An Interview of the then Keeper of the Tomb, Rev. Solomon Mattar
"How old is this garden?" I asked Mr. Mattar.
"This was the garden of Joseph of Asimathea. He intended it for
a place of quiet, set apart from the city, where he could do business
and attend meetings of the Sanhedrin. Before that it was a Canaanite
homestead. One of the cisterns was dug long before the time of
Christ," he replied.
"How sure can we be that this is really the place where Jesus
was buried?" I asked.
"I have been the Keeper of the Garden Tomb for a number of
years," he replied. "And I have had plenty to time to study
the events that happened here at the time of Jesus' crucifixion and
burial. You have seen the large figure of the skull formed by nature in
the side of the hill called "Golgotha, the place of the
skull", as described in the Bible:
"And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha,
that is to say, A place of a skull ... they crucified him.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son
of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have eternal life. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the
people with his blood, suffered without the gate. Christ hath redeemed
us from the curse of the law, being made the curse for us; for it is
written cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree."
Jesus was crucified just outside the Gate, the Damascus Gate,
a place often used for executions. It is said that St. Stephen was
stoned to death there, for his faith. The Apostle John plainly states,
'At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the
garden a new tomb, not yet used for burial. There, because the
tomb was near at hand and it was the eve of the Jewish Sabbath,
they laid Jesus.' This is what the Bible says and it fits the locality
of this tomb, which was closeby the site of the crucifixion.
"There are other reasons which you can find within the sepulchre
itself. Only one loculus was finished of the three within the sepulchre.
The other two were left unfinished and have remained so to this day. The
tomb was covered with the debris of centuries, hidden for almost 1900
hundred years. General Gordon of England, stopping here on his way from
China, studied the terrain, comparing it with the Bible. He saw the
figure of the skull in the rock of the hill and decided the tomb must be
He went back to London, raised $6,000 and bought the land. The Garden
Tomb Association (London) was formed with the stated purpose 'That the
Garden and Tomb be kept sacred as a quiet spot and preserved, on the one
hand from desecration and, on the other hand, from superstitious uses.'
That is why I am here as the Keeper.
"If you look inside the sepulchre you will see several crosses
painted in red, the one of the East wall appears plainly, accompanied by
the Greek letters, 'Alpha and Omega.' These crosses were placed there by
the early Christians, because the tomb has been sealed by dirt and
debris since the days of Jesus and His followers.
"If you study the loculus where the body of Jesus was laid, you
will notice that about three inches of the granite rock was very
hurriedly removed at the foot of the tomb. The walls of the sepulchre
are all finely chiselled, but this is rough chiselling. To me it is
obvious that the loculus was formed to accommodate Joseph, who would
have been about 5 foot 8 inches tall. Workmen hurriedly lengthened the
tomb to accommodate Jesus' body, which according to measurements of the
space indicates He was 5 foot eleven inches tall!
"There is additional proof that this is the authentic place of
Jesus' burial, but these few 1 have related are, to me, enough
We had a lovely visit with Mr. and Mrs. Mattar, during which time
they told us about their sons and daughters, most of whom were living in
the United States, one son living in Beirut.
We returned to the Tomb for a short meditation, overwhelmed with the
conviction that we were sitting in the room where the resurrection of
Jesus had taken place, the event which has changed the character and the
expectation of the entire world! We became overwhelmed with the truth
that here in this place He "was given as first fruits of the
harvest to come", a harvest which is still future to us but
which may be very near! From that day Easter has had a new reality to
us. His Presence was there in that place. He had not died. He
Our visit to the Tomb of our Lord confirmed our faith in
Christ and His Resurrection as a fact, because the very stones cried out
its truth. He lives! He lives!
THE KINGDOM DIGEST