The Topos of the City
Wisdom's Corner
The Topos of the City

In John 19:20 we read, "This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin." Part of the sentence should actually read, "Near was The Place of the City where Jesus was crucified."

The word in the greek for "place" is "topos." Topos is used several times in the New Testament to refer to a specific location. In Acts 6:13-14 it is used to refer to the Temple in Jerusalem. It is also used for the Temple in Acts 21:28. And again it is used for the Temple in John 4:20. It was not unusual for Gentiles to use the phrase "The Place" in referring to Gentile places of worship.

The part of the phrase "of the city" was also a common title used in the first century to refer to Jerusalem. This was the most used term of Josephus (a famous first century historian) in reference to the great Jewish capital.

We have seen before how there was an altar of the red heifer outside of the camp of Jerusalem. This outer altar was considered an outward sanctuary or temple. Thus the Jews considered the area of the altar of the red heifer as an extension of the Temple.

Since Jesus was crucified near The Place of the City he was crucified near the Temple. We have seen that he was crucified outside of the camp. Therefore, he must have been crucified near the altar of the red heifer. The altar of the red heifer was near to the Descent of the Mount of Olives, the main road over the Mount of Olives that led to the Temple. So as in our verse, many of the Jews would have been able to read the sign because many would travel by on their way to the Temple for the Passover.

It is amazing what we can learn from the Bible. It is always accurate in what it says because God gave it to us. I get excited when in my study I discover something that I did not know before. Sometimes it is something as simple as learning that when it says Jesus was crucified near the city, it was actually saying he was near the outer temple area on the Mount of Olives.

Keep studying your Bible. Get excited over learning what it teaches you. And if any of this is hard to understand, ask an adult to help you.

Mark McWhorter

Copyright 2002

Published by The Old Paths Bible School