antonio Barluzzi and was constructed in the 1950’s.  The roof of the church is designed to resemble a “tear drop” — as the church commemorates Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–44).  On each of the four corners of the church are large representations of small glass vessels which were used to catch the tears of mourners in the first century AD.

This is the “normal” view that visitors normally see from within Dominus Flevit.

 

The Tomb of the High Priest Annas? Part 2 of 2 — The Interior

In Part I of this post I presented images of the exterior of the tomb of Annas—a very influential High Priest (AD 6–15) whose sons, and later son-in-law, Caiaphas, succeeded him in that office.  Annas is mentioned in the New Testament in Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 24;  and Acts 4:6.  Today I present some images of the interior of this tomb that is actually much better preserved than its exterior.  Click on the images to view  high-resolution versions—and save if you wish.

The Western Wall of the Interior of the Tomb of Annas
Unfortunately the locals were not too interested in the preservation of this tomb
I’m sure you have noticed the collection of trash!#$@!

In the lower portion of the image there are three openings that lead into long chambers into which bodies of the deceased were placed (loculi; singular loculus).  The Ritmeyers have suggested that Annas the High Priest was actually buried in the central chamber!  Above the central chamber please notice the carvings in the rock representing doorposts, a lintel, a gabled (triangular shaped) roof.

At the very top of the image note the finely carved rosette pattern!!  There are 32 petals in this magnificently carved rosette.  This rosette is unique except for a smaller one in the back room of the so-called Tomb of Absalom AND a very large one in the Double Gate that leads into the Temple Mount Complex!!

View of the upper portion of the southern wall of the Tomb of Annas

Notice the fine details carved into the stone wall:  the gabled roof pediment, lintel, the door posts, the acroterion(!), and the molding.

At the very top of the image note a small portion of the finely carved rosette pattern!!  AND, in the upper left portion of the ceiling the outline of a large carved acanthus leaf (there was one in each of the corners of the ceiling within this tomb.  In the lower right quadrant, where the two walls meet, note the vertical carved pilasters and also the molding on the walls where they meet the ceiling.

Deeply carved, 32 petal rosette ceiling in the Tomb of Annas.

There are 32 deeply carved petals in this rosette.  This rosette is unique except for a smaller one in the back room of the so-called Tomb of Absalom AND the larger one in the Double Gate that leads into the Temple Mount Complex!!

Near the center of the image is a circle from which the 32 rosette petals emanate.  The circle is actually a whorl rosette with faint petals.

To view additional images of both the interior and exterior of this tomb Click Here.

For a detailed description of this, and other tombs in the area, as well as the logic that this is the tomb of Annas please seen the article by Leen and Kathleen  Ritmeyer, “Akeldama: Potter’s Field or High Priest’s Tomb?” Biblical Archaeology Review 20 (1994): 23-35, 76, 78.

The Tomb of the High Priest Annas? Part 1 of 2 — The Exterior

Annas was a very influential High Priest (AD 6–15) whose sons, and later son-in-law, Caiaphas, succeeded him in that office.  Annas is mentioned in the New Testament in Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 24;  and Acts 4:6.

One of the most richly decorated tombs from the Second Temple Period is located on the southern slope of the junction of the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys.

Junction of the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys with the Tomb of Annas

This is the area that some have called “Akeldama” or the “field of blood” that is associated with events surrounding the death of Judas.  In 1994 Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer published an article suggesting that this special tomb may have been that of one of the High Priests mentioned in the New Testament and elsewhere.

Exterior of the “Tomb of Annas”
Badly defaced by later quarrying

Entrance to the “Tomb of Annas”

The above images show a view looking south at the exterior of the tomb.  On the right (west) side of the image notice the two semi-circular niches (for mourners/visitors?).  The entrance to the tomb has been heavily quarried/destroyed.  Notice the decorative partial shell conch over the now-almost-destroyed entrance to the tomb.

Detail of west side of tomb with an engaged column (pilaster) and the mourner niches.
When this photo was taken the tomb and forecourt were being used as a cattle pen!

West side of the tomb

In the image above, remnants of an engaged column (pilaster) are visible as are two apses—possibly used by mourners and/or visitors.

Standing in front of this tomb, looking north, one has a clear view of the Temple Mount—were Annas and his descendents had served.

For a detailed description of this, and other tombs in the area, as well as the logic that this is the tomb of Annas please seen the article by Leen and Kathleen  Ritmeyer, “Akeldama: Potter’s Field or High Priest’s Tomb?” Biblical Archaeology Review 20 (1994): 23-35, 76, 78.

In the next post — images of the magnificent interior of this tomb!

Jason’s Tomb (2nd Temple Period)

Jason’s tomb is a beautiful funeral monument from the late Hellenistic – early Roman period. It was the tomb of a high priestly family that was forced out of Jerusalem in 172 B.C. (2 Maccabees 5:5-10) by their rival, Menelaus. It was constructed in the second century B.C. and was in use until A.D. 30 (about the time of the crucifixion of Jesus).  This tomb was discovered in 1956 and is located in west Jerusalem—in Rehavia. It consists of several courtyards and a “pyramid-shaped” roof.

Entrance to Jason’s Tomb

View looking north into the tomb complex.  On this side of the arch is the first of the two courtyards. Beyond the arch is the second court. Note the (reconstructed) pyramid shaped roof.

Entrance to Inner Court

View looking onto the inner porch of Jason’s Tomb.  Clearly visible is the single Doric (a simple Greek architectural style) column built of stone drums. Beyond the column is the inner porch.  Note the pyramid shaped roof. The reconstruction is based upon fragments found in the excavations.

Jason’s Tomb Interior

View of the northwest corner of the inner (third) courtyard of Jason’s Tomb. The entrance on the left is to the area of 8 shaft graves. On the right of center is the entrance to the chamber in which secondary burials were made.  Note the two blocking stones that were used to close these chambers.

For additional information and images of Jason’s Tomb Click Here.

Crucified Man from Jerusalem

It is well–known from literature that the Romans crucified rebels and criminals.  In 1968, an ossuary (bone box; see below) was found, among others, in a tomb in north Jerusalem in which were the bones of a 28 year old man and those of a child.

This is a replica of a right heel bone of a 28 year old man who was crucified in Jerusalem prior to its in AD 70. This replica is presented in the Israel Museum.

A 4.3 inch nail penetrated the right heel bone of the man.  A piece of wood was placed on each side of the heel prior to the pounding of the nail to affix the person to a cross.

The skeletal remains of the man with the nail in his heel bone were found in this ossuary that was discovered north of Jerusalem.

Clearly visible is the Hebrew writing of the name “Yehohanan son of Hagkol.”  Note the two clear lines.  Above and to the right of the name “Yehohanan,” in the first line, is another faint inscription (click on image to enlarge to view inscription).

A diagram in the Israel Museum.

The above picture represents a scholarly reconstruction of how Yehohanan son of Hagkal was crucified.  Note how his arms are tied to the cross—no nails were found in his hands or wrists.  In contrast, Jesus of Nazareth’s hands were nailed to the cross—Thomas wanted to see the “mark of the nails in his hands” (John 20:25).


Revision — In a PBS program on Jesus, (aired 4 April 2017) the heel bone with nail were taken out of a small storage box located in a huge warehouse.  Thus, it does not appear that the original comment (deleted) regarding its “location” was correct.

For a convenient description of this find see pp 318–22 in Clyde E. Fant and Mitchell G. Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible — Understanding the Bible Through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.