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.

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