I visited the National Geographic Museum in DC today and went through the “Tomb of Jesus” exhibit, where they have done a good job of showing what the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is like. I was wondering what your thoughts were on this being the authentic site of Jesus’ burial. Seems implausible that Golgotha and the tomb were that near one another. Thoughts? -- Daniel Sides

Could be. Every time I visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre I wonder whether it could be authentic. But I have my doubts.

But a difficulty is the proximity of the tomb location to Golgotha. If the Church of the Holy Sepulchre covers both, that is certainly convenient for pilgrims – two sites in one visit – but are these locations authentic? The Bible speaks of a rich man’s grave (Matthew 27:57; see Isaiah 53:9). Would a nice grave be placed only 10 or 20 meters from an execution site? I doubt it.

Maybe you can join one of our tours to Israel, and you can visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and decide for yourself. Not to say that the NatGeo reconstruction is bad -- they did a terrific job with it. (I visited it earlier this year, in fact.)

Maybe you could read my paper on The Red Heifer Sacrifice and the Crucifixion (1997), where I entertain the possibility that the location is somewhere on the Mount of Olives. I am not as convinced as I was in 1997, but since no one knows the exact location of the tomb, you should give the Mount of Olives some consideration. You might also want to take a look at this article. The author brings up some good points.

The earliest Christians seem not to have cared -- or else forgot -- about the location of Christ's tomb. After all, he hardly used it. Further, we visit the tombs of the dead -- but Christ is alive! Interest in the Holy Sepulchre began in that theologically tumultuous 4th century -- once the church had made peace with the world and had time for all sorts of diversions. What I am saying is that the location isn't that important.

Hope I have answered your question.