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Holman Bible Dictionary

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According to the New Testament accounts, the tomb of Jesus was located in a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified (John 19:41) outside the city walls of Jerusalem (John 19:20). It was a “new tomb” which had been “hewn out in the rock” by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:60; compare Luke 23:50-56) who had apparently prepared it for his own family's use. It was not uncommon for the well-to-do to prepare such a tomb in advance because of the difficulty of digging graves in the rocky ground around Jerusalem. The tomb was large enough for someone to sit inside (Mark 16:5; compare John 20:11-12) and required that one stoop to look inside and enter (John 20:5-6,John 20:11; compare Luke 24:12). A great rolling stone sealed the entrance (Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46; Mark 16:3).

This description suggests a typical Jewish tomb of the Herodian period consisting of (1) an antechamber, (2) a slow doorway which could be sealed with a stone (in many cases a rolling stone fitted into a groove or track so that the tomb could be opened and closed by rolling the stone back and forth in front of the doorway), and (3) a passageway leading to a rectangular-shaped tomb chamber. Here the body (having been wrapped in a linen cloth) could be laid lengthwise in either a rectangular, horizontal, oven-shaped shaft driven back into the vertical rock face measuring 78 X 25 X 20 inches or laid on a simple rock shelf cut laterally into the rock with a vaulted arch over it. The sequence of events narrated in the Gospel accounts (especially John 20:5-6) would seem to indicate that Jesus' tomb had this vaulted arch.

The traditional site of the tomb of Jesus is marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which stands over the site of a first-century rock quarry which in Jesus' day was outside the city walls of Jerusalem and in which other typical first century tombs have been discovered. An alternative site known as the “the garden tomb” (adjacent to “Gordon's Calvary”) and containing a tomb of the type common to the Byzantine period (A.D. 324-640) was identified in 1883.

Hulitt Gloer

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'TOMB OF JESUS'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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