The Tomb of Jesus

by Victor Hoagland, C.P.

Tomb illustration

A good number of tombs from the time of Jesus have been discovered around Jerusalem, and so burial practices of the day can be described with some accuracy. It was customary then to place the body, washed, anointed with oils and spices and wrapped in a shroud, in the family tomb where it was placed either in a shaft cut into the rock, or on a shelf cut laterally into the rock (see illustration above). Then, after the flesh had decayed, the bones were gathered and placed in a stone box called an ossuary.

The entrance to the tomb was often sealed with a heavy rolling stone to prevent animals from invading the tomb.

According to the gospels, Jesus' body was buried hurriedly before the Sabbath by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb close by the place of crucifixion. Some women followers of Jesus, knowing where he was buried, were intent on returning after the Sabbath to complete the burial process. When they did, they found the tomb empty.

The tomb of Christ, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Tradition points to the limestone shelf, covered with a marble shelf, as the resting place of the body of Jesus. For more than 1600 years, Christians have revered this as a sacred place of pilgrimage.




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