“Crucify him, crucify him” and the Temple Scroll -- By: J. Massyngberde Ford

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 06:2 (Spring 1977)
Article: “Crucify him, crucify him” and the Temple Scroll
Author: J. Massyngberde Ford

“Crucify him, crucify him” and the Temple Scroll

J. Massyngberde Ford

[Dr. Massyngberde is Bernard Hanley Professor in the department of religious studies at the University of Santa Clara, California.]

Scholars have always been excercised about the sentence of crucifixion on Jesus and the part which the first century Jews played in this. Most nave argued that this was a Roman punishment and that the gospel writers imposed the blame upon the Jews in order to exonerate the Romans. Not a few arguments rested on the interpretation of Deuteronomy 21:22–23 which appears to mean that the condemned person was placed on a tree after death until sunset; probably this was intended to be a deterrent to prevent further crime. Crucifixion does not appear to have been a punishment countenanced by mainline Judaism. Capital punishment was performed by stoning, strangulation, burning and decapitation. There seems to be no specific law about crucifixion but neither is it condemned by Scripture. Thus the gospels have been deemed unhistorical in blaming Jewish leaders for the crucifixion of Jesus, even though they are not only unanimous in stating that Jesus’s own people asked for his crucifixion (Mark 15:13, Matthew 27:22, Luke 23:21, John 19:6) but that they did so even more insistently when Pilate remarked Jesus’ innocence and attempted to avert the punishment (Mark 15:14, Matthew 27:23, Luke 23:23, John 19:15). However, scholarly debate may begin again when the Temple Scroll from Qumran appears in print.1 Some time ago an interesting article by Professor Y. Yadin on a portion of the unpublished Temple Scroll and Pesher Nahum2 appeared in the Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 21 (No. 1, 1971), pp. 1-12. There is a possibility that the Scroll

could confirm the historicity of the gospel account. In his article Professor Yadin discusses a portion of the Temple Scroll, which he translates:

  1. ...If
  2. a man has informed against his people and has delivered his people up to a foreign nation and has done evil to his people
  3. you shall hang him on the tree and he shall die. On the evidence of two witnesses and on the evidence of three witnesses,
  4. he shall ...
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