Category Archives: Jesus

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.

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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.

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.

Nazareth: The House of Jesus?

Most visitors to Nazareth will visit the beautiful Church of the Annunciation with its wonderful murals of the Virgin and Child.  Nearby, is the Sisters of Nazareth Convent that is frequently visited by Catholic Pilgrim Group.  In the “lower level” of the Sisters of Nazareth are the remains of archaeological excavations including an area that Ken Dark argues was the house of the family of Jesus in Nazareth!

View of the remains of a first century house that is preserved in the lower level of the Convent. Ken Dark believes that this might be the house in which Jesus grew up. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

“. . . the rock–cut doorway of the first–century house . . . .  The combination of rock–built construction and quarried–rock construction can be seen clearly.  The door opens to the ‘Chambre Obscure,’ another part of the original house structure partly cut out of the natural rock.  The rock overhang in the corner is naturally occurring and was likely left in its current form to support the roof.  In front of the doorway, a fragment of the original floor survives.” (Dark, p. 56)

Another view of the remains of a first century house that is preserved in the lower level of the Convent. Ken Dark believes that this might be the house in which Jesus grew up. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The east side [on right side of image] of the structure originally had rock built walls, as this part of the house was built away from the naturally occurring rock cave.  The visible wall was rebuilt in the Crusader period but may incorporate remains of the first–century A.D. wall. (Dark, p. 56)

View of the entrance to the Sisters of Nazareth Convent where first century, Byzantine, and Crusader remains have been found and preserved in the lower level of the Convent.

Dark, Ken. “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” Biblical Archaeological Review 41, no. 2 (March/April 2015): 54–63, 72.

CNN 6 Part Mini Series on Jesus

Beginning tonight, Sunday, 26 February, CNN will be showing a Mini Series on Jesus.  It begins at 7:00 PM Central Time.  Below is a 2:00 minute trailer.

I see that Ben Witherington III is one of the scholars who contributed to this series.

The Transfiguration — A Fresco — Is the Apostle Peter “Flipping Out?”

Normally when tour groups visit Berea they visit the “bema” that commemorates Paul’s preaching in the city (Acts 17:10–15).  However a few years ago we had the chance to visit one of the 50 Byzantine Churches in the city—The Church of the Resurrection of Christ in which there are some well–preserved frescoes from the 14th century.

transfiguration01

A view of the Transfiguration of Jesus.   Below Jesus are three frightened disciples—from left to right, one recoiling in fear, and the center one prostrate facing away from Jesus, and on the right one doing a back flip(!) with his mouth covered! Could this be Peter who was “embarrassed” by what he had just said?  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A detailed view of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the center of the image above the roundels on the south wall of the 14th century Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Berea/Verroia.  Below Jesus are three frightened disciples—from left to right, one recoiling in fear, and the center one prostrate facing away from Jesus, and on the lower right one doing a back flip(!) with his mouth covered! Could this be Peter who was in awe and “embarrassed” by what he had just said?

 Matt 17:4 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”  6 And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were much afraid.

Mark 9: 5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.

Luke 9:33 And it came about, as these were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not realizing what he was saying

bereachurch

The Church of the Resurrection of the Christ in Verria/Verroia.

There are over 50 Byzantine Churches in Verria/Verroia.  In the Church of the Resurrection of Christ there are some very well preserved frescoes by George Kaliergis, one of the great painters of the 14th century.

In the church there is also a very unusual is the fresco of Jesus climbing a ladder to be crucified on the cross!

jesusladder

A detailed view of the very unusual depiction of Jesus climbing a ladder ON TO the cross! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Usually, when a ladder appears with the cross it depicts the removal of Jesus’ body from the cross with Adam’s skull below the cross—as here.  To the right of this image is Jesus being placed in a sarcophagus (tomb).

To view 6 free images of frescoes in this church Click Here.