Crucifixion: History And Practice -- By: Michael J. Caba

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 027:3 (Summer 2014)
Article: Crucifixion: History And Practice
Author: Michael J. Caba

History And Practice

Michael J. Caba


The author said it: the message at the very heart of his faith was folly, not worth the paper it was written on, at least to some; but to others it was the very essence of genius, the high bar of wisdom and the core of true spirituality. Indeed, to demonstrate the profound contrasts in the way the crucifixion of Christ was perceived the writer explained plainly, “Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23–24, NIV).

But why these polar opposite reactions; why was the crucifixion of Christ viewed by some as nonsense but by others as profound wisdom? Further, to the modern reader who is far removed from the crucifixion of Christ, doesn’t the whole business often seem to be, honestly, quite irrelevant in any case? Yet, there was indeed much ado about something for those who experienced the event firsthand; and for those today with a curious mind, the search to know why it had such an impact and why it brought such varying reactions can lead to some interesting insight into this epoch-making death—a death that still touches us to this very day. Accordingly, let us take a look at the history and practice of the act of crucifixion itself with the hope of gaining some insight into this violent death of Jesus.


The English word “cross” comes from the Latin word “crux” and leads eventually to the word crucifixion.1 Yet, divining the source of the words is easier than locating the precise starting point of the practice, especially when it is noted that the gruesome procedure of punishing a person by suspending him on a piece of wood, either dead or alive, reaches far back in time to primitive and unrecorded peoples and eras. Nevertheless, one suitable place to start our survey is with the nasty Assyrians, a brutish group if there ever was one. To give just a short sample of their cruelty we need only to note that they actually bragged about, among other cruelties, flaying their enemies.2 Yet, despite their decidedly beastly nature, they had a delicate artistic side as well, and with it they proudly portrayed their handiwork of impaling victims on large stakes as shown below. The picture comes from the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, and portrays the assault in roughly 700 BC by the Assyrian king Sennacherib on the Jewish city of Lachish3—which, for those who are interested, is an assault t...

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