The image of the crucifixion, one of the most powerful emblems of Christianity, may be quite erroneous, according to a study which says there is no evidence to prove Jesus was crucified in this manner.
Christ could have been crucified in any one of many ways, all of which would have affected the causes of his death, a paper published by Britain’s prestigious Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) says.
“The evidence available demonstrates that people were crucified in different postures and affixed to crosses using a variety of means,” said one of the authors, Piers Mitchell of Imperial College London. “Victims were not necessarily positioned head up and nailed through the feet from front to back, as is the imagery in Christian churches.”
The authors do not express any doubt on the act of Jesus’ crucifixion itself. But they note that the few eyewitness descriptions available today of crucifixions in the 1st century AD show the Romans had a broad and cruel imagination.
Their crucifixion methods probably evolved over time and depended on the social status of the victim and on the crime he allegedly committed, says the paper in April’s issue of the RSM journal.
The cross could be erected “in any one of a range of orientations”, with the victim sometimes head-up, sometimes head-down or in different postures.
Sometimes he was nailed to the cross by his genitals, sometimes the hands and feet were attached to the side of the cross and not the front, or affixed with cords rather than nails…