Authenticity of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) to Orthodox Christians, is a church in the Old City of Jerusalem that is the holiest Christian site in the world. It stands on a site that is believed to encompass both Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb (sepulchre) where he was buried. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century.
Although it is not certain, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre could be located over the actual tomb of Christ. The most important supporting evidence is as follows: 
In the early 1st century AD the site was a disused quarry outside the city walls. Tombs dated to the 1st centuries BC and AD had been cut into the vertical west wall left by the quarrymen.
The topographical elements of the church’s site are compatible with the Gospel descriptions, which say that Jesus was crucified on rock that looked like a skull outside the city (John 19:17) and there was a grave nearby (John 19:41-2). Windblown earth and seeds watered by winter rains would have created the green covering on the rock that John calls a “garden.”
The Christian community of Jerusalem held worship services at the site until 66 AD (at least according to historians Eusebius and Socrates Scholasticus, who wrote several centuries later).
Even when the area was brought within the city walls in 41-43 AD it was not built over by the local inhabitants.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian built a Temple of Venus over the site in 135 AD, which could be an indication that the site was regarded as holy by Christians and Hadrian wished to claim the site for traditional Roman religion.
The local tradition of the community would have been scrutinized carefully when Constantine set out to build his church in 326 AD, because the chosen site was inconvenient and expensive. Substantial buildings had to be torn down, most notably the temple built over the site by Hadrian. Just to the south was a spot that would have been otherwise perfect – the open space of Hadrian’s forum.
The eyewitness historian Eusebius claimed that in the course of the excavations, the original memorial was discovered. However, he also claimed that all three crosses (those of Jesus and the two thieves) were found at the site. (Life of Constantine 3:28)
Based on the above factors, the Oxford Archaeological Guide to the Holy Land concludes:
“Is this the place where Christ died and was buried? Very probably, Yes.”
The Israeli scholar Dan Bahat, former City Archaeologist of Jerusalem, has said this of the church:
“We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus’ burial, but we have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty, and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site.”
- Jerome Murray O’Connor, Oxford Archaeological Guide to the Holy Land (1998), p. 47.
- Dan Bahat (1986). “Does the Holy Sepulchre church mark the burial of Jesus?”Biblical Archaeology Review 12 (1986), 26–45.