Deicide: The execution of Jesus
How, when, where, why, and by whom was Jesus executed?
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: Yeshua was neither crucified nor
How was Yeshua killed?
He was killed by crucifixion - a technique reserved for punishing
slaves and persons perceived by the Roman occupying 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.
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 crucifixion were conducted using a pole with a
cross-beam at the top 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
the post. |
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 bury Jesus
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
|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, so
that the maximum number of people 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 he was dying.|
|When he died, he would not normally be given a proper burial but would probably be eaten by
This was a horrendous fate for a Jew at the time - even more that it would
have been for followers of other religions.
When was Yeshua killed?
Most people believe that Jesus was crucified on a Friday morning, in the
spring time, near the time of Passover about 30 CE. The Gospels of
Peter, Chapters 4 & 5; Mark 15; Matthew 27; Luke 23 and John 19 record the
events associated with the crucifixion. (The Gospel of Peter was apparently written before
the remaining 4 gospels. 1 But 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; a range from 29 to 33
CE has been suggested.
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 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 at this
grisly task. 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 a Jewish mob
of unknown size. Most conservative Christians believe that the Gospel story is
precise, and free of error. Many religious liberals
view this as unhistorical, anti-Jewish propaganda.
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.
Anyone who committed aggravated assault in the Jerusalem Temple near the time of
Passover when Jerusalem was crowded with visitors and religious passions were at
their maximum, would probably be considered to be an insurrectionist.
- J.D. Crossan, "Who Killed Jesus: Exposing the roots of Anti-Semitism in the
Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus," Harper Collins, (1995) Order from
Copyright 1998to 2008 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1998-JUN-23
Last update: 2008-MAR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson