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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The World into Which Jesus Came

Don Stewart :: What Was Golgotha?

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What Was Golgotha? (Mount Calvary)

The World into Which Jesus Came – Question 18

One of the most important places with respect to the life and ministry of Jesus was Golgotha the place where He was crucified. There are a number of observations we need to make about this place.

1. Jesus Was Crucified at Golgotha (Skull Hill)

Golgotha is an Aramaic word meaning, “the place of the skull.” All four gospels testify that it was the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. We read in Matthew:

Then they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means Skull Hill). The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it. (Matthew 27:33 NLT)

Matthew tells us the meaning of the word Golgotha.

Mark describes it this way. We read,

The soldiers took Jesus to Golgotha, which means “Place of a Skull”. (Mark 15:22 CEV)

He too defines the meaning of the word for his readers.

Luke, on the other hand, does not use the word Golgotha. Rather he calls it the place called “the Skull”:

When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. (Luke 23:33 HCSB)

John like Matthew and Mark, uses the term Golgotha. He also explains its meaning:

Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. (John 19:17 HCSB)

Consequently, all four gospels agree that Jesus was crucified at a place which was called Golgotha, or “the Skull”

2. Calvary Is Latin for Skull

The Latin word for “skull” is Calvaria. This is where the term “Mount Calvary” was derived. When the New Testament was translated into Latin the word Calvaria was used for Golgotha. The King James translators used the familiar word “Calvary” in their translation rather than using the term Golgotha.

3. The Name Skull Hill Has an Unknown Origin

The exact reason why it is called “Skull hill” is unknown. A number of possible explanations have been put forward. They include the following.

It Was the Place of Execution

It has been suggested that this was the place of public execution and skulls were left lying around after people had been executed. This does not seem very likely because the Jewish practice of the burial of their dead.

The Hill Was Shaped like a Skull

It has also been argued that the name “Skull hill” was actually derived from the physical shape of the hill in which Jesus was crucified; it looked like a human skull. The fact that executions took place on this hill was merely coincidental.

The Exact Site Is Debated

The exact site of Christ’s crucifixion is a matter of debate. The two most prominent candidates are the church of the Holy Sepulcher and Gordon’s Calvary. Gordon’s Calvary is on a hill that looks like a skull.

While most Bible scholars believe the site was the church of the Holy Sepulcher no one can be certain as to the exact location of Jesus’ death.

4. The Site Was outside of the City

We do know that Jesus was taken outside the city of Jerusalem to be executed. We read of this in the Book of Hebrews. It says,

Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. (Hebrews 13:12 NRSV)

Therefore, the exact site had to be outside the city at that time.

5. The Site Was near a Road

The site of the crucifixion was also near a public road:

And the people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. (Matthew 27:39 NLT)

People were able to view the horrible sight of crucifixion as they passed by.

6. The Site Was near the City

We also know that the site was near the city. John wrote,

Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. (John 19:20 NRSV)

The site was also near to the city.

Consequently, from all the descriptions given in the gospels, we find that the actual site was on a road, outside of the city, but near to it.

Whether the exact site of Jesus’ crucifixion is ever determined, the fact remained that Jesus Christ was indeed crucified for the sins of the world. However, that certainly was not the end of the story. Three days later, Jesus came back from the dead.

Summary – Question 18
What Was Golgotha? (Mount Calvary)

According to all four gospels Jesus Christ was crucified at a place called Golgotha. This is an Aramaic word for skull. The Latin term is Calvaria where the name Calvary comes from.

The reason why it was called “Skull hill” is unknown. Possibly it was so named because it was the site of executions. It is also possible that the hill was shaped like a human skull.

The exact location is also unknown. We do know that Jesus was crucified outside of the city walls on a public road. The site was near the city. Beyond that we cannot be certain.

There are two places which claim to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion are Gordon’s Calvary and the church of the Holy Sepulcher. Yet nobody can be certain as to the exact site. However, we can be certain that Jesus had died for the sins of the world as well as risen from the dead.

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