Ever wondered if there’s an ext to know about Jesus’ tomb? climate let archaeology professionals teach you! This blog post is an excerpt native the Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology.

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ARE ALL burial places THE SAME?

According to Jewish practice the body of the deceased was initially laid to rest in the tomb’s inside chamber. First-century tombs characteristically had a small forecourt that led to the interior features of the tomb, including an within chamber with benches situated along the walls, regularly with arcosolia, arched recesses in the wall, a lower elevation pit (for standing inside the tomb), and tunnel-like niches dubbed loculi (Latin) or kokhim (Hebrew).

No two burial places are precisely alike; and also though lock share these common features, together Jerusalem excavator Shimon Gibson has noted, “individualism to be pronounced”. This therefore way we have actually not found, and also should not mean to find, a first-century dig precisely matching the dig of Jesus as defined in the Gospel accounts.

THE rolling STONES

The body of the deceased to be laid out on a stone bench. A heavy rock blocked the tiny entrance door and also was sealed; this thwarted the unwanted entrance the animals and grave robbers. Matthew reports that a “big” (Greek megan) stone was rolled versus (Greek proskulisas) the door the Jesus’ tomb. Later, Matthew recounts just how an angel “rolled back” (Greek apekulisen) this sealing stone from the door (Matt 28:2; cf. Note 16:3–4; Luke 24:2).

However, the picture of a rolling-stone tomb together Jesus’ tomb has actually been questioned due to archaeological study that Jerusalem necropoli. In the vicinity that Jerusalem there space 1,000 or more rock-cut tombs. Israeli excavator Amos Kloner, who has actually examined much more than 900 such tombs, found only 4 tombs dating from the late second Temple period (the time of Jesus) that were closeup of the door by a rolling stone:

the tomb of the Queen Helena that Adiabenethe family members tomb the King Herod that Jerusalemone adjacent Herod’s household Tombanother situated in the upper Kidron Valley

These had actually a carved out slotted groove to one side of the tomb’s enntrance gate made to receive a disk-shaped stone. The family could roll the stone forward in the monitor to covering the entryway that the dig or roll it ago to open up it, allowing for brand-new burials. These rolling stones weighed tons and could not have been relocated by a single person.


Gibson supposes the the stone covering Jesus’ tomb should not have been therefore heavy, due to the fact that he observes both Matthew (27:60) and Mark (15:46) state the Joseph that Arimethea rolling the stone by himself. However, it must not be assumed the these statements mean that Joseph plot alone in the roll of the stone any more than in transferring Jesus’ body to the tomb and wrapping the in a linen shroud (all of i beg your pardon the text claims he did). The organic understanding the this is that Joseph took responsibility for and oversaw this tasks; he did not execute them personally however had them done.

How many world does it take to roll a stone?

The females on the 3rd day ~ the interment who concerned anoint Jesus’ body claimed to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3). These three women, also working together, taken that they to be unable to move the stone.

Gibson also overlooks the clear statement in the following verse (Mark 16:4) the “the stone, i beg your pardon was very large, had been rolling away” (Greek megas sphodra). Even a i in the apocryphal Gospel the Peter says that Pilate sent out Petronius the Centurion with soldiers and also they rolled over there a an excellent stone and laid it against the entrance to the sepulcher (8:31–33).

CORK-SHAPED stone USED come PLUG enntrance gate TO usual TOMBS


The rare rolling-stone burial places were reserved for royal or well-off families and also not the kind utilized by mean Jewish families. Kloner calculates that around 98% that stones offered to close tombs in Jesus’ day were square block stones. These were an easy slabs shaped something like a bolt v one end designed to administer a near fit for the tiny opening developing the doorway of the tomb. The larger remainder of the rock had a flange so it would certainly rest against the outside surface that the tomb. These rock “plugs” had actually the distinct name golal in Hebrew. Regularly a pour it until it is full of pebbles or mortar would certainly be included to prevent the entrance of small vermin and also insects.

Evidence because that a Square Stone

Therefore, because these are the much more common kind of sealing tombs and also the disk-shaped prevent stones space rare, the would have been impressive for Jesus’ tomb to it is in so sealed. This led excavator Amos Kloner, follow to Megan Souter, to argue that the Gospel references to “rolling away” a stone from the enntrance gate to a tomb was a misunderstanding the the normal technique of sealing a tomb due to the fact that square stones carry out not “roll.” This may be true that the average person in Judea and also Jerusalem, yet Joseph the Arimathea shows up to be a wealthy and also influential person in the brand-new Testament.


Evidence for a ring Stone

However, metropolitan C. Von Wahlde analyzed the usage of the Greek verb kuliō (“to roll”) in the Synpotic Gospels. That concluded the the compounds of kuliō all have the idea of activity “toward” or “away from”. Therefore, in his opinion, the grammar does no fit the idea of moving a square-shaped stone, i m sorry would have properly been defined as “moved” or “dislodged,” although Gibson contends the golal could also be “rolled” ~ a fashion.

von Wahlde additionally notes the while the Synoptic Gospels describe the sealing that the dig in this manner, the Gospel the John uses a different Greek verb indigenous the root hairo, v the an interpretation that the stone had to be “removed” or “taken up” (Greek ērmenon) indigenous the dig (John 20:1). He suggests that this description reflects “the Jewish interment practice much an ext accurately than any type of of the various other gospels. He has provided us a information none that the various other gospels have.” that further suggests that because Jesus’ tomb was a borrowed tomb for an plain Jewish family, the evidence is in donate of closure by a square stone.

von Wahalde concludes:

“It is no that this accounts space necessarily wrong. However they do give the dorn impression. That may an extremely well be that civilization rolled the ‘cork-shaped’ stones away from the tomb. As soon as you view the size of a ‘stopper’ stone, that is easy to view that, but one it s okay the rock out the the doorway, chances are you are going to role it the remainder of the way.”


Must us conclude that the details in the Gospels provides the “wrong impression?” The grammar the “rolling” (Greek kuliō + pros “up to”; apo “away from”) is unambiguous in the Synoptics, and it is an presumption that Joseph the Arimathea to be an ordinary guy with an ordinary family tomb. The Gospels portray him together a “rich man” (Matt 27:57), a “prominent member” that the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), and a guy with significant status to be granted a private audience v Pontius Pilate and then provided special permission to ask the body of a condemned criminal (not a relation) who high-profile situation had to be controversial (John 19:38). This may suggest a privileged position, which shows in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (2:3) the Pilate to be Joseph’s “friend.”

This summary of an upstream in Jerusalem culture argues because that someone whose household tomb can have fit the category of a rolling-stone tomb.

Additionally, the terminology for the tomb as “cut the end of the rock” (Matt 27:60; Luke 22:53) is uncovered in the Septuagint the Isaiah 22:16 with reference to a royal tomb. For the poorer lower class a cave was utilized for burial since a rock-cut dig was also expensive. Joseph that Arimethea might afford the many expensive the tombs, the kind provided by the top class and also nobility. Christian scholars v the centuries have actually seen this as a fulfillment that the forecast in Isaiah 53:9 that the Messiah’s death:

“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich, in his death,”

noting also that as Jesus to be a descendant that King David, he to be royalty and therefore entitled to an appropriate burial. As to the superior grammar of John, commentators have actually long noticed this specific wording as undoubtedly a detail included by man to the account however have attracted a different conclusion as to the purpose.



A. Front tomb WallB. Roll StoneC. Stopping StoneD. Slanted Track because that Rolling StoneE. EntranceF. NicheG. BenchH. PitI. OssuaryJ. Body inserted on Bench for interment Preparation


One might argue the while the stone had to be rolled over the opening, the path in i m sorry it had actually been rolled away to be what was exceptional. The use of the perfect middle/passive jet (“had been moved away”) can suggest that the stone had been “thrown” some distance native the tomb, indicating a magnificent agency. In all accounts angels are mentioned as start the tomb, and therefore, must have actually been responsible because that the stone’s removal. Matthew provides this very point:

“There was a violent earthquake, because that an point of view of the mr came under from sky and, going come the tomb, rolled ago the rock and sat on it” (Matt 28:2).

Therefore, in this case, the stone may have actually been a rojo stone, yet it was no technically “rolled away” together was the normal practice, however forcibly moved aside. This, then, to be the detail of supernatural intervention witnessed by the females as one evidence of the resurrection that john wished to convey.

While archaeology can carry out examples of certain rolling-stone burial places from the duration and argue because that the much more common closure of tombs v square stones, the deciding variable in the case of Jesus’ tomb should be the interpretation of the biblical text. The type of tomb and also sealing rock implied in the message fit the archaeological data explained above.

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