Exclusive New Photos of Ancient Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate
In 1969 a young archaeology student named James Fleming was exploring the walls and gates of ancient Jerusalem after a heavy rain the night before when, suddenly, outside of the Golden Gate on the eastern wall of the Old City, the ground fell out from under him. “I felt I was part of a rock slide,” Fleming wrote. “Down I went into a hole 8 feet deep.”
When he picked himself up and realized he was uninjured, he regained his composure and looked around. He was standing in the midst of a mass grave. Then he began to examine the adjacent wall— the wall beneath the Golden Gate.
The Golden Gate is surely one of the most beautiful of Jerusalem’s eight gates. It was blocked up hundreds of years ago, probably for security reasons, but perhaps for religious reasons as well, for the Golden Gate is associated with messianic expectations and the final judgment of humanity. According to the prophet Zechariah, “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east … Then the Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with him” (Zechariah 14:4–5). The prophet Joel tells of an awful and awesome “Day of the Lord,” when the sun will become dark, and the moon will turn to blood, and the Lord will judge the nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 2–3), traditionally associated with the valley before the Golden Gate.
Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Holy City on Palm Sunday was probably through Jerusalem’s eastern gate. As all four Gospels tell us, he descended from the Mount of Olives east of the city accompanied by crowds who spread their garments before him and greeted him with palm fronds (Matthew 21:8; Mark 11:8; Luke 19:36; John 12:12–13).
When Fleming pointed his flashlight on the wall below the Golden Gate, he was astounded to see the blocks of the arch of another gate directly below it— perhaps the very gate through which Jesus entered Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago. He took a few pictures of this gate and later returned with his teacher to take additional pictures, but the tomb had been quickly cemented over by the Muslim authorities in charge of the cemetery outside of the Golden Gate.
Fleming wrote a complete report for BAR readers of his adventure in the tomb, together with a history of the eastern gate and its associations with Jesus.d
Since Fleming viewed the gate below the Golden Gate in 1969, no one has seen it— until now.
In the fall of 2005, another archaeology student at the same college that Fleming had been attending in 1969 (now Jerusalem University College) was examining the area near the Golden Gate. James Anderson of San Antonio, Texas (currently in a Ph.D. program in Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, England) recently reported to us:
The world thinks this tomb has been sealed. Well, it hasn’t been completely sealed. Although I suspect I was breaking several rules and don’t wish to condone such action, I did walk up to the Golden Gate and found a large stone on the ground. I removed the stone to find a hole leading into the tomb. I extended my arm into the hole and took pictures that show the very arch that Jesus would have walked through.
So, for the record, we now publish this new picture of stones inside the arch of the gate below the Golden Gate. Below that is a picture of photographer James Anderson holding a sifting screen, taken at the sifting operation led by archaeologist Gabriel Barkay of the dirt illegally excavated from the Temple Mount by the Muslim Waqf and dumped into the Kidron Valley in 1999.e
In 969 a young archaeology student named James Fleming was exploring the walls and gates of ancient Jerusalem after a heavy rain the night before when, suddenly, outside of the Golden Gate on the eastern wall of the Old City, the ground fell out from under him. “I felt I was part of a rock slide,” Fleming wrote. “Down I went into a hole 8 feet deep.” When he picked himself up and realized he was uninjured, he regained his composure and looked around. He was standing in the midst of a mass grave. Then he began to examine […]
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