Friday, April 06, 2012

That Bitter Cup: The Crucifixion

Consider the Crucifixion. Historical ignorance towards the mechanics of this extreme form of torture has created literature and religions that don’t stand up to the evidence. Theories such as the swoon theory, for instance. But before we get to the swoon theory, let’s examine what went into Jesus’ crucifixion and see what happens when there is a lack of knowledge of history. On the night of His arrest, Jesus went to a garden to pray. The Bible records that so intense was the torment He felt, that bloody perspiration issued from his veins when the capillaries in his sweat glands ruptured. (This description is often doubted by those who lack medical knowledge of hematidrosis or bloody sweat.) After the arrest and the various, religious, political and regional trial he endured, the assaults to Jesus’ body began. First He was scourged or “flogged.” The Jewish Law of Moses recommended flogging for wrong-doers. The Torah recommended 40 lashes. But the Jewish clergy of Jesus’ time ordered only 39 lashes in case of miscount. A powerful deterrent, scourging was also used by the Roman Empire. A punishment in and of itself, scourging was often a precursor to crucifixions. The Roman soldiers used a Roman flagrum, a cat-o-nine tails made of leather whose tail end split into two or three thongs in which small pieces of bone, metal or glass were attached. The scourging left the skin ripped from the back, torso, and legs, with exposed tissue, leading to much loss of blood. Already hypersensitive from the hematidrosis, Jesus’ skin would have been even more sensitized to the scourging. The soldiers further assaulted Jesus by plucking out hairs from His beard and forcing Him to wear a crown made from a thorny large-spiked plant. In this weakened condition, Jesus then carried the crosspiece of His cross to Golgotha, the Skull Place where He was to be crucified. Sleepless, beaten, stumbling ahead under a heavy load, bruising His forehead and possibly breaking His nose after falling several times, Jesus was so battered that the Roman soldiers forced a passer-by to carry His cross. Arriving at Golgotha, the soldiers stripped Jesus of His clothes, exposing His beaten body to the elements and set about nailing Him to the cross. Thick seven-inch Roman spikes were thrust through His wrists and one nail through both ankles. Then He was lifted up for all to see. Crucifixion was a precise art. Depending on how quickly or how painfully the authorities wanted the punishment to be, the accused criminal could be crucified in many ways. Jesus was charged with treason unlike. It was necessary, therefore, that Jesus suffer as a deterrent. But Jesus’ crucifixion fell before a holy day and a dead body left hanging on a cross would be a sacrilege to the Jewish people. Therefore Jesus had to die painfully but quickly. The right kind of cross was needed. Scholars disagree as to the exact cause of death in crucifixion. The probable causes were a combination of shock, suffocation and cardiac failure. Suspended by his wrists, with his feet weighted down and fastened in one position, the crucified offender found movement difficult. The condemned had only two choices of movement. The accused could either pull himself up into a “T” position, arms outstretched in order to breathe. Or he could rest in the “Y” position, which took the burden off the feet but which made breathing difficult. A crucified man found it hard to move. And yet, he had to move or die. Some crucifixions, usually for people who were meant to linger, used ropes to hold up the outstretched arms of the condemned. Some crosses had a sedile built in. A sedile was a small stool-like apparatus on which the condemned could almost sit. In Jesus’ case, no sedile was used. The importance of the knees - and the prophecy that his bones will not be broken is clearly seen. If the soldiers wanted death to come quickly, they broke the knees of the accused and prevented him from elevating himself in order to breathe. The soldiers would also give wine and myrrh to the dying men as a kind of painkiller and to ease the burning thirst crucifixion caused. At first, Jesus did not take the sedative when it was offered to Him, preferring to suffer the fullness of the pain. But knowing Scripture must be fulfilled, he drank it, lifted himself up in order to speak and breathe and shouted with his last breath, “It is finished!” (“Debt Cancelled.”) After His death, the officiating centurion pierced Him in the side, through the pericardium of his heart, ensuring death. Even with all this historical evidence of the gospels and the Roman Empire’s effective skills, certain theories arose after Jesus’ death whose main purpose was to debunk Jesus’ death and resurrection. These theories are all based on ignorance of the historical fact of crucifixion. One of the first theories was first posited by Mohammed in the Koran. This is known as the Switch. Mohammed claimed that Allah switched Jesus with someone else and it wasn’t Jesus who died but someone else. The real Jesus, Mohammed states, was sneakily taken up into Heaven by God. Thus in making God too good to kill an honest man, Mohammed makes God a liar and deceiver. The problem with this theory is this: even if the real Jesus did not die on the cross, where is the body? The Jewish Sanhedrin through their lie attest that the tomb was empty. The priests knew that Jesus died. They had seen His dead body hanging on the cross for three hours. And didn’t the disciples notice that the body was not their leader? Mohammed believed in Jesus’ Virgin Birth. But he did not understand why Jesus was born of a Virgin, which is that the redemption of sinful man came through the female line. Honestly, if God makes one person look like another, then God is slick and dishonest. If God helped Jesus with His Holy Spirit, as many Moslems believe, why couldn’t he save Him from the cross? And if Jesus could raise the dead, why shouldn’t he raise Himself? If God rescued Him by raising Him to heaven, why make someone else look like Him? Why not show everyone that He had rescued Jesus? Isn’t there a chance that what Allah meant when he said “this was not so” was not that God slipped another in Jesus’ place but that Jesus did not die forever? God doesn’t deceive but he does raise from the dead. Creating another being to look like Jesus would be deception and not Godly at all. The gospel states that Jesus was crucified. The Koran tells us to believe the people of the Book If we don’t believe the gospel, then we aren’t agreeing with the Koran. Why didn’t the "other man" defend himself and say he was not Jesus on the cross? There is also the swoon theory. This is the most common theory and shows how far people will go in order to deny the resurrection. According to this theory, Jesus did not die on the cross. He merely fainted and then revived in the tomb. After reviving, He appeared before His followers then disappeared into the Roman Empire. The people who believe this theory are not knowledgeable about crucifixions, the facts the Bible declares, or the effects of trauma. Let’s debunk this theory. Remember that Jesus died at three in the afternoon. His dead body hung in the Y position, after being pierced by a Roman lancia, upon the cross for several hours before sunset impelled the soldiers to take down the crucified bodies. Secondly, people in ancient times knew death much better than we do. They personally handled their dead. If the swoon theory is to believed, then neither one in Jesus’ family realized they were burying a warm body. Then, after the beaten hemorrhaging body was placed in the airless cold stone tomb in a winding sheet weighed down with 75 pounds of gelatinous myrrh, Jesus revived from his swoon. And although, sleep-deprived, naked, bleeding profusely and hungry, He rose from the cold slab, neatly folded the linen he was wrapped in, rolled away the heavy stone overpowered several healthy professionally-trained guards. After this, He managed to discover where his cowardly disciples were hiding and traveled bleeding and naked through the city unnoticed until He found them. The disciples, in turn, when they saw Him were so crazed with hallucination that they immediately proclaimed that He was the Lord of life. There are other theories which also subtly show a lack of commonsensical knowledge. One theory, often called the Passover Plot, and mentioned in the gospels as being invented by the Jewish leaders of the time states that the disciples stole the body while the guards slept. The first question here is: are these guards Roman soldiers - who would be killed if they slept - or Jewish temple guards? Another problem with this lie is that the guards are testifying to something that happened while they slept.” A sleeping witness is strange enough. But the lie is even stranger to accept because it doesn’t take into consideration the history of the disciples and our knowledge of human nature. Are we to believe that Jesus’ cowardly disciples - people who fled the arresting guards and deserted Jesus at the cross - stole His body, hid it, accepted persecution, death and mockery for years and yet never - not one single person – revealed the nature of the hoax? Surely, someone would have gotten tired of this kind of perverse life and death game and brought Jesus’ decaying body out from its hiding place for all to see! Another theory is the disciples forgot Jesus’ burial place in all their excitement. Because of this, they thought that Jesus was resurrected. Surely, all the disciples could not have communally forgotten the same thing...for years! Once again, knowledge of human history and common sense declares that common sense is missing. Besides, if fanatics are roaming around declaring a resurrection, the Jewish or Roman authorities would have showed their stupidity by bringing the decaying body out for all to see. Debunkers also try to say that the disciples were deluded about Jesus’ post-death appearances. The gospels state that Jesus appeared to women. Let us be real here. Any man two thousand years ago who wanted to create a religious tradition would not pin such an important event on women. Women were not to be believed. In addition, many say that the vision on the road to Emmaus in which Jesus’ uncle Cleopas saw him is a hallucination typical of those experienced by the newly-bereaved. However, the people in the Emmaus vision, do not recognize Jesus, whereas in the essential bereavement vision the bereaved always recognize the deceased. Other historical inaccuracies surrounding the resurrection state that Jesus never said he was God or the son of God. But the Bible clearly states Band this is what Jesus’ declared crime of blasphemy was about he said he was the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Son of God. It is the nature of unbelief to try to disprove Jesus’s claim and one of the biggest attempts at debunking comes from the Koran which was written by one man six hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection, four hundred years after the Christian Bible was accepted, and two thousand years after the Hebrew Bible was compiled.
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