Doesn’t the way Jesus was crucified contradict how the Romans actually crucified people?


#1

Scripture says that there was one nail put through His feet and two through His hands. The way the Romans would have done it at the time would have been to put the nails through the wrists and not the palms because the palms would not have been strong enough to hold the weight of the body. The same goes for the feet; they would have nailed them through the ankles.

Is there an explanation to why the way Jesus was crucified differs from how Romans would normally do it?


#2

[quote="lemerjoe, post:1, topic:321910"]
Scripture says that there was one nail put through His feet and two through His hands. The way the Romans would have done it at the time would have been to put the nails through the wrists and not the palms because the palms would not have been strong enough to hold the weight of the body. The same goes for the feet; they would have nailed them through the ankles.

Is there an explanation to why the way Jesus was crucified differs from how Romans would normally do it?

[/quote]

Short answer for now: strong enough to hold the weight of the body.are Also, we don't know exactly how Jesus' feet (or ankles) were nailed - or whether they were even nailed at all. Scripture doesn't say that there was one nail going through both feet - in fact, it doesn't say how many nails there were at all. The only explicit indication that Jesus was nailed is Thomas' statement (John 20:25), and even then Thomas speaks only about His hands. Psalm 22:16 ("they pierced my hands and my feet") and Luke 24:40 ("he showed them his hands and his feet") usually interpreted to mean that the feet were nailed as well, but it is not conclusive.

Speaking of which, all the earliest portrayals agree in showing the feet separate from each other. We only got around to showing the feet pierced by a single nail around the Middle Ages, and even then this was a mostly-Western phenomenon.

Also, it is worth mentioning that there is no standard way of crucifying people.


#3

I could be mistaken, but I read somewhere that in the language of the time, the word that translates to "hand" referred to the hand and wrist area. By that defintion, a nail piercing the "hand" could refer to the wrist rather than the palm.


#4

[quote="vlf7973, post:3, topic:321910"]
I could be mistaken, but I read somewhere that in the language of the time, the word that translates to "hand" referred to the hand and wrist area. By that defintion, a nail piercing the "hand" could refer to the wrist rather than the palm.

[/quote]

I recall reading somewhere that it was actually both: from what I can remember, it was said that they placed the nails in at an angle near the butt of the palm and they would come out through the back of the wrist so that the pressure from the body weight would be better distributed. While I'm no expert on physiology or physics, I have my doubts as to whether the palms of the hands alone would have been able to support the full weight of a grown man (not to say that they couldn't); straight through the wrists probably would have worked, but it's always better to distribute weight as well as possible, so it seems to me that this idea is the most logical.


#5

The Church has not taught, as a matter of faith, how Christ was nailed to the cross. Only that he was so nailed thru the cheir, the arm-hand area.

The problem started, I believe, with Dr. Pierre Barbet and his book Doctor at Calvary. He was the one to say “definitively” that our depictions of Christ are “wrong.” Fortunately for us, Dr. Frederick Zugibe’s The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry was also published to correct some errors. I also found an article by Ronald L. Conte Jr. (catholicplanet.com/MHT/wounds-Christ.htm). Conte speculates that Jesus was not crucified through either the palms of His hands nor the wrist, but rather thru the heal of the hand – the anatomical wrist (not the same location as where one might wear a wristwatch on the forearm). Conte argues this anatomical wrist is what is depicted in the Shroud. Then, he ends his article by stating, “We cannot be absolutely certain of the specific location of the nail marks in Christ’s hand, because infallible Sacred Scripture is not specific, other than to say that the nail marks were in His hands.”

So, the HOW is not nearly as important as the essential fact that Christ was crucified in a horrific way to atone for us. I mean, when you think about it, could ANY nail driven thru ANY part of the body of the King of the Universe actually hold him down? It was nothing but pure love that held Christ to the cross. The details or HOW are a matter of faith and not a question that can - or needs to be – answered.

BTW, from what I understand, the Romans were far to efficient to have a "typical" way to kill - they used whatever means was available.


#6

I now have a valid excuse to post these pics again. :smiley:

http://img202.imageshack.us/img202/3784/crucifixionh.jpg

These are possibly the three earliest images portraying a crucifixion we have. The first is a crude graffiti found on a wall near the Palatine Hill in Rome, the so-called Alexamenos graffito. The second is another graffiti found this time in a taberna located at the vicinity of the Flavian Amphitheater in Pozzuoli (ancient Puteoli). The third is an Eastern Mediterranean carved jasper (bloodstone) amulet presently at the British Museum, also known as the Pereire gem. All the images probably date from the period between the late 1st-early 2nd to the 3rd century. Two of these images, the first and the third, portray the crucifixion of Jesus, while the second image more likely shows a caricature of a person who was crucified in the nearby ampitheater.

One would note that in all three images, the crucified figure’s feet do not overlap each other as in many of our modern crucifixes, but are separate, either resting on a horizontal footrest (the Alexamenos graffito), straddling the vertical post (so the Pozzuoli image) or are spread wide away, hanging open loosely (the Pereire gem). Also, all three portrayals seem to show the crucified figure as resting on a sort of peg or crotch support. In the first image, this is probably suggested by the line above the buttocks. You can see a sort of ledge slanting downward just below the victim’s left leg (viewer’s right) in the second image. In the third, a protrusion can be seen jutting out of the vertical beam under the victim’s right thigh (our left), which is more visible in this picture.

And God by Moses shows in another way the force of the mystery of the cross, when He said in the blessing wherewith Joseph was blessed, From the blessing of the Lord is his land; for the seasons of heaven, and for the dews, and for the deep springs from beneath, and for the seasonable fruits of the sun, and for the coming together of the months, and for the heights of the everlasting mountains, and for the heights of the hills, and for the ever-flowing rivers, and for the fruits of the fatness of the earth; and let the things accepted by Him who appeared in the bush come on the head and crown of Joseph. Let him be glorified among his brethren; his beauty is [like] the firstling of a bullock; his horns the horns of an unicorn: with these shall he push the nations from one end of the earth to another. (Deuteronomy 33:13-17) Now, no one could say or prove that the horns of an unicorn represent any other fact or figure than the type which portrays the cross. For the one beam is placed upright, from which the highest extremity is raised up into a horn, when the other beam is fitted on to it, and the ends appear on both sides as horns joined on to the one horn. And the part which is fixed in the centre, on which are suspended those who are crucified, also stands out like a horn; and it also looks like a horn conjoined and fixed with the other horns.

  • St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 91

The very form of the cross, too, has five extremities, two in length, two in breadth, and one in the middle, on which [last] the person rests who is fixed by the nails.

-St. Irenaeus of Lugdunum (Lyons), Adversus Haereses 2.24.4

Joseph likewise was a type of Christ, not indeed on this ground (that I may not delay my course), that he suffered persecution for the cause of God from his brethren, as Christ did from His brethren after the flesh, the Jews; but when he is blessed by his father in these words: His glory is that of a bullock; his horns are the horns of a unicorn; with them shall he push the nations to the very ends of the earth, (Deuteronomy 33:17) — he was not, of course, designated as a mere unicorn with its one horn, or a minotaur with two; but Christ was indicated in him— a bullock in respect of both His characteristics: to some as severe as a Judge, to others gentle as a Saviour, whose horns were the extremities of His cross. For of the antenna, which is a part of a cross, the ends are called horns; while the midway stake of the whole frame is the unicorn. By this virtue, then, of His cross, and in this manner horned, He is both now pushing all nations through faith, bearing them away from earth to heaven; and will then push them through judgment, casting them down from heaven to earth.

  • Tertullian, Against Marcion 3.18

Every piece of timber which is fixed in the ground in an erect position is a part of a cross, and indeed the greater portion of its mass. But an entire cross is attributed to us, with its transverse beam, of course, and its projecting seat (sedilis excessu).

  • Tertullian, Ad Nationes 1.12

The Fathers are talking about this when they speak of the ‘horn’ or the ‘projecting seat’.


#7

you ROCK, Patrick! Cool post!
:thumbsup:


#8

One of the best scientific books on the Crucifixion is indeed the book "The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry" by Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D.

Besides the issue of the wrists (we established that the nails did go through the hands, as the stigmata - visible and invisible - of many saints also prove), in general the Romans broke the rules quite a bit...nobody was scourged before crucifixion, and certainly not as many times as the Holy Shround shows (and Sacred Scripture describes). And nobody was ever - as far as we know - crowned with thorns. So it would not be s


#9

And remember the whole argument that the palms of the hands could not withstand the weight of the body hanging from them is moot. Nobody had to hang solely from the hands. The victim was given a seat or pedestal to prop up the body. The victims were also tied to the cross. So if the victim was propped up by seats, pedestals and/or ropes, the nails in the hands and feet were just for torture. They could have been nailed by their earlobes and still would have hung there until death. Jesus was nailed through his hands as the Bible says and as the Shroud shows. There is always someone wanting to stir up controversy where none should exist.


#10

[quote="R_C, post:8, topic:321910"]
One of the best scientific books on the Crucifixion is indeed the book "The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry" by Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D.

Besides the issue of the wrists (we established that the nails did go through the hands, as the stigmata - visible and invisible - of many saints also prove), in general the Romans broke the rules quite a bit...nobody was scourged before crucifixion, and certainly not as many times as the Holy Shround shows (and Sacred Scripture describes). And nobody was ever - as far as we know - crowned with thorns. So it would not be s

[/quote]

Wrong. Scourging paired with crucifixion was standard procedure among the Carthaginians and the Romans.

Hannibal was undecided whether to trust them or not, for the enterprise was greater than the authority of those who advised it; however, they at last persuaded him to leave Samnium for Campania. He warned them that they must make their repeated promises good by their acts, and after bidding them return to him with more of their countrymen, including some of their chief men, he dismissed them. Some who were familiar with the country told him that if he marched into the neighbourhood of Casinum and occupied the pass, he would prevent the Romans from rendering assistance to their allies. He accordingly ordered a guide to conduct him there. But the difficulty which the Carthaginians found in pronouncing Latin names led to the guide understanding Casilinum instead of Casinum. Quitting his intended route, he came down through the districts of Allifae, Callifae, and Cales on to the plains of Stella. When he looked round and saw the country shut in by mountains and rivers he called the guide and asked him where on earth he was. When he was told that he would that day have his quarters at Casilinum, he saw the mistake and knew that Casinum was far away in quite another country. The guide was scourged and crucified in order to strike terror into the others.

...] On his return to Gades, Mago found the gates closed against him, so he anchored off Cimbii, a place not far from Gades, and sent envoys to lodge a complaint against the gates being closed to him, an ally and a friend. They excused themselves by saying that it was done by a gathering of the townsmen who were incensed at some acts of pillage committed by the soldiers during the embarkation. He invited their sufetes - the title of their supreme magistrate - together with the city treasurer to a conference, and when they were come he ordered them to be scourged and crucified.

  • Livy, 22.13.9; 28.37.3

Is it worthwhile to weigh down on one's wound and hang impaled on a gibbet in order to postpone something which is the balm of troubles, the end of punishment? Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly weals on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony? He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross.

  • Seneca, Letter 101, 12-14

No one can be condemned to the penalty of being beaten to death or to die under [beatings with] rods or during torture, although most persons, when they are tortured, lose their lives.

Whoever will want to exact punishment on a male or female slave at private expense, as he [the owner] who wants the [punishment] to be inflicted, he [the contractor] exacts the punishment in in this manner: if he wants [him] to bring the patibulum to the cross, the contractor will have to provide wooden posts, chains and cords for the floggers and the floggers themselves. And anyone who will want to exact punishment will have to give four sesterces for each of the workers who bring the patibulum and for the floggers and also for the executioner.

Josephus (Jewish War 2.308) relates how in the weeks before the outbreak of the Jewish War in AD 66, Florus had Jews who were Roman equestrians flogged and crucified, which was controversial (given how Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion, because that was too degrading and shameful a death):

The soldiers, taking this exhortation of their commander in a sense agreeable to their desire of gain, did not only plunder the place they were sent to, but forcing themselves into every house, they slew its inhabitants; so the citizens fled along the narrow lanes, and the soldiers slew those that they caught, and no method of plunder was omitted; they also caught many of the quiet people, and brought them before Florus, whom he first chastised with stripes, and then crucified. Accordingly, the whole number of those that were destroyed that day, with their wives and children, (for they did not spare even the infants themselves,) was about three thousand and six hundred. And what made this calamity the heavier was this new method of Roman barbarity; for Florus ventured then to do what no one had done before, that is, to have men of the equestrian order whipped and nailed to the cross before his tribunal; who, although they were by birth Jews, yet were they of Roman dignity notwithstanding.

Also, the gospels don't explicitly say just how Jesus was flogged - they only say that He was flogged.


#11

Here's a small sample of crucifixion artworks from up to the 11th century. This is just a small sample, but notice one thing: they are not like our modern crucifixes in that not one of them has one foot over the other.

http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/7041/agesu.jpg

A modern Eastern icon compared with a Western portrayal:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_ZgnoRwsbDzI/TPcn7m4xrCI/AAAAAAAACRQ/lIDT7L4wMYg/s1600/crucifixion_icon1.jpg

http://www.inhisname.com/images/churchsupplies/corpora/30234_8ft_20CrucifixS.jpg


#12

[quote="patrick457, post:10, topic:321910"]
Wrong. Scourging paired with crucifixion was standard procedure among the Carthaginians and the Romans.

[/quote]

Oops. Thanks for clarifying that.


#13

Thing is, the shroud shows nails through the wrist. Stigmatists have holes in their hands!


#14

[quote="ajecphotos, post:13, topic:321910"]
Thing is, the shroud shows nails through the wrist. Stigmatists have holes in their hands!

[/quote]

It appears to me that the exit hole pictured in the shroud is truly in his hand, although low and near the "wrist". I say "wrist" in quotes because the anatomical wrist is actually in what everyone would refer to as the "hand". Where you would wear your wristwatch is actually your "arm" as far as I know. I made an attempt to show where I think the hole is located in these three pictures, using measurements across the knuckles and using that measurement to measure the length of the hand. The red spot in the photo is where the true wrist is located, and where I think the nail hole is.


#15

Excellent post!


#16

A repost:

Jehohanan

In June of 1968, building contractors working in the suburb of Giv'at ha-Mivtar in northern East Jerusalem accidentally uncovered four cave tombs dating from the late second century BC until AD 70 by the pottery in situ. Archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferis was sent out by the Israel Department of Antiquities, along with three others, to retrieve the artifacts and bring them back to the headquarters in the Rockefeller Museum. These family tombs with branching chambers, which had been hewn out of soft limestone, belong to the Jewish cemetery of Jesus' time that extends from the nearby Mount Scopus in the east to the Sanhedriya tombs in the northwest.

From a stone ossuary discovered in one of the tombs, anthropologist Nicu Haas of the Department of Anatomy at Hebrew University found the bones of a child and a 24- to 28-year-old man, with an iron nail firmly embedded in his right heel-bone. This ossuary had the inscription Yehohanan son of Hagaqol, and above it Yehohanan scratched more faintly. Due to the presence of the bones of two (or possibly three, as a recent study shows) people inside the ossuary, we could not be sure whether the name might refer to two separate adults, or to one adult whose name happened to be written twice, or even to one of the adults and a child. However, Yigael Yadin made the case that the name Yehohanan refers to the man with the nail on his heel, arguing that the name Hagaqol was a posthumous nickname: "the one hanged with knees apart." From early on, it became clear to experts that Yehohanan was a victim of crucifixion.

http://www.english.imjnet.org.il/Media/Uploads/Yehohanan-Hagkol-Oss.jpg
The ossuary

The nail in Yehohanan's heel, when it penetrated the lateral surface of the heel-bone, seems to have encountered a hard knot in the wood (which was possibly olive) of the vertical post of the cross. This made the end of the nail bend and curl, making it difficult to remove the nail from the victim's heel. Remains of olive wood found between the head of the nail and the heel bone suggest that the nail was first driven through a sort of wooden plaque, probably to increase the head of the nail and thus making it difficult for the victim to free his legs.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-GmLnVwy_4IE/TkQq-BTvaTI/AAAAAAAAFAs/c53lddwKxDk/s1600/1.png
The heel-bone at the time of discovery

In his article "Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv'at ha-Mivtar" published in the Israel Exploration Journal in 1970, Haas concluded that Jehohanan was crucified as follows:

[INDENT]The whole of our interpretation concerning the position of the body on the cross may be described briefly as follows: The feet were joined almost parallel, both transfixed by the same nail at the heels, with the legs adjacent; the knees were doubled, the right one overlapping the left; the trunk was contorted; the upper limbs were stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm.

http://www.biblearchaeology.org/image.axd?picture=2009%2f10%2fTwoProposals.jpg
Jehohanan's posture as per Haas

Haas was unable to examine the remains any further partly because of serious health problems and partly because of the insistent demands of the Jewish religious community for reburial of the bones (though there does seem to have been some modifications in his original reconstruction as can be seen from the picture above), and while his original conclusions became widely accepted by the general public, several errors in his observations were later identified by Joseph 'Joe' Zias and Dr. Eliezer Sekeles in their 1985 reappraisal (also published in the Israel Exploration Journal, in the article "The Crucified Man from Giv'at ha-Mitvar: A Reappraisal"). Zias described Haas' reconstructions as "anatomically impossible on the basis of available evidence."[/INDENT]


#17

They report:

[INDENT]The nail was shorter than Haas had reported and thus would not have been long enough to pierce two heel bones and the wood. Pieces of bone had been misidentified. There was no bone from a second heel; the nail pierced only one heel. Some of the bone fragments were from another individual.

Haas said that the nail measured 17-18 centimeters in length, but upon reappraisal it was found to be but 11.5 centimeters long. Zias and Sekeles believe it more likely that the victim’s heels were probably nailed separately to either side of the upright post of the cross, so that he straddled it. Furthermore, despite the original belief that evidence for nailing was found on the radius, a subsequent reexamination of the evidence showed that the scratches in the wrist area were determined to be non-traumatic and, therefore, not evidence of crucifixion.

Many non-traumatic scratches and indentations similar to these are found on ancient skeletal material. In fact, two similar non-traumatic indentations were observed on the right fibula, neither are connected with the crucifixion…Thus, the lack of traumatic injury to the forearm and metacarpals of the hand seems to suggest that the arms of the condemned were tied rather than nailed to the cross.

Haas had also claimed that there was evidence that the legs of the victim had been broken, but this was apparently based on what is described as “inconclusive evidence.” The evidence is so ambiguous concerning the arms (Yehohanan could very well have extended his arms upward on a stake) that Zias and Sekeles had to rely on classical writings and guesswork for Yehohanan’s posture. In the new reconstruction, the victim is shown slumped forward with his arms tied with ropes to the crossbeam and with each leg affixed laterally to the vertical stake.

More recent work on the heel-bone and nail by Israel Hershkovitz, however, using modern medical scanning equipment, indicates that the actual piecing together and gluing of the (originally shattered) heel-bone by Haas in 1968 may have been incorrect - if this is so, it might affect the way we reconstruct Yehohanan’s crucifixion. Further work on the bones, however, is now nigh impossible, since all the bones from the tomb (except for the heel-bone and nail, and some additional fragments) were given over to the Jewish religious authorities for reburial four weeks after the original anthropological work was done.[/INDENT]


#18

I am sure that provincial Roman authorities were left to their own imaginations when it came to the specifics of crucifixion. It probably was the choice of the Roman Captain more often than not.

The point was to hang'm high near a public road and make sure they last a long time as a deterrent to those considering innovations.


#19

[quote="steve53, post:18, topic:321910"]
I am sure that provincial Roman authorities were left to their own imaginations when it came to the specifics of crucifixion. It probably was the choice of the Roman Captain more often than not.

The point was to hang'm high near a public road and make sure they last a long time as a deterrent to those considering innovations.

[/quote]

When we crucify criminals the most frequented roads are chosen, where the greatest number of people can look and be seized by this fear. For every punishment has less to do with the offence than with the example.

  • Pseudo-Quintillian, Declamationes Minores 274

#20

[quote="patrick457, post:11, topic:321910"]
A modern Eastern icon compared with a Western portrayal:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_ZgnoRwsbDzI/TPcn7m4xrCI/AAAAAAAACRQ/lIDT7L4wMYg/s1600/crucifixion_icon1.jpg

http://www.inhisname.com/images/churchsupplies/corpora/30234_8ft_20CrucifixS.jpg

[/quote]

Since that didn't show up, here's another:

http://img855.imageshack.us/img855/3651/jesuscrucified21.jpg

As we've noted, the portrayal of the feet as being separate from each other enjoys more support when compared to the portrayal where one foot is on top of the other. The archaeological evidence seems to suggest it, the artistic evidence favors it, and some would argue that even physical evidence would back it. I'm going to name again here Dr. Fred Zugibe, who argues that the feet of the man on the Shroud of Turin (which he of course identifies with Jesus) were nailed with two nails and were flush to the cross, in contrast to the one foot-over-the-other scenario envisioned Pierre Barbet and other Shroud researchers influenced by him.

The practicality of two nails is demonstrated by the following maneuver. Lie flat on the floor and bend your knees. Note that the soles of your feet are now flush to the floor. Now, have someone hold your feet down and try to pull them. You will note how difficult a task it is to free them. Now bend your knees, place one foot on top of the other, and have someone hold your feet down. Notice how difficult it is for your assistant to hold your feet.
If you apply the same reasoning to crucifixion, you will find that after the hands are secured, the executioner would merely bend the knees and, perhaps, initially tie the feet to the upright. It would be relatively easy to nail the feet with the direct back support of the upright and to allow the nails to be driven through the foot without breaking any bones. On the other hand, it would be extremely difficult, in a struggling human, to hold one foot on top of the other and with no solid support, drive a nail through both feet, particularly without breaking any bones, because the alignment of both feet would have to be perfect.


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