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Tomb Dates to Time of Christ, Study Finds

September 26, 1998|Reuters

JERUSALEM — A British scholar has concluded after a 10-year study that the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem contains stone remnants dating to the time of Jesus.

Many scholars have believed the present-day tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was essentially only an outer structure erected in the 19th century, said Martin Biddle, an Oxford professor of medieval archeology.

"We are sure now that inside here are the remains of three successive houses and the original stone-cut tomb," Biddle said.

Christian faithful believe that the tomb marks the site of Jesus' burial and resurrection.

Biddle and a team of volunteers based their findings on analysis of models, pilgrims' diaries of visits to the tomb throughout the centuries and structural evidence, he said. Biddle did not conduct excavations at the site, where archeological digs are prohibited.

He said he believed that parts of the shrine's outer walls date from the 4th, 11th and 16th centuries, and stones from the original 1st-century tomb were still inside.

The often-bickering Christian sects managing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are trying to agree on a restoration plan for the tomb. Biddle said his research could provide "the information and scientific basis" for the project.

The tomb's outer structure leans perilously on steel structures erected 42 years ago.

The Latin, Greek, Armenian and Coptic sects control segments of the church according to a status quo agreement from the late 18th century.

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