Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Crucifixion (part 1)
My apologies for the delay since my last blog entry, but things have been hectic!
One of my daughters is getting married soon, and there's been lots to organize!
The latest set of pictures to be added to the 'Bible picture website' is part one of the 'Crucifixion'.
There are six pictures that cover the story from the scourging to the crucifixion itself. Part two is almost finished.
For some reason it's really been a battle to get this set done! I've never quite felt as much spiritual opposition as I have while working on this particular set.
Below are a few notes on the pictures themselves.
In picture 1 we see the scourging. The condemned prisoner would have been bound to a post and whipped 39 times, sometimes more, using a roman flagrum or flagellum which was a short leather whip which divided into several throngs at the end. Each throng was weighted with lead balls and sharpened pieces of sheep bone or metal. This was designed to rip through the flesh and cause severe blood loss. Many victims died from the scourging alone.
In picture 3 we see the Lord Jesus stood before Pilate wearing the purple robe and crown of thorns.
When you read the account in John, the divine authority of Jesus over the whole situation is very clear.
Pilate, rather than being in charge, was utterly powerless before Christ! The Lord Jesus, although badly beaten, was in total control!
For this reason I've drawn the Lord Jesus silhouetted in an archway. The backlit figure dressed in a robe and crown of thorns looks powerful! I added a slight glow over His eyes also, but one of my daughters said that it made Him look too scary!, so I removed it. I was trying to capture the awesome power and nobility of Christ that willingly lay dormant in the now badly beaten Jesus.
Picture 4 shows Pilate now seated outside the judgement hall in the area called 'Gabbatha' which can be translated 'the pavement' or 'mosaic'. According to William Hole, "access was obtained by a flight of steps. In the centre of this pavement was a slightly-raised platform, upon which was placed the curule chair of the procurator, with seats to the right and left for the assessors; other officers occupying benches on the lower level."
(The Life of Jesus of Nazareth)
I recreated a mosaic floor from an actual roman mosaic for this picture, unfortunately, it can't be seen for the crowds-!!
In picture 5 we see the Lord Jesus carrying the patibulum, or crossbar of the cross, which was up to six feet in length and weighed up to 125 pounds! (the entire cross being too heavy to carry). A tablet listing the crimes of the person was hung around the neck for all to read, and then later nailed to the cross. The crime of Jesus being the 'King of the Jews'. Some Bible artists show the Lord Jesus at this point just wearing the loincloth. I almost did the same thing until I read all the gospel accounts. Only Matthew and Mark mention that they put His own clothes back on Him just prior to this event.
I chose not to use any of the available references for the 'Via Dolorosa' as the original route to the cross, apart from being unknown, is also likely to be under several feet of rubble!
The final picture in this set shows the crucifixion. One of the problems of researching anything on the internet is that you can read many conflicting expert accounts. The crucifixion is no exception!
Many Bible artists have chosen to depict the mode of crucifixion in several different ways depending on the particular article they happen to have read. For instance back in the 1930's, Dr Pierre Barbet, (one of the most widely quoted scientists in crucifixion research), performed many experiments which consisted of him actually crucifying dead corpses in order to see which method of crucifixion was most likely.
He concluded that the area known as 'Destot's space' which is the space between the bones of the wrist, would have been the most likely location of the nails to effectively support a crucified body. This led many Bible artists to move the location of the nails on their pictures from the palms to the wrists. However, more recent research shows, (in great detail), that Barbet's work was flawed in certain areas. Many experts in 'crucifixion science' have now gone back to favoring a particular area of the palms as the most likely location for the nails. There are very many scholarly articles written by forensic scientists and surgeons on this subject that are well worth reading.
There is also evidence that the method of crucifixion varied in different parts of the Roman empire, (e.g. There were 5 different variations of the roman cross), but in order to ascertain the particular method used in the gospels, it's important to pay attention to what the scriptures say.
For instance, there is evidence that some crucified victims had their knees bent up to waist level, their hips turned side-wards, and the nail entering the side of the heal and exiting the side of the other heal, effectively pinning the feet side by side. This has led to some Bible illustrators choosing to depict this mode of crucifixion for the Lord Jesus.
There are two problems with this. One, we know from scripture that the roman soldiers wanted to brake the legs of the crucified victims in order to speed up their death. We also know that the reason the roman soldiers broke the victims legs, (below the knee), was to stop them from lifting themselves up, which a crucified person needed to do in order to breath! If the legs were already bent up to the waist, there would be no reason to brake the legs!
Secondly, when you view the skeletal remains of a victim crucified in this way, the iron nail clearly shatters the bones of the heal, yet scripture makes it clear that no bones of the Lord Jesus were broken.
These are the reasons that I have chosen to portray the crucifixion in what would probably be considered the traditional method. Your comments are always welcome!
In closing, I've just heard that these pictures have been used for the first time last week in a childrens holiday club.
The club was well attended by over 100 children every day.
When it came to the crucifixion, a small boy burst into tears and gave his heart to the Lord! Please pray for him.
This picture set brings the total Bible picture count to 685!