Moriah, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

Chapter 3. Golgotha, the Place of the Skull - Part A

We have seen that the Old Testament requires that the summit of Mount Moriah (the same Mount where the Temple was built) must be the place of the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE. Jesus Christ had to fulfil everything that was prophesied of Him, which included the place of His Death. We shall now see that He fulfilled all of these prophetic expectations perfectly! Abraham’s prophetic words in Genesis 22 have indeed been fulfilled through Christ’s Death and Resurrection on Mount Moriah. The Lord Jesus has indeed provided Himself as the full Provision for our Salvation on Mount Moriah!

We will now study the New Testament’s description of the details of Christ’s Crucifixion, and we will discover that these confirm that Christ died and rose again in the very same location that is required by the Old-Testament, namely: the Peak of Mount Moriah.

Now at this point, we should mention the traditional location of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, the famous Church of the Holy-Sepulchre (see Appendix 2 for more details). In the 4th Century, during the reign of Constantine, it was decided that a pagan temple built by Hadrian was the location of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Constantine ordered that the pagan temple be pulled down, and a large church be built over the site. Since then Christians have venerated this place as a holy place where Christ died and rose again. 

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The Church of the Holy-Sepulchre, the traditional site of Christ’s Death and Resurrection - due WEST of Mount MORIAH.

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However, in the 19th Century, many Bible students became increasingly aware that this location did not agree with the Scriptures. For example, it seemed to be well within the City Walls, whereas the New Testament clearly states that Christ was crucified and buried outside the Walls. Moreover, it was to the WEST, rather than to the NORTH of the Temple as required by Leviticus 1. Most importantly, it does not even fulfil the fundamental requirement of being on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22). So it should never have been taken as the site.

Moreover, the tradition is not secure, as the 300 years between Christ and Constantine saw great upheavals in Jerusalem, making the accurate transmission of the correct location doubtful. For example, in AD 66 all the Christians obeyed Christ’s warning in Luke 21:20-24 and escaped from Jerusalem. Then in AD 70 the Romans totally destroyed Jerusalem, scattering the Jews to the nations. Then in AD 132-135 there was a second disruption, the Jewish Bar Kokhba Revolt, which resulted in Hadrian forbidding all Jews from living in Jerusalem, now renamed as Aelia Capitolina, a Roman City. The City had been levelled more than once, with both Christians and Jews evacuating it in turn, so it seems likely that the true location was lost during the first 300 years. Moreover, there are no historical records from before Constantine’s time, that confirm a tradition had existed, locating Calvary where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is now. 

Therefore, rather than relying on an uncertain tradition, it is better to turn to the sure Word of God which gives sufficient information to determine the location of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Tradition can be fine, but if it contradicts the Word of God we must discard it, as Jesus said: “The traditions of men nullify the Word of God.” 

These Bible students searched for an alternative location, one that agreed with all the clues in the Bible, and indeed they found it just north of the City Walls! North-East of the Damascus Gate, at the Northern Peak of Mount Moriah, there is a rocky escarpment facing the City Walls which was already associated in local tradition with 'Jeremiah's Grotto', the place where the prophet composed his Lamentations over the destruction of Jerusalem. Moreover, this Rock-Face has the appearance of a human Skull, relating it to the Place of Christ’s Crucifixion, described in the New Testament as ‘Golgotha’, meaning: ‘the Place of the Skull.’ 

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Lamentations 1:12“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?

(Jeremiah’s Grotto is right next to a major road). Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on Me, which the LORD has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger.” 

Jeremiah, the suffering prophet, wrote these prophetic words as a Type of Christ. How fitting it would be, if he wrote these words, from the very same location that Jesus would fulfil them 600 years later!

The most famous of these early investigators was General Gordon, a notable British soldier, who spent 11 months in Jerusalem in 1883. 

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While staying at the American Colony, just inside the northern Wall, He noticed that the face of the cliff opposite the City Wall resembled a Skull, and became convinced that this “Skull Face” was the biblical Golgotha. Although he was far from being the first to make this identification, the endorsement of this site by one of the most famous Christians of his day gave it widespread publicity. This is why it came to be known as “Gordon's Calvary.”

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Gordon’s sketch (on the next page) shows that he understood that Mount Moriah continued to the north of the Temple Platform where it came to its Peak. This is where the Skull Face is (Golgotha). Gordon was particularly impressed that this location (the northern Peak of Moriah) fulfilled the requirement of Leviticus 1, that the Sacrifice is made to the NORTH of the Temple Altar.

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Some of the features of this hill caused it to have a striking resemblance to a human SKULL. The first to identify it as Golgotha was a German, Otto Thenius in 1842. Others (Col. Churchill (1870), Fisher Howe (1871), at this time, were also coming to the conclusion that this was the logical place for the Golgotha of the Bible. From that time, it became known as SKULL HILL. It agrees perfectly with the Bible description of where Jesus was crucified: 

John 19:16,17: “Then he (Pilate) delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away. 
And He, bearing His Cross, went out to a PLACE called: ‘the PLACE of a SKULL’, which is called in Hebrew, GOLGOTHA.”

Luke 23:33: “when they had come to the PLACE called the SKULL , there they crucified Him.”
Matthew 27:33: 
“when they had come to a PLACE called GOLGOTHA, that is to say, the PLACE of a SKULL.”
Mark 15:22: “they brought Him to the PLACE called GOLGOTHA, which is translated, PLACE of a SKULL.” 

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It was associated with a Skull, and here in the Rock-Face, unique in all the cities of the world, is a SKULL, with a brow and depressions for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Although the mouth has now been covered by tarmac, you can see it in some earlier photos. 

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There is the low corroded forehead; 2 deep hollows that make the eyes; a nose, and beneath, just under the present ground level, a mouth. From the side you can see a perfectly formed nose (below).

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In view of this Skull and the fact that it overlooked an execution site, the name ‘Place of the Skull’, which in Hebrew is ‘Golgotha’ naturally became attached to the site. It was translated into Latin as ‘Calvary’, meaning a ‘bald skull.’

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The top of the knoll is rounded and dome-like, and is 110 feet higher than the Sacred Rock of the Temple. The term Golgotha or Skull also implies this place was the HEAD or CROWN of a Hill. So this rounded hill with Skull features at the summit of Mount Moriah perfectly fits the Biblical description of the place where Jesus died!

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