Where is the place referred to as Golgotha, the place of the skull?

I learned many fascinating things during my thirteen days in Israel in 2014. On the tenth day there, we visited the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (inside it includes the traditional places many think Jesus was crucified and buried) and walked the Via Dolorosa. We then walked outside the current walls of the city and came to the place seen here in this picture I took.Slide1

One of the most well known Good Friday songs starts out, “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross”. We also talk about Mount Calvary. But it should be pointed out that the Bible never says Jesus was crucified on a hill. Matthew 27:33 and other parallel passages say this: “And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”)”. The traditional interpretation is that Golgotha is a hill that looks like a skull, kind of like the hill in this picture. But our guide (who teaches at the Hebrew University) told us that right around where the bus and cars are parked is probably the spot of one of the most important crossroads at the time of Jesus, where the main north south route crisscrossed with the main east-west route, a very busy intersection. As a result of excavations and research, it is now thought that the Romans picked this place to crucify people, as a terrifying example of what happens to people who disobey them. Because so much killing was done here, it seems that it became known as the place of the skull, and as such, it is very possible that Jesus would have been crucified there. (It is also just outside the walls. Hebrews 13:12 says: “So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.”) Of course the most important thing to remember is that Jesus died in our place, took the punishment we deserved, and of course rose again a few days later. Whether it was a hill or not is not all that important, but it is an interesting notion, and would change the scenery of many movies if it were taken seriously.

Another thing in favor of this as the place where Jesus was crucified is the nearby garden and tomb. Mark 15:46 says: “Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.” So it sounds like the tomb was close to where He was crucified. In this place, now known as the Garden Tomb, is a garden. Remember that Mary first mistook Jesus as the gardener.  tomb03

Another interesting thing about this tomb is that there is ancient (100 AD?) “graffiti” in it, which basically says, “Jesus Christ was here.”tomb02

The resurrection of  Jesus has been called the most verified event of ancient history. Of all the recorded history we have of ancient happenings, there is no other which is based on more evidence and eye witness testimony. As with the place of the crucifixion, the exact location of the tomb where Jesus was buried, where He walked out on death, is not of great importance.  What is important is the we believe it and that we let it transform our lives, and fill us with the hope that just as He rose, so shall we, to be with Him forever.

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