Crucifixion

       What do we acturally know about the crucifixion of Jesus, or about crucifixion at all? This may be significant because the basic symbol of Christianity is the crucifix (shown in illustration). If he was not crucified in this manner, the symbol becomes artificial and irrelevant.

      We are told that Jesus was crucified by the Romans. Certainly they practiced crucifixion. In the first century BC, during the revolt of Spartacus, there were reports of over 6000 crosses with crucified victims on the road from Capua to Rome, and in the first century AD, Jewish scholar Josephus reported that up to 500 Jews were crucified every day during the siege of Jerusalem. Why is there no evidence of all these crucifixions?

  • Wooden crosses don't survive, as they degraded long ago or were re-used
  • Victims of crucifixion were usually criminals and therefore not formally buried, just exposed or thrown into a river or trash heap. It's difficult to identify these bodies, and scavenging animals would have done further damage to the bones.
  • Crucifixion nails were believed to have magical or medicinal properties, so they were often taken from a victim. Without a nail in place, it becomes more difficult to tell crucifixion from animal scavengers' puncture marks.
  • For the most part, crucifixion involved soft tissue injuries that can't be seen on bone. Only if a person had nails driven through his bones would there be significant bony evidence of the practice.

Today, the only evidence of Roman crucifixion we have are the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man, Yehohanon, crucified in the first century A.D. The remains include a heel bone pierced by a large nail, giving archaeologists, osteologists and anthropologists evidence to work from.

   The Romans apparently used several methods of crucifixion, but there is almost no evidence of any kind to support the traditional method we all see portrayed in church.

       The Romans typically used one of these methods of crucifixion:

I – Crux Simplex
Sometimes they used a single upright stake or post and either nailed or tied their victim (in some cases this may have simply been to the trunk of a tree). Often they were impaled, as the ancient Assyrian image illustrates. With this shape, the victim’s hands could be tied or nailed quite simply with a single piece of rope or a single nail  Death could be relatively quick, within ten minutes, for those whose hands were tied or nailed directly above their heads and whose feet were restrained, too. A person crucified in this position would be unable to exhale. This could not been the case with Jesus' crucifixion since the Gospels say it took several hours for him to die.

+ – Basic Cross
This shape is the traditional form Christians observe for the cross. This cross was constructed from a vertical stake(called a “stavros”) with a horizontal cross beam (called a “patibulum”) inserted across it, leaving a “tip” extending above the patibulum. Sometimes this tip was little more than a small extension, resulting in a structure still resembling a “T” more than a “+”. The patibulum was either fastened across the stake or inserted down over the top of the stake. Victims were tied or nailed to the structure with arms outstretched on either side of the patibulum. Their feet were either nailed together or separately to the bottom of the vertical post.

X – St. Andrew's Cross
This “X” shaped cross (also known as “St. Andrew’s Cross”) borrowed its name from the Roman numeral ten (“decussis”). Two wooden planks were fastened together in an X configuration and the victim’s were nailed to the cross with arms outstretched on top ends of the X. Their feet were either nailed or tied separately to the bottom ends of the X.

      That Jesus may have been crucified on an X-shaped cross is a new idea arising from the studies of Joseph Zias. Eliezer Sekeles and Hershel Shanks who examined the bone with a nail through it. Their examinations and experiments suggested to them that he may have been executed on an x-cross.

       The nail from head to tip is only 4.5 inches. I was held in place by a wooden plaque three quarters of an inch thick that had been punctured by the nail before it passed through the right heel bone. After exiting from the bone, the nail penetrated the wood itself and then was bent to keep it from being extrated. As the investigators observed,  given the length of the nail, “There simply was not enough room for both heel and a two centimeter wooden plaque to have been pierced by the nail and affixed to the vertical shaft of the cross" unless it were a plank and not a pole.
     Accordingly, the victim’s position on the cross must have been different from that portrayed.
       Wood was scarce and the Romans were efficient. For this reason they used the X-cross. They simply fastened to planks together in an X. Nailed the felon to it and left him to slowly die. No pole in the ground was necessary. They cross could be leaned against a wall or an all-ready-existing pole or tree.

       An argument used by supporters of this idea is the fact the the oldest "cross symbol" used by the Roman Catholic Church is the Chi-Rho. They say that it represents Jesus on an X-cross - The Rho being the body of Jesus on the Chi cross.

       Many do not believe that Jesus ever existed, let alone died on a cross.

 

The Traditional Crucifixion


Stake crucifixion
Variations of this were most
common because it was so
simple to create.

Greek Coin
from c. 250 AD

Drawing on wall
c 200 AD

Diagram of Crucifixion

Crucifixion of St Andrew


Chi Rho
Earliest symbol of Jesus Christ
      Others do not care how he died. To these the method of crucifixion are irrelevant.    But to others, true believers, if Jesus did not die on a cross as taught in church, the Bible is wrong and the Christian religion is just a fable!

       For those seeking truth, the best evidence is that crucifixion did not take place as we were told in church.