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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, "a skull," or "place of skulls," supposed to be thus denominated from the similitude it bore to the figure of a skull or man's head, or from its being a place of burial. It was a small eminence or hill to the north of Mount Sion, and to the west of old Jerusalem, upon which our Lord was crucified. The ancient summit of Calvary has been much altered, by reducing its level in some parts, and raising it in others, in order to bring it within the area of a large and irregular building, called "The Church of the Holy Sepulchre," which now occupies its site. But in doing this, care has been taken that none of the parts connected with the crucifixion should suffer any alteration. The same building also encloses within its spacious walls several other places reputed sacred. The places which claim the chief attraction of the Christian visitant of this church, and those only perhaps which can be relied on, are, the spot on which the crucifixion took place, and the sepulchre in which our Lord was afterward laid. The first has been preserved without mutilation: being a piece of ground about ten yards square, in its original position; and so high above the common floor of the church, that there are, according to Chateaubriand, twenty-one steps to ascend up to it. Mr. Buckingham describes the present mount as a rock, the summit of which is ascended by a steep flight of eighteen or twenty steps from the common level of the church, which is equal with that of the street without; and beside this, there is a descent of thirty steps, from the level of the church, into the chapel of St. Helena, and by eleven more to the place where the cross was said to be found. On this little mount is shown the hole in which the cross was fixed; and near it the position of the crosses of the two thieves: one, the penitent, on the north; and the other on the south. Here, also, is shown a cleft in the rock, said to have been caused by the earthquake which happened at the crucifixion. The sepulchre, distant, according to Mr. Jolliffe, forty-three yards from the cross, presents rather a singular and unexpected appearance to a stranger; who, for such a place, would naturally expect to find an excavation in the ground, instead of which, he perceives it altogether raised, as if artificially, above its level. The truth is, that in the alterations which were made on Calvary, to bring all the principal places within the projected church, the earth around the sepulchre was dug away; so that, what was originally a cave in the earth has now the appearance of a closet or grotto above ground. The sepulchre itself is about six feet square and eight high. There is a solid block of the stone left in excavating the rock, about two feet and a half from the floor, and running along the whole of the inner side; on which the body of our Lord is said to have been laid. This, as well as the rest of the sepulchre, is now faced with marble: partly from the false taste which prevailed in the early ages of Christianity, in disguising with profuse and ill-suited embellishments the spots rendered memorable in the history of its Founder; and partly, perhaps, to preserve it from the depredations of the visitants. This description of the holy sepulchre will but ill-accord with the notions entertained by some English readers of a grave; but a cave or grotto, thus excavated in rocky ground, on the side of a hill, was the common receptacle for the dead among the eastern nations. Such was the tomb of Christ; such that of Lazarus; and such are the sepulchres still found in Judea and the east. It may be useful farther to observe, that it was customary with Jews of property to provide a sepulchre of this kind on their own ground, as the place of their interment after death; and it appears that Calvary itself, or the ground immediately around it, was occupied with gardens; one of which belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, who had then recently caused a new sepulchre to be made for himself. It was this sepulchre, so close at hand, and so appropriate, which he resigned for the use of our Lord; little thinking perhaps, at the time, how soon it would again be left vacant for its original purpose by his glorious resurrection.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [2]

Or  John 19:20 , but outside of its walls,  Matthew 27:37   Mark 15:22   John 19:17   Hebrews 13:12 . In the same place was a private garden, and a tomb in which the body of Christ lay until the resurrection,  John 19:41,42 . The expression, "Mount Calvary," has no evidence to support it beyond what is implied in the name Golgotha which might well be given to a slight elevation shaped like the top of a skull, and the probability that such a place would be chosen for the crucifixion. It is very doubtful whether the true localities of Calvary and the tomb are those covered by the present "Church of the Holy Sepulchre," a vast structure north of mount Zion and within the modern city, built on the site which was fixed under the empress Helena, A. D. 335, by tradition and a pretended miracle. Some biblical geographers adhere to this location; but Robinson and many others strongly oppose it, on the ground of the weakness of the tradition, and the difficulty of supposing that this place lay outside of the ancient walls. See Jerusalem . Dr. Fisk, while visiting the spot under the natural desire to identify the scene of the crucifixion; that the rock shown column he saw, half concealed by iron-work, might have been that to which our Lord was bound when scourged; that the small fragment of rude stone seen by the light of a small taper, through a kind of iron filigree, might have been the place of our Lord's burial and resurrection: but when he saw the neat juxtaposition of all these things, and knew that in order to provide for the structure of the church the site had to be cut down and leveled; when he reflected that on the very spot a heathen temple had stood, till removed by the empress Helena, to make room for this church; and, moreover, when he considered the superstitious purpose all these things were to serve, and the spirit of that church which thus paraded these objects of curiosity, he could not bring himself to feel they were what they professed to be.

Let us be thankful that though the exact scene of Christ's death is now unknown, there can be no doubt as to the fact. "He died, and was buried, and the third day rose again, according to the Scriptures." Then the old ritual passed away, Satan was despoiled, man was redeemed, God reconciled, and heaven opened to all believers.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

calvaria kranion golg otha  Judges 9:53 2 Kings 9:35

“Calvary” appears in the New Testament, only in the story of the crucifixion ( Matthew 27:33;  Mark 15:22;  John 19:17 ). The gospel writers name it as the place where Christ was led to be executed.

Exactly why the place was called this is not known. The logical explanation would be because the skull symbolized death. A place of execution would see its share of skulls.

Archeologists are uncertain where Calvary was located.  John 19:20 and   Hebrews 13:12 say that Jesus was taken outside the city to be crucified.   Mark 15:29 suggests that a road may have been nearby.

Two sites are held today as Calvary. The older, more traditional Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a complex of religious shrines venerated as the place of Christ's cross and tomb.

In the 4th century A.D., Queen Helena, mother of Constantine, had the site revealed to her in a vision. A pagan temple on the site was razed and a shrine built in its place. Several destructions and rebuildings have taken place over the centuries.

Since 1842, a rocky hill outside the Damascus Gate has vied for veneration as Calvary. Discovered by Otto Thenius, the site gained fame when Charles Gordon wrote in 1885 that this was indeed Calvary. A garden tomb nearby, discovered in 1849, had drawn little attention until Gordon made his assertion.

Executions during the first century were conducted outside the city walls. This might tend to make Gordon's Calvary the logical site. However, at the time of Jesus' crucifixion the outer wall of Jerusalem was much closer to the center of the city. This would make the traditional site more plausible.

Perhaps the most telling fact between these places is the type of tombs they represent. Jewish tombs appear to have had small niches carved out of the walls in which bodies were placed. Later Byzantine tombs used trough-like slabs. This places the weight of authenticity with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Mike Mitchell

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

The Greek is κρανίον, 'a skull.' The word 'Calvary' is from the Latin Calvaria, having a like signification; agreeing also with the Hebrew GOLGOTHA, which has the same meaning.  Matthew 27:33;  Luke 23:33 . The place where the Lord was crucified, and near to which the tomb was situated in which He was buried. The traditional site of the Holy Sepulchre is now well within the city of Jerusalem, and great efforts have been made to prove that this spot was at that time outside the city, but this is not at all credible. A much more probable place is that pointed out by the Jews on the north of the city, near the Grotto of Jeremiah. Visitors have declared that this site has, at a distance, the natural contour of a human skull. It would have been near the city yet outside it, and near also to where there could have been a garden, in which a tomb could have been cut. It is also a spot from whence the crucifixion could have been seen by the passers-by (on the road from the Damascus gate). This site has therefore several points in its favour.

The actual place is however unknown; and doubtless God has so ordered it that it should not be made an object of idolatry, or turned into a holy shrine, over which there would have been great contention, as there has been, with bloodshed too, over the so-called Holy Sepulchre.

Calvary is not called a 'hill' or 'mount' in scripture, though often so designated in poetry, and as it was called by an early traveller known as the Bordeaux Pilgrim, in A.D. 333.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

1: Κρανίον (Strong'S #2898 — Noun Neuter — kranion — kran-ee'-on )

kara, "a head" (Eng., "cranium"), a diminutive of kranon, denotes "a skull" (Latin calvaria),  Matthew 27:33;  Mark 15:22;  Luke 23:33;  John 19:17 . The corresponding Aramaic word is Golgotha (Heb. gulgoleth; see  Judges 9:53;  2—Kings 9:35 ).

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Calvary. This word occurs but once in the New Testament,  Luke 23:33, A. V., to indicate the place of our Lord's execution. It is the adoption into English of the Latin word for "skull," answering to the Greek Kranion, which is itself the translation of the Hebrew Golgotha . The R. V. reads, "the place which is called the skull." Some suppose it to be so named from the fact that, executions being performed there, skulls were found there. It is more probable that it was a bare round spot, in shape something like a skull; hence, perhaps, the notion that it was a hill. There is no topographical question more keenly disputed than whether the spot now venerated as the site of the holy sepulchre is really the ancient Golgotha or Calvary: the latest explorations do not support the tradition, but point to a site outside the walls of Jerusalem, near the so-called Grotto of Jeremiah.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [7]

( Luke 23:33). The Latin translation of the Hebrew Gοlgοτηα , "the place of a skull," a place of executions. A fit place; in death's stronghold the Lord of life gave death his deathblow through death ( Hebrews 2:14). There is no "mount," such as popular phraseology associates with Calvary. It was simply "a low, rounded bore hill" outside the N. gate of Jerusalem (Ewald, Gesch. Chronicles, 434, quoted in Ellicott's Life of our Lord.)

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(1): (n.) A cross, set upon three steps; - more properly called cross calvary.

(2): (n.) A representation of the crucifixion, consisting of three crosses with the figures of Christ and the thieves, often as large as life, and sometimes surrounded by figures of other personages who were present at the crucifixion.

(3): (n.) The place where Christ was crucified, on a small hill outside of Jerusalem.

King James Dictionary [9]


1. A place of skulls particularly, the place where Christ was crucified, on a small hill west of Jerusalem. In catholic countries, a kind of chapel raised on a hillock near a city, as a place of devotion, in memory of the place where our Savior suffered. 2. In heraldry, a cross so called, set upon steps, resembling the cross on which our Savior was crucified.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

Ever memorable and dear to the believer. It was near Jerusalem; and, probably, long before Christ, it was the place devoted, for the execution of criminals. Here the meditation of the follower of Jesus should frequently take wing, and view in faith that wonderful mount, from whence redemption came!

See Gethsemane and Golgotha

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Luke 23:33 Kranion Gulgoleth   Hebrews 13:11-13Golgotha

Smith's Bible Dictionary [12]

Cal'vary. See Golgatha .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [13]

CALVARY (  Luke 23:33 ). See Golgotha.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [14]

See Golgotha .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [15]

CALVARY. —See Golgotha.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Calvary'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [17]

The place of the crucifixion, identified with a hill on the N. of Jerusalem, looked down upon from the city, with a cliff on which criminals were cast down prior to being stoned; also name given to effigies of the crucifixion in Catholic countries, erected for devotion.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [18]

Cal´vary, the place where Christ was crucified. See Golgotha.