Saturday, June 19, 2010

Crucifixion – The Bodily Support - Part 4 - Physics of Crucifixion.

Part 3

UPDATE JANUARY 17, 2010: What I have found out since posting these four parts will require a major rewrite. Parts 2, 3 and 4 will be broken up. Videos showing where Christianity got The Crucifixion FROM will be presented. The series will rerun under a new title, "The Romans NEVER CRUCIFIED the Way We Think They Did."


Was Jesus Crucified in the Manner Shown in Art and on Film?
Crucifixion in Antiquity
Dr. Zugibe's Findings "The Last Temptation of Jean-Claude Van Damme" "Cobra"
Media Fax Photo via the Google Group "Male Cross Research."
Son of


In modern-day reenactments, how do movie directors keep the actor's midsection from flaring out like an archery bow when he is portrayed crucified? That has actually happened in the production of films and in safe, sane crucifixion experiments.

Experiments by Others.

Photo Credit: Crucifixion

The above photo demonstrates the problems with crucifying someone in the traditional manner on a conventional Christian Cross.

Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Examiner in Rockland County, N.Y. and Adjunct Associate Professor of Pathology Columbia University College of Physician’s and Surgeons, N.Y. crucified both fresh cadavers or body parts and live students (safely and sanely, of course) to test and study the practice of crucifixion. He proved with cadavers that if a man was nailed to the front of a cross in his palms and the top of his feet, the nail ripped through the skin with only about 45 pounds of pressure. One crucified in this manner could pull free of the cross solely from his own body weight, because a nail driven through the palm or the fleshy part of the foot is in unsupported flesh that can be torn. But remember a living man would use gravity plus his own strength to pull loose. People who are physically fit can easily pull themselves free. On the other hand, if one nails a person in one of two places in the wrist or a place in the forearm just behind the wrist instead of the palm, and in the ankles instead of the tops of the feet, however, he is better secured. Plus, use of wooden washers as was the case with Jehohanan, would even more firmly secure the condemned criminal to his cross. This, however, still leaves two problems. 1) How do you stop a person nailed to the front of a cross from swaying dramatically forward, and 2), what happens if the nails let go or the executioners had no washers?

Based on archaeological and experimental evidence alone, the traditionalists, artists, movie producers and directors who show Jesus nailed to the front of the cross couldn’t be more completely wrong. The traditional crucifixion pose is just impossible. A man nailed to the front of a cross in that manner can easily use his body weight and his muscle strength to pull himself free. And there is more evidence discovered in the laboratory that show any person nailed to a cross couldn’t have been nailed to its front (or maybe even its sides), at least without securing him to the stipes at his midsection. Dr. Zugibe (pictured above in his lab) found that his students who were safely and sanely crucified with straps in the traditional manner began having serious difficulties almost immediately. When they flexed forward, their chests, shoulders, and arms began to cramp in ten to twenty minutes. Only his strongest student was able to being suspended in this manner for forty-five minutes. Death would arrive rapidly to those crucified like this, unless they managed to free themselves first.

Summation of the laboratory experiments:
1. The angle of the arms with the upright varied between individuals at a broad angle ranging between 60 and 70 degrees from vertical.

2. The volunteers were suspended for periods ranging from 5 to 45 minutes determined by when they wished to come down. The main reason was almost always the pain or cramping in the shoulders, arms and hands.

3. A common complaint from the volunteers was a feeling of chest rigidity and leg cramps between 10 and 20 minutes into suspension. When this occurred, they were allowed to straighten their legs or come down.

4. There was no visual evidence of breathing difficulties throughout the suspension. Every volunteer affirmed that they had absolutely no trouble breathing either during inspiration or expiration. This was true even if the volunteers’ feet were not secured to the cross.

5. The oxygen content of the blood either increased or remained constant. Both visual observations and Douglas bag studies determined this was the result of hyperventilation with abdominal breathing beginning after 4 minutes at a rate about 4-5 times normal.

6. Sweating occurred at about 6 minutes in most volunteers, varying in amount from mild to easily noticeable.

7. Each volunteer’s heart rate increased up to 120 bpm at the end of his suspensions without arrhythmias. There were occasional rapid rates as high as 175 bpm but this rate decreased after each volunteer who experienced this got over his initial anxiety. The blood pressure increased to varying degrees but never above 160 mm systolic blood pressure in each person depending on his state of conditioning. The electrocardiogram showed muscle tremors only; it did not show any cardiac abnormalities.

8. The volunteers who were suspended without securing their feet suffered a marked increase in pain in their shoulders, arms and hands, requiring the team to support the feet or take down the volunteers.

9. The backs of the volunteers never touched the cross except for slight contact in the shoulder region of some volunteers. Pain in the shoulders caused many of them to arch their bodies back in order to relieve some of the pain.

My Own Small-scale Experiments.

To figure if horizontal restraint was still necessary even when vertical support was provided, I decided to conduct some small scale experiments of my own, using common items around the house or available at the lumber yard and sporting goods store.

What I used to mimic traditional crucifixion:

- 4” x 4” lumber, 32” in length.
- A Victorian claw-foot bathtub (this won’t work with a standard built-in tub).
- A dry towel, washcloth or bathmat.
- Pieces of plywood or planks to level.
- Carpenter’s level to check levelness.
- A twenty-pound weight.

I placed 4” x 4” lumber on top of the tub with the towel/cloth/mat and a piece of wood beneath the front end to level the lumber. Checked with the carpenter’s level, of course. Then I sat bare-ass naked on top of the 4” x 4” lumber, both dry and moistened, tucked my feet against the lower surface of the bathtub beneath, and planted my fists against the opposing walls at either end of the tub (upper fingers against each wall). I did this to see if I could stay in place on the lumber. To my total lack of surprise, in each instance I slid right off within minutes!

What I used to mimic Jehohanan’s crucifixion (see above):

- 4” x 4” lumber, 32” in length.
- Kitchen base cabinet at the kitchen sink.
- A 1-gallon paint can.
- A 1-gallon spackling compound bucket.
- Surveyor’s stakes and pieces of plywood or planks to level.
- Carpenter’s level to check levelness.

I placed the spackling compound bucket in the back of the cabinet and the paint can in front of the cabinet on the kitchen floor. I stacked surveyor’s stakes, laid on their sides, and the necessary plywood or planks to level the 4” x 4” lumber and checked with the level. Once again, I sat bare-ass naked on top of the 4” x 4” lumber, tucked my feet against the face of the cabinet and my forearms against the inside front of the sink (this mimics being hooked over a patibulum). I leaned forward mimicking exhaustion and I slid right off in minutes, even as I kept my forearms flush with the inside of the sink. Gee, what a surprise! (Not.)

So I have reached a conclusion that the crucified person will need positive horizontal restraint at midsection as well as vertical support, in order to keep alive for more than an hour on the cross – regardless of how he was nailed there – because mere friction between the beam and the crotch I consider to be insufficient to keep the person in place, initially as well as after sweat and blood collect in that area. So long as you have the restraint and support at midsection and the arms aren’t raised too high, the executioners could nail the condemned in any upright position on the cross and have him suffer there for days! Without the support and restraint, in my opinion the crucified will flex forward and death will arrive quickly.

Reenactments in Film and Art.

The film, The Gospel of John. The producer and director, cast and crew, discovered accidentally in the making of the movie that without support and restraint at midsection, the actors who were “crucified” flexed way out like an archery bow, away from the cross. They must have been shocked when the Jesus character bowed outward. They filmed the Jesus character like that in the first shot, and retained it in the film.

It is possible to maintain the position of one’s back and buttocks touching the face of the cross by having your crucified one stand with all of his weight on a foot support. Otherwise, it will be necessary to install a harness hidden beneath his loin cloth and strap his buttocks to the post, which they did in this film. So in subsequent shots, the actor playing Jesus was strapped to his cross to correct the problem. The crew very likely may have secured the two actors playing the role of the malefactors in this manner as well.

Mel Gibson’s pornographically violent film, The Passion of the Christ shows a totally unrealistic portrayal of the Crucifixion. Note when they flip the cross over to turn the nails into “hooks” – note Jesus (Jim Caviezel) is hanging by the nails yet his buttocks and shoulders, before the Romans bent the nails onto the back of the patibulum, are in intimate contact with the downward facing front of the cross! This was not done by magical thinking!! Obviously, Jim had to have been secured with some kind of harness or harnesses, of which the visible parts were edited out using Photoshop or the like.

At 9:40 into this video through the end, note the impossible.

Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists

In the photo above, Jean Claude Van Damme was restrained to a cross in the movie Cyborg. Watch a clip here. The movie’s available for 15 bucks at Amazon if you care to buy it.

Photo Credit: MediaFax Photo

The 2008 Passion Play in Sydney, Australia, restraints were clearly visibly used to support Jesus and the two thieves on their crosses. Even though each man was tied around his wrists, it is apparent from the angle of his suppedaneum (foot support) that he was just barely able to stand. Without the hidden restraints, they might have slipped off – and those crosses appear to be quite tall!

Illustration Credit:

In Max Klinger’s Der Kreuzigung Christi (Crucifixion of Christ), ca. 1890, it is obvious to me that the work was produced using completely nude live models with no harm done. Despite the presence of horizontal planks for the men to sit on and rest themselves, the crosses are leaning backwards, yet the planks for the models to sit on are perpendicular to the posts! This leads me to believe that the artist found that without some kind of horizontal restraint, the models would slide off the beams. My conclusion is, by leaning the posts backwards, he used gravity to negate the need for a restraint.

Photo Credit:

The artist Fred Holland Day was tied at his midsection to a cross, as shown in his photographic portrayal of Christ's Crucifixion, ca. 1898, to keep him from flaring out once he exhausted himself. Initially, he was not tied as such.

The Japanese Solution.

The Japanese installed a yardarm and seated the crucified astride it to support the body weight at the crotch, clearly visible with the crucified male in the foreground. The female was treated with considerably more dignity. Both are tied at their torsos to the stipes as well as at their hands and feet to the crosspieces. Need I say anything more?

Part 5


johnthomas didymus said...

O! O! Ed you've made my day with the discovery of your blog. There is so much material to absorb that i am still trying to decide where to start. Great you know latin--i can't tell it from chinese!! i will be feeding you back as i rummage thru your site systematically!!

johnthomas didymus said...

Quote: "When the artificer, in doubt whether he should make a stool or a Priapus of me, determined that I should be a God. Henceforward I became a God, the greatest terror of thieves and birds: for my right hand restrains thieves, and a bloody looking pole on my frightful middle*: but a reed fixed upon the crown of my head** terrifies the mischievous birds, and hinders them from settling in these new gardens.***(Priapus was also used as farmer's scarecrow evidently)

(your comment--** "in vertice harundo, lit. a reed, or a crown or wreath of reeds, upon the crown of the head. The similarity to the crown of thorns on the head of Jesus in the gospels is uncanny!")

My comments: This text set me thinking--that what is being described in figurative language here is the Roman practice of impaling criminals on Priapus i.e.,in actual fact, the figure of the fertility daemon Priapus was the model for the the crux on which criminals were impaled. The text "When the artificer, in doubt etc.." has "uncanny" similarities to the crucifixion and the crown of thorns because the Jesus was not fixed a crown of thorns incidentally, it was the regular Roman practice when criminals were impaled on the Priapus-crux to fix them with a "scarecrow wreath". That is, the impaling stake--the crux--was Priapus himself punishing the criminal who trespassed on the farmer's field!!!

(my comment continues contd in the next: the comment section will accept more than 4000 characters

johnthomas didymus said...

Here is the evidence from wikipedia that Priapus was deity who punished criminals or trespassers with his phallus-crux:

(Quote from wikipedia:)

Priapus' iconic attribute was his priapism (permanently erect penis); he probably absorbed some pre-existing ithyphallic deities as his cult developed. He was represented in a variety of ways, most commonly as a misshapen gnome-like figure with an enormous erect phallus. Statues of Priapus were common in ancient Greece and Rome, standing in gardens or at doorways and crossroads. To propitiate Priapus, the traveller would stroke the statue's penis as he passed by. The Athenians often conflated Priapus with Hermes, the god of boundaries, and depicted a hybrid deity with a winged helmet, sandals and huge erection.[7]

Statues of Priapus were often hung with signs bearing epigrams, collected in Priapeia (treated below), which threatened sexual assault towards transgressors of the boundaries that he protected:

Percidere, puer, moneo; futuere, puella;

barbatum furem tertia poena manet.

Femina si furtum faciet mihi virve puerve,

haec cunnum, caput hic praebeat, ille nates.

Per medios ibit pueros mediasque puellas

mentula, barbatis non nisi summa petet.


I warn you, boy, you will be screwed; girl, you will be fucked;

a third penalty awaits the bearded thief.

If a woman steals from me, or a man, or a boy,

let the first give me her cunt, the second his head, the third his buttocks.

My dick will go through the middle of boys and the middle of girls,

but with bearded men it will aim only for the top.[16]

Another example comes from the works of Martial (6.73):

Non rudis indocta fecit me falce colonus:

Dispensatoris nobile cernis opus.

Nam Caeretani cultor ditissimus agri

Hos Hilarus colles et iuga laeta tenet.

Adspice, quam certo videar non ligneus ore,

Nec devota focis inguinis arma geram:

Sed mihi perpetua nunquam moritura cupresso

Phidiaci rigeat mentala digna manu.

Vicini, moneo, sanctum celebrate Priapum,

Et bis septenis parcite iugeribus.


I am not hewn from fragile elm, nor is my member which stands stiff with a rigid shaft made from just any old wood. It is begotten from everlasting cypress, which fears not the passage of a hundred celestial ages nor the decay of advanced years. Fear this, evil doer, whoever you are. If your thieving rod harms the smallest shoots of this here vine, like it or not, this cypress rod will penetrate [i.e. sodomize] and plant a fig in you.[17]


johnthomas didymus said...

my take: the Romans impaled thieves and criminals on the crux designed as a symbol of Priapus punishing the thief, and the "ritual" usually involved a "crown of thorns"--the fact that we are told that Jesus wore a "scarecrow wreath" on his execution pole is very strong line of evidence that Jesus was executed on a "cross" which had a sedile-seat modified into pointed phallic crux; he was actually "sodomized" to death on a Priapus stake "with a reed fixed upon the crown of [his] head" to indicate that he was a sacrificial victim to Priapus)

johnthomas didymus said...

Further Evidence:

The graffiti you referred to in another place in which the victim impaled on the crux stake had a donkey's head is explained on the same wikipedia page:(Quoting wikipedia)--

"Priapus joined Pan and the satyrs as a spirit of fertility and growth, though he was perennially frustrated by his impotence. In a ribald anecdote told by Ovid,[5] he attempted to rape the nymph Lotis but was thwarted by an ass, whose braying caused him to lose his erection at the critical moment and woke Lotis. He pursued the nymph until the gods took pity on her and turned her into a lotus plant. The episode gave him a lasting hatred of asses and a willingness to see them destroyed in his honour.[6] The emblem of his lustful nature was his permanent erection and his giant penis."

johnthomas didymus said...

The conflation by the Athenians of Priapus with Hermes makes sense: Hermes also was shamanic god of boundaries who punished thieves. He was also depicted ithyphallic--with an enormously erect impaling penis.

The depiction of Priapus-Hermes-Mercury on this wikipedia page( page holding a caduceus brings me to a question you raised somewhere else on the origin of the word "crux" I was fortunate, several years ago, to run into the book "Migration of Symbols" by Professor Donald McKenzie( which supplied me with information on the relationship of the indo-european c/k-r- root of "crux" with the spiral symbol. Take a look at the image of ithyphallic priapus-hermes-mercury on the same wikipedia page holding a double-spiral wand--the Caduceus. The Caduceus is an old shamanic phallic symbol depicting two serpents wound in a spiral around an "impaling pole." The derivation of "crux" from a root meaning "turn," "wind," "twist," "spiral" arises from the association of the phallic symbol of fertility deities with the shamanic spiral symbol. LaBarre provides evidence in his Ghost Dance that the spiral caduceus and the related double-axe symbols are old Indo-European phallic symbols of the fertility shamanic deities and D.McKenzie traces the evolution of the paleolithic spiral symbol in the four-armed swastika, fylfot, gammadion cross symbols of Indo-Europan cultures and other cross-cultural four-spoked cross-wheel symbols such as that on which Zeus (another phallic male deity) impaled Tartarus.

The same association of the magical phallus of "GOD" with spiral symbols is found the Indo-European root v-n-t/W-n-d. Thus any dictionary of root origins will tell you that sorcerer's magic "WAND" is from a w-n-d root meaning supple, wavy,spiral, twist, turn, etc. Thus in English we have the words wind (i.e.turn), wander(twist and meander), wend, wind(air) etc and scholars all recognize that the magic WAND that sorcerers hold in fairy tales is a phallic rod of divine magical power...(Primitive people associate divine spirits with wind or air and the spiral is a symbol of "circulating" air or wind. The devotee is filled with the Holy Wind or Spirit of the deity in a manner figuratively represented as sexual penetrative)

All these evidence gives me a newly expanded perspective on the articles series on Jesus as suffering servant i wrote on God discussion. I knew quite well that the cross on which Jesus died had old religious-mystical phallic symbolic associations and i suspected but had no hard evidence before i read your comments and now your blog that the ancient Romans actually crucified criminals in the same way that many traditional cultures worldwide sacrifice victims to fertility deities--by pushing a "sodomizing" pole symbolic of the phallus of the deity right through the victim.

Thanks for the clinching evidence you have provided.

johnthomas didymus said...

More on Priapus and the Donkey Graffito:

The figure of Priapus as the god who "f**K*d his victim to death provided the ancient romans opportunities for for entertainment with ribald jokes, flippant and obscene sex stories. Wikipedia says:

"Priapus gave rise to a genre of poetry collectively termed Priapeia. The genre shows how Roman poets in particular invented comic and obscene situations for the deity, giving him more literary prominence than he enjoyed in rites or cult, though masked phallic figures were prominent on many festive occasions, both in Greece and in the wider Roman world. In Ovid's Fasti,[18] the nymph Lotis fell into a drunken slumber at a feast, and Priapus seized this opportunity to advance upon her. With stealth he approached, and just before he could embrace her, Silenus's donkey alerted the party with "raucous braying". Lotis awoke and pushed Priapus away.. To punish the donkey for spoiling his opportunity, Priapus bludgeoned it to death with his gargantuan phallus"

The element of sadistic jocularity and entertainment evident in crucifixion shows arises from its association with the X-rated "Priapeia." In this light we come to understand why crucifixion was exceptionally disgraceful way for a man to die--he was held up in public as a man "f**k*d to death by Priapus. The splayed feet exposing the genitals and the agonized struggle of the victim seated on the god's pointed phallus was crudely and obscenely suggestive of sexual violence and thus for prudish people like the Jews it was an exceptionally odious manner for a relative for friend to die...No wonder the disciples of Jesus could only overcome the psychological trauma of Jesus' death in delusional beliefs that he had resurrected and transformed the disgrace of the crux into the victory of the tropaeum!!