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In Search Of Jesus' Tomb

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  • Thomas Daniel
    * An archeologist believes Christ s burial site may remain intact in Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Thomas H. Maugh II July 21 2001 Christian faithful have been
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 23, 2001
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      * An archeologist believes Christ's burial site may remain intact in
      Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

      Thomas H. Maugh II

      July 21 2001

      Christian faithful have been convinced that the Church of the Holy
      Sepulcher in Jerusalem marks the site of Jesus' burial ever since
      Byzantine Emperor Constantine erected the church in the year 325,
      making it the holiest site in Christendom.

      But experts have feared that Christ's tomb itself had been destroyed
      by the earthquakes that have struck the site over the intervening
      millenniums. And many question whether Constantine was correct in
      concluding that the church marks the true site of the burial.

      However, research conducted over the last 10 years by British
      archeologist Martin Biddle suggests that the tomb may remain intact
      inside the edicule, the small interior shrine originally built in the
      4th century to protect the rock-cut tomb. The edicule was rebuilt in
      the 11th, 16th and 19th centuries and Biddle's explorations indicate
      that--contrary to the beliefs of scholars--the four edicule
      structures are nestled inside one another like Russian matryoshka

      "Before we started, nobody believed that," Biddle said. "We've shown
      that to be true."

      The Rev. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor of the Dominican Ecole Biblique in
      Jerusalem calls Biddle's discovery important. "If it were taken apart
      very carefully, like peeling an onion, one could see the various
      periods," he said.

      Biddle's studies, recounted in his book "The Tomb of Christ,"
      published in 1999 by Sutton, are the focus of "Secrets of the Dead,"
      to be broadcast Tuesday at 8 p.m. on KCET-TV.

      Because Biddle's work was performed without disturbing the shrine,
      most of his evidence is indirect. But archeologists and theologians
      may soon get a more direct look at the inner structures and the
      actual tomb itself.

      The edicule is "structurally in a very bad condition," and will have
      to be renovated, Biddle says. "We're quite clear about this. We will
      have to disassemble it and start over. . . . There is going to be a
      great deal discovered. Naturally, we hope that it will be discovered
      in our time."

      That renovation, unfortunately, relies on the cooperation of the six
      religious groups that have jointly operated the church under an
      agreement known officially as "the Status Quo" that dates to at least
      1852. Three major religious groups--Greek Orthodox, Armenian and
      Roman Catholic--and three minor communities--the Copts, Syriacs and
      Ethiopians--must all agree on whatever renovation is to be done.

      Critics have charged that it is unlikely that they will be able to
      agree on a reconstruction plan for the edicule. But Biddle notes
      that, since 1970, "they have managed to agree on the reconstruction
      of the whole of a very complicated building. The only thing left to
      do now is the tomb and the floor of the great rotunda."

      What will archeologists find if the edicule is dismantled? Biddle's
      evidence suggests there is an intact rock-cut tomb. "It would
      probably not be a pretty thing," he said, "but it would give us a
      great deal of information."

      And how will they know it is Christ's tomb? For that matter, how did
      Constantine conclude that it was?

      Biddle suspects there is graffiti written on the tomb by early
      Christians that might say, in effect, "This is where Jesus was
      buried." The practice was common during the period in question, and
      the Tomb of St. Peter under the Vatican in Rome, for one, shows such

      The tomb has spent most of its existence hidden. In the 2nd century,
      the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a temple over the site. The crypt was
      rescued by Constantine, who legalized Christianity in 314 and sent
      engineers to Jerusalem to build churches at the sites of important
      events in Christ's life.

      When the team asked local Christian leaders where Jesus was crucified
      and buried, they pointed to the temple and said Christ's tomb was
      under it. The engineers destroyed the temple, cleared the rubble,
      built a shrine over the tomb and then constructed the Church of the
      Holy Sepulcher to protect it.

      The shrine was damaged by fires in 614 and 966, then partially
      destroyed by Caliph al-Hakim in 1009. The Crusaders rebuilt the
      shrine and church by 1167, and the edicule was remodeled in 1555. But
      it suffered another disastrous fire in 1808, which severely damaged
      the edicule and the rotunda.

      The edicule was rebuilt, but the rotunda remained open to the
      elements for 60 years and the edicule was badly damaged by rain and
      snow. Settling has opened cracks in the structure and, when Biddle
      explored the spaces within with an endoscope like that used by
      doctors for examining the colon, he found that water had rotted the
      iron clamps holding the stones together.

      "Photographs from the British mandate in the 1940s showed that [the
      edicule]was already beginning to collapse," Biddle said. British
      authorities were so concerned that they ordered it encased in steel
      straps to hold the stones together. But even that framework is now in
      danger of coming apart, he said.

      "The edicule is very good at surviving," he concluded. "But it is
      about time that this sacred site is restored."

      Thomas Maugh can be reached at thomas.maugh@l...

      Copyright 2001, Los Angeles Times
    • Thomas Daniel
      Dear Members To know more about Tomb Of Jesus such as background, clues & evidence, Interview with Martin Biddle and View The Tomb please visit the web page
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 25, 2001
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        Dear Members

        To know more about Tomb Of Jesus' such as background, clues &
        evidence, Interview with Martin Biddle and View The Tomb please visit
        the web page of PBS.


        Happy browsing

        In Our Lords Love
        Thomas Daniel
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