Tag Archives: crucifixion of Jesus

The Confrontation of James and Paul

Jesus Returns to Jerusalem              

The sojourn in Ephesus helped Jesus regain a little of his health. But that was not to be for long. No sooner had Jesus left Jerusalem for Turkey, the squabbling between some of the senior disciples for leadership of the movement began.

Soon after the crucifixion of Jesus and his appearance to some of his disciples, there were several claims as to who Jesus first appeared. These claims were being made merely to establish leadership of the movement. Three significant characters in Jesus’ life – James, Peter and Mary Magdalene – claimed either directly or indirectly that they were the first to see the post crucifixion Jesus. Even Paul who had never seen Jesus during his lifetime nor heard any of his sermons claimed to have seen the post crucifixion Jesus. According to Acts (of the Apostles) Jesus appears to Paul on the road to Damascus.

According to one of Paul’s own letters in the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus made an after-crucifixion appearance to him as a vision after which he was momentarily blinded. After this incident Paul proclaimed himself as a servant of Jesus and an apostle who was set apart for the gospel of God. Paul’s claim that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him was to support his assertion that he received the Gospel not from any man but from Jesus himself. He also claimed that his apostleship was by divine appointment. He used these claims to grant himself independence from the movement in Jerusalem. He also claims that on reaching Damascus he was cured of his blindness.

Paul strongly opposed Jewish claims of lineal and theological superiority. He also maintained an authoritative style of writing even while addressing the “super apostles” in spite of the fact that all of them had known Jesus during his lifetime and had stronger claims to apostleship than Paul.

The basis for the difference between Paul and the super-apostles was the conviction of the early followers of Jesus that they should fulfill their Jewish inheritance. Although they followed practices that were typical to their new belief, they lived as Jews, took part in Jewish worship and observed ancient Jewish laws handed down from the time of Moses. As such circumcision and the laws of Moses were inviolable (1).

Some scholars were convinced that the conflict between Paul and Peter was long drawn out and it was deep seated because of their divergent doctrinal views. Paul even publicly rebuked the apostles because of their use of the Old Testament in a manner that was never intended (2). Paul was not in agreement with the ancient concepts of ritual purity (3).

James and Paul were theological adversaries. The conflict was basically between the form of Jewish Christianity that was represented by James and the Gentile or Hellenistic Christians represented by Paul. Robert Eisenman posits that James and the Christian Jews that followed him were sidelined by Paul and the Gentile Christians who were his followers. Both Eisenman and Ferdinand Christian Baur speculated that there was a split between Paul and the Peter-James led Jewish Church (4).

While the movement of Paul began to grow, the movement in Jerusalem under the leadership of James began to decline and even suffered persecution (5). It is possible that Jesus did not stay in Ephesus for long. Perhaps two factors were responsible for his return to the Jerusalem area. One must have been his failing health. Although Jesus may not have died on the cross, it is apparent that he suffered extensive physical injuries that did not fully heal and his health began to slowly fail and if anyone could give him the care and medical attention that he needed it would be the Essenes at Qumran. And if he was going to die, Jesus would most certainly have desired to die in Jerusalem where his roots were. Besides this, he was getting disturbing news from Jerusalem about the infighting among his apostles and about Paul trying to usurp the leadership of the movement and even openly challenging his closest disciples.

In spite of his failing health Jesus returned Jerusalem, with Mary Magdalene and young Juda to cast his lot with his brother James.


(1) Monet, Fr. Jacques, S.J. Great Moments in Catholic History, http://home.golden.net/~wts/words/greatmoments/GM01.html

(2) Deffinbaugh, Bob. (1995 – 2012). Peter’s Capitulation and Paul’s Correction (Galatians 2:11-21). Retrieved 2012, from http://bible.org/seriespage/peter%E2%80%99s-capitulation-and-paul%E2%80%99s-correction-galatians-211-21

(3) Why did Peter and Paul disagree? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.tektonics.org/lp/petevspaul.html

(4) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.cornerstonesociety.com/Insight/Articles/essenes.pdf

(5) Council of Jerusalem. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Jerusalem



Custodians Of Holiest Christian Site Are Two Muslims

The Custodians Of The Holiest Place In Christendom Are Two Muslims —

It is a little known fact, but a fact nevertheless: the custodians of the key to the holiest place in all Christendom (the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) are two Muslims.



Nuseibeh Opening The Door Of The Church

History Of The Church Of The Holy Sepulcher

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built in the year 335 CE by Helena the mother of Emperor Constantine. Tradition has it that she was the one to locate the site of the crucifixion of Jesus.  However very little remains of the original structure. The external façade that is seen today is from the 12th century – the Crusader period. This church is said to enclose the place where Jesus was crucified – Golgotha or Calvary as well as the tomb of Jesus.

About 130 years ago the Protestants went to Jerusalem. They claimed that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher could not be the burial place of Jesus stating that this site was within the city walls and that Jews did not bury their dead within the walls. The Protestants were right about the Jewish practice. But they were wrong about the site being within the city walls. The site was in fact outside the walls of the old city.

The Protestants who have no claim over the Holy Sepulcher found an alternative site which they claimed was the place where Jesus was buried. This was the Garden Tomb. Whether or not this place is the burial place of Jesus, it has the serenity and peaceful atmosphere that befits a holy burial site.



The Church Of The Holy Sepulcher

The Different Denominations Sign A Status Quo Agreement

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher doesn’t belong to any specific Christian denomination. In fact the supposed burial place of Jesus was divided between six different denominations. Most of the site is in the hands of the Roman Catholics (Franciscans), the Eastern Orthodox, and the Armenians. A small portion of what was left over was divided between the Syriac Orthodox, the Copts, and the Ethiopians. In spite of that the different denominations never really lived in peace with each other.

Around 1852-53, after hundreds of years of squabbling, disagreements, and wars, the Ottomans compelled the different factions to sign a Status Quo agreement in which they swore to accept the existing arrangement. The agreement was very detailed and included not only partitioning of the territory, but also specified who is allowed to pray where and when, and even who has the right to switch on the lights.

The highlight of the extent to which the status quo was specific is the case of the Immovable Ladder. This is a wooden ladder leaning against the façade of the church beneath the upper right window. There is a history behind the ladder. It seems that when Muslims shut the doors with the Armenian monks still inside the monks used to climb out the window and down this ladder onto a small porch where a rope was kept. The Armenians in the city provided food and drink for the monks which they placed in a pail on the ground. The monks then hauled up the pail using the rope.

Today the church is open every day, and the wooden ladder has become redundant. So why is the ladder still kept there?  The ladder is still there because that is a right given to the Armenians in the status quo agreement. The Armenians still cling to this right and replace this ladder with a new one when an old ladder rots or breaks.

The Opening And Closing Ceremonies

The two Muslims, belonging to Palestinian clans: one man from the Joudeh family and another man from the Nuseibeh family have been the custodians of the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher since the 12th century.

Every morning – 5:30 in the summer, 4:30 in the winter – representatives from the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, and the Armenians who sleep inside the church gather in front of a door inside the building. Only Orthodox representatives are permitted to open the small window in the door. The an individual from one of the denominations passes a small ladder through this window. This ritual is performed by the different denomination in turns.

A member of the Joudeh family who is the keeper of the key hands it over to a member of the Nusseibeh family. He then climbs up the ladder to open the lock. After that he climbs down the ladder to open the doors of the church and returns the keys to the Joudeh family member. Every evening at 7:30, after hundreds of tourists and pilgrims have left the church, there is a door locking ceremony which follows the same steps but in the reverse order.

During holidays, such as Holy Week, which ends on a Sunday with the Christian Easter, the intricate opening and closing ceremonies are performed several times a day. According to Joudeh this is an honor that has been with his family since Saladin from 1187.

Why are two people involved in the opening and closing ceremonies? As per Joudeh “My ancestor who was given the keys was a sheik, a highly respected person, who was not supposed to perform physical labor, such as climbing the ladder to open the gate,” Joudeh explained. “That’s why the Nuseibehs were called in to perform this duty.”

References:1) http://jerusalemexperience.com/tour/opening-the-doors-of-the-church-of-the-holy-sepulchre/

2) http://www.travelingisrael.com/church-holy-sepulchre/

Picture credits: 1) Wajeeh http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Muslim-family-holds-key-to-sacred-sepulchre-For-2720014.php
2) Church of the Holy Sepulchre https://www.google.co.in/search?q=Opening+of+Church+of+the+Holy+Sepulchre&biw=1280&bih=639&source=lnms& tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj7yoTRs5fMAhXLm5QKHauzA_4Q_AUIBigB#imgrc=7gL64uZW14wkOM%3A



Jesus Never Claimed To Be God

Peter Did Not Believe That Jesus Is God —

Even Peter did not believe that Jesus was God. For instance, when Jesus privately asked Peter “who do you say that I am?” Peter replied “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16.15-16). While Peter acknowledges that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel and the son of God, he did not acknowledge Jesus as God (1).


Fig (1) Is Jesus really God?

On one occasion Jesus told his apostles that he will suffer many things at the hands of the religious authorities in Jerusalem, and eventually be put to death by them. When Peter heard this, he took Jesus aside and said “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You’” (Matthew 16.22). If Peter had thought that Jesus was God why would he have said that?

During his discourse on the first day of Pentecost, Peter talked about  “Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst” (Acts 2.22). Peter tells his audience “let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2.36). Here again Peter distinguishes Jesus from God and in the process makes Jesus subordinate to God. Peter also refers to Jesus as the servant of God. (Acts 3.13, 26; cf. 4.27, 30).

Blessed Be The God And Father Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Peter did not believe Jesus was God but that he was the son of God. He notes in the salutation of his first New Testament letter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1.3). A couple of verses later he writes “Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God” (v. 21). Peter did not accept Jesus as God but acknowledged that he was the “Christ, the Savior, the obedient and subordinate servant of the sovereign and only God—the Father” (2).

Even Jesus did not at any time claim that he was God. In John 8:54 Jesus is supposed to have said “If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God John (8:55). In fact throughout the gospel of John, Jesus constantly distinguishes himself from God and shows himself as subordinate to God and states clearly that he was sent on his father’s direction (John 3:16; 17:3). In Luke 22:42 Jesus is shown as praying in the Garden for, not his will to be done, but the Father’s. In Mark 15:34, Jesus is shown as crying out “My God, my God, what have you forsaken me” (3).

Again in Revelations 4 and 5 Jesus talks of the one on the throne as God and of himself as the Lamb of God. In John 14:28 he states “for my Father is greater than I”.

Even The Family Of Jesus Did Not Believe Him To Be God

Even the family of Jesus did not believe him to be God. On the contrary because of what he said and on the way in which he conducted himself his family thought that Jesus was “out of his mind, Mk 3:21.  In John 7:1-5 it has been stated clearly that his brothers did not believe him. While they accept him as “a special teacher, man of God, or miracle worker, they do not accept Jesus as the messiah. Early Christians considered Jesus as an agent of God, and as the son of God but not as God. The Epistle to the Hebrews describes Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant. James in line with Old Testament prophecies believed that Jesus was an ordinary man chosen by God to lead his people. This was very different to the idea championed by Paul that Jesus was a divine being, born of God himself. This was in line with the conviction of Jewish Christians that Jesus was a messiah but not divine (4).

Hardly Anyone During The Time Of Jesus Accepted Him As God

Hardly anyone during the time of Jesus accepted him as God. Most early Christians accepted Jesus as divine. But this divinity was subject to competing interpretations. In general however early Christians viewed Jesus as an agent of God. Immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus there was no talk about his resurrection. Resurrection was a notion that was added later to appeal to a section of prospective converts. The Jews of that period had a different concept of resurrection and even that was eschatological.

Since the Gospels were written long after the crucifixion of Jesus it is quite likely that stories about him changed over time. It is very likely that individuals took these stories and modified them to suit their needs. There was no one to question these stories and after a period these stories were conflated with other stories to create entirely new stories. As a consequence by the time these stories were penned it became impossible to tell truth from fabrication.

Knowing that people were in a constant state of oppression were looking for a heavenly warrior who would vanquish their oppressors and finally give then the peace and prosperity that they so longed for, Paul offered them an alternative religion with a hero who not only resurrected himself but would also resurrect them and lead them to peace and prosperity. Within 15-20 years of the crucifixion of Jesus, Paul who wrote the largest early explanations about Christian theology referred to Jesus as the resurrected “Son of God”. Paul promised that Jesus would return from heaven and save his faithful from impending destruction of the world. It is worthwhile to note that well into the 2nd century Christians preferred oral tradition to written scriptures (5).

Oppressed people everywhere preferred a religion that held the promise of the coming of an avenger who would vanquish the oppressor and lead them to everlasting peace and prosperity. And Paul believed that Jesus would come back in his lifetime itself and resurrect Christians, give them supernatural bodies and share with them the kingdom of God. Paul believed that the end was imminent although he was unspecific about it.  He consoled his persecuted listeners that the dead will rise first and then be followed by the still living. He speaks about the battle at the end between Jesus and the people of lawlessness and the eventual triumph of Jesus. Paul’s influence is said to have been more compelling than any New Testament author and made the Torah redundant. He depicted the church as the body of Jesus and everyone outside the church as “under judgment” (6).

Maccoby posits that Paul blended Judaism, Gnosticism, and mysticism to create Christianity as “a cosmic savior religion”. Thomas Jefferson criticizes Paul as the “first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus” (7).

However, the Jewish elders did not think that Jesus was God. To them the empty tomb meant foul play.


(1) Servetus the Evangelical. (n.d.). Did Peter Believe Jesus Was God?. Retrieved 2011, from http://servetustheevangelical.com/doc/Did_Peter_Believe_Jesus_Was_God.pdf

(2) Servetus the Evangelical. (n.d.). Did Peter Believe Jesus Was God? Retrieved 2011, from http://servetustheevangelical.com/doc/Did_Peter_Believe_Jesus_Was_God.pdf

(3) Did Jesus Ever Claim to be God? (2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://conservapedia.com/Debate:Did_Jesus_ever_claim_to_be_God%3F

(4) Leafe, David. (2006). Did Jesus Have a Secret Family? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesMiddEast/CanaanJesus01.htm

(5) Early Christianity. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Christianity

(6) Paul the Apostle. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_of_Tarsus.

(7) Paul the Apostle. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_of_Tarsus

Picture Credits: (1) Is Jesus Really God            https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=637&q=Jesus+as+god&oq=Jesus+as+god&gs_l=img.3..0j0i24l9.4054.7742.0.8468.….0…1ac.1.64.img..0.12.1176.tJ3FNEAof3Q#imgrc=32-JhMw3F8iMFM%3A

Crucifixion of Jesus – Who was responsible?

Cui Bono? Who benefits?

This is a question crime investigators invariably ask. We know that the crucifixion of Jesus was a crime. Who was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus? Evidently the one who benefitted the most.

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Judas Iscariot

(Fig 1) Judas Iscariot

Was it Judas Iscariot who was responsible for the death of Jesus?

Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is notorious for having betrayed Jesus for a bribe of “thirty pieces of silver” with a kiss – the Kiss of Judas – to the soldiers of the High Priest Caiaphas.

Was thirty pieces of silver a great deal of money?

Probably not. According to Matthew 27:3-10, Judas returned the money to the priests who used it to buy a potter’s field. Judas himself is said to have committed suicide.

According to the Acts of the Apostles Judas used the money to buy a field but is said to have fallen head first and died. This field is known as Akeldama or Field of Blood.

The betrayal by Judas, the most controversial person in the New Testament is said to be the fulfillment of a prophecy. Tradition has it that Judas committed suicide by hanging himself.

Was it Pontius Pilate who was responsible for the death of Jesus?

Pontius Pilate who was the Roman prefect (governor) of Judea, a sub-province of Syria, was the one who presided over the trial of Jesus.

Pontius Pilate 2

(Fig 2) Pontius Pilate

As prefect, Pilate had several responsibilities. He was the head of the Roman military legions. He was the one who sanctioned construction works and controlled the collection of imperial taxes. He also passed judgment in civil and criminal cases.

During his ten-year tenure as prefect, Pilate had several disagreements with his Jewish subjects. According to Jewish historian Josephus is said to have annoyed the Jews on several occasions. It was thought that he would do the same during the trial of Jesus. The Jews protested against Pilate several times.

Not only did Pilate not have adequate concern for Jewish sentiments he was also said to be cruel and corrupt.
Pilate spent most of his time in the coastal town of Caesarea, however he came to Jerusalem for significant Jewish festivals.

According to the followers of Jesus, Pilate did not play a crucial role in the trial of Jesus. He was not the one that decided that Jesus should be given the death penalty by crucifixion.

Although Pilate eventually decided that Jesus should be crucified, that decision was reluctant and under duress. Some scholars say that early Christians down-played the role of Pilate in the trial and execution of Jesus in order not to alienate Roman audiences.

It must be noted that Jesus was given the most horrible punishment possible even though the Roman prefect had a choice of options such as flogging, handing the matter back to the Sanhedrin, or to refer the case to Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee.

Although Pilate was responsible for the final act of his conviction Jesus blames him to a lesser extent, putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the high priest. John 19:11 records Jesus as saying “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”

Some have interpreted this to mean that Jesus was blaming the Jews as a whole. However, it is clear that Jesus blamed the chief priest as he referred “to a singular person as “he” or “the one” who was responsible”.

Tradition has it that Pilate who was known to be corrupt took a hefty bribe from Joseph of Arimathea and conspired to ensure that Jesus did not die on the cross.

Pilate was also reluctant to condemn Jesus to death because his wife Claudia Procula interceded on behalf of Jesus.

Pilate eventually relented and condemned Jesus to death because he feared a Jewish backlash.

Was it Caiaphas who was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus?

Joseph Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest who is said to have organized the plot to kill Jesus. Caiaphas is also said to have headed the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus as the then high priest. According to the most accounts, Caiaphas was the major antagonist of Jesus.


(Fig 3) Joseph Caiaphas

Caiaphas had many important responsibilities, including control of the Temple treasury, managing the Temple police and other personnel and performing religious rituals.

Probably the most important role of Caiaphas was to be the liaison between the Roman rulers and the Jewish people. The Romans expected him to keep the Jewish populace under control.

Caiaphas and his family enjoyed power and many luxuries as long as he was in the good books of the Romans. He feared that all these perquisites would be lost if there was a Jewish uprising.

Caiaphas reasoned that it is better for one man to die –Jesus Christ – rather than many lives be lost as a consequence of Jewish unrest and the Roman reaction to the unrest.

It is Caiaphas and a few other Jewish leaders who were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for the death of Jesus
The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) of the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Paul VI “repudiated belief in collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus.” It declared that “the charge can be made neither “against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today”.

To answer the question “Cui Bono”, it was without doubt Joseph Caiaphas and a few other Jewish leaders who stood to gain the most from the crucifixion of Jesus.

Picture Credits:

1) Judas Iscariot

2) Pontius Pilate

3) Joseph Caiaphas

Crucifixion Of Jesus – What Happened To The Nails?

Crucifixion Of Jesus – Are These The Holy Nails?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia around 30 nails have been venerated as nails used in the crucifixion of Jesus. However others believe that only 3 or 4 nails were used to crucify Jesus. Legend has it that Constantine’s mother gave her son a portion of the crucifixion nails. A few of these nails were said to have been embedded in his helmet and the bridle of his horse to protect him from harm. .
One of the “Holy Nails” is said to have been used in making the Iron Crown of Lombardy, an antique circlet kept in a cathedral outside Milan. (1)

This is one account regarding the “Holy Nails” from the crucifixion of Jesus.


(Fig 1) Holy Nails

There is another account.

Simcha Jacobovici the host and producer of the Channel series “Secrets of Christianity” is said to have stumbled across something that amazed him. It seems that in 1990 an Israeli archeologists digging at a 2,000-year-old burial cave revealed two nails made by the Romans, but kept the discovery quiet.

However the two ossuaries that were excavated from the burial cave were publicized. These ossuaries bore the inscriptions “Caiaphas” and “Joseph son of Caiaphas.” The second was an intricately decorated ossuary is now housed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem after touring the world.

Caiaphas Ossuary - Israel Museum

(Fig 2) The ossuary of Caiaphas

We know from the Bible that Caiaphas was the high priest who was instrumental to the crucifixion of Jesus. Scholars seem to agree that the Caiaphas ossuary is of the high priest. As such the nails excavated from this tomb must be of greater significance than meets the eye.

Popular opinion is that these nails are the nails used to crucify Jesus. At the request of Jacocovici, Israel Hershkovitz, a forensic anthropologist at Tel Aviv University located the nails initially thought to have been misplaced.

Since the two nails were without the original packaging, Hershkovitz could not confirm if these were the two nails from the Caiaphas tomb. But he knew for certain that they came from the IAA (Israeli Antiquities Authority).

Jacobovici compared these nails with an only specimen of a nail used in a crucifixion. The nails looked rather similar, except that they were slightly less in length.


(Fig 3) The nail of a crucified man

Please read my short stories at http://amzn.to/1PWveBs

Please also read my blog “Crucifixion Of Jesus – Bible Accounts And Controversies” at https://familytombofjesus.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/crucifixion-of-jesus-bible-accounts-and-controversies/


1) http://www.livescience.com/19520-alleged-christian-relics-jesus.html

2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/12/archaeologist-finds-jesus-nails_n_848242.html?ir=India&adsSite Override=in

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) The Holy Nails
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/12/archaeologist-finds-jesus-nails_n_848242.html?ir=India&adsSite Override=in

(Fig 2)
The ossuary of Caiaphas
https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=639&q=caiaphas+ossuary &oq=caiaphas+ossuary&gs_l=img.3..0j0i24l2.6895.12539.0.13665.….0…1ac.1.64.img..0.16.954.99i-vLvfaC0#imgrc=VNCefYiFNj91FM%3A

(Fig 3)
Bone of a crucified man

Crucifixion Of Jesus – Bible Accounts And Controversies

Bible Narratives Of The Crucifixion Of Jesus And The Controversies Arising Out Of Them.

Crucifixion Was Foreseen By More Than One Old Testament Prophet

The prophet Zachariah foresaw that the people of Jerusalem would look upon the lord Messiah whom they pierced (Zech. 12:10; cf. John 19:37; Rev. 1:7).

Besides being king, David was also a prophet (Acts 2:30). Almost a thousand years before the crucifixion of Jesus King David had given a clear and prophetic account of the execution (Psalm 22). He had even foretold Jesus’ cry from the cross “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (22:1; cf. Matt. 27:46). David had even explained why God had forsaken his son. God could not look upon sin even when all the sins of the world were placed on the shoulders of his blameless son.

King David’s prediction of the crucifixion of Jesus was so vivid, that he described in detail the crowds mocking him when he was being crucified. (22:6-8, 12-13; cf. Matt. 27:39-44). He prophesied that the bones of Jesus would be out of joint and that His hands and feet would be pierced (22:14-17; cf. John 20:20). He even foretold that lots would be cast for Jesus’ garments by the Roman soldiers (22:18; cf. Matt. 27:35; John 19:24). Significantly David had foretold that not one bone in Jesus’ body would be broken (Ps. 34:20, cf. Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; see also John 19:36). This established the tradition that Jesus would be considered the unblemished Passover Lamb that was slain for sinners (I Cor. 5:7).

The prophet Isaiah foretold the reason why Jesus would die on the cross. He wrote “Surely He (the Messiah) has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:4-6). But did Jesus die on a cross?

A Cross Could Be A Tree And A Tree Could Be A Cross

The Greek word for tree is xulon, (xoo-lon). Literally the word could also refer to “a stick, club, tree, timber or other wooden article of substance, such as a staff, stocks, tree or wood.” On the other hand the Greek word for cross is stauroo (stow-roo), also meaning “to impale or crucify on a stauros (stow-ros) a stake, post set upright as an instrument of capital punishment.” Loosely the two words are sometimes interchangeably used. So a cross could be a tree and a tree could be a cross.

Luke used the word Xulon once in his gospel Luke 23:31 – “they do these things in a green tree”. He uses the same word thrice in the acts:

Acts 5:30 – “whom you murdered by hanging on a tree”

Acts 10:39 – “whom they killed by hanging on a tree”

Acts 13:29 – “they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb”

All three instances are in specific reference to the crucifixion.

Each of the above statements was made by Simon Peter the apostle.

In Peter 2:24 Peter himself uses the same word: “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” Since Peter uses the word xulon to refer to Jesus “hanging on a tree, taken down from a tree or bore our sins on a tree”, could it be that Jesus was in fact crucified on a tree rather than a Roman cross and that over two millennium the word tree was corrupted to mean cross (1).

Date and time of the crucifixion of Jesus

The year of the crucifixion of Jesus has been in dispute.

Some scholars have claimed that the year of the crucifixion is 30 CE. Others have claimed that the year was 34 CE. Both claims have merits and demerits. The merit has more to do with the time that the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Israel would require to develop (2).

There is controversy surrounding even the time that Jesus was on the cross before he died. By all accounts he was crucified on a Friday. But it has been claimed that after only three hours on the cross he died. Even the prefect Pontius Pilate was surprised that he should have died so soon. In fact he was so skeptical that he sent a centurion to Golgotha to verify if in fact Jesus was dead. It was only after ascertaining that Jesus was indeed dead that he granted Joseph of Arimathea permission to take down the body of Jesus from the cross. Mark 15:44-45 (3).

According to some accounts Jesus was crucified at 9 am and he died at 3 pm after being on the cross for six hours. A victim dying on the cross even after six hours was also surprising as experience showed that victims lingered much longer. In fact some victims lingered on for days. (4).

The bodies of the victims of crucifixion were removed from the cross only after they had died. So when Jesus and the other two who had been crucified along with him were on the cross for six hours Jewish leaders went to Pilate and “besought Pilate that their legs might be broken” (John 19:31). The Greek equivalent for broken also means to shatter to pieces. In practice the Romans smashed the legs of the victims so that the weight of their body now rested on the wrists that were nailed to the cross. When that happened the victims were unable to breathe and suffocated to death.

After they had smashed the legs of the victims on either side of Jesus, the Roman soldiers turned their attention to Jesus. But finding that he was already dead did not break his legs. This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of King David (5). Psalm 34:20 says explicitly of the crucified Jesus, “He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken.” John 19:36 says, “These things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.”

The Romans first pierced the side of the victims of crucifixion before they broke their legs. Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim referred to the piercing of the side as the coup de grace – a stroke of mercy or the death stroke. It is said that the soldiers did both this to expedite the death of the victim. However, Edersheim claims that the soldiers pierced the victim’s side to expedite death and then broke his legs to increase the pain as compensation for the reduced time on the cross (6).

In the case of Jesus as soon as the soldiers pierced his side, they saw that blood and water oozed out of the wound and concluded that Jesus was already dead and decided against breaking his legs. John 19:34 says, “One of the soldiers, with a spear, pierced his side, and immediately came there out blood and water.” The side being pierced is again in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zachariah. Psalm 69 contains prophecies relating to the crucifixion (7).

Who Were The Witnesses To The Crucifixion?

Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus seem to be based on eyewitness reports. Matthew 26:56 states that all the disciples fled for fear of their lives. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that they stayed away from the site of the crucifixion. According to John 18:15-27, Peter was so terrified that he repeatedly denied knowing Jesus. That being the case, who were the witnesses to the crucifixion?

Jesus was crucified atop a hillock called Golgotha which lay just outside the city walls. This hillock was probably located near one of the gates leading out of Jerusalem. A study of the Gospels tells us who in fact were present at the crucifixion.

According to Matthew 27:55-56 the followers of Jesus who watched the crucifixion from a distance were: “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” The women were present probably because they knew that they would not be arrested provided they did not interfere with the proceedings. Mark 15:40-41 also states that many female followers of Jesus were witnesses. He specifically names “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.” The Gospel of Luke merely mentions that some of Jesus’ followers were there but does not mention names. In John the witnesses are specifically named. According to him Jesus’ mother Mary, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clophas (or Cleophas), and Mary Magdalene and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” were all present.

The exact identity of the beloved disciple is a matter of dispute. Some scholars think that he is John the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, and the author of the gospel. However others have disputed this claim and the matter is still to be resolved.

The other Gospels make no mention of the beloved disciple as one of the witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus and according to them what Jesus spoke from the cross is entirely different from the account by John. It may therefore be construed that John’s source of information regarding the crucifixion is different from the source of the other three. There is no consensus regarding the source of the other three. However it is likely that one or more of the women present provided the evangelists the details.

Based on the accounts in the four Gospels the witnesses to the crucifixion were:

1. Mary Magdalene (cited in Matthew, Mark, and John)

2. Mary the mother of James and Joses (cited in Matthew and Mark)

3. The mother of Zebedee’s sons (mentioned in Matthew)

4. Salome (mentioned in Mark) — Many scholars are of the opinion that this person is the same as the mother of Zebedee’s sons

5. Mary the mother of Jesus (mentioned in John)

6. Mary the wife of Clophas (mentioned in John. She was quite likely the wife of Joseph’s brother)

7. An unnamed sister of Jesus’ mother (mentioned in John) — Scholars think that this is the wife of Clophas

8. The unnamed Beloved Disciple (mentioned by John)

However this list is not without controversy and the controversy is not limited to the identity of the “beloved disciple”. There is also no consensus regarding Mary the mother of James and Joses. Some believe she is the one referred to as the “other Mary”. She is the same person who is said to have accompanied Mary Magdalene to the tomb on the day of the resurrection. It has also been argued that she is the wife of Clopas and perhaps even one of the sisters or a half-sister of Jesus’ mother.

There have been claims that this “other Mary” is none other than the mother of Jesus. If this is so then the three evangelists Matthew, Mark and John would be consistent in saying that Mary the mother of Jesus was present at his crucifixion. The mention that this Mary is the mother of James and Joses lends credence to this claim thus making her the mother of the four brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3). However if this is indeed the case why were Matthew and Mark not explicit about this instead of referring to her as the “other Mary”? (8).


(1) Mock, Robert D. (1999). Crisis in the Nazarene Ecclesia – The Sanhedrin and Rabbi Shaul are Coming. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblesearchers.com/hebrewchurch/primitive/primitive4.shtml

(2) Mock, Robert D. (1999). Crisis in the Nazarene Ecclesia – The Sanhedrin and Rabbi Shaul are Coming. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblesearchers.com/hebrewchurch/primitive/primitive4.shtml

(3) New International Version (NIV). (2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+15%3A44-45&version=NIV;KJV;YLT

(4) The Amazing Burial of Jesus, Part 1, Matthew 27:57-61. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://www.gty.org/resources/print/study-guide-chapter/2399

(5) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Matthew 27:57–28:15. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5178/The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Christ

(6) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Matthew 27:57–28:15. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5178/The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Christ

(7) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Matthew 27:57–28:15. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5178/The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Christ

(8) Who Was at the Cross? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gospel-mysteries.net/witnesses-crucifixion.html