Golgotha: A Reconsideration of the Evidence for the Sites of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Burial -- By: Joan E. Taylor

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 15:2 (Spring 2002)
Article: Golgotha: A Reconsideration of the Evidence for the Sites of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Burial
Author: Joan E. Taylor

A Reconsideration of the Evidence for the Sites of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Burial

Joan E. Taylor

Currently, the most popular alternative site to traditional Golgotha, located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, is the area of Gordon’s Calvary, with the so-called ‘Garden Tomb,’ but scholarly endorsement of this locality has never been very strong.1 Generally, the current consensus holds that Golgotha was located in the vicinity of the traditional site, somewhere north of the first wall of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, and west of the second wall, though specificity is impossible. In this article, I would like to consider how specific we might be about the localizations of Jesus’ death and entombment.

In my book Christians and the Holy Places, I argued that Constantine chose to build his “Martyrium” basilica (dedicated AD 335) in honor of the cross on the site of the former Temple of Venus because of convenience, and that the Temple of Venus itself was built here (ca. AD 135–50) without any plan to cover up a Christian holy place (see Figure 1 for a visualization of Constantine’s church and surrounding areas) (Taylor 1993:113–42). I concluded that the evidence does not point us to the authenticity of the traditional site precisely as “Golgotha.” but rather to a site slightly further south. However, I have not been completely satisfied with my brief analysis, because it relies upon a basic preconception that Golgotha was primarily the place of the crucifixion, and that the tomb was very close by. As I have worked over the material again, I have noted that this understanding of “Golgotha” as the execution place alone, though a common one, is not supported by the combined evidence of the canonical Gospels. Moreover, the tomb is not said to be very near the site of the crucifixion. This has led me to a further reconsideration of all the available evidence, and the discovery of additional material in the New Testament apocrypha, which may bear upon the issues. In this article I will argue that the crucifixion was indeed further south than the traditional site would locate it, as I argued previously, but that the traditional tomb of Jesus may very well be authentic.

Figure 1: Constantine’s Martyrium basilica in honor of the holy cross, ca. AD 355: (a) tomb of Jesus, contained in the Edicule; (b) the rock of the cross; (c) the Martyrium; (d) the Cardo

Golgotha: The Place

Golgotha is mentioned in all four canonical Gospels as being the place where Jesus was crucified (Mk 15:22; 27:3...

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