Read the new book Our Search for the Tomb of Jesus and learn about the real crucifixion site of Jesus. Packed with new exciting evidence. by Simon Brown. Introduction Seeing Jerusalem changed everything for me. Chapter One
- On Pilgrimages
- The Last Day Introduction
Seeing Jerusalem changed everything for me.Like millions of others around the world, I was brought up in a Christian society. But religion was not something I paid particular attention to when I was younger. I was apathetic, perhaps, as many people are in today’s world. Where I come from, if you ask people about their faith many would say they were Christian. Most would probably tell you that they believed in a creator. But few will relate these beliefs to their own life experience and what it really means to be a Christian. Their faith is something tucked away in the back of their minds, as mine was, as though it were something they didn’t want to deal with. Something to be afraid, or ashamed of. It’s not hard to understand why. Life has a way of constantly testing us. Testing our hearts and minds, testing our faith.
Sometimes even the strongest believer can hold their Bible in their hands and wonder if it could really be true. The stories of people and places so far in the past that they blur the line between fantasy and reality. Did Adam and eve really eat of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden? Did God rain down fire and Brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah?
Did Jesus Christ die on the cross for our sins, and did he rise again? These questions troubled me, as they trouble many others. My mind was like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle, faith and doubt swirling around like missing pieces. There must be a creator, I knew, there must. It just made sense to me. But then, why was he hiding? What did he want from me? From us? What is the meaning of it all? Jesus said, “Seek and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Well, I sought. And i knocked. And doors began to open all round me. I had heard of people investigating the stories of the Bible to find evidence of their truth, and this seemed like a good place to start. My first journey led me in search of Sodom and Gomorrah, where I witnessed with my own eyes the remnants of the destroyed cities - buildings, figures and landmarks just as described in the Bible. Residue of sulphur and ash. There was little doubt in my mind that the biblical account of what happened there must be true. How many people know that this evidence exists? How often do we hear about it? Maybe God wants people to open their eyes and see these things for themselves. Or maybe, I thought, maybe he wants me to show them. My first book and documentary about my search for Sodom and Gomorrah was a wake-up call. My wife and I received letters, e-mails and phone calls from people all over the world, thanking us for opening their eyes to these things that they had never seen before. Thanking us for affirming their faith and giving them strength to carry on. Some wept tears of joy, as though they had just heard the Good news for the very first time. I was inspired, and humbled. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to visit the holy land myself, see the prophets tombs and walk where Jesus walked. There are no words to describe the experience of stepping into the Bible and seeing the evidence of its truth for yourself, for the first time. But I will do my very best to share that enlightenment with you, through my films and books,and hope that they will bring you as much joy as making them brought me. This book is the story of my return to Israel in search of the final resting place of Jesus Christ. What I am about to show you is based on what I saw there with my own eyes. Some of my findings astonished even those who have been studying the subject for decades. I will draw my own conclusions, but ultimately it is up to you to make up your own mind. There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path. And I pray that by the end of my journey you will be just beginning your own. God bless.Chapter One - On Pilgrimages
Human beings are travelers. We are explorers. Since the dawn of time people have embarked upon journeys far from their homelands, journeys that took them through dangerous terrain, over mountains and seas, from the highest heights to the lowest depths of the earth we have tested ourselves both physically and spiritually, seeking out new horizons with hunger and enthusiasm. Why? A hundred different people would give a hundred different answers, I suspect. But I think that this desire to actively seek out life-changing experiences is born out of a natural human urge to reach out with both arms and try to touch the face of God, the places where Heaven and earth come closest and give us some sense of what life is really all about.
Pilgrimage is a concept rooted in this urge, and going back many thousands of years even before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Hebrews would make annual pilgrimages to jerusalem to celebrate passover, the feast which commemorates the freeing of the Israelites from slavery, and God’s sparing of the Hebrews’ first born on the night of the tenth plague. In fact we know from the Bible that the young Jesus and his parents would have made this pilgrimage every year, as Luke says,“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover, and when he was twelve they went up as usual for the festival.” Pilgrimages tend to be made to sights of particular religious significance, churches, cathedrals, and the locations of great Biblical stories, particularly those of Jesus. But they don’t have to be. Anywhere that someone feels drawn to for whatever reason can become the destination of a great journey, for a pilgrimage is as much concerned with the person making the journey, and what is inside themselves, than it is with the journey itself. If a person cannot travel very far, then a trip to their nearest church or some other place of particular emotional or spiritual significance for them can be enough to refresh their faith and nourish their soul. The key to pilgrimage is intent. If your intentions are good, you will find what you seek, no matter where or how far you travel. Traditionally, many think of a pilgrimage as answering a call from God to come and meet with him and experience his goodness. Again and again the Bible compares our lives to a great journey, a path that we must all walk, and this is reflected in the idea of pilgrimage. Thus Jesus gathered his disciples with the words “follow me” say Matthew and Luke, and people did. In this sense perhaps we are all pilgrims of the earth, destined to make our own journeys and pilgrimages perhaps without even knowing it. Another reason for pilgrimage is remembrance. The Bible tells us of the importance of remembering good deeds, particularly those of God. Genesis says that Jacob marked the place where he encountered God with a stone, so that it might be remembered, and then Joshua ordered that the children of Israel should build a monument on the stone, so that it might stand as “a memorial forever” for people to remember the good deeds of God. In fact God himself is said to approve of such behaviour, having instituted the feast of passover, and the warnings of his prophets that those who forget the Lord their maker shall be judged harshly. It is less of a warning, I think, than a reminder of where we come from, where we are and where we may be going. A life without meaning is no life at all, and God simply reminds us to look to him when we find ourselves wandering in the darkness, and he will remind us who and why we are.
Finding one’s self is perhaps the number one reason that people embark on a pilgrimage. Though such pilgrimages have also benefitted us as a society, almost incidentally. Communities sprung up around sites of great spiritual interest, such as Canterbury Cathedral, founded by Saint Augustine in 602 AD. People came together to form towns and cities, roads were built, maps were drawn and livings made, none of which would have happened if not for the spiritual draw of the places around which people congregated. International communication was established in many cases by early pilgrims, laying the groundwork for trade and diplomacy, and the coming together of civilizations in pursuit of common goals. These things are not often mentioned in conversations when people are quick to blame religion for war and strife, but we owe much to these individuals who helped build our world through the power of their faith. Jerusalem is the destination for many pilgrims seeking to get in touch with Jesus in the very place where he lived, died and was resurrected. Again this is not simply tourism, though it may appear as such in modern Jerusalem with her many gift shops and tour guides. Rather it is a desire to find out more about one’s self through immersion in the experience of Jesus Christ, and perhaps to nourish one’s soul by walking in the very places where the footsteps of God have fallen upon the earth. Speak to people who have made such journeys themselves and sure, they will be able to tell you what they saw and heard on their travels. But they will have a more difficult task explaining how they felt when they visited such places. As with many aspects of faith, pilgrimage is a very personal, spiritual experience and not one that is easily shared, though it is possible particularly with the video technology of today to share at least part of the journey, and thus to spread the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is perhaps odd that this should be necessary some two thousand years after the event, but we live in a skeptical world. Cliche perhaps, but true. I meet people all the time who tell me that they don’t believe in the stories of the Bible, but who will also happily admit that they haven’t really read the stories in question, or done any searching for the answers to the questions in their minds. In the eyes of so many, the Bible today is merely myth, a series of stories with good messages, but stories none the less. It is astonishing to me how even many people of faith will repeat the same thing, effectively turning their backs on many of the teachings of Jesus Christ because the modern world has made them so jaded, so tired of having their beliefs questioned, that eventually they just give in and accept that what others say must be true. Without seeking out the proof.
Without making pilgrimages of their own. It saddens me that the message of our Lord is being lost amidst the clutter of modern life, almost as though people don’t have time for their faith anymore. No, perhaps that is unfair. Life has many burdens and can be extremely difficult, not to mention confusing. It may not be our fault that we have become distanced from the Word of God, but that is no reason for us not to try to fix it. “Seek and you shall find”, the motto to which we keep returning, has no expiry. It is never too late to open your eyes, to start asking questions. It is important to remember that we are not alone in seeking answers through great journeys. In fact the largest pilgrimage of modern times happened when some four million people travelled to the Vatican City to see the body of John Paul II. They packed the streets, along with three million existing residents of the city, not even in many cases for the purpose of seeing the body itself, but simply to be there, in that place, at that time, and to experience the intangible. A person without faith would find such behaviour hard to explain from a logical point of view, but those millions of people felt a calling. This is the essence of pilgrimage, a great journey made by people, for people, based on faith and self-discovery. Such events though are rare these days. By and large, people appear uninterested in visiting sites of great Biblical significance and witnessing the proof of God’s work with their own eyes. The most stunning example of this, for me, is the tomb of Jesus Christ. The resurrection was the most significant of all God’s works before man, when he demonstrated his power over death itself by raising his only son from the grave. Not only are we not sure, some two thousand years later, where exactly the tomb of Jesus is, but furthermore we seem to collectively not care that much. Perhaps it is true that the location of the event is less important than the acknowledgment of the event itself, but even this is subject to considerable apathy.
The earliest spoken-of pilgrimages to the tomb of Jesus are usually those of Bishop Alexander in the third century, and then the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, a converted Christian emperor of Rome and the man responsible for rebuilding the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Thereafter a steady stream of pilgrims braved many hardships to have the chance of standing in such a holy place. The infamous crusades were essentially an armed pilgrimage of men who felt the pull of God so strongly to Jerusalem that they were prepared to die for it. How many of us, I wonder, will ever experience such love in our lifetimes. Apparently, however, it does not seem strange to most people that there are few recorded instances of Christians traveling to the tomb of Jesus between the time of the resurrection and some two-hundred and fifty years later. As we will find out on our journey, this may be because the knowledge of the location of the genuine tomb was lost over time. But not completely gone, because answers will always come to those who seek the truth, as Jesus himself told his disciples.
I believe passionately that we need to know where we come from, that we need collectively start believing again in the truths that are right in front of our eyes, else we are lost. This is why I formed the Real Discoveries team with the intention to take our cameras to the sites of the great Biblical stories, and to share our pilgrimages with as many people as possible. If people cannot or will not make the journey themselves, we will make it for them and hopefully be able to bring some of that sense of intimacy, of being in the presence of God, home to those who cannot experience it firsthand for whatever reason. We will attempt to enter the times and places of the people whose stories are told in the Bible, and experience the events from their point of view. We will dig deep in search of the proof of these events not only for ourselves, but to sway the doubters and satisfy the curious. We will stand, I believe, in the very place where our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead some two thousand years ago, and challenge people to deny that this is a place where the touch of God is more present and more powerful than anywhere else on this earth. We do this for ourselves, but we also do it for you, for all of you, so that you might see what we see, touch what we touch and experience what we experience. Let me tell you, it is an incredible feeling. I believe strongly that there is a dearth of spirituality, a waning of faith in our society, and that cannot be allowed to continue. There has never been a more important time to be good at what we do, and I am overjoyed that you have chosen to join us on our journey by picking up this book. I hope that within its pages, you will find the answers that you seek, or at least find the courage to look inside yourself for those answers.
We are all pilgrims now.Chapter Two - The Last Day
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” - 1 Corinthians 15:14-20
Many of you will be intimately familiar with the story of the last days of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, some of you may not be. I will re-tell it here with a focus on some of the details that will become important in our search for the truth about the tomb of Jesus. It was during the feast of Passover that Jesus came with his disciples to Jerusalem, where he was greeted by a large and joyous crowd who welcomed him shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus went to Herod’s Temple, a vast and grandiose building raised up on a huge stone platform on the site of the original Temple Mount on Mount Moriah, where God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his own son. Jews (including Jesus) also believe that this was where God gathered the dust from which to form Adam, the first man, and thus the site of the origin of all human life. It was, and to many still is, the most significant spiritual place on earth. Jesus considered the use of this holy site by money changers and other shady dealers to be a mockery of all that he held dear, and so he overturned the tables of the money changers there, scolding them and the corrupt priests for turning this holy place into a “den of robbers.” It is probable that Jesus already knew at this time what his fate was to be, and challenging the establishment in such a fashion was guaranteed to stir up trouble. Later in the week, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples in a meal that came to be known as the last supper, where he broke bread and poured wine for them, instructing them to eat and drink in remembrance of him. For it was at the last supper that Jesus predicted one of his disciples would betray him, and he would be executed. After the last supper, Jesus and his disciples went to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, where he was arrested on the orders of the high priest. They arrested Jesus at night in order to avoid a riot, as Jesus was quite popular among the people, though not popular enough as we shall see.
This contradiction plays an interesting role in determining the real location of his tomb. Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ apostles, betrayed him to the guards with a kiss, while another apostle, Simon Peter, attacked the guards with a sword, reputedly cutting off one of their ears which Jesus miraculously healed on the spot, chiding his friend gently, “all that take the sword shall perish by the sword.” From what we know, the rest of Jesus apostles went into hiding following his arrest, fearing for their own lives. At Jesus’ trial he was asked by the priests, “Are you the Son of God?” To which Jesus replied, “You are right in saying I am.” He was condemned for blasphemy and handed over to the Roman soldiers, lead by Pontius Pilate, who asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” To which Jesus replied, “It is as you say.” Pilate was reputedly a rash and rather bloodthirsty young man, though in this case he did not feel like Jesus had committed any particular crime, at least against his Roman masters. The turning over of the money changers’ tables had ruffled a few feathers, but it was hardly a crime worthy of death. There was a custom at the time for one prisoner to be pardoned at Passover time, and Pilate offered the assembled crowd a choice between sparing the life of Jesus of Nazareth, or that of a thuggish insurrectionist named Barabbas. The Crowd chose to spare Barabbas, to Pilate’s surprise. Matthew writes that the procurator washed his hands to indicate that he was not guilty of the injustice of the decision. This inference that Jesus, while popular among a certain section of Jewish society, was not unanimously renowned as a hero of the people, may go some way to explaining why there is little record of people paying respects at his tomb in the years following his death, though we do have some evidence as we shall see.
Jesus was crucified, according to the gospels, at a place known as Golgotha, which in aramaic means, “The place of the skull”, though no more specific details are given. It has traditionally said that Golgotha refers to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where it was believed that the skull of Adam, the first man, was buried. Though this explanation is somewhat lacking, and there has not been much in the way of challenge to these long-held assumptions until fairly recently. Jesus died shortly before late afternoon and his body was given to a wealthy man named Joseph of arimathea, said to be a quiet follower of Jesus, who begged his body from the Romans who agreed that he be taken down and handed over for burial. This was not at all the norm with crucifixion, as many crucified men were left to hang on their crosses until their bodies decayed away, but as we know Pilate did not believe Jesus to be a particularly bad person. The gospels report that the sky darkened when Jesus died and remained dark for several hours. Matthew also makes reference to an earthquake, which is another interesting detail to which we shall return. At this point we will pause to consider an oft-overlooked figure in these events, the most important events remember in the entire history of Christianity, and that is Joseph of Arimathea. We know that he was a rich man, and possibly a member of the Sanhedrin council of priests that so disapproved of Jesus’ “blasphemy” and the disturbance that he caused in the temple. Joseph, it seems, did not make public his support for Jesus until this unexpected outpouring of grief after his death, in which he requested Jesus’ body for burial.
It is written that he and Nicodemus took the body, wrapped it in a new linen sheet, and buried Jesus in Joseph of Arimathea’s own, unused tomb. This is another crucial detail in our investigation. The body was laid there in the presence of Jesus’ mother Mary, and Mary Magdelene, and then a large circular stone was rolled across the entrance to the tomb. We know that the Romans were afraid that Jesus’ disciples may try to take his body away and claim that he had risen from the dead (having heard Jesus’ own prophecy), and so they were ordered to seal the tomb as best they could, probably with chains and iron pegs, and a guard. What became of Joseph of Arimathea following the resurrection of Jesus is not well documented, though a number of historians, including Tertullian, Eusebius and Rabanus Maurus, suggest that Joseph along with other disciples of Jesus, including Lazaras (raised by Jesus from the dead) and Mary Magdelene, traveled across Europe spreading the good news of Jesus resurrection, passing through France and eventually ending up in England where, it is claimed, they founded Glastonbury Abbey. There are also legends connecting Joseph of Arimathea to the artifact known as the Holy Grail, but we will not concern ourselves with those in this book. So then, Jesus was buried in the fresh tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, which was said to be in a garden near Golgotha (the site of the crucifixion), and a large rolling stone sealed across the entrance. That the tomb was nearby the site of the crucifixion is significant and also makes perfect sense, as the following day was the sabbath, and Jesus would need to be buried before sunset on the sabbath day. The new linen sheet which we are told they wrapped Jesus in before burying him, is believed by many to be the famous Shroud of Turin. We will cover the Shroud of Turin in more detail later, but for now sufficed to say that its existence, if genuine, is a hugely significant part of the puzzle in determining the truth about the tomb of Jesus.
According to the gospel of John, when Mary Magdelene and another woman named Mary came to anoint the body of Jesus on the third day after his death, they found that the huge rolling stone covering the entrance had been moved aside. Mary looked into the tomb and saw two angels sitting one where Jesus’ head would have been, and one at his feet. They asked her why she was crying, and then when she turned around and saw Jesus standing before her, she didn’t recognize him until he spoke her name. Thereafter Jesus is said to have appeared to a number of people, including his apostles, telling them to go and spread the good news of the glory of God.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ fulfilled centuries old Jewish prophecies about a messiah who would come. The prophecies though are generally agreed to have been only halffulfilled, and many Christians anticipate the second coming of Jesus, when he will judge us all, particularly with regard to how we treat the vulnerable and the needy, before establishing God’s kingdom on earth. To recap then the most important points from our point of view: Jesus’ fate was sealed by the people who chose to spare another man’s life instead of his. He was crucified at a place known as Golgotha, which means the place of the skull, and the gospel of Matthew refers to an earthquake that happened around the time of Jesus death. His body was claimed by a rich follower of his named Joseph of Arimathea, wrapped in a clean linen sheet (possibly the Shroud of Turin) and buried nearby in a fresh, unused tomb, in the garden of Joseph and in the presence of Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdelene. The tomb was sealed with a large stone rolled across the entrance, which would have been fixed secure by the Romans. Each of these details will play a key role in our investigation, as we leave no stone unturned in our search for the authentic tomb of Jesus.