Whose tomb is this, anyway?

A Jerusalem monument thought for millennia to be the tomb of King David's rebellious son, Absalom, may actually be the burial site of key Gospel figures, according to recently uncovered inscriptions from around A.D. 350. Joe Zias, a retired curator for the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Emile Puech discovered faded Greek writing only visible by sunlight at certain times of the day: "This is the Tomb of Zacharias, martyr, very pious priest, father of John." Nearby was a reference to Simeon, the Jewish priest who hailed Jesus as Messiah.

While the ascetic biblical scholar Jerome (c.345-420) recorded that Zacharias and Simeon were buried together, along with Jesus' disciple and brother James, most scholars say the finding tells us something about the beliefs of early Christians, but it's probably not the actual burial site. It probably wasn't Absalom's Tomb, either—archaeologists have dated the site to the first century B.C. "We don't know if it actually is Zacharias's tomb … but it is clear someone in the 4th century was convinced it was," University of South Florida religion professor Jim Strange told The Christian Science Monitor.

The find may prompt work on other neglected sites that will yield further insights. Absalom's Tomb itself had been of little archaeological or historical interest lately—Zias found it used at times as a drug den. Meanwhile, Zias is looking for an inscription mentioning James. "There are three burial niches, so it certainly fits," he says. But after the heated controversy over the last James find—the "son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" ossuary—he may be better off without it.

Bring me the thumb of George Whitefield

The archives at Drew University, ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

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

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.