Golgotha vs. Calvary?

I’m enjoying working my way through Donald Macleod’s new book, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP, 2014). It’s highly readable and a theological feast. Here’s a taste:

9780830840618Christian devotion almost invariably refers to the place of crucifixion as ‘Calvary’. The word, however, does not occur in the New Testament. It was introduced into Christian tradition by the Vulgate …, which used the Latin calvariae to translate Luke’s reference to ‘the place called the Skull’ (Luke 23:33). It has the advantage of being much more euphonious than the harsh gutturals of ‘Golgotha’ (Mark 15:22; Matt. 27:33), and well adapted to the purposes of poetry and hymnody. But in that very euphony lies a danger. It is easy to sanitize the cross, rob it of its horror and imagine Calvary as a place of serene, evocative spirituality….

God had chosen the site, and the atmosphere. The act was barbaric; the site, with the detritus of previous executions still lying around, horrific; the procedure a shambles. But precisely because it was all these things it dramatized the ugliness of sin while at the same time proclaiming the Son of God a despised, accursed nobody for whom there lay beyond the cross only the horrors of hell. We cannot, dare not, reduce the cross to a crucifix or Golgotha to a rose garden. The aesthetics of the crucifixion are in keeping with its criminality. (p. 13)


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