Pilgrims to Jerusalem today try to retrace Jesus’ steps, from the house where legend says he ate his Last Supper, across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane, where, tradition tells us, he was arrested. Along the route, tour guides point out the spots where Jesus taught, prayed and slept. Although some of these sites may well be places Jesus knew, many became associated with Jesus long after his death and are almost certainly not authentic holy sites. In “The Garden of Gethsemane: Not the Place of Jesus’ Arrest,” Joan E. Taylor evaluates the archaeological evidence, the Biblical stories of Jesus’ last hours and ancient pilgrim accounts to determine whether what is now called the Garden of Gethsemane is indeed the Bible’s Gethsemane. Although the garden fails Taylor’s test of authenticity, the author proposes an adjacent site, venerated by ancient pilgrims, as the true Gethsemane, the place of Jesus’ arrest.
Taylor is lecturer and research associate in the department of religious studies at the University of Waikato, in Hamilton, New Zealand. She is the author of Christians and the Holy Places (Clarendon, 1993) and co-author (with Shimon Gibson) of Beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: The Archaeology and Early History of Traditional Golgotha (Palestine Exploration Fund, 1994). When not assessing the authenticity of Christian holy places in Israel, Taylor enjoys writing fiction, composing poetry and painting.