Friday, January 25, 2013

Crucifixion the Bodily Support - The Acuta Crux in Patristic Writings (13)

Miles Teves' Ancient Crucifixion.
Larger size viewable at his website.
This gallows is portrayed as having some kind of sedile.
It can be plainly seen  en silhouette in the larger size.

(Part 7m of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4
Part 5a    Part 5b    Part 5c    Part 5d
Part 5e    Part 5f     Part 5g    Part 6a
Part 6b    Part 6c    Part 6d    Part 6e
Part 7a    Part 7b    Part 7c    Part 7d
Part 7e    Part 7f     Part 7g    Part 7h
Part 7i     Part 7j     
Part 7k      Part 7l

Melito of Sardis.

Not much of Melito of Sardis is known these days. You won't find his writings at New Advent, for example. And it's very impossible to find them in the extant Greek text, or at least in Latin. He flourished around 170 CE and died (allegedly was martyred) about 177 CE. Of course, his On the Passover holds the Jews or at least their leadership responsible for the nailing up of Jesus--- but still Melito does not regard the Jews as "other" 1.

But I did find some different translations...

First the P. B. Bratten translation of the Remains of the Second and Third Centuries: Melito the Philosopher (, although the below is in an untitled fragment, called Part V by the translator. (Also at Early Christian Writings) (corresponding line numbers mine)
(95) Thou slewest thy Lord, and He was lifted up upon the tree; and an inscription was fixed above, to show who He was that was slain. And who was this? (that which we shall not say is too shocking to hear, and that which we shall say is very dreadful: nevertheless hearken, and tremble.) It was He because of whom the earth quaked.
(96) He that hung up the earth in space was Himself hanged up; He that fixed the heavens was fixed with nails; He that bore up the earth was borne up on a tree; the Lord of all was subjected to ignominy in a naked body—God put to death! The King of Israel slain with Israel’s right hand! 
(97) Alas for the new wickedness of the new murder! The Lord was exposed with naked body: He was not deemed worthy even of covering; and, in order that He might not be seen, the luminaries turned away, and the day became darkened because they slew God, who hung naked on the tree.
A different translation of the above at The Tertullian Project: 2 (numbering mine)
(95) Thou slewest thy Lord, and he was lifted upon the tree; and a tablet was fixed up to denote who he was that was put to death. And who was this?----what we would not speak harsh, and what we would speak very terrible, nevertheless still listen while ye tremble:---- He, on whose account the earth quaked:
(96) He that suspended the earth, was hanged up; he that fixed the heavens was fixed with nails; he that supported the earth was supported upon a tree: the Lord was exposed to ignominy with a naked body; God put to death; the king of Israel slain by an Israelitish right hand.
(97) Ah! the fresh wickedness of the fresh murder! The Lord was exposed with a naked body: he was not deemed worthy even of covering; but in order that he may not be seen, the lights were turned away, and the day became dark, because they were slaying God, who was naked upon the tree.
A translation by O. Perler / Gerard Stephen Sloyan: 3
96 He that suspended the earth was himself suspended.
     He that fixed the heavens was fixed [with nails].
     He that supported the Earth was supported on a tree.
     The Master was exposed to shame,
     God put to death!
An unaccredited translation at Errant Skeptics4 (line numbering mine)
96 He who hung the Earth [in its place] hangs there,
     He who fixed the heavens is fixed there,
     He who made all things fast is made fast upon the tree,
     The master has been insulted,
     God has been murdered,
     The King of Israel was slain by an Israelitish hand,
97 O Strange murder, strange crime!
     The Master has been in an unseemly fashion,
     His body naked, and not even deemed worthy of a covering,
     That his nakedness might not be seen.
     Therefore the lights [of heaven] turned away, and the day darkened,
     That it might hide him who was stripped upon the cross.
Translation from 5

94. Pay attention, all families of the nations, and observe! An extraordinary murder has taken place in the center of Jerusalem, in the city devoted to God's law, in the city of the Hebrews, in the city of the prophets, in the city thought of as just. And who has been murdered? And who is the murderer? I am ashamed to give the answer, but give it I must. For if this murder had taken place at night, or if he had been slain in a desert place, it would be well to keep silent; but it was in the middle of the main street, even in the center of the city, 6 while all were looking on, that the unjust murder of this just person took place. 
95. And thus he was lifted up upon the tree, and an inscription was affixed identifying the one who had been murdered. Who was he? It is painful to tell, but it is more dreadful not to tell. Therefore, hear and tremble because of him for whom the earth trembled.
96. The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.
97. O frightful murder! O unheard of injustice! The Lord is disfigured and he is not deemed worthy of a cloak for his naked body, so that he might not be seen exposed. For this reason the stars turned and fled, and the day grew quite dark, in order to hide the naked person hanging on the tree, darkening not the body of the Lord, but the eyes of men.

1.) What is peculiar to Melito's homily is that he placed the slaying of Jesus before his lifting up upon the tree. Usually in the typical Roman execution on a pole, crossarmed or not, the person is attached and suspended, and left to die: which is the sequence in the Gospels. Furthermore, in Part IV of his Remains (On Faith), found here, here and here, Melito says that after he was condemned by Pilate, Jesus was "pierced" or "transfixed in the flesh" and then "hanged on the tree."  

2.) Our canonical Gospels has Jesus routed outside the City and then nailed up at Golgotha (which is traditionally ascribed to the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, alternatively at Gordon's Calvary, but is actually, apparently, Capitoline Hill in Rome, and its Hadrian-designated avatar in Aelia Capotilina: Jerusalem's Temple Mount!). Melito has Him put to death and suspended in the middle of the high street, in the middle of town 6 -- possibly a central square used as the city's market place OR the Temple Mount. 

3.) After his suspension an inscription is placed on the tree, identifying the one who had (already) been put to death.

4.) He was hanged up, was suspended, or hanged; all of which are consistent with an act of suspension. Compare with the description of the act of suspension prior to installing the inscription, which is described as "lifted up upon the tree" or "lifted upon the tree."

5.) How Jesus was attached to the tree is translated alternatively as fixed [with nails], fixed, and impaled. If Greek, the original word probably was derived from πήγνῦμι (pêgnumi), "fix, plant, impale" or προσπήγνυμι (prospêgnumi), "fix to or on, attach with nails, [impale]." Compare with Part III of his Remains (From his Discourse On the Crosshere, here and here, where Melito says Jesus was "nailed upon the tree."

6.) How he was kept up in the air is described as borne up on, supported upon or on, made fast upon, or firmly fixed to, a tree. What kind of tree? If Greek, it would be a ξυλον (xulon), "a piece of cut wood, tree trunk, post, perch, stick, club, plank, beam, gallows, impaling stake, tree." With a typical Roman execution pole, all are valid and said pole is the best fit for the "tree." In the context of this passage, the "tree" at any rate has to be three-dimensional, with something between Jesus' legs, since he is described as being lifted up upon the tree and suspended there after he was already killed, and Melito does not mention the use of ropes at all, which would be needed if no seat was provided  (dead men can't stand on footrests).

7.) Melito describes Jesus as being subjected or exposed to ignominy, exposed to shame, and insulted,. Furthermore he describes Jesus as being suspended completely naked: not deemed worthy of any covering (although one translator uses "cloak").


Although Melito of Sardis does not reveal whether he understands the Roman execution pole as having a penetrating sedile (acuta crux), he does seem to understand that the device was a three-dimensional wooden gallows that men were hanged naked thereon, were supported by something that at a minimum projected out between their legs, and insulted and exposed to shame and ignominy thereby.  


1. Todd Russell Hanneken, "A Completely Different Reading of Melito's Peri Pascha."
2. Spicilegium Syriacum (1855) : "Ps.-Melito -- Fragments"
3. O. Perler, trans., Sur La Pâque, quoted in: Gerard Stephen Sloyan, Crucifixion of Jesus: History, Myth, Faith. Minneapolis, Augsberg Fortress Press (1995), pp. 123-124.
4. Cf. O. Perler, "Méliton de Sardes, Sur la Pâque", Source Chrétiennes 123 (1996), 194f.
5. Kreux:Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 4/1 (May 1989) 5-35
6. Somewhere I found the Greek of these two short phrases: ἔπῖ μέσης Πλατείᾳ καί ἁ μέσω πόλεως (epi mésês Plateia kai a msô poleôs), "upon the middle of Broad Street, and in the middle of town"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crucifixion the Bodily Support - The Acuta Crux in Patristic Writings (12)

Panel of a mural icon of The Crucifiction.
At least Jesus has a foot-rest.
How are the robbers being supported????

(Part 7l of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4
Part 5a    Part 5b    Part 5c    Part 5d
Part 5e    Part 5f     Part 5g    Part 6a
Part 6b    Part 6c    Part 6d    Part 6e
Part 7a    Part 7b    Part 7c    Part 7d
Part 7e    Part 7f     Part 7g    Part 7h
Part 7i     Part 7j     
Part 7k


Arnobius  (fl. 284-305 ce, d. 330 CE) doesn't say much, as far as I know, except he acknowledges that the death of a Roman execution pole, or crux, was very shameful.
"But," says my opponent, "the dieties are not inimical to you, because you worship the omnipotent God, but because you both allege that one born a men are, and put to death on the cross (crucis supplicio interemptum), which is a disgraceful punishment even for worthless men (quod personis infame est vilibus), was God, and because you believe that he still lives, and because you worship him in daily supplications."
Arnobius, Against the Heathen 1.36.1 1
Here "put to death on the cross" is not an exact translation of crucis supplicio interemptum, which translates better as: "[he was] done away with by the punishment of the crux," which last could mean any wooden of executionary suspension, even an impaling stake. And "which is a disgraceful punishment even for worthless men," the Latin quod personis infame est vilibus translates better as "which is disgraceful, disreputable, notorious, infamous for mean, worthless men," There is even reference to a phrase called the digitus infamis: the middle finger, i.e., flipping the bird (ex.: Persius Satires 2:33).
"But he died nailed to a cross (sed patibulo adfixus interiit)!" What is that to the argument? For neither does the kind and disgrace of the death change the words or deeds, nor will the weight of His teaching appear less; because He freed Himself from the shackles of the body, not by a natural separation, but departed by reason of the violence offered to him.
Against the Heathen 1.40.1 2
According to Arnobius' detractor, Jesus wasn't exactly nailed to a cross (tropaeum), but rather, fastened to a patibulum, i.e., a crossarm of a Roman execution pole. Of course, nailing was the usual method of fastening. No mention is made of an acuta crux (sedile / cornu); but then again, no mention is made of ropes, either, which in my opinion would be necessary to keep the person suspended if no acuta crux was provided. And Arnobius here acknowledges the intrinsic character, hideousness and vileness of the death: qualitas et deformitas mortis. At the end of his response to his detractor's retort, he comes close or even alights on the essential character of the Roman pole: "but departed by reason of the violence offered to him," sed vi inlata decessit, "but passed on from the violence [or (more rarely) virile force] inflicted on him." Well we all know what virile means: male, masculine. And male force inflicted on someone may connote forced penetration.
No innocent person foully slain is ever disgraced thereby, nor is he stained by the mark of any baseness (nec turpitudinis alicuius conmaculatur nota), who suffers severe punishment (poenas graves), not from his own desserts, but by reason of the savage nature of his persecutor (cruciatoris perpetitur saevitatem).
Against the Heathen 1.40.5 3
"Nor is he stained by the mark of any baseness" is a quite accurate translation of nec turpitudinis alicuius conmaculatur nota, "nor is he defiled by any mark of indecency [or shame, infamy, turpitude, etc.]" Similarly with "severe punishment", poenas graves. On the other hand, "but by reason of the savage nature of his persecutor," cruciatoris perpetitur saevitatem is better translated as: "but he endured the fierceness, [or harshness, cruelty, savagery] of his cruciator [torturer]," which may have been the Roman execution pole itself: which could have been called in the language of the Roman street as a carnifex κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν, with the double entendre of: an executioner par excellence, and an executioner on the 'prominence'. 4
And yet, you who laugh because we worship one who died an ignominious death, do not you too, by consecrating shrines to him, honour Father liber, who was torn limb from limb by the Titans?
Against the Heathen 1.41.1 5
"Died an ignominious death" again is accurate: morte functum ignominiosa ridetis, which literally translates as "[was] engaged [or kept busy] with an ignominious [or disgraceful, shameful, infamous] death." This sort of disgrace, of course, is the death of the crux (pole) and the patibulum (crossarm), and its infamy is made more plain if the pole at this time is understood as being equipped with a spike that, when the suspended person slumps into the downward position, it pierces the anus.

Indeed, Pseudo Manetho in Apotelesmatica indicates this understanding was present in the later Empire of the Third Century C.E. (translation mine with help of Perseus Greek Word Study Tool and the LSJ Greek-English Lexicon):
στρεβλά κολαζόμενι σκολοπηίδα μοιραν όρωσιν
πικροτάτοις κέντροισι προσαρτηθέντες εν ήλοις,
οιωνωνκακά δειπνα, κυνων δ' ελκύσματα δεινά 
Punished with limbs twisted out, they see the fate of the impaled as their lot,
To the sharpest spurs* they are fastened with nails,
evil meals of birds, and dreadful draggings-away of dogs. 
Apotelesmatica 4.198-200 6
* "In most bitter torment" is also valid.
 The above translation (mine) seems to be the most sensible and straight-forward translation of the original Greek without encountering difficulties, which are unavoidable when the translator is thinking of a mere two-beam cross. Note also, "spurs" could also be translated as "virile members." 6 So we have arrived once again at the recognition that the Roman execution pole is a Priapus stake.

Compare with an anonymous epigram from the Anthologia Latina:
Noxius infami districtus stipite membra
Sperat et a fixa posse redire cruce.
The noxious [criminal], limbs outstretched by the infamous stake
And hopes to be able to return from the planted crux.
Anthologia Latina 415.23f. 7
But what is the writer referring to here with the planted crux (fixa cruce)? Is he referring to the greater gallows, whose pole is planted in the ground, or to the acuta crux, which is firmly 'planted' into the tormented sufferer? Hahahahaha, it is just as unclear in the Latin as it is in the English, the reference and meaning is in the mind's eye of the beholder. Translators who render cruce as "cross" impart an assumed clarity of meaning to this turn of phrase. 7 In reality it could mean the one or the other, which probably means it means both.


1. Adversus Nationes 1.36.1:
'Sed non', inquit, 'idcirco dii vobis infesti sunt, quod omnipotentem colatis deum, sed quod hominem natum et, quod personis infame est vilibus, crucis supplicio interemptum et deum fuisse contenditis et superesse adhuc creditis et cotidianis supplicationibus adoratis.'
2. Adversus Nationes 1.40.1:
'Sed patibulo adfixus interiit'. Quid istud ad causam? Neque enim qualitas et deformitas mortis dicta eius immutat aut facta, aut eo minor vedebitur disciplinarum eius auctoritas, quia vinculis corporis non naturali dissolutione digressus est sed vi inlata decessit.
3. Adversus Nationes 1.40.5:
Nemo umquam innocens male interemptus infamis est, nec turpitudinis alicuius conmaculatur nota, qui non suo merito poenas graves sed cruciatoris perpetitur saevitatem.
4. Hermann Fulda, Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung, Breslau, Verlag von Wilhelm Koebner (1878), p. 112.

5.  Adversus Nationes 1.40.5:
Et tamen, o isti, qui hominem nos eloere morte functum ignominiosa redetis, nonne Liberum et vos patrem membratem ab Titus dissipatum fanorum consecratione mactatis?
6. Martin Hengel, John Bowden, tr., Crucifixion, Philadelphia, Fortress Press (1977), p. 9. Hengel cites Koechly's translation of the passage thusly:
Punished with limbs outstretched, they see the stake as their fate;
they are fastened (and) nailed to it in the most bitter torment,
evil food for birds of prey and grim pickings for dogs.
Hengel cites that "Professor Carnick conjectures ἔνηλοι for the allegedly difficult εν ήλοις. The adjective ἔνηλος [Perseus GWST: clavius] is attested by the old glossaries with the meaning 'nailed', see Liddell and Scott, 9th ed., 1940, s.v. Cf. 1.148f...: άλλον δ' ακλειως μετέωρον ανεσταυρώσας, ου τέτατ' ανδροφόνοις περί δούρασιν ήλοπαγής χείρ." Which translates as: "But having crucified [impaled] another ingloriously up in the air, where the hand fixed with nails was fully stretched snugly around man-killing poles." This sheds light upon the Greek στρεβλά in 4.198, which the Perseus GWST returns as "twisted, crooked," and Koechly translated as "outstretched:" the arm is actually both torqued and outstretched. But the phrase εν ήλοις is still difficult until one notes one of the lines in the Perseus-LSJ entry for εν shows that when the proposition is used with a dative, it can indicate the "instrument, means, or manner" of how an action is done. And ήλοις is the plural dative of ἧλος. So εν ήλοις "in nails" can mean "with nails". 

Next we attack "the stake" for which the Greek has σκολοπηίδα: apparently the singular feminine accusative (direct object) of σκολοπηϊς, "the fate of the impaled." Perseus has difficulties figuring this out, I needed to discover the declension in a similarly-declined noun: σανίδα / σανίς.

And finally "in most bitter torment:" the Greek is πικροτάτοις κέντροισι: both are in the plural neuter dative, πικροτάτοις (πικρός) being an adjective in the superlative "as pointed as can be, most sharp, most keen, most bitter" and κέντροισι (κέντρον) being a noun, "any sharp point, goad, spur, instrument of torture, (metaphorically) torture." Cf. Claudia Moser, Naked Power: The Phallus as an Apotropaic Symbol in the Images and Texts of Roman Italy, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Scholarly Commons (2006), p. 24,, "The phallus could be depicted as a weapon, something that pierces, κέντρον (sharp point, spur, goad), κῆλον (arrow, shaft),  ξίφος (sword), μάχαιρα (large knife, short sword, dagger, gladius), δόρυ (stem, tree, spear-shaft)." So we have a good indication in κέντρον of the virile member of the Roman crux. Connected with this is the participle ελκύσματα, "draggings-away," the LSJ has also "rendings, drawings, tearings of bodies." So it is unclear if the virile member of the crux punctured through the abdomen or not. Merely tearing and savaging the crucified man's innards while he rides the point is barbaric enough!

7. Hengel, p. 7. Hengel and Bowden have the lines translated as follows: "The criminal, outstretched on the infamous stake, hopes for escape from his place on the cross."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Crucifixion the Bodily Support - The Acuta Crux in Patristic Writings (11)

(Part 7k of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)

This is the original conception of a Unicorn.
It looks somewhat like the Indian Rhinoceros.

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4
Part 5a    Part 5b    Part 5c    Part 5d
Part 5e    Part 5f     Part 5g    Part 6a
Part 6b    Part 6c    Part 6d    Part 6e
Part 7a    Part 7b    Part 7c    Part 7d
Part 7e    Part 7f     Part 7g    Part 7h
Part 7i     Part 7j

Tertullian (2 of 2).


I have shown in the previous that Tertullian understood the Roman crux to be a structure that had a sedile in the middle wherewith the crucified person was crucified by penetration -- because he stated it was like a rhinocerous horn, which rises up: unicornis autem medius stipitis palus "On the other hand the central palus of the stake is of a 'unicorn'." (Adversus Marcionem / Against Marcion 3.18.4),  unicornis autem medio stipite palus (On the other hand the palus from the middle of the stake is single-horned." (Apud Iudaeos / An answer to the Jews 10.7); and that it was a projection that was excessive, even transgressive, for what he assumed was its intent: sed nobis tota crux imputantur, cum antenna scilicet sua et cum illo sedilis excessu "But to us a complete crux is imputed, certainly with its own yard-arm, but together with the well-known projection / transgression of a seat." (Ad Nationes / To the Nations 1.12.4).

He had some other things to say about this indecent instrument of torture and suspension as well: he ties into the Deuteronomic curse of one suspended on wood, calls it a harsh, fierce death, and he says this kind death is shameful.

Deuteronomic Curse.
1 Concerning the last step, plainly, of his passion you raise a doubt; affirming that the passion of the cross was not predicted with reference to Christ, and urging, besides, that it is not credible that God should have exposed his Son to that kind of a death; because He Himself said, "Cursed is everyone who shall have been hanged upon a tree (pependerit in ligno)." But the reason of the case antecedently explains the sense of this malediction; 2 for he says in Deuteronomy: "Moreover, if a man shall have been involved in some sin incurring a judgement of death, and shall die, and you shall suspend him on a tree (suspendetis in ligno), his body shall not remain upon the tree (non manebit corpus eius in ligno); and you shall not defile the land beyond the day, because cursed of God is everyone who would have been suspended on a tree (suspensus fuerit in ligno), and you will not pollute the land which the LORD thy God shall give you for an inheritance." 3 Therefore in this the passion of Christ is not spoken ill of, but he made a distinction so that, who in any quarter of judgement of death being brought to a bodily condition would perish suspended on a tree (suspensus in ligno), here he would have been cursed of God, who on account of the merit of having committed his own offence would have been suspended on a tree (suspenderitur in ligno).
An Answer to the Jews 10:1-3 1
Note how Tertullian handles the objection that the Messiah could not have been hanged, crucified or impaled because of the Deuteronomic curse: he says in reply that the curse applies only to those who have committed an offence worthy of death; meaning, of course, that Tertullian understands that Christ, that is, Jesus, knew no sin, which is a common doctrine for all Christianity. But note the two phrases Tertullian used here are pendere in ligno, which could mean not only the typical "to hang on wood," but also "to be weighed out on wood" and also "to hang by means of wood;" and suspendere in ligno, which means "to be suspended on or by means of wood." And by wood, ligno could also mean not just a tree, but also a gathered wood, something made out of wood, a staff or a club. An acuta crux made out of wood would certainly apply.

Tertullian manages to connect this to the 22nd Psalm, well… because when the Romans suspended people on a wooden pole or frame, other than by simple impalement, they frequently used nails to fasten them to it!
“They stabbed," he said, “my hands and feet,” which is the characteristic atrocity of the crux.
Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 10:13 12
The hands and feet are not destroyed except of Him who is suspended on wood.
Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 13:11 13
Tertullian states here that only a person who is suspended on or by wood (in ligno suspenditur) had his hands (or wrists) and feet nailed. And he remarks that it is the peculiar atrocity of the Roman crux-punishment. Of course, the use of nails hammered through the extremities where important nerves are apt to be pierced is a particularly harsh act of violence against another person.

A Harsh, Fierce Death. 

1 The dead bodies of their parents they cut up with their sheep, and devour at their feasts. They who have not died so as to become food for others, are thought to have died an accursed death.
3 Nothing there has the glow of life, but that ferocity which has given to scenic plays of the sacrifices of the Taurians, and the loves of the Colchians, and the torments of the Cucasus (crucibus Caucasorum).
Against Marcion 1.1,3 2
The sacrifices of the Taurians may be related to Herodotus' Histories 4.103 where the Taurians behead captives and take the heads home with them and suspend them above their roof-vents on tall stakes. The "torments of the Caucasus" (crucibus Caucasorum), which could translate also as "stakes, impalements, suspensions." Crucifixion in the modern strict sense IMHO is probably excluded, being based on a Christian interpretation of the Roman penalty. Basically he is describing what is now the shores of the Black Sea and the Caucasus region as a forbidding, harsh, barbaric place, and setting the reader up for the punch-line: "Nothing, however, in Pontus is so barbarous and sad as the fact that Marcion was born there." 3
Suppose, now, (your martyr) beneath the glaive, with head already steadily poised, suppose him on the cross [crossarmed Roman execution pole], with body already outstretched (in patibulo iam corpore expanso), supposed him on the stake, with the lion already let loose, suppose him at the axle, with the firealready heaped? In the very certainty, I say, and possession of martyrdom: who permits (man) to condone (offenses) which are to be reserved for God, by whom these (offenses) have been condemned without discharge, which not even apostles (as far as I know) -- martyrs withal themselves -- have judged condonable?
On Modesty 22.3 4
Here Tertullian considers suspension on a cross-armed pole to be a harsh execution, similar beheading, throwing to the lions, and burning at the stake. And with the phrase in patibulo, which is in + ablative (instrument of agent), it is clear the person is stretched out by the very same crossarm, or frame.
Hoe many have fallen by the robber's sword! How many have fallen at the hands of the enemies the death of the crux, after having been tortured first (torti pruis), yes, and treated with every sort of contumely (contumelia)!
To the Martyrs 6.1 5
Now here, crux, of course, would mean a Roman execution pole or an impaling stake; torti prius would mean no only "tortured first", but also "wound, twisted, racked first," possibly a reference to one kind of eqquleus, where the person is placed on top of a frame similar to a sawhorse and torqued or racked by ropes pulled through pulleys with his arms behind his back. Contumelia means "outrage, insult, abuse, reproach, contumely, violation, injury, assault, etc." So here we see not only the harshness and fierceness of the death from a crux, but also we start to see its shamefulness.

A Shameful Death.
There are, to be sure, other things as foolish (as the birth of Christ), which have a reference to the humiliations and suffwerings of God. Or else, let them call a crucified God "wisdom." But marcion will apply the knife to this doctrine also, and even with greater reason. For which is more unworthy of God, which is more likely to raise a blush of shame, that God should be born, or that he should die? That he should bear the flesh, or the cross (carnem gestare an crucem)? be circumcised, or crucified (circimcidi an suffigi)? be cradled, or be coffined? be laid in a manger, or a tomb? Talk of "wisdom!"
On the Flesh of Christ 5.1 6
The phrase, carnem gestare an crucem, translated as "that he should bear the flesh, or the cross" could be better translated as "that he should wear the flesh, or the [crossarm of the] crux," since a salient Christian teaching about God the Son is that He quite literally 'put on' flesh, and also everyone who was condemned to be crucified under Rome wears his own pole on his own back. 7 And in the next phrase, circumcidi an suffigi, "circumcised or crucified" the last participle, suffigi, means not only nailed up to the crossarm of the Roman execution pole, but also, when (usually) present, impaled on its virile member. And in there two phrases, Tertullian was asking, which of each coupling was more shameful?
Spare the world's one and only hope, you who are destroying the indispensible dishonour (necessarium dedecus) of our faith.
On the Flesh of Christ 5.3 8
Now here Tertullian cements in place his understanding that the death of the crux was a shameful one, for the Latin dedecus means, "vicious act, shameful deed, disgrace, shame, infamy, turpitude, that which causes shame or moral dishonour." Its Latin synonyms are: offensio, contumelia, infamia, ignominio, turpitudo, obscenitas, injuria. The sense of this word emphasizes the shamefulness of the perpetrated deed.

Shameful in What Way?
For of this 'tree' likewise it is that God hints, through Jeremiah, that you would say, "Come, let us put wood into his bread (immittamus in pane eius lignum), and rub him out from the land of the living, and his name will be remembered no more." Of course on his body that 'wood' was put (in corpus eius lignum missum est)..."
An Answer to the Jews 10.12 9
The phrase, immittamus in pane eius lignum, means literally, "let us send wood into his bread," imparting a sense of introduction, entry, and admittance into, as well as a sending or dispatching against, or letting loose at," meaning the inserting slivers of wood into a loaf of bread, a misunderstanding of Jeremiah 11:19. And Tertullian's rejoinder that the prophecy was fulfilled, in corpus eius lignum missum est, "on his body that 'wood' was put" could also mean, "into his person that wood was caused to go." In corpus is a pregnant construction (in + accusative (direct object)), connoting a movement of an object toward, final contact with or entry into someone or something, and keeping it there. That something was Jesus' physical person. And missum est means, "was caused to go, let go, sent, dispatched, let loose, released, etc." Despite the misunderstanding of Jeremiah 11:19, the prophecy - fulfillment coupling is clearer if the execution pole Jesus was suspended on had a simulacrum of a virile member attached to it, which Tertullian has acknowledged elsewhere as I have shown before.

Something apparently unrelated throws some light on the matter:
He hatches a new couple, Christ and the Holy Spirit. I consider [the coupling] of two males most shameful (turpissimam).
Against the Valentinians 11.1 10
Well we certainly now know Tertullian was homophobic! For turpissimam means, superlatively, "ugly, unsightly, unseemly, foul, filthy, ;shameful, disgraceful, base, infamous, scandalous, dishonorable." The word connotes a sense of shame, disgrace, a moral and.physical pollution of which there is no greater.

Something else that is apparently unrelated may also throw some light on it:
For that must be living after the world, which, as the old man, he declares to be, "to be crucified
 with Christ (confixum esse Christo)" (Romans 6.6) not as a bodily structure, but as moral behaviour. Besides, if we do not understand it in this sense (non est corporalitas nostra confixa), nor has our flesh endured the cross of Christ, but the sense that he is subjoined (adiecit) "that the body of sin might be made void...."
On the Resurrection of the Flesh 47.1 11
The words confixa and confixum are from configo, "join (by pressing), fasten together (rare), nail together, pierce through, transfix, rendered powerless, inactive." Now in the literal sense, configo could mean both "nail together (with a frame)," joined (to it by pressing), and transpierced. Of course, Tertullian is not talking in the literal sense and neither is the Apostle. Neither would scarely expect the believer to think he is actually nailed to Christ himself or joined to Him by pressing! But confixa and confixum, as literally applied to actual crucifixions, would mean either nailed up, impaled, or both.

And for "subjoined", the Latin adiecit "thrown to, cast to, fling at, put, put to, set near, thrown up before, added by way of increase, etc.," probably means more accurately, "added to."


So we see that Tertullian understood the Deuteronomic Curse as applying those who are suspended on wood by wood for their own offenses. He also knows that people who are nailed through and feet are attached to the wood with nails, which is a peculiar practice of Roman crucifixion. He understands the death of the Roman execution pole to be a harsh, fierce death, much like being thrown to the lions or burnt at the stake (which means the body is destroyed), it is accompanied by tortures and outrages to the body, and that the death itself is shameful, probably most shameful where penetration by the sedile / acuta crux is involved, as was usually the case under Rome. 


1. Adversus Iudaeos 10:1-3: 
1 De exitu plane passionis eius ambigitus negantes passionem crucis in Christum praedictum et argumentantes insuper non esse credendum, ut ad id genus mortis exposeruit deus filium suum, quod ipse dixit, 'maledictus omnis pependerit in ligno.' Sed huius maledictionis sensum antecedit rerum ratio. 2 Dicit enim in Deuteronomio: 'Si Autem fuerit in aliquo delictum ad iudicium mortis et morietur et suspendetis in ligno, non manebit corpus eius in ligno, sed sepultura sepelietis eum ipsa die, quoniam maledictus a deo est omnis qui suspensus fuerit in ligno, et non inquinabitis terram quam Dominus Deus tuus dabit tibi in sortem.' 3 Igitur non in hanc passionem Christum maledixit, sed distinctionem fecit, ut, qui in aliquo iudicium mortis habuissetet moreretur suspensus in ligno, hic maledictus a deo esset, qui propter merita delictorum suorum suspenderetur in ligno.
2. Adversus Marcionem 1.1,3:
1 Parentum cadvera cum pecudibus caesa convivio convorant. Qui non ita decesserint ut escatiles fuerint, maledicta mors est.... 3 Omnia torpent, omnia rigent, nihil illic feritas calet, illa scilicet quae fabulas scenis dedit de sacrificiis Taurorum et amoribus Colchorum et crucibus Caucasorum.
3. Against Marcion 1.1.4

4. De Pudicita 22.3:
Puta nunc sub gladio iam capite librato, puta in patibulo iam corpore expanso, puta in stipite iam leone concesso, puta in axe iam incendio adstructo, in ipsa, dico, securitate et possessione martyrii, quis permittit homini donare quae Deo reservanda sunt, a quo ea sine excusatione damnata sunt, quae nec apostoli, quod sciam, martyres et ipsa donabilia iudicauerunt?
5. Ad Martyres 6.1:
Quot a latronibus ferro, ab hostibus etiam cruce extincti sunt, torti prius, immo et omni contumelia expuncti!
6. De Carne Christi 5.1:
Sunt plane et alia tam stulta, quae pertinent ad contumelias et passiones dei: aut prudentiam dicant deum crucifixum. aufer hoc quoque, Marcion, immo hoc potius. quid enim indignius deo, quid magis erubescendum, nasci an mori, carnem gestare an crucem, circumcidi an suffigi, educari an sepeliri, in praesepe deponi an in monimento recondi? sapientior eris si nec ista credideris.
7. Artemidorus, Oneirocriticon 2.56; Plutarch, Moralia (De Sera Numinis Vindicta) 554 A, B (now section 9 in the text at Perseus Digital Library); Chariton, Chaereas and Callirhoe, 4.2.6-7.

8. De Carne Christi 5.3: Parce unicae spei totius orbis: quid destruis necessarium dedecus fidei?

9. Adversus Iudaeos 10:12:
De hoc enim ligno etiam deus per Heremiam insinuat quod essetis dicturi, 'Venite, immittamus in pane eius lignum et conteramus eum a terra vivorum et nomen illius non memorabitur amplius.' Utique in corpus eius lignum missum est.
10. Adversus Valentianos 11.1:
novam excludit copulationem Christum et Spiritum Sanctum turpissimam putem duorum masculorum
11. De Resurrectione Carnis 47.1:
Haec enim erit mundialis quam veterem hominem dicit confixum esse Christo, non corporalitatem sed moralitatem. Ceterum si non accipimus, nonest corporalitas nostra confixa, nec crucem Christi caro nostra perpessa est, sed quemadmodum adiecit, ut evacuetur corpus delinquentiae....
12. Adversus Iudaeos 10.13:
‘Foderunt’, inquit, ‘manus meas et pedes’ quae propria est atrocitas crucis.
13. Adversus Iudaeos 13.11:
Manus et pedes non exterminatur nisi eius qui in ligno suspenditur.
E.15. Resources.

New, Tertullian:

The Latin Library, Tertullian

Perseus Digital Library, Plutarch, Chariton.
Lacus Curtius, Plutarch.
Loeb Classical Library, Chariton, De Chaereas et Callirhoe. (Google Books)
Perseus Latin Word Study Tool.
The Latin Lexicon Numen Latin Word Study Tool.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Crucifixion the Bodily Support - The Acuta Crux in Patristic Writings (10)

(Part 7j of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4
Part 5a    Part 5b    Part 5c    Part 5d
Part 5e    Part 5f     Part 5g    Part 6a
Part 6b    Part 6c    Part 6d    Part 6e
Part 7a    Part 7b    Part 7c    Part 7d
Part 7e    Part 7f     Part 7g    Part 7h
Part 7i

Tertullian (1 of 2).

The Horns of the Crux.

In two places Tertullian affirms the 'horniness' of the Roman crux as a fulfillment of a prophecy in Deuteronomy 33:17 and in a third as the fulfillment of a prophecy in Psalm 22:22 (or 22:21): he compares the extremities of the Roman crux to the horns of a bull or minotaur and the horn of a rhinoceros or unicorn.

Non utique rhinoceros destinabatur unicornis nec minotaurus bicornis... "Of course no single-horned rhinoceros was there pointed to, nor any two-horned minotaur..." nam et in antenna navis quae crucis pars est hoc extremitates eius vocantur--, "For even in a ship's yard -- which is part of a crux -- this is the name by which the extremities are called;" unicornis autem medio stipite palus "on the other hand the palus from the middle of the stipes is of a unicorn."
Adversus Iudaeos (An Answer to the Jews) 10.2.7.
non utique rhinoceros destinabatur unicornis nec minotaurus bicornis,... "-he was not, of course, designated as a mere unicorn with its one horn, or a minotaur with two,..." Nam et in antenna, quae crucis pars est, extremitates cornua vocantur, "For of the antenna, which is part of a crux, the ends are called 'horns'," unicornis autem medius stipite palus "but on the other hand the central palus of the stipes is single-horned."
Adversus Marcionem (Against Marcion) 3.18.3,4
In An Answer to the Jews Tertullian mentions a palus from the middle of stipes (main pole) and in Against Marcion he calls attention to the central palus of the stipes. Now the modern English translations here and here would have one to believe that Tertullian is talking of the central pole of the whole frame, it is also entirely possible, in fact more so given what Justin Martyr and Irenaeus have said prior to Tertullian, that the palus he was referring to was a palus obscaeno, (Horace, Satyrarum Libri 1.8.5) that is, the acuta crux or sedilis excessu of the frame, which tortured and crucified the condemned person by penetration.

In An Answer to the Jews he affirms that the apices (apexes), that is, the high points and pointed ends of the Roman crux are the fulfillment of the “save me from the unicorn’s horns” line in the 22nd Psalm:
Et de cornibus unicornum humilitatem meam’ de apicibus scilicit crucis, ut supra ostendimus. (“and my humility from the horns of the unicorn” certainly of the apices of the crux as we have shown above.)
Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos (An Answer to the Jews) 10:13
The Latin apicibus is the plural masculine ablative of apex, meaning “extreme end, point, summit, top:” for example, a projecting point or summit, the tips of trees, the top of a helmet, a helmet, hat of crown, a tongue of flame, the point of a sickle, and the ornamental rod of the conical cap of the flamens, as shown here.

Turtullian wrote that when Jesus had the crown of thorns placed on his head, he was already stuck on the ‘horns’ of the crux: 
Christus suis temporibus lignum humeris suis portavit inhaerens cornibus crucis corona spinea capiti eius circumdata. (Christ in his own time carried wood on his shoulders, having stuck fast to the horns of the crux, with a thorny crown encircled on his head.)
Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos (An Answer to the Jews) 13.21
“Carried wood on his shoulders” of course, refers to the Roman custom of forcing the condemned criminal to carry of the cruciform assembly, pole, transverse beam or impaling stake upon which he was to be hanged. “Having stuck fast to the horns of the cross” (inhaerens cornibus crucis) is a reference to the side ‘horns’ and central ‘horn’ of the Roman crux: the end horns are the ends of the transverse beam, and the central horn, of course, is the palus from the middle of the stipes, which Tertullian compared to a horn of a unicorn (Monokeros plinii) or a rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis and the other species). And here Jesus was stuck to/with these horns: inhaerens (having stuck fast, clung, cleaved, adhered, inhered, fastened on; engaged deeply, closely connected, etc.); cornibus plural ablative of cornu, meaning the horns could be instrumental agents of him being stuck as well as locations.

The Shape of the Larger Frame.

How Tertullian understood the shape of the larger frame will determine whether Tertullian was referring to the central pole of the whole frame as the 'unicorn' or whether he was referring to the membrum virile of the the male version of the cross, as opposed to the neuter version, which Tertullian knew as the frame of a tropaeum.
Ipsa est enim littera Graecorum Tau, nostra autem T, species crucis. "For this same letter TAU of the Greeks, which is our T, has the appearance of the crux."
Adversus Marcion (Against Marcion) 3.22.6

Well the ancient Latin script, both monumental and cursive, as seen here, here and here, showed the 'T' as having a flat top. We can verify this in his Apology, wherein he casts assertions on the Roman religion after hearing the charge that the Christians worship the Roman execution pole!
pars crucis est omne robur, quod erecta statione defigitur. "But every oak post fixed in an upright station is a portion of the crux." Nos, si forte, integrum et totum deum colimus. "We, as luck would have it, worship a god whole and complete." Diximus originem deorum vestrorum a plastis de crucis induci. "We have shown before that your deities are derived from shapes modelled on the crux."
Apologeticum (The Apology) 16.7
"We, as luck would have it, worship a god whole and complete." HAHAHA. Compare this to Minucius Felix (Octavius 29), who denies everything. The Latin for the phrase "whole and complete" is integrum et totum: wherein integrum, where we get integer (whole number) from, means "untouched, entire, whole, complete, uninjured, sound, fresh, vigourous" and totum, where we get total from, means "whole, all, entire, total, complete, every part, all together, at once."
Victorias adoratis, cum in Tropaeis cruces intestina sint tropaeorum. "But you also worship Victories, Nikes, for in your trophies the cross (crux) is the internal frame of the trophy." Omnes illi imaginum suggestus in signis, monilia crucium sunt. "All those likenesses suggested in the standards, are ornaments of crosses." Laudo diligetiam, noluistis incultas cruces consecrare. "I laud your diligence, you do not wish to consecrate rough crosses ."
Apologeticum (The Apology) 16.7, 8
Well, what are those crosses that were the internal frames of the tropaeums that the Romans used to worship as Victories, Nikes? They are nothing less than the typical Latin Cross that is on display in each and every church! Sometimes they even have the simulacrum of a man attached to it. But the Latin Crosses in the churches never show the palus obscaeno of the Roman execution pole that makes it a crux, as opposed to a tropaeum. And thanks to mutation of the crux that occurred after Constantine got rid of the penalty in 337 CE. The crosses -- cruces -- the Christians now worship are no longer integrum et totum: whole (ininjured) and complete!

The internal frame of a tropaeum is a CROSS.
Both the main upright and transverse are clearly seen.
Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

The Projecting Seat.

Indeed, Tertullian evens mentions the sedilis excessu, and is the first of all writers, Christian and non-Christian, to do so using the term sedile.
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 crux, and indeed the greater." Sed nobis tota crux imputatur, cum antenna scilicet sua et cum illo sedilis excessu. "But unto us a whole crux is imputed, certainly with its own yard-arm, and together with that projection / transgression of a seat."
Ad Nationes (To the Nations) 1.12.3,4 (emphasis mine)

Now what Tertullian is trying to get across here is that yes, illo means "that" or "well-known" and sedilis is sedile in the genitive, meaning, "of a seat." That is his perceived function of the acuta crux: to "seat" the person, and allow him to rest. But the other noun, excessu, describes the nature of the thing: projecting, excessive, transgressive. Indeed, Justin Martyr said the same thing about this item: εξέχον (exechon): "standing out, projecting." The Lewis and Short Dictionary is in agreement on this: excessu is the ablative of excessus: "a standing out, projection (beyond a certain limit), deviation, aberration from anything;" itself derived from the verb excedo: "to go away, out, or beyond (a certain boundary or limit), overstep, rise above, overtop (a certain boundary), to transgress, surpass, exceed (a certain limit), to overtop, to tower above." Here we have a sense of a rhinocerous horn not just projecting outward, as in the normal meaning in Justin Martyr's εξέχον (exechon) of projecting out, but also in projecting upward as well. Which helps explain why the referenced Latin translations of Dialogue with Trypho 91 render εξέχον (exechon) as eminet, "reaches upward, projects out."

There appears to be a support underneath the person, secured to the post by ropes.
Note the photographer of the reenactment tilted the camera!

Siege-Engine of the Body.

Tertullian has something to say about Marcus Atilius Regulus, a one sent by the Roman Senate to dictate Rome's terms of peace to the Carthaginians, whom they just defeated in the First Punic War. The enraged Carthaginians, once Regulus was under their power, forced him to undergo some kind of execution that involved harsh treatment and even torture:
Crucis vero novitatem abstrusae Regulus vester libenter dedicavit. "Indeed, you Regulus gladly dedicated a novelty of the crux: numerous, concealed."
Ad Nationes (To the Nations) 1.18.3
Si crucem, configendi corporis machinam nullus adhuc ex vobis Regulus pepigit, attamen iam ignis contemptus evasit, ex quo se quidam proxime vestiendem incendiali tunica ad certum usquequaque locum auctoravit. "Altho' no longer any Regulus among you has raised a crux as the siege-engine of the body that is about to be transfixed; yet a contempt of the fire has even now come out of the closet, since one of yourselves very lately has offered himself to go to any place which may be agreed upon and put on the burning shirt."
Ad Nationes (To the Nations1.18.10
maluit hostibus reddit et in arcae genus stipatus undique extrinsecus clavis transfixus, tot cruces sensit! "He [Regulus] was crammed into a sort of strong-box, and everywhere transfixed by nails driven from outside, so many cruces he felt!
Ad Martyres (To the Martyrs) 4.6

There is a short exposition of the lethal torture of Regulus in the third post here. It appears he was tortured to death by a type of crux that at the time of his death was unique: a sort of cage or strong-box which bristled with spikes, all on the inside, pointing in -- a sort of iron maiden. At the same time his eyelids were removed so he could not sleep. If he leaned to one side to rest his body, the spikes would pierce his skin, drawing blood. 

But Tertullian does have something to say about the nature of the crux being described here: in the first  and last passages, the crux appears to be a sharpened spike, that is, an acuta crux; and that the novelty about Regulus' 'crucifixion' it is is that there were many cruces, all concealed or driven in from the outside, so he's connecting this with nailing, too, not just penetration on a spike. In the second passage, it is a siege-engine (machina) of the body (corporis) that is about to be transfixed (configendi), i.e., pierced through, impaled, not just fastened or nailed together. In fact, it appears that Tertullian knew the transfixing or fastening together could occur after the condemned individual was suspended on or (in the case of Regulus) within the device.

Imposing Christians upon them.

Crucibus et stipitibus imponitis Christianos: "You put Christians on cruces and stakes;" Quod simulacrum non prius argilla deformat cruci et stipiti superstructa? "what idol is there but is first moulded in clay, set on a crux and stake?" in patibulo primum corpus dei vestri dedicatur. "It is on a patibulum that the body of your god is first dedicated."
Apoligeticus (The Apology), 12.3
Here in this passage, Tertullian understands the crux as cruciform, something cross-like, noting that he asks as an aside that are not the gods of the Romans first dedicated on just such a frame, indeed, just as was the first such god and saviour Gaius Julius Caesar? And the putting-on of Christians on cruces and stakes, it appears that the placement is the same as or similar to the placement of the wax images of the Caesars on their funerary tropaea.

As if on Votive Cruces, or Tropaeums.

This next passage has to do with the priests of Baal-Hammon in Carthage being suspended per order of a second-century Proconsul by the name of Tiberius:

Infantes penes Africam Saturno immolabantur palam usque ad proconsultum Tiberii, "Childern were openly sacrificed to Saturn in Africa as late as the Proconsulship of Tiberius," qui eosdem sacerdotes in eisdem arboribus templi sui obumbraticibus scelerum votivis crucibus exposuit, "who exposed the very same priests on the same trees of their temple, from the shade-trees [as if] on votive cruces." quae id ipsum munus illi proconsuli functa est. "any who he himself performed the work for the famous Proconsul."
Apoligeticus (The Apology) 9.2
Here it also appears that Tertullian does understand the crux as something cruciform, not just a torture-stake, on which people were suspended, much like a tropaeum. But there is no reason why the priests of baal-Hammon were of any lower class than the local elites. The mode of execution may have nothing to do with Roman crucifixion --- they would have been tied to the trees, with ropes.


I have by no means exhausted what Tertullian said about the architecture of the Roman execution pole, but I do believe I have sufficient information to figure out what Tertullian understood as the typical gear of noxious criminals' execution, during the late Second and early Third Centuries BCE. The points are:
  1. There was a central palus, i.e., pale mounted on the pole or the frame, which resembled a unicorn horn or rhinoceros horn.
  2. The larger frame had a member that differentiated the crux from the tropaeum, and made the crux whole or uninjured and complete.
  3. The projecting seat of the crux projected not just simply outward, but mainly upward. It was also transgressive.
  4. The word crux could be used to describe sharpened spikes.
  5. The crux was considered the siege-engine of the body.
  6. The transfixion of the body apparently occurred after the condemned person mounted the crux. So nailing is not necessarily referred to here, and if it were, it certainly was not the only form of transfixion.
  7. The imposing of Christians on the crosses appeared to be primarily an affixion to its surface, which could be done by penetration on a relatively small, upright peg as well as transpiercing the limbs with hammered nails.

The conclusion is inescapable. Tertullian understood the Roman crux of his day as a pole or frame that was equipped with a penetrating sedile.