Friday, October 28, 2016

Tomb of Jesus Uncovered

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest sites in Christianity. According to tradition, the church is built at the site of Jesus' tomb, in which he was placed following his crucifixion and where he rose from the dead. Inside the church is a tiny building called the Edicule, which is constructed above a cave believed to be the original tomb.

The Edicule has been severely damaged over the years, and a restoration project is now underway. As part of that project, the restoration team will be opening the original cave in order to make sure that the foundation work on the structure is sound. While they are down there, they are seeking to uncover the actual slab on which Jesus' body supposedly was placed.

Future pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will be able to glimpse what is, according to tradition, the tomb of Jesus. It’s all thanks to a team from the National Technical University of Athens, which is undertaking critical repair work on the site. The team started excavating the tomb on Wednesday, in an effort to uncover the original limestone slab on which Jesus was supposedly laid.

The project is, according to National Geographic, a $4 million effort to restore the Edicule, the building that sits atop the grave believed to have held the body of Jesus. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid,” said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the restoration project.

The history of the Edicule goes all the way back to Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. After conversion, he reportedly dispatched his mother, Helena, to Jerusalem, where locals pointed out a cave believed to be the site where Jesus lay for three days after his crucifixion. According to Christian tradition, he was resurrected after that time and later ascended.

While I'm not going to re-hash the whole historical Jesus argument here, it is true that we really don't know if this was the original site where Jesus himself (or whoever historically inspired the Gospels) was buried. What we do know is that by the third century, this was where early Christians believed that the resurrection took place. That was still three hundred years after Jesus was allegedly put to death, so the attribution might have been folklore even then.

Still, it will be interesting to see what archaeological knowledge can be gleaned from the site, which has been hidden for centuries. Perhaps modern science will be able to shed some light on who was buried there two thousand years ago, and whether or not anything miraculous might have taken place at that time.

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