What evidence is there for the severity of Roman scourging before crucifixion?

What evidence is there for the severity of Roman scourging before crucifixion?

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Something I'm curious about is the severity of scourging ancient Romans inflicted on their victims before crucifixion.

Numerous religious/Christian websites suggest that it was quite severe, and involved an instrument in which metal or bones were embedded in the lashes. For example:

  • renner.org paragraphs 4-12
  • catholicinsights on the Shroud of Turin
  • jesus-story
  • a scary-looking "flagrum": ,

But many of these online sites don't really reference, in my view, a reliable account, primary source, or any extant "flagra" from the ancient Roman era.

In fact, according to this article by Dr. Andrea Berlin and Dr. Jodi Magness Two Archeologists Comment on The Passion of the Christ, the scourging was just done with a reed.

What reliable evidence is there that scourging before crucifixion was as severe as most online website describe them to be?

In the documents of “Jewish War.” a man named Jesus Ben Ananias, (NOT to be confused with Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus was quite a common name back then), was “scourged until bones were laid bare.” This man was flogged to the extent of his bones showing. Also, I have heard that certain church fathers or bishops in the early church, wrote how vicious the whips were.

Also yes, the Romans did sometimes beat criminals with rods (which is a fact) however they also lashed people with other whips too. As seen when looking at ancient stone tablet pictures. Plus, being beaten hard (which is what they did, full force blows) was pretty bad, the scratches, marks, bruises and blistering on your back/body, would cause pain and damage. Especially after a blister is struck and then begins to bleed. Not to mention the person sweat mixing with the blood, which could make it look a little worse.

The Reality of Christ’s Passion

I keep looking this stuff up because I keep wanting to believe that Christ did not suffer as badly as The Passion of the Christ movie claims he did. I had never thought anything about a Roman whip. I just thought it was straps of leather and they whipped him and caused some slight lacerations. I think this mentality is also very present for those of us growing up with the 60’s – 80’s movies of Christ’s Crucifixion where there is a notable absence of excessive blood… probably for censorship sake. I think I keep wanting it to be that way instead of the way it really was. A great priest once told a story about a camping man who was attacked by a bear, but before being seriously injured or killed, his dog jumped in the way and fended the bear off so the owner could get away. However, the dog was killed. The owner said, ‘It is painful to be died for. Even by a dog.’
That is why I don’t want it to be as bad as it was. It’s painful to be died for. Especially in such a cruel way by an innocent sacrifice for my Salvation. Painful. Take a look.

Roman scourging practices

The Romans would, according to custom, scourge a condemned criminal before he was put to death. The Roman scourge, also called the “flagrum” or “flagellum” was a short whip made of two or three leather (ox-hide) thongs or ropes connected to a handle as in the sketch above. The leather thongs were knotted with a number of small pieces of metal, usually zinc and iron, attached at various intervals. Scourging would quickly remove the skin. According to history the punishment of a slave was particularly dreadful. The leather was knotted with bones, or heavy indented pieces of bronze.

Sometimes the Roman scourge contained a hook at the end and was given the terrifying name “scorpion.” The criminal was made to stoop which would make deeper lashes from the shoulders to the waist. According to Jewish law (discipline of the synagogue) the number of stripes was forty less one (Deut. 25:3) and the rabbis reckoned 168 actions to be punished by scourging before the judges. Nevertheless, scourging among the Romans was a more severe form of punishment and there was no legal limit to the number of blows, as with the Jews. Deep lacerations, torn flesh, exposed muscles, and excessive bleeding would leave the criminal “half-dead.” Death was often the result of this cruel form of punishment though it was necessary to keep the criminal alive to be brought to public subjugation on the cross. The Centurion in charge would order the lictors to halt the flogging when the criminal was near death.

Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depened on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim.

Medical Aspects of Scourging
As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls (attached to the leather straps) would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and the Subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.

Scourging of Jesus

At the Praetorium, Jesus was severely whipped. (Although the severity of the scourging is not discussed in the four gospel accounts, it is implied in one of the epistles [1Peter 2:24]. A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for this verse indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh.) It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law. (Probably not since the Romans had no limit on the number of lashings.) The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a state of medical shock. The physical and mental abuse by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious to crucial.

A horrific replication of the body based on the wounds seen on the Shroud.

John Whitehead's Commentary

While the New Testament Gospels are the primary source for accounts of Jesus Christ's suffering, crucifixion and death, his ordeal at the hands of Roman soldiers has been the topic of scholarly research for years.

Certainly, the torture Jesus endured was agonizing. Yet while much has been written about his physical suffering, questions remain. For example, why was he forced to undergo such intense torment? Why did the Roman soldiers torture him? And what was the point of it all?

As Jesus paced in the Garden of Gethsemane, awaiting his betrayal and death, he was already experiencing great mental and emotional anguish such that the Luke 22:44 reference to his sweat turning to blood is probably not an exaggeration. According to Mayo Clinic medical scholars, under situations of extreme mental and emotional stress, blood vessels underneath the skin can rupture and bleed through skin and sweat.

The Gospels recount how, after Jesus' arrest, temple guards brought him to the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas, who declared him guilty of blasphemy. He was then ushered before the Sanhedrin, a Jewish council, which sought permission from the Romans to execute him. Whether an actual "trial" took place before Jesus was handed over to the Romans is uncertain. But more than likely, as he was moved from place to place, he was spat upon and beaten.

The mob must have played a key role in Jesus' condemnation, although there is little extensive historical evidence to support the scene played out in films and movies in which Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to choose between Barabbas the robber and Jesus. Most likely the pressure to appease the masses would have forced the Romans to act. As author A. N. Wilson writes, "If the crowds could be pacified by the release of Barabbas, they could perhaps be cowed into submission by a cruel public display of what happens to Jews who use words like 'kingdom'. to the Roman governor." Surrendering to the people's will, Pilate granted an execution by crucifixion.

But why did the Romans choose to make an example of Jesus? According to the Gospel accounts, the Romans did not even know themselves. Since none of Jesus' followers were arrested, it's doubtful that it was politically motivated. Thus, the motivation for the cruel scourging and killing remains unclear.

Matthew 27:26 indicates that Jesus was severely whipped in accordance with a Roman requirement that there be a scourging before each execution (except for those involving women, Roman senators or soldiers). A Roman flagrum, a leather whip consisting of three thongs, each ending with two lead balls designed to tear flesh, was the weapon of choice for inflicting scourgings. The Romans may have even used a similar instrument, a flagellum, in which small rocks or bone fragments were also attached on the end of the thongs. This instrument was typically used to tenderize a piece of meat.

Mayo Clinic scholars note that repeated floggings to the upper and lower back with iron balls that cut deeply into his flesh would have caused Jesus to nearly go into shock from blood loss: "As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim's back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross."

In addition to the scourging, Jesus was also crowned with thorns. Scholars have observed that the thorns digging into his scalp "probably severely irritated major nerves in his head, causing increasing and excruciating pain for hours."

The crucifixion itself, usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, revolutionaries and the worst criminals, was not only a common method for execution by Romans but was also the most feared.

Medical experts speculate that the iron spikes used to nail Jesus to the cross measured from 5 to 7 inches long (the size of railroad spikes). The spikes were driven through his wrists (between the radius and the ulna and the carpals in his forearms), not his palms, and between the second and third metatarsal bones of his feet in order to support his body weight. Though the spikes were not nailed through major blood vessels, they were designed to sever major nerves, rupturing other veins and creating great pain. Added to this, hanging on the cross would have made it agonizingly difficult to breathe.

Doctors generally conclude that a combination of factors contributed to Jesus' death on the cross: He had already lost an incredible amount of blood. He was exhausted from the beatings and from carrying his cross. Because he could only attempt to breathe by pushing his body upward with his knees and legs (often, Roman soldiers would break their victims' legs with clubs), death by asphyxiation was inevitable. However, their most critical observation is that Jesus was already dead when Roman soldiers thrust the spear into his side.

In his historical study of Jesus Christ, N.T. Wright asks, "Did Jesus expect to die?" Although it is easy to give both historical and theological answers to the question of Jesus' death, Wright concludes that studies of his personality and character indicate that "Jesus took his own story seriously." Thus, both can be used for an explanation.

Not only did Jesus believe he was the messiah, Wright says, "he would defeat evil by letting it do its worst to him." Though the Romans condemned Jesus and crucified him, the historical Jesus willingly accepted upon himself the judgment of God and Rome. As a result, Christians believe he made peace on the behalf of humanity with an angry God.

Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar

The prisoner was tied to a pillar and flogged with sticks and a special whip. The Romans’ scourging whip “had iron balls tied a few inches from the end of each leather thong on the whip. Sometimes, sharp sheep bones would be tied near the ends.” The metal weights served to cause serious bruising, or contusions, and the leather of the thongs cut into the skin. The sheep bones were also made to deepen the lacerations into the skin. After only a few lashes, the depths of the cuts would reach into muscle tissue. Servant of God Cora Evans, an American mystic whose cause for canonization is being considered writes, wrote out her mystical visions of the life of Christ in The Refugee from Heaven. Of the scourging she writes, “as each [stroke] cut across the Master’s torn shoulders, small particles of His Sacred Flesh fell from the knotted leather whip-knots to the pavement, which was now covered with His Precious Blood”(p. 331). According to the visions of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, another mystic author, the Roman soldiers first whipped Jesus’ back and then turned Him around. They proceeded to whip the front of Him. The physical effects of the beating went far beyond the considerable pain it inflicted—with His flesh torn into on either side, He mus have lost a lot of blood before even getting near the cross.

When I picture this particular element of the Passion, I think of how easily annoyed I get at a cut or splinter. Open wounds (if those could really be called wounds) are an inconvenience and can be felt in every movement. A cut on the foot is felt with every step a splinter in the hand is felt with every movement. After the scourging, Jesus’ body was covered in open wounds. He was in the most acute pain. His energy drained as a result of the pain and loss of blood, it must’ve taken great effort to put one foot in front of the other. I imagine how painful the purple cloth must’ve been when the soldiers put it on His back to mock Him (Mark 15:17). Here, too, Jesus received the crown of thorns.

We also need a healthy conviction of our own sin to appreciate this part of the Passion narrative. The mob that cried for Jesus’ execution seems unfeasible sometimes how could they? Wouldn’t I have done differently than the people that shouted for Barabbas? Bl. John Henry Newman reflected that “His death-warrant is signed, and who signed it but I. Those sins of mine were the voices which cried out, ‘Let Him be crucified.’ That willingness and delight of heart with which I committed them was the consent which Pilate gave to this clamorous multitude.” This mindfulness of our own sins needs to be accompanied by love and gratitude toward God. We can’t make the mistake of thinking sin is the only thing that defines us in God’s eyes that’s a distortion of Christianity. On the other hand, we can’t make the mistake of minimizing our sins, or sin in general. At its very nature, sin is destructive the devil’s aims with sin are to drive us into evil, despair, and finally, hell. It took a dramatic rescue on the part of Our Lord to save us from sin’s clutches!

104. Crucifixion: Father, Forgive Them (Luke 23:26-38)

" 26 As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, "Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!" 30 Then they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' 31 For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?'

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals -- one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.' 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.' 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." (Luke 23:26-38, NIV)

Sometimes the darkest, most depressing scenes are illuminated by a bright light. This is true of our passage today. As it begins, it is not a pretty picture -- one we shun because it is so horrifying.

Simon Carries the Cross (Luke 23:26)

Pilate has given into the shouting crowd and made his decision. Barabbas, the murderer and insurrectionist, is released while Jesus is sentenced to death by crucifixion.

If there was ever a "norm" for the barbaric practice of crucifixion among the Romans 1125 -- and practices varied widely in the first century -- it usually began with a flogging using a scourge tipped with glass or metal (Matthew 27:26 Mark 15:15), so severe that it killed some men outright, before their crucifixion could be carried out. 1126 But Luke passes over the soldiers' mocking and scourging, and moves quickly to Jesus' journey out of the city.

"As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus." (Luke 23:26)

In Jesus' day it was customary for the criminal under the sentence of death to carry his cross out to the place of execution. Typically, the cross consisted of two parts:

  1. The cross-beam or horizontal member (Latin patibulum) on which the arms would be stretched out and attached, and,
  2. The vertical post or stake which would be sunk in the earth and remain in place at the execution site. 1127 The Greek word for cross is stauros, originally "an upright pointed stake or pale," such as might be used in constructing a palisade. Later the word stauros came to refer to any part of the cross, whether the upright, or cross-piece. 1128

And so Jesus begins to carry or drag the beam from the Roman praetorium where he had been flogged, along the Via Dolorosa to his execution outside the walls. Jesus the carpenter has felled trees and fashioned many a beam, and borne them on his shoulders to a new house or remodeling project in Nazareth. But now he must carry the heavy beam on shoulders lacerated by the Roman scourge, and is weak from loss of blood. Seneca describes the "swelling with ugly welts on the shoulders and chest" that would result from the scourging. 1129 While the text doesn't specifically state it, he must have staggered and fallen, unable to continue. For Simon of Cyrene is seized from the crowd of onlookers and forced to carry the beam behind Jesus.

The first verb in the 22:26 is epilambanomai, "take hold of, grasp, catch," sometimes with violence. 1130 Simon has no choice the soldiers grab him and lay Jesus' cross upon him, making him carry it for the condemned man, who staggers and yet forces himself to go on. Simon follows. The (improper) preposition here is opisthen, "of place, 'behind, after' someone." 1131 The phrase "made him carry (Greek pherō) it following (opisthen) Jesus" reminds me of Jesus' own words, months before, where he told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up (airō) his cross daily and follow (akoloutheō) me." The Greek words are different, but the thought is similar. The experience of carrying Jesus' cross must have been life-changing for Simon, for Mark notes that he is "the father of Alexander and Rufus" (Mark 15:21), no doubt later disciples who are well-known to Mark's readers.

Daughters of Jerusalem

Now we come to a passage that is only recorded in Luke's Gospel:

"A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, "Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!" Then they will say to the mountains,
'Fall on us!'
and to the hills, 'Cover us!'"
For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?'" (Luke 23:27-31)

Jesus' followers line the streets mourning and wailing for him. The verb translated "followed" in 23:27 is the imperfect tense (continuous action in the past) of the familiar verb akoloutheō, "follow as a disciple." Jesus' enemies have him condemned, but he still has a large popular following. They can do nothing but weep, however. Jesus is now surrounded by ruthless Roman soldiers who will crush any attempt to rescue him. Mourning (Greek koptō) and wailing (Greek thrēneō) were characteristic at funerals, and even thought of as meritorious. The tense again is imperfect, indicating the continual mournful din that accompanied Jesus' passage through the streets. Greek koptō means "beat' one's breast as an act of mourning, mourn someone." 1132 Greek thrēneō carries the idea, "mourn, lament," especially, "sing a dirge." The noun threnos means "dirge." 1133 There is mournful confusion in the streets.

Though I am not a Roman Catholic, I sometimes find that meditating on the fourteen Stations of the Cross 1134 helps me relive this day of Jesus' death. These Stations are nearly always found on the interior walls of a Catholic church, and sometimes in a garden or cloister at a monastery. One ancient tradition, though with little documentation, is that during this procession winding through the streets of Jerusalem, one of the women (who came to be known as Veronica) wipes Jesus' face as an act of compassion. 1135

Weep for Yourselves (Luke 23:27-31)

Luke's text says "Jesus turned" and spoke to the crowds. The Greek verb is strephō, which, in the passive voice, has a reflexive meaning, "turn around, turn toward." 1136 I see in my mind's eye Jesus being allowed by the soldiers to pause for a moment, and as he does, he turns around to the wailing women crowding the streets. There is a hush, so the women can hear his weak voice:

"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then they will say to the mountains,
'Fall on us!'
and to the hills, 'Cover us!'
For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? " (Luke 23:27-31)

Jesus speaks with sorrow about the terrible destruction that will befall Jerusalem, fulfilled in cruel finality when the Romans, under Vespian's son Titus, besiege Jerusalem for six months in 70 AD. During his triumphal entry, Jesus had prophesied as he wept over the city:

"The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." (Luke 19:43-44)

The terror of that siege was extreme. Josephus tells us,

"So all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews, together with their liberty of going out of the city. Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them.

As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves for many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before that fatal hour was come.

Nor was there any lamentations made under these calamities, nor were heard any mournful complaints but the famine confounded all natural passions for those who were just going to die looked upon those that were gone to rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night, had seized upon the city." 1137

Jesus said the women should weep now for their children, who would be adults at that fearful time, for there was no mourning then. Jesus' quotation about calling for the mountains to fall upon them is from Hosea 10:8.

Jesus' final saying isn't as familiar: "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" It sounds like a contemporary proverb. The comparison is between green wood that is difficult to burn, and dry wood that will support a blazing fire. Perhaps the idea is: If God doesn't spare innocent Jesus, how much more severe will be the fate of guilty Jerusalem? 1138

The Place of the Skull (Luke 23:32-33)

The destination of this mournful procession is outside Jerusalem:

"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals -- one on his right, the other on his left." (Luke 23:32-33)

Luke doesn't use the Aramaic term Golgotha, "skull," as do the other Gospel writers (John 19:17 Matthew 27:33 Mark 15:22), but rather translates the term into Greek, "the place called the Skull" (Greek kranion). The term evokes the haunting specter of death. The KJV uses the term "Calvary" to describe the place, from the Vulgate's Latin word calvaria, "skull."

Locations of traditional Golgotha (Church of the Holy Sepulcher) and Gordon's Calvary. (larger map)

There is disagreement about the site of Golgotha. Scriptures indicate that it was outside the city (Hebrews 13:12) but close to it (John 19:20), probably along some public thoroughfare (Matthew 27:39), as well as being visible from afar (Mark 15:40 Luke 23:49). Two possible locations are held to be most probable:

  1. Church of the Holy Sepulcher. A site within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, not too far from the supposed site of Jesus' tomb. This site has the support of church tradition going back to Eusebius in the fourth century. 1139 According to archeological studies in the 1960s, the location would have been well outside the city walls according to Josephus' description of the city's fortifications. Prior to the city's expansion, it was a quarry into which a number of tombs had been cut. 1140
  2. "Gordon's Calvary." A prominent, rounded, grassy hill above the so-called "Grotto of Jeremiah," northeast of the modern Damascus Gate. It sometimes called "Gordon's Calvary," after famous British General Charles George Gordon (1833-1885), an early advocate of the site. Though it has some resemblance to a skull, the "eyeholes" and rounded top are due to artificial excavations going back a couple of centuries and are not ancient. 1141

Though we think of Golgotha as on a hill, the text doesn't tell us that. Only the ability to see it from afar suggests a hill. The exact location isn't important. What happened there is of vital importance.

They Crucified Him (Luke 23:32-33)

"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals -- one on his right, the other on his left." (Luke 23:32-33)

The word translated "executed" (NIV) or "to be put to death" (KJV) is Greek anaireō, "'take away, do away with, destroy,' mostly of killing by violence, in battle, by execution, murder, or assassination." 1142 The Gospel writers don't dwell on the gruesome execution, they say simply "they crucified him," Greek stauroō, "nail to the cross, crucify." 1143

Crucifixion apparently began with the Persians, and was practiced later by Alexander the Great, and the Carthaginians. But with the Romans, the cross was widely used as a terrifying method of quelling the slave rebellions of the second century BC.

Crucifixion was performed in many cruel ways, as many as could be imagined to hurt and humiliate a victim and fix him as an example and deterrent in the minds of onlookers. The usual pattern, however, was this: On the ground the condemned person was

". bound with outstretched arms to the cross-beam by ropes, or else fixed to it by nails. Then the beam was raised with the body and fastened to the upright post. About the middle of the post was a wooden block, which supported the suspended body. There was no foot-rest in ancient accounts." 1144

"In Roman times not only was it the rule to nail the victim by both hands and feet, but that the flogging which was a stereotyped part of the punishment would make the blood flow in streams." 1145

It is certain that Jesus' hands and feet were nailed to the cross, 1146 though the nails did not usually kill the condemned person. These wounds bled little. Most of the blood loss would be from the scourging administered before the crucifixion. That Jesus died within six hours on the cross is a testimony to the severity of the scourging administered by Pilate's soldiers before he was sent to Golgotha.

Death would come only slowly to most of the crucified, usually only after several days. Death resulted either from shock or "a painful process of asphyxiation as the muscles used in breathing suffered increasing fatigue." 1147 Imagine your body hanging from the arms for days at a time. To take a breath you'd have to raise your chest by pulling on your arms. Eventually, slowly, a condemned man became too weak to breathe.

Along with the Criminals (Luke 23:32-33)

The Gospel is clear: Jesus is crucified alongside common criminals, Greek kakourgos, "criminal, evil-doer, one who commits gross misdeeds and serious crimes." 1148 Luke tells us,

"They crucified him, along with the criminals -- one on his right, the other on his left" (Luke 23:33)

Jesus has suffered the final shame, something we might equate with death in the electric chair or gas chamber. Paul writes,

"He humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:8)

The writer of Hebrews says, he "endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Hebrews 12:2). He did it for us. Eight centuries before, Isaiah had prophesied of the Suffering Servant,

"He poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12)

James and John had asked for the places at his right and at his left -- in his glory (Mark 10:37). But the cross was scarcely his glory but his humiliation -- glory would come later (Philippians 2:8-11). And at his left and right were robbers, common thieves (Matthew 27:38 Mark 15:27). And now he makes intercession for the transgressors.

Father, Forgive Them (Luke 23:34a)

"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'" (Luke 23:34a)

Of the Seven Last Words of Christ from the cross, this is the first -- forgiveness (though the text is missing in some early manuscripts). 1149 Notice the simple address to his "Father." In an early morning time of prayer in Gethsemane or from the cross, it is the same. God is "Father." He asks the Father to forgive, Greek aphiēmi, "cancel, remit, pardon," used of loans (Matthew 18:27) as well as referring to the remission of guilt. 1150 Forgiveness is choosing to no longer hold something against a person. In Jesus' case, he was asking the Father not to hold his execution against his killers, "for they do not know what they are doing."

  1. The soldiers. They have grown callous with killing. Jesus is just another criminal to them, driving the spikes is all in a day's work. Nothing personal, mind you. Business, strictly business. While Jesus is praying what may be the most profound prayer of all time, they are gambling to see who will win his clothing. Can the soldiers claim, "I can't help myself. If I didn't do it, someone else would have. It's the fault of the system"? No. They are personally responsible for their actions, under orders or not. Nothing absolves them from guilt -- except the Son of God hanging above them.
  2. Pilate. Pilate is arguably the most powerful man in Jerusalem, yet in the Gospels -- and to history -- he appears weak. He quickly perceives that Jesus is innocent of the trumped up charges against him. His wife warns him of a dream she has had, and pleads with him not to do anything to him (Matthew 27:19). And yet Pilate appeases the Jewish leaders and grants their request -- against all sense of pride in Roman justice. How could he not know what he was doing?
  3. The Jewish leaders. The high priestly family, the scribes, and the Pharisees were all out to destroy Jesus. They manipulated his words, brought false witnesses, put political pressure on Pilate, and stirred up the crowd to demand crucifixion rather than release. How could they not know what they were doing? They might have excused themselves by saying that the end justifies the means. But they were guilty.

But even though each responsible party acted wickedly and unrighteously, Jesus gives them the benefit of the doubt. So do the leaders of the early church:

"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)

"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders." (Acts 3:17)

"The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath." (Acts 13:27)

"None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8)

As I look for lessons in this depressing and chilling lesson, this prayer of Jesus to forgive his enemies stands as a brilliant light and a rich jewel that illuminates the darkness of that day.

The application to disciples is very clear: if Jesus intercedes for the forgiveness of his enemies who are guilty of gross wickedness, how can you and I withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged us? If we are disciples, learners, of Jesus, then we must learn this. If we are followers of Jesus, then we must follow him here, along the path of forgiving our enemies and persecutors and those who intend evil against us (Luke 6:27-31 Matthew 5:43-48 6:14-15).

When evil has plunged a person into the grossest iniquity and the depths of degradation, the grace of God seems to be all the more beautiful.

Casting Lots for His Clothing (Luke 23:34b)

Among those Jesus forgives, none has asked for forgiveness. The second half of this verse is deeply ironic. At Jesus' feet sit the soldiers on the crucifixion detail that day. It is their right, their perquisite, to claim the clothing of the condemned.

"And they divided up his clothes by casting lots." (Luke 23:34b)

They throw lots to decide who gets a particular garment. The noun is Greek klēros, "'lot' (i.e. pebble, small stick, etc.). When I was a boy we drew straws to see who got something. Casting lots was a game of chance designed to decide a matter. Above them Jesus hangs naked and bloody. Below him they cast lots for his bloody raiment. The bloodstains will wash out, they tell each other. The bloodstains will wash away.

This passage is worded to bring to mind the prophecy of Psalm 22:16-18, which it fulfills:

"Dogs have surrounded me
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing." (Psalm 22:16-18)

Naked on the Cross?

Was Jesus naked and exposed on the cross? Men were ordinarily crucified naked. 1151 Schneider tells us, "Sometimes [the condemned person] was stripped and his clothes were divided among the executioners, though this was not the common rule." 1152 The very purpose of crucifixion was utter humiliation for the condemned. What would be more humiliating than to strip a person naked?

But among the Jews, nakedness, particularly nakedness in public, was considered exceedingly shameful. Edersheim cites Sanhedrin vi.3.4 that in Jewish executions by stoning, "the criminal was undressed, only the covering absolutely necessary for decency being left." While he concedes that Jesus was executed by Romans, not Jews, he feels that "every concession would be made to Jewish custom," and thus Jesus would have been spared the indignity of exposure as being "truly un-Jewish." 1153 Green, on the other hand, assumes Jesus' nakedness at the crucifixion. 1154 Was Jesus naked on the cross? We just can't be sure.

Let Him Save Himself (Luke 23:35-37)

Two groups mock Jesus on the cross: the rulers and the soldiers themselves.

"The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.' The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.'" (Luke 23:35-37)

The mocking is strangely familiar. It sounds much like Satan's original temptation in the desert, "If you are the Son of God. " (Luke 4:3, 9). It is a challenge to prove against all odds that you are whom you claim to be. Many of us fall for this form of temptation easily as our pride kicks into gear. Not Jesus. The word translated "sneered" in verse 35 is the Greek imperfect tense of ekmyktērizō, "ridicule, sneer," literally "turn up the nose" at someone. 1155 The imperfect tense suggests continuous action in the past -- the rulers kept on ridiculing him. They wouldn't quit. In verse 36, the verb translated "mocked" is the Aorist tense of Greek empaizō, "ridicule, make fun of, mock" (in word and deed). 1156 The tense of the word suggests that the soldiers mocked Jesus once and then ceased, though they probably spent the rest of the day at the foot of the cross.

We may think of mockery as confined to Jesus, but mockery of condemned criminals was widespread and common at crucifixions. 1157 Watching someone die seems to bring out the curious as well as the worst in humankind. Mockery of the condemned occurred during public hangings in England into the nineteenth century.

But consider whom the rulers and soldiers mocked with the devil's words: an innocent man, the Son of God, and their only hope for eternal life. How many times since have each of these foolish men wished they could have taken back their words?

Offering Wine Vinegar (Luke 23:36b)

The text mentions that the soldiers mocked him while offering him wine vinegar, Greek oxos, "sour wine, wine vinegar." Arndt and Gingrich note, "It relieved thirst more effectively than water and, because it was cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society and of those in moderate circumstances, especially of soldiers." 1158 John's Gospel records,

"A jar of wine vinegar (oxos) was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips." (John 19:29-30)

This was offered in response to Jesus' words, "I thirst," and appears to be different from the wine (oinos) mingled with myrrh (Matthew 27:34 Mark 15:23) that was offered (and refused) before the crucifixion, apparently paid for by an association of charitable women in Jerusalem, to help deaden the pain. 1159

King of the Jews (Luke 23:38)

"There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews." (Luke 23:38)

Part of a typical crucifixion included a tablet hung around the offender on the way to his execution stating his crime. 1160 At least in Jesus' case, this inscription was affixed to the cross after the execution so that all could see, though there is no evidence that such posting on the cross was a general practice. 1161

The placard is ironic: "This is the king of the Jews." Pilate no doubt wrote it as a jab at the Jewish leaders whom he despised, and to whom he had given in, allowing Jesus to be crucified. Pilate might have been weak, but he would have the last word. The leaders complained, but Pilate persisted: "What I have written, I have written" (John 19:19-22).

But the placard is doubly ironic. The roughly printed placard intended to state Jesus' crime in reality proclaims his true title. He is the Son of David, the descendent of Israel's greatest king, who comes as the Christ, the Messiah to liberate his people. And in his final act of liberation -- the atonement of the cross -- he is publicly proclaimed as King!

And so the Servant King humbles himself and becomes "obedient to death -- even death on a cross!" As Lamb of God, he gives up his life, bearing our sins, that we might not have to answer for them at the Judgment, but be forgiven.

It is a strange plan, this plan of God.
It is a cup that Jesus pleaded could be removed from him,
but only if the Father willed it.
And now the weight,
the weight of our sin,
settles down upon him
as he suffers,
as he suffers to redeem you and me.
This is the King.
Not only the King of the Jews,
But, by God's grace,
Our King -- yours and mine.


Father, to read and study about Jesus' death depresses me, it saddens me. How horrible! And yet, I know that there's a sense in which my sins put him there, and a sense in which his words, "Father, forgive them," were spoken about me, too. Thank you for your love that bore such pain. Thank you for the undeserved, costly gift of forgiveness that you have given me. Help me to now live in a manner worthy of such love. In Jesus' holy name, I pray. Amen.

Key Verse

"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'" (Luke 23:34a)


Click on the link below to discuss on the forum one or more of the questions that follow -- your choice.

  1. What does Simon carrying Jesus' cross tell us about Jesus? About Simon? In what sense must his followers carry his cross today as they follow after him?
  2. Why does Jesus tell the daughters of Jerusalem to weep for themselves and their children?
  3. What is the significance of Jesus being crucified among common criminals? Why does the Father allow this event to be so degrading and degraded?
  4. In his prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?" whom does Jesus forgive? Can we be forgiven if we know full well what we are doing? Was Pilate forgiven? The soldiers? The chief priests? Judas? Does that mean we will see them in heaven, or is it a "potential pardon" only which must be accepted?
  5. Why did Pilate write the inscription, "This is the king of the Jews?" What did he mean by it? What is the full significance of this placard?


[1125] The best resource on crucifixion I have found is the short and relatively inexpensive book Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross by Martin Hengel (translated from the 1976 German edition by John Bowden Fortress Press/SCM Press, 1977, 99 pages, ISBN 080061268X). It is richly footnoted and provides a comprehensive study of the gruesome practice of crucifixion in the ancient world.

[1126] Hengel, p. 29, fn. 21, includes half a page of references

[1127] Johannes Schneider, saturos, ktl., TDNT 7:572-584, esp. 573.

[1128] Stauros, BAGD 764-765. TDNT 7:572. The Jehovah's Witness' contention that Jesus died on an impaling stake shows a narrowness in interpreting the ancient evidence. While men were impaled on impaling stakes in ancient times, it is clear that Jesus is nailed to the cross and left to die. The shape of the stauros varied greatly. It could be a single upright post, or with a cross-piece added, either to the top in a T shape (L. crux commissa), or with intersecting beams of equal length ( L. crux immissa).

[1129] Seneca, Epistle 101 to Lucilius, quoted in Hengel, pp. 30-31.

[1130] Epilambanomai, BAGD 295.

[1132] Koptō, BAGD 444. Also used in Matthew 11:17 24:30 Luke 8:52 Revelation 1:7 18:9.

[1134] See my "Stations of the Cross or The Way of the Cross
for Protestants and Catholics," illustrated with paintings by James J. Tissot. http://www.joyfulheart.com/stations-of-the-cross/

[1135] "St. Veronica," Catholic Encyclopedia (1907).

[1137] Josephus, Wars of the Jews, v.12.3.

[1138] Marshall, Luke, p. 865 Gottlob Schrenk, xylon, ktl., TDNT 5:38.

[1139] Eusebius, Vita Constantini iii.26.

[1140] Joel B. Green, "Death of Jesus," DJG, pp. 146-163, in particular, p. 150.

[1141] David F. Payne, "Golgotha," ISBE 2:523-524. Edersheim, Life and Times 2:585-586, describes it and suggests that this was the actual location.

[1144] Schneider, TDNT 7:573. See also Hengel, p. 25.

[1146] "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!" Luke 24:39 also John 20:25 Acts 2:23 Colossians 2:14.

[1149] Verse 34 is omitted in many early manuscripts: p 75 א a vid B D* W Θ it a,d syr s cop sa,bo . The UBS text include it only in double brackets with a rating of C (A is most probably, D is less probable), and Metzger, p. 180 concludes that "the logion, though probably not part of the original Gospel of Luke, bears self-evident tokens of its dominical origin. " On the other hand, Marshall (Luke, pp. 867-868) marshals eight arguments in favor of its originality. He concludes, "The balance of the evidence thus favors acceptance of the saying as Lucan, although the weight of the textual evidence against the saying precludes any assurance in opting for this verdict."

[1151] Artemidorus II. 61, is cited by William L. Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (New International Commentary series Eerdmans, 1974), p. 566.

Crucifixion—The Archaeological Evidence

From ancient literary sources we know that tens of thousands of people were crucified in the Roman Empire. In Palestine alone, the figure ran into the thousands. Yet until 1968 not a single victim of this horrifying method of execution had been uncovered archaeologically.

In that year I excavated the only victim of crucifixion ever discovered. He was a Jew, of a good family, who may have been convicted of a political crime. He lived in Jerusalem shortly after the turn of the era and sometime before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

In the period following the Six Day War—when the Old City and East Jerusalem were newly under Israeli jurisdiction—a great deal of construction was undertaken. Accidental archaeological discoveries by construction crews were frequent. When that occurred, either my colleagues at the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums or I would be called in part of our job was to investigate these chance discoveries.

In late 1968 the then Director of the Department, Dr. Avraham Biran, asked me to check some tombs that had been found northeast of Jerusalem in an area called Giv‘at ha-Mivtar. A crew from the Ministry of Housing had accidentally broken into some burial chambers and discovered the tombs. After we looked at the tombs, it was decided that I would excavate four of them.

The tombs were part of a huge Jewish cemetery of the Second Temple period (second century B.C. to 70 A.D.), extending from Mt. Scopus in the east to the Sanhedriya tombs in the northwest. Like most of the tombs of this period, the particular tomb I will focus on here was cut, cave-like, into the soft limestone that abounds in Jerusalem. The tomb consisted of two rooms or chambers, each with burial niches.

This particular tomb (which we call Tomb No. 1) was a typical Jewish tomb, just like many others found in Jerusalem. On the outside, in front of the entrance to the tomb, was a forecourt (which, unfortunately, had been badly damaged). The entrance itself was blocked by a stone slab and led to a large, carved-out cave chamber, nearly 10 feet square (Chamber A on the plan). On three sides of the chamber were stone benches, intentionally left by the carver of the chamber. The fourth wall contained two openings leading down to another, lower chamber (Chamber B on the plan) that was similar in design to the first but had no benches. When we found Chamber B, its entrance was still blocked with a large stone slab.

Each of the two chambers contained burial niches that scholars call loculi (singular: loculus), about five to six feet long and a foot to a foot and a half wide. In Chamber A, there were four loculi and in Chamber B, eight—two on each side. In Chamber B the two loculi carved into the wall adjacent to Chamber A were cut under the floor of Chamber A.

Some of the loculi were sealed by stone slabs others were blocked by small undressed stones that had been covered with plaster. In Chamber B, in the floor by the entrance to Chamber A, a child’s bones had been buried in a small pit. The pit was covered by a flat stone slab, similar to the ossuary lids I shall describe later.

Nine of the 12 loculi in the two tomb chambers contained skeletons, usually only one skeleton to a loculus. However, three of the loculi (Loculi 5, 7 and 9) 046 contained ossuaries. Ossuaries are small boxes (about 16 to 28 inches long, 12 to 20 inches wide and 10 to 16 inches high) for the secondary burial of bones. During this period, it was customary to collect the bones of the deceased after the body had been buried for almost a year and the flesh had decomposed. The bones were then reinterred in an ossuary. The practice of collecting bones in ossuaries had a religious significance that was probably connected with a belief in the resurrection of the dead. But this custom was also a practical measure it allowed a tomb to be used for a prolonged period. As new burials became necessary, the bones of earlier burials were removed and placed in an ossuary. Reburial in an ossuary was, however, a privilege for the few not every Jewish family could afford them. Most families reburied the bones of their dead in pits. The use of stone ossuaries probably began during the Herodian dynasty (which began in 37 B.C.) and ended in the second half of the second century A.D.

Thousands of ossuaries have been found in cemeteries around Jerusalem. Most, like the ones we found, are carved from soft local limestone. The workmanship varies. Some that we found in the tomb have a smooth finish over all their surfaces, including the lids. Others, especially the larger ossuaries, are cruder the surfaces were left unsmoothed and the marks of the cutting tools are clearly visible.

The ossuaries are variously decorated with incised lines, rosettes and sometimes inscriptions. Ossuary lids are of three types: gabled, flat and convex. We found all three types in our tomb. Often, ossuaries bear scratched marks at one end, extending onto the edge of the lid. These marks served to show how the lid was to be fitted onto the ossuary.

Of the eight ossuaries we found in this tomb, three were in situ in loculi in Chamber B the other five were discovered in Chamber B in the middle of the floor.

We also found a considerable quantity of pottery in the tomb. Because all the pottery was easily identifiable, we were able to date the tomb quite accurately. The entire 047 assemblage can be dated with certainty between the late Hellenistic period (end of the second century B.C., about 180 B.C.) to the Roman destruction of the Second Temple (70 A.D.). However, the bulk of the pottery dates to the period following the rise of the Herodian dynasty in 37 B.C. The assemblage included so-called spindle bottles a (probably used for aromatic balsam), globular juglets (for oil), oil lamps and even some cooking pots.

The skeletal finds indicate that two generations were buried in this tomb. No doubt this was the tomb of a family of some wealth and perhaps even prominence. The eight ossuaries contained the bones of 17 different people. Each ossuary contained the bones of from one to five people. The ossuaries were usually filled to the brim with bones, male and female, adult and child, interred together. One ossuary also held a bouquet of withered flowers.

As we shall see from the inscriptions, at least one member of this family participated in the building of Herod’s temple. But despite the wealth and achievement of its members, this family was probably not a happy one.

An osteological examination showed that five of the 17 people whose bones were collected in the ossuaries died before reaching the age of seven. By age 37, 75 percent had died. Only two of the 17 lived to be more than 50. One child died of starvation, and one woman was killed when struck on the head by a mace.

And one man in this family had been crucified. He was between 24 and 28 years old, according to our osteologists.

Strange though it may seem, when I excavated the bones of this crucified man, I did not know how he had died. Only when the contents of Ossuary No. 4 from Chamber B of Tomb No. 1 were sent for osteological analysis was it discovered that it contained one three- or four-year-old child and a crucified man—a nail held his heel bones together. The nail was about 7 inches (17–18 048 cm) long.

Before examining the osteological evidence, I should say a little about crucifixion. Many people erroneously assume that crucifixion was a Roman invention. In fact, Assyrians, Phoenicians and Persians all practiced crucifixion during the first millennium B.C. Crucifixion was introduced in the west from these eastern cultures it was used only rarely on the Greek mainland, but Greeks in Sicily and southern Italy used it more frequently, probably as a result of their closer contact with Phoenicians and Carthaginians. 1

During the Hellenistic period, crucifixion became more popular among the Hellenized population of the east. After Alexander died in 323 B.C., crucifixion was frequently employed both by the Seleucids (the rulers of the Syrian half of Alexander’s kingdom) and by the Ptolemies (the rulers of the Egyptian half).

Among the Jews crucifixion was an anathema. (See Deuteronomy 21:22–23 : “If a man is guilty of a capital offense and is put to death, and you impale him on a stake, you must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must bury him the same day. For an impaled body is an affront to God: you shall not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”)

The traditional method of execution among Jews was stoning. Nevertheless, crucifixion was occasionally employed by Jewish tyrants during the Hasmonean period. According to Josephus, 2 Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Jews on a single day during the revolt against the census of 7 A.D.

At the end of the first century B.C., the Romans adopted crucifixion as an official punishment for non-Romans for certain legally limited transgressions. Initially, it was employed not as a method of execution, but only as a punishment. Moreover, only slaves convicted of certain crimes were punished by crucifixion. During this early period, a wooden beam, known as a furca or patibulum was placed on the slave’s neck and bound to his arms. The slave was then required to march through the neighborhood proclaiming his offense. This march was intended as an expiation and humiliation. Later, the slave was also stripped and scourged, increasing both the punishment and the humiliation. Still later, instead of walking with his arms tied to the wooden beam, the slave was tied to a vertical stake.

Because the main purpose of this practice was to punish, humiliate and frighten disobedient slaves, the practice did not necessarily result in death. Only in later times, probably in the first century B.C., did crucifixion evolve into a method of execution for conviction of certain crimes.

Initially, crucifixion was known as the punishment of the slaves. Later, it was used to punish foreign captives, rebels and fugitives, especially during times of war and rebellion. Captured enemies and rebels were crucified in masses. Accounts of the suppression of the revolt of Spartacus in 71 B.C. tell how the Roman army lined the road from Capua to Rome with 6,000 crucified rebels on 6,000 crosses. After the Romans quelled the relatively minor rebellion in Judea in 7 A.D. triggered by the death of King Herod, Quintilius Varus, the Roman Legate of Syria, crucified 2,000 Jews in Jerusalem. During Titus’s siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Roman troops crucified as many as 500 Jews a day for several months.

In times of war and rebellion when hundreds and even thousands of people were crucified within a short period, little if any attention was paid to the way the crucifixion was carried out. Crosses were haphazardly constructed, and executioners were impressed from the ranks of Roman legionaries.

In peacetime, crucifixions were carried out according 049 to certain rules, by special persons authorized by the Roman courts. Crucifixions took place at specific locations, for example, in particular fields in Rome and on the Golgotha in Jerusalem. Outside of Italy, the Roman procurators alone possessed authority to impose the death penalty. Thus, when a local provincial court prescribed the death penalty, the consent of the Roman procurator had to be obtained in order to carry out the sentence.

Once a defendant was found guilty and was condemned to be crucified, the execution was supervised by an official known as the Carnifix Serarum. From the tribunal hall, the victim was taken outside, stripped, bound to a column and scourged. The scourging was done with either a stick or a flagellum, a Roman instrument with a short handle to which several long, thick thongs had been attached. On the ends of the leather thongs were lead or bone tips. Although the number of strokes imposed was not fixed, care was taken not to kill the victim. Following the beating, the horizontal beam was placed upon the condemned man’s shoulders, and he began the long, grueling march to the execution site, usually outside the city walls. A soldier at the head of the procession carried the titulus, an inscription written on wood, which stated the defendant’s name and the crime for which he had been condemned. Later, this titulus was fastened to the victim’s cross. When the procession arrived at the execution site, a vertical stake was fixed into the ground. Sometimes the victim was attached to the cross only with ropes. In such a case, the patibulum or crossbeam, to which the victim’s arms were already bound, was simply affixed to the vertical beam the victim’s feet were then bound to the stake with a few turns of the rope.

If the victim was attached by nails, he was laid on the ground, with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms were held out and nailed to the two ends of the crossbeam, which was then raised and fixed on top of the vertical beam. The victim’s feet were then nailed down against this vertical stake.

Without any supplementary body support, the victim would die from muscular spasms and asphyxia in a very short time, certainly within two or three hours. Shortly after being raised on the cross, breathing would become difficult to get his breath, the victim would attempt to draw himself up on his arms. Initially he would be able to hold himself up for 30 to 60 seconds, but this movement would quickly become increasingly difficult. As he became weaker, the victim would be unable to pull himself up and death would ensue within a few hours.

In order to prolong the agony, Roman executioners devised two instruments that would keep the victim alive on the cross for extended periods of time. One, known as a sedile, was a small seat attached to the front of the cross, about halfway down. This device provided some support for the victim’s body and may explain the phrase used by the Romans, “to sit on the cross.” Both Erenaeus and Justin Martyr describe the cross of Jesus as having five extremities rather than four the fifth was probably the sedile. To increase the victim’s suffering, the sedile was pointed, thus inflicting horrible pain. The second device added to the cross was the suppedaneum, or foot support. It was less painful than the sedile, but it also prolonged the victim’s agony. Ancient historians record many cases in which the victim stayed alive on the cross for two or three or more days with the use of a suppedaneum. The church father Origen writes of having seen a crucified man who survived the whole night and the following day. Josephus refers to a case in which three crucified Jews survived on the cross for three days. During the mass crucifixions following the repression of the revolt of Spartacus in 050 Rome, some of the crucified rebels talked to the soldiers for three days. 3

Using this historical background and the archaeological evidence, it is possible to reconstruct the crucifixion of the man whose bones I excavated at Giv‘at ha-Mivtar.

The most dramatic evidence that this young man was crucified was the nail which penetrated his heel bones. But for this nail, we might never have discovered that the young man had died in this way. The nail was preserved only because it hit a hard knot when it was pounded into the olive wood upright of the cross. The olive wood knot was so hard that, as the blows on the nail became heavier, the end of the nail bent and curled. We found a bit of the olive wood (between 1 and 2 cm) on the tip of the nail. This wood had probably been forced out of the knot where the curled nail hooked into it.

When it came time for the dead victim to be removed from the cross, the executioners could not pull out this nail, bent as it was within the cross. The only way to remove the body was to take an ax or hatchet and amputate the feet. Thereafter, the feet, the nail and a plaque of wood that had been fastened between the head of the nail and the feet remained attached to one another as we found them in Ossuary No. 4. Under the head of the nail, the osteological investigators found the remains of this wooden plaque, made of either acacia or pistacia wood. The wood attached to the curled end of the nail that had penetrated the upright of the cross was, by contrast, olive wood.

At first the investigators thought that the bony material penetrated by the nail was only the right heel bone (calcaneum). This assumption initially led them to a mistaken conclusion regarding the victim’s position on the cross. Further investigation disclosed, however, that the nail had penetrated both heel bones. The left ankle bone (sustentaculum tali) was found still attached to the bone mass adjacent to the right ankle bone, which was itself attached to the right heel bone. When first discovered, the two heel bones appeared to be two formless, unequal bony bulges surrounding an iron nail, coated by a thick calcareous crust. But painstaking investigation gradually disclosed the makeup of the bony mass. b

A word about the conditions under which the bones in the ossuaries were studied might be appropriate here. The medical team that studied the bones was given only four weeks to conduct their examination before the bones were reburied in a modern ceremony. Certain long-term preservation procedures were therefore impossible, and this precluded certain kinds of measurements and comparative studies. In the case of the crucified man, however, the investigators were given an additional period of time to study the materials, and it was during this period that the detailed conditions described here were discovered.

When removed from the tomb chamber, each of the eight ossuaries was one-third filled with a syrupy fluid. Strangely enough, the considerable moisture in the ossuaries resulted in a peculiar kind of preservation of the packed bones. The bones immersed in the fluid at the bottom of the ossuaries were coated with a limy sediment. As a result, the nailed heel bones were preserved in relatively good condition. Nevertheless, the overall condition of the bones must be described as fragile.

Before they were studied, the bones were first dehydrated and then impregnated with a preservative. Only then could they be measured and photographed.

Despite these limiting conditions, a detailed and very human picture of the crucified man gradually emerged. At 5 feet 6 inches (167 cm) tall, this young man in his mid- to late-twenties stood at about the mean height for Mediterranean people of the time. His limb bones were fine, slender, graceful and harmonious. The muscles that had been attached to his limb bones were lean, pointing to moderate muscular activity, both in childhood and after maturity. Apparently he never engaged in heavy physical labor. We can tell that he had never been seriously injured before his crucifixion, because investigators found no pathological deformations or any traumatic bony lesions. His bones indicated no marks of any disease or nutritional deficiency.

The young man’s face, however, was unusual. He had a cleft right palate—a congenital anomaly which was also associated with the congenital absence of the right upper canine tooth and the deformed position of several other teeth. In addition, his facial skeleton was asymmetric, slanting slightly from one side to the other (plagiocephaly). The eye sockets were at slightly different heights, as were the nasal apertures. There were differences between the left and right branches of the lower jaw bone, and the forehead was more flattened on the right side than on the left. Some of these asymmetries have a direct association with the cleft palate.

The majority of modern medical scholars ascribe a cleft palate (and some associated asymmetries of the face) not to a genetic factor but to a critical change in the manner of life of the pregnant woman in the first two or three weeks of pregnancy. This critical change has frequently been identified as an unexpected deterioration in the woman’s diet, in association with psychical stress. Statistically, this malformation occurs more frequently in chronically undernourished and underprivileged families than in the well-situated. But some catastrophe could cause sudden stress in the life of a well-to-do woman as well.

Other asymmetries of the facial skeleton may be attributable to disturbances in the final period of pregnancy or difficulties in delivery. Thus, our medical experts conjectured two prenatal crises in the life of this crucified man: one in the first few weeks of his mother’s pregnancy and the other, a most difficult birth.

To help determine the appearance of the face, the team of anatomical experts took 38 anthropological measurements, 28 other measurements, and determined four cranial indices. The general shape of the facial skeleton, including the forehead, was five-sided. Excluding the forehead, the face was triangular, tapering below eye level. The nasal bones were large, curved, tight in the upper region and coarse in the lower part. The man’s nose was curved and his chin robust, altogether a mild-featured facial skeleton.

Despite the prenatal anomalies, the man’s face must have been quite pleasant, although some might say that it must have been a bit wild. His defects were doubtless almost imperceptible, hidden by his hair, beard and moustache. His body was proportionate, agreeable and graceful, particularly in motion.

What his life was like, we cannot know. But he seems to have come from a comfortable, if not well-to-do family. One of the ossuaries (not the one containing the crucified 052 man) was inscribed in Aramaic on the side: “Simon, builder of the Temple.” Apparently at least one member of the family participated in Herod’s lavish rebuilding of the Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Simon may well have been a master mason or an engineer. Another ossuary was inscribed “Yehonathan the potter.”

We may conjecture that during this turbulent period of history, our crucified man was sentenced to die by crucifixion for some political crime. His remains reveal the horrible manner of his dying.

From the way in which the bones were attached, we can infer the man’s position on the cross. The two heel bones were attached on their adjacent inside (medial) surfaces. The nail went through the right heel bone and then the left. Since the same nail went through both heels, the legs were together, not apart, on the cross.

A study of the two heel bones and the nail that penetrated them at an oblique angle pointing downward and sideways indicates that the feet of the victim were not fastened tightly to the cross. A small seat, or sedile must have been fastened to the upright of the cross. The evidence as to the position of the body on the cross convinced the investigators that the sedile supported only the man’s left buttock. This seat both prevented the collapse of the body and prolonged the agony.

Given this position on the cross and given the way in which the heel bones were attached to the cross, it seems likely that the knees were bent, or semi-flexed, as in the drawing. This position of the legs was dramatically confirmed by a study of the long bones below the knees, the tibia or shinbone and the fibula behind it.

Only the tibia of the crucified man’s right leg was available for study. The bone had been brutally fractured into large, sharp slivers. This fracture was clearly produced by a single, strong blow. The left calf bones were lying across the sharp edge of the wooden cross, and the percussion from the blow on the right calf bones passed into the left calf bones, producing a harsh and severing blow to them as well. The left calf bones broke in a straight, sharp-toothed line on the edge of the cross, a line characteristic of a fresh bone fracture. This fracture resulted from the pressure on both sides of the bone—on one side from the direct blow on the right leg and on the other from the resistance of the edge of the cross.

The angle of the line of fracture on these left calf bones provides proof that the victim’s legs were in a semi-flexed position on the cross. The angle of the fracture indicates that the bones formed an angle of 60° to 65° as they crossed the upright of the cross. This compels the interpretation that the legs were semi-flexed.

When we add this evidence to that of the nail and the way in which the heel bones were attached to the cross, we must conclude that this position into which the victim’s body was forced was both difficult and unnatural.

The arm bones of the victim revealed the manner in which they were attached to the horizontal bar of the cross. A small scratch was observed on one bone (the radius) of the right forearm, just above the wrist. The scratch was produced by the compression, friction and gliding of an object on the fresh bone. This scratch is the osteological evidence of the penetration of the nail between the two bones of the forearm, the radius and the ulna.

Christian iconography usually shows the nails piercing the palms of Jesus’ hands. Nailing the palms of the hands is impossible, because the weight of the slumping body would have torn the palms in a very short time. The victim would have fallen from the cross while still alive. As the evidence from our crucified man demonstrates, the nails were driven into the victim’s arms, just above the wrists, because this part of the arm is sufficiently strong to hold the weight of a slack body. c

The position of the crucified body may then be 053 described 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 and seated on a sedile the upper limbs were stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm.

The victim’s broken legs not only provided crucial evidence for the position on the cross, but they also provide evidence for a Palestinian variation of Roman crucifixion—at least as applied to Jews. Normally, the Romans left the crucified person undisturbed to die slowly of sheer physical exhaustion leading to asphyxia. However, Jewish tradition required burial on the day of execution. Therefore, in Palestine the executioner would break the legs of the crucified person in order to hasten his death and thus permit burial before nightfall. This practice, described in the Gospels in reference to the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus ( John 19:18 ), has now been archaeologically confirmed. d Since the victim we excavated was a Jew, we may conclude that the executioners broke his legs on purpose in order to accelerate his death and allow his family to bury him before nightfall in accordance with Jewish custom.

We cannot know the crime of which our victim was accused. Given the prominence and wealth of the family, it is unlikely that he was a common thief. More likely, he was crucified for political crimes or seditious activities directed against the Roman authorities. Apparently, this Jewish family had two or three sons active in the political, religious and social life of Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period. One (Simon) was active in the reconstruction of the Temple. Another (Yehonathan) was a potter. The third son may have been active in anti-Roman political activities, for which he was crucified.

There’s something else we know about this victim. We know his name. Scratched on the side of the ossuary containing his bones were the words “Yehohanan, the son of Hagakol.”

For further details, see Vassilios Tzaferis, “Jewish Tombs at and near Giv‘at ha-Mivtar, Jerusalem,” Israel Exploration Journal 20/1, 2 (1970), pp. 18–32 Nico Haas, “Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv‘at ha-Mivtar,” Israel Exploration Journal 20/1, 2 (1970), pp. 38–59 and Joseph Naveh, “The Ossuary Inscriptions from Giv‘at ha-Mivtar,” Israel Exploration Journal 20/1, 2 (1970), pp. 33–37. See also, for a different hypothesis as to the position of Yehohanan on the cross, Yigael Yadin, “Epigraphy and Crucifixion,” Israel Exploration Journal 23 (1973), pp. 18–22. On the history of crucifixion, see Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary (Image Books, 1963).

What evidence is there for the severity of Roman scourging before crucifixion? - History

Horrors of Death By Crucifixion

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and died on the cross according to all four Gospels. In contradiction, some opposing theories say that even if he was crucified, Jesus did not actually die on the cross. [1] If Jesus did not die by crucifixion, it nullifies the Gospel claim that on the third day after his death, he was resurrected. History and science both corroborate their accounts of death by crucifixion.

Roman capital death penalty by crucifixion followed a well-honed process. Crucifixion can be described in no less than graphic terms. In fact, the English word “excruciating” is derived from the word “crucify” or “crux” meaning cross. [2]

Cicero , Josephus and other historical accounts of crucifixion have been corroborated through scientific examination. [3] Doctorate and PhD level research in the fields of forensics, pathology and medicine on Roman scourging and crucifixion articulates the horrific consequences to the victim. [4]

First, the victim was flogged or scourged by a multi-tipped whip containing fragments of metal or bone intended to rip the flesh of the victim. It inflicted terrible pain and weakened the victim through loss of blood causing severe dehydration and thirst, induced shock and could even lead to death before the actual crucifixion.

Next, it is believed the condemned were often forced to carry their own patibulum (crossbeams) weighing about 75 to 125 pounds down the long trek to a conspicuous public place of execution outside the city walls. There awaited upright posts or stipes left in place, as historical evidence suggests, because of the frequency of use and scarcity of wood.

Once at the execution site, the fated souls were stripped of clothing by the execution detail, forced down onto the ground in their open wounds, and affixed to the patibulum by nails possibly along with ropes. The patibulum was then fitted onto the upright stipes where the job was finished by nailing the feet to the stipes.

Crucifixion victims, shredded by flogging, were left to endure a humiliating and slow death suffering from severe dehydration, exposure and unspeakable pain. The consequence of hanging by extended arms added excruciating pain to the act of breathing with each breath pulling at the nail wounds driven through nerves in the wrists and having to push up full body weight on nailed feet.

Hypothermia would have added to the misery with the average 59° April temperature in Jerusalem, ranging from lows of 49°F to highs of 70°F. The Gospels report that the crucifixion of Jesus began at 9:00am which was shortly after reaching the nightly low temperature. Exposure was compounded by wind chill, moisture from blood and sweat, and the severe injuries inflicted by scourging and being nailed to the cross. [5]

If the physical torture wasn’t enough, there was the mental torment of humiliation by being stripped of clothing and hanging from the cross at a high traffic location as a spectacle for staring passers-by who, along with the Roman soldiers , shouted insults at the victim. Hanging defenseless and fully exposed on the cross, the sufferer was subject to becoming living carrion for scavenging birds.

Victims most likely died from hypovolemic shock (blood circulation complications) or a combination of other factors. [6] Death was believed to be hastened by breaking the legs of the victim such as mentioned in the Gospel accounts of the two thieves crucified with Jesus.

Roman judicial crucifixions were overseen by an execution squad made up of a centurion, exactor mortis, and four soldiers known as a quaternion. [7] The centurion was in charge of the execution and responsible for reporting back to the governing authority that the execution had been completed. [8] Failure to complete his duty could have dire consequences – survival of a crucifixion victim was not an option. [9]

Archeological evidence of a crucifixion was found in an ancient cemetery excavated in 1968 by Vassilios Tzaferis of the Israel Department of Antiquities. [10] Pottery shards in the tomb dated to the period that followed King Herod’s dynasty up to 70 AD. One adult male’s remains were identified by anthropologists to have died by crucifixion, his heel bone pierced by a bent 4.5 inch nail.

Remains of the olive wood cross were still attached to the nail between the bend and the heel bone as well as a remnant of the acacia or pistacia wooden plaque between the head of the nail and outside of the heel bone. The lower leg bones had been broken by a sharp blow.

Forensic, pathology, and medical research on Roman crucifixion antiquity historical references an archeological discovery with anthropology research validated by Israeli antiquity authorities all remarkably corroborate the circumstances of the crucifixion details in the Gospel accounts.

Considering the historical, archeological and medical science examinations information, how believable are the Gospel accounts that Jesus of Nazareth died by means of crucifixion on the cross?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus: Matthew 27:26-56 Mark 15:15-41 Luke 23:20-49 John 19:1-35.

Scourging Of Jesus

The scourging of Jesus cannot be told in a non-graphic way - nor should it be. Pictures will come to your mind as we discuss the details of Christ's punishment for our sins. Take precautions with young children.

Please read Matthew 27:27-31 before starting GraspingGod.com's free Bible study lessons, #3.11.

Previous lesson: Herod Antipas #3.10. Don't miss the entire (click) Jesus On the Cross Series of Bible study lessons, which teaches you the incredible physical and spiritual details of Easter Week.

Preliminary Bible Study Questions:

1) When did Jesus first suffer physical abuse?
2) What tool was used in Roman scourging?
3) What was the reason for the Roman's mocking of Christ?

This lesson was researched and written under a dark cloud. I'm saying that the sense of my sins at times overwhelmed me (Psalm 34:4-7), leaving me temporarily depressed. Knowing that the One who loves me took my punishment left me saddened, but finally overjoyed. In the end, nothing but gratitude towards my Savior filled my heart. Studying the suffering of Christ should churn our hearts.

Let's discuss the scourging of Jesus Christ, picking up the story immediately after his arrest.

Jesus' Love

Jesus made it clear that he was not going to defend himself (Mark 15:5) or attempt to flee (John 18:11) from the coming persecution. God could have rained fire down from heaven and ended this fiasco. He could have sent destroying angels to annihilate everyone from Judas to Pilate (Matthew 26:53).

Had Jesus done such a thing, our souls wouldn't be offered the amazing gift of salvation.

This was the Father's plan from the beginning and Jesus willingly joined him because of his love for people. Jesus' stoic silence and superhuman strength to withstand such a barrage of emotional and physical abuse was based on his love for us.

The study can best begin with the Scriptural data for the scourging of Jesus.

List Of Brutalities Against Jesus Christ:

  • A guard slapped Jesus during his trial before Annas, the honorary high priest: John 18:22-23
  • The mocking of Christ began at his trial before Caiaphas: Matthew 26:67-68
  • Herod and his guards mocked Jesus during his trial before Herod Antipas: Luke 23:11
  • Pilate officially ordered the scourging of Jesus: Matthew 27:26
  • Pilate sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion: Luke 23:24-25 John 19:16
  • Soldiers mocked Jesus until they grew tired: Matthew 27:27-31 John 19:2-3
  • Public and religious mockery with Jesus on the cross: Matthew 27:39-44 Luke 23:35-39

Who Participated In the Scourging Of Jesus?

Nearing the end of my research on this topic an interesting thought occurred. It seemed that one could divide the persecutors of Jesus Christ into two groups.

The first group behind the scourging of Jesus consisted of those who felt threatened by his life and teachings. The Jewish religious leaders formed and gathered many like-minded people. This group had their positions at stake along with the wealthy business of temple profiteering.

They also had deeply held religious beliefs grounded in a corrupted form of Judaism. Their Jewish faith had gone awry because they lost sight of the prophesied Messiah who would come and save them from their sins. If they had known the Scriptures they would have recognized Jesus as their promised Messiah (Mark 7:6-8 12:24).

Another group interested in the scourging of Jesus consisted of those who sought weekend entertainment. Herod Antipas and the Roman soldiers represented this group of heartless humans.

Many bystanders gathered alongside them for this public Roman sport (aka crucifixion). Blood draws people of this sort and they had plenty of Jesus' blood to fill their senses on this sad day.

We all should have our own broken hearts knowing that we are a part of the human race that lowered themselves to these despicable depths. This is a graphic record of how heinous and murdurous people can become when God's Spirit is withdrawn (Romans 1:24).

When Did the Scourging Of Jesus Occur?

The initial physical abuse against Jesus occurred when a guard slapped him during the trial at the high priest's home. The final physical abuse against Jesus occurred when the guards thrust a spear into his side while on the cross, although he was dead by that point.

The crucifixion of Jesus involved a dizzying display of unspeakable barbaric acts. All of Satan's demonic forces joined forces with the vilest of humans, and the combination resulted in the most inglorious day in humanity.

This particular study will focus on the mocking and flogging of Jesus. They are two different things altogether, although they were happening simultaneously to Christ.

The mocking consisted of people jeering and taunting Christ about his claims, and it occurred during the trials and crucifixion.

The flogging was the actual official Roman scourging of Jesus ordered by Pilate. The scourging of Jesus took place immediately after Pilate's sentencing of the Christ. Keep the distinctions in mind while we discuss Jesus' humiliation further.

Why Did the Scourging Of Jesus Occur?

First, let's breakdown the mocking of Christ. The Jewish leaders detested Jesus' claims to Jewish Kingship. They found no positives in simply mocking him for his claim, they wanted him crucified. The Jews wanted Jesus tortured to the highest degree known.

The Jews wanted to destroy the person AND legacy of Jesus Christ - leaving followers of Judaism no doubt that he was a religious fraud.

The Jews thought their Messiah would not be permitted by God to be conquered, so their crucifixion of Jesus was a bit of a dare towards God. The temple guards punished him through spitting and beating, but they were chastening him for his blasphemous claims of Jewish Kingship. They did not find any humor in his claims, as did our second group.

The Roman soldiers envisioned Caesar when they were told Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews. Caesar wore a laurel wreath, a purple tunic, and carried a scepter. After watching Herod and his guards mock Jesus' kingship, the mockery exploded through the Roman soldiers' ranks.

Once the order of public flogging was announced by Pilate the severe cruelty began. They wound together thorny twigs from a nearby bush to mock Caesar's crown. They found a faded robe to drape over his body mocking Caesar's tunic. Finally, the soldiers used a simple reed stick to mock Caesar's scepter. The soldiers then knelt and bowed in mocking this self-ordained King.

Jesus' Crown Of Thorns

Crowns were symbols of honor and authority in the Roman world during this era. The soldiers creatively, but ironically, wound Jesus' crown out of thorny branches in place of laurel leaves.

Thorns were placed on this earth by God because of the fall of man (Genesis 3:18) and here they return full circle. Apparently, for sinful mankind, it was best to use a symbol of their own original sin (aka thorns) to mock their Creator and Savior.

Certain varieties of plants around Jerusalem have woody thorns with a 2" length. Regardless of the length, Jesus' crown of thorns caused extreme bleeding and intense pain as it was pushed deep into his skull. The depth of humanity's rebellion against God was evident in this most heinous form of human cruelty.

Jewish men normally wore five articles of clothing: a tunic and belt, headpiece, robe-like garment, and sandals. Herod's mock tunic had been added to Jesus, as well, but discarded by the soldiers, being replaced with a faded red robe. The reed stick, mocking Caesar's scepter, was snatched from his hand in order to whip his face.

By this point in time, Jesus' face had been spat upon, slapped, beaten, punctured by thorns, and whipped with a reed. His swollen, bloody face left him unrecognizable.

Method Used In the Scourging Of Jesus

The Roman flogging (aka scourging) of Jesus was a horrific experience for the criminal.

After already being beaten and abused, Jesus was tied and whipped repeatedly with a lash, which had a wood handle and straps made from the sinews of oxen. Intertwined in the straps were slivers of bone, but in this case metal, which cut deep wounds into Jesus' flesh (Matthew 27:26).

Isaiah 50:6 states, "I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting."

Are there any doubts that Jesus Christ himself spoke through his prophets?

The mocking of Christ, and the scourging of Jesus, were but warm-up activities for what lie ahead - Jesus on the cross.

Maximum Shame Was the Goal

Two groups of people: Those who saw Jesus as a threat to their career or finances, and those who saw Jesus as amusement for their bloodthirsty desires, were to blame for his hideous ordeal.

The scourging of Jesus was meant to bring maximum shame upon him.

First of all, the Jewish leaders wanted him displayed as a weak man who couldn't save himself, much less other people. They sought to disprove his claims of Jewish Kingship. They were convinced the humiliating process of crucifixion was the only way to finally terminate the threat they knew existed from Jesus of Nazareth.

The second group were carrying out their orders, but with severe cruelty. They were entertaining the crowd, along with themselves. Keep in mind that all of these men were strongly influenced by Satan himself.

The forces all joined together in what was meant to humiliate Christ. They wanted to set him up for public shame so that no one was tempted to follow his teachings. They surprisingly were so focused on Jesus during this period, that they allowed his disciples to flee. That proved to be a severe lapse of judgment on their behalf.

Grasp This!

All of the humiliation, the mocking, the scourging of Jesus, and what lie ahead on the cross, was God's plan for Jesus. Jesus was spat upon, slapped, beaten, whipped, stripped naked, and flogged to be punished for your sin and my sin (Romans 4:25).

You and I deserve the punishment Jesus received. Every bit of this punishment was for us. Jesus drank our cup of God's wrath, because he loves us.

The Jewish religious leaders were ignorant of the Scriptures, which led to their failure to recognize their Messiah (Acts 3:17-18). Jesus was indeed Judaism's Messiah whether or not a Jew believed him (Acts 7:52-53).

No longer is there an excuse for ignorance for either Jews or non-Jews (aka Gentiles). If Jews would read their original Scriptures they would be led to salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 17:2-4).

Gentiles have both the Hebrews Scriptures (aka Old Testament) and the New Testament, leaving no one with an excuse (Acts 17:30).

Both groups of people need to learn the Holy Bible. They need to repent of their false notions of God and place faith in him through Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world (Acts 3:19-20).

During the trials and scourging of Jesus he kept silent, because he knew God's will (1 Pet 2:23). He didn't attempt to hide, flee, or defend himself. For why would he do such a thing? He came to earth to be punished and die for us.

Similar to our perfect model, the One of whom we are to have the same mind - we should be silent, strong, and courageous through our persecutions and trials (Acts 5:41-42). Jesus knew God's will, because he knew the Scriptures and meditated in prayer. Let's do the same.

We are called to remember Jesus' sacrifice during holy communion therefore, our thoughts should consider his terrible treatments during the passion of Christ Jesus. Our thoughts should reflect upon the mocking and scourging of Jesus.

The worldly powers, i.e., Satan and human governments, inflicted the uttermost shame possible on Jesus. He was beaten beyond recognition, stripped naked, and hung on a cross in full view of the public. Total humiliation was intended for our Savior, our Creator. His rebellious creation spoke, and Jesus was murdered.

Let's forsake our sin. Personal sin is born in the same place as what caused Jesus' death - the human heart. Each time we sin we mock Jesus' laws every rebellious act of ours scourges Christ's back.

Look in the mirror, letting God tell us if we're worthy of this perfect love of Jesus. I think we know what the answer will be. Fortunately, because of God's amazing grace, we can be forgiven by the sacrifice we caused.

Bible Study Questions:

1) What was Rome's ultimate goal in the punishment of prisoners?
2) What was the irony behind Jesus' crown of thorns?
3) Lack of Bible knowledge can lead a person to what depths of depravity?

Inspirational Bible Verses:
As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. Acts 17:10-12

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. Romans 3:21-25a

Faith Quotes!
Once we truly grasp the message of the New Testament, it is impossible to read the Old Testament again without seeing Christ on every page, in every story, foreshadowed or anticipated in every event and narrative. The Bible must be read as a whole, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation, letting promise and fulfillment guide our expectations for what we will find there. Michael Horton

The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts. George Muller

The Bible sanctifies and molds the mind into the image of Christ. Charles Spurgeon Quotes

We ought not to criticize, explain, or judge the Scriptures by our mere reason, but diligently, with prayer, meditate thereon, and seek their meaning. Martin Luther

Thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education. Theodore Roosevelt

Prayers of Thanksgiving:
Dear Father, thank you for this amazing plan that you laid out perfectly from before time began. You could have stopped everything the moment Adam and Eve sinned, but you chose to carry on, for the sake of your glory. Reveal a bit of that glory to us, O Lord, so more people can repent towards you. Burn a picture of Jesus on the cross into our hearts, forever emblazoned in our souls. God help us to know you, on your terms, in your time. I humbly close this prayer in Christ's most precious name. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

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Christ’s Death Under Medical Examination : Doctors’ Investigation of the Crucifixion Published in AMA Journal

Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was a study in the agony of a man whose arms and legs--their major nerves possibly cut by spikes--shot searing jolts of pain through a body already ravaged by blood loss from a severe whipping.

Having suffered for at least three hours, Jesus finally died of an unusually severe variety of blood loss-induced shock and a type of suffocation that normally resulted from crucifixion.

In the end, he may have suffered a climactic heart seizure--perhaps brought on by a blood clot breaking loose inside his arteries and fatally damaging his heart muscle. More likely, perhaps, he suffered a final episode of acute heart failure possibly caused by a catastrophic disturbance in the rhythm of his heartbeat.

If he did sustain a lance wound after he lost consciousness for the last time, the spear tip probably pierced the chest cavity, releasing a combination of blood and fluid that accumulated because of the worsening asphyxiation. The end of the lance probably penetrated Jesus’ heart, too, but its effect was academic for the man widely perceived as the son of God was already dead before the Roman soldier raised his weapon.

These conclusions, at least, are the findings of the most complete medical review of the agony of Christ’s death ever published in a medical journal. The article containing the conclusions was published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the new evaluation is apparently the first prominent medical evaluation of the Crucifixion published in this century. No major medical publication has addressed the issue at all in recent years. Dr. George Lundberg, the journal’s editor and a pathologist himself, said he found “nothing surprising” in the post-mortem review of Jesus’ death, adding that “I believe the descriptions are realistic, make good sense and are consistent with what expectations would be for a crucifixion death.”

Leading pathologists across the country agree that the evaluation is interesting speculation but not a final judgment. Indeed, questions so deeply rooted in history, philosophy and theology cannot be resolved with certainty.

In fact, remarked Dr. Michael Baden, deputy chief medical examiner in New York City, not only is it impossible to draw truly reliable medical conclusions about Christ’s death, but trying too hard to do so may hopelessly confuse faith and science. Baden has been involved in such prominent cases as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the drug death of comedian John Belushi. Jesus’ death, noted Baden, was not just a representative crucifixion, but the best known of all time.

“There is something beautiful about faith, and (it) stands on its own feet,” Baden said. “Conflict is created when one tries to give faith scientific underpinnings. They are two different kinds of belief.

“I think that it is hard to give scientific exactitude . . . to accounts that do not permit that kind of exactitude.”

Some of Baden’s position is similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church, noted Father Newman Eberhardt, professor of church history at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. In any final analysis, said Eberhardt, if one assumes, as Christians do, that Jesus Christ was the son of God, 20th-Century pathology is irrelevant because the Crucifixion occurred under complete divine control. If the belief in the deity of Jesus is rejected, attempted science nearly 2,000 years after the fact can’t be diagnostic anyway.

“These events,” said Eberhardt, “are not naturally explicable. The church is set up to teach the way to heaven. She doesn’t have any insights into biology.”

And irrespective of the relevance of science to such an inherently religious matter, doctors who have reviewed the new crucifixion pathology findings note that at least some of its science may rely for its most definitive conclusions on medical evidence that is at least controversial and perhaps suspect. The main component of this chain of evidence is the Shroud of Turin, purported by many to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus but whose authenticity remains unconfirmed.

Controversial for decades, the shroud still awaits what may be a crucial evaluation--in the form of radiocarbon dating--that may help to resolve whether its fiber actually dates to the time of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church controls the shroud and has made it clear a decision of how or if the shroud will be scientifically dated may not be made for another year. If the shroud is the burial cloth of Christ and contains an image of his body at the time of burial, it could confirm more scientifically than anything else the nature and type of injuries he sustained and tell something about his overall physical appearance.

But if the shroud proves not to be genuine, agreed three leading pathologists, most of the medical conclusions in the newly published review disintegrate scientifically.

Moreover, the Mayo Clinic pathologist who is the principal author of the new study is a “born-again” Christian who brought to his review an eagerness, he said, to confirm the tenet of faith that Christ died on the cross--making the Resurrection a true miracle. He said the research team, however, successfully managed to put aside its personal faith in order to conduct a valid scientific and historical inquiry.

At the same time, though, the pathologist, Dr. William D. Edwards, said he has experience only in hospital autopsies and has never, for instance, participated in a postmortem examination of the victim of a hanging or severe beating. Most contemporary pathologists and medical examiners have never seen a crucifixion victim, though one expert questioned by The Times said he once had himself tied to a cross to observe, firsthand, its effects on respiratory capacity.

The Mayo Clinic evaluation was written by Edwards but involved research contributions by Wesley Gabel, a Methodist minister in Rochester, Minn., where the clinic is located, and Floyd Hosmer, a Mayo Clinic medical illustrator who produced a series of detailed scientific drawings translating the meld of scripture, history and science into graphics tailored for a medical audience. Scripturally, the review relies heavily on sources that are standard references in conservative “born-again” Christianity, including books by bible scholar Josh McDowell.

The events of Good Friday, Edwards, Gabel and Hosmer concluded, involve these medical phenomena:

--The night before his death, Jesus is said in some scriptural accounts to have been in great emotional agony and that his sweat had the appearance of blood. If the description is accurate, the Mayo Clinic team speculated, Christ may have suffered from a rare medical condition called hematidrosis, in which blood is transferred to the sweat glands, emerging from the body mixed with perspiration.

--Before his brief religious trial on blasphemy charges and the ordeal of crucifixion, Jesus almost certainly was in robust physical condition, owing to the fact that his ministry required him to travel great distances on foot through what is now Israel. But by the morning of the Crucifixion itself, he was probably in a state of exhaustion and severe emotional upset--factors that would counteract his overall physical strength.

--Once Christ had been tried and condemned, the first step in the execution process was a severe scourging, inflicted with a type of whip that may have had pieces of sharp bone and metal tied into its thongs. The whipping was apparently severe, resulting in a large volume of blood loss that may have been as much as a quarter to a third of the body’s total blood supply.

--The blood loss set the stage for the early onset of shock. The fact that Christ could not support the weight of his own cross when instructed to carry it to the execution site lends additional support to the deepening shock theory.

--Jesus was attached to the cross with spikes five to seven inches long that were driven one each through his wrists and one through both of his feet. There are no major arteries at the sites of the nailings, but the spikes may have hit any of a number of crucial major nerves. What would have resulted would be “excruciating fiery bolts of pain in both arms.” Similar pain would have occurred because of wounds to the feet.

--Jesus would have been suspended with much of his weight borne by his arms, with his legs bent under him. In the classic symptoms of crucifixion, the position would have almost immediately started to reduce his respiratory capacity, initiating a gradual lessening of the oxygen being mixed into his bloodstream and setting the stage for eventual asphyxiation.

--Suffering would have been intense since severe muscle cramps, agonizing shooting pain from the nerve injuries and the struggle to maintain breathing by lifting the weight of his body with his arms could have been combined with such discomforts as insects burrowing into his ears, eyes and nose and birds of prey attacking the wounds.

--Because of the way Jesus’ respiratory system was compromised, speaking--as the Scriptures say he did seven times from the cross--would have been excruciatingly painful. Exhalation, the component of breathing that permits speech, is the most agonizing to a crucifixion victim. Because the chest’s role in respiration would have been severely curtailed, Jesus was probably controlling his intake of air and oxygen with the muscles of his abdomen.

--Eventually, the combination of blood loss before the crucifixion and the toll of the ordeal itself would have brought on something called hypovolemic shock, a state similar to what occurs in severe bleeding victims who are about to die. Meanwhile, the stress on Jesus’ respiratory system would have precipitated symptoms like those of congestive heart failure and blood clots would have begun to form on the major arteries or valves of the heart. Eventually, in the last moments of Christ’s agony, one of the clots may have broken loose, precipitating a catastrophic heart seizure that would account for biblical descriptions of an apparently climactic, final moment of agony.

--It is possible--perhaps likely--there was no such climactic heart attack, however, and that death was due more probably to shock, the eventual overwhelming effect of exhaustion-induced suffocation and some other sudden, acute heart failure episode. That terminal moment could have been influenced by the onset of a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. It is not clear from available evidence if Jesus’ death may have been influenced by an actual cardiac rupture, a situation popularized in the traditional layman’s perception of the Crucifixion in which Christ is said to have died of a broken heart.

--Whatever this sequence of events was, it was responsible for his death. Though there are contradictions in the biblical accounts, traditional Christian belief holds that a Roman soldier jabbed the moribund Christ with a lance tip. The wound apparently penetrated the chest cavity, causing release of a mixture of blood and clear fluid that had accumulated as a result of the suffocation effects. The lance tip probably also pierced the heart, but by then its effect was inconsequential. Christ had been on the cross for between three and six hours.

In all, concluded the Mayo Clinic article, “the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted.

“The important (conclusion) may be not how he died but whether he died. Interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”

“If I were to pick one conclusion as the most important, it would not be a medical one, but theological,” Edwards said in a telephone interview. “I think our most important conclusion is that Christ died on the cross. Many people would consider that self-evident and the important implications are theological more than medical in regard to various explanations of the Resurrection,” the belief that, three days after his death, Jesus rose from the dead.

Skeptics have suggested, Edwards noted, that Jesus may not have been dead when he was taken from the cross and that, if that were the case, the Resurrection could have been a hoax. “I think the authors would tend (to say) that there is nothing in our (medical findings) that counters the scriptural Crucifixion and that is not because we started out from that bias. It’s just the way it unfolded. Our findings pretty strongly support the literal, biblical interpretation of a supernatural, miraculous physical resurrection.”

When Edwards and the two other authors first submitted their article for publication in the AMA journal a year or so ago, the conclusions did not take any account of the clinical evidence that may be contained in the Shroud of Turin, recalled Dr. Robert Bucklin, a deputy San Diego County medical examiner who, as a committed Christian, has been studying the shroud since the 1940s.

He is today one of the most prominent experts on the shroud and he is convinced of its authenticity. Bucklin received a copy of the earlier draft of the new study when the Journal of the American Medical Assn. asked him to act as a review editor--common practice among major medical publications.

Bucklin said in a telephone interview he was gratified to see that the final version of the Edwards analysis relied significantly on the shroud. Without the shroud, Bucklin said, “you can only speculate” about the physiological causes of Jesus’ death.

But even though Bucklin believes the shroud to be authentic, he cautioned against reliance on the new medical conclusions as being entirely factual simply because, even assuming the shroud is what it is said to be, “you have to be very careful” about drawing pathological conclusions nearly 2,000 years after an event.

“I’ve been to court too many times,” Bucklin said. He said his own analysis of the pathology of the Crucifixion would give exhaustion less of a role in the cause of death than pure suffocation. Bucklin said he once had assistants tie him to a cross for a few minutes so he could better understand the physiology of what occurs in crucifixion.

“You are entitled to bring in other disciplines. You can put it all together and when you do, you have a very complete picture of what happened on that day in Jerusalem,” Bucklin said. But still, placing too much faith in such medical analysis may miss the point. To do so ignores, Bucklin said, the fundamentally religious nature of the interpretation of the life of Jesus Christ.

“One thing to keep in mind is that it is very clear that Christ willed his death in the scriptures,” Bucklin said. “That doesn’t mean these other things (medical events) did not occur. I am not trying to say there were not anatomic reasons for his death. But the bottom line is that he willed his death at that particular moment.”

Baden agreed, saying in a telephone interview that “the problem here is to interpret faith in the light of the scientific principles.” Clearly, said Baden, the new Crucifixion review is more historical than medical and “would not be admissible in a court of law if we were looking at an individual found in similar circumstances today.

“There were other things going on here (in this case.) I think (if this was a modern day case) it would require a diagnosis including exposure and exhaustion with lacerations of the back, (head) and chest.

“But we’re talking about a discussion of faith and mixing it again with the trappings of science and I am not persuaded that, with or without the Shroud of Turin, there is validity to this interpretation. I don’t think this type of analysis would reach the degree of validity to be permitted in the courtroom, but I’m sure physicians realize that.

“It’s certainly interesting to try to correlate biblical and other historical statements with modern knowledge.”

What evidence is there for the severity of Roman scourging before crucifixion? - History

This blog will talk about the scourge or whip used to administer punishment during Biblical times. We will also talk about the scourging of Jesus before He was taken to the cross. Please be aware that this blog will discuss in graphic detail the process of Roman scourging and the suffering of Jesus. It may not be suitable material for all readers.

The Scourge

The scourge, also known as a flogger or whip, has a long history during Biblical times. It was used to control flocks and herds. It was used as a symbol of position and power, like the scepter. (Pharaohs carried scourges into battle.) It was also used to administer punishment in many cultures in the ancient world. (Note: Some cultures continue to use scourging or caning to administer corporal punishment today.)

Under Mosaic Law, scourging was one of the punishments to be used for violating the Law. As an example, scourging was one of the punishments administered for committing adultery. Under Mosaic Law, God limited this punishment to 40 lashes. It became Israelite tradition to limit this to 39 lashes so that the Law would not be accidentally exceeded. Thirteen lashes were typically administered to each shoulder and 13 on the chest as punishment.

Scourging was also used by the Israelites as a form of purification. Women were occasionally scourged to drive away the demons of infertility. Men were more heavily scourged to drive out demons as well. Slaves were commonly scourged.

Scourging or the “rebels’ beating” was often administered to anyone defying Israelite Law or tradition, often without trial. Jesus delivered a “rebels’ beating” to the merchants when He cleared the Temple.

Roman Scourging

As with all things, the Romans refined and elevated the techniques of scourging as a form of punishment. One of the things the Romans did was attach pieces of metal, bone, wire or hardened clay to the strands of the whip so that it would rip open the skin. In Latin, the root words for “scourge” mean to “flay the flesh.” Under Roman Law there was no limit to the number of lashes that could be administered. This form of punishment was so brutal and feared that Roman law did prohibit its use for any citizen of Rome. Those sentenced to crucifixion were often scoured to maximize the pain inflicted and to hasten death. It was not unusual for prisoners to die under the lash or from blood loss rather than the process of crucifixion.

The Roman garrison in Jerusalem was composed of the Roman 10th Legion. These soldiers were not generally Roman citizens, but mercenaries from Thrace. They were known as the most brutal of all the Roman Legions. Specialists in the Legion were assigned to carry out punishments and executions for the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. They excelled at their jobs.

The Scourging of Jesus

Pilate did not want to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion but only to a scourging. It was only at the insistence of the Sanhedrin that he imposed this ultimate punishment. That does not mean that Pilate was not imposing a death sentence. It was very common that prisoners sentenced to scourging died under the whip. Although Pilate was not limited to 39 lashes, he imposed this limit in recognition of Israelite practice.

For the Legionnaires administering the lashes, this was not only their job but also sport. This is shown by the mocking of Jesus as he was scourged. Each soldier administering lashes would try to out-do the others in ripping skin and causing pain. The picture at the top of this blog, taken from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, only hints at the damage that would have been inflicted. Following His scourging, Jesus was literally a dead man walking.

Why should we know this?

Jesus was fully human, a mortal man. He suffered as any man would suffer under this form of punishment. The Romans fully intended for scourging and crucifixion to be the MOST painful, torturous and humiliating form of punishment possible. They were completely successful in their efforts.

But here is the key, my brothers and sisters.

Jesus went through all of this both willingly and with full knowledge of how He would suffer. He did so at the will of The Father as blood sacrifice for us, for our sins.

Watch the video: Eyewitness to Crucifixion