Friday, April 10, 2009

The Passion of Christ (Part 8)

To start at the beginning of this series, click, here.

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
By Doug Blanchard


Heart of Darkness

An excerpt from Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
by John Dominic Crossan
(Harper San Francisco, 1994, pp. 126-127)

What exactly made crucifixion so terrible? The three supreme Roman penalties were the cross, fire, and the beasts. What made them supreme was not just their inhuman cruelty or their public dishonor, but the fact that there might be nothing left to bury at the end. That bodily destruction was involved in being cast into the fire or thrown to the beasts is obvious enough. But what we often forget about crucifixion is the carrion crow and scavenger dog who respectively croak above and growl below the dead or dying body.

Martin Hengel . . . reminds us of that terrible reality. His book [Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross], which is a catalog of the writings of Greco-Roman authors on the subject of crucifixion, quotes, for example, “fastened [and] nailed . . . [as] evil food for birds of prey and grim pickings for dogs” . . .

Roman crucifixion was state terrorism . . . its function was to deter resistance or revolt, especially among the lower classes; and . . . the body was usually left on the cross to be consumed eventually by the wild beasts. No wonder we have found only one body [the Giv’at ha-Mivtar skeleton of Yehochanan*] from all those thousands crucified around Jerusalem in that single century. Remember the dogs. And if you seek the heart of darkness, follow the dogs.

* In Excavating Jesus, John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed note the following about the only physical evidence of crucifixion ever discovered:

In June 1968 Vassilios Tzaferis of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavated some burial caves northeast of Jerusalem, at a place called Givat Hamivtar. Within the necropolis, a first-century C.E. rock-hewn family tomb with five ossuaries was discovered, one of which contained the bones of two men and a young child. The right heel bone of one of the men, 5 feet, 5 inches tall and in his mid-twenties, had been pierced by a 4 ½-inch nail. A small wooden board had been nailed to the outside of his heel to prevent him from tearing his leg off the nail's small head. But the nail had bent as it was hammered into the hard olive-wood upright of the cross and could not be easily removed after his death, so it and wooden board were still attached to his body when taken off the cross. His arms had been tied, not nailed, to the crossbar and his legs were not broken. Contrary to common practice, his body was allowed off the cross for proper family burial. The ossuary contained the name of the deceased, Yehochanan (Hebrew and Aramaic for John), the Crucified Man.

NEXT: The Passion of Christ (Part 9)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1)
The Passion of Christ (Part 2)
The Passion of Christ (Part 3)
The Passion of Christ (Part 4)
The Passion of Christ (Part 5)
The Passion of Christ (Part 6)
The Passion of Christ (Part 7)

Image 1: “Jesus is Nailed to the Cross” Doug Blanchard (The Passion of Christ).
Image 2: The Foundation for Biblical Archaeology.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More Modern Take :)