JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

5. The 'Tombs of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus' (1st Century AD)

According to the Gospel of Mathew, Joseph of Arimathea offered his own tomb to Jesus: "And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed" (27:59-60). As per tradition, both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who had arranged the burial of  Jesus was later interred in these tombs, not far from the tomb of their master.

These first-century tombs preserved inside the Church of Holy Sepulcher indicate that the place was used as a burial area at the time of Jesus. Since New Testament (Hebrew 13:12) says Golgotha was outside the walls of Jerusalem and Jews always buried their dead outside the city, these tombs could validate the authenticity of the Church of Holy Sepulcher's claim of being the traditional crucifixion site.

Location: Look for the Syriac Orthodox Chapel of St Joseph of Arimathea and St Nicodemus, a dark and dilapidated room back (west) to the edicule (traditional Tomb of Jesus Christ) and opposite to the Coptic Chapel. The tombs are on the far side of the chapel and usually lit with candles inside.

Date: March 23, 2008; December 11, 2009 and April 2, 2010.

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