Guest / Limited Access /

With first-century historian Flavius Josephus as his guide, Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer searched for more than three decades to find the tomb of Herod the Great. He believed it was located at a small, conspicuously symmetrical, flat-topped mountain called Herodium, home to the ruins of Herod's 2,000-year-old fortified palace. Herodium lies three miles east of Bethlehem, the scene where, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod ordered the infant massacre.

Finally, on May 8, Netzer's perseverance paid off: His team discovered remains of a mausoleum and pieces of an ornate, 8-foot-long stone coffin at the end of a ceremonial staircase. No inscription links the tomb to Herod, Netzer said, but "there is not really anyone else that it could be."

Paul Maier, a professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, is disappointed at the lack of identification. "It could well be Herod's tomb," he said, "but we have to withhold judgment."

From 1978 to 2006, Netzer's team excavated at the base of the mountain, the area he calls the Tomb Estate. "I'm convinced [Herod] intended to be buried there, until five to six years before he died," Netzer said.

Sometime shortly after Herod's death in 4 B.C., the tomb was ransacked. Netzer and Maier agree it was most likely the work of Jewish zealots, who provoked a revolt against Rome 70 years later. Even though Herod rebuilt the temple, Jews resented his rule. He imposed burdensome taxes, and though he identified himself as a Jew, he did not observe most Jewish religious practices.

Herodium, one of the largest palace complexes in the Roman Empire, boasted gardens, pools, and stables. Herod the Great earned his title by ordering monumental building projects. But he also murdered one of ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Just As We Were
Is mass evangelism dead?
RecommendedBiblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2016
Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2016
A glimpse at the important excavation work revealed this year.
TrendingThe Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
The Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
What Paula White’s Washington moment implies for the prosperity gospel’s future.
Editor's PickThe Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
The Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
It begins by recognizing the name above every name.
Christianity Today
Tyrant's Tomb Unearthed
hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.