A contemporary of Jesus?
Jerusalem body 'has links to the Crucifixion'
By P J Bonthrone
A 2,000-YEAR-OLD shrouded body found in a tomb near Jerusalem could be that
of a witness to Christ's crucifixion, a British archaeologist believes.
The remains, discovered by chance in a tomb south of the city walls, have
startling links to the Easter story.
The bones, and a well-preserved clump of hair, were wrapped in the only
shroud from Christ's time to have been found in Israel. This could also
provide final proof that the Turin Shroud is a fake.
The shroud has been carbon dated to the first 50 years of the 1st century
AD, coinciding with Christ's earthly life. DNA tests on the remains indicate
that the body was that of a male who died of acute tuberculosis.
They were found by Dr Shimon Gibson as he showed students around 1st-century
tombs in the Hinnom Valley.
Speaking from his home in Jerusalem, Dr Gibson recalled entering the tomb.
"I had to slide feet first through an opening no bigger than about 2ft
square. I could make out typical, rock-cut tombs of the Roman period and
many human bones."
As he noticed the blackened shroud "a shiver ran down my back" because he
realised it was a unique find.
He said the tomb had been ransacked by robbers who probably stole valuable
artefacts but discarded the shroud and the remains wrapped in it.
Dr Gibson, 43, director of the Jerusalem Archaeological Field Unit, said the
tomb was in Akeldama, the "field of blood" referred to in St Matthew's
The area is believed to have been bought by Judas with the money he received
for betraying Jesus, and was where he later hanged himself. Dr Gibson said
the area was now used as a rubbish tip and in "a very poor state".
"But it was once a very select area, used as a burial ground by the
super-wealthy, as it faced Mount Zion. It was also the site of the palace of
the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, under whom Christ was crucified, as well
as the houses of priests and aristocrats."
The tomb was adjacent to that of Annas, the high priest before whom Jesus
was brought after his arrest.
Dr Gibson said: "Given all the evidence, such as the tomb's prestigious
location, the fact that the hair was very clean and the shroud made of wool
rather than the cheaper linen normally used, it is probable that this man
was high born or of a priestly family.
"When you remember that Jerusalem was then a small place, like one of
London's 'villages', you appreciate that people would have known everything
that was going on.
"It is highly likely that this man knew of Jesus coming to Jerusalem, the
uproar of his driving the money-changers from the temple courts and so on.
"Perhaps as a sick man he may have sought out the miracle worker from
Galilee, or perhaps seen the crucifixion at Golgotha from his window.
"There is some speculation, of course, but backed by all the circumstances."
Dr Gibson describes the find, made in 2000 but unpublicised until now, in a
television documentary to be broadcast on Easter Sunday.
A section of the Jerusalem shroud was carbon dated by Dr Douglas Donohue, of
Arizona University, who in 1988 pronounced the Turin Shroud, which is
claimed to bear the image of Christ's body, to be a medieval fake.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.
Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany