The Truth Behind Roman Crucifixion #1

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WARNING! – MATERIAL IN THIS POST MAY BE UNSUITABLE FOR SOME READERS

Hopefully, by the end of this post, you will have had a greater understanding into the pain and suffering that Jesus went through when he died on the cross for our Salvation. Crucifixion was a method of killing for those who had committed the severest of crimes in the Roman Empire. Do you know exactly how Roman crucifixion worked and what prisoners actually died of? In this series of two posts, I will try to give you as many details as I can regarding crucifixion; from factual historical records to information found in the Bible. I do therefore have to warn you, this post is not for the faint-hearted.

Around two years ago when I was reading a post similar to this on another Christian blog, I realized that I didn’t actually know what happened when the Romans crucified someone. The gospels, which describe Jesus’ life don’t really go into much detail about how he died. John recounts that Carrying his own cross, he (Jesus) went out to the place of the Skull. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Where better to start than with the cross itself? There is archaeological evidence that shows us what type of cross Jesus was crucified on. Without any historical or biblical proof, Medieval and Renaissance painters painted of Christ carrying the whole cross. However, the upright posts were generally fixed permanently in the ground at the site of execution. So what Jesus would have actually had to carry from the prison to the place of execution was the horizontal beam of wood called a patibulum, weighing around 110 pounds (50kg).

Secondly, there is a common misunderstanding that the Romans put the nails through the palm of Jesus’ hand. This fact is not actually correct because if they put the nails through the palm, the metal would have ripped out through the fingers. Instead, the Romans actually put the nails through Jesus’s wrist, between the Radius and the Ulna. You can these bones in a diagram by clicking here. This misunderstanding could have come around because, in those days, people considered the wrist to be part of the hand.

The preparations for torturing Jesus included stripping him of his clothing and having his hands tied to a post above his head. It is doubtful that the Roman soldiers would have followed the Jewish law that prohibiting more than forty lashes upon Jesus. A Roman legionnaire would have used flagrum are a method of torture. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather strips with small balls of lead attached at the ends of each. You can see an image of it here.The heavy would have been brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.

At first, the flagrum cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.  The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.  The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.

Part two of this post elaborates on some concepts previously mentioned and reveals some additional, rather compelling facts; read part 2 (click here to continue the story…).

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