Category Archives: Tomb

Tombs in the Kidron — The Arrival of the Greeks!

When Christian tour groups are in Jerusalem usually they will visit the Mount of Olives and some of the churches on it.  However, they often will not have an opportunity to visit or reflect upon the monumental tombs from the Second Temple Period that are located in the Kidron Valley—on the lower, eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley with Monumental Second Temple Tombs

Often a guide will refer to these tombs from a moving bus as being in existence in Jesus’ day and some reference will be made to Matthew 23:27–32—Jesus’ condemnation of the hypocrisy (whitewashed tombs) of some of the leadership of his day.

However, it seems to me that these monuments deserve more than just a glance from a moving tour bus.  If one stops in the vicinity (see below) it is really a great place to share with your group how Greek influence in the land was introduced by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.) and increased during the days of the Seleucids

So-called “Pillar of Absalom” with Syrian Style “Hat”

Upper Portion of the “Pillar of Absalom”

(Seleucids: Greeks ruling from Syria; note the “Syrian style hat” on the “Pillar of Absalom”) and Ptolemies

Tomb of Zechariah” with Pyramid Shaped top and Ionic Capitals

(Ptolemies: Greeks ruling from Egypt; note the pyramid shaped top of the “Tomb of Zechariah”).  Greek culture in general had certainly affected the lifestyle of the Jewish Jerusalem elites that probably had built these tombs — note the Ionic columns on “Absalom’s Pillar” and the “Tomb of Zechariah” and the Doric columns on the “Tomb of the sons of Hezir“).

By the days of Jesus the arrival of Greco–Roman culture  had rewritten, and was continuing in the process of rewriting, the cultural landscape of the peoples of the land.  All of this may seem to be a bit “technical” for a typical tour group but what better place to visually introduce your group to the fact and importance of  the arrival of Greco–Roman culture than here?

This rewriting of the cultural/religious landscape certainly had a very significant impact on the outlook of the people living in the land—including the Maccabees/Hasmoneans, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, Herodians, etc.  How did these various groups deal with these powerful external influences?  Adopt the new culture?  Reject it?  Fight against it?  I believe that these are powerful questions that should be taken into account not only when discussing Second Temple Judaism, but also when expounding upon the ministry and message of Jesus.

#2 = a wonderful seating area to view the tombs, Kidron Valley, and Mount of Olives
#1 = a view down on Eilat Mazar’s Excavations (Travel Tip #8)

One great place to view and discuss the monuments and their significance is from viewing point #2 above (as a bonus the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount towers over you, and the famous “seam” in the eastern wall is clearly visible).  Another way is to actually visit the monuments.  A walk from the Pool of Siloam north in the Kidron Valley will take you to these tombs.  This walk provides an interesting opportunity to get a good “feel” for the Kidron, the location of the Gihon Spring, the City of David, and the Arab neighborhood of Silwan (check to see if local conditions are “calm” before taking this walk, and I do not suggest walking alone).

Click Here to view 12 high resolution images of these monuments in the Kidron Valley.

The Burial Bench of Jesus

See the link near the end of this post!

On Thursday The Times of Israel published an article on the uncovering of the burial bench of Jesus in the  Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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The Marble Slab on the Burial Bench of Jesus — Before it was removed! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

One of their reporters had gotten into the tomb and there was a unique photo of the gray slab that was below the well-known marble slab—among others.

I went to the same article today (29 October, 2016, 5:00 PM Israel time) and the article had been scrubbed of these unique photos and commentary had been replaced by the National Geographic photos and more generic commentary.  It appears that the article had been updated on 28 Oct at 2:16 AM.  (I wonder if this was at the National Geographic’s “request?”)

BUT here is the link to the original article.  The link was working at the time I posted this blog.  See the last three photos near the end of this article.

For more images of this unique structure, prior to renovation see here.

Jerusalem — The Neighborhood of Silwan — The Royal Steward’s Tomb

One of the least visited places in Jerusalem is the portion of the village of Silwan that is located on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives—opposite the “City of David.”

The village itself is built over 50 tombs from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. This necropolis – “city of the dead”  – was investigated by David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay between 1968 and 1971. Travel to this area is very difficult (= impossible) for the inhabitants of Silwan are normally very hostile to outsiders.

The two most famous tombs from this necropolis are “the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter” and the “Tomb of the Royal Steward.”

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Tomb of the “Royal Steward” located in the Village of Silwan
The two inscriptions have been carved out and taken to the British Museum
Note the door on the left — this important tomb was used as a storage room at the time that this picture was taken

Unfortunately the second most important tomb from the First Temple Period is located in this village.  This tomb was discovered by Clermont-Ganneau in 1870. It had two Hebrew inscriptions – one above the door and the other to the right of it. Both were carved out and sent to the British Museum where they are still housed.  The largest inscription was over the door (note the large “gash” there).

IJOTIT07 Nahman Avigad translated the larger inscription as “This is [the sepulcher of . . . ] yahu who is over the house. There is no silver and no gold here but [his bones] and the bones of his amah with him. Cursed be the man who will open this!”

In the text the phrase “who is over the house” refers to a very important personage in the Judean government (about second to the king). His name, according to the inscription, was “. . . yahu.” Unfortunately the first part of his name is missing but many believe that the person who was buried here was none other than Shebna [yahu], the Royal Steward, whom Isaiah condemned for ‘hewing a tomb for himself on high’ – SEE Isaiah 22:15-17!

The amah (a female) mentioned in the inscription may also have been a very high functionary in the Judean government.

For a popular description of this necropolis see: Shanks, Hershel. “The Tombs of Silwan.” Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 20, no. 3 (May/June, 1994):38-51

You also may be interested in viewing the First Temple Tombs found on the grounds of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem – Click Here.

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

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.

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.

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!

Tomb of Jesus to Be Revealed

I cannot believe that this is going to happen in my lifetime!  The Christian communities that control the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have agreed to take apart the aedicule that encases what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus—beginning in April 2016!

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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, from the time of Constantine that have enshrined the tomb of Jesus. It was constructed after the great fire of 1808 and was completed in 1810.

The New York Times has an extensive article on this topic that informs this post.

exterior

View looking south at the northern wall of the monument that encases the Tomb of Jesus. The entrance to the tomb is from the left side of the image—behind the three large candelabra. Note the iron casing that prevents the structure from collapsing—that were put in place in 1947.

The idea is to peel away hundreds of years of the shrine’s history, clean it and put it back together.

They will take apart, slab by slab, the ornate marble shell built in 1810, during Ottoman rule of Jerusalem. The conservationists will then tackle the remains of the 12th-century Crusader shrine that lies underneath. That was erected after the Shiite ruler of Egypt, al-Hakim, destroyed the first Aedicule in 1009. The original was built by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, the Christian Roman emperor who did much to elevate the status of Christianity through the empire.

Please see the link to the NY Times article for details.

For more images of this shrine and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Click Here.

HT: Jim Monson of Biblical Backgrounds

The Best Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel — Khirbet Midras

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View Looking East at the Entrance to the First Century A.D. Tomb

View looking east at the entrance to the tomb. The rolling stone was 6 ft. [1.8 m.] in diameter and 1.3 ft [0.4 m.] thick. It was placed between two walls, each built of hewn stone. When discovered, it still rolled in its trough!

The tomb itself was in use during the Roman Period — up until A.D. 135.

In my estimation, it was the best example of a rolling stone tomb in the country of Israel. It seems to illustrate well passages from the Gospels which speak of Jesus’ tomb as being closed by a rolling stone. See especially Matthew 27:57-66; 28:1-2; Mark 15:42–47; 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–2, 10–11; and John 20:1, 11–18.

MidrasMap3Horvat Midras (Hebrew) or Khirbet Durusiya (Arabic) is located 19 mi. [30 km.] southwest of Jerusalem in the Shephelah. The ancient remains are spread over hundreds of dunams in the area. The site dates to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

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View of the Courtyard of the “Rolling Stone Tomb” at Khirbet Midras—prior to its destruction

In 1976 part of the cemetery was excavated. Several tombs were uncovered, including, in my estimation, THE BEST ROLLING STONE TOMB in the country. Unfortunately in the late 1990’s the tomb site was totally destroyed by vandals!#%$@!!

BUT it has been reconstructed and is now visible in the Adullam Park!

To view 3 additional image of the tomb Click Here.

For images of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher see: Calvary and Tomb.

Click to see images of Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb.