A 2,000-year old shrouded body found in a tomb near Jerusalem could be that of a witness to Christ's crucifixion, according to British archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who is director of the Jerusalem Archaeological Field Unit. He discovered the remains as he showed students around 1st-century tombs in the Hinnom Valley. They consist of bones and a well-preserved clump of hair, which were wrapped in the only shroud from Christ?s time that has been found in Israel.
The shroud has been carbon dated to the first 50 years of the 1st century AD, coinciding with Christ?s earthly life. DNA tests on the remains indicate that the body was that of a male who died from tuberculosis. Gibson discovered the tomb in 2000 but has kept it secret until now. A section of the shroud was carbon dated by Dr. Douglas Donohue, of Arizona University.
When Gibson entered the tomb, he says, ?I had to slide feet first through an opening no bigger than about 2 feet square. I could make out typical, rock-cut tombs of the Roman period and many human bones.? When he saw the blackened shroud ?a shiver ran down my back.?
The tomb had been ransacked by robbers who probably stole valuable artifacts but discarded the shroud and the remains that were wrapped in it. The tomb was in Akeldama, the ?field of blood? referred to in St. Matthew?s Gospel. This area is believed to have been bought by Judas with the money he received for betraying Jesus, and was where he later hanged himself. Gibson says the area is now used as a rubbish dump and is in ?a very poor state. But it was once a very select area, used as a burial ground by the super-wealthy, as it faced Mount Zion. It was also the site of the palace of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, under whom Christ was crucified, as well as the houses of priests and aristocrats.?
The tomb was adjacent to that of Annas, the high priest before whom Jesus was brought after his arrest. Gibson says, ?Given all the evidence, such as the tomb?s prestigious location, the fact that the hair was very clean and the shroud was made of wool rather than the cheaper linen normally used, it is probable that this man was high born or of a priestly family.
?When you remember that Jerusalem was then a small place?you appreciate that people would have known everything that was going on. It is highly likely that this man knew of Jesus coming to Jerusalem, the uproar of his driving the money-changers from the temple courts and so on. Perhaps as a sick man he may have sought out the miracle worker from Galilee, or perhaps seen the crucifixion at Golgotha from his window. There is some speculation, of course, but backed by all the circumstances.?
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