By Jonathan Gray • June 25, 2014
David was stunned. He stared at it. Then shook his head. Finally, he looked me in the eye and said, “Jonathan, this iron peg is the greatest archaeological mystery of all time.”
Then he paused, carefully measuring his words: “…unless Matthew’s eyewitness account is true.”
Please read this amazing report of our Jerusalem expedition and tell me what you think.
SOLVING THE IRON PEG MYSTERY
So, , how would you explain this very strange discovery we have made in Jerusalem? It concerns a tomb and an iron peg. Did we guess right – or is there something we have missed?
You see, some very precise clues (for future archaeologists?) were given in the New Testament account of the crucifixion of Jesus in 31 AD. We are informed in the writings thatJesus was crucified:
- (a) “outside the city” (Hebrews 13:12; John 19:20)
- (b) at a place called “the Skull” (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17)
There is only one place around Jerusalem which has borne, and still bears, the name Skull Hill. It is just outside the North Wall, about 250 yards north-east of the Damascus Gate. A portion of this hill bears a striking resemblance to a human skull. It is also the traditional site of burials for Moslems, Jews and Christians.
Here it was, according to local tradition, that criminals were stoned to death. In the Mishna this place is called Beth ha-Sekelah, literally, “House of Stoning”. This was the recognized place of public execution for Jewish criminals.
As late as the beginning of the 20th century, devout Jews would spit at the hill, throw stones and curse the “destroyer of their nation”. It is such a site that the Roman authorities would have selected for executions.
“OUTSIDE” THE CITY
Skull Hill is just a short distance outside the Damascus Gate, the only direct exit from the Castle of Antonine (the alleged place of Jesus’ mock trial).
Recent archaeological opinion also holds that the Damascus Gate, which today marks the northern boundary of the Old City, likewise marks the northern boundary of Jerusalem in the 30s, the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.
All this tends to add weight to the feasibility of Skull Hill, outside the wall, advocated by Otto Thenius (1842), Colonel Couder (1875) and General Gordon (1883), being the actual site.
CRUCIFIXION PLATFORM UNCOVERED
During excavations from January, 1979 to January, 1982, in front of the escarpment of which Skull Hill is a part, a crucifixion platform was uncovered. [by Ron Wyatt!] The excavation crew found four squarish holes, each 12 to 13 inches wide, cut into the bedrock — holes which, apparently, had once held crosses.
“A VERY GREAT STONE”
Continued clearing of the area exposed a portion of a large, flat rock, which was a little less than two feet thick. I would like you to remember that measurement. We shall meet it again. The exposed edge was curved, somewhat like that of a large, thick, rounded table-top.
As the men cleared away moreand debris, it became apparent that the stone was enormous. They stopped digging. The and debris piled over it was ten feet deep.
It would be several years later before its true dimensions were to be determined by sub-surface radar from above the ground. The diameter was found to be 13 feet 2 inches! Thirteen feet two inches. Remember that measurement also, as we shall meet it again.
A building had apparently been constructed at one time to enclose BOTH the crucifixion site AND this great, round stone. How was this stone connected with a crucifixion site?
NEARBY – A TOMB
The New Testament states that near the crucifixion site was a garden which contained the newly cut out tomb of a wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea. And that the owner of this tomb, who had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, was so moved that he went to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to ask for the body of Jesus to be placed in his – Joseph’s – own unused tomb. This request was granted.
Three things close together:
- the Skull Hill crucifixion site
- a surrounding garden, and
- a nearby tomb.
And one might note that Skull Hill does contain a large complex of Jewish tombs dating from the First and Second Temple periods – and in particular, one known as the “Garden Tomb”.
In 1867, in the same cliff face close to the crucifixion-site, a landowner was digging a cistern on his property, when he discovered a tomb cut into the cliff face. As with the crucifixion site, this tomb was beneath the current ground level, covered in the debris of many centuries. Several cisterns were also unearthed at this spot. These suggested that an olive grove could have existed here. One of the cisterns was very large — and it dated back to the first century or earlier.
Lying some 12 feet below the pavement against the east wall, it could hold about 200,000 gallons of water, sufficient to keep a large plantation green throughout the eight dry months of the year. In 1924, a very fine wine press was excavated near the present main entrance to the garden. This indicated that there had been a vineyard nearby.
Of course the discovery of a tomb in this vicinity could hardly be described as sensational. Many tombs had been found in this large, ancient burial area of Jerusalem. But this tomb was of special interest.
When a tomb is seen to be unusual (and we shall address that shortly), and is seen to be adjacent to an ancient execution site, as well as in the setting of a garden, such a combination of factors is not to be taken lightly.
In 1883, General Gordon, the notable British soldier, came to the area — and became convinced that the “skull face” was Jesus’ crucifixion site. This prompted him to go looking for a tomb that was “near at hand”, as indicated in the Bible.
And just a few hundred feet away was this tomb, today known as the Garden Tomb. Although first discovered in 1867, it was not excavated until 1891. At that time, Dr Conrad Schick prepared a report with diagrams, which was published in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly of April, 1892.
Once excavation of the tomb was completed, characteristics were noted which did prove it to be dated to the first century AD, the time of Jesus. Dame Kathleen Kenyon, the famous British archaeologist, said in 1970, “It is a typical tomb of about the first century.”
EIGHT VITAL CLUES
Very well, then, we have here today a first century tomb. But that is a far cry from identifying it as the tomb of the biblical Joseph of Arimathea who gave his personal tomb for the burial of Jesus.
An archaeologist wants evidence. Is there any way the ancient accounts might assist us? Indeed, in those ancient writings I was able to find eight clues. According to the biblical reporters John, Matthew and Luke, the tomb of Joseph had special characteristics:
1. It was near the place of crucifixion. (John 19:42)
2. It was in a garden. (v. 41)
3. It was carved out of the rock. (Matthew 27:60)
4. It was a rich man’s tomb. (v. 57)
5. One could look into the tomb from outside. (John 20:5)
6. There was standing room for a number of persons. (Luke 24:1-4)
7. It was a new tomb and not an old tomb renewed. (John 19:41)
8. The tomb was closed by rolling a GREAT stone over the entrance. (Matthew 27:60)
In every one of these particulars, the tomb discovered in 1867 matched the biblical description. It fitted like a glove.
A RICH MAN’S TOMB
Entering the tomb, one is impressed with the size. Certainly, only a rich man could have afforded a tomb such as this. Inside the tomb, to the right, was a spot for the owner of the tomb to be laid — and close to that, another spot, possibly for his wife. To the left, a large room was cut out for mourners to stand.
BUT USED BY SOMEONE ELSE
But this tomb was NOT used by the person or persons for whom it had been cut out. Inside the tomb, one section carved out of the rock to fit one man, had clearly been enlarged for somebody else —someone who was taller than the man for whom the tomb had been measured. This enlarged section indicated that NOT the owner, but some other person, was laid in this rich man’s tomb.
The ancient record states that Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, took the body of Jesus and “laid it in his own new tomb”, “wherein was never man yet laid.” (John 19:41) And that is exactly what we discovered – this spot in the tomb that was enlarged for someone’s feet. Another link in the evidence?
A “NEW” TOMB
The existence of the cavity in the receptacle at the tomb’s north-east corner, and the absence of this cavity in the south-east receptacle, as well as the unfinished groove toward the north end of the west wall, show clearly that this tomb was never completed.
A “GREAT STONE”
Something else. The record states that Joseph, after placing the body in his own new tomb, “rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed.” (Matthew 27:60) It goes out of its way to say “great” stone. This clue, that it was a GREAT stone, is another evidence that the owner of the tomb was a rich man. Someone else was also interested in this tomb. The Jewish chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, the Roman governor, saying:
“Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
“Command therefore that the tomb be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead, so the last error shall be worse than the first.
“Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the tomb sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (vv.62-66)
THE MISSING SEAL STONE
And that brings us to the seal stone. Immediately in front of the tomb is a stone trench, or trough. This was for the rolling of a stone to seal the doorway. At the left end is an incline. The stone was rolled onto the trough at this end. In 1995, my archaeological team in Jerusalem measured this trough which was built to channel the rolling stone. We found this trough to be — wait for it — about two feet wide!
At the right hand end of the trough is a large stone block, positioned to prevent further movement of the seal-stone toward the right. Above that, on the right hand face of the tomb itself, a ridge was cut in the rock, which would block the stone from rolling further in that direction. In the face of the tomb were two evidences which showed that a very, very large seal-stone was once used to seal this tomb.
- In the right side of the tomb face, team member Dr Nathan Meyer had on an earlier visit pointed out a hole which was pierced into the cliff face. The hole held the oxidized remains of an iron shaft. This has since been removed, but the hole remains.
- On the left hand side of the tomb face, another hole had been pierced into the rock for the insertion of a metal shaft, to prevent the seal-stone from being rolled to the left and the tomb being opened.
On October 20, 1995, team members Dr David Wagner and Peter Mutton measured across the tomb face from the shaft hole on the left to the ridge at the right. The distance was discovered to be — you guessed it — precisely 13 feet 2 inches!
This shows that the seal-stone was, indeed, “a very great stone” – over twice the diameter of any other seal-stone found in Israel! To our knowledge, the largest seal-stone previously found was 5 feet 6 inches. This and the size of the buried stone at the nearby crucifixion site were a PERFECT MATCH.
MYSTERY OF THE IRON SHAFT
Now, are you ready for the mystery of the iron shaft? Hold onto your seat…
We photographed and video-taped the spot where the Romans drove the iron shaft into the stone face of the tomb at the left edge of where the 13 foot seal-stone would have been. They had done this in an attempt to prevent the stone from being rolled to the side and the tomb being opened.
The record states that the stone was “sealed”. (Matthew 27:60,66)
The metal shaft on the left which held the stone in place was about two fingers in thickness. It would be impossible to bend this shaft, much less snap it off, simply by pushing the seal-stone against it. You see, to move the great stone even one inch, the shaft must first be taken out.
However, when we examined the hole that held the metal shaft, we found that the shaft was still in there! What was left of it, that is. It was sheared off, level with the wall. The appearance of the metal was consistent with its having been sheared off when struck with a tremendous force from the right-hand side. According to an engineer, the shear strength of this peg was approximately 60 to 80 tons.
To put it another way, a metal peg of such thickness would withstand 60 to 80 tons’ pressure before it actually snapped off. Imagine, if you can, ten tip trucks all compressed together – or all the materials for two brick houses squeezed together – and suddenly dropped onto the iron peg. That is the pressure required to snap the iron peg.
Read that again, please. It is vital. However, being soft and malleable, the peg might have taken more than 60 to 80 tons’ pressure, bending first before it sheared right off. The engineer confirmed my conclusion.
“I could see that the end had been torn slightly sideways – perhaps a quarter inch – to the left, even though it was now rusted some,” he said.
“It was an incredible sight, to witness what had happened. Accomplished by moving the stone in one simple move.”
He calculated that the stone itself weighed around 13.8 tons.
Do you get this? It would be impossible, humanly speaking, to snap off that metal shaft by pushing from a dead stop. You see, there was no leverage. But the fact is, the seal-stone has gone. Someone did push the stone aside without taking out the metal peg… What kind of person or power was it?
The disciple Matthew informs us that the power involved was non-human: He says,
“… the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
“His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” (Matthew 28:2-4)
He claims there were witnesses to this – the Roman guards themselves. And what is the archaeological evidence? It is the type of evidence that is easy to read. It shows that the stone was moved with great speed, by some colossal force WITHOUT TAKING OUT THE METAL ROD.
For several years after I first reported this discovery, critics asserted that we were mistaken – that this metal spike was no more than a piece of shrapnel from an exploded shell which hit the wall during the 1967 war. Of course the skeptic’s argument sounded plausible.
Then, early in 2004, the metal was tested by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA). Eventually, IAA archaeologist Yehiel Zelinger wrote a short article stating that the metal object found in the wall of the Garden Tomb was consistent with metal pins used in Roman construction.
He stated that samples taken from the metal object were tested at Hebrew University and shown to contain both iron and lead. It was common in ancient times to set metal pins in molten lead. This would make them easier to drive into solid objects. While these tests do not determine the date of the metal object, they do show a consistency with metal pins used to construct the Coliseum in Rome and with those found in other Roman period sites.
Bottom line… the findings are consistent with my conclusion that this metal pin was used by the Romans to seal the Garden Tomb. The metal pin is NOT SHRAPNEL from an exploded shell. It definitely IS of ancient origin. The evidence also shows that the stone was moved with great speed, by some colossal super-human force which did NOT REQUIRE TAKING OUT THE METAL ROD.
Do you grasp the significance of this? Firstly, such a feat is unexplainable by human action. Secondly, it did happen. Like it or not, the physical evidence stares us in the face. I have asked for any person on earth to explain this. Critics have fallen deathly silent. But this question demands an answer:
That sheared-off metal shaft still stuck in the wall – could this be evidence of a supernatural opening of the tomb? Pardon me, please. I am a hard-nosed archaeologist. But this question must be asked: What led Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide to declare that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was a historical fact?
If there’s a more logical solution, I’m interested. But, remember, I’m interested only in facts. Please don’t give me any philosophical nonsense like “It has never happened to anyone I know, therefore it could never happen.” Or I’ve never seen a dead man rise, therefore it is impossible.
Simply review the above archaeological evidence again. Then let your common sense guide you. If this has whetted your appetite for more scientific discovery, you may like to pursue this further. http://www.beforeus.com
By Jonathan Gray
Paradise Post Script:
It saddens us that Jonathan Gray does not mention even once that all this research and archaeology was started and done by one person and his family, Ron Wyatt, “God’s archaeologist”, who discovered the Ark of the Covenant, the cross holes, the seal-stone, the iron spike, as well as the Red Sea crossing spot in the Gulf of Aqaba, the petrified remains of Noah’s Ark near Mt. Ararat, as well as the ashen remains of Sodom & Gomorrah and the real Mt. Sinai!
I don’t know why Gray doesn’t mention Ron Wyatt, who discovers most of the credit of these discoveries! I always wish for Christian authors to not make the financial gain the most important thing of their ministry, but to trust the Lord that IF they seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, that all these other things (food, drink, clothing, etc.) will be added unto them.
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Ron Wyatt and the blood on the Ark