Biblical Archaeology Review 36:1, January/February 2010

Strata: Who Moved the Ladder?

“Warring Monks Threaten Destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre” read a 2008 New York Times headline. The article describes what is only the latest of the numerous conflicts, some of them violent, among the six different churches that divide dominion over the site considered by most scholars to mark the authentic tomb of Jesus.a

In 1757 the ruling Ottomans promulgated a firman (Arabic for “decree”) that was supposed to establish a status quo defining the rights of the church communities with claims to the site: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian. The status quo decree was reaffirmed in 1852.

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