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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Golgotha or The Place of the Skull




 I was privileged to get to spend more than two weeks in Jerusalem in July and August of 2015.  While there, I visited the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem-- a quiet beautiful (and free) place where an empty first century tomb C.E. is located-- found, I think,  in the 1950s.  I went to the Garden Tomb with some dear friends--- and I walked along the ramparts of Jerusalem from the Jaffa Gate past the Damascus Gate as far as my guide could take me until the way to the Lion's Gate was padlocked.  
(Picture credit-- I took all these pictures except for the original of Conrad Schick's photo below and the East Jerusalem Bus Station map.) 

At the Garden Tomb, our tour guide showed us a picture of what Conrad Schick saw when he looked out a a house in Jerusalem-- a stony cliff with a skull staring back at him. 



For centuries, many have believed that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was the place of Yeshua's (Jesus') death as well as burial.  I visited it on my first trip to Jerusalem 19 years ago.  To me, it was a dark place filled with centuries of gold decoration and candles  in several ostentatious  styles where priests of various denominations keep an uneasy peace as they claim certain parts of the building.  Our guide told us that the government of Israel has had to replace a stone slab several times because of pilgrims determined to chip off a bit of the rock.  The guide said that there is a Muslim family tasked with having the key to the building so that the Christians who inhabit the building don't fight about who owns the key.  To me, there was no sense of anything real there although others may have a different impression.

Others have suggested Skull Hill as the place where Yeshua died.  Today it is next to (and underneath) the site of the very busy East Jerusalem Bus Station.



Excellent discussion of The Place of the Skull 

Matthew 27:33

33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).

 After so many centuries, some things are very different, but some things are still the same.  


Things that are the same: 


  • Nablus Street outside the Damascus Gate is a busy thoroughfare outside the Old City, as it has been for centuries.  

  • The cliff is still there, although (as my guide told me) the mouth of the skull has been covered over when the East Jerusalem Bus Station was paved.   The eyes for the "Place of the Skull" can be seen behind the white building with arches on the street.  The "eyes" are between green sign and the green banner on the top of the building.  Next to the "eyes" is Zedekiah's cave.  My guide told me that cave is also an execution place.  To the left of that is where the Garden Tomb was cut into the rock.  Above the Skull is a Muslim cemetery that was not built up with a wall in 1994, the first time I visited.  Around the back of the hill is where the hill slopes up to the top of the cliff.  People would not have walked all the way around the hill to go up to the top.  Yeshua was not killed on the top of the cliff but at the bottom.  
     Here is a map showing the location of the East Jerusalem Bus Station.  Look down at the blue route to see Sultan Suleiman Street across from the Old City's Damascus Gate.   http://www.scribd.com/doc/30742639/eJerbusmap

Thanks to Avigail  for posting the link
Thank you, Fred, for what you wrote about the subject. 


  • It was a traditional place for execution because it is full of rocks.  In the time of the Byzantines, it was known as St. Stephen's gate because of the tradition that he was killed outside of this gate. 
  • It fit the Roman goal of making an execution very public at a place where many would naturally be walking.  The intent was to demonstrate Rome's power and frighten everyone into submission to Rome at all times.  



The approach to the Damascus Gate Rampart







   This busy bus terminal seems to be the practical place for execution where Yeshua willingly died.  

As Goner explains  

Golgotha "Skull Hill"

by Goner Written Feb 25, 2003
3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness
"This hill was discovered by British General Gordon  [actually Conrad Schick]   on a visit to Jerusalem in 1883. The Scriptures tell us that [Messiah] was crucified at Golgatha [sic], which means "place of the skull" which accurately describes a skull-shaped hill less than a hundred meters from the site of the tomb outside the old city walls. Both the skull-shaped hill, known as Gordon's Calvary, and the Garden Tomb are outside the limits of the Old City. Even though the present walls do not follow the same line as those of the first century, both hill and tomb still certainly lie outside the first-century wall, as burial places were considered "unclean" and forbidden within the city walls."



The view back towards the Damascus Gate. 

I took these pictures from on top of the Damascus Gate or from the Garden Tomb.  The bus station itself is not set up for people to come walk through the parking lot since it is a busy terminal. 

Zedekiah's Cave (with underground quarry)


Whether the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the actual place of execution and resurrection as the linked article makes a good case for-- or whether Gordon's Calvary (above) is the actual and historic place of Yeshua's death, the fact is that Messiah Yeshua-- a Jewish man born in Bethlehem whose custom it was to attend synagogue and go to the Temple , as described in Isaiah 53-- the forbidden chapter-- willingly laid down His life.  He rose again just as He said.  He was seen by many people, and He changed the lives of all who knew Him or know Him today.  He gives beauty for ashes. He is the One the prophets wrote about.  Read them for yourself and see.  


In Proverbs 30:4, the author asks all of us-- Jewish, Gentile-- Muslims, Christians-- people of every language or culture: 



ד  מִי עָלָה-שָׁמַיִם    וַיֵּרַד,
מִי אָסַף-רוּחַ בְּחָפְנָיו    מִי צָרַר-מַיִם בַּשִּׂמְלָה--
מִי,    הֵקִים כָּל-אַפְסֵי-אָרֶץ:
מַה-שְּׁמוֹ וּמַה-שֶּׁם-בְּנוֹ,    כִּי תֵדָע.


: For more
pictures of Golgotha

Questions about Messiah




4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, and descended?
Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in his garment?
Who hath established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou knowest?

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