Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre is widely believed to contain the final resting place of Jesus Christ (or not-so-final, depending on your religious views). However, over the years, the tomb has been desecrated by violent attacks, natural disasters, and centuries of wear and tear. Owing to its numerous reconstructions, modern researchers have often had a hard time proving or disproving this church's grand claims.
For the first time, scientists have carried out an analysis of the original limestone surface of the tomb and a marble slab in order to establish the date of its creation. As first reported by National Geographic, researchers have revealed that the tomb dates to around 345 CE.
The work was led by the National Technical University of Athens during restoration work to the Edicule shrine, the tomb-like shrine within Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Although the work is still unable to definitively confirm whether Jesus was buried here, this date is consistent with historical accounts that the tomb was discovered by the Romans and enshrined in 326 CE. This was also the time of Emperor Constantine, Rome's first Christian emperor.
Before this new research, the oldest piece of architectural evidence at the site dated back to the Crusades, meaning it was only around 1,000 years old. That neatly lines up with records that show the church was almost totally destroyed in 1009 CE.
Jesus Christ, as a religious entity, is a subject of endless debate. However, most modern scholars argue there is enough historical evidence to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a real man and not purely a mythological figure. On the other hand, this idea still has its fair share of doubters.
Nevertheless, it's certainly a fascinating discussion, spanning the fields of history, archeology, science, and theology. It's also a debate that is unlikely to be solved anytime soon, even after these new discoveries.
You can read more about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the December issue of National Geographic magazine, or tune in to the National Geographic documentary "The Secrets of Christ’s Tomb: Explorer Special," premiering on Sunday, December 3 at 9/8c.