(Golʹgo·tha) [Skull [Place]].
The place outside, although near, the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was impaled. (Mt 27:33; Joh 19:17-22; Heb 13:12) A road and a garden tomb were nearby. (Mt 27:39; Joh 19:41) “Golgotha,” or “Skull Place,” is also called “Calvary” (Lu 23:33, KJ, Dy), from the Latin calvaria (skull). The Biblical record does not state that Golgotha was on a hill, though it does mention the fact that some observed the impalement from a distance.—Mr 15:40; Lu 23:49.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands on the traditional site of Golgotha and Jesus’ tomb. In the fourth century C.E., Emperor Constantine assigned the task of determining the place of Jesus’ impalement and his tomb to Bishop Macarius, who decided that Hadrian’s then-existing temple of Aphrodite (Venus) had been erected on the site. Constantine therefore ordered the demolition of this temple and the construction of a basilica that later underwent expansion and modification, becoming the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Archaeological excavations done since 1960 indicate that the area was used as a burial ground, and it is thought that this was true in the first century C.E. Though located within the present walls of Jerusalem, the site is believed to have been outside the city walls in Jesus’ day.
Another location that was proposed as the site of the impalement of Jesus is a promontory 230 m (755 ft) NE of the Damascus Gate, now known as Gordon’s Calvary. It was suggested in 1842 as the true location of Golgotha and Jesus’ tomb. In 1883 the location was endorsed by General C. G. Gordon, a British military hero. The identification was based on conjecture. On the basis of archaeological evidence available, Gabriel Barkay states that the nearby Garden Tomb that is frequently pointed out to tourists as being the burial place of Jesus was originally hewn and used some time in the eighth or seventh century B.C.E. That would not fit the description at John 19:41 of “a new memorial tomb, in which no one had ever yet been laid.”—Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1986, p. 50.
Identification of Golgotha has often become an emotional religious issue. There is, however, no archaeological evidence that “Gordon’s Calvary” is the place. As for the location marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, its identification takes into account archaeological findings but is based largely on tradition that dates to the fourth century. Regarding the latter location, Biblical Archaeology Review (May/June 1986, p. 38) states: “We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus’ burial, but we certainly have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty.” So the identification remains conjectural.