Historical Evidence of the CrucifixionQUESTION: Is there historical evidence of the crucifixion?ANSWER:
Is there historical evidence of the crucifixion? The crucifixion of Jesus Christ did not take place in obscurity. The writers of the four gospels were actual figures in history that wrote, from various perspectives, about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Their writings depicted eyewitness accounts of documented happenings in history. The variety of theories as to the events following the crucifixion and to what happened to the body of Jesus, only serves to further establish the fact of this heinous death. Such well-known legends as the swoon theory, that Jesus only passed out on the cross and was later resuscitated by the cool air of the tomb, and the case of the stolen body are strewn throughout literature chronicling the events of that time. The fact is, the death
of Jesus Christ was never
disputed. The Jews, both those who hated him and those who would become His future followers, witnessed His death. It was a public event that took place in front of the whole world. John 12:32-33 says, "'But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.' He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die." Joseph of Arimethea, himself a notable figure of the Jews of that day, requested the body of Jesus in order to give Him an honorable burial.
As to the validity of the mode of execution, it was established that by the first century, crucifixion was the Roman method for certain non-Roman criminals. It was initially employed as a form of punishment causing extreme pain and humiliation, so much so that the word "excruciating" was created for the express purpose of describing the unfathomable horror of the individual's suffering on a cross. Excruciating literally means, "out of the cross."
How wonderfully this fit into the plan and will of God: "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. . ." (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
The massacre and shame that the Savior endured as one accursed was suffered for our benefit. He who never sinned suffered on our behalf, for our
sins worthy of death; we
were the accursed. The severity of the punishment was a stark reflection of God's holiness and His hatred of sin. While we as humans justify ourselves and compare ourselves to others who may not be as "good" as we are, God has indicated that the slightest infraction is an affront to His holiness.
1 John 5:17 says, "All wrongdoing is sin. . ." What a terrible weight Jesus carried, the load of our sins that so disfigured Him, that even the Father turned away? Matthew 27:46 "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' - which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"
Perhaps the greatest evidence of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the eternal results in the lives of those who have accepted Him. Those who have believed in what happened on Golgotha have been given the right to be called sons of God, and may now cry "Abba, Father." We can now have fellowship with the living God.
Jesus Christ was not the first or last person to be crucified. He was the only one, however, to be resurrected, and that from such a horrible death. He bore in His resurrection body, forever, the scars of His crucifixion in His hands and feet and side. We are told in God's Word that this will ever be a witness, for as the prophet foretold, "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (Zechariah 12:10).