Friday, 22 November 2013

The Garden Tomb and is that Golgotha?

The aforementioned General Gordon convinced himself and others that a rock not far from the present old Arab bus station was Golgotha, the 'place of the skull' where Christ was crucified.
It is a quiet garden with rows of chairs: it took me a while to realise that these are for impromptu acts of worship by pilgrim groups.
You can see the rock from a platform at the end of the garden. It's above a car park now. Somehow, even though its authenticity is in doubt... it's a very powerful place. It's very warm and there is no one else there until a guide appears and says I can stay for his talk; he's a former pilot (RAF) I hear him say later.

One of the best things about the garden, he says, is that there' s no church above it: no holy structure has been built. And it could well be the site of Christ's tomb. The Bible says that Christ was crucified and buried outside the city. This place is certainly outside the old city walls.
The Biblical site was known by two names: Calvary (Latin) and Golgotha (Aramaic).
The Romans didn't have a monopoly on cruel forms of capital punishment. The Jews stoned people to death. The site of the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr is thought to be nearby and on it is built the Dominican Convent and Church of St Stephen.
There is no reason to believe that Christ was crucified on a hill, despite the hymns of childhood: 'There is a green hill far away/Without a city wall....'
The Romans crucified at street level so that the suffering was plain for all to see.
Jesus was apparently nailed to the cross at 9am and died at 3pm. (This puts paid to the idea that I have had for a long time that he died in the early hours of the morning. Someone told me once that three to four am was the time Christ died, which is why we wake in the night with troubled thoughts at that time - the dark night of the soul. ) The brisk but charming ex-RAF pilot guide says read John Chapter 3 to discover how man can be born again.
There is a text printed on a signpost. The words that don't have to be there always strike me. Here - 'between two others'. Why did there have to be two others? And why was He between them?
"Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led him away.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
"Where they crucified him, and two with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst."

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy