A possible Golgotha

March 29, 2011

As I’m reading and preparing for this Sunday’s sermon from Matthew 27:45-49, including Jesus’ words from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I’m reminded of “Gordon’s Calvary,” a rocky hill we saw in Jerusalem on our recent trip.

Gordon’s Calvary is a proposed site for Jesus’ crucifixion, named after the British army officer who discovered it in the late-19th century. It’s just outside the walls of old Jerusalem; it was a known Roman execution site along a busy road (so passersby would be reminded what would happen to them if they crossed Rome); and—well—it does look a little bit like a skull. (Remember that Golgotha means “the place of the skull,” as in Matthew 27:33.)

The British did some excavating and found a nearby tomb and garden—hence this site is known today as the “Garden Tomb.” It’s a popular (and beautiful) place of pilgrimage, especially for us Protestants left cold by the extreme iconographical orgy that is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Regardless whether Gordon’s Calvary is the place (no one knows for sure where Jesus was crucified and buried), you can actually see the proposed place of crucifixion and tomb. The Holy Sepulchre is completely covered up by a church. (What is with that ancient Christian impulse to put a church on top of everything?)

The tomb itself, which I’ll discuss closer to Good Friday, is a nice illustration of the type of tomb described in scripture as Jesus’ tomb.

I don’t remember what exactly he said about it in his massive tome The Resurrection of the Son of God, and my copy is not handy, but N.T. Wright reads great historical significance into the fact that Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (in which Jesus’ body was placed) did not become a shrine for the earliest Christians (which is why we don’t know where it is). According to Wright, it speaks to their strong belief that the body wasn’t there! It’s interesting, in other words, that it had no significance to them.

2 Responses to “A possible Golgotha”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    Thank you for that plug about Wright’s book. I really need to get the time to read it.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Yes, it was by far the most ambitious book I’ve read since seminary. I found it very helpful—it was in many ways an apologetic defense of the bodily resurrection (but in a very scholarly way), while at the same time shedding light on its deep meaning.


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