“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.” (Luke 23:33, NKJV)
The Greek word Golgotha and the Aramaic word Gulgalta mean “the skull.” This term or word is found in three (3) places in the New Testament, Matthew 27:23; Mark 15:22; and John 19:17. It is interpreted as kraniou topos, or “the place of a skull.” In Luke 23:33 it is called “Calvary” which comes from the Latin Vulgate, calvaria, which means “skull.”
From what little information that we have from the New Testament this place seems to outside of the city of Jerusalem (Hebrews 13:12.) It was close enough to the city to be visible from some parts of the city. Although we are not told this is why it is referenced as a “hill.”
Why is it called “the place of a skull, or “the skull?” There seems to be at least three (3) reasons for this name.
Locality of Skulls
Some have suggested it was named this because it was a place where “skulls” were found lying around. This may have been because it was thought to be a place of execution.
Likeness of Skulls
The second reason may have been because of the “skull-like” shape of a hillside. First of all it is important to note that none of the early church fathers suggested this reason. Secondly, the New Testament does not suggest that the crucifixion took place on a hill or hillside.
Legend of Skulls
The third reason seems to be a little far-fetched, but it has been bantered around from the time of Origen, (ca. 185-254) It seems there was a legend that the skull of Adam had been found in that location. This is the oldest reason that has been given for the name.
The New Testament sheds absolutely no light on the location of Calvary or the burial tomb of Jesus. However, a “traditional” site has been advanced and is known as “Gordon’s Calvary. If one looks close enough at a photograph one can “see” the shape of a human skull in the rocky hillside. It must be stated that the “eye holes” and the rounded top are not natural. They are the result of ancient excavations. Which brings us back to where many have started. We are not sure where the crucifixion and burial took place. Praise be to the living God we don’t need to know the exact spot. We rejoice in the fact that the inspired text tells that that Jesus Christ was brutally slaughtered outside of the city of Jerusalem as the means of satisfying the wrath and judgment of His father against sin.