JERUSALEM, Israel -- When Emperor Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the fourth century, he could not have imagined that researchers more than 1,700 years later would be uncovering the tomb where he believed Joseph of Arimathea placed the body of Jesus.
Now those researchers announced new revelations about that tomb.
A few days ago, under the watchful eye of National Geographic cameras and with great suspense, workmen gingerly removed the marble slab that lay over the tomb since 1555 A.D.
"I'm absolutely amazed. My knees are shaking a little bit because I wasn't expecting this," National Geographic archeologist-in-residence Fredrik Hiebert exclaimed.
After hours of examining the tomb, the team of researchers announced their revelations.
"We can't say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades," Hiebert reported.
When they removed the marble slab first they found a layer of fill material. Hours later they exposed "another marble slab with a cross carved into its surface."
Finally, they revealed they reached "the original limestone burial bed."
According to the Gospel of John, the body of Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea after Jesus was crucified:
"After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb (sepulcher) in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby." (John 19: 38-42)
The examinations of the researchers are part of a restoration project to repair the structure called an "aedicule" protecting the tomb. Aedicule means "little house." The last repair work done on the aedicule took place in 1810.
Professor Antonia Moropoulou, who is leading the restoration project, told CBN News earlier what they planned to do.
"We will remove the marble slabs, the stone slabs. We will inject grout to homogenize the complex structure, which is the holy rock," Moropoulou explained. "That means that we develop a unified structure that all the layers will behave structurally as one and upon this after repairing with new compatible and performing mortars and concrete, we will readjust the stone slabs with titanium bolts."
For those working on the project it's more than just a job.
"I'm very excited because I'm a Christian Orthodox and this is our biggest place for the orthodox Christians," Vasyleyos Zafeylys, a Greek civil engineer on the project, said. "I'm working in Greece in monuments like this but this is specialized work, very specialized work. I don't believe I can go to something bigger than this."
"It is a collective effort but each one of us in front of the holy tomb feels the values of the holy tomb and the holy tomb is the most alive place in the world," Moropoulou explained. "It gives the message of resurrection."