31 January 2018

The “Tombs of the Prophets” on the Mount of Olives

For millennia, the burial place for Jews, Christians and Muslims, the valley of Jehoshaphat is full of sepulchers. Somewhat hidden to most people, we visited the necropolis called “Tombs of the Prophets.”

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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“Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.”

The slopes of the valley of the Cedron, or valley of Jehosephat, as prophesied by Joel, are filled with sepulchers. According to tradition, from this valley, from the Hebrew Jo shafat for “the judge” will be the location of the Last Judgment.

Br. GIUSEPPE GAFFURINI
Spiritual guide for groups of pilgrims
As soon as you start to go down the hidden mountain of olive trees on the left, there is a necropolis called the “Tombs of the Prophets,” which specifically refers to the three prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zechariah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah lived after the destruction of the temple, when the second temple was rebuilt, and Malachi even acted like a bridge between the old and the new testaments.

In order to better understand this necropolis, it is necessary to understand its location inside the vast cemetery area that takes up the entire western side of the Mount of Olives.

Br. GIUSEPPE GAFFURINI
Spiritual guide for groups of pilgrims
Before it became a cemetery for the Jews, this mountain was a place of prayer and procession, as well as a gathering place. These are the three ways that Jesus himself used this mountain.

This place is very dear to the rabbinical tradition, the Muslim tradition and Jesus’ life.
Just like today, the first Christian community even built monasteries in this area. It is likely that this necropolis was already a burial place around the third and fourth centuries.

Br. GIUSEPPE GAFFURINI
Spiritual guide for groups of pilgrims
This necropolis’ origins probably date back to the third century before Christ, but the current configuration was rebuilt during the Christian era: there are two concentric semicircles with 36 tombs and this leads people to believe that rather than it being a family burial, it was a community one.

Right on top of this mountain, Jesus, who was already risen, made his last procession with his apostles, before ascending to heaven. For this reason, the first Christians considered being buried in this place a privilege.

Br. GIUSEPPE GAFFURINI
Spiritual guide for groups of pilgrims
Since the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven from the top of the Mount of Olives, and since the thousand-year old Jewish tradition says that this valley will be the location of final judgment, we should not be surprised by the presence of this necropolis.