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Another look at Golgotha

Revised October 25, 2013

By Clovis E. Miller

For more than 1680 years, the traditional site in Christendom for the Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ has been the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was built under orders of the Emperor Constantine (Considered to be the first Christian Emperor of Rome). Construction began about 326 AD under the oversight of his mother, Helena. It is located west-northwest of the Temple Mount.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

"Beneath the Calvary and the two chapels there, on the main floor, there is The Chapel of Adam. According to tradition, Jesus was crucified over the place where Adam's skull was buried." (Wikipedia).

From this tradition, we supposedly arrive at the true location from which the name, Golgotha, or "a place of a skull", is derived {Matt. 27:33-35}. Adam's Chapel can be seen just to the left of the "Crucifixion Altar" in the layout diagram. You may also note that the supposed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, who gave his own tomb to Jesus, is located at the extreme left in the diagram below.

Layout of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

For more on the History of this church Click Here. Please close the new window when finshed.

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Another site, which many Protestants believe constitutes the true site of the events, is located just north-northwest of the Temple Mount, near the Damascus Gate. Jeremiah's Grotto, better known as "Gordon's Calvary", is so named, for Gen. Charles Gordon. In the eyes of many Christians, a rock ledge having holes which give it the appearance of a skull; along with a nearby Garden Tomb, make this a good choice as being the likely site for the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord.

"In 1883, near to the Damascus Gate, General Gordon found a rocky escarpment (now situated just behind a bus station), which from several angles resembled the face of a skull; since one of the possible etymologies for Golgotha is the Aramaic word for skull, and may refer to the shape of the place, Gordon concluded that the rocky escarpment was likely to have been Golgotha. Prior to Gordon, this possibility had also been suggested by Colonel Conder in 1870 (an associate of Lord Kitchener), by Fisher Howe in 1871, and by the German scholar Otto Thenius in 1842." [Wikipedia]

This site, as can be seen, is a relatively new one. It is further stated by some, that extant drawings of this area of Jerusalem, dating from the 17th century, fail to indicate any skull like features, as now visible at the site. Erosion and possible digging, may account from the appearance as it now exists. I have read, that just within the last few decades, erosion has caused a considerable degradation of the place. Prior to the 19th century, there is no evidence to indicates that the Christian faithful attached any religious significance to this particular area.

Apparent skull shape, slightly right of center 1

Click Here for more information on this possible site for the crucifixion

Some archaeological research concerning the "Garden Tomb" near this site, indicates that it is probably a work of the 7th Century BC or earlier, which if correct, would invalidate it as the burial place of Jesus, since He was placed in a new tomb, "...wherein never man before was laid." {Luke 23:53}.

"...The design of the interior of the tomb is typical of the 8th-7th centuries BC, and fell out of use later."

Tour Guides, as well as, the keepers of the site (the Garden Tomb Association of London), readily admit that the Garden Tomb may not be the actual burial place of Jesus, but that He was laid in one which was at least similiar to it. They often conclude their speeches on the subject by stating that, the most important thing to remember is, that the tomb of Jesus, like the Garden Tomb, is empty.

The Garden Tomb
Photo Courtesy of FreeStockPhotos.com

"This tomb was discovered in 1867, at which time it was proposed that this was the burial place of Jesus..."

"In 1869 a number of tombs had also been found near Gordon's Golgotha, and Gordon concluded that one of them must have been the tomb of Jesus." [Wikipedia]

Concerning the exterior of the tomb, we find:

"The edge of the groove outside the tomb has a diagonal edge, which would be unable to hold a stone slab in place (the slab would just fall out); additionally, known tombs of the rolling-stone type use vertical walls on either side of the entrance to hold the stone, not a groove on the ground."[Wikipedia]


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A third site, located on a hill just northeast of the Temple Mount, is put forth by American born missionary, Rodger Dusatko, who now lives in Germany. Accordig to him, while visiting Jerusalem on June 5, 2009, the Lord told him, "this is Golgotha". On his website, he thoroughly explains why he feels the evidence supports the idea that this area is the true place of Golgotha, by showing thru Scripture, photos and graphs, exactly how the site aligns with both the Temple, and the Mount of Olives where the Miphkad Altar (where the Red Heifer was sacrificed) was located. The description of the site as, “The skull-pan of a head", is used indicating that this is what the term, "Golgotha" refers to.

Dusatko's Golgotha - Outside the wall and northeast of the Dome of the Rock
Photo Courtesy of 'Rebuilding the Ancient Foundation' Website

One possible problem with this site is, that Hebrews 13:10-14, indicates that Jesus was not only executed "without the gate", but also "without the camp", as were all criminals {Num. 15:35-36}. There is an important point to remember here: Jesus was a criminal in the eyes of the Sanhedrin, but Pilate who said, "...I find no fault in him..." {John 19:4} set Barabbas free, then handed Jesus over to them be crucified. He was crucified as an innocent person, that He might bear the sins of the world away from God's Holy presence.

In judicial matters, during the days of the Tabernacle, without the camp referred to the eastern side of the camp, because there was only one entrance to the Tabernacle, and it always faced eastward when Israel was encamped. No executions were to be carried out within the limits of the camp. Criminals who were sentenced to death were therefore, brought before the Lord (without the camp and in line with the door of the Sanctuary), to be executed in His presence. In Temple times, "the gate", which led to the altar located "without the camp" (mentioned in the Book of Hebrews), was the Eastern Gate, which stood directly in line with the "tent of meeting" (i.e. the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies). It's clearly stated in the Mishna, that the altar "without the camp" was at the top of the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple (see below).

In the passage from the Book of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul's reference to the term, "without the camp", pertained to a distance set when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, near Jericho {Joshua 3:3-4}. A space of 2,000 cubits (about 3,000 feet) was to be maintained as a perimeter around the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. Other than the priests, no persons, and certainly no executions, were to be allowed within the camp's limits. It was later determined by the rabbis, that this distance had also been maintained while Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Still later, it became the standard of measurement used to establish what constituted, "a sabbath day's journey" (the distance one could travel on the Sabbath day without breaking the Law). Jewish historian, Josephus, stated that it was "5 furlongs" from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives (Antiquities 20.8.6); assuming he meant, from the Temple to the summit of the Mount of Olives. A Biblical furlong is equal to about 200 yards. So, five furlongs would equal about 1,000 yards, or 3,000 feet (the equivalent distance for "without the camp", or "a sabbath day's journey"). You may also recall that in Acts 1:11-12, the ascension of Jesus to heaven, took place, "...a sabbath days journey", from Jerusalem.

When the Temple was built in Jerusalem, the same distance was maintained by the priests, and was said to have been measured from the Hall of the Sanhedrin, inside of the Temple. The Dusatko site is, according to his own measurements, about 300 meters (984 Ft.) from the Dome of the Rock. This distance would be well within the 2,000 cubit limit established for "the camp" spoken of in the Books of Joshua and Hebrews. His measurement also reckons that the place where the Dome of the Rock sits, is indeed the location of the original Temple. While this is a possibility, there are several other opinions as to where the Temple was located. The Altar of the Red Heifer was situated on the Mount of Olives, "without the camp" {Num. 19:2-4}. According to Mr. Dusatko, he places that site at about 700 meters (2,296 Ft.) from the Dome of the Rock. This too, would be within the limits specified as constituting "...the camp". We might note also, that both the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Gordon's Calvary, are also well within the 2,000 cubit limit.

In addition to this, it would appear that the site is not in alignment with the Eastern Gate, over which the Priest would look when sacrificing the Red Heifer, on the Altar, on the Mount of Olives:

"ALL THE WALLS OF THE TEMPLE WERE HIGH EXCEPT THE EASTERN WALL, SO THAT THE PRIEST WHO BURNT THE RED HEIFER MIGHT WHILE STANDING ON THE TOP OF THE MOUNT OF OLIVES BY DIRECTING HIS GAZE CAREFULLY SEE THE DOOR OF THE HEKAL AT THE TIME OF THE SPRINKLING OF THE BLOOD." (Mishna, Midot 2:4)

Note here also, that it was the "eastern wall" of the Temple which was lower, not the eastern wall of the city, which overlooks the Kidron Valley. The summit of the Mount of Olives is almost 300 feet higher than the Temple mount.

From the website of the Temple Mount Faithful, we have these words:

"From the Mishnah, Talmud, Josephus and other important holy and historical sources we know that the Golden Gate, or as it was called the Shushan Gate, was located in the eastern wall of the Temple Mount and was in a straight east-west line with all the gates of the Temple and the entrance into the Holy of Holies. This gate is currently covered by a mound of earth that was created by the remains of the destruction of the Temple that was thrown over the wall by the Arabs after they occupied Jerusalem in order to build the Dome of the Rock on the same place that was the location of the Holy of Holies from the evidence that still existed at that time. A year ago, when the Arabs dug on the Temple Mount to build another mosque in the area of the southern part of the eastern wall, they discovered the original Shushan/Golden Gate and immediately covered it up again so that nobody in Israel would know about it,..."

....the idea that the Shushan/Golden Gate was the gate which was in an east-west line and in line with all the gates of the Temple and the entrance of the Holy of Holies. (The Temple was built from east to west with the Holy of Holies on the western end.) In the Jerusalem Talmud (Eruvim 85:5,1) is written, "The first prophets prophesied and made every effort to ensure that the eastern gate of the Temple and the Temple Mount would be the gates, together with the other Temple gates, through which the first light of the sunrise would enter". The goal of this was that the sunlight would come directly through all the gates into the Holy of Holies. This again indicates that it could only be through the Shushan/Golden Gate, which is in a straight east-west line with the location of the rock under the Dome of the Rock."

In speaking of the Red Heifer, Numbers 19:3-4, also tells us this:

"...and one shall slay her before his face:
And Eleazer the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle her blood directly before the Tabernacle of the Congregation seven times:"

(Emphasis above is Mine)

In the above verse, "...directly before...", means in close alignment with, not only the door of the Tabernacle, but the Holy of Holies (i.e. "...before his face." - verse 3), as well. In Leviticus 16: 2 Moses was told that Aaron should come before the Lord, who would "appear in the cloud above the mercy seat". So Aaron, coming in to the Holy of Holies from the east, would be standing "directly before His face..." From the Mount of Olives, the priest would be, of necessity, looking over the Eastern Gate, or wall, and into the Sanctuary (according to the reading of Midot 2:4 above). Even though the currently named Eastern Gate is not the actual gate of the second Temple period: archeologist, James Fleming's discovery in 1969, of what appears to be a much older gateway arch immediately beneath the current gate, may well be one which existed at that time. Not all archaeologist agree with his conclusion that he found a much older "Eastern Gate". His findings do however, seem to give support to Dr. Asher Kaufman's theory that the Temple was located north of the Dome of the Rock (as discussed below). Archaeological architect, Leen Ritmeyer, believes that inner parts of the currently named Eastern/Golden Gate belong to the Original Gate:

"I have argued before that the monolithic gate posts inside the Golden Gate belong to the original Shushan Gate, the gate in the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount of the First Temple period, which was constructed by King Hezekiah in the eighth century B.C."

Inside the Eastern/Shushan/Golden Gate
(Photo from the Matson Collection, Library of Congress)

The Temple Mount Faithful however, declare that the currently named Eastern Gate, is in reality, the "Mercy Gate".

"The Shushan Gate is located in the eastern wall of the Temple Mount about 100 meters [109 yards] south of the Mercy Gate."

With regard to those who support this particular point of view, the altar where the Red Heifer was sacrificed; is believed to have been situated not only on the Mount of Olives, but at the same elevation as the Golden/Shushan Gate. According to them, the priest looked through the gate into the Sanctuary and Holy of Holies, not over "the eastern wall", as stated in the Mishna. Given the low elevation of the said buried Eastern Gate; the higher elevation of the rock inside the Dome; and the steep rise of the Mount of Olives, it's difficult to understand how priest could to look through the gate, see into the Sanctuary; and yet maintain the 2,000 cubit limit for the altar to be located "without the camp". All of this, from a position which is at the same elevation as the gate? Leen Ritmeyer states,"...any gate in the Eastern Wall is too low for someone standing on the Mount of Olives to be able to see the Temple through such a gate." It may also be added here, that Mr. Ritmeyer places the location of the Temple where the Dome of the Rock sits; but does not align the Eastern Gate of the Temple Mount (the currently called Eastern Gate) with the Eastern Gate of the Temple itself. The only way it appears to be possible to maintain the prescribed distance for the Red Heifer altar from the Temple, would be by locating the altar higher up on the Mount of Olives, and looking over the Eastern Gate, and/or the wall, as stated in the Mishna. At any rate, if the Eastern Gate in fact proves to be located at that place; it would appear to place the Dusatko site much too far out of alignment to be a compelling candidate as the correct site of Golgotha. Be that as it may, this sites location still has greater credibility than either of the traditional sites listed above.

A small portion of the currently named Eastern Gate is shown at the extreme left center, in the picture below.

Another view - Left of Road and Cemetery on right side of the picture
Photo Courtesy of 'Rebuilding the Ancient Foundation' Website

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If the above listed sites are not satisfactory; are there any other possible candidates for the location of Golgotha? There is one place which has received more attention in recent times: the Mount of Olives, near the ancient site of the altar of the Red Heifer. Even so, there are at least three prevalent locations regarding this possibility, depending on which site for the Temple is chosen as the reference point; with each requiring a different location of the altar. One such location, is that put forth by Tuvia Sagiv, who contends that the Temple was located between the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The "western wall", most sacred to the Jewish people, is located on the west side of this proposed location. Dr. Ernest L. Martin (1932-2002), believed the Temple to have been located on the south side as well. However, his site was located on the Ophel Mound, completely off of the Temple Mount, yet bordering it's southern side. This is all covered in his book, "Secrets of Golgotha". Both of these views of course, would require the relocation or discovery of the original Eastern Gate in the vicinities of those sites; contrary to the current one, or the one put forth by the Temple Mount Faithful.

Dr. Asher Kaufman takes the opposite veiw, favoring the area 110 meters north of the Dome, where the Dome of the Tablets (Spirits) sits, which is in an alignment with the currently named Eastern Gate, and a place on the Mount of Olives, near the Chapel of the Ascension where He believes the Altar of the Red Heifer was located.

"Kaufman's location for the site of the Red Heifer offering is a small walled garden owned by the Armenian Church. It is located just across the summit road from the Muslim Mosque of the Ascension which is a traditional location for the place of the Ascension of Jesus Christ..."

Dome of the Tablets, Upper right corner of Temple Mount
Photo Courtesy of 'Bible Places.com

Dr. Kaufman believes that the Ark of the Covenant in Temple's Holy of Holies, sat upon the rock under the small cupola shown below. The bell tower of the "Russian Church of the Ascension" (behind and east of the more ancient Chapel of Ascension) can be seen on the Mount of Olives, with the currently named Eastern Gate of the Temple Mount, situated between them, just left of direct alignment.

Dome of the Tablets, looking towards the Eastern Gate and the Mount of Olives
Photo Courtesy of 'Bible Places.com

Consider the following items, concerning the final week during which Jesus was crucified:

  1) Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, from the Mount of Olives {Luke 19:35-37}
  2) After teaching in the Temple daily, He stayed at night on the Mount of Olives {Luke 21:37}
  3) Jesus Prophesied the destruction of the Temple from the Mount of Olives {Matt. 24:1-3}
  4) After the Last Supper, He led His disciples to the Mount of Olives {Mark. 14:26, 32}
  5) Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives {Luke 22:39, 52-54}
  6) The Crucifixion of Jesus at Golgotha {Matt. 27:33-35} - (Where?)
  7) The Burial of Jesus {Matt. 27:57-60 ; John 19:41} - (Same area as #6)
  8) The Resurrection of Jesus {Matt. 28:5-7} - (Same as #7)
  9) The Ascension of Jesus to Heaven, was from the Mount of Olives {Acts 1:9-12 ; Luke 24:50-51}
10) The Second Coming of Jesus will be to the Mount of Olives {Acts 1:11 ; Zech. 14:4}

We know that the death, burial and resurrection (6, 7 and 8 above) all occurred within a very close proximity. The question is: Is there any reason to believe that these events may also have transpired on the Mount of Olives; rather than the traditional sites shown above? The answer is: Yes.

The very locations of Gordon's Calvary, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in relation to the orientation of the Jerusalem Temple, makes them suspect as possible sites for the Lord's Crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Aside from the fact that both locations are within the limits set as "the camp", as explained above: Gordon's Calvary is located north-northwest of the Temple Mount; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is at a more westerly location. This means that both sites are located outside of visual range to see the face of the Temple. Why is this a problem?

In the Synoptic Gospels, we are told that at the very moment Jesus died, several things happened. First, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Second, there was a great earthquake. Finally, many graves of were opened {Matt. 27:50-52}. Matthew alone, records the earthquake and opened graves event; but all three of the synoptic gospels mention the veil of the temple being torn. We are also told that the Roman Centurion, and others at the crucifixion site, saw all of these things happen. All of these events, initiated by the final words of Jesus before His death, prompted those watching Him to declare, "...Surely this was the Son of God" {Matt. 27:54}. Due to their locations (north-northwest and west-northwest of the Temple) it would have been absolutely impossible for anyone to have witnessed the tearing of the Temple veil from either Gordon's Calvary, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There have been numerous attempts to minimize, or play down the veil reference in the synoptic gospel accounts. Any ascent to its veracity, obviously produces serious problems for the credibility of the two traditional sites of the crucifixion.

The only place from which such a view of the Temple veil could have been possible, was upon the Mount of Olives, which faced the front of the Temple. Accepting that, we would then have to conclude one of two things. First, Jesus was crucified low on the Mount of Olives; opposite the Eastern Gate, and very near the proposed site of the altar of the Red Heifer. Those who saw the veil torn, would have done so, by looking "through the gate", as the Temple Mount Faithful says of the Priest, who performed the sacrifice of the Red Heifer at the altar. This however, would be contrary to the altar's location as stated in the Mishna; which was atop the Mount of Olives, not lower down its western slope. Second, He was crucified much higher up the mountain where, by looking over the eastern wall, they could have had a clear view of the veil, as implied in the Gospel accounts. This would be in keeping with the Mishna account.

In an 1870 article, Scotish Doctor, R.F. Hutchinson, put forth the idea that the crucifixion and burial of Jesus took place on the Mount of Olives. Perhaps he was influenced by the painting below, created in the year 1867, by French artist, Jean-Léon Gérôme, which shows the crucifixion from the vantage point of the Mount of Olives, with shadows of Jesus, and the two others, pointing towards the Temple (upper center). The artist depiction of the shadow of the cross of Jesus, indicates that He was facing southward. If the shadow had indicated that Jesus was facing northward, then it would be consistent with the fulfillment of the sacrificial type of the Red Heifer, whose body was laid down and positioned so that its head was pointed south and its face pointed west, towards the Temple (Mishna, Parah 3:9). This is only an observation, but in light of the previous statement, Jesus would have been nailed to the cross while lying on His back, with His head pointed south. He would then only need to turn his face to the left towards the Temple to fulfill this portion of the Biblical type. When He was raised up from the ground, He would have been facing north (towards the place of the "mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:" in heaven, where Satan desired to sit (Isa.14:13)). He would have been suspended between the two malfactors: one on His left (between Him and the Temple) and one on His right (with Jesus between him and the Temple) (Matt.25:31-33 ; Luke 23:40-43). In this instance, the sinner on His left would be unshielded from the presence of God in the Temple. The one on the right side however, had Jesus between himself and God's presence. All three were put to death, "...without the camp..." and "...before His Face...". In this configuration, God could clearly see, from the Temple, the sin and sinner on Jesus' left; but would have to look past His own son (in the middle) to see to see the sin and sinner on Jesus' right side. The blood of Jesus would be between God and the repentant sinner. Even so, it should be noted that Scripture does not state which thief hung on which side of Jesus, or what the orientation of the crosses were in relationship to the Temple's location. As stated, it's simply an observation of how it might have happened.

Golgotha, Consummatum est! by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)

From the Tractate Pesachim, found in the Talmud, we learn this of activities in the Temple on the day the Passover Lamb was slain:

"In what manner was the paschal sacrifice suspended and its skin removed? Iron hooks were affixed to the walls and pillars, on which the sacrifice was suspended and its skin removed. Those who could not find a place to do it, in that manner used thin, smooth sticks of wood provided there for that purpose, on which they suspended the paschal sacrifice (and resting the sticks) between the shoulders of two persons, to remove the skin (read Matt. 27:35). R. Eliezer says: "If the 14th (of Nissan) occurred on a Sabbath, one person would place his left hand on the right shoulder of another, the latter would place his right hand on the left shoulder of the former, and thus suspending the sacrifice on the arms would remove the skin with their right hands."

Again, not to belabor the point, but this may give a good picture of Jesus being crucified as the Passover Lamb. Since He wasn't crucified on the Sabbath Day, He would have been hung on a piece of wood and suspended between between the shoulders of two men, just as in the Temple. In this case however, He would have been hung between the shoulders of the two criminals crucified with Him; who were probably facing each other; and as a results, looking directly at Jesus, God's Passover Lamb (I Cor. 5:7). This is similarly portrayed by artist, James Tissot (1836-1902) in several of his paintings including: "The death of Jesus" and "The vinegar given to Jesus", the latter of which may be seen at this link (Please close new window after viewing). Again, using the configuration above, the malfactor on Jesus' left, would have his back turned to God's presence in the Temple (as one going away from Him). The other one (on Jesus's right side) would have been facing the temple (as one coming to God). Instead of the iron hooks used to support the lamb, as in the Temple; iron nails were used to support the Lamb slain at Golgotha.

The painting above, also places the location of the Temple at where the Dome of the Rock now stands. The Eastern Gate is shown in the wall to the right of the Temple. Gerome is said to have drawn the harshest critcism of his career for this controversial rendering of the crucifixion. He was accused of having a lack of understanding of the event. Hutchinson's view point as well, fell on deaf ears, as about a dozen years later Gen. Charles Gordon's proposed site gained great acclaim among Protestant believers. The geographical location for the crucifixion, as shown in this painting, would be extremely close to where the Chapel or Dome of the Ascension is located (compare with the photos below).

A similiar view has been produced by artist, Balage Balogh, which shows the location of the crucifixion to be somewhat lower on the Mount of Olives than that of Gerome's painting; but more consistent with Dr. Asher Kaufman's location of the Temple, west of the eastern gate. You will notice here that Jesus is facing directly towards the Eastern Gate.

Image used by permission of Archaeology Illustrated.com

Since Jesus was being punished for capital crimes (Blasphemy: by affirming that He was the Son of God, and Sedition: by declaring Himself to be a King); a location "without the camp", at least 3,000 feet away from the Temple, was in order. Bear in mind too, that the straight line distance from the Temple area to the top of the Mount of Olives, would have been less than the 2,000 cubits of distance measured by walking down into the Kidron Valley and then up to the top of the Mount of Olives. This allowed the legal requirements of Scripture to be met; while at the same time, allowing the crucifixion to take place nearer to the Temple, than otherwise possible.

[Important Note: Pilate had deemed Jesus to be faultless {John 19:4}, and made the inscription, "...JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS." The chief priests however, requested that he change it to read, "...he said, I am the King of the Jews" {John 19:19-22}. This change would have made Jesus guilty of sedition; allowing the religious leader be rid of Him under Roman Law. Pilate however, refused to honor their request by saying, "....What I have written, I have written." Jesus said that He was a king; but never said that He was the "King of the Jews". So Jesus, was crucified, not as a felon, guilty of breaking Roman Law, but by the unjust accusations of the chief priests {Matt. 27:37}. Under Mosaic Law, such a person, guilty of Blasphemy, would have been stoned to death: then their hands would be tied together, and their body briefly hung on a tree, to satisfy the requirements of the law: "...cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree:..." (Deut. 21:21-23 ; Gal. 3:13). The religious leaders violated Scripture by demanding that Jesus be punished under Roman Justice, instead of Biblical Law. They were determined not only to kill Jesus, but to make Him suffer to the maximum degree possible. The idea of some, that the placard, written by Pialte, was carried before Jesus on His way to Golgotha, to announce the crime He was found guilty of, is really not valid, because Pilate didn't find Him guilty of any crime. Jesus declared Himself to be a King before Pilate, but then added that His Kingdom was not of this world {John 18:33-36}. Pilate refusal to accomodate the priests request, seems to be based on the idea that He didn't find the statements of Jesus to pose any threat to the authority of Rome, or himself.]

Under Jewish law, the trial of Jesus was illegal (being at night). Under Roman law, it was also unlawful for the Jews to put a man to death {John 18:31}. This made His crucifixion legal only by the assent of Pilate, who release Jesus to them, to carry out their Jewish law; allowing Romans soldiers to be used for the actual execution. Resorting to the charge of Blasphemy {Matt. 26:63-66}, under the guise of Sedition {John 19:12}, would have required His crucifixion to take place, "without the camp", which distance would have place it at the very summit of the Mount of Olives, where according to the Mishna (also Num. 19:3), the Red Heifer was sacrificed. It was also near this place where Jesus made His triumphal entry on the donkey, and the people began to proclaim Him as King {Luke 19:37-38}. I have read that under Roman Law, first choice for an execution site, was to be "the scene of the crime" (in this case, the summit of the Mount of Olives, where He had been proclaimed King). It's worth noting that:

"First century Jewish leaders condemn the idea of burial to the west of the city, a condemnation archaeologically corroborated by the locations of the known ancient Jewish graves." [Wikipedia]

In fact, they were quite adament concerning this point. Prevailing winds in Israel blow from west to east, allowing the possibility of an "evil wind" (i.e. the smell of death) to blow across the sacred area of the city, and especially the Temple. For this reason, most graves were placed east of the city, particularly on the Mount of Olives. There was also another compelling reason to be buried on the Mount of Olives. The Prophet Zechariah wrote, that when Messiah comes, His foot would first touch the Mount of Olives {Zech. 14:4}. This led to the belief that those buried there would be among the very first to be resurrected. It seems appropriate too, that Jesus, "...the firstborn from the dead" {Col.1:18}, should have been resurrected, and later ascend to heaven, from a place where so many of Israel's people are buried. The largest, and oldest, Jewish Cemetery in the World is on the Mount of Olives.

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Chapel of the Ascension

The Chapel (or Dome) of the Ascension is located at the summit of the Mount of Olives, and is slightly north of east, on a line extending from the eastern entrance of the Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount. At least since the late fourth century, it has been reputed to be the place from which Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven {Acts 1:9-12}. Prior to honoring this site, early Christian believers are said to have met in the "Eleona Cave", some 240 feet down hill, to comemerate the ascension of Jesus. The Church of "Pater Nostor" is built over this cave. According to another tradition, the small rock inside the Chapel of the Ascension, contains the right footprint of Jesus which remained after His ascension. The left footprint is said to have been removed and taken to the Al-aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount. In looking at this rock, there may be something even more revealing than a footprint. Take a look at the following four photos.

Can you see the image of a human head in this photo, facing to the right side?

Image #1, Rock inside the Chapel of the Ascension
on the Mount of Olives

(Original Wikipedia Photo has been rotated, with no enhancements)

Take a closer look, and then look at the first photo again!

Image #2, Is the Rock of the Ascension also Golgotha, the "Place of a Skull" (Head)?
(Photos Courtesy of Wikipedia) 1

The head of image #1, as seen from it's backside, reveals this skull-like portrayal.

Once again, rotating it back to the original position, take a different look at it.

Does the "Place of a Skull" (Head) necessarily refer to a part of human anatomy,
or could it refer to some undefined image that may crudely resembles a skull or head?

The above picture is the work of Yoav Dothan 2 (the rotations and added captions are mine). Also, the opinions expressed concerning the apparent characteristics of a head or skull found in the photo, are not related to his work; nor are they intended to be a declaration that this rock is Golgotha, "the place of a skull". Different people can surely see different images in the photos, kind of like a "Rorschach Test". It really depends on you point of reference. However, I had little difficulty in finding three images on the rock, that could be construed as representing a head or a skull. If one is looking for a skull, or head, they will tend to focus on that, and eliminate all other possibilities from their analysis. In this case, we are dealing with the evidential probability that Jesus was crucified on the Mount of Olives; and that there was something in the vicinity of His crucifixion, which led the people to call it, "the place of a skull". There is no indication as to whether it is the skull, or head of a human, or that of some type of other creature. The word "Golgotha" comes from the Hebrew word, "Gulgoleth" (Strong's #1538), and can be interpreted as either, "skull", or "head".

The use of the name, "place of a skull", doesn't necesarily indicate that the crucifixion site itself had to resembled that of a skull, as is claimed for "Gordon's Calvary", or the Dusatko site. It may only be making reference to a place, commonly known to the people of Jerusalem, as having something (perhaps a small, but unusual rock as shown above); which may have sufficiently resembled that of a skull or head, so as to eventually gain acceptance as a place name. The Mount of Olives is a place where many graves are located. The Kidron Valley, between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, has also been a site of many burials from as far back as the time King Josiah {II Kings 23:6}. This fact led to the "causeway (bridge) of the Red Heifer" (Mishna, Parah 3:6), connecting the Eastern Gate with the Miphkad Altar, to be built in such a way as to prevent contact with any graves located between the two places. For Jewish people, the greatest form of ritual impurity was that which was brought about by some type of contact with the dead, either directly or indirectly. The Red Heifer was sacrifice, on the Mount of Olives, to deal with that very issue.

It shouldn't seem unusual to us, that the people may have discovered something (a skull or head-like image on a rock) on the Mount of Olives, which came to designate the place as one where events associated with death took place. After all, it was a place for dealing with sin offerings, and Golgotha was certainly the place where the death of Jesus occurred. "Towards the beginning of the fifth century Rufinus spoke of ' the rock of Golgotha' ". One explanation for the name is that when David slew Goliath, he took his head to Jerusalem (I Sam. 17:54) to be buried. Jerusalem was a Jebusite stronghold at the time, so David stop outside its limits. Accordig to this theory, Jesus was crucified at the very place where Goliath's head had been placed, which had come to be called, "the place of a skull".

There is however, no way to absolutely determine what it was that they saw, which induced them to call the site, the place of a skull. As far as this particular rock is concerned, its unknown what effects erosion, over two millenia, may have had on the stone. During its long history, as the stone from which Jesus was said to have ascended to heaven, it sometimes had a covering built over it, by those who revered the site. Other times it was open, and exposed to elements of the weather. As stated above, Muslims are said to have removed a portion of the rock. Christian pilgrims too, are reported to have taken sand and small pieces of the rock with them when returning to their homeland. Still, the pictures above offer some uncanny similarities to that of a skull or head, when viewed from different angles. It's also worth noting, that the geographic location of this rock, is consistent with the location of the Altar of the Red Heifer as given in the Mishna (also Num. 19:3-4), and consequently, with the crucifixion site itself {Heb. 13:10-14}, as depicted in the French painting above.

Chapel of the Ascension, in direct alignment with the Dome of the Rock
(As seen from the bell tower of the Russian Church of the Ascension)

As you can see from the picture above, the Chapel of the Ascension is in perfect alignment with the eastern face of the Dome of the Rock. The true Eastern Gate, according to the Temple Mount Faithful, lies buried beneath the wall, immediately in front of the Dome of the Rock.

Dome of the Rock, as seen from Chapel of the Ascension
The two pictures above are courtesy of Zahi Shaked

You can also see, from this picture taken in 1930, that the Eastern Gate and Dome of the Tablets are not in alignment with the Chapel of the Ascension. Asher Kaufman however, was not trying to pinpoint the location of Golgotha, but the location of the Temple, from which he concluded that the Miphkad altar was on the Mount of Olives, near the Chapel of the Ascension. Dr. Ernest L. Martin's book, "Secrets of Golgotha", also has a drawing of the Chapel of the Ascension, on its cover. Regardless of whether the Temple stood at the Dome of the Rock, or at the Kaufman site; the Altar of the Red Heifer would have been very near the Chapel of the Ascension, with the outer veil of the Temple in clear view. When looking at the above pictures consider too, that the face (Portico) of the second Temple (Herod's) was 100 cubits high (about 150 feet or, approximately 35 feet taller than the Dome of the Rock, which tops out at about 115 feet). The outer veil itself (according to Josephus), was about 82.5 feet high, and 24 feet wide. That means that the height of the veil would have been some 32.5 feet less than the height of the Dome. Comparing the eastern face of the Dome, which has a length of about 67 feet, to the entrance way where outer veil of the Temple hung, would have made the veil's width to have covered about a third the width of the Dome's eastern wall. It would not have been difficult at all, to have seen the veil of the Temple torn in two from this vantage point. Compared to other buildings of Jerusalem, the Temple was enormous, to say the least.

Chapel of the Ascension's location, as seen from rear of the Dome of the Rock

In the above picture, the small dome on the Chapel of the Ascension is barely visible at the base of the Bell Tower of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension, and in direct alignment with the eastern side of the Dome of the Rock, which faces the summit of the Mount of Olives, just north of due east. Dr. Asher Kaufman, places the Altar of the Red Heifer just below and to the left of the Chapel (across the road, leading up to the summit).

If we assume however, that the second Temple was located where the Dome of the Rock sits, then the Miphkad Altar, and most likely the crucifixion of Jesus, would have been somewhere along a line running from the Dome of the Rock to the Chapel, or just to the south of it (that being due east). As stated before, the place of the ascension of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, was said to be a "sabbath day's journey" from Jerusalem {Acts. 1:12}. Again, the Red Heifer, a Biblical type of Jesus, was sacrificed, "without the camp". So, the distance from the Temple to both the altar and to the place of the ascension of Jesus, was a minimum of 2,000 cubits (about 3,000 feet, or a sabbath day's journey).


Image Courtesy of Google Maps. © 2013 Google (captions added)

As you can see from the Google map above, the "straight line" distance between the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Ascension, using the maps scale, is approximately 2,800 Feet. The additional 200 feet distance, needed to equal 2,000 cubits, may be accounted for in that the people would walk down into the Kidron Valley, and then up the western slope of the Mount of Olives (not straight across as measured on the map). Even then, they would have followed the road going up the Mount, adding additional steps. If we measure the distance from the Dome of the Tablets (Kaufman's proposed Temple site), then it would be very close to the 2,000 cubit limit. To have gone much beyond that distance, would have put the altar on the backside of the Mount of Olives; and out of the required visual aligment with the Temple. From this we may deduce that Golgotha was in the same vicinity as the Miphkad Altar, as was the place of Jesus' ascension. This brings into question once again, as to whether the rock located at the Chapel of the Ascension, might be the actual "place of a skull", referred to in Scripture. It's at least, food for thought.

Rock inside of the Dome of the Rock
(Many Believe The Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies sat here)

The idea of the crucifixion occuring near the Chapel of the Ascension, is given futher support by Hebrews 13:10-14, which strongly suggest that Jesus was executed in the vicinity of the Altar of the Red Heifer, "...on the top of the Mount of Olives..."

10) "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
11) For the bodies of those beast, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
12) Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13) Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
14) For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come."

{Emphasis above is mine}

Here we see the Apostle Paul making reference to a certain altar. He is comparing the death of Jesus, who was crucified, "nigh to the city" according to John 19:20, to sin offerings which were finalized "without the camp". The bodies of the animals burned "without the camp" (in verse 11), is a direct reference to those sacrificed, in the Temple, on the Day of Atonement {Lev. 16:27}; and point to the sacrifice of Jesus as a fulfillment of the types represented on that day. Priest ate regularly from animals sacrificed at the altar inside the Temple. No one was allowed to eat from the altar outside the camp, because it was strictly for sin offerings and the bodies of the animals were burned to ashes there. The phrase, "...bearing his reproach..." is a reference to the cross which Jesus carried to the sacrificial place of His death, outside the camp. The Miphkad Altar on the Mount of Olives, was also a place where blood was spilled, and cleansing from impurities, by sprinkling of Red Heifer ashes mixed with pure spring water, from the Pool of Siloam, was initiated {John 19:34}. Only the Red Heifer, was both sacrifice and burned, outside the Temple, at the Altar. In speaking of the specific location of "without the camp", we have this from the Babylonian Talmud:

"...R. Eliezer says: It is said here: ‘Without the camp’, and it is said there: Without the camp: (Num. 19:3-4) Just as here it means outside the three camps, so does it mean there outside the three camps; and just as there it means to the east of Jerusalem, so does it mean here to the east of Jerusalem..." (Yoma 66A)

"...Rabbi Eliezer is quoted in the Mishnah, the Baraita, and the Talmud more frequently than any one of his colleagues." (Wikipedia)

Some Rabbis of the 5th century AD however, put forth the idea that the altar where the animals offered for sin offerings were burnt, was located north of the Temple. Dr. Ernest L. Martin repudiates this notion in His book, "Secrets of Golgotha":

"... an opinion among some Jews in the 5th century C.E. that a “clean place” for burning the sin offerings was located north of the Temple.14 There were reasons in the 5th century why they said this (and I will explain it in a later chapter), but this opinion could in no way be correct for the 1st century since it contradicts the eyewitness account of Rabbi Eliezer that in Temple times the specific “clean place” was east of Jerusalem...15 "

So, we may be looking at a location here, where Jesus was not only crucified, buried and resurrected; but one from which He also ascended to heaven. If all four events occurred near the Chapel of the Ascension, the significance of the place would be immeasurably enhanced. If the crucifixion of Jesus took place here, then it is evident that the tomb in which He was buried, must also be in the vicinity; though probably yet hidden from our view, as many of the currently known ancient tombs were at one time. A first century tomb was discovered very near the Eleona Cave, mentioned above, some 240 feet south southwest of the Dome of the Ascension, which some believe could have been the tomb in which Jesus was buried. Others of that period, could certainly be unearthed in the future.

*************

Is the opening of the graves, after the veil of the Temple was torn, in Matt. 27:51-54, somehow prophetically related to the death and resurrection of Jesus? What possible bearing could that event have on the idea that Jesus was probably crucified, buried and resurrected on the Mount of Olives?

According to Matthew, the graves were opened upon the death of Jesus. However, those in the graves didn't go into the city until after His resurrection. Scripture makes it clear, that Jesus is, "...the firstborn from the dead" {Col. 1:18}. This definitely quells the idea by some, that the opening of the graves was immediately followed by the resurrection of those saints. He, who declared Himself to be "..the resurrection, and the life..." {John 11:25}, had to rise first to validate that claim. He raised others back to natural life; but His was a raising to eternal life.

It is stated that, "...the rocks rent; and the graves were opened..." {Matt.27:51-52}. This indicates that it was not ordinary rocks of the earth, but the "rocks" which covered the openings of a selected number of sepulchres, which were "rent" or split in two; in the same fashion as that of the veil of the Temple. The Greek word, pronounced as "skhid'-zo" (Strong's #4977), is used for both the tearing of the Temple veil, and the splitting of the rocks, regarding the opening of the graves. According to Thayers Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, the word "opened", as used in the above verse (Strong's #455), refers to the opening of a door. In this case, the door would be the stones covering of the sepluchres. This was not a normal earthquake, but one whose purpose was to announce the death of the one which the priest had rejected; and to make it known, by the splitting of the veil, that their priesthood was about to be stripped from them. So, to follow the sequence: the death of Jesus caused the veil to split from top to bottom; continuing on with an earthquake, which caused the stones sealing certain tombs to be split, or cracked in like fashion.

In the Temple, there were two, or possibly three veils (depending on the rabbinic source cited). First, there was the outer veil at the entrance to the Holy Place. Second, there was the inner veil seperating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Some rabbinic sources state that there were actually two veils (one cubit apart), between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. During the Pilgrim Festivals (i.e. Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles), it was stated that the Temple's outer curtain (veil) was actually rolled up so that the Pilgrims could see the veil of the Holy of Holies. From the Encyclopedia Judaica, Temple/The Pilgrim Festivals we find this:

"During the festival the curtain which normally hung at the entrance to the sanctuary was rolled up to enable the people to view the Holy of Holies, and the holy vessels and appurtenances were even brought out into the azarah in full view of the pilgrims (Jos., Ant. 3:128; Yoma 54b; Hag 3:7)"

So, according to this, it's possible that the veil observed as being torn in two at the death of Jesus (at Passover), could have been that of the Holy of Holies. However, since Jesus entered the Holy of Holies in Heaven, at some point later to complete the atonement for our sins {Heb. 9:11-12, 24}, it doesn't seem likely that the inner veil would have been torn on that day.

The question may also be posed here: "If there was darkness from the sixth hour (Noon) until the ninth hour (3:00 PM), when the veil was torn; How could anyone have possibly seen this event take place at the Temple?" It would have been difficult, if not impossible, to have seen the Temple itself; much less the veil, under such a condition. However, we should be mindful of the fact, that the altar of burnt offerings and the great lampstand inside the Holy Place, burned daily so that the priest could carry out their duties. In the latter place, there would have been darkness, because of the thickness of the veil. The fact that the veil was torn from top to bottom, implies that, the veil torn was fully hanging, and not rolled up as cited above. At any rate, when the veil was rent in two, with darkness outside the Temple area; attention would surely be drawn to the most prominently visible light around (that of the altar of Burnt offerings and the lampstand inside the Holy Place). With the appearance of that light, symbolizing God's presence, the three hours or darkness subsided, and enlightenment began which was to fill the whole earth; God's redemptive plan was set into motion.

In Hebrews 10:17-20, we are made to understand that the veil of the Temple represented the flesh, or body of Jesus. This seems to be alluded to in both Ps. 7:1-2 and Ps. 35:15. So, Jesus (the veil) which stood between God, and man was torn by death; His Spirit leaving His flesh (symbloized by the veil splitting). It also seems to confirm the meaning of the words of Jesus in John 14:6:

"...no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

The significance of this would be that the Holy Place, where the select priests had previously served, was now opened up for all believers to enter therein and participate as the priests of God {Rev. 1:5-6}. They would minister to the peoples needs on earth. Jesus, our High Priest, entered into the heavenly Holy of Holies to accompolish the atonement for our sins, to which all the earthly sacrifices had pointed. Leviticus 16:32 portrays an accurate picture of Jesus serving as the anointed and consecrated priest, who accomplished this work:

"And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement..."

Having done that, there would be no further need for anyone to enter the Holy of Holies. Even in Israel, the High Priest entered through the veil into the Holy of Holies on one day each year; and then only for the purpose of making the yearly atonement for sin. He had to repeat this year after year, because the sacrifices were imperfect {Heb. 10:1-3}, and unable to secure permanent atonement for the people. Only when Jesus Himself entered in the Holy of Holies in Heaven, was full and everlasting atonement achieved. His entry to make atonement was a one time event. Afterwards, He would be making intercession for the saints from the right hand of God {Rom. 8:34}. In Hebrews 4:16 we told that we may "..come boldly before the throne of grace...". This too was effected by the tearing of the veil of the Temple.

The priesthood had been effectively stripped from rebellious Israel, because of their unbelief, and given to others {Rom.11:19-22}. It also appears to be a testimony, that God, who had opened the graves on the day of the crucifixion, was about to bring a new group of saints (those who were about to be resurrected), into the heavenly sanctuary to serve Him there.

It's very likely, that at least some of those tombs, were near where Jesus died, so as to have made this event visible to those who were in attendance at the crucifixion. Though the stones were broken, or possibly just cracked, doesn't necessarily suggest that the bodies inside became visible as a results: or that those who observed what happened, had any reason to suspect that such an occurrence was the prelude to the resurrection which was to occur a few days later. It's doubtful that any one would have gone to inspected the tombs, or otherwise take action concerning the events, on that day. It was the preparation day of the Passover (14 Nissan), and the Feast day was rapidly approaching. Any contact with the dead or their tombs, at that point, would have rendered such persons as unclean, and therefore unable to participate in the Passover meal that evening. It's also unlikely that any Jewish people would have returned later (during the Passover week) to repair the damage. Those at the crucifixion event, as well, may not have known who were buried in the affected tombs, nor to which families they belonged, that they might have reported the event to them. Given the Passover Festivities of that week, the families connected with the breached tombs, may have been totally unaware of what had happened until a number of days later.

Now, to address what prophetic significance may be attached to those graves, if indeed, they were located at the Mount of Olives. First, the resurrection of Jesus was a fulfillment of the Biblical type of the Feast of Firstfruits {Lev. 23:11}. He first appeared to the women, and then the disciples, on the same day Firstfruits was offered up by the Priest in the Temple (i.e. "the morrow after the Sabbath").

Alfred Edersheim states in his book entitled, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, that the sheaf of firstfruits was harvested at evening, following the Sabbath. This corresponds with the ending on Jesus' third day in "the heart of the earth" {Matt. 12:40}. The place where the sheaf was cut was, "...in a field across Kedron, which had been marked out for the purpose....for obvious reasons, it was customary to choose for this purpose the sheltered Ashes-valley across Kedron..." So, according Edersheim, the area at the bottom of the Mount of Olives was the location where the sheaf was cut.

We may feel confident that the resurrection of Jesus, occurred at the end of the sabbath which gave way to the beginning of Firstfruits. We may also surmise, that by the time the sheaf was being cut by the Priest, east of the Brook Kidron; Jesus, "... the resurrection and the life...", had gone forth from the tomb, and was calling to life those which had been waiting in the graves, which were opened on the day of His crucifixion. The harvesting of the true sheaf of firstfruits was taking place. One parallel may also be seen here: Just as the priests went out beforehand and marked the sheafs to be cut for Firstfruits; God also preselected or marked, by opening the graves on 14 Nissan, which saints would be resurrected on Firstfruits.

The number "70" is a significant number in the Old Testament. The barley to be used for Firstfruits, was planted seventy days before Passover (15 Nissan). There were also seventy elders in Israel's great Tribunal {Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16}, which was later called the Sanhedrin. So, if those resurrected by Jesus constitute the sheaf of Firstfruits; then they may well have been selected from, past members of the "seventy elders" of Israel, who had died. I've often wondered if the "twenty four elders", seen in the Book of Revelation, may have been twenty four righteous elders, selected from among the many councils of the seventy, down through time; and that they were taken up to heaven by Jesus on that day, presented as Firstfruits, after which they began serving as priests in the heavenly sanctuary {Rev.5:8-10 ; Acts 2:5}. They may possibly represent the heads of twenty four courses of priest, which may serve in the Temple of God during the Millenial reign of Jesus and the saints {I Chron.24:7-18}. Of course, we are no where specifically told in Scripture, how many graves were opened on the crucifixion day.

"When the First and Second Temples were built, the priests assumed these same roles in these permanent structures on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They were divided into 24 groups, each group consisting of six priestly families. Each of the 24 served for one complete week, with each of the six serving one day per week, on the Sabbath all six worked in tandem. According to later rabbinical interpretation these 24 groups changed every Sabbath at the completion of the Mussaf service." (wikipedia)

Looking at the chronology involved here, also brings to mind the raising of Lazarus on the fouth day after his death {John 11:38-40, 43-44}. Why did Jesus wait until the fourth day? It may have been because three days in the tomb was the time span after which a person was declared to be legally dead (or so I've read). By waiting, no one could dispute that Jesus had truly raised Lazarus from the dead. Jewish belief reckons, that the spirit of the departed hovers near the body for three days before finally departing to its everlasting abode. The resurrection of Lazarus however, is more likely to have been a shadow of the resurrection mentioned in Matt. 27:52-53, which also would have occurred on the fourth day, after the death of Jesus. The account in Matthew states that those who came forth from the graves, went into the city. "...after His resurrection..." We know from the "Jonah prophecy" {Matt. 12:40}, that Jesus would be resurrected after spending, "...three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."; and since those saints went into the city after His resurrection, it would have occurred on the fourth day. Just as Jesus had called Lazarus to come forth from the "opened" tomb on the fourth day; He also called the saints in the tombs "opened" on the day of the crucifixion, to come forth on the fourth day; which also happened to be on the same day Firstfruits would be offered up in the Temple. Lazarus' tomb was opened by the hands of man (he was raised to natural life); the tombs on the crucifixion day were opened by the hand of God (they were resurrected to eternal life).

According to John 20:17, when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, early on the morning of Firstfruits (a Sunday), He told her that He would ascend to heaven. This leads us to the possible conclusion, that when the Priest was going up to offer the firstfruits of the harvest to God, in the Temple at Jerusalem; Jesus was ascending to offer the true sheaf (that of the resurrrected saints) unto God, in the Temple of Heaven. He returned afterwards, and was seen by the disciples on the same day. Many who refute the idea that Jesus ascended to Heaven on that Sunday, do not appear to understand the siginificance of how necessary this was in order to fulfill the Old Testament type of Firstfruits. Instead, they hold tenaciously, without any Scriptural backing, to one ascension; and that being forty days after His resurrection.

As far as Israel's future is concerned: God will allow them to rebuild the Temple and resume animal sacrifices. The sacrifices however, will not be accepted by Him, because complete atonement has already been perfected through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. For God to accept such sacrifices now, would refute the full and eternal atonement established through the death of Jesus. There is no going back to the covenant which existed before His death! The consequences of Israel's rejection of the work of Jesus is probably best summed up in Hosea 5:14-15:

14) "For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to Judah.

I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.

15) I will return again to my place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they shall seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek me." (NKJV)

Here is a perfect picture of the effect of Israel's rejection of the atonement made for them by Jesus. Having rejected their Messiah, He returned to Heaven {Acts 1:9-12}: "...I will return again to my place". They were torn from their land, "...I, even I, will tear them...", and sent away in the Diaspora; "...I will take them away, and no one shall rescue..." them. They remained out of the land for more than 18 centuries, after which they began the return. Yet Scripture declares that Messiah will not return unto them until, "...they acknowledge their offense...". When they acknowledge their offense, and truly seek Him, "...in their affliction..." then Messiah will return, rescue them and receive them unto Himself.. That will occur at the end of the seven years of tribulation {Zech. 12:9-10}.

The likely scenario is: When the sacrifices resume, the effect will be essentially the same as in the forty years before the destruction of the Temple Click Here to see: "Mysterious Events in the Jerusalem Temple". That, or a similiar set of events, will probably continue through for the first three Days of Atonement which will occur during the seven years of tribulation. The Talmud itself, declares that there will be seven years of tribulation before Messiah comes.

" Our Rabbis taught: in the seven year cycle at the end of which the son of David will come - in the first year, this verse will be fulfilled: And I will cause it to rain upon one city and cause it not to rain upon another city; in the second, the arrows of hunger will be sent forth; in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, pious men and saints will die, and the Torah will be forgotten by its students; in the fourth, partial plenty; in the fifth, great plenty, when men will eat, drink and rejoice, and the Torah will return to its disciples; in the sixth, [Heavenly] sounds; in the seventh, wars; and at the conclusion of the septennate the son of David will come." (Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a)

Counting of time, would initially begin on the day following a future Day of Atonement (i.e., Tishri 11). Then, about six months into the fourth year (Nissan 10), God will use the Antichrist to put a permanent end to the sacrifices. He may well point out, that God in Heaven has rejected the sacrifices of Israel: an odd thing that such a person should deliver this truth to Israel. His intentions however, are anything but that of being the holy messenger of God. After putting an end to the sacrificial system, originally institued under the leadership of Moses, he will set up a new system: which will be centered around an image of himself (i.e., the "image of the beast"). This would be followed by three and a half years of great tribulation (Jacob's trouble, Gen. 35:10). At the end of that period (on the Day of Atonement, which ends the seven years); the people, in the face of anihilation by the Antichrist {Zech. 13:8-9}, will finally realize that the atonement which Israel had longed sought after, had been truly made for them through the death of Jesus. God has declared that He will not return to them until they acknowledge their offense (rejecting the atonement made for them through Jesus), and seek Him early {Hosea 5:15}. Then, having departed from unbelief, God will forgive them and graft them into His Olive tree again {Rom. 11:23}, and their Messiah (Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew), will be revealed from Heaven, destroy the Antichrist, and "...all Israel shall be saved." {Rom. 11:25-26}.

So, as you may see from this presentation, that there is substantial reason to associate the timing and place of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus on the Mount of Olives; not only with the sacrifice of the red heifer; but with the opened graves, and the actual fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits, which sheaf was cut thereabouts. All the sacrificial elements of the Law, including those of the Day of Atonement, come into clear focus with the death of Jesus at Golgotha. In all of these things, a perfect picture is painted of the work of the atonement necessary for our redemption from sin. What yet remains, is for Israel to accept that atonement, after which, all Israel shall be saved {Zech. 13:1 ; Rom. 11:26-27}

1 Used under: Creative_Commons_Attribution-ShareAlike_3.0_Unported_License
2 For more on Yoav Dothan Click Here

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