|The alleged Tomb of Jesus Christ
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Orthodox Christian on Theology Web:
…contrary to Gary’s assertions, the author (of an article regarding the authenticity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, inside which Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe is the Empty Tomb of Jesus. Read the article here) does provide evidence supporting his claim from a number of sources, direct and indirect (which is how history is done, since we don’t have anything like an exhuastive record). Did Jews of the first century venerate the tombs of prophets? Yes. Was Jesus considered (more than) a prophet by Jewish Christians? Yes. Did Melito of Sardis know of the spot c. 170? Yes. Were there historic sites in 212 for Alexander to see? Yes. Even later for Origen? Yes.
…it wasn’t “just a grave” – it was in the right location (near, but outside the walls, near Golgotha, in a garden), was unfinished, and was empty (and it very likely had identifying graffiti, if it was sufficient to convince the skeptical Eusebius, who was motivated to denigrate the efforts).
Melito of Sardis, nor Alexander, nor Origen said anything about an empty tomb. They only mentioned “holy sites” in Jerusalem. And there is zero mention that graffiti was found in the tomb “discovered” under the pagan temple, only that there might have been graffiti and that this may have helped to convince Eusebius of the veracity of the location.
This is another case of Christians jumping to conclusions with the thinnest of evidence.
Would the tomb have been a holy site?
Would the Empty Tomb have been a holy site? Answer: Absolutely…if it existed!
But that is the million dollar question, isn’t it? Remember, early catholic/orthodox Christians venerated practically anything they believed had to do with Jesus or the apostles. So if a group of Christians living in Jerusalem in the second century said that a particular spot on a street in Jerusalem is where the Apostle Peter sneezed and five people were healed of epilepsy, the spot would have become a “holy site”.
Not good enough. We need a statement from someone in the second or third centuries who states the exact location of the tomb and that it had been regularly venerated since the Resurrection. We don’t have that.
And let’s look at the political background of this situation: At the time of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD the bishop of Jerusalem was a subordinate to the bishop of Caesarea. Macarius was bishop of Jerusalem and Eusebius was bishop of Caesarea. At the Council of Nicea, Macarius got a chance to talk to Emperor Constantine, who was a new convert to the Christian religion. It was Macarius who convinced Constantine to build three great churches in Palestine on the sites of the birth of Christ, the death and burial of Christ, and the ascension of Christ. It was Macarius who told Constantine that tradition had placed the tomb of Jesus underneath Hadrian’s pagan temple. It was Macarius who convinced Constantine to tear down the pagan temple, dig up the foundation, and find this empty tomb.
Eusebius, his boss, bishop of Caesarea, and essentially the ecclesiastical authority over all of Palestine, including Jerusalem, was dubious of Macarius’ claim.
Now, think about that, dear Readers. If all of Christendom, for almost 300 years, knew the location of the Empty Tomb, why would the Bishop of Palestine doubt it’s veracity??? Did Eusebius know that it was simply a tradition, not based on actual historical facts, but on guesses, assumptions, rumors, or hearsay?
To me, this is near absolute proof that the exact location of the Empty Tomb was not a known fact in the first four centuries. So what was it that convinced Eusebius of the veracity of the tomb found under the foundation of the pagan temple? Was it just because the tomb was empty? But wouldn’t there most likely be tombs that were empty if the owners had not yet died and been buried prior to Hadrian filling in the quarry in which the tombs were located?
Was there graffiti on the walls that said, “Here lied Jesus of Nazareth, but he is risen”? We have no evidence that any graffiti was found in this particular tomb, but if it was, why is it no longer there? Who would have erased this incredible evidence???
Or, was the motivation for Eusebius final acceptance of the veracity of this tomb the fact that Constantine was spending a fortune tearing down this pagan temple and excavating the site in hopeful expectation of finding the tomb of his new Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, and, the Emperor’s mother had just arrived from Rome to oversee the excavation and proclaim the discovery of Christ’s tomb?
Answer: We will never know, but I say the evidence favors the latter.