I agree with a lot of the answers on here so far. If JW's are going to be honest with themselves and if they truely believe that Jesus died on a torture stake instead of a cross or whatever, they would have to admit that the only reason why they believe this is because the Watchtower Society says it's true because there is no way for them to "know" if this is true. They believe it's true because the Watchtower said so, that's all. Who cares what the Watchtower says, we know they're frauds even if the average JW wants to parrot what the Society says, so sad...
"Jesus did not die on the cross" (Gunnar Samuelsson)
Others have said it, and I agree:
this is not pertinent to faith. It is hard to imagine that Jesus cares.
One of the most popular studies of the matter on this:
Unfortunately I do not yet have a copy of Samuelsson's dissertation, so I cannot comment in detail on his analysis. His abstract and some quotes from the seventh chapter are presented at the ETC blog. Much of what is posted there is quite measured and echoes my own views as well. It looks like we agree that there is no implication in the terms stauros and crux themselves on how the apparatus used in crucifixion looked; these terms were used primarily to indicate the manner of the execution rather than the form the apparatus took. We always need additional information provided textually beyond the terms themselves in order to say anything about the form(s) of the apparatus, and for the most part, ancient sources were very coy about describing crucifixion in a detailed manner. So it is on these grounds that I show that Livy did not specifically refer to a crux simplex as claimed by the Society; there is nothing specific in his references to execution that warrant such specificity. Cicero wrote a lot about crucifixion but never once gave any details on what the crux looked like. So if one wants to talk about a shift in meaning in the semantics of stauros and the verbal form anastauroó, the shift was NOT when they began to refer to a device with two beams, but when they began to refer to a form of execution involving suspension. The form of the apparatus likely varied considerably according to local practice and the whims of the executioner, and with respect to the Latin crux, Seneca shows that it could be used to refer to a wide variety of different kinds of executions involving wooden instruments, including internal impalement. But it was when stauros developed a technical sense of referring to an instrument used in execution that the shift in meaning took place (about the fifth century BC), and henceforth it referred to those instruments and executions in whatever form they took. One should be wary about maintaining an etymological bias that because the "original" meaning of stauros was "stake" (as it is in Homer and other early writers), the device must otherwise be assumed to be a stake when used as a device in execution. This glosses over the actual shift in meaning that is attested in ancient sources; from a prosaic stake used for architectural and other purposes to a form of execution involving suspension (a sense never attested in Homer). Since the apparatus and the practice of execution by suspension was variable and unfixed and subject to technological innovation, the term stauros would have had reference to whatever devices and practices were in vogue, including those involving the use of crossbeams. There was no necessary shift in meaning when it came to refer to devices containing crossbeams; it was still the device used in execution by suspension. Similarly, the meaning of the word "car" does not change if the vehicle has two doors or four doors; this word refers to a range of vehicles of highly variable form and style.
And as I have shown before, the references to crucifixion in the gospels are laconic and ambiguous. If Samuelsson argues that nothing can be conclusively proven about the form of Jesus' stauros, I would agree. The gospels do not clearly describe how the stauros was put together and how it looked. And some references, such as Thomas' reference to plural "nails", can be overinterpreted. But I would also say that one can assess the textual evidence and determine which of the two possibilities (stauros with a crossbeam or stauros without one) is more likely. And my conclusion is that the two-beamed cross is the more probable candidate. But this is different from a conclusive determination of the form of Jesus' stauros. So I am intruiged by the headline in the newspaper article that "Jesus did not die on the cross", which is much less measured than what I've read from Samuelsson so far. This would suggest that there is enough evidence to assert definitively that the stauros lacked a crossbeam. This conclusion I would definitely disagree with. Perhaps this is not Samuelsson's claim but that of the headline writer (reporters in the media often miss the subtlety of academic claims). But if it is Samuelsson's own, he could make this claim one of two ways: Either crucifixion with composite crosses did not exist at the time Jesus was crucified, or the biblical evidence is sufficient to show that a crossbeam was not used. I would be very, very interested to read of his commentary of the primary texts involved in either case. The early sources that imo establish the use of crossbeams in crucifixion include Plautus (not all his references however are unambiguous), Clodius, Seneca, Barnabas, Artemidorus, Lucian, the Lex Puteoli inscription, and then there are more ambiguous references to stauros-bearing in Plutarch and Chariton that favor the use of crossbeams, as well as the remark on the variety of crucifixion styles used by the Roman soldiers in Josephus, which disfavors the thesis that only crucifixion on a single beam was used. With respect to the crucifixion of Jesus, biblical sources include references to stauros-bearing, the titulus placed over the head instead of hands, and the reference to outstretched hands as a feature of a "kind of death" (contextually linked to crucifixion, since the phrase "what kind of death" earlier had reference to crucifixion in the Fourth Gospel). Much stronger and explicit is the reference to the shape of Jesus' stauros as resembling a T in Barnabas (written c. AD 70-135) and Justin Martyr (c. AD 155). What is important about Barnabas is that its discussion of the Passion is not influenced by the gospels but draws on the same body of exegetical traditions that the gospels themselves draw on (see Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels for a discussion). And we have the earliest pictoral representations of Jesus' stauros, or the stauros per se, at the beginning of the third century AD: the Alexamenos graffito and the staurograms in some of the oldest fragments of the gospels (P 66 , P 75 , P 45 ). Finally, on account of the generalized way some of these references (such as in Lucian and Artemidorus) are worded, it is possible to surmise whether crucifixion with crossbeams were exceptional or in fact widespread and general.
Anyway, I can't wait to read his book, especially since close lexicographical work has been sorely lacking on this subject.
Thanks for the input, as always Leo :)
I wonder why Samuelsson got into this?
I mean, outside of the JW world does anyone believe or even care whether Jesus died on a cross or not?
From what I gather, the evidence for a "cross like" crucifiction far outweights against it, whether you use the NT sources, extra biblical ones,historical ones or medical ones.
Haven't people got better things to write dissertations on?
I wrote mine on the effect of performance related pay an employee motivation.
Good question, as my interest was kindled by my familiarity with the WTS views on the subject. But actually, this is a huge wide open area for someone like Samuelsson to produce new research on, and there has been a sore need for this kind of study for a very long time. If I had stuck with classics instead of going into linguistics, I probably would have done exactly the kind of study Samuelsson did (tho my conclusions may have been different).
cantleave.....A friend of mine wrote his whole dissertation on the word "with".
Leolaia - I would love to read that. He must be extremely creative.
Well....I have to be honest here, but unless Samuelsson has gotten some new and revolutionary evidence, it all smacks of opinion, speculation and re-interpretation with some bias, BUT, like you said, no has actually read it yet so we may all be jumping the gun here.
Is there any reason to believe that Jesus did NOT get crucified on a cross? I mean, it was the typical way of the romans crucifing people wasn't it?