Crucifixion: A Brief Historical Introduction (Part 5)
THE JEWISH PERSPECTIVE ON CRUCIFIXION
As mentioned earlier, to a Jewish mind crucifixion was the worst possible way to die. The stigma behind it was so great many felt it was better to kill oneself (another unacceptable sin) rather than to be crucified. The Hebrew background to this belief comes in the book of Deuteronomy were it states that anyone left to hang on a tree was under Godâ€™s curse (Deut. 21:23). This was not a belief that was taken lightly. In actuality, this was among the reasons that many Jews have rejected Christ, for how can God’s chosen method of redemption come about by way of a “Messiah” who is under His curse? Paradoxical indeed…The Jewish people also felt that it was especially atrocious if it was a Jew crucifying another Jew. This act was toavah, an abomination. In the case of the the Maccabean King, Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.E.) the Jews vilified him, for he put over 800 Pharisees to death by way of crucifixion! Josephus tells of the story in these words:
…for as he was feasting with his concubines, in the sight of all the city, he ordered about eight hundred of them to be crucified; and while they were living, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes. (Antiquities 13: Chapter 13, for more click here)
The Jewish view of crucifixion was quite powerful. For a Jew to crucify another Jew was a profound theological statement. As those to whom the Old Testament revelation came, they knew that human beings were created in the image of God Himself. To crucify (i.e. hang upon a tree) was to make a strongly negative statement about the one whose image the slain bore. Indeed, many Jew suffered this fate throughout many reigns in the Roman Empire, usually for not giving up their distinct beliefs and practices.
Next, I’ll wrap up this series and give some closing thoughts…