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
IO9.com "The Last Temptation of Jean-Claude Van Damme"
Media Fax Photo via the Google Group "Male Cross Research."
Son of Man.org
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 Shroud.com
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
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: http://encyclopediaurantia.org.
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: glbtq.com.
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