ON THE PHYSICAL DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST
Cross and titulus
Left, Victim carrying crossbar (patibulum) to site of upright post (stipes). Center, Low Tau cross (crux commissa), commonly used by Romans at time of Christ. Upper right, Rendition of Jesus' titulus, with name and crime–Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews–written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Lower right, Possible methods for attaching titulus to Tau cross (left) and latin cross (right).
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 (1 Peter 2:24). A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for this verse indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh. (33) ) It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law. (5) The Roman soldiers, amused that this weakened man had claimed to be a king, began to mock him by placing a robe on his shoulders, a crown of thorns on his head, and a wooden staff as a scepter in his right hand. (1) Next, they spat on Jesus and struck him on the head with the wooden staff. (1) Moreover, when the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus' back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds. (7)
The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out 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 and possibly critical.
Crucifixion probably first began among the Persians. (34) Alexander the Great introduced the practice to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans appear to have learned of it from the Carthaginans. (11) Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. (10,17) It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. (3,25,28) Roman law usually protected Roman citizens from crucifixion, (5) except perhaps in the case of desertion by soldiers. In its earliest form in Persia, the victim was either tied to a tree or was tied to or impaled on an upright post, usually to keep the guilty victim's feet from touching holy ground. (3,11,30,34,38). Only later was a true cross used; it was characterized by an upright post (stipes) and a horizontal crossbar (patibulum), and it had several variations (11). Although archaeological and historical evidence strongly indicates that the low Tau cross was preferred by the Romans in Palestine at the time of Christ, (2,7,11) crucifixion practices often varied in a given geographic region and in accordance with the imagination of the executioners, and the Latin cross and other forms also may have been used. (26) It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. (8,11,30)
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