Garo Nalbandian

Brilliantly colored lights illuminate a row of tombs located at the foot of the Mt. of Olives, in Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley. The tombs’ striking designs and their proximity to Jerusalem’s holiest sites have led pilgrims to associate them with prominent biblical figures. The monument at far left, with its bottle-shaped top, is traditionally called the Monument of Absalom, even though it dates much later than David’s son—to the first century B.C. The pyramid-roofed structure at right is known as the Tomb of Zechariah, referring either to the prophet or to John the Baptist’s father. Between them, the gaping entryway with two Doric columns is often referred to as the Tomb of James, the brother of the Lord. But a Hebrew inscription carved into the lintel tells us the tomb actually belonged to a family of Jewish priests, the Bene Hezir, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 24:15.

Author Jerome Murphy-O’Connor traces the tradition that identifies this as James’s tomb back to its source—and finds the real tomb location along the way.