Dominus Flevit – Mount of Olives – Israel

As you make your way from the top of the Mount and down toward the Kidron Valley, you’ll find a Roman Catholic Church called “Dominus Flevit.”  The name is derived from the Latin meaning, “The Lord Wept.”

The building is purposely shaped like a tear drop.  The vases on the corners are meant to be tear jugs or bottles (see Psalm 56: 8).  Senonian chalk was used in its construction. This causes rain water to run like tears down its walls.

Scriptural Significance

According to Luke 19: 37 – 42, the Lord was overcome with grief during His Triumphal entry to Jerusalem. As He looked on the city and its Temple, He knew Israel had failed to understand that this was the Day of its Visitation. The Messiah was on the scene and even though there was all this pomp and circumstance, the Jews didn’t understand Who Jesus was and why He had come! Within 40 years, the city would be destroyed and the Temple put to the fire. The Lord wept because of the impending judgment.

While no one knows exactly where on the Mount this occurred, the church does sit atop an ancient site. In 1953, the remains of a Byzantine Church dating to at least the 5th Century were unearthed. More importantly, a series of tombs were located.  One dated as far back as the time of the Canaanites. The main necropolis contains a number of ossuaries.

Did You Know?

An ossuary is a ‘bone box’ – i.e., a small sarcophagus or chest used for collecting together the bones of a dead loved one. In Israel, these were used around the time of Herod’s Temple (1st Century BC through 1st Century AD). When burial space is scarce or costly, families would traditionally by a single tomb. The remains of the dead relative would be placed in there for a year or so to allow the body to decompose. Afterwards, the bones would be collected and placed in an ossuary. As other loved ones die, their bones can be placed in the same ossuary. This allows for many more people to buried and saves on space.

To date, about 900 ossuaries have been found in or near Jerusalem. Over 200 of these have inscriptions on them. 140+ are in Aramaic. 70+ are in Greek. A dozen or so are inscribed in more than one language, including Hebrew and Latin.

In December of 1990 near Jerusalem’s Peace Forest, a dump truck accidentally fell 10 feet into another burial site. An ossuary was subsequently found dating to @ 50AD that belonged to Joseph Caiaphas the High Priest. This is the Caiaphas who tried Jesus Christ (see Matthew 26: 57 – 66). Caiaphas’ name is carved on the outside of a limestone ossuary in Aramaic characters.  

“Joseph son of Caiaphas”

In 1941, a burial cave belonging to Cyrenian Jews was discovered in the Kidron Valley. One ossuary fhad a Greek inscription, “Alexander Son of Simon.” Some have connected this with the “Alexander” of Mark 15: 21, the son of Simon, the Cyrenian.

These ossuaries are physical evidence that the people mentioned in the Bible are historical figures.