Crucifixion: A Brief Historical Introduction (Part 2)
Picking up from where we left off regarding the method of crucifixion:
The actual process was extremely painful. It was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means “out of the cross.” Typically the victim was stripped naked, to worsen the shame, and then placed on the beam. J. Julius Scott notes, “Crucifixion involved elevating the condemned upon a pole, some form of frame, or a natural tree.” The nails were anywhere between 5-9 inches in length. Though not in all cases, for it depended on time and availability of resources, the nails were driven through either the hands (if the arms were tied) or through the wrist. If through the wrist, the nail would run through and crush the median nerve, the largest in the wrist, amounting in an unbelievable amount of pain.
The manner in which the feet were fastened is hotly debated. Though most people today assume that medieval pictures of the crucifixion of Christ tell the whole story, in reality, the fixture on which Christ is portrayed is what we would refer to as a Latin cross. The Latin cross the version that it in the shape of a T with a place for the sign displaying the crime above the victim’s head. Various different forms and styles of crosses exist; and not all methods of crucifixion placed the legs in the same fashion, as we are typically used to.
Some times the victim’s ankles were not nailed together, but rather separate from one another. The only existing physical evidence for crucifixion, the man from Giv’at Ha-mivtar, was nailed in this manner as one can see from the pictures provided.
Scholars don’t all agree as to whether or not there was one “official” way to crucify. In fact, there were probably several ways in which this form of execution was done. Amongst the various ways of crucifixion, the position of the arms and legs differed. Next up, we’ll discuss the cause of death…