What do we know about the history of crucifixion? Hershel Shanks looks at evidence of Roman crucifixion methods as analyzed from the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man crucified in the first century A.D.
By: Steven Shisley
Most scholars believe that early Christians did not use the cross as an image of their religion. So how did the cross become modern Christianity’s most popular symbol?
The Gospel of Matthew describes an earthquake during Jesus’ Crucifixion. Sediment disturbances mentioned in a recent article in the International Geology Review points to the Biblical earthquake and may give a concrete date of the crucifixion. Painting by James Jacques Tissot.
In the history of crucifixion, the death of Jesus of Nazareth stands out as the best-known example by far. Crucifixion in antiquity was actually a fairly common punishment, but there were no known physical remains from a crucifixion. Then, in 1968, archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferis excavated a Jerusalem tomb that contained the bones of a crucified man named Yehohanan. As Tzaferis reported in BAR, the discovery demonstrated the brutal reality of Roman crucifixion methods in a way that written accounts never had before.
Crucifixion images abound today—from sculptures and icons in churches to the masterful paintings hanging in museums. But how many of these actually give us a realistic idea of what Jesus’ crucifixion looked like? Do these artistic crucifixion images accurately reflect ancient Roman crucifixion methods?
Jesus’s resurrection happens off-screen. The actual moment when Jesus rises from the dead was not witnessed and, therefore, not explicitly described in the Gospels. Nevertheless, that has not stopped Christians from depicting this significant moment over the course of the past two millennia.