[Above: Papyrus Bodmer II (P66), Earlham School of Religion, Richmond, Indiana. "Papyrus 66 ... is a near complete codex of the Gospel of John .... It is one of the oldest New Testament manuscripts known to exist, with its writing dated to the middle of the 2nd century CE" (Wikipedia), i.e. ~AD150. At its page 137 (not shown), "The beginning of line 3 contains that section of Jn 19:16 where it is stated that Pilate delivered Jesus `to be crucified.' Here the verb staurothe is abbreviated s tau-rho the. ... Line 6 contains the mention of Golgotha in Jn 19:17, and continues with the opening words of Jn 19:18, `where they crucified him... .' Here the verb estaurosan abbreviated es tau-rho an ... . Line 10 contains a portion of Jn 19:19 where Pilate wrote a title `and put it on the cross.' ... the noun staurou is abbreviated s tau-rho ou." (Finegan, 1992, pp.381-382. My transliteration). That is, from ~AD 150, if not earlier, New Testament manuscript copyists were substituting for stauros a staurogram,
[Left: Staurograms combining the Greek letters, from left to right, Tau and Rho, the Chi-Rho monogram formed by the first two letters of `Christ' in Greek, and the Iota-Chi monogram composed of the initials for `Jesus Christ' in Greek." (David J. Ross)]
a combinination of the Greek letters tau and rho to make a tiny pictorial representation of a human body affixed to a Latin Cross (crux immissa). So this is further archaeological evidence that Jesus was crucified on a traditional two-beamed Latin cross and not on a single-beamed stake.]
As previously, my method is to quote in bold from Appendix 3C of "The Kingdom Interlinear Translation," 1985, pp.1149-1151) and then comment on that quote.
In the writings of Livy, a Roman historian of the first century B.C.E., crux means a mere stake."Cross" is only a later meaning of crux. ... Evidence is, therefore, completely lacking that Jesus Christ was crucified on two pieces of timber placed at right angles.
We have seen in part #3A that in the writings of Livy (59 BC-AD 17) the word crux meant not a single-beamed stake, but a two-beamed cross! So the Watchtower Society's historical argument that Jesus was executed on a stake, because the Romans did not start crucifying on two-beamed cross until "later," i.e. later than "the first century B.C.E," or at least later than the death of Jesus in either AD 30 or 33.
But as we shall see, far from the "Evidence" being "completely lacking that Jesus Christ was crucified on two pieces of timber placed at right angles," there is overwhelming and irrefutable historical evidence that the Romans were crucifying on two-beamed crosses from as far back as the third century BC. We will examine that evidence, quoting from the writings of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Jews, in chronological order from the oldest through to the first century AD.
Again, I am indebted to Leolaia's references in her, "The facts on crucifixion, stauros, and the `torture stake'," but my quotes here were scanned by me from either photocopied library books or books I own (my emphasis below). Each quote is hyperlinked to a fuller version in the `tagline' at the end of this post.
9th Century BC
Homer. Ancient Greek epic poet, Homer (c. 9th century BC) describes building a pig-pen with "stakes [staurous] ":
"Without he had driven stakes [staurous] the whole length, this way and that, huge stakes, set close together, which he had made by splitting an oak to the black core. " (Homer, "The Odyssey," 14.11).
So the Watchtower Society's claim that the only meaning of staurous was a single pole or stake until after the execution of Jesus, means that the word staurous would have had to remain only its original meaning for at least 900 years!
7th Century BC
Livy. Roman historian Titus Livius, better known as Livy (59 BC-AD 17), writing between 35 BC-AD 10 his history of Rome, described the ancient Roman punishment, dating at least from 672-640 BC, which involved the victim being bound beneath a fork of a tree and flogged to death:
"The dread formula of the law [BC 672-640] ran thus: `Let the duumvirs pronounce him guilty of treason; if he shall appeal from the duumvirs, let the appeal he tried; if the duumvirs win, let the lictor veil his head; let him bind him with a rope to a barren tree [infelici arbori]; let him scourge him either within or without the pomerium. ... `... can you bear ... to see him bound beneath a fork [furca] and scourged and tortured?''" (Livy, "History of Rome," 1.26.6,10).
But being attached to a fork of a tree, which presumably was by outstretched arms, is effectively a two-beamed cross in the 7th century BC! It is clearly a precursor to later (but as we shall see well before the time of Christ) Roman crucifixion consisting of scourging, crossbeam-bearing through the town to the site of execution outside the own and then having both outstretched hands nailed to the crossbeam, and the crossbeam bearing the victim then attached to an upright tree-trunk set in the ground.
6th Century BC
Ezra 6:11. The Bible in Ezra 6:11 (NIV) describes what may be a Persian live crucifixion in ~520 BC:
"Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it."
but the text is not specific enough to be certain. The Aramaic (Ezr 4:7-6:18 is in Aramaic, not Hebrew) literally is: "and lifted up [zeqaph "hanged"] he shall be smitten [mecha' "to strike"] upon it" (Kidner, 1979, pp.57-58), which may not even be execution but flogging.
5th Century BC
Herodotus. The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-425 BC), writing in c.440 BC, describes what may include instances of crucifixion by the Persians in the Greco-Persian Wars (499-479 BC). Where he used terms based on the root Greek word "skolops ... a `pointed stake'" (Kittel & Friedrich, 1985, p.1047), its primary meaning seems to be "impaled" on a stake, in the sense of having a pointed stake driven through his body:
"Astyages ... took the Magians who interpreted dreams and had persuaded him to let Cyrus go free, and impaled [aneskolopise] them" (Herodotus, "Histories," 1.128).
"When the Egyptian chirurgeons ... were about to be impaled [aneskolopieisthai] for being less skilful than a Greek" (Herodotus, 3.132)
"Darius ... impaled [aneskolopise] about three thousand men that were chief among them." (Herodotus, 3.159).
".... Sataspes ... was to be impaled [aneskolopieisthai] ... But Xerxes did not believe that Sataspes spoke truth, and ... impaled [aneskolopise] him ..." (Herodotus, 4.43).
But Herodotus used also used terms based on the stauros, presumably to indicate something different from impalement as above, which could in crucifixion in the sense of being affixed to a two-beamed cross. The first two instances are of affixing an already dead body to a stake:
"Polycrates ... sailed to meet Oroetes .... But ... Having killed him ... Oroetes then crucified [anestaurose] him ..." (Herodotus, 3.125).
"Harpagus who had taken Histiaeus, impaled [anestaurosan] his body on the spot, and sent his head embalmed to king Darius at Susa ..." (Herodotus, 6.30).
But the next two example are of live crucifixion:
"Sandoces had been taken and crucified [anestaurose] by Darius because he had given unjust judgment for a bribe. But Sandoces having been hung on the cross [anakremasthentos] ... Darius perceived that he had acted with more haste than wisdom, and so set Sandoces free." (Herodotus, 7.194).
"So they carried Artayctes away to the headland where Xerxes had bridged the strait ... and there nailed him to boards and hanged [anekremasan] him aloft; and as for his son, they stoned him to death before his father's eyes. ..." (Herodotus, 9.120-122).
The first of the above two live crucifixions may have been on a two-beamed cross. This is supported by the Penguin edition of Herodotus which also translates it to mean "crucified" on "cross":
"Sandoces ... while he was actually on the cross, Darius ... realizing ... that he had acted with more promptitude than wisdom, caused him to be taken down." (Herodotus, 7.194).
However, the second example of live crucifixion, with its mention of "boards" was probably, "the `tympanum' ... a flat board made up of planks (sanides) on which criminals were fastened for public display, torture or execution.." (Hengel, 1977, pp.69-70).
So from the 7th to the 5th century BC we have examples of Persian impalement on a single-beamed stake, Roman fastening to the fork of a tree, presumably by the victim's outstretched arms, and an example of what may be a Persian live crucifixion on a two-beamed cross. And as we shall see in future posts in this series, from the 5th century through to the 1st century BC, i.e. well before the time of Jesus, there are clearer examples in the writings of ancient historians of what can only be live crucifixion on a two-beamed cross.
Continued in Part #3C: Historical.
See `tagline' quotes below (original emphasis italics, my emphasis bold).
"PAPYRUS BODMER II (P66) is a manuscript in codex form with numbered pages which contains most of the Gospel according to John, Chapters 1-14, and fragments of the rest of the Gospel through Chapter 21. It was probably written about A. D. 200 if not even earlier. In the manuscript at most of the places where the noun stauros, `cross,' and the verb stauroo, `crucify,' occur an abbreviation of the word is employed in which the tau and the rho are written together to make the sign-tau-rho ... . The present photograph shows the extant fragments of page 137 (PAZ) in the codex. The beginning of line 3 contains that section of Jn 19:16 where it is stated that Pilate delivered Jesus `to be crucified.' Here the verb staurothe is abbreviated s tau-rho the. The initial sigma is badly preserved but the remaining letters are plainly legible together with the line over them which marks the abbreviation. Line 6 contains the mention of Golgotha in Jn 19:17, and continues with the opening words of Jn 19:18, `where they crucified him... .' Here the verb estaurosan abbreviated es tau-rho an the initial epsilon being lifted above the level of the other letters as shown. Line 10 contains a portion of Jn 19:19 where Pilate wrote a title `and put it on the cross.' Here, although it is more difficult to make out because of the break in the papyrus, the noun staurou is abbreviated s tau-rho ou." (Finegan, J., "The Archeology of the New Testament: The Life of Jesus and the Beginning of the Early Church," , Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ, Revised edition, 1992, pp.381-382. Emphasis original. My transliteration).
"Herodotus further shows that even the Athenians could crucify a hated enemy ... the phrase `nail to planks', which appears only here, suggests that a real cross was not used in this case, but the `tympanum', which was familiar from their own penal law. This was a flat board made up of planks (sanides) on which criminals were fastened for public display, torture or execution. The seventeen victims discovered in the well-known find of the tomb at Phaleron from the seventh century BC were fastened with a ring round their necks and hooks round their hands and feet. This could be seen as an aggravated form of apotymanismos, which would come very near to crucifixion if the victim were nailed down instead of being bound or fastened with curved nails." (Hengel, M., "Crucifixion: In the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross," Bowden, J., transl., Fortress Press: Philadelphia PA, 1977, Third printing 1982, pp.69-70)
"Thus the Median army was foully scattered. Astyages, hearing this, sent a threatening message to Cyrus, `that even so he should not go unpunished'; and with that he took the Magians who interpreted dreams and had persuaded him to let Cyrus go free, and impaled [aneskolopise] them; then he armed the Medes who were left in the city, the youths and old men. Leading these out, and encountering the Persians, he was worsted: Astyages himself was taken prisoner, and lost the Median army which he led." (Herodotus, "History," 1.128, Godley, A.D., transl., Loeb Classical Library, Heinemann: London, 1920, Reprinted, 1946, Vol. I., p.169).
"But Polycrates would listen to no counsel. He sailed to meet Oroetes, with a great retinue of followers, among whom was Democedes, son of Calliphon, a man of Crotona and the most skilful physician of his time. But no sooner had Polycrates come to Magnesia than he was foully murdered, making an end which ill beseemed himself and his pride; for, saving only the despots of Syracuse, there is no despot of Greek race to be compared with Polycrates for magnificence. Having killed him (in some way not fit to be told) Oroetes then crucified [anestaurose] him; as for the Samians in his retinue he let them go, bidding them thank Oroetes for their freedom; those who were not Samians, or, were servants of Polycrates' followers, he kept for slaves. So Polycrates was hanged aloft, and thereby his daughter's dream came true; for he was washed by Zeus when it rained, and the moisture from his body was his anointment by the sun." (Herodotus, 3.125).
"So now for having healed Darius at Susa Dernocedes had a very great house and ate at the king's table; all was his, except only permission to return to his Greek home. When the Egyptian chirurgeons who had till now attended on the king were about to be impaled [aneskolopieisthai] for being less skilful than a Greek, Democedes begged their lives of the king and saved them; and he saved besides an Elean diviner, who had been of Polycrates' retinue and was left neglected among the slaves. Mightily in favour with the king was Democedes." (Herodotus, 3.132).
"Having mastered the Babylonians, Darius destroyed their walls and reft away all their gates, neither of which things Cyrus had done at the first taking of Babylon; moreover he impaled [aneskolopise] about three thousand men that were chief among them; as for the rest, he gave them back their city to dwell in. Further, as the Babylonians, fearing for their food, had strangled their own women, as I have shown above, Darius provided that they should have wives to bear them children, by appointing that each of the neighbouring nations should send a certain tale of women to Babylon; the whole sum of the women thus collected was fifty thousand: these were the mothers of those who now inhabit the city." (Herodotus, 3.159).
"The next story is that of the Carchedonians: for as for Sataspes son of Teaspes, an Achaemenid, he did not sail round Libya, though he was sent for that end; but he feared the length and the loneliness of the voyage and so returned back without accomplishing the task. laid upon him by his mother. For he had raped the virgin daughter of Zopyrus son of Megabyzus; and when on this charge he was to be impaled [aneskolopieisthai] by King Xerxes, Sataspes' mother, who was Darius' sister, begged for his life, saying that she would lay a heavier punishment on him than did Xerxes; for he should be compelled to sail round Libya, till he completed his voyage and came to the Arabian Gulf. Xerxes agreeing to this, Sataspes went to Egypt, where he received a ship and a crew from the Egyptians, and sailed past the Pillars of Heracles. Having sailed out beyond them, and rounded the Libyan promontory called Solois, he sailed southward; but when he had been many months sailing far over the sea, and ever there was more before him, he turned back and made sail for Egypt. Thence coming to Xerxes, he told in his story how when he was farthest distant he sailed by a country of little men, who wore palm-leaf raiment; these, whenever he and his men put in to land with their ship, would ever leave their towns and flee to the hills; he and his men did no wrong when they landed, and took naught from the people but what they needed for eating. As to his not sailing wholly round Libya, the reason (he said) was that the ship could move no farther, but was stayed. But Xerxes did not believe that Sataspes spoke truth, and as the task appointed was unfulfilled he impaled [aneskolopise] him, punishing him on the charge first brought against him." (Herodotus, 4.43).
"But those near the Pangaean mountains and the country of the Doberes and the Agrianes and the Odomanti and the Prasiad lake itself were never subdued at all by Megabazus; albeit he tried to take the lake-dwellers, whose dwellings were such as I shall show :-There is set in the midst of the lake a platform made fast on tall piles [stauron], whereto one bridge gives a narrow passage from the land. The piles [staurous] which support the platform were set there in old times by all the people working together, but by a later custom this is the manner of their setting: the piles [staurous] are brought from a mountain called Orbelus, and every man plants three for each woman that he weds; and each has many wives. " (Herodotus, 5.16).
"Now had he been taken prisoner and brought on his way to king Darius, no harm had been done him (to my thinking) and the king had forgiven his guilt; but as it was, Histiaeus being brought to Sardis, there both by reason of what he had done, and for fear that he might escape and again win lower at the court, Artaphrenes, viceroy of Sardis, and Harpagus who had taken Histiaeus, impaled [anestaurosan] his body on the spot, and sent his head embalmed to king Darius at Susa. When Darius learnt of this he blamed those who had so done, because they had not brought Histiaeus before him alive; for the head, he gave command that it should be washed and buried with full observance, as the head of one that had done great good to Darius himself and to Persia." (Herodotus, 6.30).
"Fifteen of those ships had put to sea a long time after all the rest, and it chanced that they sighted the Greek ships off Artemisium. Supposing these to be their own fleet, the foreigners held on their course into the midst of their enemies. Their captain was the viceroy from Cyme in Aeolia, Sandoces son of Thumasius; he had once before this, being then one of the king's judges, been taken and crucified [anestaurose] by Darius because he had given unjust judgment for a bribe. But Sandoces having been hung on the cross [anakremasthentos], Darius found on a reckoning that his good services to the royal house were more than his offences; whereat the king perceived that he had acted with more haste than wisdom, and so set Sandoces free." (Herodotus, 7.194).
"Sandoces, who was one of the royal judges, had been arrested by Darius some time before and crucified, on a charge of perverting justice for money. But while he was actually on the cross, Darius came to the conclusion that his services to the royal house outweighed his offences, and realizing in consequence that he had acted with more promptitude than wisdom, caused him to be taken down." (Herodotus, "The Histories," 7.194, de Selincourt, A., transl., Penguin: London, 1954, Revised 1996, p.437).
"But Xanthippus the general was unmoved by this promise; for the people of Elaeus entreated that Artayetes should he put to death in justice to Protesilaus, and the general himself likewise was so minded. So they carried Artayctes away to the headland where Xerxes had bridged the strait (or, by another story, to the hill above the town of Madytus), and there nailed him to boards and hanged [anekremasan] him aloft; and as for his son, they stoned him to death before his father's eyes. ... This Artayctes who was crucified [anakremasthentos] was grandson to that Artembares who instructed the Persians in a design which they took from him and laid before Cyrus ..." (Herodotus, 9.120,122).
"He found him sitting in the fore-hall of his house, where his court was built high in a place of wide outlook, a great and goodly court with an open space around it. This the swineherd had himself built for the swine of his master, that was gone, without the knowledge of his mistress and the old man Laertes. With huge stones had he built it, and set on it a coping of thorn. Without he had driven stakes [staurous] the whole length, this way and that, huge stakes, set close together, which he had made by splitting an oak to the black core; and within the court he had made twelve sties close by one another, as beds for the swine, and in each one were penned fifty wallowing swine, females for breeding; but the boars slept without." (Homer, "The Odyssey," 14.11, Murray, A.T., transl., Loeb classical library, Heinemann: London, 1919, Reprinted, 1953, p.35).
"[Ezr 6:]11. One who alters the edict would probably have included anyone who violated it (cf. Ryle). There was poetic justice intended in making a man's own house his instrument of execution for tampering with the house of God. The form of punishment may or may not have been impalement (RSV; cf. GNB's elaboration of the theme); certainly this hideous practice was no novelty, as Assyrian monuments show. But the Aramaic reads literally `and lifted up he shall be smitten upon it', which NEB takes to mean `fastened erect to it and flogged', while BDB understands it as some form of crucifixion,' and 1 Esdras 6:32 as hanging. The common ground between such punishments was the public spectacle they afforded for disgrace and warning. It is a relief to know that Israelite law put two crucial restraints on such a practice: the victim was executed before this, not by means of it (Dt. 21:22; note the sequence), and the display of his corpse must not be prolonged (Dt. 21:23)." (Kidner, D., "Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentary," Tyndale Press: London, 1979, pp.57-58).
"skolops [pointed stake, thorn] 1. This rare term denotes a `pointed stake,' such as is used in pits or palisades. Being fastened to such a stake is a form of execution; the reference is to crucifixion on a T - shaped cross, or to impaling and exposure on a stake. Corpses are also impaled on stakes as a sign of disgrace. 2. Another meaning in the LXX is a `thorn' or `splinter' on the foot, finger, etc., which doctors remove by plasters or ointments. Spines of palms are used in magic, and demons supposedly put prickles on women's temples. In the OT God blocks the way of Israel with thickets in Hos. 2:8, and oppressors are splinters in the eyes of Israel in Num. 33:55 or thorns in Ezek. 28:24. 3. In 2 Cor. 12:7 Paul is speaking about bodily afflictions, and among these he mentions a skolops that God sends, that acts as a messenger of Satan, and that is obviously painful. The idea is not that of a stake to which the apostle is impaled, nor of a barb of depression, e.g., at his failure to win the Jews to Christ, or in reaction from ecstasy. Physical ill-treatment or a physical disability seems to be in view, but there can be no saying what it is. Although it hampers his work, God uses it to keep him from arrogance and to point him to his true strength. 4. Only rarely do Christians use the group with reference to Jesus' execution (cf. Origen Against Celsus 2.55.68-69). It lies outside the usage that soon develops in relation to the cross (cf. the paucity of anastauroun)." (Kittel, G. & Friedrich, G., eds., "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in one Volume," , Bromiley, G.W., transl., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Reprinted, 1988, p.1047. Emphasis original).
"The dread formula of the law [BC 672-640] ran thus: `Let the duumvirs pronounce him guilty of treason; if he shall appeal from the duumvirs, let the appeal he tried; if the duumvirs win, let the lictor veil his head; let him bind him with a rope to a barren tree [infelici arbori]; let him scourge him either within or without the pomerium.'" (Livy, "History of Rome," 1.26.6, Foster, B.O., transl., Loeb Classical Library, Heinemann: London, Vol. I, 1919, Reprinted, 1957, p.93).