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Pilgrimage Blog: Day 4

By January 22, 2023January 24th, 2023No Comments

From Hans Quitmeyer

Today was another remarkable day under another crystalline sky for us intrepid pilgrims.  We attended a memorable English/Arabic service at Christ Church in Nazareth and then travelled to Sepphoris, a large Roman/Byzantine period town with dramatic ruins and fine mosaics.

But, for me, the most impactful event was the “surprise” that we had been promised after breakfast.  We were led to a large space under the Sisters of Nazareth Convent and Guesthouse where we are staying.  The building was constructed in the 1850’s, originally used as a school, and then converted for use as a pilgrim guesthouse.
Anyway, in the course of doing repair work under the building, a void was discovered which, upon entering and being explored, led to a large space containing rooms and cisterns used long ago.  Perhaps most significantly, at the lowest level archeologists found the site of a tomb from the first century—Jesus’s time.  Here is a picture of the tomb, showing an antechamber in the foreground where bodies would be prepared for burial in the two holes in the back.  To the right is a small chapel, evidence that the tomb was once recognized as an important and sacred space.  Since Nazareth was a village of only a few hundred people at the time of Jesus, perhaps Joseph was buried here.  Early Christians may have highlighted the importance of the site by creating the adjacent chapel.  We don’t know for sure, of course, but that is certainly possible.

Amazingly, in front of the tomb is a large round stone which would be rolled in front of the opening to block the entrance.  Our guide said that this is perhaps the most intact tombstone yet found from this time.

This discovery provides interesting context for what happened to Jesus’s body after it was placed in Joseph of Arimethea’s unused tomb.  Because Jesus died as the Sabbath was approaching and people were in a hurry, his body was likely placed in an antechamber like this one to await full preparation for burial when the women returned Sunday morning.  His body would not yet have been buried in the actual burial holes.  When the women arrived on Sunday morning, they expected to prepare the body and then place it in a burial hole.  Instead, of course, they found an empty grave.

I won’t imagine Easter morning in quite the same way again!

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