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.

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