16.01 The Crucifixion


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.10 JESUS IS CRUCIFIED

16.01.10 Lk. 23:32-34a; Mk. 15:23, 25, 27-28 (See also Mt. 27:33-34, 38; Jn. 19:18)  9:00 a.m. – noon; First Day of Passover.



Lk. 32 Two others criminals were also led away to be executed with Him. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. [34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”] And they divided His clothes and cast lots.

Mk. 23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it. 25 Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified Him.

Jesus received the wrath of men and God on this day.

  1. From 9:00 until 12:00 noon, He received the wrath of men.
  1. From 12:00 noon until 3:00, He received the wrath of God.

Two others – criminals – were also led away to be executed with Him.”   A common robber or bandit was known as a lestai.  Previously, when Jesus was arrested, He asked the soldiers if He was a lestai.[1]  But the Romans never crucified common robbers or bandits; they crucified those who rebelled against Roman authority. Those persons, however, were often robbers as well.

According to Roman practice, all three men were probably forced to walk along the longest route through the most crowded streets of Jerusalem.  This was to install a strong sense of fear in the common people who may have had thoughts of insurrection. By this time, all of Jerusalem probably had heard that Jesus was tried and about to be crucified. Jesus and the other two men were each accompanied by four soldiers, and all twelve were under the command of a centurion. They were commissioned to perform four acts of service:

  1. Guard the prisoner enroute from any persons in the crowd who would attempt to free him or kill him.
  1. Insure the prisoner’s safe arrival to the place of execution.
  1. Soldiers were to stay with each prisoner until death was assured.
  1. At times, soldiers guarded the deceased body so the family could not give their loved on a decent burial.[2]

Jesus was crucified between two thieves,[3] as predicted by the prophet Isaiah, who said He was numbered with the transgressors (53:12).  The Romans and religious elite promoted the image of Jesus as simply another criminal who needed to die. They were correct concerning His need to die, but did not understand the reason why. Christ died between two condemned men; one chose life through salvation and the other chose death and eternal damnation. Jesus is the only option between life and death.

The two criminals who were crucified with Jesus have at times been identified as robbers.  However, robbery was not a crime punishable by crucifixion. The Greek word is testes, meaning “insurrectionists” (Mk. 15:27), which affiliated them with anti-Roman Zealot and possibly revolutionary messianic activities. Theft and similar crimes were often committed as a means of support by these criminals.[4]

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.’” This is the first of seven last sayings of Jesus as He was dying upon the cross of Calvary. This could very well have been the ultimate test of forgiveness – by Someone who lived a perfect life and had every right to call judgment down from heaven upon those who were killing Him.[5]

Whenever men died on the cross, they screamed in agony, shouted expressions of pain and cursed those who crucified them and all the gods they could think of. In sharp and stunning contrast, Jesus bore His pain in quietness and forgiveness.  Even if Jesus was not God, His death would have convinced any witness that He was God – so profound was His response to the shameful torture that ended His life.


This profound statement, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing,’” was spoken by the one who knew no sin and had every reason in the world to destroy those who had inflicted such massive pain upon Him. The phrase reflects agape or “God kind of love,” to a lost and dying humanity.  Jesus died as He lived; He practiced what He preached; He lived and died His sermon that He preached on the beatitudes. His words would later be uttered by thousands of martyrs, who died for the faith beginning with Stephen, whose dying words were “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).  Luke recorded in Acts 7:54-8:3 the events of the first martyrdom and the fact that Saul of Tarsus approved his execution by rioters.  The love of Jesus demonstrated by Stephen with his dying breath was probably the beginning of Saul’s conversion process. The compassion that Saul witnessed was foreign to this zealous Pharisee. No doubt his incredible rage was evidence that his conscience was under strenuous guilt. The one who suffered the most that day may not have been Stephen, but the man who eventually became the greatest apostle and wrote more New Testament books than any other author.

If any of those who crucified Jesus were condemned to Hell, it was not because they crucified Him, but because they failed to accept His forgiveness. If they could find salvation after this horrible deed, then most certainly anyone else can also find it also. The question then must be asked, “What is forgiveness?”  It is the restoration of a fellowship.  The fellowship between God and man was broken with the sin of Adam and Eve and was restored when Jesus paid the price for the sins of humanity.  However, for that fellowship and restoration to be functional in one’s life, it must be accepted.

This phrase, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing’” also alludes to the words spoken by the high priest on the Day of Atonement.  His statement of forgiveness made a powerful impact, for the Jews would realize the blood of Jesus had paid the sacrifice for their sins, just as the priest intervened on their behalf and the people received atonement of sins by the shed blood of the sacrificial scapegoat. When the priest laid his hands upon the scapegoat, he prayed this prayer:

O God, your people, the House of Israel, have committed iniquity, transgressed, and sinned before you.  O God, forgive I pray, the iniquities and transgressions and sins which your people, the House of Israel, have committed and transgressed and sinned before you; as it is written in the law of your servant Moses, “For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you; from all your sins shall you be made clean before the Lord” (Lev. 16:30).

Mishnah, Yoma 6.2


The reflection of the priestly prayer of Jesus (Jn. 17) is obvious. What a contrast there was between the prayers of Jesus and those of the Sadducees.  Jesus said “Father, forgive them…” (Lk. 23:34) while the Sadducees prayed (or said) “Let His blood be on us and on our children” (Mt. 27:25).  Some scholars have said the religious leaders and Pilate did know or should have known that what they were doing was wrong and, therefore, Jesus did not extend forgiveness to them.

“They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh.”  Crucifixion was so horrible, that at times, wealthy women and hardened soldiers demonstrated compassion by giving the dying criminals wine with either bitter-tasting myrrh or frankincense which dulled the pain.[6]   The Talmud recorded the following custom of the day:

When one is led out to execution, he is given a goblet of wine containing a grain of frankincense, in order to benumb his senses, for it is written, Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul (Prov. 31:6).  And it has also been taught: The noble women in Jerusalem used to donate and bring it.  

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a


Jesus refused to take an analgesic of wine as He was committed to carry our pain for us (see 16.01.13). Ironically, the gifts offered to Him as a new-born king were the same gifts offered to Him as a dying criminal.

Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified Him.” Literally, it was the “third hour” in Hebraic time.  It was also the same time that the high priest in the temple offered a sacrificed lamb before God for the sins of the people. What irony, the high priest, who had just condemned the Lamb of God to a Roman cross, was sacrificing a lamb to God as a sin offering. What the gospel writer called the third hour Josephus called the ninth hour – Roman time – with the following comments concerning the Passover sacrifices:

So these high priests upon the coming of their feast, which is called Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh….

Josephus, Wars 6.9.3 (423a)

16.01.10.Q1 Where were the nails placed in the body of Jesus?

If the biblical account is to be literally understood, then the nails that held Jesus to the cross were not placed where traditional opinion says they were. Jesus was/is the sacrificial “Lamb of God” and sacrificial lambs were not to have a single broken bone. So likewise Jesus was to die without a single broken bone. So the obvious question is then, how were the nails placed in His hands and feet without breaking a single bone? If a nail was placed in the palm of His hand, it would have been impossible not to break any bones.

In Roman times the forearm and wrist were considered a part of the hand; the entire area from the fingernails to the elbow.  If the nails were placed in the wrist, as most scholars believe, the iron spike would have been placed between the Ulnar and Median nerves, causing a pulsating pain like electrical shocks through the arms and shoulders.  The Shroud of Turin and other bone discoveries indicate the nails were most frequently placed through the wrists.[7]

16.01.10.A. BONES OF A HAND

16.01.10.A. BONES OF A HAND. This skeletal view of a human hand illustrates that it is impossible to place a nail through the palm of a hand without breaking any of the small bones that are in the palm. Photograph by the author.

Concerning the placement of nails to secure the feet to the post of the cross, many artistic renderings show one foot on top of the other and both are held in place with a long Roman nail.  However, a view of the bone structure (16.01.10.B) reveals that it is nearly impossible to nail through a foot in this manner without breaking a bone, and definitely impossible if that same nail were to penetrate both feet. Therefore, the only possible conclusion is that Jesus had each foot nailed into a side of the post.  The nail would have gone through the flesh and tendons been behind the ankle bone. To support this view, a few graffiti sketches of crucifixion have survived the centuries and all of them show a foot nailed into each side of the post (see 16.01.10.C).

Of the thousands of men, and of a few women who were crucified in ancient Israel, the remains of only one skeleton have been found that suggests death by this method.[8]  In 1968 an ossuary was discovered in a tomb in Giv’at Ha-Mivtar, a suburb of Jerusalem. It contained the remains of a crucified prisoner, by the name of Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol.  It also had a nail along the side of an ankle, indicating that each ankle was nailed into opposite sides of the post.  In this case, four nails were used in the crucifixion (see 16.01.10.B below).[9]  In addition, a small piece of olive wood was found in the tomb that originally was between the ankle and the head of the nail. Since olive trees are not very tall, this suggests that Ha’galgol was not crucified on a cross, but on a living olive tree. Researchers estimate that the nails used were approximately 5 to 7 inches long (13 to 18 cm) with a square shaft (3/8 inch or 1 cm.). To the left is a reconstructed model of a foot and crucifixion nail.


16.01.10.B. CRUCIFIED ANKLE BONE ATTACHED TO OLIVE WOOD. Shown in the lower right corner are the nail, anklebone, and a piece of olive wood that evidently was secured to the nail. Above it is a reconstructed foot with nail.  It is believed that a piece of wood was under the head of the nail to secure the foot to the live tree or to a crux (post).


 16.01.10.C. ANTI-CHRISTIAN GRAFFITI. This second century Roman Period anti-Christian cartoon depicts a man, who might have been a soldier, worshiping a crucified figure with a donkey’s head.  This confirms the accusations by the church father Tertullian who said that Christians were accused of worshiping the head of a donkey.[10] The drawing was discovered in an ancient imperial palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome in 1856, and is now in the Palatine Antiquarium.[11]  The Greeks and Romans believed that Jews and Christians worshiped a god in the form of a donkey.  Photo by Wikipedia Commons.


16.01.10.D CLARIFIED SKETCH OF ANTI-CHRISTIAN GRAFFITI. A clarified sketch of the original drawing reveals the vulgar attitude an artist had toward a Christian named Alexamenos. It is inscripted ΑΛΕΞΑΜΕΝΟΣ (ΑΛΕΞΑΜΕΝΟC) ΣΕΒΕΤΕ (CEBETE) ΘΕΟΝ, which translates as “Alexamenos respects (or worships) God.” The cross is shaped like a letter Greek “T” or tau.[12] Photo by Wikipedia Commons.

It is amazing that some critics claim that the early church fathers created the crucifixion story along with the accusation that Jesus was against the Roman government.  For the early church fathers to do so would have been suicidal – why would they deliberately say that Jesus was anti-Roman, when that was the charge that caused anti-Christian hatred and sent thousands to the cross, gladiator fights, and lion pits? Obviously some critical arguments are not well thought out. Furthermore, it is well known that early Christians identified themselves with a Staurogram – a combination of the Greek letters tau and rho that look like a human figure hanging on a cross. The Bodmer Papyrus P66, is a nearly complete edition of the gospel of John[13] dated to the early 3rd century, and it contains ten staurograms.[14]   


16.01.10.E.  THE EARLIEST KNOWN IMAGE OF JESUS ON THE CROSS,  One of the earliest manuscripts (circa. 200) of the Gospel of John, the Bodmer Papyrus P66, has ten staurograms – two Greek letters (tau and rho) that, when combined, produce the image of a person on a cross. Photo by Wikipedia Commons.

As previously stated, when a prisoner was crucified on a low cross beam, four soldiers could easily lift the patibulum (cross beam) to its proper position on the top of the post and held in place by a mortise and tenon joint or with pins. Therefore, no nails were needed to hold the two pieces of timber together. If the prisoner was to be hung from a high cross, then ladders or forks were used to lift and secure him in place, but this was rare. Once hung in place, the prisoner had his feet nailed to the post, but with his knees slightly bent.  Either way – low cross or high cross – the dying man would push himself up with excruciating pain to gain a breath of air. The open wounds on the back rubbing against the splintery post simply enhanced his agony. It was the ultimate punishment.

Crucifixion victims often spent three or four days in dying agony until death gave them sweet relief.

In the case of Jesus, three hours on the cross was a relatively brief time when compared to the dying time of other prisoners. This indicates that the scourging was unusually hard on Him physically, plus He carried the heavy load of the sins of humanity.

A traditional act of mercy on the part of the soldiers was to break the legs or spear the right side to hasten death. This procedure was so common it was even given a name: crurifragium.[15]   In the case of Jesus, the legs were not broken, but His side was speared and, according to the Shroud of Turin, it was the right side. An infantry spear or lance (length: 5-6 ft.; 1.5-1.8 m.) in the right side was the custom of the Roman military.[16] If the legs were broken, death transpired within minutes, because the victim would not have been able to elevate himself to inhale.  The fact that the pierced sword caused blood and water to gush out of the body clearly confirms that Jesus was dead. This would be a difficult point to explain in future years by those who claimed that Jesus simply fainted and was later revived.

According to Roman military law, if the soldiers had permitted a condemned man to live, they would have been executed as well. They were not about to take that chance and, therefore, one of them thrust a spear into the side of Jesus.[17] In addition, at times guards remained with the crucified man even after death to prevent family or friends from taking the body for a dignified burial before it was absolutely too late.[18] Their presence was to insure uttermost humiliation and shame for the criminal and his family. To have a family member crucified was bad enough, but to have his or her body devoured by wild animals was beyond shame (Jer. 7:33; 19:7; Deut. 28:26). A proper burial was so highly valued in ancient times that it can be hardly understood or appreciated today.

The weight of the body upon the stretched arms and joints caused immense pain.  In order to breathe, one had to push up with his feet to inhale.  While this relieved the pain for a moment in the arms, it accelerated the pain in his feet and ankles.  For this reason, each of the seven last statements spoken by Jesus was relatively short, barely long enough to be said with a single breath of air, as pain and muscle cramps increased. Every movement caused searing pain throughout the entire body, as the open muscle tissues scraped against the rough surface of the wooden post. The nails rubbing against raw nerves sent painful surges – like lightning bolts – through arms and legs that quiver.[19]  The symphony of agony from so many points, and even insects, had become acute.  Slowly, death came as breathing became increasingly difficult, the muscles relaxed and bodily functions ceased. The stomach stopped functioning, the dry tongue swelled making speech nearly impossible, and blood pressure drops. There was not a great deal of blood loss from the crucifixion, but there was from the previous scourging. This was so painful that the Romans created a new word to describe it; “excruciating,” which comes from the Latin excruciatus, meaning “out of the cross.”[20]


Finally, the One who gave the breath of life to His most favored creation in the Garden of Eden, died of asphyxia – the loss of breath.  Secondary causes of death probably were shock, dehydration, and congestive heart failure.[21]  Jesus was hung to die; not only for our sins, but also that we may be recreated in the image of the One who created us in the Garden.

[1]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 369-70, 395.

[2]. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 479, 482.

[3]. The pseudepigraphal books have a number of suggestions concerning their names, which clearly demonstrates why these writings must be evaluated with suspicion. Suggested names are Dismas and Gestas, as in the Acts of Pilate. Other suggested names are Zoathan and Chammata, Joathas and Maggatras, and Titus and Dumatchus. See Jordan. Who’s Who in the Bible. 240.

[4]. Guinness, Mysteries of the Bible. 333-34.

[5]. Those who attempted to kill Him or were responsible for His death, such as the Sadducees, Pilate, Herod the Great and others, all died horrible deaths.

[6]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 398.

[7]. Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer, ”On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” 1459.

[8]. Caba. “Crucifixion: History and Practice.” 12-14; Thiede and d’Ancona. The Quest for the True Cross. 66-67.

[9]. For an excellent study on the subject, see Robinson. “Crucifixion in the Roman World: The Use of Nails at the Time of Christ.” 25-59.

[10]. Tertullian, Apologeticus pro Christianis 16; Tertullian, Ad Nationes 1.2.

[11]. Metzger, Goldstein, and Ferguson, Great Events of Bible Times. 162; Thiede and d’Ancona. The Quest for the True Cross. 114-15.

[12]. For further study, see Witherington III, “Images of Crucifixion: Fresh Evidence.” 28.

[13]. For other papyri containing portions of the Epistles and Gospel of John, see http://catholic-resources.org/John/Papyri.html. Retrieved March 3, 2015.  http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/the-staurogram/ Retrieved March 4, 2015.

[14]. Hurtado, Larry W. “The Staurogram: Earliest Depiction of Jesus’s Crucifixion.” 50.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papyrus_66 and    https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/1204/staurogram+chapter-+Manuscripts+volumea.pdf;jsessionid=04E12A1BCDA79BE1A197C31EDD2A4FB3?sequence=1 Retrieved March 3, 2015.

[15]. Stein, R. Jesus the Messiah. 254; Farrar, Life of Christ. 2, 423.

[16]. Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer, ”On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” 1460.

[17]. Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer, ”On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” 1463.

[18]. Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? 161.

[19]. Dauer, How Jesus Died: The Final 18 Hours. (Video).

[20]. Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer, ”On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” 1461.

[21]. Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer, ”On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” 1461; Stein, R. Jesus the Messiah. 245.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.11 INSCRIPTION ON CROSS

16.01.11 Jn. 19:19-22 (See also Mt. 27:37; Mk. 15:26; Lk. 23:38)


19 Pilate also had a sign lettered and put on the cross. The inscription was:



20 Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’”

22 Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.”


A sign, a/k/a titulus, was placed on the top of a cross of leading rebels or other significant persons.[1]  It was seldom used otherwise.  At the time the criminal was condemned, the titulus was carried by the leading soldier on a standard or was hung around the prisoner’s neck as he carried his crossbeam to the crucifixion site. After a prisoner was secured to the cross, the titulus was secured to the post over his head. Then all those who came by could read the prisoner’s name and the reason for his execution.


16.01.11.Q1 What were the words on the titulus?

There are five ancient documents that preserved the words on the titulus – the wooden sign that was placed on the cross above Jesus.  Note carefully the literal translation of each:[2] While the wording differes slightly, all agree that Jesus claimed to be the king of the Jews. It also implied that He was a threat to Rome.

Mt. 27:37                    “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”                                  

Mk. 15:26                   “The king of the Jews.”

Lk. 23:38                    “The king of the Jews [is] this [man].”

Jn. 19:19                     “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews”                              

            Gospel of Peter 4:11   “This is the king of Israel.”


16.01.11.A. AN ILLUSTRATION AND REPRODUCTION OF A ROMAN TITULUS 16.01.11.A. AN ILLUSTRATION AND REPRODUCTION OF A ROMAN TITULUS. An illustration (top) of a titulus with reproduction below. The titulus was a wooden placard carried by the condemned or by the lead soldier, on which was written the reason for his execution. Jesus most certainly carried a titulus with the phrase “Jesus, the Natzarene, the King of the Jews” written in three languages: Hebrew, Latin and Greek.[3] It implied that Jesus was a threat to Pax Romana.[4] Reproduction by Marlin King. Photograph by the author.

Again there is a question of what appears to be an apparent conflict.[5] Matthew, the former meticulous tax collector and bookkeeper, gave the most detailed account of the sign by recording the name of Jesus, while the other two synoptic writers simply presented the main idea of the sign, that this lifeless body was the “King of the Jews.” Since the people, by the demonstration of placing palm branches before Jesus at His triumphal entry, recognized Him as their king, His name became synonymous with “King of the Jews.”[6] Again, the three languages on the titulus simply reflect what each writer considered significant – but the theme remains the same throughout.

These variations of quotations are a classic example of ipsissima verba and ipsissima vox that was previously described (see 08.03.04.Q4). It is evident from ancient Greek writers that it was permissible to record the primary theme or exact voice (vox) faithfully, rather than obtain an exact quotation or exact words (verba).[7] Scholars agree that the accuracy of the gospel message does not demand verbal precision.[8] An example of Jewish writers conveying ideas without exact wording was discovered in a Dead Sea Scroll Fragment 4Q521, which is explained in this author’s commentary on Luke 7:18-23 (see 08.05.04).

It was the Roman practice to place a titulus over selected crucified criminals for the following three reasons:[9]

  1. The titulus announced the power and authority of the Roman Emperor to crush anyone who he thought might present a challenge. It was written in three languages: Hebrew (top row was the same as the Aramaic square script) Latin, and Greek, so that everyone passing by would know the reason for the execution.[10]
  1. To insult the Jewish leaders and the one whom they considered to be a false messiah.
  1. To humiliate the person being executed.

A legend that the titulus was taken to Rome where it is in a church on the grounds of the Sessorian Palace; a church known as the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, or Santo Titolo in Gerusalemme.[11]

The brutality of a crucifixion was so severe that at times the prisoner was not recognizable, even to his family. Often the Romans prohibited the removal of the body and allowed it to decay and rot on the cross. Eventually dogs and wild animals would clean up the remains. However, the Jews were permitted to remove the body of a fellow Jew.  The sign was to serve a function more than to identify the corpse. The cross was so cruel that the Romans abolished its use in A.D. 315.  It symbolized a horrific death to the early church, but the meaning quickly changed to eternal life. For this reason, many early churches were built in the shape of a cross.

The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city.”  The Romans crucified Jesus according to Jewish custom – outside the city walls.  Today, visitors are often told in error, that the Garden Tomb was the burial site of Jesus because it is outside of the Old City.[12]  However, at the time of Jesus, Jerusalem had both the original city wall and a second wall that had been constructed by Herod the Great.[13] At that time, a number of people had their gardens north of the city outside the second wall. Gardens were not permitted within the Jerusalem city walls – the reason was that natural fertilizer (manure) made the city “impure.” [14]  The exceptions were rose gardens with fruit trees. It was there that Joseph of Arimathea had his family garden and tomb.[15]

In the year A.D. 41, King Agrippa I ordered a third wall[16] to be built that enclosed the gardens, the Pool of Bethesda, as well as the crucifixion and burial sites of Jesus.  Scholars believe that “third wall” was more for the protection of the food supply than for a defense of the city.  When a gate was installed in the existing second wall, it was known as the Genath or  Garden Gate.[17] That enclosed the area in which Jesus was crucified by the garden owned by Joseph of Arimathea. The city walls seen today, for the most part, were reconstructed on what was believed to be the existing foundations as determined by two 16th century architects employed by the Turkish Suleiman the Magnificent.  Unfortunately, they were not very accurate in their assessment.  Nonetheless, there is abundant archaeological and historical evidence to support the tradition that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is both the crucifixion and burial sites, even though today it is located within the Old City walls.[18]   

“What I have written, I have written.”   Pilate again demonstrated how little he cared for the Jews.  The Jews objected to the sign posted above Jesus, because it was a mockery to them.  While Pilate could find no fault with Jesus, the Sadducees, elders, and scribes convinced him that Jesus was a messianic pretender with nationalistic aspirations. The Romans executed Jesus because,

  1. Pilate tried to appease the Jewish leadership.
  1. Officially Jesus was condemned for political reasons, although Roman observers never made a claim against Him during His life or ministry.

Jesus was not the only condemned person to have received a titulus. The church father and historian Eusebius, in his work on church history, wrote of an Attalus who was humiliated in an amphitheater, probably naked. In this case, the prisoner was not executed, but grossly humiliated which was a significant part of Roman punishment.[19]

He was led around the amphitheater and a placard (titulus) was carried before him on which was written in Latin, “This is Attalus, the Christian.” 

Eusebius, Church History 5.1.44

Another case where the titulus was recorded is by the Roman historian Suetonius. He wrote of a  slave owned by Emperor Caligula who was accused of stealing a strip of silver.  The punishment was obviously rather severe.

At a public banquet in Rome he immediately handed over a slave to the executioners for stealing a strip of silver from the couches, with orders that his hands be cut off and hung around his neck upon his breast, and that he be led about among the guests, preceded by a placard (titulo) giving the reason for his punishment.

Suetonius, The Life of Caligula 32.2 


During the reign of Caesar Tiberius when Jesus was on trial, crimes deserving death were punished by a number of different methods.  Those who were “well born” of aristocratic families and Roman citizens, were exiled to live out their last day. But for others, the end of life came much sooner. Note the following:[20]

    1. For some, it was decapitation by the sword. This would have been used on prisoners convicted of robbery or murder.
    2. For the “low born” there was the “ultimate penalty” or in Latin, summum supplicium,[21] which was death by extreme suffering if they committed any form of treason or revolt. This category of death penalties was not so much for just punishment as it was for instilling fear in anyone who would consider rebellion or treason.
    3. Being thrown to wild animals (bestiis dari) where prisoners were literally eaten    alive by ravenous lions and tigers
    4. Being burned alive (vivus exuri or crematio)
  1. Crucifixion (crux). Within this form of execution, there were five methods used  in Israel, as shown in the illustrations below. These methods were described, in  part, by the Roman writer Seneca, and his words make modern readers shudder  at the cruelty crucified men and women endured. It should be noted, however,    that Seneca probably refered to crucifixions in Italy, as there is no record of any upside down crucifixions in Israel.

I see crosses, not indeed of a single kind, but differently contrived by different peoples; some hang their victims with the head toward the ground, some impale their private parts, others stretch out their arms on a fork-shaped gibbet.

Seneca, Dialogus and Letters 6.20.3


To insure that the maximum number of people would witness the execution, four Roman soldiers, two on either side of the prisoner, marched him through the busiest street of Jerusalem to the place of execution.  The lead soldier generally carried the titulus or it was hung around the prisoner’s neck. There was hardly anyone in the Holy Land who had not seen a man get crucified.  Furthermore, since extended families were large, there was hardly anyone who did not have a cousin, a distant cousin, or other relative get crucified.


16.01.11.B. ILLUSTRATIONS 1 & 2 OF CRUCIFIXIONS. LEFT: The most likely way Jesus was crucified in order to meet all biblical requirements is shown in this illustration – not a bone was broken and probably no butt board to prolong His life.  Over the head is a sign called a titulus. RIGHT: A prisoner is shown crucified with a nail through bones in each foot as he is resting on a butt-board that a small horizontal piece of wood called a sedulum. Illustrations by Diana Clegg.


16.01.11.C.  ILLUSTRATIONS 3 & 4 OF CRUCIFIXIONS. LEFT: A prisoner is crucified with legs to one side, resting on a butt-board with a board nailed to his feet. RIGHT: a modified crucifixion of Illustration 3 (Left). Illustrations by Diana Clegg.

The left image of 16.01.11.B is the only crucifixion method that meets all the requirements of the biblical crucifixion. It is well known that medieval artists depicted the feet of Jesus placed one over the other, pierced by a single nail.[22] That image is commonplace today although it is clearly misleading. All crosses had the posts secured in the rocky soil which stood as constant reminders to the local residents of pending death in the event there was a rebellion. There were essentially two kinds of crosses used in Israel.

  1. A high cross, known as a “high tau” cross because it was shaped like the capital Greek letter tau (T). Lifting a prisoner, after he was nailed to the crossbeam, to the top of the post was always a difficult endeavor.
  2. A low cross, known as a “low tau” cross, because it was shaped like a lower case tau (t). This was the most common type of cross. Jesus was probably tied to a low tau cross.
  3. In addition, when necessary, trees, whether dead or alive, were used when convicted prisoners outnumbered available crosses. The branches served as the crossbeam to which the prisoner was nailed, but usually tied with ropes.

Some scholars have suggested that the Romans may have used ropes instead of nails to occasionally crucify someone as was done with the Apostle Andrew.[23] That may have occurred if the supply of nails was exhausted, but generally, in the first century, criminals were nailed whenever possible.[24] Execution by crucifixion was not reserved only for men, as two ancient witnesses indicate.

  1. The Talmudic Tractate “Mourning” (Semahot) describes regulations pertaining to death, burial and mourning.[25] In section 2.11 the tractate refers to Jewish women crucified in Alexandria in the years A.D. 37-41. However, the event in Alexandria was in a different Roman jurisdiction, not in Israel.
  2. In Ashkelon, Jannaeus crucified eighty women whom he suspected of being witches, an account which was recorded in the Mishnah.[26] He stripped them naked and, for the sake of modesty, nailed them facing the cross where they died. The Essenes also wrote of this horrific event in their Dead Sea Scroll 4QpNah 1:6-8.[27]  This was decades before the right of capital punishment was removed from the Jews.


16.01.11.D.  ILLUSTRATIONS 5 & 6 OF CRUCIFIXIONS. LEFT: A tree trunk by an stone wall (typical of olive tree orchards) ready for a crucifixion. RIGHT: Posts were secured in the stony ground and the cross-beam was attached with the prisoner nailed or tied with a rope to it.[28]  Posts were constant reminders to the Jews not to revolt. When crosses or posts were in short supply, the condemned were crucified in live trees or two criminals to a cross. Illustrations by Diana Clegg.

According to one ancient writer, the Apostle Andrew was bound with ropes on a low cross, a/k/a “low tau” cross, so dogs and wild animals could eat his flesh as he was dying.[29] No capital punishment is pleasant, but some forms are worse than others.  For the Jews according to the Oral Law, there were only four kinds of death penalties that could be ordered by the Jewish court:[30]

  1. Stoning
  2. Beheading
  3. Strangling
  4. Burning

Clearly, some of the Jewish rulers did not follow their own Oral Laws, as they used the crucifixion method that was not legal according to the Sanhedrin. The low tau cross was the most commonly used cross.  At times a horizontal piece of wood was placed to support the buttocks to prolong the dying process. Both men and women were stripped completely naked when crucified to add immeasurable shame and humiliation to their punishment. Artists throughout history have shown Jesus on the cross as wearing a loincloth, but this is artistic license done to maintain His dignity and is not historically accurate.

It is difficult to comprehend the inhumanity of the Roman soldiers at time of war.  When Jerusalem was under siege, Titus crucified all who attempted to escape, sometimes as many as 500 a day. The historian said that the soldiers crucified them in a number of different ways simply out of fun, and they even ran out of crosses.

So the soldiers, out of wrath and hatred they bore for the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.

Josephus, Wars 5.11.1 (451)


Roman citizens were exempted from crucifixion, yet the thought of it was so horrific that Cicero[31] said,

Let the very name of the cross be far away not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears.

Cicero, Pro Rabirio 5

An Historical Summary of Crucifixion

The method of crucifixion has a long history, predating the Roman period. Scholars believe that crucifixion, in its earliest and crudest form, originated with the Assyrians.[32]   During battles, they would place a pole in the ground and impale a captured soldier on the top of it, thus “hanging” him until he died an agonizing death. This had an incredibly demoralizing effect on the enemy.[33]  Centuries earlier Joshua stated that the king of Ai (Jos. 8:23, 29) and the five kings of the Amorites were hung from trees (Jos. 10:5, 26-27). However, it appears that these were not live crucifixions, but the display of victory over the defeated and deceased kings.

It had long been used by the Persians and Carthaginians.[34] According to the first century Roman historian Curtius, Alexander the Great brought the practice into the Holy Land, but not until he first crucified two thousand citizens of Tyre who had surrendered.[35]  Even the Jewish Sadducees, who were in power for most of the time after the Maccabean Revolt in the 160s B.C., practiced crucifixion.  Between the years 90 and 88 B.C., they crucified an estimated eight hundred Pharisees (see 03.05.10).  Obviously they had no second thoughts about killing Jesus because they had a well-established history of blood.

In the early first century B.C. era, Marcus Crassus was a Roman general and politician who helped transform the Roman Republic to an empire. He crushed the revolt at Spartacus and lined the road from Capua to Rome with crucified slaves who were captured.[36] Decades later, Caesar Augustus introduced its general use for anyone who revolted against Rome. There was absolutely no sense of compassion for those who rebelled against the empire, except an occasional centurion or a few local citizens.

Hanging on a cross often resulted in joints becoming disjointed. This must have occurred to Jesus as the Psalmist said,

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax.

Psalm 22:14     

To lessen the pain somewhat of this horrific experience, although it did prolong the dying experience, some prisoners were hung with a small horizontal piece of wood, called a sedulum, under the buttocks to relieve the pain of hanging.  This was most likely not the case for Jesus.

[1]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:283.

[2]. Literal translations and bracketed inserts by Robert Webb. See Webb, “The Roman Examination and Crucifixion of Jesus.” 747-49.

[3]. See 11.02.18.A, that also depicts a titulus on the Arch of Titus.

[4]. Mellowes and Cran, Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD). Part 1; See “Pax Romana” in Appendix 26.

[5]. For further insight of the four variations of the gospel accounts, see 08.03.04.Q4 “What is the significance of verbal statements, “ipsissima verba” and “ipsissima vox?” Similar variations are found in 08.06.06.Q1 “Was the daughter of Jairus dead or asleep?”

[6]. Avi-Yonah and Kraeling, Our Living Bible. 295.

[7]. Wilkins, “Peter’s Declaration concerning Jesus’ Identity in Caesarea Philippi.” 345; Hagner, “Jesus and the Synoptic Sabbath Controversies.” 270; Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages. vii.

[8]. These scholars hold to the Reformed Doctrine of Biblical Inspiration on the concept of Ipsissima Vox: Stonehouse, Origins of the Synoptic Gospels. 109-10; Murray, Calvin on Scripture and Devine Sovereignty. 30; Hodge and Warfield, “Inspiration.” 238.

[9]. Stein, R., Jesus the Messiah. 247; See also Suetonius, Caligula 32.2 and Domitian 10:1; Dio Cassius, 54.3.7.

[10]. Harrison, A Short Life of Christ. 215.

[11]. Thiede and d’Ancona. The Quest for the True Cross. 66.

[12]. See Dr. Bryant Wood’s comments at 17.02.02.V1.

[13]. Price, The Stones Cry Out. 313.

[14]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 42.  

[15]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 43.  

[16]. In the 1960s a portion of the third wall was discovered by archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, and in 1976, Magen Broshi discovered a portion of Herod’s city wall in the Sepulchre itself. See 17.02.02.Z, “Map of Jerusalem.” However, the exact locations of all the walls of the Old City, as it was in the first century, is a major problem for archaeologists and historians.

[17]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 43.  

[18]. Bahat, “Does the Holy Sepulcher Church Mark the Burial of Jesus?” 26-40.

[19]. There appears to be no record of what happened to Attalus.  When the local governor discovered he was a Roman citizen, Attalus was placed in prison and the governor inquired of the emperor of what to do with him.

[20]. Webb, “The Roman Examination and Crucifixion of Jesus.” 755..

[21]. Webb, “The Roman Examination and Crucifixion of Jesus.” 754-56.

[22]. Thiede and d’Ancona. The Quest for the True Cross. 66-67.

[23]. A brief description of the lives of the apostles in found in Appendix 27.

[24]. Robinson. “Crucifixion in the Roman World: The Use of Nails at the Time of Christ.” 42-48.

[25]. Robinson. “Crucifixion in the Roman World: The Use of Nails at the Time of Christ.” 33.

[26]. See 03.05.10. The Mishnah, Sanhedrin 6.4 states that it was Simeon ben Shetah who ordered the 80 women to be crucified.

[27]. Elgvin, “The Messiah.” 36. Young, “The Cross, Jesus and the Jewish People.” 27.

[28]. See the martyrdom of the Apostle Andrew in Appendix 27.

[29]. See The Acts of Andrew in Appendix 27, “The Faith of the Disciples and Gospel Writers.”

[30]. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7.1.

[31]. Marcus Tullius Cicero (107-44 B.C.) was a Roman lawyer, politician and philosopher whose death came by an assassin.

[32]. Incidentally, Assyrian cruelty is why Jonah did not want to go to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and preach repentance.

[33]. Tzaferis, “Crucifixion – The Archaeological Evidence.” 48.

[34]. Herodotus, Histories 3.128. Histories was written about 460 to 420 B.C; Polybius, The Histories 1.86. The Histories was written in the second century B.C..

[35]. Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni 8.

[36]. Gaius Plinius Secundus, also known as Pliny the Younger, Epistulae. 38 Cited by Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 2:557.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.12 SOLDIERS CAST LOTS

16.01.12 Jn. 19:23-24 (See also Mt. 27:35-36; Mk. 15:24; Lk. 23:34b)



23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.


24 So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” They did this to fulfill the Scripture that says:


“They divided My clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for My clothing” (Psalm 22:18).


And this is what the soldiers did.


A typical Jewish person wore five pieces of apparel.[1]  These were

  1. The sandals (few people wore shoes)
  1. A turban that was a head covering. It was required of women.
  1. A girdle
  1. A tunic. This garment was an expensive one-piece garment further described below.
  1. An outer robe


“They took His clothes.” Crucifixion was the ultimate shame, not only because of the social stigma, but also because every piece of clothing was removed from His body. Jesus normally wore a prayer shawl that had strings or fringes,[2] and was probably taken from Him during the Jewish trials. Under the tallith was a larger and more expensive robe known as the tunic or cetoneth.[3] Garments taken were,

  1. His long inner garment
  1. His sandals
  1. His girdle (belt)
  1. His expensive outer garment (tunic or cetoneth)
  1. His prayer shawl or tallith[4]

Roman soldiers regularly gambled for the clothes of those who were crucified. Since garments were expensive, there was a premium on the under garments, outer garments, upper garment, and sandals. As a courtesy, Christian art shows Jesus on the cross with a loin cloth.  However, a vast majority of persons were crucified completely naked as this was the highest order of shame that could be bestowed upon anyone.  Only in rare cases, as recorded in Jubilees 3:30-31 and 7:20, did the crucified person wear a loin cloth.

“The tunic, which was seamless.”  On the day of His death, Jesus wore an expensive garment, the kind that was normally worn only by the upper class individuals (see 15.02.09.Q1).  However, in this case, it was symbolic of Him being the universal and spiritual high priest of humanity, as the high priest was the same for the Jews.  According to the Mosaic Law, the high priest in the tabernacle, and later in both temples, was required to wear a garment of a single piece of fabric (Ex. 28:31-43); a highly prized garment known as the tunic or cetoneth.[5]  Since the cetoneth that Jesus wore was a continuous fabric, to tear it would have destroyed its value. Therefore, the soldiers cast lots for it. [6] This action was the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy found in Psalm 22:18.  Josephus described priestly garment in this manner:

Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck; not an oblique one, but parted all along the breast and the back.


Josephus, Antiquities 3.7.4 (161) 


The gospel writer mentioned the four soldiers, who mocked Jesus and gambled for His garment. He also mentioned four women who wept when they realized Jesus was about to die.  The identical number was no accident.  Certainly there were many more (Zech. 12:10) who mourned the death of Jesus.  Nevertheless, John used this as a literary device to heighten the tension of the event.[7]

16.01.12.A. Roman Dice (2)

16.01.12.A. Roman Dice.  Roman dice found at Sepphoris are typical of the first century.  They were made of bone and opposite faces always added up to seven.

The Antonia Fortress was destroyed and today the Convent of the Sisters of Zion is upon its foundation.  On the lower floor of the Convent is a second century (A.D.) stone pavement floor, which scholars believe was built by Emperor Hadrian in the reconstruction of the city.  On one of the pavement stones is an inscribed game, which appears to have similarities to the dice game of the biblical narrative.  The Fortress may not be where Jesus was condemned, but the game is believed to have been the same as when the guards entertained themselves at His expense. The game was a popular entertainment throughout the Empire.[8]


16.01.12.B. A GAME OF DICE INCISED IN STONE.  A pavement stone with an incised dice game found in what was once the Antonia Fortress and is believed to be dated to the 2nd century A.D. when Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem. A dice game was often played when soldiers had idle hours and at times, was part of the King’s Game that was often played by Roman soldiers as they taunted prisoners.

A similar dice game has been found incised on a pavement stone on the road in Sepphoris. It is the same as that found on a second century (A.D.) stone floor of the Antonia Fortress (today’s Convent of the Sisters of Zion) as well as on a stone in the mountain-top city of Hippos. There is little doubt that these games are the same as, or similar to, first century games of chance.


16.01.12.C THE OSSUARY OF JAMES, THE BROTHER OF JESUS. This ossuary with an inscription indicating that it belonged to James, the brother of Jesus, was the subject of a court battle and continues to be debated among academics. Those who claimed the inscription was fraudulent lost their case, but that does not prove the inscription is genuine. Photo by Wikipedia Commons.


In 2011 and 2012 scholars in the fields of archaeology and paleography (the art and science of authenticating and dating inscriptions based on the shape and stance of various letters) examined, studied, debated, and held conferences concerning the authenticity of an ossuary with the inscribed words, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Modern technology has advanced to the point that forgeries are almost impossible to distinguish from authentic antiquities. Therefore, the entire matter of whether the ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus, not only was front page news around the world, but also a legal battle as Israel Antiquities Authority accused the owner of forgery.  While the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the inscription was a forgery incised on an authentic ossuary, that failure does not prove authenticity of the inscription. However, even if the inscription is authentic, that does not mean that the ossuary is a reference to Jesus of Nazareth as the name was common.[9]

[1]. Barclay, “John.” 2:253.

[2]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:277.  However, it appears that not all scholars agree on this particular garment. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 25, page 5.

[3]. Some scholars identify the garment that was worn closest to the skin as a tunic while others call it a cloak. Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. 15-17; Vine, “Clothing, Cloths, Clothes, Cloak, Coat.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:105-07, and “Garment.” 2:261.

[4]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:285.

[5]. Some scholars identify the garment that was worn closest to the skin as a tunic while others call it a cloak. It is doubtful that Jesus would have told someone to give a second pair of underwear to another person, but to give a second coat would have been more acceptable. The Jewish culture was a highly modest one and nakedness was condemned. Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. 15-17; Vine, “Clothing, Cloths, Clothes, Cloak, Coat.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:105-07.

[6]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 439. 441.

[7]. Major, Manson, and Wright, The Mission and Message of Jesus. 928.

[8]. Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 96-97.

[9]. Lemaire, “Engraved in Memory.” 52-57; Shanks, “’Brother of Jesus’ Inscription is Authentic!” 26-33.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.13 CROWD MOCKS JESUS

16.01.13 Mt. 27:39-44; Lk. 23:35-37 (See also Mk. 15:29-32)




Mt. 39 Those who passed by were yelling insults at Him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “The One who would demolish the sanctuary and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross!”


41 In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him and said,   42 “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself! He is the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 He has put His trust in God; let God rescue Him now — if He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” 44 In the same way even the criminals who were crucified with Him kept taunting Him.


Lk. 35 The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine 37 and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”


Since crucifixions were public events, many of those who saw Jesus dying mocked Him and His messianic claims. The Sadducees challenged Him to come down from the cross.  The imagery of Him in wrenching pain was recorded nearly a thousand years earlier by King David, as he eluded his enemies. Little did the king know that his words were prophetic.


12  Many bulls surround me;

strong ones of Bashan encircle me.

13 They open their mouths against me   

Lions, mauling and roaring.


14 I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are disjointed.

My heart is like wax,

Melting within me.


15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;

My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

You put me into the dust of death.

16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.


17 I can count all my bones;

people look and stare at me.

18 They divided my garments among themselves,

and they cast lots for my clothing.


Psalm 22:12-18


The One who would demolish the sanctuary.”   This statement is attributed to the Sadducees, as they claimed the temple to be their source of authority.[1] The ordinary Jews would never have spoken these words and the Pharisees did not have the strong affiliation to the temple, as they had many decades earlier. This phrase, concerning the temple destruction and raising it in three days, suggests that it was the powerful, motivating factor in His crucifixion.


“If You are the Son of God.”  These same words were spoken by Satan when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  Evil spirits will function through any willing vessel. These words by the chief priests, scribes, and elders – essentially the Sadducees – were radically different from the soldier who stood at the cross and realized the Jesus really was the Son of God.


They came offering Him sour wine.” They offered Jesus a wine-vinegar mixture that included myrrh, a spice, and medicine that functioned as a painkiller.  This shows that even the war-hardened Roman soldiers had compassion for the criminals.[2]


By now Jesus was deprived of all human dignities of life; His honor and respect were lost, His disciples deserted Him, His clothes were gone, and the agony of physical and spiritual of death began to overwhelm Him.  Yet in this most wretched state of existence, He offered eternal life to the two who were dying beside Him. One accepted, but the other refused.  How can anyone refuse so great a salvation offered by the One with so great a compassion?  Jesus became absolutely poor and destitute that believers might be made rich in and through Him forever.

[1]. The Sadducees had control of the temple because that authority was given to them by the Romans.


[2]. See 16.01.10; See also Ex. 30:23-24; Mt. 2:11; Mk. 15:23; Jn. 19:39-40.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.14 THIEF ASKS REMEMBRANCE

16.01.14 Lk. 23:39-43




39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”

40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”

43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”


I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  This second of the last Testaments on the cross is the promise of eternal life to one who was condemned to die.


There is a strong possibility that both revolutionaries knew Jesus or knew of Him, before their appointed executions. In fact, Jesus became so popular, that there was not a person who had not heard of Him. The primary reason for this opinion is that the one thief simply addressed Jesus by His name. Furthermore, he had knowledge of the kingdom Jesus preached as did the other criminal, but the second one never asked about it, although he seems to have had sufficient knowledge to reject it.


One of them recognized his spiritual condition, his need for forgiveness, and appealed to Jesus for mercy. To comprehend the holiness of God in light of one’s state of being (i.e. a sinner) results in a plea for mercy.  Jesus is not a respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of motives and attitudes. The request of the thief was accepted and he was forgiven while the other maintained his hardened heart and attitude.


How interesting is this scene with the two dying revolutionary Zealots, one on either side of Him. This scene reflects those of future generations when some will accept Him and others will reject Him. Jesus said two would be grinding corn, and one would be gone and the other left; two would be in the field, one would be gone, and the other left. So it was as He was dying on the cross.


 16.01.14.Q1 Did Jesus take the repentant thief to heaven on the day they died (Lk. 23:43)?  

The passage in Luke 23:43 has been problematic because Jesus said He would take the repentant thief to paradise “today,” but it is well known that Jesus did not ascend to heaven until forty-three days later. Like many others, this writer once believed that paradise was the same place as heaven.  It isn’t. Consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The former was in a world of torment while Lazarus was in paradise – but not in heaven. Paradise was a holding area that had two areas:

  1. One for those going to heaven
  2. Another for the damned

The word paradise is a/k/a “Abraham’s bosom” to which Jesus referred to in Luke 16.  The Apostle Paul also made a reference to it in Ephesians 4:8 when he said that Jesus led “captivity captive” – those in paradise destined for heaven.  When the plan of salvation was completed, the captives went to heaven and therefore, there is no problem or conflict with Jesus having said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”[1]


Godly saints of the Old Testament period went to paradise, not heaven, because their sins were covered by sacrificial animals (Heb. 10:1-4) but not removed by the blood of Jesus. No one can enter heaven with covered sins. Jesus paid the price for all pre-cross sins. Since no one could/can enter heaven without the blood of Jesus removing their sins, the saints of the Old Testament era stayed in Paradise, a/k/a Abraham’s Bosom, Hades, until Jesus paid the price of their sins. But when Jesus died, He went to Paradise with the last “new” saint of the Old Testament era – the Zealot – and proclaimed the gospel. Only His death could accomplish the removal of the pre-cross sins.[2] From there the fellowship of Old Testament saints were then taken to their heavenly abode.


The classic example is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31.[3]  It is the story of the rich man who died and was in torment while Lazarus was on the other side of a great gulf – in paradise – from where he would eventually go to heaven. Sometimes paradise is called “Hades,” especially the section of torment. Jesus is the triumphant Lord of heaven and hell (Rev. 1:18; Phil. 2:10) and has ultimate power over death (1 Pet. 3:19).


The Apostle Peter, in his first letter, said that Jesus preached to those who had died. Obviously, they were unaware of future events and had not heard of the gospel until Jesus shared it with them.  Peter stated:


For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged by men in the fleshly realm, they might live by God in the spiritual realm.

1 Peter 4:6


The Apostles Creed on the end of line 4 states “He [Jesus] descended into hell.”[4]  An earlier form of the Apostles Creed formed the basic structure of the Nicene Creed, which led to the fifth century Athanasian Creed, which states that “[Christ] suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.” Because of His descent into hell and rise to life, He conquered sin and death, and more importantly, Jesus took the keys of Satan’s authority.[5]

This does not indicate that those who died can still be saved, nor should one pray to or for the dead. Rather, it states that Jesus went to those who had died and told them of Himself. That is why Ignatius said,


He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude; and rent asunder that means of separation which had existed from the beginning of the world, and cast down its partition-wall.

Ignatius, Letter to the Tralhans[6]


Finally, the names of the two Zealots who were crucified with Jesus have been lost in human history. Only one of them will be known throughout eternity. However, that has not prevented self-inspired writers for becoming creative historians.[7] Several books within the classification of Pseudepigrapha, have listed their names. Unfortunately, there is some serious disagreement on their identity. Suggested names are Dismas and Gestas, as in the Acts of Pilate. But other books identify them as Zoathan and Chammata, or as Joathas and Maggatras, or as Titus and Dumatchus. Clearly this demonstrates why the Pseudepigrapha books must be evaluated with great suspicion.[8]

[1]. http://www.bereanbiblesoceity.org/articles/1115147624.html  Retrieved October 15, 2011.


[2]. Acts 17:30; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:15, 10:4.

[3]. See 12.03.08.


[4]. https://www.ccel.org/creeds/apostles.creed.html  Retrieved July 31, 2014.


[5]. Scaer, “He did descend to Hell: In Defense of the Apostles’ Creed.” 93.


[6]. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 39.

[7]. Creative writers and other “false teachers and prophets” have existed throughout the centuries. Ron Charles has gathered scores of fanciful legends and myths, mostly written between the sixth and sixteenth centuries, that pertain to the life of Christ in his book titled, The Search: A Historian’s Search for Historical Jesus. (Self-Published, 2007). Another researcher is Nicholas Notovich, whose book,  The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. Trans. (Virchand R. Gandhi, Dover Pub.) is a so-called historical account of when Jesus went to Asia to study between the ages 13 and 29. All of these accounts are truly fanciful.


[8]. Jordan. Who’s Who in the Bible. 240.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.15

16.01.15 Jn. 19:25-27




25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.


While Jesus was abandoned by all but one of His disciples, it appears that a few women were also with Him. The number of Marys in verse 25 highlights the difficulties of determining who is who.  They were:


  1. Mary, the mother of Jesus


  1. Salome, His mother’s sister who was His aunt. Salome was married to Zebedee and their two sons were James and John – cousins of Jesus.


  1. Mary, the wife of Clopas, who was also the mother of James and Joses


  1. Mary Magdalene.


The opinions of men concerning of women were not always very good. For example, Josephus and Nicholaus of Damascus seldom mention the names of women.[1]  That was the general custom of the time.  Therefore, for the gospel writers to mention and name the women who were present, speaks highly of the gospel writers.  Those few were some women who were without question, as dedicated to following Him as were the disciples. Women were far less likely to be arrested by the Romans than men were. At this particular time it was dangerous for any man who knew Jesus to be at the crucifixion site for two reasons:


  1. When men were crucified, it was always dangerous for his male friends to be seen nearby. No doubt that was the major reason the disciples had disappeared so quickly. However, female friends and family members were seldom suspect and could attend to the victim’s dying needs if they wished.


  1. However, in this case, it was also dangerous for anyone, including women, to be near a condemned criminal that the Jewish leaders considered a heretic. Obviously the Sanhedrin considered Jesus a heretic, or something worse, and one never knew if Caiaphas and his associates would attempt to have anyone else thrown out of the synagogue or crucified.


Nearly all of His male friends, as well as His disciples had deserted Him; those who had been like family were gone.  Only the dearest of His family were there: His mother and two close friends. An early church tradition states that Clopas was a brother of Joseph, the step-father of Jesus.  One must wonder, however, if  Barabbas was not also there, watching intently and wondering who it was that gave him a second chance in life.


“The disciple He loved.” John used the phrase, “the disciple He loved” four times when referring to Himself as the disciple of Jesus.[2] It was an indirect method of identifying himself.  In the ancient Middle Eastern culture and likewise, in many areas there today, one does not speak directly of himself. Bragging is clearly out of order. Therefore, just as John the Baptist did not make “I” statements, Jesus simply followed cultural protocol by not making a public announcement of being the Messiah.


He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” This third saying of Jesus reflects the love and care He had for His mother Mary.   It was the responsibility of the oldest son to take care of His parents as they aged.  Evidently, Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, had passed on previously, and only his mother survived until this time. As a widow, she was destined for poverty unless her children cared for her.  Now that Jesus was dying, He transferred His responsibility to His best friend and soon-to-be apostle, John, who took her into his home.


Years earlier when Jesus was an infant, Mary presented Him to Simeon in the temple who said that a sword would pierce her heart. Now those words were fulfilled, as she grieved the death of her beloved Jesus. She had left her other children when she walked along up the hill known as “the Skull.” They refused to come as they could not bear additional shame, leaving her broken hearted standing by her first-born Son.


16.01.15.Q1 Concerning the care for Mary, why did Jesus break from the cultural norm?

It may surprise the reader that, evidently, Jesus was not always on the best of terms with His family.  Or possibly better said, they were not always on the best of terms with Him.  This is evident in several passages and is the most likely reason why Jesus passed the care of His mother to John.


The cultural norm was that the eldest son cared for both parents until they pass on and were buried.  Should something have happened to the eldest son so that he cannot perform this responsibility, then that responsibility is passed on to the second eldest son.  Clearly, this was not done in this case.  As Mary’s eldest Son was dying on the cross, but He passed the responsibility to care for His mother on to John.  Jesus bypassed His other four half-brothers and two-half sisters, because they were not there. John was well loved and Mary, we can assume, would have been more comfortable with him than with her own children.  Furthermore, Jesus, with His prophetic foreknowledge, probably knew that His brother James would be martyred, so His mother Mary would be safer with John.


As for John, it was an unspeakable honor to care for her. As soon as the crucifixion was over, John took her home and cared for her.  Mary and John, truly a loving “sister” and “brother” in Christ, yielded to the will of Jesus without question.  There is no record of how long she lived, but it can safely be assumed that she was well provided for.[3]


The resurrection had a dynamic effect on His family. It was then, like with so many others, that the family realized Jesus really was the Messiah.  Therefore, when they had heard that the Holy Spirit of God was to come, all came to Jerusalem to receive this special gift. For Acts 1:14 reads that “Mary, the mother of Jesus and with His brothers” was at a prayer meeting that would usher in Pentecost. When Peter stood up to preach, Mary and her sons were among the 120 attendees.

[1].  For further study on the various opinions concerning the status and influence of women in the Second Temple Period, see the excellent work by Tal Ilan, Integrating Women into Second Temple History, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999. Take note of Chapter 3 on the discussions of two first century historians, Josephus and Nicholaus of Damascus, and their comments about women. Nicholaus was the personal historian for Herod the Great.


[2]. Jn. 13:23-25; 19:25-27; 20:2; and 21:20.


[3]. See commentaries on Lk. 2:41-50; Jn. 2:1-11; Lk. 4:16-20; Mk. 6:4; Mt. 12:48-50; Jn. 19:25-27; Acts 1:14.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.16 JESUS CRIES OUT

16.01.16 Mt. 27:45-47  (See also Mk. 15:33-35; Lk. 23:44-45a) The Wrath of God: 12:00 Noon to 3:00 p.m.




45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.

46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah!”


“Darkness.”  Darkness came upon the land during what normally is the brightest part of the day, noon, until the 9th hour (Hebraic time) which is reckoned to be 3:00 p.m.[1] The judgment of God that fell upon Egypt had fallen upon Israel, as the Light of the World descended into the earth to take the keys of death, Hades, and the abyss from Satan.  Some three decades earlier when Jesus was born, a starry light led the magi to Him, but when national Israel rejected Him, the light went out.  The Jewish race fell into darkness and judgment that was only four decades into the future.


There has been much discussion concerning the source of this darkness.  It has been suggested that it was a solar eclipse.[2]   However, such an eclipse is not possible during full moon, and if by some reason it did occur, the darkness of any eclipse is only eight minutes – not three hours.[3] Other suggestions have been a dust storm from the eastern Arabian Desert or dust from a volcanic eruption at some distant location, (since there are no active volcanoes in the Middle East).  However, a dust storm or volcanic dust cloud will not create total darkness, but a fog-like atmosphere in which visibility is slightly reduced.  Therefore, there is no natural explanation other than it was a divine event. Many evangelical scholars attempt to place the miracle of darkness within the framework of a natural event, which “miraculously” occurred when Jesus was crucified.  The significant fact that must be repeated is that an eclipse is an event lasting only eight minutes – this darkness lasted three hours. Its time and totality of darkness emphasized the obvious – as a number of biblical books associate it with divine judgment.[4]

Among the ancient writers, the historian Phlegon noted that there was an eclipse and an earthquake on Passover.  However, a conventional eclipse would have been impossible, as the Jews always celebrated the Passover at a full moon.  Phlegon, however, had no other way to explain the unusual event and equated it to an eclipse. While he was wrong in his interpretation of an eclipse, he did in fact, acknowledge and document that darkness fell upon the earth.


The Talmud says that whenever the sun is eclipsed, it is because a great rabbi was not properly eulogized after he died.[5] This belief existed throughout the Inter-Testamental Period and continued for at least several centuries thereafter.


An eclipse of the sun is a bad omen for the world.

Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 29a.


When Jesus died everyone knew that the resulting darkness was not an ordinary solar eclipse. They must have wondered that if an ordinary eclipse was a bad omen, what this darkness represented? Jesus closed His life with darkness for those who rejected Him; a darkness by divine appointment and warning as prophesied by the prophet Amos:

9 And in that day — this is the declaration of the Lord GOD—

I will make the sun go down at noon;

            I will darken the land in the daytime.

10 I will turn your feasts into mourning,

and all your songs into lamentation;

I will cause everyone to wear sackcloth

and every head to be shaved.

I will make that grief like mourning for an only son

and its outcome like a bitter day.

Amos 8:9-10


“About three in the afternoon.”  From the pinnacle of the temple the trumpeter blew three blasts when one-third of the evening-sacrifice service was over which was at the “ninth hour” or 3:00 PM on Friday afternoon.[6]  The moment of death for Jesus was at hand.

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  This is the only time when Jesus referred to God as “God” and did not call Him, “My Father.” At this point, Jesus personified the name, Jehovah Tsidkenu meaning, our Lord who is our Righteousness.[7] The phrase reveals His humanity at a time of great suffering.   In this fourth saying, Jesus did His greatest work, which was evidently hidden from Satan and his demonic angels.  While they were aware that Jesus would redeem humanity, they did not know how this was to be accomplished.  Satan used every trick he knew to kill Jesus and, apparently, worked rather successfully through the Sadducees and Romans. The irony is that Jesus willingly died a spiritual death, as evidenced by this statement.  He was absolute, pure innocence, who took upon Himself all of the sins of humanity. Thus, He made Himself sinful in place of us.  This profound question demonstrates that God could not even bear to look upon His perfect Son, when Jesus took upon Himself the sin of humanity as He hung on the cross.  The prophet Isaiah said seven centuries earlier, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (Isa. 59:2).   In Romans 6:23 the Apostle Paul wrote to fellow believers, “The wages (reward) of sin is death.”   Death has always been the penalty of sin and results in being separated from God.  Jesus, who lived a perfect life and died a cruel death so believers can enjoy the Kingdom of God and eternal life as well.

After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, angels ministered to Him (Mt. 4:11).  When He agonized in the “Garden of Gethsemane,” because He saw this death before Him, an angel came to comfort Him (Lk. 22:43). But now, not even the angels could comfort Him, yet it is amazing that He constantly maintained His faith in His Father.  Even more amazing is that He maintained faith in sinful humanity, knowing that His suffering would not be in vain.

This phrase has a unique feature. Even today when the historical figure of Jesus is attacked from various sources, nearly all critics agree, this phrase could not have been invented.  If anyone would have fabricated all or part of the life of Christ, they most certainly would not have included this statement “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken Me?”  Jesus had just assured the dying thief that he would be in paradise.  Where was that assurance now?  What did both thieves think when they heard Jesus utter these words?  They did not realize that Jesus was taking their sins on the cross for them, just as He did for everyone else.

When Jesus cried out to the Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” this reflects that, at this point, He accepted the sins of the world.   God the Father, in His purity, could not look upon the sin-tarnished Son. Like Adam and Eve after their sin, fellowship had been replaced by separation.  Therefore, the Father had to turn from Jesus. He felt completely forsaken for reasons incomprehensible to us.  He was forsaken by the religious leaders, by most of the disciples, such as Peter, by His family such as His brothers, and now by His Father in heaven. To carry the sins of the world was horrific on its own and now God and man forsook him.  This was the ultimate in loneliness, beyond what any man or woman can possibly imagine.

When Jesus asked this question, it was not a general question such as a modern reader might ask out of desperation. Rather, His question was a quotation from Psalm 22, which is rich in the vivid imagery of the suffering Jesus.  Jews, throughout the Second Temple Period (c. 535 B.C. – A.D. 70) had memorized vast amounts of Scripture. Those who witnessed Jesus die assuredly had this popular Psalm memorized.  The rhetorical question was not seeking an answer, but was a connection of the Psalm to the death of Jesus.  Furthermore, the Psalm described the death in detail, permitting the witnesses to realize the fulfillment of prophecy.

Theologically, the dynamic work of the cross is beyond the scope of this writing, yet it cannot be left untreated. Without the death of Jesus, there could never have been a resurrection. Without a resurrection of Jesus, there could never have been hope for a lost humanity.  God the Father, who is pure and sinless, could not look upon all the sins of humanity that Jesus carried upon the cross.  As the Apostle Paul stated, Jesus was “made to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).  Not even the angels could come to His aid.  The work on the cross is a powerful message for us.  When we feel that we are totally in despair and we wonder if God abandoned us, we must remember that Jesus experienced the same emotions and thoughts, yet He promised never to leave us.


It is remarkably interesting that David, prior to becoming king, accurately described the death of Jesus a thousand years prior to the invention of this cruel torturous death.  He stated:


1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Why are You so far from my deliverance

And from my words of groaning?


2 My God,

I cry by day, but You do not answer,

by night, yet I have no rest.


3 But You are holy,

Enthroned on the praises of Israel.

4 Our fathers trusted in You;

they trusted, and You rescued them.

5 They cried to You and were set free;

They trusted in You and were not disgraced.


6 But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by men 

and despised by the people.

7 Everyone who sees me mocks me;

they sneer and 

shake their heads:

(they say…)[8]

8 “He relies on the Lord – let Him rescue him;

Let the Lord deliver him, since He takes pleasure in him.

Psalm 22:1-8


In the seventh century B.C., the prophet Isaiah said,

4 Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.


5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.

Isaiah 53:4-5  



Amazingly, in the portion of the Midrash known as the Haggadah, the tractate links Isaiah 53 with Psalm 22.  The latter graphically describes a crucifixion experience a thousand years before Rome began using this excruciating form of capital punishment.

[1]. See Appendix 16.

[2]. In an interesting side note, The New York Times reported in late November, 2014 of a mechanical device built by the Greeks around 205 B.C., that was able to predict eclipses. Researchers James Evans, professor of Physics at University of Puget Sound, and Christian Carman, history of science professor at University of Quilmes, Argentina, said the computer-like device made predictions on Babylonian arithmetical methods borrowed by the Greeks, not on Greek trigonometry. There are no enlightening comments on the star of Bethlehem or the darkness of Good Friday, but it did predict lunar and solar eclipses. Cited by Bullinger, Clyde, ed. “Clues to an Ancient Greek Riddle.” Artifax. 30:1 (Winter, 2014). 12, 14.


[3]. See “Passover” in Appendix 5.


[4]. Joel 2:2; 10; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Zeph. 1:15; Wisdom 5:6.


[5]. http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48936647.html. Retrieved November 1, 2012.


[6]. See discussion on “evening” in Appendix 16.


[7]. Evans, The Power of God’s Names. 171.


[8]. Explanatory parenthesis mine.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.17 JESUS IS GIVEN DRINK

16.01.17 Jn. 19:28; Mt. 27:48a; Jn. 19:29b; Mt. 27:49 (See also Mk. 15:36) On the Cross




Jn. 28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”


Mt. 48a Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, 


Jn29b full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth.

Mt. 49 But the rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him!”


“I’m thirsty.” This is the fifth of His testaments. He had not eaten nor had a drink since the Passover on the previous evening.  He was dehydrated and breathing became increasingly difficult.  The fact that He was extremely thirsty authenticates His humanity.  It also demonstrated His humility, as anyone of proud character would not have uttered such words. Yet here was the One who healed the sick, offered living water to those of thirst, raised the dead; but now Himself suffered from thirst.


Jesus did not accept any wine with myrrh or frankincense to kill the pain, nor did He accept any poison, such as gall, to hasten death because He was to drink the cup of suffering decreed by His Father.  Centuries earlier, these prophetic words were written,


20 Insults have broken my heart,

and I am in despair.

I waited for sympathy,

            but there was none;

for comforters,

            I found no one.

21 Instead, they gave me gall

            in my food

and for my thirst

they gave me vinegar to drink.


Psalm 69:20-21


It is interesting that a bystander, who had compassion for His pain, gave Him vinegar without realizing he was fulfilling prophecy. Jesus needed the fluid so He could make the most important statements of His work. The wine vinegar was non-alcoholic and cleared the mouth of drying saliva for the last two most important phrases that He was about to speak.


“Sour wine on hyssop.” John recorded this small detail of a hyssop plant because his Jewish audience knew hyssop was used to apply the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the doorposts just prior to their exodus out of Egypt.  The blood applied with a hyssop[1] was an act of mercy by God, because He was about to bring judgment upon all people (i.e. namely the Egyptians and Hebrews) who did not apply the blood upon their doorposts and lintels.  This was to symbolize that Jesus was the blood of the sacrificial lamb that would save His people from death.


By this time Jesus had been on the cross for three hours, possibly four or more.  He was on the cross from 12:00 noon until 3:00 when the land was covered with complete darkness. Scholars believe that it was sometime after the darkness lifted that He spoke His last words and died.  That left only a short amount of time for the burial of the three crucified men before the Passover began.

[1]. The hyssop is a small plant that grows throughout the Middle East and is still a popular spice.

16.01.18 JESUS DIES

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 16.01.18 JESUS DIES

16.01.18  Jn. 19:30a; Lk. 23:46a; Jn. 19:30b (See also Mt. 27:50; Mk. 15:37) On the Cross




Jn. 30a When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”


Lk. 46a And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.”


Jn. 30b Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.


The most detailed description of how Jesus died is found in Psalm 22, while Isaiah 53 has the physical suffering up to the time of His death and atonement. Jesus was sacrificed as the Lamb of God to remove the sins of the world.  Of all the individuals mentioned in Scripture, Jesus was the most abused person. He died precisely at the same time the lambs were being sacrificed in the temple.  These lambs were a covering for the sins of each family, but Jesus died for the sins of humanity.  The symbolism was underscored by the timing of the sacrificial death of Jesus (Jn 1:24; 1 Cor. 5:7).  One cannot study the life and death of Jesus without taking into account the symbolism that was underscored by the timing of the events together.


Note the words of Melito:

Nature trembled and said with astonishment: What new mystery is this?  The judge  is judged and remains silent; The invisible One is seen and does not hide Himself; The incomprehensible One is comprehended and does not resist; The immeasurable One is measured and does not struggle; The one beyond suffering suffers and does not avenge Himself; The immortal dies and does not refuse death.  What new mystery is this?

Melito of Sardis, Homily on the Passion 68[1]


The words of Isaiah continue…

5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions,

crushed because of our iniquities;

Punishment for our peace was on Him,

and we are healed by His wounds.


6 We all went astray like sheep;

We all have turned to our own way;

And the Lord has punished Him

for the iniquity of us all.


7 He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb led to the slaughter

and like a sheep silent before her shearers,

He did not open his mouth.


8 He was taken away because

            of oppression and judgment;
and who considered His fate?

For He was cut off from the land of the living;
He was struck because of my people’s rebellion.

Isaiah 53:5-8


“It is finished.” The Greek word for this phrase, tetelestai, means that a work has ended and the goals have been accomplished.[2] Only in Christianity does God say “it is finished.” It was another way of saying, “the debt of sin has been paid.” The sixth saying of the cross was the announcement that His ministry had concluded.  It was at the 9th hour of the day (3:00 p.m.), the time when the priest stood at the pinnacle of the temple and blew the shofar.  The sound of the ram’s horn announced the sacrifice of thousands of lambs, which faithful Jews brought to the temple for their sin sacrifices.  By His incredible grace, a person needs to come only as he/she is and accept His work of salvation.  Other religions, both ancient and modern, insist that a good attitude and many good deeds or works for the service to humanity accomplish salvation.

It is significant that the cross demonstrates the identification and solidarity Jesus has with His people, for thousands of them had been crucified unjustly by the religious leaders, Greeks, and Romans. Jesus demonstrated that the greatest defeat can, by Divine grace, be transformed in the the greatest victory.


Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.”  This final and seventh statement demonstrates that Jesus was in control of His death. Jesus dismissed His Spirit.  He chose to die for the sake of a lost humanity. His work was completed in precise detail as predicted by the prophets of centuries past. No other prophet in the future could add anything to the work of Jesus. This was a fulfillment of Exodus 12:46 and Zechariah 12:10, which Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:7.  The Romans and Sadducees most certainly did all they could to kill Him, but the only reason Jesus  died is because it was the plan of the Almighty Father, carried to completion by His Son Jesus. Jesus could have chosen to live but chose to die for our sake.  These words were the prophetic prayer of David and the disciple-apostle John also wrote about it in his letter to the Philippians.

5 Into Your hand I entrust my spirit;

                        You redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

Psalm 31:5     


7 Instead He emptied Himself

By assuming the form of a slave,

Taking on the likeness of men.

And when He had come as a man in His external form,

8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death–

even to death on a cross.

 Philippians 2:7-8


These words describe not only how He died, but also how He lived. It has been said that how a man lives is how he dies.  This was true of Jesus and every one of His apostles.  David looked forward, by faith, to the time when man could enjoy complete restoration and the renewal (recreation) of a sinful heart. For this reason David was called the man after God’s own heart. 

The death of Jesus had a profound effect on those whom He healed, on those whom He taught, and those who believed He was truly sent from God. They struggled with two disappointments:

  1. Their Messiah was dead – the One who raised the dead and healed the sick.
  1. Their Messiah was cursed by God according to Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

Without question this was the worst and the greatest Passover in Jewish history.  That was about to change at sunrise on the first day of the week. But even then, the events needed to be understood. Witnessing the events did not necessarily bring understanding.  Therefore, some twenty to thirty years later the Apostle Paul addressed these issues in Galatians 3:10-14, Philippians 2:7-8 and 4:7-8.


16.01.18.Q1 Why did Jesus die?

Jesus died for two reasons:

  1. He died because He did not conform to the ordinances which the religious leaders had profanely added to the Word of God.
  1. Most importantly, He died so that humanity can have eternal life with Him. His death had been symbolized as the Lamb of God for nearly fifteen centuries. He died that mankind can be reconciled unto Himself. Reconciliation (Gk. apokathistemi) is to restore to an original state,[3] which is, in effect, the Kingdom of God living within those who chose to follow Him. Jesus died because He was the Lamb of God, who was crucified for the sins of humanity, and He died because He was the King of Israel.

The day shall come when He will return and hold His rightful position of not only King of Israel, but king of the world.  However, the theological answer to this question in found most frequently in confessional statements in the Pauline epistles, where the apostles stated “Christ died for our sins” or “Christ died for us.”[4]  Paul understood that the “message of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18) is a “message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19) to unite humanity with God. Second Corinthians 5:21 pointedly states that “God made him (Jesus) sin, who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”


Video Insert    >

16.01.18.V Man in the Image of God: A Divine Plan from Eernity Past. Dr. John Soden discusses man’s problem of sin that began in Genesis, and God’s wonderful plan to resolve the issue.


The death of Jesus is known as the “shedding of blood,” meaning His blood. Since the life is in the blood, the shedding of blood is synonymous with death.[5]  Modern scholarship is challenged by the fact that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” but he never referred to those Scriptures.  Evidently, these were not significant to him, or he assumed that his readers were familiar with them. Jesus died to restore man into His image, the image of God – the imago dei (Latin phrase).


16.01.18.Q2 What is the Significance of “Shed Blood?”

Without the shedding of blood (death) there is no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22). As stated previously, the blood of bulls and goats sacrificed on the Day of Atonement only covered the sins of the people, but the blood of Jesus completely removed the sin.  Furthermore, the Old Testament sacrificial system did not provide for the covering of the sins of murder and adultery, but the sacrifice of Jesus did.  David realized the fallacy of the sacrificial system after he confessed to these two sins, which is why he wrote “create in me a new heart” (Ps. 51:10). His writing would become a foundational prayer in the heart of every new believer seeking the Kingdom of God.

This question has always been, and continues to be, one of the most important questions of life.  The essence of His life and death is to restore humanity to a right relationship with Himself.  The message has not changed during the centuries.  Note the following comments written hundreds of years ago.

To whom was the blood paid out that was shed for us, and why was it shed?…We were in bondage to the evil one, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness.  If a ransom belongs not to someone else but to him who holds in bondage, I ask you, to whom was this paid, and for what reason?  If to the evil one, O what an outrage!

If to the Father, first I ask, how can that be?  For we were not being detained by Him; and second, why would He be delighted by His only begotten Son…surely it is evident, however, that the Father did receive (the sacrifice of His Son), though neither asking nor demanding it, but because of His plan of redemption and so that might we be sanctified by the Humanity of God.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Second Oration on Easter[6]


Jesus Christ our Lord, who, on account of His great love, became what we are so that He might bring us to what He Himself is.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies[7]      


The Sacrificial Victim was offered for all mankind, and was sufficient to save all, but it is believers alone who enjoy the bounty thereof.

 John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle to the Galatians[8]


Not one reason, but many.  First, that he might have dominion over the living and the dead. Second, so that, by being sacrificed for us and by becoming a cursed thing on our behalf, He might wipe away our sins.  Third, so that He might be offered to the God of all on behalf of the whole world.  Fourth, so that He might Himself, with secret words, bring about the destruction of the demoniacal workings which lead so many astray. The fifth is this: so that holding out to His acquaintances and disciples the hope of life with God after death…He might bring on to completion those already more willing and those of greater courage; and so that with His rejection He might proclaim a religious polity to all, to Greeks and barbarians alike.

Eusebius, Demonstrations of the Gospel[9]


Jesus, the perfect human specimen who never sinned, took upon Himself the punishment we deserve for our sins. Phrases such as “His shed blood,” “His death on the cross,”  “His sacrifice,” all refer to His cruel death through which we can obtain forgiveness. However, as with any gift, it must be accepted. The phrase “received Jesus,” simply means one has accepted the gift of salvation (saved from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death), made a decision to become disciplined in a life of faith in Jesus, and will develop an attitude of living a holy lifestyle. When He hung dying on the cross, He looked into the future and saw every one of us; He saw you reading this and for Him the old rugged cross was a joy that you might live (Heb. 12:2).

The Jews understood very well the doctrine of sin in terms of willful disobedience and rebellion.  What is amazing is that they either had no knowledge of the doctrine of original sin or failed to recognize it. This doctrine states that the nature of all sin originated in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. It further states that because of the original sin, all people have a sin nature and are guilty before a pure and holy God. Mankind’s only hope is found in Christ Jesus.  This was a totally new concept for first century Jews and Gentiles.  There is no reference to this concept in any rabbinical writings, nor in any other religion.

A blood sacrifice of some kind as a sin payment was well established in all ancient cultures, as handed down from the dawn of creation. The spilling or shedding of blood in biblical terms is always associated with the death of an innocent person or has reference to death through sacrifice for payment of sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God clothed them in skins, meaning that God sacrificed an innocent animal for the sins of the first two people.  They instructed their sons to present a sacrificial animal to God (Gen. 3:21; 4:4; Heb. 11:4).  When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, the Levitical covenant was sealed with a blood sacrifice. It stated, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Lev. 17:11).  In that sacrifice, the sins of the people were covered or “atoned.”  The death of Jesus, however, was a substitute death for our sins, because now no longer do animals have to be killed nor are our sins covered, but they are completely removed.  Therefore, we have a better covenant, a victory in this life and eternal life, all because of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.[10]


16.01.18.Q3 How old was Jesus when He died?

Luke recorded that Jesus was about 30 years of age when He began His ministry.  This follows the Jewish tradition regarding the proper age when a man was to begin priestly duties in the temple.  John records at least three Passovers which Jesus attended (2:13; 6:4; 11:55) during His public ministry, but that does not rule out the possibility that other Passovers were not recorded.  Jesus died when Tiberius was Caesar, Pontius Pilate was the prefectus,[11] Antipas was the tetrarch, and Joseph Caiaphas was the high priest in the temple.  Records indicate that Tiberius died on March 16, A.D. 37, and Pilate ceased to be in power shortly before the Passover in A.D. 36.  Caiaphas became High Priest shortly after the Passover in A.D. 18 and served until the year 36.  Therefore, if Jesus was born between 6 – 4 B.C., and died in A.D. 30, His age would have been between 33 to 35 years.


16.01.18.Q4 What was the year of His death and resurrection? 

There were five major considerations to be evaluated when calculating the date of His death and resurrection of Jesus, The result is that most scholars have concluded on two possible dates, A.D. 30 and 33.[12]

  1. How is the 15th year of Tiberius reckoned?
  1. How is the Passover in John 2 dated and how many Passovers are recorded in the gospels?
  1. How long was the ministry of Jesus, and
  1. The evidence in the Mishnah which indicates that the “mysteries” four decades before the destruction of the temple were the result of the crucifixion of Jesus (See below).
  1. Evidence from secular sources.[13]


Part of the difficulty in any time calculation, and the apparent differences between John and the Synoptic gospels, is that the Jews had two calendars (civil and religious). Josephus recorded that Moses introduced a year of holy days and religious festivals that began with the month of Nisan.  This was the month of the Exodus and Passover.[14]   The celebration of Resurrection Day, a/k/a Easter, is the fulfillment of Passover and is reckoned on the solar-lunar cycles, coming on or after the spring vernal equinox (March 21).   Moses, however, also kept the civil calendar year that was for buying, selling, and secular affairs.   The civil year begins with Rosh Hashanah in the month of Tishri (1 Kg. 8:2).[15]  Obviously historic investigations can be rather challenging.  However, in light of the mysteries that occurred some forty years before the destruction of the temple (see below), there is a majority opinion of scholars that Jesus died in the year A.D. 30.  Regardless of the accounts, it is known that,

  1. Jesus existed, and
  1. He was somewhat older than the 33 years of age that is commonly thought of today.

A strong argument that supports an A.D. 30 date is the statement shouted by the Sadducees, “You are no friend of Caesar.” These words are steeped in the political quagmire in Rome that was caused by personal confidant turned traitor, Sejanus. As stated previously, Sejanus feared for his life and position and did not want to lose his amici Caesaris, or “friendship with Caesar” and face execution (which happened in October, A.D. 30).[16] In that year he was at the height of his power and the emperor’s life was in chaos. If the crucifixion of Jesus had occurred in the year A.D. 33, there would have been no reason for the Sadducees to try to intimidate Pilate with this statement.[17] This important point has been overlooked in nearly every study of dating the crucifixion.

Finally, critics have argued that if Jesus was so important, how could His date of birth[18] and crucifixion be forgotten?  Their implication is, of course, that in the first century Jesus was not an important figure. The answer lies in the fact that at this time and in this culture, birthdates and death dates were not as significant as what a person did in life. In Western thinking a greater emphasis is placed on these dates, but not in biblical times.  Many people of this era did not know when they were born.  Very few biblical figures have the date of birth recorded, so the biblical writers cannot be faulted. As some have said, “Uncertainty and debate regarding the precise date of an occurrence is not necessarily an indication of unhistoricity.”[19]

While there are various viewpoints, the following outline is one to which many scholars agree.[20]


Saturday, Nisan 8, A.D. 30 (six days before the final Passover – Jn. 11:55)

Jesus arrived at Bethany.

Jesus was anointed at the house of Simon the leper (Mt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; Jn. 12:1-8).


Sunday, Nisan 9

A large crowd came to see Jesus at Bethany (Jn. 12:9-11).


Monday, Nisan 10 (the next day – Jn. 12:12)

Jews selected their lambs, which would live with them, be examined for purity between the 10th and the 14th day of Nisan, and be sacrificed on Passover (Ex.12:3-6).

Triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the Paschal lamb (Mt. 21:1-9; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:28-40; Jn. 12:12-19).

The Kingdom of God is no longer offered to the Jewish nation, but Jesus speaks of national judgment.

Jesus visited the temple (Mt. 21:10-11; Mk. 11:11).

Jesus returned to Bethany.


Tuesday, Nisan 11

Return to Jerusalem, fig tree cursed (Mt. 21:18-19; Mk. 11:12-14).

Temple cleansed (Mt. 21:12-13; Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45-46).

Religious leaders plot to kill Jesus.

Jesus left Jerusalem, probably to Bethany (Mk. 11:18-19; Lk. 19:47-48).


Wednesday, Nisan 12

Return to Jerusalem, disciples saw the dead fig tree (Mt. 21:20-22; Mk. 11:20-26).

Debate with religious leaders at the temple (Mt. 21:23 – 23:39; Mk. 11:27 – 12:44;

Lk. 20:1 – 21:4).

Left the temple to give the Olivet Discourse on the Mount of Olives (Mt. 24:1 – 25:46; Mk. 13:1-37; Lk. 21:5-36).

Jesus predicted His crucifixion in two days (Mt. 26:1-5; Mk. 14:1-2; Lk. 22:1-2).

Judas planned to betray Jesus (Mt. 26:14-16; Mk. 14:10-11; Lk. 22:3-6).


Thursday, Nisan 13

Jesus and disciples prepare the Passover lamb (Mt. 26:17-19; Mk. 12-16; Lk. 22:7-13).

Passover celebrated in the Upper Room (Mt. 26:20-30; Mk. 14:17-26; Lk. 22:14-30; Jn. 13:1 – 14:31).

They left the Upper Room.

Jesus prays for His disciples (Mt. 26:30-35; Mk. 14:26-31; Lk. 22:31-39; Jn. 15:1 – 18:1).

They arrive in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus in agony in the Garden (Mt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46; Jn. 18:1).

Jesus betrayed late night (Mt. 26:47-56; Mk. 14:43-52; Lk. 22:47-53; Jn. 18:2-12).

First night trial by Annas, second night trial by Caiaphas (Mt. 26:57-75; Mk. 14:53-72; Lk. 22:54-65; Jn. 18:13-27).


Friday, Nisan 14 (reckoned to the Julian calendar: April 3, A.D. 30)[21]

Third trial by the Sanhedrin in early morning.

Fourth trial by Pilate.

Fifth trial by Herod Antipas.

Sixth trial by Pilate. (Mt. 27:1-30; Mk. 15:1-19; Lk. 22:66 – 23:25; Jn. 18:28 – 19:16).

9:00 a.m. Jesus crucified.

3:00 p.m. Jesus died (buried before sundown).

(Mt. 27:31-60; Mk. 15:20-46; Lk. 23:26-54; Jn. 19:16-42)

3:00 p.m. Jews sacrificed their Passover lambs (Ex. 12:6; 1 Cor. 5:7).


Saturday, Nisan 15

The body of Jesus lies in the tomb.

Jews secured Roman guards at the tomb (Mt. 27:61-66; Mk. 15:47; Lk. 23:55-56).


Sunday, Nisan 16

Jesus resurrected from the dead (Mt. 28:1-15; Mk. 16:1-13; Lk. 24:1-35).

Jesus is a type of offering of First Fruits which was offered the day after the Sabbath (Lev. 23:9-14; 1 Cor. 15:23).


Finally, it should be noted that several studies have been done concerning the year the 14th day of Nisan was on a Friday.[22] Those years were A.D. 27, 30, 33, and 36. Since the years 27 and 36 are highly unlikely, the only two possible years for His death and resurrection, as previously stated, are 30 and 33.


16.01.18.Q5 Are there other ancient writings of tortures and crucifixions?

The Assyrians may have developed the precursor to crucifixions when they impaled a victim on a pole. Some scholars believe that the practice originated in Persia as part of a religious worship of Ormuzd (also known as Ahura Mazda), the chief deity of creation, light and goodness in Zoroastrianism.[23]  Because a criminal was considered evil, he was crucified “above the earth” as not to defile the earth.[24] From the Persian kingdom the practice was passed on to Carthage in North Africa.  When the Romans conquered the region they accepted the execution method, but used it for rebels, runaway slaves and for criminals who committed the most horrific crimes. Roman citizens were exempt from it.

What is known, however, is that this horrible method of execution was practiced by the Scythians, some Europeans (Celts, Germans, and Britons), Greeks, Parthians, and Indians. While some historic sources are questionable, it is clear that the Romans were not the instigators of this method.

While the Roman Empire officially ended the practice of crucifixion in the year 315, it unfortunately, continued.   There are both ancient and modern records of such horrific executions.  This form of execution reveals the depravity of human nature.  Below are a few examples.[25]

522 B.C. The Greek historian Herodotus, writing about 450 B.C., mentions crucifixion three times in his work, The Histories (3.125.2-3).  In one of his narratives, he described torture that preceded the crucifixion. He mentioned Polycrates who was a tyrant on the island of Samos. He was eventually captured by Oroestes, the Persian governor of Sardis, who tortured and crucified him. It should be noted that not all ancient historians agreed with Herodotus, as some called him “the father of lies.”

519 B.C. Herodotus reported (The Histories) that the Persian King Darius I the Great, had 3,000 rebellious citizens crucified.

332 B.C. After Alexander the Great conquered Tyre, he had 2,000 Tyrians crucified along the beach. The account was recorded by Roman senator Quintus Curtius Rufus in his book, History of Alexander the Great.

167 B.C Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Syrian-Greek ruler put to death anyone who attempted to observe the Jewish rites of religion. See 03.04.19 for more details concerning this madman. Some scholars consider Antiochus to have been a “type and shadow” of the future Antichrist.[26]

90 – 88 B.C. Eighty women and 800 Pharisees were crucified who were suspected of being witches. See 03.05.10.

A.D. 64 Some scholars have established the date of October 13, as the day that Peter was crucified by Nero. His death is mentioned in a letter written by Clement, Bishop of Rome (A.D. 88-97) to the Corinthians. A second century book, The Acts of Peter, says he was crucified upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner as was his Lord. Eusebius recorded the same account.[27]

A.D. 66-70 Josephus wrote of the actions of the Roman procurator Gessius Florus, whom William Whiston considered to be the most wicked of all procurators.[28]  Florus was made ruler of Judea shortly before the First Revolt (A.D. 66-70). When he exercised his demonic power over the Jewish people, he sent soldiers into the Upper Market Place to plunder it, but the soldiers did far more than plunder goods.

So the soldiers, taking this exhortation of their commander in a sense agreeable to their desire of gain, did not only plunder the place they were sent to, but forcing themselves into every house, they slew the inhabitants; so the citizens fled along the narrow lanes (streets) and the soldiers slew those that they caught, and no method of plunder was omitted; they also caught many of the quiet people and brought them before Florus, whom  he first chastised with stripes (flogging) and then crucified.

Josephus, Wars 2.14.9 (306)


A.D. 66-70 Josephus continues this account to record that five hundred or more Jews were captured daily during the First Revolt. The killing machine of the Romans continued to the point that they exhausted their supply of trees and crosses. With a demented sense of humor, the Roman General Titus ordered two people to be crucified on every cross, one on either side.

So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore against the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another way, to crosses by way of jest.  When their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses and crosses wanting for the bodies.

Josephus, Wars 5.11.1 (451)


Philo, who was a Roman senator and contemporary of Josephus, preserved two other accounts of scourging and crucifixion.  He described the mocking delight the executioners had in their work.

And those who did these things, mimicked the sufferers, like people employed in the representation of theatrical farces; but the family and friends of those who were the real victims, merely because they sympathized with the misery of their relations, were led away to prison (and) were scourged, were tortured, and after all ill treatment, which their living bodies could endure, found the cross the end of all, and the punishment from which they could not escape.

Philo, Against Flaccus 72[29]


Philo’s second description of a crucifixion also reveals how the depraved Romans thought of it as a comedy to persecute and execute in a theater with musicians and dancers.  The depravity of humanity is, at times, beyond comprehension.

I have known instances before now of men who had been crucified when this festival and holiday (birthday of the emperor) was at hand, being taken down and given up to their relations in order to receive honors of sepulture, and enjoy such observances as are due the dead; for it used to be considered that even the dead ought to derive some enjoyment from the natal festival of a good emperor, and also that the sacred character of the festival ought to be regarded.  But this man did not order men who had already perished on crosses to be taken down, but he commanded living men to be crucified, men to whom the very time itself gave, if not entire forgiveness, still, at all events, a brief and temporary respite from punishment; and he did this after they had been beaten by scourging in the middle of the theater and after he had tortured them with fire and sword; and the spectacle of their sufferings was divided, for the first part of the exhibition lasted from morning to the third or fourth hour, in which the Jews were scourged, were hung up, were tortured on the wheel, were condemned, and were dragged to execution through the middle of the orchestra; and after this beautiful exhibition came the dancers, and the buffoons, and the flute players, and all the other diversions of the theatrical contests.

Philo, Against Flaccus 83-84


To illustrate the horrors of this act, the Apostle Andrew was crucified in a manner to maximize pain and agony.  He was crucified on a low cross to permit wild animals and dogs to feast on his flesh while he was still alive. The account, recorded in an extra-biblical book, reflects a common method of crucifixion.

He (the Proconsul Aegeates) commanded that Andrew be flogged with seven whips.  Then he sent him off to be crucified and commanded the executioners not to impale him with nails but stretch him out tied up with ropes, (and) to leave his knees uncut, supposing that by so doing he would punish Andrew even more severely…The executioners … tied up only the feet and armpits, without nailing up his hands or feet nor severing his knees because of what the proconsul had commanded them, for Aegeates intended to torment him by his being hung and his being eaten by dogs if still alive at night.

The Acts of Andrew: The Passion of Andrew 51.1; 54.4[30]  


480 On September 18 the 150,000 man army (huge for ancient times) Persian army led by King Xerxes, wiped out King Leonidas and his small army that had less than 10,000 soldiers. When the battle was over, Xerxes ordered that the head of Leonidas be cut off and his body crucified.

1920 Archbishop Joachim of Sebastopol, a city in the Ukraine (Soviet Union), was crucified upside down on the royal doors of the Sebastopol Cathedral. It is believed that local Bolsheviks committed the crime.

2006 The Assyrian International News Agency reported that a 14-year old Christian boy was crucified in Basra, Iraq in early October.  Another news agency also reported the incident, but neither had confirmed details. Although rarely reported in the Western news media, crucifixions are increasing dramatically today in Muslim countries where radical Muslims hold government power.[31]

Critics who have stated that the narrative of the crucifixion of Jesus is exaggerated need only to read the accounts of others who died in this manner. Humiliation of the victim, terror upon the population, and demonstration of evil power were critical parts of every execution process.  Seneca the Younger said in A.D. 65, that suicide is preferred before death on the cross.

Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly tumors on chest and shoulders, and draw the breath of life amid long-drawn-out agony?  I think he would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross.

 Seneca the Younger, Epistles 101.14


Even in the Old Testament Period, criminals and enemies of the Hebrews were executed and then hung on a cross for public display and humiliation.[32] But the idea of placing a live person on a cross to die in agony became popular in the Inter-Testamental Period.  Seven centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would be disfigured beyond recognition (Isa. 52:14).

So intense was this horrible death, that the modern English word “excruciating” as in “excruciating pain” comes from a Latin word meaning “out of the cross.” Yet after this beating and humbled position, His body tormented with physical abuse, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).  Such is the incredible love of Jesus.

Finally, for the benefit of the reader as well as the serious Bible scholar, there are several extra-biblical writings that refer to the crucifixion of Jesus that appear attractive. However, caution is advised. The more distant in time and distance a book is from the event it describes, the greater the probability of historical errors and creative writing. For example, two writings were found in Egypt in the late 1800s.  One is the Gospel of Peter 2:3-5 that has a brief description of the crucifixion, and the other is the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus # 2949. Both differ significantly from the biblical narrative by claiming that Pilate was declared innocent of his judgment in which he condemned Jesus to the cross. The early church condemned the Gospel as heretical by the year 200, and Eusebius claimed it to be a false book in his History of the Church 6.12.2-6 and 6.13.1a in writing to Serapion, the bishop of Antioch.[33]


16.01.18.Q6 What significant extra-biblical writings refer to Jesus and early Christians?

 A number of secular writers made a reference to Jesus in some manner.  A brief description of the authors, if known and their literary works are presented in Appendix 31, “Significant Extra-Biblical Writings That Refer To Jesus And Early Christians.”


[1]. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 68.

[2]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 404.


[3]. Vorlander and Brown, “Reconciliation, Restoration, Propitiation, Atonement.” 3:144-74.


[4]. cf. Rom. 5:6, 8; 14:9-10; 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:21; 1 Thess. 5:10.


[5]. Mendenhall, “Covenant.” 1:722.


[6]. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 35.

[7]. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 146.

[8]. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 24.

[9]. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 76.

[10]. Heb. 7:22; 8:9-10; 9:20; 10:16, 19.


[11]. The title of Pontius Pilate was always thought to be “procurator.” However, in 1961 an inscription was discovered in Caesarea that has his title as “Prefectus Judaea” (see 16.01.06.B). The explanation of so-called error is that beginning from the time of Emperor Claudius (reigned 41-54), the title of the ruler of Judaea was procurator.  Josephus and Tacitus who decades later wrote of Pilate used that title rather than his real one – prefectus, in Latin. See also Billington, “Was Palace of Herod where Jesus was Tried?” 9.


[12]. While this writer agrees with F.F. Bruce (New Testament History, 192 n2) and Arnold Fruchtenbaum, (The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 20, page 19.) that the year A.D. 30 is the crucifixion date, a majority view appears to lean toward the A.D. 33 date. One of the earliest studies of the crucifixion date was by Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) and is titled The Coming Prince. It was first published in Great Britain in 1894 and quickly became a classic but it has some problems.  In 1978 Dr. Harold Hoehner, in his book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, resolved four difficulties of Anderson’s workHoehner presents strong arguments defending an A.D. 33 crucifixion date. See also Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 572. See also Appendix 19.

[13]. The writings of the historian Phlegon state that there was an eclipse as well as an earthquake on Passover of A.D. 30. Could he have referred to the strange events that occurred when Jesus died? See Appendix 31 for comments by Phlegon as reported by other historians.


[14]. Josephus, Antiquities 1.3.3.

[15]. Funderburk, “Calendar.” 3:320-22.

[16]. Maier, The First Easter. 3-13.

[17]. See 16.01.05 as well as 03.06.25, “A.D. 22-31 Sejanus, the Arch Enemy of Tiberius Caesar” in Historical Backgrounds.


[18]. However, the date of birth for Jesus has been calculated by examining when John the Baptist was born and counting forward. He was born at the Feast of Tabernacles as described in 04.03.10.Q2 “When was Jesus born?”


[19]. Marshall, “The Last Supper.” 541.


[20]. Adapted from Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. 90-93. See also  Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:374-76.

[21]. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 375.

[22]. For a listing of the studies, see Hoehner, “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 336 n34.


[23]. A religion founded by Zoraster where life is explained as a constant conflict between good and evil.


[24]. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Ahriman+and+Ormuzd Retrieved August 10, 2013.


[25]. http://thes.blogspot.com/2007/02/jews-in-alexandria.html. Retrieved October 2, 2012.

[26]. See “type and shadow” in Appendix 26.


[27]. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3:1.


[28]. William Whiston was the translator of The Works of Josephus: New Updated Edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987.


[29]. Yonge, ed. and trans. The Works of Philo. 731; Parenthesis mine.

[30]. MacDonald, The Acts of Andrew. 395, 407.

[31]. For more information see Raymond Ibrahim, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing. 2013.


[32]. Deut. 21:22-23; Jos. 8:23, 29; 10:5, 26-27; Josephus,  Antiquities 4.8.6.


[33]. An excellent resource for further study is Webb, “The Roman Examination and Crucifixion of Jesus.” 680-95.


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