Golgotha Definition and Meaning - Bible Dictionary (2023)

GOLGOTHA

gol'-go-tha (Golgotha, from "a skull"):

In three references (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17) it is interpreted to mean kraniou topos, "the place of a skull." In Luke 23:33 the King James Version it is called "Calvary," but in the Revised Version (British and American) simply "The skull." From the New Testament we may gather that it was outside the city (Hebrews 13:12), but close to it (John 19:20), apparently near some public thoroughfare (Matthew 27:39), coming from the country (Mark 15:21). was a spot visible, from some points, from afar (Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49).

1. The Name:

Four reasons have been suggested for the name Golgotha or "skull":

(1) That it was a spot where skulls were to be found lying about and probably, therefore, a public place of execution. This tradition apparently originates with Jerome (346-420 AD), who refers to (3), to condemn it, and says that "outside the city and without the gate there are places wherein the heads of condemned criminals are cut off and which have obtained the name of Calvary--that is, of the beheaded." This view has been adopted by several later writers. Against it may be urged that there is no shadow of evidence that there was any special place for Jewish executions in the 1st century, and that, if there were, the corpses could have been allowed burial (Matthew 27:58; John 19:38), in conformity with Jewish law (Deuteronomy 21:23) and with normal custom (Josephus, BJ, IV, v, 2).

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(2) That the name was due to the skull-like shape of the hill--a modern popular view. No early or Greek writer suggests such an idea, and there is no evidence from the Gospels that the Crucifixion occurred on a raised place at all. Indeed Epiphanius (4th century) expressly says:

"There is nothing to be seen on the place resembling this name; for it is not situated upon a height that it should be called (the place) of a skull, answering to the place of the head in the human body." It is true that the tradition embodied in the name Mons Calvary appears as early as the 4th century, and is materialized in the traditional site of the Crucifixion in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, but that the hill was skull-like in form is quite a modern idea. Guthe combines (2) and (3) and considers that a natural skull-like elevation came to be considered, by some folklore ideas, to be the skull of the first man. One of the strangest ideas is that of the late General Gordon, who thought that the resemblance to a skull lay in the contours of the ground as laid down in the ordinance survey map of Jerusalem.

(3) That the name is due to an ancient pre-Christian tradition that the skull of Adam was found there. The first mention of this is by Origen (185-253 AD), who himself lived in Jerusalem 20 years. He writes:

"I have received a tradition to the effect that the body of Adam, the first man, was buried upon the spot where Christ was crucified," etc. This tradition was afterward referred to by Athanasius, Epiphanius, Basil of Caesarea, Chrysostom and other later writers. The tomb and skull of Adam, still pointed out in an excavated chamber below the traditional Calvary, marks the survival of this tradition on the spot. This is by far the most ancient explanation of the name Golgotha and, in spite of the absurdity of the original tradition about Adam, is probably the true one.

(4) The highly improbable theory that the Capitolium of AElia Capitolina (the name given by Hadrian to his new Jerusalem) stood where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now is, and gave rise to the name Golgotha, is one which involves the idea that the site first received the name Golgotha in the 2nd century, and that all the references in the Gospels were inserted then. This is only mentioned to be dismissed as incompatible with history and common sense.

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2. The Site:

With regard to the position of the site of the Crucifixion (with which is bound up the site of the Tomb) the New Testament gives us no indication whatever; indeed, by those who abandon tradition, sites have been suggested on all sides of the city--and West Two views hold the field today:

(1) that the site of the Crucifixion, or at any rate that of the Tomb itself, is included within the precincts of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; and

(2) that a prominent, rounded, grassy hill above the so-called "Grotto of Jeremiah," Northeast of the Modern Damascus Gate, has at least a very high probability of being the true site. It is impossible here to go into the whole question, which requires minute and long elaboration, but excellent review of the whole evidence may be consulted in "Golgotha and the Holy Sepulcher," by the late Sir Charles W. Wilson, of PEF. Here only a few points can be touched upon.

(1) For the traditional view it may be said that it seems highly improbable that so sacred a spot as this, particularly the empty tomb, could have been entirely forgotten. Although it is true that Jews and Christians were driven out of Jerusalem after the second great revolt (130-33 AD), yet GentileChristians were free to return, and there was no break long enough to account for a site like this being entirely lost. Indeed there are traditions that this site was deliberately defiled by pagan buildings to annoy the Christians. Eusebius, at the time of Constantine, writes as if it were well known that a Temple of Aphrodite lay over the tomb.

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He gives an account of the discovery of the spots still venerated as the Golgotha and the Tomb, and of the erection of churches in connection with them (Life of Constantine, III, 25-40). From the time of Constantine there has been no break in the reverence paid to these places. Of the earlier evidence Sir C. Wilson admits (loc. cit.) that "the tradition is so precarious and the evidence is undoubtedly so unsatisfactory as to raise serious doubts."

The topographical difficulties are dealt with in the JERUSALEM. It is difficult for the visitor to Jerusalem sufficiently to realize that the center of gravity of the city has much changed; once it was on the Hill Ophel, and the southern slopes, now bare, were in Christ's time crammed with houses; in later times, from the 4th century, it was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher round which the city tended to center. There is no insurmountable difficulty in believing that the site of the Crucifixion may be where tradition points out. As Sir C. Wilson says at the end of his book, "No objection urged against the sites (i.e. Golgotha and the Tomb) is of such a convincing nature that it need disturb the minds of those who accept, in all good faith, the authenticity of the places which are hallowed by the prayers of countless pilgrims since the days of Constantine" (loc. cit.).

(2) The so-called "Skull Hill" or "Green Hill" appears to have appealed first to Otto Thenius (1842), but has received its greatest support through the advocacy of the late Col. Conder and of the late Dr. Selah Merrill, U.S.A. consul at Jerusalem. The arguments for this site are mainly:

(a) its conspicuous and elevated position--a position which must impress every reverent pilgrim as strikingly suitable for an imaginary reconstruction of the scene. The very greenness of the hill--it is the first green spot in the neighborhood of the city--may influence the subconsciousness of those who have been brought up from childhood to think of the "green hill far away," as the popular hymn puts it. When, however, we consider the question historically, there is not the slightest reason to expect that the crucifixion of Jesus, one of many hundreds, should have been dramatically located in a setting so consonant with the importance with which the world has since learned to regard the event. There is no evidence whatever that the crucifixion was on a hill, much less on such a conspicuous place.

(b) The supposed resemblance to a human skull strikes many people, but it may be stated without hesitation that the most arresting points of the resemblance, the "eyeholes" and the rounded top, are not ancient; the former are due to artificial excavations going back perhaps a couple of centuries. Probably the whole formation of the hill, the sharp scarp to the South and the 10 or more feet of earth accumulated on the summit are both entirely new conditions since New Testament times.

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(c) The nearness of the city walls and the great North road which make the site so appropriate today are quite different conditions from those in New Testament times. It is only if the present North wall can be proved to be on the line of the second wall that the argument holds good. On this see JERUSALEM.

(d) An argument has been based upon a supposed tradition that this spot was the Jewish place of stoning. This so-called tradition is worthless, and not a trace of it can be found outside interested circles, and even if it were the "place of stoning," it would be no argument for its being "Golgotha." To the Oriental, with his great respect for traditional sites, the church of the Holy Sepulcher, covering at once the Tomb, the Calvary, and other sacred spots, will probably always appeal as the appropriate spot:

to the western tourist who wishes to visualize in the environs of Jerusalem in an appropriate setting the great world's tragedy, such a site as this "Skull Hill" must always make the greater appeal to his imagination, and both may find religious satisfaction in their ideas; but cold reason, reviewing the pro's and con's, is obliged to say "not proven" to both, with perhaps an admission of the stronger case for the traditional spot.

E. W. G. Masterman

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'GOLGOTHA'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.

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FAQs

What is the meaning of Golgotha in the Bible? ›

Golgotha, (Aramaic: “Skull”) also called Calvary, (from Latin calva: “bald head” or “skull”), skull-shaped hill in ancient Jerusalem, the site of Jesus' crucifixion. It is referred to in all four Gospels (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, and John 19:17).

Why was Golgotha given the name? ›

( Matthew 27:33 ; Mark 15:22 ; John 19:17 ) By these three evangelists it is interpreted to mean the "place of a skull." Two explanations of the name are given: (1) that it was a spot where executions ordinarily took place, and therefore abounded in skulls; or(2) it may come from the look or form of the spot itself, ...

What is Golgotha called today? ›

Golgotha, also called Calvary in Latin, is usually said to be connected to the traditional site of Christ's Crucifixion, now in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem., This site is within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

What does the word mean in the Bible? ›

When John speaks of Jesus as “the Word” who was from the beginning with God and God, Jewish believers would have understood him to be saying that in Christ originated life and light. Christ is the lifeforce behind the universe and He is the Light of the World.

What is the real meaning of Calvary? ›

cal·​va·​ry ˈkal-v(ə-)rē plural calvaries. : an open-air representation of the crucifixion of Jesus. : an experience of usually intense mental suffering.

Was Golgotha a garbage dump? ›

Although the exact route to the crucifixion is in unknown, there is general agreement that it took place at Golgotha, a garbage dump outside Jerusalem.

How old is Golgotha? ›

Appearance. Sand dan Glokta is only thirty-five, but his visit to the Emperor's prisons has left him severely crippled, appearing far older, and in constant physical pain.

Did Jesus carry his cross to Golgotha? ›

Modern scholars, following descriptions of criminals carrying crossbars by Plautus and Plutarch, often take the Gospel description as meaning Jesus, then Simon, carried only a heavy patibulum, the crossbar, to a pole, stipes, which was permanently driven into the ground at Golgotha.

What happened when Jesus arrived at Golgotha? ›

The Bible tells us Jesus was crucified outside the city walls at a place called Golgotha, which simply means the skull, and so many people believe that Skull Hill is Golgotha, the place of the skull where Jesus died.

Where is the true cross of Jesus now? ›

The relic of the True Cross was then restored to its place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

What was Jesus's last words before he died? ›

Just before he breathed his last breath, Jesus uttered the phrase “it is finished.” Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.

What does the word 7 mean in the Bible? ›

Seven was symbolic in ancient near eastern and Israelite culture and literature. It communicated a sense of “fullness” or “completeness” (שבע “seven” is spelled with the same consonants as the word שבע “complete/full”). This makes sense of the pervasive appearance of “seven” patterns in the Bible.

What did the word God originally mean? ›

According to the best efforts of linguists and researchers, the most common theory is that the root of the present word God is the Sanskrit word hu which means to call upon, invoke, implore.

What is another name for Calvary? ›

What is another word for calvary?
trialtrouble
agonytorture
anguishdistress
calamitynightmare
helltoil
235 more rows

Why was the place of crucifixion called Calvary? ›

The term is derived from the Latin translation in the Vulgate of the Aramaic name for original hill, Golgotha, where it was called calvariae locus, Latin for "the place of the skull". Martin Luther translated Golgatha as "skull place" (Scheddelstet).

What is Calvary called today? ›

The only remains of this hill can today be found inside the church, where it is a rock about 5 meters above the ground. Calvary, also known as Golgotha is located in the western part of Israel, not far from the border with Jordan.

How far was Jesus tomb from Golgotha? ›

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has the tomb just a few yards away from Golgotha, corresponding with the account of John the Evangelist: "Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid." KJV (John 19:41).

When was Golgotha built? ›

Golgotha is mentioned in the writings of early pilgrims and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built to mark this location in AD 326. Experts say that it is very likely that the site revered as Golgotha was in fact where Jesus was crucified.

Which disciple was with Jesus at Golgotha? ›

According to John 19:38, upon hearing of Jesus' death, this secret disciple of Jesus "asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission." Joseph immediately purchased a linen shroud (Mark 15:46) and proceeded to Golgotha to take the body of Jesus down from the cross.

How old was Jesus when he died on the cross of Calvary? ›

Considering Jesus' varying chronology, he was 33 to 40 years old at his time of death.

Where is the skull where Jesus died? ›

The bones that form the head. The skull is made up of cranial bones (bones that surround and protect the brain) and facial bones (bones that form the eye sockets, nose, cheeks, jaw, and other parts of the face).

Who is buried at Golgotha? ›

tradition of Adam's burial at Golgotha was a development of that tradition (pp. 38–42).

When Jesus came to Golgotha do they hang him on a tree? ›

1When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree, 2They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary; 3They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep, 4For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

What does carry your cross mean? ›

It means to lay our "ego strength" aside. Taking up our cross means, instead, picking up those weaknesses that we so often try to run away from in life. Taking up our cross means carrying around those places where we are vulnerable, places where we are maybe even exposed to embarrassment and shame.

Do Christians have to wear a cross? ›

Some Christians believe that the wearing of a cross offers protection from evil, while others, Christian and non-Christian, wear cross necklaces as a fashion accessory.

Why is it called Calvary? ›

Origins of 'Cavalry' and 'Calvary'

Calvary was first used in our language over a thousand years ago, as the name of the place outside ancient Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. This name comes to English from the Latin word for “skull” (calvāria).

Where did Jesus go after he died and crucified? ›

The Creed goes on to state Christ's victory in rising to new life, ascending to heaven and resting in eternal triumph at the right hand of God, the Father.

Is Jesus blood still preserved? ›

Although the Bible never mentions Christ's blood being preserved, Acts of Pilate - one of the apocryphal gospels - relates that Joseph of Arimathea preserved the Precious Blood after he had washed the dead body of Christ; legends of Joseph were popular in the early thirteenth century, connected also with the emerging ...

What kind of wood was the cross made of that Jesus was crucified on? ›

And based on the fragments he was allowed to examine by microscope, de Fleury concluded the true cross was made of pine wood. Later, four cross particles were also microscopically examined – part of ten pieces of the true cross, accompanied by documentary proofs from Byzantine emperors.

What tree was Jesus cross from? ›

According to the story, it was the dogwood tree that provided the wood used to build the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Because of its role in the crucifixion, it is said that God both cursed and blessed the tree.

What is Jesus real name? ›

Jesus' name in Hebrew was “Yeshua” which translates to English as Joshua.

What is the 3rd last word of Jesus? ›

3. Woman, Behold Your Son (John 19:26-27) - Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross.

What does 777 mean? ›

According to Berry, seeing 7, 77, and 777 is your guardian angel's way of telling you to stay strong and to continue moving forward on your journey — even through changes and obstacles. "The path ahead can become challenging, but the message is to keep a positive outlook in order to overcome anything," Berry says.

What is God's number in the Bible? ›

Twelve is lengthened to 144,000 (12 x 12 x 1,000) in Revelation 7:4; 14:1,3, and indicates the complete number of God's Israel: the whole Christian community.

Why is 12 a powerful number in the Bible? ›

The number 12 is mentioned often in the New Testament of the Bible, such as Jesus' selection of 12 apostles, he said. That choice was deliberate, with each apostle representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel, said Reed, a professor emeritus of pastoral theology and research.

What word was before God? ›

Godan was shortened to God over time and was adopted/retained by the Germanic peoples of the British isles as the name of their deity, in lieu of the Latin word Deus used by the Latin speaking Christian church, after conversion to Christianity.

Who was the first person called by God? ›

ADAM (1) ADAM1 was the first man. There are two stories of his creation. The first tells that God created man in his image, male and female together (Genesis 1: 27), and Adam is not named in this version.

What word did Jesus use for God? ›

The essential uses of the name of God the Father in the New Testament are Theos (θεός the Greek term for God), Kyrios (i.e. Lord in Greek) and Patēr (πατήρ i.e. Father in Greek). The Aramaic word "Abba" (אבא), meaning "Father" is used by Jesus in Mark 14:36 and also appears in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6.

What happened to Jesus at Golgotha? ›

LAWTON: According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified at a spot outside Jerusalem called Golgotha, which in Aramaic means “place of the skull.” The Latin word for skull is calvaria, and in English many Christians refer to the site of the crucifixion as Calvary.

How far was Golgotha from the tomb for Jesus? ›

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has the tomb just a few yards away from Golgotha, corresponding with the account of John the Evangelist: "Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid." KJV (John 19:41).

Why is the place where Jesus died called Calvary? ›

You will only find the word Calvary as it appears in the Bible only at Luke 23:33. It means skull and refers to the skull-like hill on which Jesus was crucified also known as Golgotha, which is the Aramaic name of the location where Jesus was crucified outside of Old Jerusalem.

Who was with Jesus in Golgotha? ›

The impenitent thief is a man described in the New Testament account of the Crucifixion of Jesus. In the Gospel narrative, two criminal bandits are crucified alongside Jesus. In the first two Gospels (Matthew and Mark), they both join the crowd in mocking him.

What is the literal meaning of crucifixion? ›

1 : to put to death by nailing or binding the wrists or hands and feet to a cross. 2 : to destroy the power of : mortify crucify the flesh. 3a : to treat cruelly : torment. b : pillory sense 2 crucified in the press.

Where is the true cross of Jesus? ›

The relic of the True Cross was then restored to its place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

What was built on Golgotha? ›

Within the Old City of Jerusalem, the most sacred site for Christians is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This ornate Romanesque/Baroque structure sits atop the traditional site of Golgotha where Jesus was purportedly crucified and buried.

What does Calvary mean in Christianity? ›

Definitions: Calvary is the name of the place, outside of Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified. The name Calvary means "The Skull". This is thought to refer to the shape and appearance of a hill.

What does died on Calvary mean? ›

An outdoor representation of the crucifixion of Jesus. noun. 2. 1. The hill outside Jerusalem which is traditionally held to be the location of the crucifixion of Jesus.

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