Facts About Jesus' Crucifixion

History, forms, and biblical timeline of Jesus' crucifixion

Jesus Crucifixion
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Jesus' crucifixion was a horribly painful and disgraceful form of capital punishment used in the ancient world. This method of execution involved binding the victim's hands and feet and nailing them to a cross of wood.

Definition of Crucifixion

The word "crucifixion" (pronounced krü-se-fik-shen) comes from the Latin crucifixio, or crucifixus, which means "fixed to a cross." In Roman crucifixion, a person's hands and feet were driven through with stakes and secured to a wooden cross.

History of Crucifixion

Crucifixion was not only one of the most disgraceful and painful forms of death, but it was also one of the most dreaded methods of execution in the ancient world. Accounts of crucifixions are recorded among early civilizations, most likely originating with the Persians and then spreading to the Assyrians, Scythians, Carthaginians, Germans, Celts, and Britons. This type of capital punishment was primarily reserved for traitors, captive armies, slaves and the worst of criminals. Crucifixion became common under the rule of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.).

Different Forms of Crucifixion

Detailed descriptions of crucifixions are few, perhaps because secular historians could not bear to describe the gruesome events of this horrible practice. However, archaeological finds from first century Palestine have shed a great deal of light on this early form of the death penalty. Four basic structures or types of crosses were used for crucifixion: Crux Simplex (a single upright stake), Crux Commissa (a capital T-shaped structure), Crux Decussata (an X-shaped cross), and Crux Immissa (the familiar lower case t-shaped structure of Jesus' crucifixion).

The Crucifixion of Jesus Bible Story Summary

Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, died on a Roman cross as recorded in Matthew 27:27-56, Mark 15:21-38, Luke 23:26-49, and John 19:16-37. Christian theology teaches that Christ's death provided the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins all humankind, thus making the crucifix, or cross, one of the defining symbols of Christianity.

In the Bible story of the crucifixion of Jesus, the Jewish high council, or Sanhedrin, accused Jesus of blasphemy and decided to put him to death. But first, they needed Rome to sanction their death sentence. Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, who found him innocent. Pilate had Jesus flogged and then sent to Herod, who sent him back.

The Sanhedrin demanded that Jesus be crucified, so Pilate, fearing the Jews, turned Jesus over to one of his centurions to carry out the death sentence. Jesus was publicly beaten, mocked, and spit on. A crown of thorns was placed on his head. He was stripped of his clothes and led to Golgotha. A mixture of vinegar, gall, and myrrh was offered to him, but Jesus refused it. Stakes were driven through Jesus' wrists and ankles, fastening him to the cross where he was crucified between two convicted criminals. The inscription above his head read, "The King of the Jews."

Timeline of Jesus' Death by Crucifixion

Jesus hung on the cross for about six hours, from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. During that time, soldiers cast lots for Jesus' clothing, while people passed by shouting insults and scoffing. From the cross, Jesus spoke to his mother Mary and the disciple John. He also cried out to his father, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"

At that moment, darkness covered the land. A little later, as Jesus breathed his final agonizing breath, an earthquake shook the ground, ripping the temple veil in two from top to bottom. Matthew's Gospel says, "The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life."

It was typical for Roman soldiers to show mercy by breaking the criminal's legs, causing death to come more quickly. But when the soldiers came to Jesus, he was already dead. Instead of breaking his legs, they pierced his side. Before sunset, Jesus was taken down by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and laid in Joseph's tomb.

Good Friday - Remembering the Crucifixion

On the Christian Holy Day known as Good Friday, observed the Friday before Easter, Christians commemorate the passion, or suffering, and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Many believers spend this day in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony of Christ on the cross.