Mortar Found in 'Tomb of Jesus' Cave Dates to Constantine Era

One mystery surrounding the tomb had been the origin and date of the marble slab at the bottom of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Mortar found in the limestone cave at the bottom of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has been dated to the time of Emperor Constantine, who reigned in the 4th century C.E., National Geographic reported on Tuesday.

Chemical tests of the mortar between the limestone and the marble slab covering the purported tomb date it to around 345 C.E., NatGeo reports. It certainly could be the tomb found by envoys of Emperor Constantine and the Holy Roman Empire around 20 years earlier.

Given the turbulent history of the church – for instance, it was totally gutted in the year 1006 – historians had been dubious as to whether the current location was its original site. The mortar testing supports the theory that it is, according to the NatGeo report.

There is no archaeological evidence whatsoever for the existence of Jesus, let alone for the identity of the person who might have been buried in that cave, if any.

Based on the Scripture, Jesus would have been crucified either in the year 30 or 33. Hundreds of years later, the Christian emperor Constantine (272-337 C.E.) sent envoys to Jerusalem to find Jesus' tomb. They were pointed to a Roman temple, which they destroyed and beneath it found a cave with a "burial shelf" carved into the rock, as was the style of the time. The Edicule – the "Tomb of Jesus" – was later built atop it.

One mystery surrounding the tomb had been the origin and date of the marble slab. Its origin may never be known, and as for when it was placed there, speculation ranged, as NatGeo points out, to as late as the Crusader period. Now we can say it was laid down in the Constantine era, apparently in the mid-4th century C.E.

As for the tomb in the cellar of the church, it remained sealed until October 26, 2016. The original limestone "burial shelf" was found intact once it was open, as were the original limestone walls. No evidence was found as to who had been buried there, nor was evidence found refuting the belief that it was Jesus of Nazareth, who the Scripture described as being interred in a rock-cut tomb.