The Holy Sepulchre - A Jewish View
Updated: Aug 10
Visitors don't really come to see the church, but to gape at the tomb inside. Some fall to their knees. In the shopping mall or the cinema, people would laugh, but here it's okay. One or two people, who never thought of kneeling, follow their example.
Joseph from Aramathea, a town in Syria, owned a tomb on Skull Hill, as did many Jews, wanting to be buried near Adam's skull. People came from all over the Roman world to wonder at the magnificence of the tombs on Skull Hill. These were the famous tombs of the rich, mentioned already by Isaiah, 700 years before. Clearly this is an ancient pilgrim famous long before Jesus’ burial.
After Jesus returned to life, the place became more popular than ever. In fact it was a sensation. No wonder that Constantine built a church over it.
Smoke from incense, makes the already dark church murky. A man, wearing the distinctive black, flat topped hat of a Greek Orthodox priest, was swinging a little bronze ball, filled with burning pine tree resin, marching from one holy altar to another. Engulfing the devoted visitors in a cloud of incense, making them feel that they were in the Garden of Eden, which was famouse for its sweet odours.
Everything, the incense, the marble pillars at the entrance, the guard with ancient key, the finery of the priests, makes the visitor feel that he’s in the Garden of Eden.
After Adam had eaten from the tree of knowledge he was on his way to eat from the tree of life. Then he would have had the two most desirable things, knowledge and eternal life. Sad to say God stopped him, expelled him and Eve, placing an angel with a fiery sword at the entrance. There was no turning back to eat of the fruit of life.
Jesus didn’t agree to not turning back. He came back to life, and lives forever. The only way to do that is to re-enter the Garden of Eden and eat of the tree of life. He went into the tomb and came back to life. The tomb must be the Garden of Eden, he went in dead and came out alive.
The angel who rolls away the stone is the same angel who closed the Garden of Eden, standing with a fiery sword, preventing re-entry.
Jesus is allowed to enter the Garden of Eden (and all Christians with him) because he atoned for the sin of disobedience to God, by being crucified (in other words sacrificed). This is what Christians mean by saying "he died for our sins".
Jews don't believe that Jesus died for our sins, or that any human sacrifice is required for God to forgive us.
The priest scatters incense to remind the visitors that they are in the vicinity of the Garden of Eden.