Alexamenos Graffito (approx. 200 CE)
Stephen C. Jones has this idea in common with most Christians that the Romans had Jesus of Nazareth crucified on a simple two-beamed cross. I sent him the following in several installments last year. I should have put my response here on my blog instead and directed him to it.
Stephen, complicating matters is the fact that the ancient Roman Empire had two different types of crosses: a crux used for execution and a tropaeum, used for victory celebrations and other votive purposes. Guess which cross was simpler? The tropaeum, even though it was a two-beamed cross. (Minucius Felix, Octavian 29)
The standard Roman crux, on the other hand, had an attached 'horn' that impaled the prisoner through his anus, even if only when he hung in the "down" position. I have found to my satisfaction sufficient linguistic, archaeological, historical, patristic and even biblical evidence to back me up (although the biblical is actually slimmest). Since this is #2, I'll go with the Biblical for now and can give you more information subsequent to this post.
The first piece of evidence is at the crucifixion itself, in the insults hurled at the King.
Matthew 27:40, KJV
And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest [it] in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross (κατάβηθι ἀπὸ τοῦ ταυροῦ)
Matthew 27:42, KJV
He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross (καταβάτω νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ σταυροῦ), and we will believe him.
Mark 15:30, KJV
Save thyself, and come down from the cross (καταβὰς ἀπὸ τοῦ σταυροῦ).
Mark 15:32, KJV
Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross (καταβάτω νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦσταυροῦ), that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.
Now, in the Koine Greek the verb, shown for "come down" is καταβαίνω. Now, in the Scott-Liddell Greek-English Lexicon, if one were to replace "horse" (ἵππου), "carriage" (ἁρμαμάξης) or "chariot" (δίφρου or ἁρμάτων), the verb καταβαίνω means "to dismount."
It appears that Mark and Matthew recognize that a cross was something that was mounted.
The sons of Zebedee.
This is the scene where James and John, the Sons of Zebedee, ask Jesus to sit on either side of Him when He comes into His Kingdom. (They do not know what they're asking for!)
Mark 10:35-40, NIV
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
Matthew 20:20-23, NIV
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
In the Liddell-Scott Lexicon, the Greek verb meaning "to sit" is καθίζω, to make to sit down, seat, to set, to place, to post watchers, guards, etc., to set up, to cause an assembly to take their seats, to put him into a certain condition, to take one's seat, to sit, to sit, recline at meals, to sit as judge, to reside, to settle, sink down, to run aground, be stranded, to take their seats, to settle, to alight, and to leave goods purchased.
In these passages it would obviously mean to take one's seat. But in relation to Roman crucifixion, it would mean to settle, sink down if no seat or "horn" was provided but also to sit if one were.
Guess for whom the two places were prepared:
Mark 15:27, KJV
And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
Yep. The two thieves.
The mystery of the hyssop.
John 19:29, KJV
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put [it] upon hyssop, and put [it] to his mouth.
It turns out that what was called hyssop back then is called oregano, majoram and zatar today. All of the same genus and the same type of plant. At the time of Passover, it is herbaceous, scarcely 18" high and cannot possibly support a fully charged sponge.
There's an interesting fact about hyssopped vinegar. Back then, it was used to treat wounds and irritation to the anus. This has been noted by Bill Thayer of the University of Chicago in his comment on Pliny the Elder's Natural History, Book 23. (Note: for anus, Pliny used a euphemism: "seat.") Link
"This text of Pliny, however, provides evidence of something very different: hyssoped vinegar was apparently considered a very strong topical anaesthetic specific for rectal pain."
"In more intelligible detail, here is the connection with the Crucifixion:"
"Death in crucifixion (see this excellent page CenturyOne.org/Crucifixion) is ultimately caused by asphyxiation. The crucified man hangs from his wrists, and his chest is distended inwards and down. If a foot-rest is provided, this prolongs the torture, since the victim will be able to push himself up and get some air; but this induces cramps and eventually tetany of the arm and leg muscles, which become so painful that he eventually slumps down again — and the cycle continues to exhaustion and final asphyxiation in the down position."
"To this torture, the Romans commonly added a refinement: a sharp spike (called a sedile, a "seat") [Ed-M: or crux, believe it or not] was fixed on the upright beam in such a place that when the exhausted victim slips back down, it pierces the anus."
"Now read Pliny's text again. What the soldier was doing was not giving Jesus a drink of posca using hyssop as a support for the sponge. He was administering a pain-killer to a different place altogether, and the sponge, in accordance with our passage of Pliny, was being used as a swab. The writer of the gospel was standing too far away to see exactly what the soldier was doing and interpreted it wrongly; or some redactor has been prudish."
Granted, I am not wedded to this alternative version of John 19:29 and neither is Dr. Thayer, for in Against the Christians, Porphyry wrote of John 19:29: "Now there was a vessel full of vinegar. Having therefore bound a vessel full of vinegar with a reed, they offered it to his mouth." (Fragment 15, Macarius, Apocriticus II:12.
Lifting the bodies off the crosses.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and [that] they might be taken away.
The Greek for "on" is ἐπὶ. When used with the genitive and verbs of rest as it is here, means on or upon.
And the Greek for "take away" here is ἀρθῶσιν, aorist passive subjunctive 3rd person plural of αἴρω (ἀείρω), meaning to lift, to raise up; to take up, to mount up; to take up and carry or bring; to take up and bear;... to lift and take away or remove; to take away, to put an end to, to make away with, to destroy;... to be suspended, to hang; etc.
One of two things might be inferred here: (1) is that all the crosses were low enough to the ground that the bodies had to be lifted to be taken away (which messes with John 3:14), or (2) there was a "seat" such that one had to lift the body in order to clear the seat! Everywhere else in the NT, this verb means to lift up or to lift up from a horizontal surface and take away.
The crucifixion of Peter, since you mentioned it.
Porphyry doesn't believe Peter was crucified upside down and says so in Against the Christians. "And Peter again, who received authority to feed the lambs, was nailed to a cross and impaled on it. Fragment 36, Macarius, Apocriticus IV:4.
"Nailed to a cross and impaled on it," perhaps
like this unfortunate as depicted ca. 100 CE in the town of Puteoli,
now Pozzuoli, a suburb of Naples, Italy.
now Pozzuoli, a suburb of Naples, Italy.
He included most of the first installment here, but the rest he included only snippets, and basically saying, "No, no, no, no, no!!!! Jesus was crucified on a two beam cross, and only that! And how could you snow under my comments box with all that!" All right, maximum mea culpa. But only on the last objection to the snow-in. Otherwise, an apology from me, for me, means losing face. Especially when I am 100% correct, as the Antenicene Church Fathers who describe the structure of the cross will show.
In his comment he quotes me:
Guess which cross the Church adopted in its crucifixes? You guessed it! The "tropaeum!"And adds this gem:
The "Church" doesn't have "crucifixes", i.e. a cross with Jesus hanging on it. Only some denominations, mainly the Roman Catholic church does.
And as we shall see, the two-beamed Latin cross is amply attested by the evidence: Biblical, linguistic, historical, patristic and archaeological.Where does he think the "Church" came from? The Roman Catholic Church itself believes that it is THE Church and all other derivations of Christianity are wayward brethren. And one should not forget that Constantine remodelled Christianity from a collection of sometimes-persecuted superstitious cults to a recognised state religion. He also basically organised an Empire-wide Church, and made it the only Imperially recognised branch of Christianity, with the other branches condemned as heretical. And from which Church did the Syrian Catholic, Coptic, Orthodox and Protestant churches come out of? You guessed it, the Roman Catholic Church, the one Church that Constantine organised in 325 CE.
And besides, before the Christian (or Catholic - Orthodox) crucifix, came The Cross. Specifically, the Laureate Cross, as shown here.
Sarcophagus Domatilla, ca. 350 CE.
Notice how it resembles the tropaeum, or simple two-beamed cross.
This is a tropaeum. Approx. 1st C. CE.
This is where the two-beamed cross originated from.
(Video link 1 and link 2.)
This is where the two-beamed cross originated from.
(Video link 1 and link 2.)
Now, would Romans crucify criminals on tropaea?!? Pagans themselves worshiped the cross even in the form of the tropaeum, because it was a symbol of victory and represented the rays of the sun. Even the Jews in Rome in at least one catacomb depicted the Second Temple in Jerusalem as a Roman Temple with a Tropaeum in front (video link). And why does The Cross not show up in epigraphy save as anchors (some of these were clearly depicted three-dimensional!) and staurograms in fragmented codices until after 325 CE when Constantine reorganised Christianity? Well the answer is obvious! And when the Antenicene Fathers defended their religion, they threw the charge of worshipping the cross right back onto the Pagans! Minucius Felix went so far as to deny entirely that the Christians worshipped the cross and a certain criminal affixed to it!
And then he says this about the Roman crux cross, or alternatively, the Priapus stake. This Stephen E Jones quotes me and adds yet another gem:
The standard Roman "crux," on the other hand, had an attached 'horn' that impaled the prisoner through his anus, even if only when he hung in the "down" position.
Disagree. No doubt the Romans did have such a variation, but there is no evidence (apart from the odd crackpot theologian trying to make a name for himself) that this was "The standard Roman "crux" or the type of cross Jesus died on.
Oh, yes. the "odd crackpot theologian" accusation. In other words, an ad hominem attack. Dr. Gunnar Samuelsson has done a lot of research into the original Greek and Latin writings and I have done the same thing, translating for myself from the Greek and Latin from reputable online sources, and having to learn the grammar and syntax of the Latin and the Greek. That Dr. Samuelsson is much more educated about Greek and latin than me, and that we have come to the same conclusions that the verbiages of the ancient writings are usually far too laconic and stingy in context to figure out the arrangement of crucifixion gear, speaks volumes. And it was not even Mr. Samuelsson who clued me in on this! It was the "odd crackpot philosopher" Seneca Minor, the "odd crackpot theologians" Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian and origen, and the "odd crackpot modern classicist" Bill Thayer.
And the ugly reality was, the crux in the ancient Latin, even into the late First century CE, meant primarily, when the human suspension, torture, and execution aspects are taken out and the word is applied to everyday quotidian objects (and one very "sexual" object meant to deter thieves), a pole: i.e., something long and cylindrical.
Well I waited a long while and I sent him another post at this article, which he posted after some editing (additions - I don't remember any subtractions), here (and reproduced below in the following blockquotes).
It looks like you left off on your cross vs. torture stake articles.Excellent... no further comment here.
Yes, but not necessarily permanently. But I have been focusing most of my blogging on my The Shroud of Turin blog.
And after a year plus I had to dig up your latest article in this series. Sorry for the delay!
I would have wanted to see your selection of patristic evidence: I found out that at least some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers thought Jesus was crucified on a five-pointed cross with the fifth point used to *ahem* "crucify" in a most perverted manner (as the extant Pozzuoli and Vivat Crux graffiti show).Exactly! As indicated by Justin Martyr (Dialogus cum Tryphone 91) and Tertullian (Apologeticum 16.7, Ad Nationes 1.12.3-4, Adversus Iudaeos 10.2.7, Adversus Marcion 3.18.3f). But they, and Irenaeus of Lyons (Adversus haereses 2.24.4), too, mention that there was an attachment about midway up the post.
Yes. Others used the analogy of a ship's mast with its cross-yards.
I can quote Irenaeus here:
"Ipse habitus crucis fines et summitates habet quinque (The character of the cross itself has five ends and high points [plural]: duos in longitudine, duos in latitudine, et unum in medio (two lengthwise, two transversely and one in the centre), ubi requiescit qui clavis affigitur (on which [last point] finds rest the one who is affixed with nails)!" (Adversus haereses 2.24.4) (in Latin - pp. 183-4 of linked pdf)
The fifth extremity / second high point was probably necessary to give the executioner maximum freedom in nailing up the condemned, particularly if he used the nails and the transverse beam repeatedly over several crucifixions, not to mention the main upright. This is due to the mast-and-yard types introducing eccentricities into the hanged person, which would cause him to passively arc out like an archery bow. And in case of a cross with a single plane front surface, the suspended would flex out from the cross when they pushed up with their legs, at the very least. Nailing up to such a cross with an introduced eccentricity will also induce the above mentioned swaying.
Tertullian is in agreement with Irenaeus. But first we shill see how Tertullian ties the crux into the tropaeum, whose frame is a simple two-beamed cross.
"Pars crucis est omne robur, quod erecta statione defigitur (Every stake fixed in an upright position is a portion of the cross); nos, si forte, integrum et totum deum colimus. (we render our adoration, if you will have it so**, to a god entire [uninjured] and complete). Diximus originem deorum vestrorum a plastis de cruci induci (We have shown before that your deities are derived from shapes modelled from the cross). Victorias adoratis, cum in tropaeis cruces intestina sint tropaeorum. (But you also worship victories, for in your trophies the cross is the heart of the trophy)." (Apologeticum 16.7) (in Latin)
Tertullian knew a two-beamed cross and a tropaeum frame were one in the same. But he also said in this passage that the Christians of his day worshipped whole (or uninjured) and complete cruces: execution crosses! And male ones at that! Now what were the ones he saw like? He will tell you!
"Pars crucis, et quidem maior, est omne robur quod derecta statione defigitur (Every piece of timber which is fixed in the ground in an erect position is a part of a cross, and indeed the greater portion of its mass). Sed nobis tota crux imputatur, cum antenna scilicet sua et cum illo sedilis excessu. (But an entire cross is attributed to us, with its transverse beam, of course, and its projecting seat***)." (Ad Nationes 1.12.3-4) (in Latin)
So, the execution cross, or crux, had as the bulk of its mass an upright pole pre-planted at the execution site. Add to this the patibulum, or antenna, and you have a two-beam mast-and-yard type cross. Four end points including one high point. So far, so good. Now we add the projecting seat or sedilis excessu. It appears in the Lewis And Short and Elementary Lewis lexica that excessu, under excedo when referring to inanimate objects, means "to go beyond, overstep, rise above, overtop [a certain boundary] and under excessus means "a standing out, projecting [beyond a certain limit], a departing from the subject, a digression, a deviation or aberration." So it certainly appears the projecting seat matches the fifth end point and second high point of Irenaeus' description. And we can confirm this in two other places.
"nam et in antenna navis quae crucis pars est (For even in a ship's yard, which is part of a cross), hoc extremitates eius vocantur---, (this is the name ['horns'] by which the extremities are called); unicornis autem medio stipite palus (while the central pole of the mast is a 'unicorn')." (Adversus Iudaeos 10.2.7) (in Latin)
Central pole of the mast??? A mast IS a pole, a.k.a., a spar. This translation makes no sense! Additionally, medio and stipite are in the ablative case, while palus is in the nominative. And it's the last word in the sentence; and by the rules of Latin, the last word is the most important. Plus, palus is not necessarily a tall pole but can also mean an upright pale and the very famous male member (palus obscaeno) of Priapus. So what we have here not the "central pole of the mast" but rather the "[obscene] pale at / from the middle of the pole."
"Nam et in antenna, quae crucis pars est, extremitates cornua vocantur (For of the antenna, which is a part of a cross, the ends are called 'horns'); unicornis autem medius stipitis palus (while the midway stake of the whole frame is the 'unicorn')." (Adversus Marcionem 3.18.4) (in Latin)
The phrase "midway stake of the whole frame" is not as bad but it's kind of erroneous, although linguistically correct, because people will still think the main upright for "midway stake". Note here that medius and palus are in the nominative case, and stipitis is the genitive of stipes. And stipes was not always referring to the whole frame of the cross. Indeed, its basic definition is "log, stock, post, trunk, stake", i.e., the main stem of an execution cross. So what we probably have here in the phrase medius stipitis palus is: "the midway stake of the main upright".
So Tertullian confirms what Irenaeus said about the architecture of the execution cross and the purpose of its central point.
Now I will also quote Justin Martyr to reveal the operation of this central attachment:
"And that one which is fixed in the middle is a horn and projects up and out, upon which would be [or are] mounted those who are crucified (ἐφ᾽ ᾧ ἐποχοῦνται οἱ σταυρούμενοι [eph' ô epochountai oi stauroumenoi])." (Dialougus cum Tryphone 91) (in Greek - pp. of linked pdf)
Now ἐποχοῦνται is the misspelled 3rd person plural present indicative (or subjunctive) middle/passive of ἐποχέομαι [epocheomai] (be carried by, ride upon) / ἐποχεύω [epocheuô] (spring upon, cover, [a certain action] of the male animal) - and I figured out that these two verbs are the middle/passive and active conjugations of the same verb! And σταυρούμενοι is the 3rd person plural middle plural verb-participle of σταυρόω [stauroô] "fence with pales, drive timber piles*, impale*, crucify." Which means not only are they passively crucified with nails, they are also actively crucifying themselves. How? By "pile-driving" themselves as shown in the Pozzuoli image above.
Hermann Fulda (Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung, p. 112, pgh. 158) noted that the cross could have been described in the language of the street of the Roman Empire as the carnifex κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν (meaning executioner par excellence, or alternatively and most explicitly, hangman down upon the prominence)
And these Church Fathers were saying Jesus Christ was crucified in this manner. Where did they get their information from? I wager from the ugly reality they witnessed. For what the Romans did was, they combined all the suspension tortures of the peoples they conquered and combined them into a brutal parody of a union of two males for the express purpose of humiliation and torture. Quite an effective deterrent, I might add.
BTW the so-called "crackpot theologian" Gunnar Samuelsson is 100% correct but his work was misrepresented by the sensationalist press (nothing new).Except he never did claim that Jesus did not die on the cross. He only said that the Gospel narratives do not have the language necessary to support the traditional interpretation of Jesus' crucifixion of being nailed to a two-beam or a post-and-beam cross, either without an upright thorn-like peg, or with one, as I have shown above.
I disagree that he is "100% correct" in his reported claim that "Jesus did not die on [a] cross." He is 100% IN-correct"!
You can read for yourself, at Dr. Samuelsson's website which supports his book and explains exactly what he set out to do and what his conclusions were.
He still believes Jesus was crucified on a cross but the NT verbiage cannot support it for some reason,In Gunnar Samuelsson's own words:
I disagree with the latter.
Q: What is your personal understanding of what happened on Calvary?
A: Here, I have as much to say as everyone that reads the Bible. I think that my personal beliefs cohere well with those of most Christians. I believe that Jesus was forced to carry a part or the whole execution device toward Calvary, I believe that he was executed by being nailed (nails implied outside the passion narratives, e.g., John 20.25–27) to it. I believe also that Jesus rose from the death on the third day, that he at this very moment is with the Father and that he will return in glory to judge the living and dead.So he does believe that Jesus was nailed on a two-beam cross after all.
I have in my research nothing to say about the historical or theological side of the salvation of man. As a scholar who deals with philology my interest is ancient text, and the ancient texts usually do not depict in detail executions such as the one Jesus was subjected to. This is also the case in the Gospels. They do not describe the event in length. This is my only point. The non-detailed accounts of the Gospels do not, however, contradict the traditional understanding. So the traditional understanding of the death of Jesus is correct, but we could acknowledge that it is more based on the eyewitness accounts than the actual passion narratives.
The Gk. word stauros (like most words) is ambiguous. It can mean a single upright stake, or a two-beamed cross. But as I pointed out in my "Jesus was executed on a cross, not a stake! #2: Biblical," the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus was executed on a two-beamed cross and not a single beamed stake:Okay, I'm going to explain why what you think is so, Mr. Jones, is just ain't so. Or rather, just ain't supported by the original Greek verbiage! Once one clears one's head of traditional imagery (nailed to a tropaeum), the verbiage says something else entirely. Particularly in the gospel narratives which most New Testament scholars at universities no longer view as eyewitness accounts, and treated each one as its own individual narrative that does not necessarily complement the others but could contradict them. The paradigm of the NT scholars is that the first three gospels are synoptic, with Mark being the oldest written, and Matthew and Luke heavilly dependent upon Mark, but contradicting Mark in places, sometimes stridently so. John has its own view, yet again, there are indications within that the writer was reacting to Mark's gospel. When one treats each gospel as its own narrative, he is unsure what exactly he finds for the gear of Jesus' execution. Treat them as complimentary and collect all the relevant passages, and a two-beam T-cross with an upright thorn-like peg to obscenely seat the condemned is the result.
Except if Jesus was executed on a single upright stake, with his arms bound or nailed to the stake in such a manner so as not be extended above his head, the location of the sign above his head would still be correct. It is also correct where the single upright stake is a Vlad Tepes torture stake with the sign on a separate pole.
1. According to Mt 27:37 NWT, the charge against Jesus was posted "above his HEAD" not "above his HANDS" as it would be if Jesus was executed on a single upright stake.
Again, one could have been nailed onto an ordinary upright post with both hands separate. Hermann Fulda has an illustrated example in his work, Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung.
2. According to Jn 20:25 NWT, Jesus had the "print of the NAILS" (plural) in His hands. Not ONE NAIL as the Watchtower has consistently depicted Jesus affixed to a single-beamed stake.
Unfortunately, ἐκτείνω (ekteinô) does not necessarily mean, extend out to the sides. That word primarily means "stretch out" without regard to the direction of stretching. The prediction would be fulfilled even if Peter's arms were stretched out in front with his wrists bound to a rope leash, with the lead extending to and cinched around his waist. After all, everywhere else in the New Testament ἐκτείνω (ekteinô) is frequently translated in the KJV as "stretch forth". And note Jesus did not say, "Someone else will put a beam on you".
3. Jesus predicted the "sort of death" that Peter would die would be by him having to "stretch out" (Gk. ekteino) his hands (Jn 21:17-19 NWT). The Gk. word means stretch out sideways, not up.
4. Jesus could not have walked to Golgotha "bearing the torture stake for himself" (Jn 19:17 NWT).It will work with a "torture stake" 11'-8" (3.6 m) in length and 6" (15 cm) in diameter. Weight using Jerusalem Pine would be about 75 pounds (33 kg). It's been done before and since.
But bearing an immense Jehovah's Witnesses' torture-stake or even worse, a fully assembled cross or tropaeum like in Mel Gibson's Passion, is the apparent gist of the modern understanding of the narrative when you call the patibulum a pole (σταυρός). When you translate it back into the Latin, you could end up with the word crux. Which is what Jerome did in the Latin Vulgate.
Dr. Samuelsson is not the first one to say that the language of the New Testament fails to adequately conjure a depiction of the traditional depiction of the Crucifixion on a two-beam cross. Dr. Samuelsson cites Raymond E. Brown here:
Samuelsson's Ph.D dissertation committee should have failed him, for ignoring such clear evidence against his thesis.
Q: What then is the problem of the texts?And Dr. Samuelsson's conclusion is that the language of the New Testament is indeed inadequate for a two-beam cross which is from Church Tradition outside of the New Testament, which, as I have shown above, evolved from a sort of Priapus stake (with crossarm) to a tropaeum.
A: The problem is that the texts of the sole event, the passion narratives, are not that detailed as at least I thought they were. As a matter of fact, this observation is not new. Raymon E. Brown describes this feature in his famous Death of the Messiah.
We now come to the centerpiece of passion, the crucifixion itself, more often portrayed in art than any other scene in history – with great variation in the shape and position of the crosses, in how Jesus is affixed to the cross, in how he is clothed, in his expressions of anguish, etc. Yet in all comparable literature, has so crucial a moment ever been phrased so briefly and uninformatively? (...) Not a word is reported about the form of the cross, about how he was affixed, about the amount of pain (Brown, The Death of the Messiah, 2.945).So Brown identifies the problem, the uninformativeness of the passion narratives, but from my point of view he does not draw sufficient conclusions from his observations, since he still in great detail describes both the punishment of crucifixion in general and the crucifixion of Jesus in particular.
I have already read her paper. That was basically my starting point. From there I started looking up the quotes of her ancient sources online and started comparing the text to what is there in English. Martin Hengel's Crucifixion was a great help in identifying ancient text references. And I found out that the verbiages in the ancient languages most certainly did not conform to the limited English definition of "crucify" (nail to a flat plane cross). Instead there was an immense variety of different suspension punishments, the worst and most frequent in the ancient world (including Carthage) being impalement. I have also read David W. Chapman's Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, noting he had come to the same conclusions I had, although he still used the English word "crucify" to connote penal bodily suspensions.
unless the NT was the first time staur-ow was used to mean crucify and not impale on top of a pointed stake.
It wasn't. There are plenty of examples in pre-NT history where stauros can only mean a two-beamed cross. See Leolaia, "The facts on crucifixion, stauros, and the `torture stake'," Jehovahs-Witness.Net, June 11, 2005.
Well, Samuelsson's theory in interpreting the ancient language is minimalist. Mine is evolutionist. In this case, penal bodily suspensions evolved over time, especially under the Romans who did develop a crossarmed, monohorned execution pole called a crux, their gold standard of executionary suspension devices, as opposed to their votive cross, the tropaeum. Even so, one must use this approach with two questions in mind:
- What is actually being said in the passage?
- What is the passage's author's understanding of executionary bodily suspension?
- How does extant epigraphy inform what is being said in the passages and what is understood by their authors?
And usually it is better to err on the side of caution: i.e., interpret what is being said minimally, with a keen awareness that eventually one will run into Roman suspension-executions, and not to allow onesself to be blinded by tradition. Otherwise you may end up depicting Persians nailing people to votive crosses. Bah!
And yes, I agree with you that Jesus was NOT impaled on such nor nailed to a simple post!Indeed. Thanks!
Many modern `theologians' (so-called) like Samuelsson are mere careerists, working in theologial departments of secular universities (e.g. the "University of Gothenburg"), whose dominant philosophy is Naturalism ("nature is all there is-there is no supernatural"). They publish controversial works so that they get noticed and can be employed at such naturalistic theological departments.Another ad hominem attack we can certainly do without.
They (including Samuelsson) will have to give account to Jesus (Mt 16:27; 2Cor 5:10; Acts 10:41-42; Rev 20:12, Rev 22:12) for such falsehoods they have written in the name of Christ and the support they have given to anti-Christian cults like the JWs.
And what you call "Naturalism" is actually the scientific method: make observations and come up with a hypothesis based on those observations, then test the hypothesis. If it stands, you have a new theory and have enlarged knowledge. It's much more reliable than depending on "revelation". It's how we have acquired an immense volume of knowledge. If humanity hadn't embraced it, we would all still be stuck in the Middle Ages. It's as simple as that.
And that last paragraph? No comment.
* I had to figure these two out by context ("drive timber piles" in Diodorus Siculus 24.1 and Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 7.25.5-7; and "impale" in Diodorus Siculus 16.61.2 because you can't crucify a dismembered corpse).
** lit.: "as luck would have it."
*** lit.: "a projection, rising above and/or transgression of a seat."
Next, I'll present a survey of everything I found concerning the Greek verb σταυρόω (without the preverb ἀνά) and after that look at what the gospels say about the gear of Jesus' execution.
Here are links to the previous articles on ancient penal bodily suspension in case anyone is interested:
The Romans Never Crucified the Way We Think series:
Part 14E - Impalements in Antiquity (4E).
Part 14D - Impalements in Antiquity (4D).
Part 14C - Impalements in Antiquity (4C).
Part 14B - Impalements in Antiquity (4B).
Part 14A - Impalements in Antiquity (4A).
Part 13B - Impalements in Antiquity (3B).
Part 13A - Impalements in Antiquity (3A).
Part 11 - Impalements in Antiquity (2).
Part 11 - Impalements in Antiquity (1).
Part 10 - Humiliations.
Part 9 - Utility Poles and Masts.
Part 8 - Crown of Thorns.
Part 7 - Crucifixion and Priapus.
Part 6 - From Wax Image to Exposed Body.
Part 5 - The First Crucifix.
Part 4 - The Tropaeum and the Furca.
Part 3 - Crux - Modern English Use and Ancient Quotidian Meanings.
Part 2 - Crux.
Crucifixion – The Bodily Support series
Part 4 - Physics of Crucifixion.
Part 3 - Manuscript Evidence.
Part 2 - Archaeological Evidence.