This essay is written from the Christian perspective that Yeshua of Nazareth
(Jesus Christ) was crucified circa 30 CE in Jerusalem, Judea. It assumes that
Muslim teaching is incorrect. Muslims generally believe that the gospels in the
Christian Scriptures are wrong, and that Yeshua was neither crucified nor
resurrected. Rather, he died a natural death.
How was Yeshua killed?
He was killed by crucifixion - a technique reserved for punishing
slaves and persons perceived by the occupying Roman Army as rebels or terrorists. He was first flogged. Then
he was attached, naked, to a wooden apparatus and exposed to die. It was an upright post that may have had a
horizontal beam connected to it at or near the top. His
wrists were nailed and/or his arms were tied in place. His ankles were nailed or tied to
the post. Over time, crucifixion victims were no longer able to raise themselves so that
could breath. Death was usually by asphyxiation. It typically took a few days
for the convicted person to expire. It was normally a slow, agonizing,
humiliating, horrible death designed to strike terror in the hearts of the Jewish public.
traditional portrayal of Christ's crucifixion is contains many errors:
||When used, nails pierced the victim' wrists between his two forearm
bones, not his hands. The weight of a body
would have torn the
hand free from a nail if it were driven through a palm.
||A piece of wood was placed next to the flesh before the nail was hammered in place. This
prevented the victim from pulling his arm or leg free.
||The victim was not usually suspended high off the ground; his feet would probably have
been only a short distance above the earth. Dogs, crows, and other scavengers were
often able to attack
the victim, and to tear flesh from the dead body.
||The victim was naked; they were not even permitted a loin cloth to wear.
Many configurations of wooden structures were used by the Romans to perform crucifixions:
Sometimes, a single vertical pole was used.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that this was the type of execution device
used for Jesus.
Other crucifixions were conducted using a pole with a
cross-beam at the top of the pole to form the shape of the letter "T".
others used the type of Roman cross that is so often shown in crucifixes,
Protestant crosses, and religious artwork
-- a vertical post and a horizontal cross-beam slightly below the top of
There does not appear to be conclusive evidence of the exact design that was
used to execute Jesus.
After the victim was dead, the body was typically thrown on a dump to be eaten by
scavenging animals. Some liberal theologians believe that this was Jesus' fate. The Gospels give a
different story; they describe how Joseph of Arimathea obtained special permission to lay Jesus' body
in his unused tomb.
Crucifixions were carefully designed to generate the greatest feelings of
horror and thus to have the greatest deterrent
effect on the populace. They were a form of psychological terrorism by the
This was a horrendous fate for a Jew at the time - even more that it would
have been for followers of other religions.
||The victim was usually scourged in advance of the crucifixion -
frequently to the point
of near death. A few did not survive the flogging.
||The victim was often required to carry the cross-piece of the cross to the place of
execution and to endure the taunts of the people along the way.
||Nails driven through his wrists and ankles would be horrendously painful.
||The victim was hung naked and fully exposed to the public view.
||Crucifixions usually took place close to a heavily traveled road, in order to maximize the number of people who would view them.
Deuteronomy 21:23 says: "for he who is hanged [on a tree] is accursed of God."
Jews believed that anyone who was crucified was cursed by God.
||In all probability, the victim would be attacked by birds and perhaps
other scavenging animals while dying.
||When the victim died, the body would not normally be given a proper burial but would probably be eaten by
When was Yeshua killed?
Most people believe that Jesus was crucified starting on a Friday morning, in the
spring time, near the time of Passover about the year 30 CE. The Gospels of Mark 15; Matthew 27; Luke 23 John 19 and
Peter 4 & 5 record events associated with the crucifixion.
Like the four canonical Gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, the author of the Gospel of Peter is unknown. The Gospel is pseudepigraphical. That is, it states that the author was Peter, one of Jesus'' disciples. However Peter did not actually write it. Most theologians believe that it was written long after Peter's death, sometime in the 2nd century CE. It was never accepted into the
official canon of the Christian Scriptures.
Most Gospel writers state the crucifixion began at the 3rd hour (9
AM), and that Jesus died about the 9th hour (3 PM). The exact year is unknown. Estimates range from 29 to 33 CE.
Where was Yeshua killed?
He was executed at Golgotha, The Place of the Skull, in Jerusalem, Judea.
This was the location
executions were performed in that city. It was originally located outside the city gates. Jerusalem has
since grown to encompass the execution site. Golgotha's exact location is not known today with
certainty. A church has
been erected on what some Christians believe was the location of the crucifixion.
Who killed Yeshua?
He was executed by soldiers of the Jerusalem garrison of the
Roman army. They were the only organization in 1st century Palestine authorized
to carry out crucifixions. They were also the only group with the necessary experience to carry out this
grisly task with efficiency.
The gospels record that the execution was authorized by Pontius Pilate,
Governor of Judea. The Bible describes that Pilate's judgment was greatly influenced by the local Jewish leaders and by an angry Jewish mob
of unknown size. Most conservative Christians believe that the Gospel story is
precise, and free of error. Many religious liberals
view this story as unhistorical, anti-Jewish propaganda. Pilate was known to be an arrogant ruler who would not have been swayed by the demands of a Jewish mob. Also, there are many events recorded in the Bible about Jesus' trial which would not have been permitted at the time by the rules of the Great Sanhedrin -- the highest religious court in Israel.
Three facts might be helpful in assessing the steps that led to Jesus' execution:
- The events happened near the time of Passover when Jerusalem was overwhelmingly crowded with visitors. Religious passions and nationalistic feelings were at
- Jesus alleged aggravated assault on the moneychangers occurred outside the temple building itself.
- There was a Roman garrison building adjacent to and overlooking the Jerusalem Temple. The vicinity would have been crawling with Roman soldiers on guard to detect any disturbance.
It is almost certain that anyone who committed aggravated assault in the Jerusalem Temple at this time would have been detected by the soldiers. Standard practice would have the person seized, and taken before an officer. He would certainly consider Jesus to be guilty of insurrection under Roman law and sentenced to crucifixion on the spot.
Unfortunately, the Christian Church has historically considered the Jewish people to be guilty of the death of Jesus. This would include not only the Jewish mob in front of Pilate, but all Jews in Jerusalem at the time, all Jews throughout Judea, all Jews in the diaspora, their children, their grand-children, all the way through about 75 generations until the mid-20th Century.
This, of course, is totally irrational. To hold a person responsible for an act committed almost two millennia before their birth by an ancient ancestor is a violation of fundamental justice. It is scapegoating. Yet one still occasionally hears the accusation "Christ killer" yelled at Jews. Fortunately, during the 20th essentially all Christian denominations ceased to blame present-day Jews for events circa 30 CE. Unfortunately stories that hold an innocent person(s) responsible for the crimes or sins of a guilty person is found in many places throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and is still a foundational belief for some Christians.
Why did the Romans decide kill Yeshua?
Many theologians reason that since Jesus was not a slave, then he must have been viewed by the
Roman authorities as a rebel -- a threat to the established order. Only slaves,
and persons considered traitors or insurrectionists were crucified by the Roman occupying forces.
Copyright © 1998 to 2015 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1998-JUN-23
Last update: 2015-APR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson