Golgotha / Calvary

Golgotha / Calvary

Tomb of Jesus? Jesus Tomb

Where is Golgotha?

GolgothaSome people in Jerusalem claim that Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, is a rock under the Holy Sepulcher Church. But the Bible says Golgotha is a "place," not a rock, and "where Jesus was crucified was near the city" (John 19:20). Since that church is inside Jerusalem, not "near" the city, that church cannot be the location of Golgotha.

Then where is Golgotha?

The location of Golgotha is given by the name, "Golgotha." Here's a question for those who've read the Bible: does Golgotha mean "place of skulls," or, "place of a skull"?

Golgotha Bus StationI thought Golgotha meant "place of skulls" (plural) for the skulls of past victims of crucifixion that may be buried in its vicinity.

But when I came upon the skull-faced cliff just outside Jerusalem in these two photos, I searched my audio Bible and realized that Golgotha means the place of "a" skull (singular).

The real Golgotha, also known as "Calvary," is located outside Damascus Gate facing the major east-west road that runs just north of Old Jerusalem. It is precisely the type of location where the Romans liked to crucify rebels so that their gruesome handiwork could be seen by the passing masses and deter potential future rebels against Rome.

This means Jesus was crucified with the skull-faced cliff in the background - i.e., His cross was at the bottom of this cliff, at ground level, not on top of it. As explained above, the Romans crucified people on major roads, not on top of hard-to-reach cliffs, because they wanted the passersby to see the victims' gory end up close, not from afar. Besides, access to the top of this cliff is difficult from Old Jerusalem and requires a prohibitively long detour.

Then why is the cross of Jesus always portrayed as being on top of a hill?

It is more picturesque and continues the tradition started by Roman Catholic art. The Bible never says that Jesus was crucified on a hill.

The top photo is of a photo taken in the late 19th century that I found on a pole facing the cliff. Westerners began to trickle back into Jerusalem in the 19th century. Among them were Christians whose eyebrows were raised when they saw this skull-faced cliff.

Excavations inevitably began in its vicinity and soon enough, they unearthed a first century wine press and underground water cavern, both evidences of a garden having been present during the time of Jesus (first century gardens served an economic purpose). And at the other end of this garden, about 100 yards from the skull-faced cliff, they found a first century tomb that had been cut into a rock, exactly as described in the Bible.

The bottom photo is of the skull-faced cliff as it appears today. The skull's nose has eroded and the mouth lies below the asphalt cover of a bus station, apparently built in 1953 and resurfaced twice, but the eye sockets are still visible. I was told that the jack hammering prior to the each resurfacing caused the face of the cliff to erode, so the eye sockets may not last.

After taking the two photos, I was incredulous. Why is the place where Jesus was crucified the back wall of a bus station? I had learned that Christians lack political power in Israel today but this was a bit much. Shouldn't the place where Jesus was crucified be preserved and kept quiet so that people can take a moment to ponder why Jesus was crucified?

Travel Tip
One of the best thing I did to prepare for this trip was to load an audio Bible, which takes up only 1.1 gigabytes and takes only 73 hours to hear, into my iPod. You can download it for free here.

Tomb of Jesus? Jesus Tomb
Israel Jerusalem Jesus Birthplace Jesus Tomb
Dome of the Rock Lake of Gennesaret Why Was Jesus Crucified?
Al Aqsa Mosque Sermon on the Mount Mount of Olives
Wailing Wall Prayers Capernaum Christian Hospice
Damascus Gate Tabgha Palestinian Christians
Jerusalem Wall Qumran Caves Evangelizing Israel
Zion Gate When Gospels Written? School of Tyrannus
Holocaust Museum Garden of Gethsemane Cayster River
Oskar Schindler Grave Via Dolorosa Temple of Diana
Israeli Soldiers Holy Sepulcher Church Ephesus Theater
West Bank Wall Tomb of Jesus? Ephesus Church
Nativity Church Golgotha Recommended Reading
Contact Comments