Why do we associate Sepulchres with biblical days?
Tombs and Sepulchres feature in many biblical sayings – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones”.
Tombs and Sepulchres and Modern funerals
- Biblical lands have many tombs, some named in the Bible.
- In Jerusalem, there are two sites which claim to be the tomb of Jesus – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb.
- Caiaphas was the one to hand Jesus over to Pilate. The family tomb, discovered with limestone bone boxes, and the remains of a male believed to be those of Caiaphas.
- The Bible tells us that, buried in the sepulchre of Machpelah are Abraham, Sarah, Leah, Jacob and Rebecca.
- Scientists have examined the sepulchre of Jesus and found everything in the ancient chamber still intact.
Tombs and Sepulchres – Cave of Machpela
Sepulchre is a Latin word which refers to a chamber cut into solid rock and used as a tomb. In the land of Israel, these were part of caves in the surrounding hills.
Many of us know the word ‘Sepulchre’ from the Bible. In fact it speaks of Abraham’s sepulchre in Hebron and how this was the burial place of Isaac, Leah, Jacob and Rebecca.
There was a time when anyone could visit the underground area of the cave. However, the end of the 13th century saw the cave closed to the general public.
Cenotaphs represent the patriarchs buried below, and while tourists can see cenotaphs of Abraham’s family, a padlocked door bars anyone going into the Cave of Machpelah.
Tombs and Sepulchres – Dr Jevin gets Into the Grave chamber
In 1981, Dr Jevin, director of the Israel Antiquities, managed to get into the underground grave chamber of the Machpela cave.
He told how he went through a narrow entrance and down steps into a long tunnel to reach a chamber. Here he discovered Latin script with the names of Jacob and Abraham.
Going through an opening in the floor, he arrived in a room to find the burial chamber of his ancestors – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with a nearby sepulchre having Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
Tombs and Sepulchres of the Kings
The Bible refers to ‘the sepulchres of the kings’ – rooms inside a large tomb – and there is evidence in the Bible giving ideas as to where this is.
It is believed to be under King David’s palace. In fact, one of the most sacred sites for Jews is the Tomb of King David on Mount Zion. Excavation in recent years bring the history and mystery of Israel’s kings and their burial places to light.
The Tombs of the Sanhedrin
Look at the tombs of the Sanhedrin – an underground tomb found in a public park in Sanhedria, Jerusalem. These were built in the 1st century A.D., with elaborate designs.
The tombs form part of a huge necropolis, and archaeologists have surveyed about 1,000 burial caves. These caves are all important pilgrimage sites for tourists.
Making end of Life choices
The 21st century has seen major changes in death and funeral customs, many of which are an improvement.
How one arranges a funeral today is a personal matter, but the secret to having a meaningful funeral is to plan ahead so that when death comes, you’re family are not ill-prepared.