The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: G

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GOLGOTHA: The site of Golgotha and Garden Tomb:

What do we know about the site of the tomb?

  1. It was rock-hewn (Mar 15:46).
  2. "In the place" (Joh 19:46), "near at hand" (Mar 15:42).
  3. A private garden belonging to a rich man (Mat 27:57).

The traditional site, where the "Church of the Holy Sepulchre" is located today, was probably inside the city walls at that time, and thus disqualified... for Jesus was crucified outside the city.

Another possibility, "Gordon's Tomb", was discovered in 1867 -- north of the old city, near the Damascus Gate, under a hill somewhat resembling a skull. (An English explorer named Gordon discovered and excavated this tomb.) The entire area was found to be honeycombed with tombs dating to first century. One tomb nearby bore the inscription: "Buried near my Lord".

The sepulchre is in what was obviously once a garden -- a small level yard with a few fruit trees and plants. At the north end is a high perpendicular wall. There is an opening with a runway suitable for a rock wheel, and a burial room about 10 feet square.

Golgotha signifies "skull", from the Hebrew "galal" = circle (cp Galilee). Most likely, then, it was this hill north of Jerusalem, on the Damascus Road, where criminals were executed. To it was attached the name of "Skull" because

  1. it was the place of death,
  2. shaped like a skull, with recesses for eyes, mouth, etc,
  3. and perhaps the site where Adam died [it is an ancient tradition that Adam died at what later became Jerusalem]; and
  4. perhaps the site of the burial of Goliath's head/skull.
If the ancient tradition is correct, that Golgotha derived its name from being the burial place of Adam... then here, supposedly, was laid to rest the skull of the first Adam; and here, also, the last Adam came to restore that which his predecessor lost.

A more likely supposition, however, is that Golgotha was the site of the burial of the skull of Goliath (1Sa 17:54). Thus Christ, in his death, figuratively bruised the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15) just where David buried the head of the Philistine, the "man of sin".

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