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April 4, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr.  813-835-0129

Today is Passover, Nissan 15 on the Jewish calendar.  In the year 30 AD it was also the day Jesus was taken prisoner by the Temple authorities of Jerusalem and presented to Pilate for crucifixion.

Pilate would have been quartered at the palace of Herod the Great which was located along the western wall of the walled city of Jerusalem.  At the north of the palace there were three large defensive towers named for the important people in Herod’s life.  The palace itself was divided into two wings, one north and the other south.  Between the wings were ornamental gardens and pools.  Somewhere in this outside area Jesus was brought to confront Pilate as the priesthood and their retinue would not have entered the buildings rendering them ritually unclean.

The trip from the living quarters of the High Priest Caiaphas would have been short.  Mount Zion lay just south of the palace and was the highpoint of the city where the homes of the wealthy were located.

After Pilate had given permission for Jesus’ crucifixion the party would have left the palace, traveled a short distance to a gate which led outside the city to an abandoned quarry.  The city walls at the time veered east from the palace before turning north again.  Today Golgotha is included within the sixteenth century walls.

This abandoned quarry was evidently a place for family tombs to locate.  It was outside the walls of the city and the rock allowed tombs to be carved out.  At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher such tombs have been located within the structure.  It seems also that the tombs here belonged to more wealthy families who brought in soil and planted gardens around the gravesites.  This is certainly the scenario recorded in the Gospels.  The gate that led to the area was also called the Garden Gate.  This would indicate something more than a barren stone pile.

One feature of the quarry was an outcropping of inferior stone that was left in place and was shaped like a skull cap.  It was called “Golgotha,” from the Aramaic, or “Calvary,” from the Latin.  It means a skullcap.  The Romans used it as a place of crucifixion.  It was a perfect spot from the Roman perspective.  Crucifixion was method of capital punishment designed to be very public.  It was intended as a warning and a deterrent to all who would flaunt the rule of Roman law.  Being just outside a city gate made it a well-traveled area.  The local name of the spot also was convenient for Roman exploitation.

Jesus was buried in the unused tomb of a member of the Sanhedrin by the name of Joseph of Arimathea.  It was very nearby.  Within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher the tomb of Jesus and the chapel of Calvary are only yards apart.  Although this seems odd to the Western mind, an understanding of the site and the customs of the times makes it quite clear.

Jesus was taken from the cross at about three o’clock in the afternoon.  In Jerusalem the Sabbath would begin about 6:21 PM.  This left little time to prepare the body for burial.  The body had to be cleansed, anointed and wrapped.  Then it was laid on a stone slab in the tomb and the round stone was rolled across the entrance to seal the tomb.  The anointing was done with very costly ointments.

Passover was simple a prelude to deliverance.  On the third day death was defeated.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs