Gol'gotha (Γολγοθᾶ, for Aram. גֻּלִגִּלתָּא, Gulgalta´ [comp. Heb. גֻּלגֹּלֶת, 2Ki 9:35], the skull, as being globular; the Syr. version has gogulta), the vulgar name of the spot where Jesus emas crucified, and interpreted by the evangelists as meaning "the place of a skull," and hence interpreted by the equivalent term CALVARY (Mt 27:33; Mr 15:22; Joh 19:17).
Three explanations of this name have been given:
(1.) A tradition at one time prevailed (see Jerome in Ephesians 5:14; Epist. 46; De Sanct. Lodis) that Adam was buried on Golgotha, that from his skull it derived its name, and that at the crucifixion the drops of Christ's blood fell on the skull and raised Adam to life, whereby the ancient prophecy quoted lay Paul in Eph 5:14 received its fulfillment — "Awake, thou Adam that sleepest" — so the old versions appear to have run — "and arise from the dead, for Christ shalt touch thee" (ἐπιψαύσει for ἐπιφαύσει). See the quotation in Reland, Palaest. page 860; also Raewulf, in Early Travellers, p. 39. The skull commonly introduced in early pictures of the crucifixion refers to this.
(2.) Jerome says elsewhere (in Matthew 28:33) that it was a spot where executions ordinarily took place, and therefore abounded in skulls; but, according to the Jewish law, these must have been bhuried, and therefor were so msore likely to confer a name on the spot than any other part of the skeleton. In this case, too, the Greek should be τόπος κρανίων, "of skulls," instead of κρανίου, "of a skull," still less a "skull," as in the Aramaic, and in the Greek of Luke. If this had been the usual place of execution, there is no reason why all the evangelists should have been so explicit in the name. That it was a well-known spot, however, has been inferred by many from the way in which it is mentioned in the gospels, each except Matthew having the definite article — "the place Golgotha" — "the place which is called a skull" —"the place (A.V. omits the article) called of, or after, a skull." That it was the ordinary spot for such purposes has been argued from the fact that, to those at least who carried the sentence into effect, Christ was but an ordinary criminal; and there is not a word to indicate that the soldiers in "leading him away" went to any other than the usual place for what must have been a common operation. But the act of crucifixion was so common a punishment among the Romans, especially upon Jews, that it seems to have been performed as most anywhere. SEE CRUCIFIXION.
(3.) The name has been heald to come from the look or form of the spot itself, bald, round, and skull-like, and therefore a mound or hillock, in accordance with the common phrase "Mount Calvary." It must be remembered, however, that neither Eusebius, nor Cyril, nor Jerome nor any of the earliest historical writers ever speak of Golgotha as a hill. Yet the expression must have become current at a very early period, for the Bordeauxix pilgrim describes it in A.D. 1333 as Monticulus Golgotha (Itinnerarium Hierosol., ed. Wessel., page 593). Dr. Robinson suggests that the idea of a mount originated in the fact that a mounded rock or monticule existed on the place where, in the beginning of the 4th century, tradition located the scene of the crucifixion (Bib. Res. 2:376).
All the information the Bible gives us regarding the site of Golgotha may be stated in a few words. Christ was crucified without the gate" (Heb 13:12), "nigh to the city" (Joh 19:20), at a place called Golgotha (Mt 27:33), and apparently beside some public thoroughfare (Mt 27:39) leading to the country (Mark 25:21). The tomb in which he was lain was hewn out of the rock (Mr 15:46), in a garden or orchard (κῆπος), at the place of crucifixion (Joh 19:41-42). Neither Golgotha nor the tomb is ever afterwards mentioned by any of the sacred writers. No honor seems to have been paid to them, no sanctity attached to them during the apostolic age, or that which immediately succeeded it. It is not till the beginning of the 4th century that we find any attempt made to fix the position of, or attach sanctity to Golgotha. Eusebius then informs us that the emperor Constantine, "not without divine admonition," resolved to uncover the holy tomb. He states that wicked even had covered it over with earth and rubbish, and had erected on the spot a temple of Venus. These were removed, and the tomb and Golgotha laid bare. A magnificent church was built over them, and consecrated in A.D. 335 (Vit. Constantin. 3:26-33). There can be little doubt that the present Church of the Sepulchre occupjes the site of that built by Constantine. The only writer who seriously impugns their identity is Mr. Fergusson (Essay on the ancient Topography of Jerusalem, London, 1847), who asserts that Golgotha was on Mount Moriah, and that the building now called the Mosque of Omar, or Dome of the Rock, is the church erected by Counstantisae over the Holy Sepulchre. Beneath its dome is a projecting rock with a cave in it; this, he says, is the real tomb. The arguments on which his theory rests are mainly architectural, and are unquestionalby forcible; but his topographical and historical argument is a complete failure. He says the site was transferred at the time of the Crusaders; but for this there is not a shadow of evidence. Anyone who has examined on the spot the topography of Mount Moriah, and who has closely inspected the masonry of the massive wall which surrounds the whole of the Haramin area, must see that this theory is untenable. The only point to be settled is, whether the church of Constantine stood on the real Golgotha. Eusehius is our first witness, and he lived 300 years after the crucifixion. His story is repeated with some changes, and numerous embellishments, by subsequent writers (Socrates, H.E. 1:17; Sozom. H.E. 2:1; Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. 1:18). That the spot is now marked by the Church of the Sepulchre was the almost universally accredited tradition down to the last century; for though many were struck by the singular position of the church, yet they got over that difficulty by various means Robinson, Bib. Res. 1:408). The first who openly opposed the tradition was Korte, a German traveler who visited Jerusalem in 1738. He was followed by Dr. Clarke — (Travels), Scholz (Reise, and De Golgathae Situ), Robinson, Tobler (Golgatha), and others. The identity of Golgotha has been maintained by Von Raumer (Palästina), Krafft (die Topographie Jerusalems), Tischendorf (Reise, 2:17 sq.), Schulz (Jerusalem, page 59 sq., 96 sq.), and especially Williams in his Holy City. The tradition that fixes the site of Golgotha upon that of the present Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not older than the 4th century, being first mentioned by Eusebius, and attributed to the miraculous discovery of the holy cross by the empress Helena. Yet, in the absence of any other tradition respecting a site which could not well have been forgotten, and in the difficulty of finding any other position answering to the requirements of the case, we may well coincide in the belief that it represents the true locality (see Strong's Harm. and Expos. of the Gosp. Append, 1, page 4, etc.). The question mostly depends upon the course of Josephus's second wall, and the position of Acra as determined by that of the valley of the Tyropoeon. Dr. Robinson's views of the relative position of these leading portions of Jerusalem seems to be unnatural and untenable, being apparently influenced by an excessive jealousy of all traditionary evidence. He therefore decides against the identity of the site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre (Bib. Researches, 1:408-516). His arguments, however, are vehemently combated by Mr. Williams (Holy City, 2:13-64), and a long and bitter controversy has ensued (see the Bibliotheca Sacra for 1843, pages 154- 202; 1846, pages 413-460, 605-652; 1848, pages 92-96). Dr. Robinson to the last maintained his former opinion (new ed. of Researches, 1:407-418; 3:254-263). Other travelers are equally divided as respects the identity of these places, but it may be remarked that Dr. Robinson's reasoning has failed to satisfy even German scholars of the impossibility of this position of Golgotha. The evidence of locality to be gathered from the Gospel statements as to the scene of the tomb of our Lord is as follows: The palace of Pilate and "the judgment hall stood at the north-west angle of the Haram area, where the house of the pasha still stands. There Jesus was condemned, scourged, and mocked. Thence the soldiers "led him out" (Mr 15:20) to crucify him. They met a man called Simon "coming out of the country," and compelled him to bear the cross. They brought him unto Golgotha, and there they crucified him. The passers by reviled him. His mother and some others stood by the cross (Joh 19:25). "All his acquaintance stood afar off beholding these things" (Lu 23:49). A combination of these statements of the evangelists shows that it lay just outside the walls of the city, opposite the tower of Antonia, and therefore probably at the northwest. SEE JERUSALEM. The traditional Golgotha is now a little chapel in the side of the Church of the Sepulchre, gorgeously decorated with marble, and gold, and silver. The monks profess to show the hole in which the cross was planted, and a rent in the rock made by the earthquake! (Porter, Handbook for Syr. and Pal. page 166; Williams, Holy City, 2:226 sq.) See Plessing, Ueb. Golgatha u. Christi Grab (Hal. 1789); Scholz, De Golgathae et J.C. sepulcri situ (Bonn, 1825); Schultze, De
vera causa nominis Golgatha (Nurnb. 1732); Themis, Golgatha et sanctum sepulcrum (in Illgen's Zeitschr. f. hist. Theol. 1842, 4:3-34) Zorin, De Christi extra portam supplicio (in his Opusc. 2:193-7); Finlay, Site of the Holy Sepulchre (Lond. 1847); Berggren, Bibel und Josephus ü. Jerusalem u. das Heilege Grab, wider Robinson und neuer Zionspilger (Lund, 1862); Tobler, Golgatha, seiner Kirchen u. Klöster (Berl. 1850). SEE CALVARY.