Typical Roman Crucifixion?
(10/7/10)

You can find this debate at http://debate.atheist.net/showthread.php?t=3891
(I'm "Jabba")

 

My Abstract: We ultimately concluded that the Shroud does seem to depict what we can rightfully expect to occur in many, typical, Roman Crucifixions.

 

#125, Jabba:
The pathology described thus far may well have characterized any number of crucifixion victims, since beating, scourging, carrying the crossbar, and nailing were common traits of a Roman execution.
http://www.shroud.com/meacham2.htm

#135, Steen:
Really? And where do you get these detailed accounts of what was common traits of Roman executions? The accounts I have heard about indicates that there were no special traits about Roman executions: the victims were gorged, impaled, strangled, nailed, and so on. And the crossbar seems not to have been common either. The original word used in the gospels seems to mean "pole", and not "cross", so it is possible that the crossbar was a later addition to the story.

#142, Jabba:
- Look up crucifixion+roman.

#146, Steen:
I did, and none of the sources I found had citations about the Roman treatment of prisoners to be executed. They all use the gospels as the source.

#150, Jabba:
- Did you try Wikipedia?

#154, Steen:
Yes, are there any sources given for those parts?

#160, Jabba:
- I don't think I understand your question -- Wikipedia provides 64 citations.

#163, Steen:
The part of the Wikipedia article that describes treatment of prisoners similar to the treatment of Jesus looks like this:

Originally Posted by Wikipedia
A cruel prelude[citation needed] was scourging, which would cause the condemned to lose a large amount of blood, and approach a state of shock. The convict then usually had to carry the horizontal beam (patibulum in Latin) to the place of execution, but not necessarily the whole cross.[citation needed] Crucifixion was typically carried out by specialized teams, consisting of a commanding centurion and four soldiers.[citation needed] When it was done in an established place of execution, the vertical beam (stipes) could even be permanently embedded in the ground.[citation needed] The condemned was usually stripped naked[citation needed] — all the New Testament gospels describe soldiers gambling for the robes of Jesus. (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-25)
As you see, there are no citations apart from the gospels.

#164, (paraphrase of contributor who wishes to remain anonymous)
Josephus was writing after 70CE, and only what Christians would have been telling him. In addition, much of what we now see in Joseph's official writings was probably added by a later Christian.

#166, Jabba:
- The following was referenced under #46: http://www.the-crucifixion.org/crucifixion.htm.
- I haven't carefully studied the article, but superficially, they seem to know what they're talking about. This is the responsibility of a Christian organization, but check out their references.

 

#167, Steen:
So we agree now that the Wikipedia article had no references outside the Bible? Have you taken a look at the references from the-crucifixion.org? They are all just references to other books written by Christians; none are primary sources. To me it seems likely that if we could get hold of those books, we would find that the gospels were in turn their only references. These books may be splendid and scholarly treatises on how the crucifixion of Jesus could have happened, but they do not seem the obvious choice for a description of how crucifixion happened in general, and I am here specifically thinking of the claims that crucifixion victims were regularly flogged, given crowns of thorns, or for that matter, given a bitter drink of either myrrh, gall, or both (which is irrelevant for the discussion of the shroud).

 

#169, Jabba
- I suspect that I led us astray with my last reference…
- The address I provided was referenced in the Wikipedia article under #46, and the following is the reference page of that reference:http://www.the-crucifixion.org/crucifixion.htm#11.
- Seems like a lot of good, non-Biblical references – various scientific journals, for instance.
- But then, these sources didn't really reference their sources regarding ancient practices -- which is what you were really looking for: Seneca, Cicero, Josephus, etc. Sorry about that.
- But then, the Wikipedia article on Crucifixion per se -- which I didn't really isolate in my directions -- does deal with such sources.
- And then, albeit Christian, the following refers a lot to ancient scholars and statesmen (Seneca, Herodotus, Curtius Rufus, Cicero, Julius Paulus, Appian and Josephus), and seems to give a pretty substantial description of historical crucifixion. http://www.orlutheran.com/html/crucify.html
- Anyway... I'm claiming that where the details of the Shroud are not reflecting the anomalies peculiar to the Jesus crucifixion (as described in the New Testament), they do reflect what we might expect at any old Roman Crucifixion (as described by Josephus et al).
- What do you think at this point?

#171, Jabba (responding to #164):
1) Most scholars seem to agree that the most interesting parts were added, after Josephus, by a Christian -- but then, most of those same scholars seem to agree that the rest was authentic Josephus.
2) Also, Josephus seems to be a well-respected historian, and wouldn't get his info only from Christians. Keep in mind that many of the residents who would have actually seen Jesus would still be alive when Josephus was doing his writing. Also, many should have been in Jerusalem when Jesus was allegedly crucified.

#172, Steen:
Sure, there is a lot of authentic stuff in Josephus, but if the part that interests us is a forgery, there will be little of interest for us.
#173, Jabba:
- Here, I was just responding to [the anonymous] comment [above] about Josephus. And, the underlying issue had to do directly with what Roman crucifixions were like -- not directly with the authenticity of Jesus' claims. The apparently authentic statements of Josephus are only indirectly relevant to the authenticity of Jesus' claims.

#174, Steen:
I agree. It is from Josephus that we have the story that in his time the Roman soldiers crucified people on the walls of Jerusalem, and sometimes in awkward positions, such as upside down. There is not much of the detail here that enable us to single out the treatment of Christ from the treatment of others.

#178, Jabba:
- Unless you say otherwise, I will assume that you now accept my opening quote for this particular sub-debate, i.e.
The pathology described thus far may well have characterized any number of crucifixion victims, since beating, scourging, carrying the crossbar, and nailing were common traits of a Roman execution. http://www.shroud.com/meacham2.htm.
- I state this assumption explicitly cause I think that in order to "get anywhere" in a debate, we need to mark any progress we make, and keep track of it.

#179, Steen:
But I do say otherwise! We do not know at all if "beating, scourging, and carrying the cross-bar" were common traits of a Roman execution. As far as I know we have only one description for this, and that is in the gospels. You cannot take a single description and turn it into a general description.
When I was younger I was told that nailings were not common either, but that most crucifixion victims were bound to their cross, and death was the result of thirst and exposure. However, I have no idea on what source this should be based. Everything I have read lately has described nailings as typical of crucifixions.

#193, Jabba:
- Once again, sorry about that.
- When you said that you agree (in post #174 above), I was thinking that you were responding to my post #169, rather than post #173...
- Anyway, [ post #169 contains the critical links]. Is that the documentation you were looking for?

#194, Steen:
No, not really. This article mentions more sources, but when we come to the critical part of nailings, floggings, wine with myrrh, etc, it stops quoting classical texts. I get the suspicion that it is actually extrapolating from the single case of the execution of Christ to a general case.
Except possibly for the flogging. The article does quote Seneca for describing swellings of wounds on the back and shoulders. This could have been from a flogging.

#214, Jabba:
- So, the flogging would apparently fit.
- From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifi...ail_placement: In 1968, archaeologists discovered at Giv'at ha-Mivtar in northeast Jerusalem the remains of one Jehohanan, who had been crucified in the first century. The remains included a heel bone with a nail driven through it from the side. The tip of the nail was bent, perhaps because of striking a knot in the upright beam, which prevented it being extracted from the foot. A first inaccurate account of the length of the nail led some to believe that it had been driven through both heels, suggesting that the man had been placed in a sort of sidesaddle position, but the true length of the nail, 11.5 centimetres (4.53 inches), suggests instead that in this case of crucifixion the heels were nailed to opposite sides of the upright.[27][28][29]
- And so, while this artifact suggests that 2 nails were used in this particular case, it also supports the claim that nailing was, in fact, used.
- But, otherwise ... you seem to be right.
- People keep saying these things without referring directly to the original sources.
- I'm ordering the book by Martin Hengel -- hopefully, that will refer to the original sources.
- I'm trying to nail (sorry about that) down the features of a typical Roman crucifixion, cause if they agree with what we find on the Shroud -- except for the exceptional characteristics that the Bible describes regarding the crucifixion of Jesus -- they help support the conclusion that this was, in fact, Jesus.
- I'll be back.


#262, Jabba:
- I'm back!
- I received Crucifixion, by Martin Hengel.
- It does refer to all sorts of primary sources (both Plinys, Seneca, Cicero, Josephus, Philo, Justin, Livy, Suetonius, Tertullian, etc., etc., etc.) -- but,
1. The actual quotations from the primary sources deal mostly with the general cruelty of whatever process -- and, the variety of processes used. And then,
2. Exactly how to report on this sort of thing is confusing (to me)... And besides,
3. This particular issue (that where the details of the Shroud are not reflecting the anomalies peculiar to the Jesus crucifixion (as described in the New Testament), they do reflect what we might expect at any old Roman Crucifixion (as described by Josephus et al)) is, admittedly, in the periphery of my argument. And finally,
4. You now seem to accept most of my original quote, anyway.
- So, before I struggle any further, I should try to make sure that I need to.
- In #125, I quoted something that said, "...beating, scourging, carrying the crossbar, and nailing were common traits of a Roman execution."
- In #135, you responded, "Really? And where do you get these detailed accounts of what was common traits of Roman executions?"
- Basically, you were claiming that so far, we have very little primary source confirmation that much of the details on the Shroud were consistent with typical Roman crucifixions.
- Currently, I think that you basically accept everything but carrying the crossbar, and that you would acknowledge the likelihood of even that.
- Later , you threw in bitter drink, and (I think) crown of thorns, as not having primary source references for being typical to Roman crucifixions.
- But then, you noted that the bitter drink thing was irrelevant, anyway -- and, I've never claimed that a crown of thorns was typical, anyway.
- So anyway, I currently accept that the "experts" to whom I was first referring were themselves not clearly referring to primary sources other than the Gospels.
- And then, what else do you need from me, in order for you to suspect that where the details of the Shroud are not reflecting the anomalies peculiar to the Jesus crucifixion (as described in the New Testament), they do reflect what we might expect at any old Roman Crucifixion (as described by Josephus et al)?

#263, Steen:
Nothing really. I have no problem with the shroud depicting a typical Roman crucifixion, or details connecting the shroud to Jesus. I even accept that this is evidence for an old shroud, but in my opinion not conclusive evidence.