Moriah, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

Appendix 2: The Dating of the Garden Tomb (Barkay answered)

Dating Tombs is not an exact science, so there have been different theories proposed for the Garden Tomb. A number of noted archaeologists reckoned it to be first century, but some (such as Conder) argued against it, saying that it was a Christian Tomb, from a later date, but this has now been conclusively refuted. In the Byzantine period, tombs had a vaulted ceiling, but the Garden Tomb has a flat ceiling. This indicates that it was not carved in the Byzantine period, but earlier, although alterations may have been made in Christian times. 


More recently, an Israeli archaeologist called Gabriel Barkey has been influential in arguing that the Garden Tomb dates from the First Temple Period (700 BC), which would mean it could not have been a ‘New Tomb’ in the time of Christ. ('The Garden Tomb: Was Jesus Buried Here?' by Gabriel Barkey). Since many people accept his conclusions, it is necessary to show the weakness of his arguments.

Barkay’s Arguments are:
1. Barkay: It is near other First Temple Period Tombs, especially the impressive complex of Cave 1 at St. Etienne’s (possibly royal tombs). 
This is unconvincing, especially considering that in many ways, the Garden Tomb is quite unlike these older tombs. There is no reason why a rich man would not build his new tomb near some famous older tombs. 

2. Barkay: The Plan of the Garden Tomb is not typical for a 2nd Temple Tomb. These usually have an Burial Chamber BEHIND the Entrance Chamber, but the Garden Tomb’s Burial Chamber is to the RIGHT of the Entrance Chamber, which is more typical of the 8th century BC, and fell out of use later.
This is actually an argument FOR the Garden Tomb! The New Testament clearly says that Joseph’s Tomb was NEW (1st Century), and that the body was laid on the RIGHT-HAND SIDE from the entrance Chamber, NOT BEHIND it (Mark 16:5), just as it is in the Garden Tomb.
 

Therefore this argument can’t possibly be used against the authenticity of the Garden Tomb as the first century Tomb of Jesus. In fact, if this was an unusual design for a Tomb of that time, it only strengthens the case for the Garden Tomb, because it shares this rare feature with the Biblical Tomb of Christ. The special design can be explained by the 'new rich' Joseph making his new Tomb somewhat in the style of the rich men's tombs nearby, although also with major differences.

3. Barkay: 2nd Temple Tombs are usually ‘kokhim’ Tombs where the burial niches (where the dead were placed) are long narrow shafts cut into the cave wall at right angles, rather than lying parallel to the wall. There is no evidence of any ‘kokhim’ at the Garden Tomb. 

Again, if anything, this is an argument FOR the Garden Tomb! It is clear from the Gospels that Joseph’s new Tomb it was NOT a Kokhim Tomb, as the full length of the Burial Place could be seen from the door, and 2 angels were seen sitting at its two ends. Since this feature of Joseph’s first century Tomb is shared by the Garden Tomb, this only strengthens the case for the Garden Tomb, especially if it is a fairly rare feature for a Tomb of that time. So this is an invalid argument against the authenticity of the Garden Tomb. 

4. Barkay: 2nd Temple Period tombs often have chisel marks made with a comb chisel. The Garden Tomb, however, shows no sign of comb chiselling.

This is an oversimplification. Tombs cannot be definitively dated by whether they have comb chiselling or not. If only it were that easy! Barkay mentions this in passing, giving the impression this is decisive, when it is not. 
There are a number of reasons why Joseph’s Tomb was not entirely typical for his time: (1) It was new and unfinished, (2) it was a rich-man’s tomb, which means he had freedom do style it the way he wanted. Since it was built in an area of some ancient royal tombs, it is not surprising if he adapted his tomb design accordingly.
5. Barkay speculates that the Burial Chamber of the Garden Tomb originally had 3 burial benches in a horseshoe shape, typical of the First Temple Period. He then imagines them being carved out in the Byzantine period to form basins (troughs). 

Thus is no argument, just speculation to elaborate his unproved theory. 

6. Barkay states that the plaster waterproofing on the Cistern is of the type used by the Crusaders, and deduces that the Cistern must date to that era. 

Even if this were so, all it shows is that the Cistern was re-plastered in Christian times. It does not mean the Cistern was constructed at this later time. Other indications show it to be pre-Christian, which is why this fact was assumed before Barkay. It makes sense that this Cistern was made to provide water for the needs of the Garden during the long dry seasons. The date of this Cistern would synchronise with the date of the laying out of the Garden, which belonged to a wealthy owner, for it contained a carefully constructed family Tomb. The construction of the Cistern must have been prior to that of the Tomb. A wealthy owner of such a Garden would begin with providing his water supply, and then he would make His Tomb. Then later on, in the Christian era, the Cistern was replastered and reused. 

7. Barkay claims the groove in front of the Tomb was a water trough, built by the 11th century Crusaders for their donkeys. We dealt with this on page 129,130.

Conclusion: It is surprising that Barkay’s arguments have held such sway, especially among those who believe the New Testament is a accurate historical account of events in the first century. His main argument is that the Garden Tomb is not a typical 1st Century Tomb, as the Burial Place is fully visible (not enclosed in ‘kokhim’) and on the right. However, these 2 features are the very features the New Testament describes the 1st century Tomb of Christ as having! We have historical record of just such a tomb! These features are exactly what we expect of the true Tomb. Thus his arguments against it being First Century have no weight.

Home

Books

About Us

Events

Teachings

Bible Commentary

Media

Shop

Donate

Contact

Print

OBC Office

363 Banbury Road
Oxford - England - UK
OX2 7PL
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 515086
Fax: +44 (0) 8721 107068
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Print

Sunday Services

Sundays at 11am and 6pm
Cheney School Hall
Cheney Lane - Headington
Oxford - England - UK
OX3 7QH