Crucifixion was a nasty way to go. You’re nailed up through the hands and feet to a big wooden cross and then strung up until you either bleed to death or suffocate.
It was a popular punishment for the Romans (despite being much, much older than that) and it continues to this day – although, thankfully it is pretty rare.
The most famous guy ever to go to the cross is obvious Jesus Christ, but where is the evidence that this actually happened?
How can we know that the story that we learn in the New Testament is true?
The short answer is that we can’t but faith is pretty important if you’re going to get involved in organised religion, so that might not be a massive issue.
However, there are some bits and pieces that can help guide us on the way to understanding.
In 1968 a group of workmen were digging up at a site in Northeastern Jerusalem when they made a significant archaeological discovery.
They unearthed a tomb with the body of a man inside it. On the side of the tomb was inscribed ‘Yehohanan’.
Now, Jerusalem is an old and holy place so stumbling across some old remains isn’t that unusual. However, these were different.
This particular box of bones contained the bones of a child – Yehohanan bin Hagkol – and one other bone. The bone of his Dad.
You see, ‘bin Hagkol’ may have actually meant ‘son of the crucified one’. Oh yeah, and there was a heel bone with a nail through it.
To this day it remains the only known scientific proof of crucifixion at around the time of Jesus.
This seems strange given that on their own the Romans we are led to believe that the Romans liked nothing more than a good crucifixion, but there are some good reasons why that might be.
Firstly, there was no one way to do it – the roman philosopher Seneca said: “I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in different ways: some have their victims with their head down to the ground, some impale their private parts, others stretch out their arms.”
So you’re not just looking for the one specific thing. Also, crosses would have been made of wood and therefore are long decomposed by now, along with most of the fleshy tissue that would have been needed to nail through.
Furthermore, people used to believe that crucifixion nails had magical properties and would take them away – that’s before you wrestle with the fact that they would just look like nails that could have been from anything.
Lastly, most of those crucified were thought to be baddies (criminals, murderers, thieves – Jesus was the exception, really) and therefore weren’t really buried properly.
They’d be left out there to decay in the sun. Not a nice thing to consider.
However, this one piece of evidence found in a box in Jerusalem might be the proof that we need that the stories in the Bible are possible, and even plausible.
by Tom Wood