James Silk Buckingham.

Travels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) online

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sions, is situated. But of course the valley, as
being covered with buildings, is not to be seen in
its original state.

Moriah had the whole of its summit occupied
by the great Temple of Solomon, and the sur-
face of this was even artificially extended to ad-
mit of the extensive courts that surrounded it.
This is still preserved by the magnificent mosque
of Omar, now covering the same ground, and,
like the temple of old, forming by far the grand-
est and most prominent object throughout the
city. Its facing toward Kedron, in the Valley
of Jehoshaphat, and forming the eastern limit
of the city looking towards the Mount of Olives,
leaves no possible doubt of its identity.

Bezetha was called also Ccenopolis, or the
New City, and was a quarter on the north of
Acra and Moriah, subsequently added, as Jose-

* Josephus, Jewish War, b. 5. c. 4. 8. 1.


phus says : " For as the city grew more popu-
lous, it gradually crept beyond its old limits,
and those parts of it that stood northward of
the temple, and joined that hill to the city,
made it considerably larger ; and made that
hilJ, which is in number the fourth, and is
called Bezetha, to be inhabited also. It lies
over against the Tower of Antonia, but is
divided from it by a deep valley or ditch, which
was dug on purpose." As this could not have
gone beyond the Tomb of Helena, Queen of
Adiabene, the boundary of the city to the north,
nor beyond the precincts of the temple to the
south, the northern part of the present Jerusa-
lem, with the wall and the Damascus gate, must
occupy that quarter : I conceive, however, that
instead of the city having gained in that direc-
tion, so as to admit the hill Calvary, (a sup-
position necessary to reconcile its present place
with the hypothesis of its once being without
the walls), it has lost as much here by the
exclusion of all the space from the present walls
to the Tomb of Helena, where the old ones
passed on the north, as it has done in the op-
posite quarter by the total exclusion of Mount
Sion on the south ; and that, therefore, the
present is little more than half the length of the
old city.

Let lis now direct our search toward the
d 3


disputed place of* Calvary. The place called
Golgotha, and translated, "The place of a
skull," has been by all writers supposed to have
been without the precincts of the ancient Jeru-
salem ; but there is no positive authority, that
I am aware of, for such a position. It has
been thought, first, that, as a place of execu-
tion, it would be held defiling ; and next, as a
place of burial, that it could not have been
included within the walls. We are at least
assured that the tomb in which Jesus was laid,
was near to the place of his crucifixion. " Now,
in the place where he was crucified, there was
a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre,
wherein was never man yet laid. There laid
they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews*
preparation -day, for the sepulchre was nigh at
hand"* It is fair to presume, that a respect-
able Jew, like Joseph of Arimathea, would
hardly have a garden and a sepulchre newly
hewn in the rock, in a place that was defiled by
being one of common execution ; and I think
the very circumstance of these being there, is
sufficient to induce a belief that it was not a
place commonly devoted to so ignominious a
purpose. All the Gospels represent Jesus as
being hurried away by the multitude, who

* Gospel of St. John, xix. 40, 4 I .


seized indiscriminately upon one of the crowd
to bear his cross : <: And when they were come
to a place called Calvary, or Golgotha, there
they crucified him between two thieves."
None of them, however, speak of it either as
being without the city, or as being a place of
public execution, but leave one to infer that it
was an unoccupied place, just pitched on for
the purpose as they passed.

This name of Golgoltha, or Golgotha, from
being interpreted "a place of skulls," has been
thought to imply, or, at least, to have been a
fit name enough for any usual place of inter-
ment near to a great city. It is then asked,
"But where was this place, which must have
been very extensive?" and answered by the
same persons, "Surely not within the city."
It is proved, however, by these able critics,
that Golgotha is not, as has been interpreted,
" a place of skulls," but simply " a skull," in
the Syrio-Chaldaic language. They add, " St.
Matthew renders it, *a place of a skull/ and
St. Mark and St. John give it nearly the same
meaning St. Luke, without mentioning Gol-
gotha, Writes, *«* ots «7t5)A0ov btt) TOV TOTOV KCchufJiSVOV

xgavfov, v.. t. x. < And when they were come to a
place called Skull, &c.' It is evident, then,
that St. Luke is the only one of the Evan-

d 4


gelists who has strictly translated the word
Golgotha, though he be the only one who
has not introduced the name, for it does not
signify xgavlti tokoc, « a place of a skull," but
simply xgxviov, "a skull."*

This is consistent enough with the tradition,
that here was found the skull of Adam, and with
the opinion that, on this account, it received its
Hebrew namet ; though it would be at variance
with that which assigns it this appellation, as an
appropriate designation, either for the charnel-
house of a place of public execution, or of an
extensive cemetery. Reland, indeed, says, that
the place was called Golgotha, from its resem-

* Edinburgh Review, Feb. 1813. vol. xxi. p. 147-
f " Yenit enim ad me traditio quaedam talis, quod corpus
Adas primi hominisibi sepultum est, ubi crucifixus estChristus:
ut sicut in Adam onlnes moriuntur, sic in Christo omnes vivi-
ficentur ; ut in loco illo, qui dicitur Calvario locus, id est locus
capitis, caput humani generis Adam resurrectionem inveniat
cum popido universo per resurrectionem Salvatoris, qui ibi
passus est, et resurrexit." Origen, Tract. 35. in Matt. See
also Hieronym. in cap. 27. Matt. Cyrill et Basil, in cap. 5.
Isaiae. Athanasius in lib. de Passione Domin., &c. &c.

The cleft in the rock is seen also in the chapel of Adam be-
low. At the east end of that chapel is the altar of Adam,
exactly under the place where the cross was fixed ; and the
Greeks have some legend that Abraham's head was deposited
there, his body being buried in Hebron. — Pococke, vol. iL
p. Hi.


blance to the shape of a human skull * ; and
this, from the nature of the rocky eminences
seen about Jerusalem, may be, after all, as satis-
factory a reason as any for the name. Tradi-
tions alone are but faint lights, either on histori-
cal or topographical researches ; and when their
import becomes questionable, by such verbal
ambiguity as it is seen that the present one,
regarding Adam's skull, involves, they are
hardly to be regarded as of any weight. Names,
descriptive of local feature, and marked resem-
blance to some object in shape, are, however,
less equivocal, since these carry with them their
own import to all beholders, and are likely to be
preserved with as little corruption among the
vulgar as among the learned.

Now, we know that the present rock, called
Calvary, and enclosed within the precincts of
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, bears marks,
in every part that is naked, of its having been a
round nodule of rock standing above the com-
mon level of the surface, in such a way as the
head of the great sphinx, at Gizeh, raises itself
among the pyramids there, from the sands of
the desert in which its body lies buried. It
will be needless to go over the description of all

* Golgotliam collem exiguum a forma cranii huniani dictum,
quam referebat, notum est. — Pal<estina Illustrata, lib. 3. de urbi-
bus ct vicis Palaestmse, p. 860.


the parts of this rock, now covered by the church.
This may be seen on referring to the details al-
ready given of it in another place. But it may
be as well to answer some of the principal ob-
jections made to the identity of this place, in
the order in which they occur.

The change in the site of Jerusalem, but more
particularly its increase or extension on the
north, is not thought to have been sufficient to
bring the hill of Calvary into the middle of the
present town, if it was originally without the
ancient city. It having been shown, however,
that it cannot be inferred from the Scriptures to
have been without the walls, either as a place of
public execution, or as a common burial-place,
the objection raised to its present site as
founded on that belief, falls to the ground of

Some persons, whose ideas of a Mount Calvary
had led them to expect a hill as large as the
Mount of Olives, or Mount Sion, have been
disappointed at finding the rock shown for it to
be so low and small. But on what authority is
it called a mount ? And to places of what
different sizes and elevations is that term affixed !
The present is a rock, the summit of which is
ascended to by a steep flight of eighteen or
twenty steps, from the common level of the
church, which is equal with that of the street


without ; and besides this, you descend from the
level of the church by thirty steps into the
chapel of St. Helena, and by eleven more steps
to the place where it was supposed that the
cross, the crown of thorns, and the head of the
spear was found, after lying buried in this place
upwards of 300 years. *

There is therefore, perhaps, after all, sufficient
height in this rock to justify its appellation of a
mount, whatever be the other authority by which
it may have been affixed.

Having endeavoured to answer some of the
objections which are usually raised to the pre-
sent site of Calvary, as included within the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, let us see on
what foundation those rest which are also
urged against the identity of that sepulchre

The most commonly repeated of these, is, that
the tomb of a wealthy and noble Jew would not
be so near to a place defiled by public execu-
tions as the supposed sepulchre of Christ is to
Calvary. But this, if the most common objec-
tion, is of all others the most easily answered,
by the testimony of the Evangelist, who says,
that " in the place where he was crucified there
was a garden, and in that garden the sepulchre

* Chateaubriand, vol. ii. p. 13.


in which Jesus was laid," repeating again that
" the sepulchre was nigh at hand" *

The critics say, in examining Dr. Clarke's
objections to the position of the Holy Sepulchre,
which he calls " a mere delusion, and a monkish
juggle," " We must confess that the Doctor's
reasoning appears to us to be rather plausible.
It must, we think, be conceded to him, first,
that the site of the supposed sepulchre must
have been within the walls of the ancient Jeru-
salem ; secondly, that this would be contrary to
the usual customs of Oriental nations ; and,
thirdly, that this supposed tomb in no way re-
sembles the " cryptae " excavated in rocks, in
which the Jews were accustomed to bury their

The first of these concessions cannot be re-
fused ; the next, as an inference, has been an-
swered already, in speaking of the Jewish custom
of burying within the cities ; but the last is a
difficulty not so easily got over.

It has been said by Dr. Shaw, that the pre-
sent tomb, shown as the sepulchre of Christ, is
" a grotto above ground V having been hewn
into this isolated form by St. Helena, for the

* Gospel of St. John, xix. 41.

\ Edinburgh Review, vol. xxi. p. 145.

t Ibid. 148.


sake, no doubt, of bestowing on it more of de-
coration, and making it more conspicuously
sacred than could otherwise be done. Whether
this be true or not, in point of fact, nothing is
more easy of belief^ from its practicability. It
is said, that the whole of the rock was hewn
away around it, so as to let it stand isolated in
the centre of the church, and that it was after-
wards shaped into form, and cased with marble,
and otherwise decorated, as we now see it. This
is certain, that the rock now enclosed within
the church, whether it be Calvary or not, has
been hewn artificially into the form which it now
possesses, in many parts at least, and more par-
ticularly in the space between what is called the
summit of Calvary, and what is called the tomb.
The top of the first of these is many feet higher
than the highest part of the last, so that the
tomb would be much below the top of the origi-
nal hill. A fissure is shown in the rock, as the
cleft produced by the earthquake at the cruci-
fixion. It was seen by Maundrell, and thought by
him to be natural. It is not true, however, that
it is upon the same level with the sepulchre, as
asserted, though if it were, it would only prove
that the cleft had been of very moderate depth.
In one place, this is called by Dr. Clarke " an
accidental fissure, which had already been the


object of traditionary superstition * ; and in
another, when he says, " they say this happened
at the crucifixion," he asks, " who shall pre-
sume to contradict the tale ?" He talks of the
" naivete of the tradition," and of " a farrago of
absurdities," and " all this trumpery t," in a
way that would almost lead one to infer that he
doubted the facts of the story altogether. But
surely it is not the calling this tomb of the
Living God, " a dusty fabric, standing like a
huge pepper-box in the midst of the church t"
that can disprove its having contained the life-
less corpse of the Great Creator of the universe.
In animadverting on the supposed absurdity
of conceiving that the rock around the sepul-
chre had been hewn away (which is neverthe-
less not only practicable, but rendered highly
probable by appearances there,) it is asked,
" If there had been originally any hill, or rock,
wherein the real sepulchre of Joseph of Ari-
mathea was hewn for its Jewish possessor, is
it likely, or was it possible, that every trace of
it should be swept away ? Can there be any
reason assigned for supposing that Helena
would have destroyed what every Christian
must have been so anxious to preserve? that,

* Travels, vol. ii. p. 563. f Ibid. p. 54fi.

% Ibid. p. 543.


in the construction of a church to commemo-
rate the existence of the tomb, she would have
levelled and cut away not only the sepulchre
itself, but also the whole of Mount Calvary ?
This is so little in consonance with common
reason, that it is impossible to allow the old
tale its ordinary credit/'* First of all, how-
ever, it is not true that the sepulchre itself, and
the whole of Mount Calvary, is levelled and cut
away, which may be seen from other parts of
this traveller's own testimony ; and even if it
had, it would be quite as much in consonance
with common reason as any other part of this
old lady's conduct, in performing a pilgrimage
at eighty, or indeed, perhaps, as reasonable as
performing one at all.

To conclude, then, this spot shown as Cal-
vary, may, for the reasons already assigned, be
still considered as the place of the crucifixion
of our Saviour, until more unanswerable objec
tions be raised to it than have yet been urged.
The sepulchre may also have contained his
body, since it is within a consistent distance of
the mount or hill where the Evangelist places
it. It has apparently been separated from the
rock by being hewn round, and though cased
with marble, and adorned on the outside, is

* Dr. Clarke's Travels, vol. ii. p. 555.


only of the ordinary size of a small sepulchral
cavern within. And, lastly, it is in a rock
where other hewn sepulchres were, as arose
to our own observation in descending to
the place where the cross is said to have been

( M) )



January 28th. Our preparations for the pro-
secution of our journey were at length all com-
pleted. The route we had marked out to
ourselves, was, to cross the Jordan, and go
through Jerash andGamala, two cities, of whose
ruins we had heard a great deal in that quarter,
Mr. Bankes intending to go off from the latter
to Nazareth, and I to pass through Tiberias,
on my way towards Damascus and Aleppo.
As no one could be prevailed upon to lend us
animals on hire for this journey, from its being
out of the common caravan road, we were com-
pelled to purchase horses for that purpose.
This we effected without much difficulty, and
at a very moderate rate : a good travelling-
horse, with all its equipment in common furni-
ture, costing about four hundred piastres, or
less than twenty pounds sterling.

Our party was composed of Mr. Bankes, Mo-
hammed, his Albanian interpreter, and myself;
and our guides were two Arabs of the tribe of
Zaliane, one the father of the boy released



through Mr. Bankes's interest, and the other
this father's friend. Our servants were both
left behind at Jerusalem, from the difficulty of
taking them with us ; my own, a native of Tocat,
speaking only Turkish well, and the other, a
Portuguese, understanding neither Turkish nor
Arabic. The former received a compensation
for his services, and a final discharge, from his
not being likely to be of further use to me in
my way, and the latter was to repair to Naza-
reth, there to await the arrival of his master.

We were now all dressed in the costume of
the country ; Mr. Bankes as a Turkish soldier^
Mohammed in his own garb as an Arnaout, and
I as a Syrian Arab. Our guides wore their own
dresses, as Bedouins of the desert. We were
each mounted on a horse of our own, there be-
ing no animals for baggage, as each person car-
ried beneath and behind him whatever belonged
to himself. We were armed but poorly, from
the advice of our guides to take with us nothing
that could excite the cupidity of strangers, since
they wished us rather to depend on our poverty
for passing unmolested, than on our force or
numbers for defence ; and even they themselves
carried each a long lance only, rather as a part
of their habitual equipment, than as placing
much reliance on its use. We took with us a
small portion of bread, dates, tobacco, and coffee,


and a supply of corn for our horses, with a lea-
thern bottle of water suspended from the saddle,
and these completed our outfit.

After discharging all the numerous claims that
were made on our purses, by the host of servants
and others belonging to the convent, and pay-
ing to the Superior of it for the expences of our
living there, at the rate of a Spanish dollar per
day, we received their parting benedictions, as
we mounted to quit them, amid a crowd assem-
bled round us in the court.

It was about nine o'clock when we left Jeru-
salem by the Bethlehem gate ; turning to the
right from this, as we went out of the city, we
continued along by the northern wall. In our
way, we noticed a fine marble sarcophagus,
highly sculptured, and resembling the broken
ones seen at the tombs of the kings : it seemed
to be used by the way-side as a watering-trough
for cattle. The north-east angle of the city wall
had a romantic appearance as we passed it, a
portion of the wall there going over a high bed
of rock, which presents a cliff to the passenger

Descending from the brow of the range of
hills on which Jerusalem is seated, and going
about north-easterly, we passed through the
higher or northern part of the valley of Kedron,



leaving Bethany, Bethpage, and the Mount of
Olives, on our right, or to the south of us.

In about three hours from the time of our
quitting the gates of Jerusalem, having gone the
whole of the way over stony and rugged ground,
we reached an encampment of the tribe of Arabs
to which our guides belonged. There were
only six small tents of coarse hair-cloth, and in
each of them not more than half-a-dozen per-
sons. The Arabs of this tribe, extending their
range over all the country between the Jordan
and Jerusalem, branch off into small parties, to
obtain pasture for their camels and goats. It
was thus that this party occupied a small hollow
of the land, in which were a few shrubs very
sparingly scattered over the surface, and hardly
sufficient to furnish food for their flocks for more
than a few days.

We halted here to receive the pledge of pi'o-
tection from our guides, by eating bread and
salt with them beneath their own tents. A meal
was prepared for us of sour milk and warm cakes,
by the wives of our companions, and coffee was
served to us by their children, while we sat
around a fire of brush-wood kindled for the oc-
casion. The appearance of the Arabs who
composed our party at this halt, was much more
different from those who inhabited towns, than


that of the peasantry of our own country is from
its citizens. In these tented dwellers, there is
seen an air of independence, mixed, perhaps,
with something of ferocity, that is never to be
witnessed, even in the mussulmauns of large
cities ; and a more robust, though less pampered
frame, with deeply browned complexions, and
piercing eyes, gave them altogether a brave and
manly appearance.

We remounted, and quitted this encampment
at one o'clock, though the dangers that were
talked of during our entertainment, as likely to
beset us in the way, were sufficient to have de-
terred persons who were not very firmly bent on
their purpose from proceeding. In half an hour,
going now more easterly, we came to a very
narrow pass, cut through the hill, in a bed of
hard rock. There was here an old fort, which
had once guarded this passage, but was now
deserted, and close by were the ruins of a large
square building belonging to it. This is too far
distant from Jerusalem to be the Anathath
spoken of by Josephus, as the country of Jere-
miah, that place being fixed at twenty furlongs,
whereas this is at least from twelve to fourteen
miles. It corresponds more accurately with the
position given to Ephraim, in D'Anville's map,
or even of Adommin, a little to the southward
of it ; but of these no details are given by which

e 3




we could ascertain to which, or whether indeed

to either of them, this site might be assigned ;

nor did we learn that it had any name by

which our conjectures might have been assisted.

After going through the pass, we descended

again into deeper valleys, travelling sometimes

on the edges of cliffs and precipices, which

threatened destruction on the slightest false step.

The scenery all around us was grand and awful,

notwithstanding the forbidding aspect of the

barren rocks that every where met our view ;

but it was that sort of grandeur which excited

fear and terror, rather than admiration.

The whole of this road from Jerusalem to the
Jordan, is held to be the most dangerous about
Palestine, and, indeed, in this portion of it, the
very aspect of the scenery is sufficient, on the
one hand, to tempt to robbery and murder, and
on the other, to occasion a dread of it in those
who pass that way. It was partly to prevent
any accident happening to us in this early stage
of our journey, and partly, perhaps, to calm our
fears on that score, that a messenger had been
despatched by our guides to an encampment of
their tribe near, desiring them to send an escort
to meet us at this place. We were met here
accordingly, by a band of about twenty persons
on foot, all armed with matchlocks, and pre-
senting the most ferocious and robber-like ap-
is h


pearance that could be imagined. The effect
of this was heightened by the shouts which they
sent forth from hill to hill, and which were re-
echoed through all the valleys, while the bold
projecting crags of rock, the dark shadows in
which every thing lay buried below, the tower-
ing height of the cliffs above, and the forbidding
desolation which every where reigned around,
presented a picture that was quite in harmony
throughout all its parts.

It made us feel most forcibly, the propriety
of its being chosen as the scene of the delightful
tale of compassion which we had before so
often admired for its doctrine, independently

Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 26)