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Jesus Wasn’t Crucified?

July 1, 2010

Say what?  Oh, yeah, not good for all those people who want to erect more huge crucifixes on the U.S. government property:  Jesus may not have been put on a cross after all.  Who says?  Well, a scholar who studied the verbs associated with crucifixion says that the words may mean more than one thing, from raising the hands to playing a musical instrument, so maybe Jesus wasn’t actually put on a cross:

“When the Gospels refer to the death of Jesus, they just say that he was forced to carry a “stauros” out to Calvary,” he told AOL News. Many scholars have interpreted that ancient Greek noun as meaning “cross,” and the verb derived from it, “anastauroun,” as implying crucifixion. But during his three-and-a-half-year study of texts from around 800 BC to the end of the first century AD, Samuelsson realized the words had more than one defined meaning.

“‘Stauros’ is actually used to describe a lot of different poles and execution devices,” he says. “So the device described in the Gospels could have been a cross, but it could also have been a spiked pole, or a tree trunk, or something entirely different.” In turn, “anastauroun” was used to signify everything from the act of “raising hands to suspending a musical instrument.”

Words having more than one meaning?  What is this world coming to?  I mean, each word signifies only one thing, which never changes, right?  What, words change over time?  Meanings change over time, so maybe all this argument over the cross may be for naught?

Who is this man who questions the cross?  None other than a pastor who says he was simply looking for the literal translation of the Greek texts, and he happened to find that the cross was only referred to over 200 years after Jesus had already died:

The Swedish scholar isn’t sure exactly why the crucifix went on to become the dominant Christian motif. But this symbol only seems to have become fixed in followers’ minds long after Jesus’ death, as the first T and X shaped crucifixes appear in Christian manuscripts around the 2nd century AD.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Samuelsson’s thesis has caused something of an unheavenly row. While fellow theologians have complimented his highly detailed research, many critics in the blogospherehave claimed that he wants to undermine Christianity. Samuelsson — who believes that “the man who walked this earth was the Son of God, and that he will return to judge the living and the dead” — says this accusation is simply “stupid.”

“I’m really just a boring, conservative pastor and I start every day reading the New Testament,” he says. “But my suggestion is that we should read the text as it is, not as we think it is.”

Seems there may be more to the story than was originally reported.  My question is:  why was this never examined before?  Seems like good information to have on hand…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2010 11:38 am

    Dear Friends,

    If you want further information about my doctoral thesis, Crucifixion in Antiquity, please visit my website

    Gunnar Samuelsson

    • brokeharvardgrad permalink*
      August 4, 2010 8:35 pm

      I approved your comment and am interested in your thesis. I will go read it. Thanks for pointing us in that direction…

  2. February 27, 2011 2:48 am

    I’m finding out what Gunnar Samuelson found out: to crucify does not necessarily mean nail to a flat plane cross and lift the nailed criminal as a god. It could very well mean anything BUT.

    Here’s one way the Romans crucified — this was probably their “standard,” judging from what I’ve read.

    The above link contains the Puzzuoli Graffito, with the Vivat Crux Graffito in grey behind it. Both indicate a type of crucifixion where the criminal was to be nailed to a cruciform structure and impaled on its outrigged “thorn.”

    Here’s an explication of the graffito in Italian:

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