John 19:17 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 19:17, NIV: Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

John 19:17, ESV: and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

John 19:17, KJV: And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

John 19:17, NASB: They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, carrying His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which in Hebrew is called, Golgotha.

John 19:17, NLT: Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, [Golgotha]).

John 19:17, CSB: Carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

What does John 19:17 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Artwork commonly depicts Jesus carrying a complete, lower-case-t-shaped cross to the execution site. Roman efficiency, however, meant the vertical post was usually fixed permanently in the ground. This made it much faster and easier to place the victim. Most victims were forced to transport the horizontal beam, which could still be the size of a modern railroad tie. In Jesus' ragged condition (John 19:1), this would have been especially difficult. At one point the executioners will become impatient and force a bystander to carry it (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). The other men who will be executed today (John 19:18) don't need such assistance.

Forcing the condemned to walk along a public road, bringing their own execution tool, seems cruel. This is a deliberate component of Roman crucifixion: to be as shameful, embarrassing, and humiliating as possible.

The location of Jesus' death is named Golgotha, clarified by John to mean "skull." Latin translations of the Bible used the corresponding term calvaria, leading to the site being called Calvary in English. The location of the crucifixion site has been subject to centuries of debate. All we know for sure is that it was outside the ancient borders of Jerusalem. It was probably located very close to a main road, and elevated, so victims could be easily seen (John 19:19–20). While a few landforms near Jerusalem today resemble skulls, the name of this place probably has more to do with its use for executions than its shape.

It's likely deliberate that Scripture only provides general locations, such as cities and towns, for Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection. The natural human temptation to idolatry (2 Kings 18:4) would have made these inappropriate objects of reverence; sites so identified by tradition have that exact problem today. In and of themselves these physical locations are irrelevant to the meaning of the gospel.