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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scholar Says Christ Did Not Die On A Cross

There are lots of "theologians" who have crazy theories about Jesus. You got the ones who deny the Resurrection. You got others that attempt to explain away His miracles. There's a bunch who don't believe in Mary's perpetual virginity or her Assumption. There are loonier ones who see so no problem with gay sex, abortion or any other sort of sexual sin because Jesus didn't explicitly say anything about those topics. Of course, nearly every non-Catholic Christian has a blind spot concerning John 6 - the Bread of Life discourse.

But this one is new to me:

From the Jesus Did Not Die on a Cross, Says Scholar

Jesus may not have died nailed to the cross because there is no evidence that the Romans crucified prisoners two thousand years ago, a scholar has claimed.

The legend of his execution is based on the traditions of the Christian church and artistic illustrations rather than antique texts, according to theologian Gunnar Samuelsson.

He claims the Bible has been misinterpreted as there are no explicit references the use of nails or to crucifixion - only that Jesus bore a "staurus" towards Calvary which is not necessarily a cross but can also mean a "pole".

Mr Samuelsson, who has written a 400-page thesis after studying the original texts, said: "The problem is descriptions of crucifixions are remarkably absent in the antique literature.

"The sources where you would expect to find support for the established understanding of the event really don't say anything."

The ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew literature from Homer to the first century AD describe an arsenal of suspension punishments but none mention "crosses" or "crucifixion."

Mr Samuelsson, of Gothenburg University, said: "Consequently, the contemporary understanding of crucifixion as a punishment is severely challenged.

"And what's even more challenging is the same can be concluded about the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. The New Testament doesn't say as much as we'd like to believe."

Any evidence that Jesus was left to die after being nailed to a cross is strikingly sparse - both in the ancient pre-Christian and extra-Biblical literature as well as The Bible.

I think that being a scholar or theologian is a sort of handicap. If either of my sons says they want to be a scholar when they grow up, I'm getting them psychiatric help straight away. I don't know about you, but more and more of these brainy types are displaying signs of dementia or something.

I seem to recall the Gospels saying that Christ was "crucified". Remember the part where the Jews shout to Pilate "Crucify him! Crucify him!"? Or how about the numerous times where Jesus told his disciples that he would be handed over and crucified? Or how St Thomas probed the nail marks in His hands? And then there's St Paul in one of his epistles stating he preaches "Christ crucified".

And hey, I'm no scholar myself, but even a quick check on "Crucifixion" brought up some historical references.

The Roman historian Tacitus records that the city of Rome had a specific place for carrying out executions, situated outside the Esquiline Gate, and had a specific area reserved for the execution of slaves by crucifixion. Upright posts would presumably be fixed permanently in that place, and the crossbeam, with the condemned person perhaps already nailed to it, would then be attached to the post.
The person executed may have been attached to the cross by rope, though nails are mentioned in a passage by the Judean historian, Josephus, where he states that at the Siege of Jerusalem, "the soldiers out of rage and hatred, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest."
Despite its frequent use by the Romans, the horrors of crucifixion did not escape mention by some of their eminent orators. Cicero, for example, in a speech that appears to have been an early bid for its abolition, described crucifixion as "a most cruel and disgusting punishment", and suggested that, "the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears."
Sure, it's Wikipedia, but the way I look at, is their info any less credible than Samuelsson's? Granted - the citation refers to various forms of crucifixion other than being nailed to a crossbeam, such as being impaled on a stake, or affixed to a tree or upright pole, but come on - there is less Biblical evidence that Jesus was not crucified than there is that supports the fact that He was. After all - Jesus didn't exhort us to "pick up our pole and follow him", did he?

I'm not sure what Samuelsson hopes to gain from this research, besides notoriety. He says the Biblical texts are not explicit as to how Christ was executed. Fine, whatever. But if our faith requires us to rely solely on explicit texts of Scripture, then why have faith at all? Sadly, there are many examples where people have intellectualized themselves from belief to doubt to loss of faith - not in an instant, but through a gradual process.

Jesus told St. Thomas after touching his wounds: "Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed." Samuelsson may want to consider those words.