The Romans did not crucify robbers

by purrpurr 24 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • purrpurr

    I've been reading a book called nonsense from the bible. In it it makes the point that the romans did not crucify robbers. Having since researched this it seems this is true. Crucifixion was reserved for serious crimes like creating rebellion etc.

    What's more it was a very slow death. Often lasting for several days. In contrast to jesus's death which happened in a matter of hours.

    I notice neither of these facts are ever in the WT!

  • Diogenesister

    Yes, I believe the Romans' reserved crucifiction for treason, basically, certainly not a minor crime like theft. Mindyou, does the NT actually call them thiefs?I can't remember, if so that definately does not fit historically.

    Regarding the slow death, it's true that the Romans, if they were being 'merciful'would brake the victims' legs to speed up what was normally a slow death from suffocation basically.

    The NT states that a Roman soldier pierces Jesus'side to speed up death so all could be completed prior to the sabbath. This is supposed to fulfill a "scripture" but it is unclear what scripture it is supposed to refer to. Exodus 12 and Numbers 9 are commandments regarding the pashel lamb and Psalms 34.20/19 talk about in the plural righteous people in general.

  • CalebInFloroda

    Actually from a Jewish perspective, may I add that our history is clear that the Romans used crucifixion any damn way the pleased.

    While Jesus may be the most famous Jew ever crucified, he was definitely not the only one. Many Jews were put to death in this agonizing fashion. While crucifixion was officially reserved for crimes which required capital punishment, this was not always the case unfortunately. Romans were no different from people of today who bend the rules and allow power to go to their heads to the point of abusing it and the people under them.

    While I don't believe Jesus was the Messiah, of course, as a Jew I can attest that the details of the crucifixion attributed to this case do suggest he was crucified with theives. The fact that an order to break their legs due to the coming Passover is something that implies a good knowledge of what crucifixion both does and why breaking legs was necessary before the Passover.

    The cross had a tiny footrest of sorts (sometimes the legs were just slightly bent at the knees instead) in order to agonizingly delay death by asphyxiation. Not being able to fully stand made the lungs fill and the person slowly drowned in their own bodily fluids. If they could fully stand and bring their arms in, they could stop this process and recover, but since they were nailed in this position with their arms outstretched it became impossible. Death could take days.

    But since Rome recognized Judaism as an official relgion of the state, crucifixions in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem had to be cut short when a Sabbath or other holy day approached. The Law forbid hanging people on a Sabbath. Romans had learned that by breaking the legs the lungs would instantly flood with bodily fluids and blood and the person would basically drown. So when something like the Passover arrived, the Romans were all too happy to oblige to clear away the crucified in this way as they were equally satisfied to watch the horrific struggle for air that would follow.

    It is also a peculiar note that the Gospels report that upon using a spear to determine if Jesus was dead that water and blood are spoken of as being released. (John 19.34) This suggests that the lung was pierced, and this is at least consistent with what is to be expected from death by crucifixion.

  • CalebInFloroda

    And, since I forgot to include this, the part about crucifying thieves:

    Knowing they would have to cut the execution short by at least 3 p.m., due to Sabbatical preparation, and the fact that you only hung local criminals on crosses (the people would not be affected as much by seeing the death of a Gentile, for instance), what sort of Jews would be available for crucifixion on this day?

    It was indeed a custom to pardon horrible criminals on Passover, so it was not likely that such a criminal deserving of this type of death would be available. And crimes among the Jews were somewhat limited in scope due to the fear most had of breaking the Mosaic Law. It also stands to make the death of Jesus even more shameful by executing him not with muderers but with common thieves, the leftovers of the criminal world. Why not? It was going to be a short day of executions anyway.

  • John Aquila
    John Aquila

    While I don't believe Jesus was the Messiah, of course, as a Jew I can attest that the details of the crucifixion attributed to this case do suggest he was crucified with theives

    So why do Jehovah's witnesses "Swear" that Jesus did not die on a cross but instead a Tree or stake with no crossbeams.

  • Diogenesister
    Calebinflorida While I don't believe Jesus was the messiah, of course, as a jew I can attest that the details of the crucifixion attributed to this case do suggest he was crucified with thieves.

    How? By reading the new testiment like anyone else?

    Almost every book I have ever read had been quite certain that IN GENERAL crucifixtion was reserved for crimes against the state, sidition basically.

    Now, that's not to say that this general principal was not abused.

    This piece was called a sidile, and likely rested under the bottom, for the purpose described.

    Interestingly, another witness myth, that Jesus was crucified on a stake, has been laid to rest by archeologists who say that the victim would carry the crossbar or patibulum (weighing 50-100lbs)and that this would rest on the upright (in a t bar shape at the top.* described as a tau which is Latin equivelent shape T )

  • CalebInFloroda


    Jewish historical accounts outside of the New Testsment testify to the typical treatment of Jews by the Roman State. There are many accounts, and even the Jewish Encyclopedia admits to this under the subject "crucifixion":

    "The following crimes entailed this penalty: piracy, highway robbery, assassination, forgery, false testimony, mutiny, high treason, rebellion." Among the sources, the JE cites Jospehus, "B.J." v. 11, section 1.

    So it is not due to reading the New Testament that it seems likely that Jesus was executed with petty criminals. I was simply stating that since this was the common type of criminal from among Jews that the Romans executed it isn't illogical to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth's crucifixion stood out as a high-profile execution among infamous individuals.

    I don't doubt you are quite studious, and that you've read many books. Jewish accounts about the treatment we experienced is usually not detailed outside of Jewry with much accuracy, even among historians. This is often due to the complexity of the records and the language in which they are written, and largely due to the fact that Jews make up around only 1% or so of the population.

  • CalebInFloroda

    @John Aquila

    The confusion among the JWs is actually a very telling mistake.

    The Jews of the Second Temple era spoke Aramiac, mixed with Hebrew. The Romans spoke Latin. But the official language of writing was still Greek, the language of Alexander the Great who, though a Greek, paved the way for the Roman Empire and was still highly regarded after his death.

    However holding on to Greek as the literary language was much like the use of Ecclesiastical Latin became centuries later. Most people in Rome didn't read, and those who did may have read only vernacular Latin with enough Greek to get by. And Rome had invented new technological advances, especially in warfare, that didn't exist in the Hellenistic world of Alexander and had no Greek words for them.

    So the gospel writers used two Greek words for the cross, since the device did not exist in Alexander's time: STAUROS and XYLON. The first word meant "pale," a simple stake upon which criminals or their heads were sometimes tied or nailed to, and the other word meant "tree" in the sense of a dead tree trunk. The "T" shaped device had no word in the Greek at all.

    The Witnesses, having no language scholars or background in history, simply opened a lexicon and read that the Greek word, STAUROS, meant "pale or stake." So they claim that the Devil and his Christian minions hide the fact from the world that Jesus really died on a stake. I mean, you can look it up for yourself in any Greek lexicon and verify it for yourself that the Greek word STAUROS does indeed mean "stake." Argument closed, right?

    This is where being a language scholar is so important. Scholars know that the events described didn't happen in a Greek-speaking word. Jesus spoke Hebrew-Aramaic and the Romans spoke Latin. When the Romans pulled out the device upon which Jesus was nailed they called it a "crux," and there wasn't even a Jewish word for it then.

    Because the official written language of the Roman world was Greek, the gospel writers did what you always do when you translate things from one language to another: use the best equivalent you have despite the fact that you will lose something in the translation.

    Besides, we have evidence of crucifixion, secular accounts, etc., so why wouldn't anyone not understand these things?

    Well, JWs obviously get blinded by that egotistical view "I looked it up and saw it with my own eyes, so I know the truth." The problem is that unless you know how to use a lexicon along with etymology then you will make many mistakes like the JWs did. It takes a translator, an etymologist, and a philologist along with a cultural specialist and a theologian who is an expert exegete in order to properly translate any Scripture text. That's a lot of educated specialists. Anyone can look up a word in a book, but it takes trained critical thinkers to put the data together properly, and the JWs have none.

    The JWs missed the logical step of remembering that Greek is merely a translation of the events and that the words used were archaic or at least not always compatible with what was happening in the first century. Anyone can look up anything in a book, but that doesn't make you a scholar unless you can use it like a scholar.

  • Village Idiot
    Village Idiot

    It's interesting that the New International Version uses the word "rebels" instead of thieves in Matthew 27:38 and Mark 15:27. In Luke 23:39-40 it uses the word "criminal".

    As for the Tau shaped of the cross there is the minor issue of the sign of condemnation that lies above their heads (Matthew 27:37 NIV). Whatever it is that would have allowed a sign to be put overhead would have given the cross a t shape, not quite a "Tau".

  • CalebInFloroda
    Actually the expression "tau" in reference to the cross does not imply that it was not a traditional cross with a headpiece that allowed an additional inscription to be nailed about the head. It is merely used in academia to give a general idea of the shape, especially in reference to comparisons with the "iota" shape of a pale.

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