Category Archives: Jerusalem

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.

“Gordon’s Calvary” Just right of center note the apparent “eye sockets” and the bridge of a nose. Unfortunately the “bridge of the nose” collapsed a few years ago.

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.

The Burial Bench of Jesus?

On Friday, 14 April, the National Geographic Channel will air (10:00 PM EDT)  a one hour special on the recent (November 2016) discoveries at one of the traditional sites of the burial of Jesus.  I have waited for years for this—I hope it will not disappoint!

View looking down from the dome of the rotunda on to the structure that covers the Tomb of Jesus.

This structure is the most recent of a series of structures, from the time of Constantine (ca. A.D. 335) that have enshrined the tomb of Jesus.  It was constructed after the great fire of 1808 and was completed in 1810.

In the lower left portion of the image the canopy over the Coptic chapel is visible, this is on the back (west) side of the structure.  Above, and to the right of center, is the entrance into the Greek Orthodox Catholicon.  The entrance to the two rooms of the tomb is from upper right moving to left (not visible in this image).

Note the iron casing that was put in place during the days of the British Mandate to prevent the structure from collapsing.

View looking down and west at the marble covering over the (traditional) burial bench of Jesus.

According to tradition, Jesus’ head was placed where the vase with five candles is located.  I expect that the National Geographic Channel presentation will show the “uncovering” of this bench—among other “goodies!”


The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, called the Church of the Resurrection by the Greek Orthodox, is the most sacred space in Christendom.

The New Testament gospels indicate that Jesus was crucified outside of the walls of Jerusalem and then was buried in a garden nearby. This church houses the site of the crucifixion and that of the tomb of Jesus.

This area was venerated by Christians in the first century A.D. However, the Roman emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117–138) turned it into a place of pagan worship.

This area was “rediscovered” and cleared when Constantine’s mother, Helena, visited Jerusalem in A.D. 326. By A.D. 335 a Christian Church was built over the area. Although destroyed by the Persians in A.D. 614 — it was rebuilt. In A.D. 1009 it was again destroyed by Hakim. The crusaders rebuilt the church and the basic structure that one enters today, basically follows the plan of the Crusader church.

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.

Bone Box of Caiaphas the High Priest

Caiaphas, the High Priest, is mentioned 9 times in the Gospels and is one of those before whom Jesus appeared before being condemned to death by Pilate (Matthew 26; John 18).  A few years ago a “bone box” (ossuary) was found, along with 11 others, in a Second Temple tomb located two miles south of Jerusalem on a hill that today is called “the hill of Evil Counsel” (John 11:49–50).  On it the name “Joseph “son” of Caiaphas” was inscribed!

The Joseph “son” of Caiaphas Ossuary. In the Israel Museum. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.  See below for the inscription.

The ossuary has a slightly curved cover that is etched with designs.  The front of the soft limestone ossuary is beautifully carved with rosette and leaf designs.  Note the red paint is still visible in some places.

The bones of six(!) individuals were found inside of the ossuary: 2 infants, 1 child, 1 teen aged boy, 1 adult woman, and a man—approximately sixty years old.

View of one of the Aramaic inscriptions on the Ossuary [bone box] of “Joseph ‘son’ of Caiaphas.”

On one of the short sides, and on the back, the name Caiaphas had been etched into the stone with a nail—see the  image.  It is evident that the ossuary was prepared in a workshop, but then when the bones were placed inside the name was inelegantly scratched on to it.

The Aramaic inscription on this side of the ossuary reads “Joseph the ‘son’ of Caiaphas.”

 יהוסף בר קפא 

Most scholars believe that the Caiaphas mentioned here is the same one that is mentioned six times in the New Testament as well as in Josephus.  Ronny Reich argues that the person was named “Joseph” and had a nickname “Caiaphas.”  Caiaphas was High Priest from 18 to 36 CE and was the one before whom Jesus was tried and is famously quoted in John 12:50

For an accessible discussion of the name Caiaphas, plus others appearing on ossuaries, see Reich, Ronny. “Caiaphas name Inscribed on Bone Boxes.” Biblical Archaeology Review 18, no. 5 (September/October 1992): 38–44.

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 A.D.

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

 

Jerusalem: The Tomb of Jesus (short video)

I have seen a number of news articles describing the newly refurbished Tomb of Jesus that is within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  Todd Bolen has summarized what appears to be the most complete article on the topic from The Daily Mail—with 14 clear photos (the original article is worth reading/viewing)

The Refurbished Tomb — From The Daily Mail and AP

I was wondering where the “what is believed to be the original stone wall of the burial cave inside the renovated Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre” was located.  The following 0:41 second video shows that it is on the far (west) wall of the burial chamber (see 0:30 following).

To view 11 photos of this structure before the refurbishing Click Here.