Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crucifixion the Bodily Support – The Acuta Crux in Anti-Christian Discourse (1).

Bust of Celsus at the Louvre, Paris.

(Part 6a of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)

Part 1              Part 2             Part 3              Part4 

Part 5a            Part 5b           Part 5c            Part5d

Part 5e            Part 5f            Part 5g

Part 6a – The Acuta Crux in Anti-Christian Discourse (1).

A. Introduction.

What sort of gear was the instrument of Jesus' execution? We are not completely certain, but I have established that it had an acuta crux: either an impaling stake on which Jesus was suspended between two posts from which Jesus was suspended using a horizontally oriented pole, or an impaling stake or ‘thorn’ which was planted in front of or attached and secured to the front of the main post of a typical Roman suspension structure, which was cruciform in character.

We will look at the polemics of various critics of Christianity who saw the religion or superstition as at best, morally degenerate, and at worst, a dangerous cult (in the modern sense) much like most people view Scientology.

A.1. Celsus.

The first major critic of Christianity is Celsus, who wrote On the True Discourse sometime around 178 CE. He made such a scathing indictment of Christianity that the early Church Father and apologist, Origen of Alexandria, was compelled to write an eight-book work titled Contra Celsum in order to equip his disciples with a defense and buttress their faith against the inroads this document was making against the Christian religion (or superstition) in 248 CE.

There are numerous references in On the True Discourse to the suspension device of Jesus as a ‘thorn’ (σκόλοψ), a post (σταυρός) and a plank (τύμπανον), the last by using the verb ἀποτυμπανίζω (nail to a plank).

A.2. Σκόλοφ: a Thorn

When Celsus first recounts Jesus’ crucifixion and his sufferings on the cross (or rather, a Roman torture-stake), he first, through his Jewish sock-puppet, to recount other myths and even some scams! And to these he compares to Jesus’ death on his pole:

But the question is, whether anyone who was really dead ever rose with a veritable body. Or do you imagine the statements of others not only to be myths, but to have the appearance of such, while you have discovered a becoming and credible termination to your drama in the voice from the cross (σκόλοπος), when he breathed his last, and in the earthquake and the darkness?

Origen, Contra Celsum 2.55 1

There are two takeaways from this. First, Celsus doesn’t believe a word of the gospels (that goes without saying). And second, Celsus calls the gear of Jesus’ execution, which a believer would call a σταυρός, a σκόλοψ: a thorn!

And later his Jewish sock-puppet asserts an immediate disappearance from the Cross was far more appropriate action for a diety:

But let us observe how this Jew of Celsus asserts that, “if this at least would have helped to manifest his divinity, he ought accordingly to have at once disappeared from the cross (σκόλοπος).”

Origen, Contra Celsum 2.68 2

And notice he uses the same term – σκόλοψ – thorn – again! Celsus is quite aware that part of the Roman punishment was some sort of impaling stake. For according to the LSJ and the Autenrieth Lexica, among others, for in an execution of a person, suspension on a σκόλοψ meant suspension on a stake for impaling.

And indeed Origen in the same book shows that indeed Celsus was absolutely right in calling the well-known Roman torture-stake a σκόλοψ:

The literal narrative, however, one might thus explain, viz., that it was appropriate for Him who had resolved to endure suspension upon the cross (ἐπί σκόλοπος κρεμασθῆναι), to maintain all the accompaniments of the character He had assumed, in order that He who as a man had been put to death, and who as a man had died, might also as a man be buried.

Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69 3

And yes Origen does come out and say it, that suspension from the cross was, in his words, ἐπί σκόλοψ κρεμασθῆναι (to have been hanged upon the thorn), i.e., impaled by it. 

Yet many Christians have argued, argue, and will argue, that from the Septuagint Numbers 33:55 (σκόλοπες ἐν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ὑμῶν “thorns in your eyes”) and 2 Cor 12:7 (σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί “a thorn in the flesh”) that σκόλοψ doesn’t necessarily mean impaling stake or impaling thorn, it means… something else. Something small, like the nails of the cross. Except what Origen says destroys the Christians’ arguments utterly when he acknowledges that what Celsus calls a σκόλοψ – thorn, singular -- is the σταυρός – pole -- when he puts words into Celsus’ mouth:

But even if it had been related in the Gospels, according to the view of Celsus, that Jesus had immediately disappeared from the cross (σκόλοπος), he and other unbelievers would have found fault with the narrative, and would have brought against it some such objection as this: “Why, pray, did he disappear after he had been put upon the cross (τί δήποτε μετά τόν σταυρόν), and not disappear before he suffered?”

Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69 4

Of course, here, Origen acknowledges that σκόλοψ is a commonly used word for σταυρός, which here he uses to define a Roman crucifixion, specifically one in particular. Note bene: “after he was put on the cross” is rendered simply as: τί δήποτε μετά τόν σταυρόν (lit.: why at some time after the σταυρός-punishment). This is verbiage not unknown to the Greek-speaking ancients. 5

Indeed, Origen (Contra Celsum 3.32) and Celsus (Contra Celsum 3.36) both use the verb ἀνασκολοπίζω "impale, fix on a pole" and as I have shown above, they both understand it as to be suspended on a thorn (ἐπί σκόλοπος κρεμασθῆναι): Origen by directly saying it, and Celsus by his constant word of the noun σκόλοψ "impaling stake, thorn."
He laid it [his life] down when he said, "Father, why have you forsaken me? And when he had cried with a loud voice, he gave up the ghost," anticipating the public executioners of the crucified (ἀνεσκολοπισμένον), who break the legs of the victims (σταυρούμενον) and who do so in order that their punishment might not be prolonged.
Origen, Contra Celsum 3:32 11
Celsus next says, "What is the nature of the ichor in the body of the crucified (ἀνασκολοπιζομένον) Jesus? is it 'such as flows in the bodies of the Immortal Gods?'"
Origen, Contra Celsum 3.36 12
In both of these, the verb particples ἀνεσκολοπισμένον , ἀνασκολοπιζομένον are in the perfect tense middle-passive voice "having already been impaled;" but σταυρούμενον is in the middle-passive present, "being crucified." In other words, at the time Jesus gave up the breath, he was then being actively crucified: pile driven. And it was the σκόλοψ that was doing the pile driving.

A.3. Executed Most Shamefully.

Now according to Celsus, Jesus was bound ignominiously and disgracefully executed. But the English translation only begin to do the Greek justice, because Celsus uses superlatives in this passage:

Believe that he whom I introduce to you is the Son of God, although he was shamefully bound (δεδομένος ατιμότατα), and disgracefully punished (κεκολασμένος αίσχιστα),…

Origen, Contra Celsum 6.10 6

Now what Celsus was saying here when he describes Jesus to have been “shamefully bound and disgracefully punished” is δεδομένος ατιμότατα ή κεκολασμένος αίσχιστα (delivered up most ignominiously, as [one] finally punished most shameful[ly]).

A.4. Σσταυρός: a Pole.

Celsus further down describes a continuous stream of literary effluent from an earthly church, and touches on one of their beliefs, in which the Christians of the time referred to as the “tree of life:”

And in all their writings (is mention made) of the ‘tree of life’ (τό της ζωης ξύλον), and a resurrection of the flesh by means of the 'tree' (από ξύλου), because, I imagine, their teacher was nailed to a cross (σταυρω ένηλώθη), and was a carpenter by craft (τέκτων τήν τεχνην)…

Origen, Contra Celsum 6:34 7

Celsus connects a so-called “tree of life,” and a bodily resurrection by means of the “tree,“ to Jesus’ execution: that he was σταυρω ένηλώθη (nailed to an execution pole) and his trade: τέκτων (of a carpenter, joiner). The relevant point Celsus is making here is that Jesus was suspended on a σταυρός, some kind of pole, and secured to it with nails (ἧλοι).

A.5. Tύμπανον: A Board.

When Celsus mocks the Christians’ holding forth the Word, he indicates that Roman crucifixion involved a suspension from a board:

Quotes Celsus: “When we declare the Logos to be the Son of God we do not present to view a pure and holy Logos, but a most degraded man, who was punished by scourging and crucifixion (ἀποτυμπανισθέντα).”

Origen, Contra Celsum 2.31 8

The word Celsus uses for crucifixion is ἀποτυμπανισθέντα (suspended from a board). The Greek punishment is defined in various lexica as “crucify on a plank” and “cudgeling”. The former meaning would apply here, unless Celsus had a gospel we know nothing about, where Jesus was bashed with a club, like the two robbers.

And he also makes mention of Jesus as “a most degraded man.” Just a recap: in the ethos of the ancient Mediterranean world, for a man to be penetrated was considered to be shameful, and for some men it was considered to be more shameful than for others. For example, Seneca the Elder had this to say: “Gross indecency [‘bottoming’] is a crime for the freeborn, for the slave an inevitability and for the freedman a duty.” 9 Not that the social milieu or even the legal code impeded males to pursue their sexual and romantic interests. But to be forcibly penetrated in public while suspended as a condemned criminal, by the very gear of your own suspension----!

So the execution delivered to Jesus was a most shameful one, which in my opinion involved some kind of impalement (in addition to micro-impalement with nails) wherein the person was bodily penetrated. And which is more shameful: simple direct impalement with a sharpened ordinary pole, or controlled impalement on a tall stake while suspended between two poles, or a full-blown Roman crucifixion involving a cross-armed pole with a wooden phallus? A simple imagining of how the suspended would look when he slid down on his impaling device would give you the answer.

A.6. Racked by Gravity.

Celsus recounts that…

“You,” says he, “mock and revile the statues of our Gods, but if you had reviled Dionysius or Herakles in person, you would not perhaps done so with impunity. But those who crucified (κατατείνοντες καί κολάζοντες) your god, when present among men, suffered nothing for it, either at the time or during the whole of their lives.”

Origen, Contra Celsum 8.41 10

What Celsus uses here for “crucified” is the present passive participles κατατείνοντες (being stretched tight, racked, tightly bound) and κολάζοντες (being docked, punished) describing the actions of the executioners that were inflicted upon Jesus. So the execution meted out involved a stretching tight, a racking, a tight binding which would adequately describe the results of a suspension by the extremities on or from a cruciform structure.

A.7. Conclusions on Celsus’ view of Crucifixion.

So looking above we can see that Celsus considered the gear of Jesus’ execution to be a thorn (σκόλοψ), a pole (σταυρός) to which he was nailed (ένηλώθη) and a board (τύμπανον). He also said the gear had put Jesus to the full stretch, i.e., racked him (κατατείνοντες), which is what the Romans intended that the Earth’s gravity do to their worst criminals with their own body mass when they suspended them to be executed. He also considered the effects of such a penalty to be most shameful (αίσχιστα) and a person undergoing such a penalty to be most degraded. (ατίμοτατον). It appears Celsus is familiar with the full-blown Roman crux, complete with stipes, patibulum and acuta-crux a.k.a. sedilis excessu (projection / transgression of a seat). And of course, nails. It is also apparent that the use of the acuta crux was widespread enough that Celsus could safely assume that it was applied to the living person of Jesus when he was suspended by the Romans (an historical Jesus crucified by Romans is assumed). In other words, in Celsus’ day it was typical.
1. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.55: Αλλ' εκεινο σκεπτέον, εί τις ως αληθως αποθανών, ανέστη ποτέ αυτω σώματι' ή οίεσθε τά μεν των άλλων μύθους ειναί τε καί δοκειν, υμιν δέ τήν καταστροφήν του δράματος ευσχημόνς ή πιθανως εφευρησθαι, τήν επί του σκόλοπος αυτου φωνήν ότ απεπνει, καί τόν σεισμόν, καί τόν σκότον; (But the subject examined, whether anyone was truly dead, rose up at some time with his body, or do you suppose indeed those [narratives] of those others to be fictions and even to seem [as such], but to you all that catastrophe of the drama to be found decent and credible, that voice upon his thorn when he breathed out his last, and the earthquake, and the darkness?)
2. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.68: Ιδωμεν δέ τίνα τρόπον φησιν ό παρά τω Κέλσω Ιουδαιος, ότι "ει δ' ουν τόγε τοσουτον ώφειλεν εις επίδειξιν θεότηος, από του σκόλοπος γουν εύθύς αφανης γενέσθαι (Let us observe what manner that Jew besides Celsus says, that “But if this then would have augmented into a making known of his divinity, at least then straightaway from the thorn he would have disappeared.”
3. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69: Τά δέ της λεξεως ούτως άν τις άποδωη, ότι κατά τόν κρίνατα υπομειναι τό επί σκόλοπς κρεμασθηναι, ην καί τά εξης τη υποθεσαι τηρησαι, ίν' ώς άνθροπος καθαιρεθείς, τω ώς άνθρωπος αποτεθνηκέναι, ώς άνθροπος καί ταφη. (But this of the narrative, if haply, one might thus explain, that [it was] in accordance for him, having chosen to endure it, having been hanged upon the thorn, and was to have watched over the habits of the [inner] essence, for him as a man to have been put down, for whom as a man to have died and as a man to be buried.)
4. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69: Ἀλλά καί εἰ καθ᾽ ὑπόθεσιν ἐγεραπτο ἐν τοῖς εὐαγγελίοις, ὅτι ἀπό τοῦ σκόλοπος ἀφανής εὐθύς ἔγεντο ἐκάκιζεν ἄν τό γεγραμμένον ὁ Kελσος καί οἱ ἄπιστοι, καί κατηγόρησαν ἄν καί οὕτω λέγοντες "τί δήποτε μετά τόν σταυρόν γέγουεν ἀφανής, οὐ πρό τοῦ παθεῖν δὲ τοῦτ᾽ ἐπραγματεύσατο (But even if according to the hypothesis it had been written in the gospels, that he straightaway disappeared from the thorn, if that was written Celsus and others [would] disbelieve it, and perhaps would have brought an objection even such as this: “Why at some time after the σταυρός-punishment he disappeared, and had not taken the trouble before this suffering?”)
5. This is similar to where Didorus Siculus (90-21 BCE), (Library of History 20.54.4) said that when the captured citizens of Utica, suspended on a siege-machine, were pierced when the defenders of the city “nailed [them] down against the machine with sharp-pointed items (τοῖς ὀξυβελέσι πρὸς τῇ μηχανῇ προσκαθήλωσαν), the violence and vengeance was almost tantamount to a σταυρός (ὥστε σταυρῷ παραπλησίανεἶναι τὴν ὕβριν ἅμα καὶ τὴν τιμωρίαν), that is, an executionary suspension on a Roman execution pole, fastened with nails. This is also the verbiage Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 50 CE), (In Flaccum 72) uses when he said that certain Jews mourning their murdered comrades during a pogrom were seized forthwith and put through an immense amount of torture, where the final and seated (reserved or physically seated, probably both) penalty was the σταυρός (ἡ τελευταία καὶ ἔφεδρος τιμωρία σταυρὸς ἦν.), i.e., the suspension on the same kind of Roman pole.
6. Origen, Contra Celsum 6.10: πίστευσον ον εισηγουμαί σοί τουτου ειναι υιόν θεου, κάν η δεδομένος ατιμότατα ή κεκολασμένος αίσχιστα,… (you must have believed that he who I introduce to you to be this son of a god, although he may be delivered up most ignominiously, as [one] finally punished most shameful[ly].)
7. Origen, Contra Celsum 6.34: ...πανταχου δέ έκει τό της ζωης ξύλον καί ανάστασιν σαρκός από ξύλου, διότι οιμι ό διδάσκαλος αυτων σταυρω ένηλώθη καί ην τέκτων τήν τεχνην. (…and everywhere in that place that tree of life and a raising up of the body by the tree, for that reason I suppose that teacher of them was nailed to a pole and [his] skill was of that a carpenter.)
8. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.31: ἐπεί “λόγον ἐπαγγελλόμενοι υἱόν εἷναι τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀποδείκνυμεν οὐ λόγον καθαρόν καί ἅγιον, ἀλλά ἄνθρωπον ἀτιμότατον* ἀπαχθέντα καί ἀποτυμπανισθέντα. (He says: “Declaring the Logos to be the son or the God, we do not make known a pure and holy Logos, but a most dishonoured man, who was punished by scourging and suspension from a board.)
 * Quator Codd. MSS. Regius, Basileensis, et duo Anglicani: ἀτιμότατα.
9. Seneca the Elder Controversiae 4. Praef. 10: impudicitia in ingenuo crimen est, in servo necessitas, in liberto officium. (Passive male homosexual promiscuity [a male letting himself be topped by another male] is a crime in the freeborn man, an inevitability in the slave, and a duty in the freedman.)
10. Origen, Contra Celsum 8.41: Τόν δέ σόν θεόν παρόντα κατατείνοντες καί κολάζοντες ουδέν οι ταυτα δράσαντες πεπόνθασιν, αλλ' ουδε μετά ταυτα εν τοσούτο βίω. (But that one your god while present being racked and punished, not one of them who did this work suffered, and in no wise among these [the rest], [or] otherwise in the meantime during his life.) 

11. Origen, Contra Celsum 3.32: Επει γάρ εξουσίαν ειχε θειναι αυτήν έθηκε μέν, ηνίκα ειπε "πατερ, ινατί με εγκατέλιτες; και κραξας φωνη μεγάλη, άφηκε τό πνευμα" προλαβών τούς επί των ανεσκολοπίσμένων δημίους, υποτέμνοντας τά σκέλη των σταυρουμένον, καί διά ύποτέμνοντας, ίνα μή επιπλέον τιμωρίαν τισωσιν. (For when he had the authority to bring it to pass, indeed he laid down his life, at the time he spoke "'Father, why have you left me in the lurch?' And having cried out in a mighty voice, he gave up the breath," having anticipated the executioners of the impaled, who break the upper legs of the pile-driven, and who do so lest they serve all the sentence they would have paid.)

12. Origen, Contra Celsum 3:36: Ειτά φησιν ο Κέλσος. "τί καί ανασκολοπιζομένον του σώματς ποιος ιχώρ, -- οιός πέρ τε ρεει μακάεσσι Θεοισιν." (Then declares that Celsus, "And what is the nature of the ichor in the body of the impaled one? -- And at least as of the sort that flows in the Blessed Gods.")

New Advent, Church Fathers, Origen, Contra Celsus.
Origenis, Contra Celsum, libri I, II, III, IV, William Selwyn, S.T.P., ed., Cambridge, Dighton, Bell & Co. (1874)  (Preview available at Google books)

Perseus Greek and Latin Word Study Tools.
The Latin Lexicon: Latin Word Study Tool.
Notre dame Whittaker's Words.

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