The Jerusalem tomb of Jesus restored: Historic shrine that houses the cave where it is said Christ was buried on a slab and rose to heaven to reopen
The tomb of Jesus has been resurrected to its former glory.
Just in time for Easter, a Greek restoration team has completed a historic renovation of the Edicule, the shrine that tradition says houses the cave where Jesus was buried and rose to heaven.
Restorers have now cut a small window from the shrine's marble walls for pilgrims to see - for the first time - the bare stone of the ancient burial cave.
Gone is the unsightly iron cage built around the shrine by British authorities in 1947 to shore up the walls and the black soot on the shrine's stone façade from decades of pilgrims lighting candles.
And gone are fears about the stability of the old shrine, which hadn't been restored in more than 200 years.
'If this intervention hadn't happened now, there is a very great risk that there could have been a collapse,' Bonnie Burnham of the World Monuments Fund said.
'This is a complete transformation of the monument.'
The fund provided an initial $1.4 million for the $4 million restoration, thanks to a donation by the widow of the founder of Atlantic Records.
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also chipped in about 150,000 euros each, along with other private and church donations, Burnham said.
The limestone and marble structure stands at the center of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, one of the world's oldest churches - a 12th-century building standing on 4th-century remains.
The shrine needed urgent attention after years of exposure to environmental factors like water, humidity and candle smoke.
Three main Christian denominations jealously guard separate sections of the church, but they put aside their longstanding religious rivalries to give their blessing for the restoration.
A restoration team from the National Technical University of Athens stripped the stone slabs from the shrine's façade and patched up the internal masonry of the shrine, injecting it with tubes of grout for reinforcement.
Each stone slab was cleaned of candle soot and pigeon droppings, then put back in place.
Titanium bolts were inserted into the structure for reinforcement, and frescos and the shrine's painted dome were given a face-lift.
The restorers also made some discoveries.
On Oct. 26, the team entered the inner sanctum of the shrine, the burial chamber of Jesus, and temporarily slid open an old marble layer covering the bedrock where Jesus' body is said to have been placed.
Below the outer marble layer was a white rose marble slab engraved with a cross, which the team dated to the late Crusader period of the 14th century.
The restorers have cut a small window from the shrine's marble walls for pilgrims to see - for the first time - the bare stone of the ancient burial cave.
'It seems we are in front of levels of history that are validated,' said Antonia Moropoulou, who supervised the renovation.
The team is dismantling its worksite ahead of a ceremony Wednesday to mark the completion of the renovation, in the presence of two representatives of dueling Christian denominations - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, and a representative of Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church.
Concern for the church's stability has brought Christian denominations together, and Moropoulou hopes it ushers in a 'new era' of cooperation.
She hopes the communities will make some changes in longstanding customs inside the church, like pilgrims smashing their lit candles onto the Edicule's stone wall, so the structure is not compromised.
Now, money is being raised for another round of restorations - consolidating drainage and sewage pipes underground, around the tomb, to stabilize its foundations - so renovations won't be needed for years to come.
'Here is a monument that has been worshipped through the centuries, and will be worshipped forever,' said Moropoulou.
Mysterious 60,000 ton stone 'grave marker' at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee baffles archaeologists
4,000-year-old cairn found at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee - where Jesus gave his sermons. Structure is ten meters high, 70 meters wide and 200 meters under water. A 60,000 tonne stone structure has been discovered at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The giant cone-shaped cairn, which is made of basalt cobbles and boulders up to one meter long, has left archaeologists baffled as to its purpose and age. Heavier than most modern-day warships, the structure is nearly ten meters high and 70 meters wide.
The structure, which is more than 200 meters below the surface of the water, is made from rocks stacked on top of each other
A 60,000 tonne stone structure has been discovered at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee in Israel
THE SEA OF GALILEE
The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel - it is approximately 13 miles long and eight miles wide. It has a total area of 64 square miles and a depth of 141 feet. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and it is fed partly by underground springs and partly by the Jordan River. It was first discovered in 2003 by researchers carrying out a sonar survey of the sea, but divers have now been down to investigate further and have published their findings in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. They believe that the structure, which is more than 200 meters below the surface of the water, is made from rocks stacked on top of each other which could indicate that it was design to mark a grave. It is thought that it was made on land and then submerged as sea levels rose. However, there is also a theory that it could have been created below the water as a fish nursery -similar smaller structures have been discovered in the past which were built for that purpose. The researchers will now carry out underwater archaeological excavations in an attempt to find associated artefacts that could tell them more about it.
Researcher Dr Yitzhak Paz, of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University, told LiveScience that it could date back more than 4,000 years making it an Early Bronze Age artefact.
The giant cone-shaped cairn, which is made of basalt cobbles and boulders up to one meter long, has left archaeologists baffled as to its purpose and age (the map shows where it was found)
He said: ‘The most logical possibility is that it belongs to the third millennium B.C., because there are other megalithic phenomena [from that time] that are found close by.’
If it does prove to be from this era, then it could be connected to the city Bet Yerah which was one of the biggest sites in the area at the time.
THE LOCATION OF JESUS'S SERMONS
Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish, in the Sea of Galilee, by Raphael. Many of Jesus's sermons were preached on the shores of the lake at a time when there was a string of villages around the water's edge. In the time of the Byzantine Empire the lake's significance in Jesus's life made it a major destination for Christian pilgrims. Its importance declined when the Byzantines lost control and the area came under the control of the Umayyad Caliphate. At this time all of the major cities in the area, other than Tiberias, were abandoned. In 1187, Saladin defeated the armies of the Crusades at the Battle of Hattin, largely because he was able to cut the Crusaders off from the valuable fresh water of the Sea of Galilee
Dr Paz told LiveScience: ‘It's the most powerful and fortified town in this region and, as a matter of fact, in the whole of Israel.’
While details about the structure remain sketchy, the researchers are confident that it was created by a well-organised society and that it’s building was a community effort.
Sonar signatures revealed the scale of the find
Heavier than most modern-day warships, the structure is nearly ten meters high and 70 meters wide
Is this the first ever portrait of Jesus? The incredible story of 70 ancient books hidden in a cave for nearly 2,000 years
The image is eerily familiar: a bearded young man with flowing curly hair. After lying for nearly 2,000 years hidden in a cave in the Holy Land, the fine detail is difficult to determine. But in a certain light it is not difficult to interpret the marks around the figure’s brow as a crown of thorns.
The extraordinary picture of one of the recently discovered hoard of up to 70 lead codices – booklets – found in a cave in the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee is one reason Bible historians are clamouring to get their hands on the ancient artefacts.
If genuine, this could be the first-ever portrait of Jesus Christ, possibly even created in the lifetime of those who knew him.
Discovery: The impression on this booklet cover shows what could be the earliest image of Christ
The tiny booklet, a little smaller than a modern credit card, is sealed on all sides and has a three-dimensional representation of a human head on both the front and the back. One appears to have a beard and the other is without. Even the maker’s fingerprint can be seen in the lead impression. Beneath both figures is a line of as-yet undeciphered text in an ancient Hebrew script.
Astonishingly, one of the booklets appears to bear the words ‘Saviour of Israel’ – one of the few phrases so far translated.
The owner of the cache is Bedouin trucker Hassan Saida who lives in the Arab village of Umm al-Ghanim, Shibli. He has refused to sell the booklets but two samples were sent to England and Switzerland for testing.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed that the artefacts were originally found in a cave in the village of Saham in Jordan, close to where Israel, Jordan and Syria’s Golan Heights converge – and within three miles of the Israeli spa and hot springs of Hamat Gader, a religious site for thousands of years.
Precious: This booklet shows what scholars believe to be the map of Christian Jerusalem
According to sources in Saham, they were discovered five years ago after a flash flood scoured away the dusty mountain soil to reveal what looked like a large capstone. When this was levered aside, a cave was discovered with a large number of small niches set into the walls. Each of these niches contained a booklet. There were also other objects, including some metal plates and rolled lead scrolls.
The area is renowned as an age-old refuge for ancient Jews fleeing the bloody aftermath of a series of revolts against the Roman empire in the First and early Second Century AD.
The cave is less than 100 miles from Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and around 60 miles from Masada, scene of the last stand and mass suicide of an extremist Zealot sect in the face of a Roman Army siege in 72AD – two years after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
It is also close to caves that have been used as sanctuaries by refugees from the Bar Kokhba revolt, the third and final Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire in 132AD.
The era is of critical importance to Biblical scholars because it encompasses the political, social and religious upheavals that led to the split between Judaism and Christianity.
It ended with the triumph of Christianity over its rivals as the dominant new religion first for dissident Jews and then for Gentiles.
In this context, it is important that while the Dead Sea Scrolls are rolled pieces of parchment or papyrus containing the earliest-known versions of books of the Hebrew Bible and other texts – the traditional Jewish format for written work – these lead discoveries are in book, or codex, form which has long been associated with the rise of Christianity.
The codices seen by The Mail on Sunday range in size from smaller than 3in x 2in to around 10in x 8in. They each contain an average of eight or nine pages and appear to be cast, rather than inscribed, with images on both sides and bound with lead-ring bindings. Many of them were severely corroded when they were first discovered, although it has been possible to open them with care.
The codex showing what may be the face of Christ is not thought to have been opened yet. Some codices show signs of having been buried – although this could simply be the detritus resulting from lying in a cave for hundreds of years.
Unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls, the lead codices appear to consist of stylised pictures, rather than text, with a relatively small amount of script that appears to be in a Phoenician language, although the exact dialect is yet to be identified. At the time these codices were created, the Holy Land was populated by different sects, including Essenes, Samaritans, Pharisees, Sadducees, Dositheans and Nazoreans.
One lucky owner: Hassan Saida with some of the artefacts that he says he inherited
There was no common script and considerable intermingling of language and writing systems between groups. Which means it could take years of detailed scholarship to accurately interpret the codices.
Many of the books are sealed on all sides with metal rings, suggesting they were not intended to be opened. This could be because they contained holy words which should never be read. For example, the early Jews fiercely protected the sacred name of God, which was only ever uttered by The High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem at Yom Kippur.
The original pronunciation has been lost, but has been transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH – known as the Tetragrammaton – and is usually translated either as Yahweh or Jehovah. A sealed book containing sacred information was mentioned in the biblical Book of Revelations.
If genuine, it seems clear that these books were, in fact, created by an early Messianic Jewish sect, perhaps closely allied to the early Christian church and that these images represent Christ himself.
One plate has been interpreted as a schematic map of Christian Jerusalem showing the Roman crosses outside the city walls. At the top can be seen a ladder-type shape. This is thought to be a balustrade mentioned in a biblical description of the Temple in Jerusalem. Below that are three groups of brickwork, to represent the walls of the city.
A fruiting palm tree suggests the House of David and there are three or four shapes that appear to be horizontal lines intersected by short vertical lines from below. These are the T-shaped crosses believed to have been used in biblical times (the familiar crucifix shape is said to date from the 4th Century). The star shapes in a long line represent the House of Jesse – and then the pattern is repeated.
This interpretation of the books as proto-Christian artefacts is supported by Margaret Barker, former president of the Society for Old Testament Study and one of Britain’s leading experts on early Christianity. The fact that a figure is portrayed would appear to rule out these codices being connected to mainstream Judaism of the time, where portrayal of lifelike figures was strictly forbidden because it was considered idolatry.
If genuine, it seems clear that these books were, in fact, created by an early Messianic Jewish sect, perhaps closely allied to the early Christian church and that these images represent Christ himself. However another theory, put forward by Robert Feather – an authority on The Dead Sea Scrolls and author of The Mystery Of The Copper Scroll Of Qumran – is that these books are connected to the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132-136AD, the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judea Province and the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars.
The revolt established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for two years before the Roman army finally crushed it, with the result that all Jews, including the early Christians, were barred from Jerusalem.
Wonder: The cave in Jordan where the metal books were discovered
The followers of Simon Bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, acclaimed him as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel. Although Jewish Christians hailed Jesus as the Messiah and did not support Bar Kokhba, they were barred from Jerusalem along with the rest of the Jews. The war and its aftermath helped differentiate Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism.
The spiritual leader of the revolt was Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who laid the foundations for a mystical form of Judaism known today as Kabbalah, which is followed by Madonna, Britney Spears and others. Yochai hid in a cave for 13 years and wrote a secret commentary on the Bible, the Zohar, which evolved into the teaching of Kabbalah. Feather is convinced that some of the text on
the codices carry the name of Rabbi Bar Yochai.
Feather says that all known codices prior to around 400AD were made of parchment and that cast lead is unknown. They were clearly designed to exist for ever and never to be opened. The use of metal as a writing material at this time is well documented – however the text was always inscribed, not cast.
The books are currently in the possession of Hassan Saida, in Umm al-Ghanim, Shibli, which is at the foot of Mount Tabor, 18 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.
Saida owns and operates a haulage business consisting of at least nine large flatbed lorries. He is regarded in his village as a wealthy man. His grandfather settled there more than 50 years ago and his mother and four brothers still live there.
Saida, who is in his mid-30s and married with five or six children, claims he inherited the booklets from his grandfather.
However, The Mail on Sunday has learned of claims that they first came to light five years ago when his Bedouin business partner met a villager in Jordan who said he had some ancient artefacts to sell.
The business partner was apparently shown two very small metal books. He brought them back over the border to Israel and Saida became entranced by them, coming to believe they had magical properties and that it was his fate to collect as many as he could.
The arid, mountainous area where they were found is both militarily sensitive and agriculturally poor. The local people have for generations supplemented their income by hoarding and selling archeological artefacts found in caves.
More of the booklets were clandestinely smuggled across the border by drivers working for Saida – the smaller ones were typically worn openly as charms hanging from chains around the drivers’ necks, the larger concealed behind car and lorry dashboards.
In order to finance the purchase of booklets from the Jordanians who had initially discovered them, Saida allegedly went into partnership with a number of other people – including his lawyer from Haifa, Israel.
Saida’s motives are complex. He constantly studies the booklets, but does not take particularly good care of them, opening some and coating them in olive oil in order to ‘preserve’ them.
Masterpiece: Later versions of Christ, including Leonardo Da Vinci's interpretation in his fresco The Last Supper, give Jesus similar characteristics
The artefacts have been seen by multi-millionaire collectors of antiquities in both Israel and Europe – and Saida has been offered tens of millions of pounds for just a few of them, but has declined to sell any.
When he first obtained the booklets, he had no idea what they were or even if they were genuine.
He contacted Sotheby’s in London in 2007 in an attempt to find an expert opinion, but the famous auction house declined to handle them because their provenance was not known.
Soon afterwards, the British author and journalist Nick Fielding was approached by a Palestinian woman who was concerned that the booklets would be sold on the black market. Fielding was asked to approach the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and other places.
Fielding travelled to Israel and obtained a letter from the Israeli Antiquities Authority saying it had no objection to their being taken abroad for analysis. It appears the IAA believed the booklets were forgeries on the basis that nothing like them had been discovered before.
None of the museums wanted to get involved, again because of concerns over provenance. Fielding was then asked to approach experts to find out what they were and if they were genuine. David Feather, who is a metallurgist as well as an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, recommended submitting the samples for metal analysis at Oxford University.
The work was carried out by Dr Peter Northover, head of the Materials Science-based Archaeology Group and a world expert on the analysis of ancient metal materials.
The samples were then sent to the Swiss National Materials Laboratory at Dubendorf, Switzerland. The results show they were consistent with ancient (Roman) period lead production and that the metal was smelted from ore that originated in the Mediterranean. Dr Northover also said that corrosion on the books was unlikely to be modern.
Meanwhile, the politics surrounding the provenance of the books is intensifying. Most professional scholars are cautious pending further research and point to the ongoing forgery trial in Israel over the ancient limestone ossuary purporting to have housed the bones of James, brother of Jesus.
The Israeli archeological establishment has sought to defuse problems of provenance by casting doubt on the authenticity of the codices, but Jordan says it will ‘exert all efforts at every level’ to get the relics repatriated.
The debate over whether these booklets are genuine and, if so, whether they represent the first known artefacts of the early Christian church or the first stirrings of mystical Kabbalah will undoubtedly rage for years to come.
The director of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, has few doubts. He believes they may indeed have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.
‘They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,’ he says. ‘The initial information is very encouraging and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery – maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.’
If he is right, then we really may be gazing at the face of Jesus Christ.
Sea of Galilee
Daniel's 70th week, the seven-year tribulation (or the Time of Jacob's Trouble) began in 66 A.D. when General Vespasian of Rome, under orders from Nero Caesar, invaded Judea. After the death of Nero, Vespasian went on to become emperor of Rome in 68 A.D. and his son, Titus, took over the Judean campaign against the rebelling Jews. Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. and then went through the rest of Judea killing all Jewish rebels until finally ariving Masada in 73 A.D. where he destroyed the last rebel stronghold. Titus then returned to Rome and became emperor himself on June 24th, 79 A.D. upon the death of his father Vespasian.Sea of Galilee, Kibbutz Ginosar Sea of Galilee, View on Kibbutz Ginosar
The destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish temple was, of course, all prdicted by both the Prophet Daniel and by Jesus Christ.
Here are just a couple of Jesus Christ's prophecies concerning these things:
"Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, [Jesus] said, "These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down."" -Luke 21:5-6
""But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."" -Luke 21:20-24
Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee (Sea of Christ), 23 kinds of fish, 13 miles long, Jordon river flows in North end from Mt. Hermon. 150’ deep, 600’ below sea level. Harod Antipus ruled Galilee during Christ’s ministry and he hated Jesus. Tiberius in the background facing SW. Tiberius built 20AD when Christ was 25. It was made capital of Galilee by Harod Antipus. Tiberius, during Christ’s time was inhabited by Helenistic Jews (Jews inclined towards foreigners (Gentiles) and their pagen rituals. Tiberius was built on Mt. Arbel and was deemed unclean by Jews because it was built on top of tombs. This is why Jesus did not settle here at first.
Sea of Galilee. Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes
Sea of Galilee. Wild wheat by the Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee. Boatman demonstrates fishing technique on the Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee. Fishing net hits the water of the Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee. Swimming in the Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee. Pilgrims paddle in the Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee. Fertile land by the Sea of Galilee
Mount Sinai. Pilgrims and tourists ascending Mount Sinai
Sea of Galilee. Sower's Cove or the Bay of the Parables
Found: The bathtub that could have belonged to a priest who condemned JESUS to death and a town where Christ rested after the miraculous feeding of the 5,000
Dead sea scrolls go up for sale as family sells off fragments it secretly stashed in a Swiss safety deposit box
- Palestinian family who originally sold them admits if kept fragments in a Swiss safe deposit box
- Scraps are postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank
WHAT ARE THE SCROLLS?
In 2009 and 2010, the Green family, evangelical Christians in Oklahoma City and owners of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts retailer, bought 12 fragments for its private collection, the world's largest of rare biblical manuscripts.
Kando would not say how many more fragments are in his family's collection.
WHERE ARE THE SCROLLS?
- Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum (Seven of the most complete Dead Sea Scrolls)
- France National Library (377 scroll fragments representing 18 scrolls)
- Amman Museum (fragments of 20 scrolls, including the Copper Scroll)
- Heidelberg University in Germany (four phylactery pieces)
- Franciscan private museum in Jerusalem's Old City (two fragments)
- Terre Sainte Bible Museum in Paris (two scroll fragments)
- University of Chicago (one fragment)
- McGill University in Montreal (a few fragments)
- St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, N.J. (fragments of three scrolls)
- Schoyen Collection in Oslo, Norway (115 fragments)
- Asuza Pacific University in Asuza, Ca. (5 fragments)
- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tx. (3 fragments)
- Green Collection in Oklahoma City, Ok. (12 fragments)
- Private collection of Spaer family, Jerusalem (2 fragments)
- Private collection of Kando family in Bethlehem, West Bank (the family does not reveal how many fragments remain in its collection, but estimates range between 20 and 40.)
In 2005, Israeli police raided the home of Hanan Eshel, an Israeli scrolls scholar, after he facilitated the purchase of scroll fragments from a Bedouin man who said he discovered them in a cave a year before.