Where Is The Hill Golgotha?
 A QUESTION AND ANSWER ABOUT THE LOCATION OF THE
CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

This is a photo of the Garden Tomb near Golgotha.  It is likely that this is the place
where the resurrection of Jesus Christ took place.

CLICK HERE FOR A WIDER VIEW OF JERUSALEM FROM THE AIR IN 1947

    This photo was taken around 1947 and shows the garden tomb and its proximity to the Damascus Gate.   The quarry and cemetary are seen in the upper left of the photo while the garden tomb is in the lower left.  At center right is the Damascus gate and the roads leading to it.  Its name is derived because this was the road to Damascus Jordan.   Christ was crucified in this area just outside the city walls.

This aerial affords us the view of the quarry area that was cleared from the hill of Golgotha to make stones for the Temple of Solomon. As a parallel thought, it is interesting to note that the place from where the temple was hewn also became the place where the temple of the Lords body was destroyed.

John 2:19-21

 19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
 21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

A QUESTION ABOUT GOLGOTHA:

  Hello,

  My name is Russell and I am attempting to draw a crucifixion scene. I have
  been doing a little research about Jerusalem when Christ was crucified and I
  have a few questions.

  I am having a little trouble with imaging the Golgotha site with respect to
  the second wall of Jerusalem. Most pictures of Golgotha that I have seen
  focus on the skull on the rock face. I would like to see a picture that
  shows the rock face and Jerusalem in the background. Where can I find such a
  view?

  I am no bible scholar by any means. From my research, I think Christ may
  have been crucified on top of Golgotha and possible looking toward
  Jerusalem. Can you provide any insight on this issue?

  Where is the tomb of Christ with respect of the Golgotha site?

  Any insight on these issues would be greatly appreciated.

  Thanks,

ANSWER:

 The Romans were master conquerors.  They dominated and maintained order by virtue of their heavy hand.  Crucifixion is one of the  most painful, prolonged forms of torture and death that has ever been invented.  The Romans would place the crosses directly on the main roads entering into Jerusalem (and  other cities they conquered throughout their empire) to serve as 'billboards' to all who entered the gates.  The message was clear; obey Roman law or suffer the consequences!   They placed above the heads of the victims a literal 'sign' stating the crime for which they were being crucified.  In the case of the crucifixion of Jesus they placed the words "King  of the Jews"  which meant that he was being punished for declaring himself a king rather than recognizing Caesar as king.  A crime of treason.

The goal of crucifixion was to make this a visceral example to the living to keep the law.  Therefore victims were not placed very far away from the road, such as up on a hill.  That would remove the suffering,  bleeding, odor, and groaning too far from the public and would lessen the effectiveness of their message.  Keeping the victims by the road sides also made their job easier as they did not  have to ascend or descend a hill etc. This also permitted jeering onlookers an upclose opportunity to mock and taunt the helpless victurm (see Matthew 27:42).   Many historians believe that a permanent frame work was built along the road and that the condemned would  merely be hoisted onto the framework after being nailed to the cross beam (hence the term crucifixion or use of a cross member).  In this way dozens or hundreds of people could  be crucified simultaneously, and often mass executions were carried out.  In the case of Jesus, he was crucified between two thieves.  Likely there were others crucified at that same time but Christ was only between two of them.  Thousands of jews were crucified by the Romans.

The penalty was so common that a special place was designated for the placing of the corpses of the unclaimed once they were dead in the Valley of Gehena.  There they would burn the corpses and the odors and smoke rose up 'like the fires from hell'.  Thus the  word Gehena in hebrew means hell.  This also gave rise to the imagery of hells fire.   People were typically crucified near all the major gates leading into Jerusalem.  Gologtha is near one of these gates on the North end of Old Jerusalem called Damascus Gate.

A water color by David Roberts of Damascus gate 1841.

As for the hill Golgotha, there are at least two theories of its whereabouts.  The first is the ancient site now adorned by the Church of  the Holy Sepulcher, a Catholic holy spot dating from the 3rd century.  It lies inside the old city walls very near the Antonia Fortress where Pilot condemned Christ to death.  It is argued that at the time of Christ this site lay outside the inner city wall and that is probably true.  Today it is definitely inside the existing walls which were rebuilt by the Turks.  The second and more likely spot for Golgotha is near the temple quarry just outside of the walls of Jerusalem near the Damascus gate (This gate, or a gate in this location, existed even at  the time of Christ).   It is literally across the street from the hill we call 'Calvary' or Golgotha.  I hold with this second spot for many reasons.  First, the "hill" as we call it is largely cut away because Solomon quarried the stone for the temple from this place.  The Jews used 'Golgotha', meaning 'skull' in Hebrew, as their place of stoning for hundreds of  years.  (Jews did not use crucifixion for capital punishment, they used stoning as this was prescribed in the Law of Moses).  The quarry afforded them a convenient spot stone those found guilty.  There were many stones and sharp rock fragments from the chiseling of the temple stone that were convenient there.  The name Golgotha actually came from this beginning  since this was the place that skulls were bashed against the rocks and often human remains were left there as well hence the name 'place of the skull'.  Some believe that the limestone outcropping that resembles a "skull" did not even exist at the time of Christ.  They believe that these holes or rock cavities are parts of a water cistern dug after the time of Christ.  Others say they are natural limestone cavities that have actually become more pronounced over time due to digging and erosion etc.  In either case these holes have been exposed since for thousands of years and no doubt have changed some over time.  I personally feel these unusual impressions in the rock wall probably have been there since the time of Christ and that this feature enhanced the significance of the name chosen for that place.  The limestone shelf that sits below Golgotha is soft and there are lots of natural holes and cavities in the rock.

A close-up showing the skull effect in the rocks on Golgotha.

Another reason I hold with this second location is that there is a tomb that lies near Golgotha that meets the criteria of the tomb offered by Joseph of Aramathea for Christ's burial.  There is a garden as mentioned in John 19:41 complete with an ancient water cistern that is the second largest one ever found in Jerusalem.  This spot today is beautifully preserved by a nondenominational group of 'Brethren' from England who serve there and offer free tours to visitors.  It is a very special place.   If I were to take you to Israel and could only show you one place in the whole country, this would be that place.  The empty tomb is a symbol of the resurrection which is what I  believe that Christ wants us to focus on rather than his death.

The empty tomb.  Note that the head and feet have been hastily chisled out to
accomodate a taller person other than the person for whom it was orgininally intended.

It is not the suffering, and death of Christ that is amazing though it is important and essential to understanding the  doctrine of the Atonement of Christ.  But it is in his resurrection that we find the greatest miracle of all time.  Resurrection or the coming forth from the dead is the whole reason  that He suffered and died for us, so that we could live again with him.  Indeed, Christianity is founded on the greatest of all miracles, the resurrection of our Lord.  If that miracle be admitted, other miracles cease to be improbable.  What he as done for us in suffering cannot, nor should not be disregarded, but the point was He suffered so that we might not suffer.   His glorious resurrection should be the paramount focus of all Christian living.  Once we realize this we should 'put away the cross' and be spiritually reborn, looking forward  steadfastly to the day that we, too, can come forth from the dead and live again in Him.  I have often asked myself this question; If had Christ been killed by firing squad  would we put little rifles on chains and wear them around our necks and adorn our churches with guns?  Understanding the cross is to realize that it was the most hideous form of  murder that was ever invented, used, or carried out by men on earth.  We condemn those who practiced it and our hearts ache for our Lord that he was forced to endure such suffering and pain when completely innocent of sin.   We need to understand the crucifixion and keep it in proper perspective.  We worship Christ who lives and guides us today.   We focus on the fact that he is alive even though he once was dead.   Christ is a living and real person who is preparing shortly to return to earth in glory and in the flesh.

This is Golgotah as seen from the walls of Jerusalem.  We see the proximity of the hill of Golgotha which was part of the ancient temple quarry site.  The busy nature of this place has not changed  in thousands of years.  Today it is an Arab bus station.  Hundreds of passers by go through this place every day, most of them taking no notice of this sacred place.





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