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 Cross
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!


Horseman said...

Looks great.

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

That was taken from John 20. Considering the scriptures, the hand is indeed the place the nails went. I always wondered why the nails were often shown in the wrists - now I know. It seems that you did a great job researching things, as usual.

I will pray for the boy.

Bible artist said...

Thanks Horseman!
Yes, doubting Thomas is another good scriptural reference for the hands.

There was so much info on this one that I wanted to share, (e.g. The nailing of the feet, the crown of thorns, the sign above the cross, etc), but the post was already one of the longest ones yet!

I will maybe add some more info to (part 2).
Thanks so much for your continued interest & prayers.

Paul Green said...

I'm impressed with your research Graham. It is true that after many years in which 'experts' stated the nails would be placed through the wrist many are now stating nails would have been placed in the palms, but supported by a small wooden block to prevent ripping through the palm due to the weight of the body.
I was surprised to see a fully clothed Jesus in your illustration until you mentioned the gospel references to Jesus being clothed. As always it is essential to refer to gospel sources for accuracy rather than depend on artist depictions through the centuries.

Bible artist said...

They did strip Jesus again just before the crucifixion which I will cover in part 2. This was when they cast lots for His inner garment.

Bear in mind that the garment that they were casting lots for, had been put back onto Jesus directly after the scourging, and so would have been soaked in blood! It shows that the roman soldiers were not very particular!

Paul Green said...

A recent documentary mentioned the fact that only one crucified skeleton from the 1st century with a nail intact has ever been discovered. This is the skeleton of a heel with the nail embedded in it. It appears some were crucified in this manner, while others were simply left to hang with the wrists tied to a cross or a tree to die a slow death from asphyxiation. Nails were also used in various ways. There wasn't one consistent method of crucifixion in the Roman Empire.

Bible artist said...

That makes sense.
Most of the nails would have been either removed in order to take the body off the cross, or the body would have been pulled off the cross leaving the nails intact.

There would be occasions when the nails were driven through the bone, when the nail and bone could not be separated. I didn't realize that there was only one example of this from the first century though.
That must have been the photo I saw.
Thanks Paul.

Patrick said...

I'm late in the discussion, but that's better than never. ;)

Those who support the "'hands'=wrists" theory usually point out that in Greek, the word usually translated as 'hand' (cheir), referred to both the arm and hand. There is a Greek word for wrist (karpos), but it is only used in the Greek Septuagint.

Apparently, the use of cheir in a broad sense reflects Hebrew and Aramaic usage, which seems to lack a specific term for the wrist. For example, in Acts 12:7 it says that when the angel freed St. Peter, his chains fell off "his hands". Of course, that does not mean Peter had his chains around his fingers! Also Genesis 24:22, which says that Abraham's servant gave Rebekah bracelets for her "hands".

Of course, given that there is indeed support for the traditional depiction (as shown by Dr. Frederick Zugibe), I don't think we necessarily need to imagine the nails to be on the wrist proper anymore.

By the way, I'll just comment on the number of nails. While it has become common nowadays to depict the Lord being crucified with three nails (one on each hand + one on both feet), this artistic convention has actually only come into being around the Middle Ages.

It was around the early part of the 13th century that most of Western art (with a few exceptions) began to represent the feet of Jesus as placed one over the other and pierced with a single nail. This convention had already existed for a century or two, but it was around that time when the three-nails version took hold in Western art.

Now, the earliest depictions we have of crucifixions, for example, the so-called Alexamenos Graffito, dating from the late 1st-3rd century AD, show the crucified figure's feet as being separate (I have a few pics with me). Even unto the present day, most Eastern icons - which are quite strict in following traditional artistic conventions - still show Jesus being pierced with four nails.

By the way, the crucified skeleton discovered in Giv'at ha-Mivtar (the guy's name is, according to the inscription found on his ossuary, Jehohanan) might lend credence to the 'crucifixion with four nails' depiction. Originally, Nicu Haas of the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem examined the bones and originally came into the conclusion (1970) that both Jehohanan's heels were affixed by one nail to the front of the cross.
However, in 1985, Joe Zias, then-curator of Archaeology/Anthropology for the Israel Antiquities Authority and Eliezer Sekeles reexamined the bones and found that many of the conclusions upon which Haas' attempted reconstruction were made were flawed; for example, the nail which he reported to be 17-18 centimeters long was but 11.5 centimeters, thus making it anatomically impossible to pierce two heels with one nail. It is instead proposed that the heels may have been nailed separate!

Paul Green said...

Great research Patrick. I'm interested to hear one nail couldn't have pierced both ankles. The more we learn about crucifixion the more we realize how unbelievably cruel it was. This should come as no surprise from a nation that engaged in spectacles of extreme sadism. The Romans seemed to find perverse pleasure in watching people suffer and die.

I find it amazing how all the blame of the crucifixion was placed on the Jews in medieval Europe. The Romans (Italians) who hammered the nails into Jesus and were responsible for the death of thousands of early Christians get something of a free pass.

Bible artist said...

Good point Paul and yes, great research again Patrick.
It's good to get some new comments on some of the older blogs. I'm always trying to encourage new readers to look back through the archives.

Patrick said...

Just as an addendum to my comment. Note that I link a lot (apologies in advance): :(

The Alexamenos graffito:

Ironically, this earliest image we have of a crucifixion was not made by a devout Christian, but by someone who is making a mockery of Christianity. Note the crucified figure's donkey-head, for example (by the way, the inscription could be read either as "Alexamenos, worship God!" or "Alexamenos worships [his] God"). It was a common stereotype in those days that Jews and Christians worshipped donkeys.

Another graffiti:

I haven't read anything about this graffiti in English sources (I've actually encountered this only on an Italian site), but it would seem that this was found somewhere in Puzzuoli. If I recall correctly, this drawing was probably based on someone who was crucified on the amphitheater.

This one's a gem from Syria (the Pereire jasper), dated as probably being made around the late 2nd-3rd century AD.
It's common knowledge that in the early days of Christianity, Christians did not directly depict the crucified Lord, probably out of reverence and the fact that crucifixion was simply too horrendous and brutal to be portrayed on an artistic medium (it was really in many ways a cultural taboo). They were content to either just write about it or to reference the crucifixion and the cross through a number of symbols - say, the letter T. However, one interesting fact is, those in the fringes - say, Gnostic sects, freely carved images of Jesus crucified on their amulets. It was kind of an (ab)use
- we can already see Jesus' name being used in magical formulas and incantations and other mystic mumbo-jumbo of the period as a word of power, for example. Here's another gem, by the way:

A wooden panel from the doors of the basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome (430-32):

This is one of the first orthodox depictions of the crucifixion of Jesus, made a century after Christianity was finally decriminalized. Contemporaneous to this is a depiction on an ivory casket:

Now, one of the noticeable things in these early depictions is that the victim's feet are portrayed as being either side-by-side or straddling the vertical post!

Patrick said...

Mr. Paul:

Yep, that seems to be true. As humans get more and more technologically 'advanced', they starts to devise more efficient and more cruel ways to inflict harm on each other. I mean, back in the very old days our fathers only had sharpened rocks - nowadays we have guns or blades or bombs and the like.

And yes, I do find anti-Semitism which pervaded a number of circles in the medieval period to be very despicable. Why should we blame ALL Jews for the death of Jesus when only a number of them in the distant past actually participated in it? If we are to apply such reasoning on other areas, we might as well blame all modern-day Persians for attacking Greece or hold all of present-day France guilty for conquering England!

IMHO, theologically speaking, each and everyone of us are responsible for Jesus' death. We may not be there, but we are in a sense the ones pounding the nails and plaiting the thorns because of our sins. We are all literally the 'Christ-killers'.

Bible artist said...

Thanks for all the links above Patrick, and all the time you've spent researching this. Very helpful!
Yes, you are absolutely right, as sinners, we are all guilty.

deboraw said...

Patrick, Thank you for sharing your research. I enjoyed the reading, even though the subject isn't pleasant. If you take a group of children and ask them a simple account of 'what happened here', it is always the finger pointing game. So it is with those who view the crucifixion.

Paul Green said...

Yes finger pointing is part of human nature from an early age Deboraw. We all like to think of ourselves as the good guy and in doing so we are all involved in self deception.

Patrick said...

By the way, if I could add some more suggestions:

- Traditionally, we often depict Jesus' cross in the shape of a plus sign (+), probably based on Matthew's account that the inscription was above Jesus' head.

Another possibility I've heard of, however, is that the cross itself was probably T-shaped, assembled using mortise-and-tenon joint, where the patibulum would have a mortise (a hole) in the middle, which fitted snugly to the stipes' tenon, a projection on the end of a timber for insertion into a mortise. The inscription, in turn, would have been fixed to a pole and carried by a soldier marching before Jesus (another possibility besides having it around His neck).

This placard-on-a-stick would have then been later fixed to the top, which would have been the origins of the Latin cross!

Patrick said...


- We often show Golgotha as being a sort of hill, even calling it at times 'Mount Calvary'. There is no explicit mention of Golgotha as a raised place, however, until the 4th century, when it is spoken of as a monticulus ('little hill') by an anonymous pilgrim from Burdigala (Bordeaux). The expression does not occur again until once in the 6th century, after which we do not come across it until Bernard the Pilgrim visited Palestine in the 9th century and spoke of a Mons Calvariae. From thence the expression was adopted by Western writers and became popular. The early Greek writers, with the exception of Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329 – 389/390) and Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313 – 386), also never speak of it as being connected with a hill or a height, and it must be remembered that both lived a bit after the traditional area, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands, was officially discovered by Constantine.

The traditional assumption that it was a high area may probably lie on the fact that the traditional area was an isolated knoll. I believe that you once linked to an interview with Dr. Ritmeyer about the site, right?

The one thing that got me in that article was the part: "It is believed that this hill was used to crucify criminals, although there are problems with the size of the rock offering enough space for three crosses."

This is where it got me. The Gospels do not say that it was a hill – or for that matter, that the 'Skull Place' was an elevated area at all; they all just say something to the effect that it was a "place (topos) called 'Skull'," which could mean a more wider location. Even early Christians seem to have tended also to think that Golgotha was the name of the region rather than that specific outcrop of rock, which we now know as the 'Rock of Calvary'. Even when the traditional site was determined as the actual location of the crucifixion, it still did not become 'the' Golgotha until about the 6th century AD. Before that, it was just "the rock of the Cross;" (Egeria, Itin. 24.7; 25.9, 11; 27.3, 6; 30.1, 2; 31.4; 35.2; 36.4.5; 37.1.4, 5, 8; 39.2; Jerome, Ep. 58.3.) while the basilica itself was "on Golgotha."

This is just my personal interpretation, but combined with these, based on the Roman rhetorician Quintilian's statement that:

Whenever we crucify the guilty, the most crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect.

I thus personally think that Jesus was crucified nearer to the roadside where passersby can see Him more up-close, not on the knoll of Golgotha itself, if it was already on that shape at that time (I'm assuming the traditional location here rather than Gordon's Calvary). The rocky outcrop could have served more as the backdrop of the scene instead. The Gospels themselves may support this, since "those passing by" were the ones who taunted the dying Jesus, and that people saw the placard above His head "because the place was near to the city where Jesus was crucified." Their statements would have made little sense if the Lord hung on a high hill a good distance off the roads and the city, as some artists back then showed it!

Paul Green said...

As you know Patrick, the gospels mention the fact the women looked upon Jesus from a distance. This is often used as evidence of a raised place but given a clear view there's no reason they couldn't see Jesus from a distance on level ground. It all depends on what the actual distance was.
As always your research is detailed. It's true Romans crucified criminals along highways for all to see. The film "Spartacus" demonstrated this to great effect.
The idea of Jesus being crucified on a mount creates a more dynamic image for many artists. And as we know nearly all classical artists were more interested in effects than facts.

Patrick said...

Thanks Mr. Paul! :)

Yep, the events at the end of the Third Servile War, where the captured slaves (all 6000 of them) were crucified along the Appian Way from Rome to Capua - the distance of which was 132 miles! (though of course, contrary to Kubrick, historians think it likely that Spartacus perished in battle: his body was never found).

That is one of the horrors of crucifixion: the victim would be hung where passersby can likely see him, his naked and bleeding body serving as a deterrent against questioning the might of Rome.

It can get really sadistic: when Alexander Jannaeus (King of Judea and High Priest from 103 BC to 76 BC) had Pharisees - the party was one of his bitter opponents - captured during the civil war which occured during his reign, he had 800 of them crucified while he was feasting with his concubines, "in the sight of all the city" as Josephus said it. To add insult to injury, he even had their wives and children killed before their very eyes!

I'm with you about the women. Matthew and Mark do note that they looked on 'from a distance', but personally I don't see anything that requires a high ground there.

And BTW, I've read somewhere that the 'mount' in art may have its origins in that artistic tradition - still alive in the East - of depicting Jesus' cross as standing on a little mound with a skull in it (either a reference to its name 'Skull Place' or to a story that Adam's bones were interred in the spot which would later be Golgotha): of course the 'mound' was itself a reference to the rocky outcrop contained inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Of course, the earliest depictions either depicted no mound or at best, a small and insconspicuous one: as time passed though, some artists started making this mound bigger and bigger, and since then, people had generally assumed that Jesus was crucified atop a high ridge, giving us hymns such as 'There is a Green Hill Far Away' or 'On Golgotha's Hill Christ the Son'.

Patrick said...

And by the way, since we're talking about artistic depictions being 'more interested in effects than facts':

Since the Middle Ages, there was this boom among artists in the Christian West to make Jesus' cross VERY tall, perhaps influenced by the decision to (1) make the Lord look special even at death (that He gets to be crucified on a high gibbet and have, like, half of the population of Jerusalem watching Him from below! :D), and (2) make sense of the Gospel accounts which had the oxos ('vinegar'; probably posca or sour wine) being offered to Him on a 'reed'/hyssop.

Ordinarily though, it seems more likely that victims of crucifixion were crucified on short vertical posts that were probably barely higher than the height of a man (another fact that the earliest artists got right! ;)): I've heard of wild dogs being able to bite off the victims' legs and feet, for example.

We need to remember that the Romans liked effiency: if Jesus was nailed onto a high cross, you'd gotta need like 6-7 (probably more) men, and a huge supply of ropes! For example, in Mel Gibson's The Passion, it took quite a lot of manpower just to lift the cross up; and in Jesus of Nazareth they had to hoist Him up with ropes and pullies on a giant scaffolding of sorts. With a short vertical post, though, only four or less men are required: you'd probably never even need a ladder, you and another guy can just hoist the victim and the patibulum up with your hands and fix it to the stipes.

BTW, Mr. Graham did a very good job in not making Jesus' cross so high, IMHO. :)

Paul Green said...

There are scholars who believe Jesus was crucified or "hung" on a tree based on scripture (Acts, 1 Peter, Galatians). They simply fixed the cross beam to the tree trunk.
The fact that Judas then hung himself from a tree takes on added meaning. Jesus died for our sins hanging on a tree and Judas paid the ultimate price of betrayal (representing fallen mankind) by taking his own life hanging on a tree and later falling and literally spilling his guts. The blood of Christ for our sins. The blood of Judas for his own sins.
Only God can forgive.

Artists and the established churches are responsible for many misinterpretations of gospel material. All to promote their own agenda of course.

Patrick said...

That certainly is one likely possibility IMHO. It could also be though that the references to Jesus as hanging on a 'tree' should be read as an intentional allusion to Deuteronomy 21:22-23 ("his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God"); rather than describing how Jesus' cross actually looked like, Peter or Paul were more keen to draw a connection between the two.

I'll admit that some pieces of medieval art that I really like are those which show Jesus crucified on an actual tree (or which shows a tree blossoming from the cross or the cross blossoming from a tree). The symbolism here, of course, is that the cross and/or Jesus is being identified with the Tree of Life: the Lord hung on a tree of death and turned it into a tree of life, so to speak.

This typology is of course taken up a notch in some legends in Western Christendom: Jesus' cross is now literally made out of timber from the descendants of the Tree of Life. According to this story, three trees grew out of three seeds which came from this tree. When Adam died and was buried, Seth put the seeds inside the mouth of Adam's corpse. Millenia (?) later, the tree which sprouted out of it was cut down and the wood used to build a bridge over which the Queen of Sheba passed, on her journey to meet King Solomon. The timber was eventually discarded; centuries later, the wood taken from the bridge was fashioned into the Cross used to crucify Christ!

In another version meanwhile, Aaron's rod - which itself was a fragment of the Tree - was used as the horizontal beam of the cross after the executioners found out that they've run out of wood: Judas gave them the staff for this purpose (he only got it after he stole it from James, who received it from Joseph, who in turn was revealed its hiding place after many centuries, of course ;) ).

Patrick said...

BTW, beautiful and very true statement, Mr. Paul. :)
It's now my turn to ask:

Where did we get the assumption that Judas hung himself on a tree anyway? I know that the earliest art depicts him already hanging on one (this one from the early 5th century, to be exact - which juxtaposes Judas' and Jesus' deaths:, but does the traditional location of Akeldama support it?

Paul Green said...

Good question Patrick. My assumption is based on trying to reconcile the two accounts of Judas' death. A tree branch weakened by a rotting, bloated body would seem the logical explanation for Judas falling into the field.
Judas could have hung himself over the edge of a cliff (scholars mention this as the alternative to a tree.) There is no way of knowing for certain. But it does appear that Akeldama is an area surrounded by cliffs and rocky outcrops. This doesn’t exclude the fact of trees in or near the actual “Potter’s Field” of course.

Patrick said...

Thanks for that Mr. Paul!

Patrick said...

I have something to add, BTW:
Some ancient sources mention a sort of wooden ledge or crotch support attached halfway (usually known as sedile, 'seat' or cornu 'horn') down the cross, which gave the victim something to lean on, thereby relieving some of the stress on the body and prolonging his agony, which was, after all, the point of crucifixion: denying the victim instant death and letting them suffer for as long as possible. There are still debates about whether the footrest (suppedaneum) you commonly see in traditional iconography was actually employed.

The one thing where artists differ from reality is that, while they often depict the crucified Jesus as upright with his back and buttocks touching the cross upright, in reality the victim would flex forward because of the pull of gravity, with his pelvis and chest lunging forward away from the vertical post, which would put a lot of pressure on those nails through the flesh of the palms and tops of the feet, making it easy for the victim to tear free (if they were nailed) and fall off. The only solution here is either to sit the victim in a sedile or have him stand with all of his weight on a suppedaneum (the slanting footrest of Renaissance art IMHO would not work that well in real life). Both of these kill gravity’s pull forward away from the cross.

Patrick said...

I'm gonna post here again:

"Most of the nails would have been either removed in order to take the body off the cross, or the body would have been pulled off the cross leaving the nails intact."

Given the scarcity of iron at the time it's possible that they reused the nails over and over again until they became too rusty to be usable (ugh...just imagine having a rusty spike through your body!). Some people also found another use for nails or ropes used in crucifixions: they used them as amulets (Mishna, Tractate Sabbath 6.10; Pliny, Naturalis Historia 28.11)

Patrick said...

About Gabbatha:

Since the Middle Ages, the Antonia Fortress at the northern side of the Temple has been identified as the Praetorium of the Gospels, though recently, a number of scholars have proposed instead that the Praetorium was actually in the grounds of Herod's Palace in the western side of the city. At the time of Jesus the fortress seemed more like an observation tower for the Romans to monitor the pilgrims that flock the Temple: it was too small to serve as governing headquarters and residence of the governing official.

Recently some folks have identified Gabbatha as being monumental gateway, excavated in the 1970s, found along the western Old City wall in the 280-meter stretch between the southern moat of the Citadel and the present-day southwest angle of the Old City.

The excavations revealed a monumental gateway, built somewhere in the latter part of the 1st century BC (probably during the time of Herod the Great), with the remains of a large courtyard situated between two inner and outher fortification walls, each with respective gates. On the northern side of the courtyard was a rocky outcrop and on top of it was a small rectangular built platform with steps: the southern side seems to have been originally paved, albeit the paving stones are now gone; they were probably taken away during the Byzantine period. The outcrop and the paving may be the reason why John names it in Greek Lithostrotos (the 'Stone Pavement').

It would seem that the gateway complex, leading directly to the palace and thus hardly likely to have been used as a public thoroughfare, originally served as Herod the Great's private entrance, especially after when the high priest Hyrcanus refused him access to Jerusalem, on the occasion of the death of Antipater (ca. 43 BC) on the grounds that some of his gentile soldiers might contaminate the pilgrims in the city (Josephus, Antiquities 14.285; War 1.229).

The site today (the wall seen in the photo is the 16th century Turkish wall built by Suleiman the Magnificent, resting on top of earlier Herodian era stones):

Balage Balogh's depiction of the trial of Jesus being held in this area (note that the outer wall of the courtyard is not depicted here, making the complex partly open):

Patrick said...

Oh, and by the way: Gabbatha (Γαββαθα, גבהתא) actually means "high (place)" or "elevated (place)" in Aramaic.

Paul Green said...

One nail exists from the 1st century. It's buried in the heel bone of the crucified person and is so bent it couldn't be removed from the bone. As you say Patrick the reason more haven't survived is they were recycled. Why waste new nails on criminals? And why would anyone want to preserve them anyway? Jesus was viewed as just another political agitator. The Romans would have taken the nails and re-used them. There was no sentimentality involved in crucifixion. Only latter-day artists have turned a bloody execution into imagery for worship. The reality was grief, confusion and a great sense of loss. Nobody was interested in preserving the bloody instruments of torture.

Patrick said...

"The reality was grief, confusion and a great sense of loss."

That was EXACTLY why Christianity was an impossible faith for many in the ancient world - its Founder was an executed criminal!

St. Paul was actually being radical for his time when he wrote: "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" or even "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Of course, after 2000 years of faith and interpretation we take these words for granted or even say an occasional 'Amen', but for a 1st-century audience these words were actually revolutionary, almost even offensive. I mean: Christ crucified? Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? You never even mention the word 'crucifixion' in polite company in those days, but Paul is very big on the crucified Jesus.

Not only that. The Gospels themselves emphasize the death of Jesus Christ hugely. It is basically the climax and the core of all four, catching up themes that weave their way through the evangelists' entire portrayal of our Lord's life and bringing them to a dramatic completion. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give much of Jesus' life a short shrift without much detail - the earlier parts of the Gospels read almost like bald, somewhat compressed summaries of what happened in this time or that - but once Holy Week starts, the narrative pace slows down and the details come into sharp focus. Even the post-Resurrection accounts cannot match up to the amount of comprehensiveness the Gospels devote to Jesus' 'last' days. In fact, someone had said because of this that the Gospels are but actually records of the Lord's death, with increasingly longer prefatory material.

Now there is actually one thing I find to be rather unfortunate in many Christian Churches today: the under-emphasis on the Cross. However, we must keep in mind that there would be no Resurrection without the Passion.

Patrick said...

Since we're talking about 'Cross':

John Calvin once said (something repeated by the humanist Erasmus) about the purported fragments of Jesus' cross, which were so widespread by the end of the Middle Ages: "if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load." Of course, he may have speaking in hyperbole, but some folks took him at his word up to the present day.

This may have been what have prompted a French architect named Charles Rohault de Fleury (1801-1875) to investigate just how the pieces would add up to. He drew up a catalogue of all known relics of the True Cross and calculated them.

The total known volume of known relics of the True Cross, according to his catalogue, amounts to approximately .004 cubic meters (more specifically 3,942,000 cubic millimeters), leaving a volume of .174 cubic meters lost, destroyed, or otherwise unaccounted for. Assuming that Jesus' cross was three or four meters in height, with transverse branch of two meters wide, Rohault de Fleury estimated that all the pieces together would only amount to less than one-third of a cross.

If we assume (this is just a personal idea) that about half or more of the purported 'relics' that Rohault de Fleury cataloged are actually fakes, then the number drastically drops even further.

Paul Green said...

Given the fact the cross may only have consisted of the crossbar attached to a tree the relics gathered would more of a true approximation of the cross Patrick. There is some evidence that criminals were executed in this manner by Romans. It saves on wood and is more practical. I've seen a demonstration of it in a documentary on the subject and it is viable. There is also Biblical text that supports Jesus being hung from a tree. It fits in with Judas hanging from a tree as the ultimate perversion of Jesus' sacrifice.