Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The reality of the Crucifixion [not for the squeamish] [a repost]

{Fr Ray Blake has opined that the evangelists were sensitive enough to be reticent in describing the brutality Our Lord went through on Good Friday}

I'm not sure if I should really say anything but I had to research crucifixion and roman scourging for my work on the Marcan Passion Narrative and it refutes many contemporary dismissive conjectures and fantasies regarding what truly happened during those three days of the Easter Triduum.

Please remember that the moment Our Lord was condemned to death by crucifixion he became a non-person
[it's also one of the theories about why Barabbas is called Barabbas - there's possible illegitimacy [i.e. his [unknown] father's son] ; but it could be his father was executed and therefore unnamable by judaic as well as roman law so Barabbas was called 'his father's son' ]
Non-persons were subject to the full villainy of the Roman soldiers' hyper-violent malice, contempt and hostility - with no reprisals - they could do anything - and I mean anything - to the criminal.

On scrutiny of  Matthew's Passion many commentators believe it has undergone some revision and editing - there are absences within the regular pericopal structure - merely enough to emphasise the extreme poignancy and bitterest of ironies of the kingship, the messianic identity, the Godhood,  are all sysstematically mocked.
I cannot remember where it is [probably Justin Martyr ?] where there is a reference to possibly the Q or M sources where there is a brief more brutal depiction which seems to be a proto-gospel quotation.

Remember too that our imagery and artistic portrayals surrounding the crucifixion is simply wrong

[ironically everything we know about contemporary crucifixions is verified by the shroud of Turin - e.g. the arms over the crossbeam , the hemlock wedged in to hold the nails in place; the extension of the feet nail holes indicating the pivot to prevent long-term diaphragm respiration without tearing of the feet etc.]

The top of the cross was barely seven feet above the ground - the reason we imagine Crosses  to be high was the Gospel reference to reaching with a sponge on the hyssop stick - the stick was to prevent fingers being bitten off by the dying victim - not for reasons of height.
Remember too that Golgotha was a rubbish dump -an open sewer - vermin cared little if their food source was dead yet - the body was not placed as the JPII cross imagines but the knees were raised to the side and the body contorted -and the pains involved are unimaginable - the direct shredding of nerves, the excruciating rapid muscle death, the poisoning of limbs with tetany, oedema fluid flooding the pericardium and drowning the heart from without...

...yet death does not come !!!
The body dies around the person before they ultimately expire....there is a no more sadistic form of death - it's there as a form of proselytism to enemies - " so die the enemies of Rome".

Hanging from a tree was the punishment in Judaism for a false prophet - again a non-person - there could be no reprisals for any degree of humiliation or malevolence one inflicted upon the dying....

We are not informed of this because we could not cope with it; even in the Mel Gibson bloodthirsty Hollywood debacle it was nothing compared to what truly happened....

When we read speculative academics like Barbara Thiering or the da Vinci code conspiracy theorists speaking of Christ surviving the crucifixion we must understand this is an impossibility. Crucifixion was not like the filipino emulations - the victim - even if taken down within a few hours would not even be able to crawl upon their bellies - the muscles and fascia would have been damaged and poisoned irreparably; neuropathy would be the predominant sensation -no feelng except for agonising electrical short-circuiting in the limbs - heart damage would prevent even the slightest physical exertion - brain damage would cause intermittent convulsions and fits.

So in your wildest imaginings never, ever, ever imagine that the Resurrection was not exactly as it was - it simply could not have been Christ having a cataleptic fit on the cross and being presumed dead in the haste for Passover preparations; being placed in the tomb only to recover later.
Make no mistake: Our Lord and Saviour died on that cross -it could not have been any other way...

Hence comes the awkward, unsettling fact of the Resurrection.
Jesus was dead - and if He was seen thereafter either every witness lied - or Jesus truly rose from the dead.

The testimony of  Mary Magdalene , of the Apostles and Evangelists, of those travelling to Emmaus, of the five hundred...of all those martyred for one single reason - their refusal to deny they witnessed and communed with Jesus after his execution and death at Roman hands...must all be lies - or must be true - there is no speculative middle ground open to us!

All too often we tend to shy away from history out of fear that the gospel stories aren't true - in abject fear we are reticent just in case Church dogmas aren't real, and there's the possibility that the whole of our faith is a lie [we're told such every five minutes by new 'evidences' for the historical Jesus by some academic - every Easter there is some new 'groundbreaking' TV documentary ]

But Ladies and Gentlemen: It really happened !!!
He did die - He is risen - do not run away from it because the weak and fearful world cannot face the fact of it....

P.S. A tiny warning that any historian will tell you. Truth is invariably stranger than fiction. The 'hardly likely' is more often the case than the 'axiomatically obvious'.
As with all history - we should always be careful what we assess as credible and what is more 'evangelistic licence' - yet ironically it's the facts which are 'hard to find feasible/tenable' that are the most corroborated by external sources!

Take for instance the Passion account that at the death of Christ there was  'darkness over the land'
[incidentally even an amateur astronomer would inform you an eclipse was an astronomical impossibility]
...and the earthquake?
Surely these are simply poetic licence - mythical melodramatic symbolism for emphasis?
The historians Thallus[AD52], Phlegon[AD137] and Africanus[AD221] confirm the darkness and earthquake happened !

[Certainly they may all be wrong ; but can we be so dismissive when we realise so much of Our History from fewer and more remote sources ; we take for granted that Suetonius was telling the truth that Caesar crossed the Rubicon 110 years after the event, and we firmly rely on Arrian and Plutarch on Alexander the Great 400 years after he died - so why are we so dismissive of the events surrounding our redemption?]


This Anonymous said...

But when Jesus died on the cross surely then there was no body any more, for the corpse is not a body. The body follows its own biological laws. The corpse follows a different set of organic laws that lead to decomposition. After two nights in the grave there must have been some progression towards decomposition? Are we to believe that a resurrected body is the same as an animated corpse? Or was the decomposition reversed and the raised body identical to that before death, or crucifixion?
Certainly the disciples recognized Christ, but seemingly for some not immediately, only when Christ addressed them in some personal way.
I believe in the resurrected body, but as a spiritualized body, whatever that means. I believe that the resurrected body and the corpse laid in the grave were not identical. That both existed (both were) at the same time. Is this theologically sound, I wonder?
In John, there is no account of the temptation in the desert after Jesus’ baptism, nor is the crucifixion scene as “bodily” graphic as the other gospel versions. John seems more to deal with Jesus Christ as God, the other evangelists seem to deal with him more as man. Solovyov’s point? Are we to view the Christ event as historical in form, descriptive of nature and supernature in “union”, rather than historical in mere natural fact?

jean said...

Like you I have done some research into crucifixions and honestly wish I hadn't! Now, when I pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary I apologise to Jesus (really!) saying "I'm sorry, I know you endured it but I CANNOT think about what you suffered. I can only thank you for doing it." and I meditate on WHY he did it and its results.

Johannes Faber said...

Bizarre request - diagram of what you're describing?

mrswupple said...

do these changes happen merely because the body is suspended in this way? Jesus took all our sufferings on himself certainly.

Richard Barker said...

Paul - Thanks for this good post which I've linked into from my Clarification about Crucifixions as
Richard Barker