1997 Sept 14.1 (Bulletin Letters)

1997 Sept 14.1 (Bulletin Letters)

‘Crucifixion as a penalty was remarkably widespread in antiquity. It appears in various forms among numerous peoples of the ancient world, even among the Greeks… [It] was and remained a political and military punishment. While among the Persian and the Carthaginians it was imposed primarily on high officials and commanders, as on rebels, among the Romans it was inflicted above all on the lower classes, ie., slaves, violent criminals, and the unruly elements in rebellious provinces, not least in Judaea. The chief reason for its use was it allegedly supreme efficacy as a deterrent; it was, of course, carried out publicly…. It was usually associated with other forms of torture, including at least flogging… By the public display of a naked victim at a prominent place– at a crossroads, in the theater, on high ground, at the place of his crime– crucifixion also represented his uttermost humiliation, which had a numinous dimension to it. With Deuteronomy 21/23 in the background, the Jew in particular was very aware of this… Crucifixion was aggravated further by the fact that quite often its victims were never buried. It was a stereotyped picture that the crucified victim serve as food for wild beast and bird of prey. In this way his humiliation was made complete. What it meant for a man in antiquity to be refused burial, and the dishonor which went with it, can hardly be appreciated by modern man.

From Martin Hegels Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross


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