Friday, February 20, 2004


The critics and media continue to go after Mel and his "Passion". The Mercury News healdine reads "Scholars: Crucifixion portrayal innacurate". But that's not quite exactly what the scholars say:
The dearth of information about Jesus' crucifixion makes it impossible to describe the event in accurate detail, as Mel Gibson attempts to do in his new film, "The Passion of Christ," Bible scholars and anthropologists say....

Some scholars say even the most widely recognized features of the crucifixion, such as the shape of the cross and the use of nails, are open to debate.

Yes, open to debate, but that's not the same as saying that Gibson's portrayal is wrong. Yes, he does accept the traditional scene of the cross as portrayed in art through the centuries, but these scholars don't seem to say that what he's showing is certainly wrong.

One of the "scholars", Joe Zias, argues with the portrayal of nails being used in crucifixion:
Zias said the question of whether Jesus was nailed to the cross or simply tied to it remains a mystery. "There is no evidence whatsoever he was nailed," he said. "The Gospels say he was crucified and leave it at that."

Zias criticized "The Passion of Christ" for accepting the standard version of three nails being used. He said experiments on cadavers carried out by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages have shown that people hanging with nails through their hands will fall to the ground within a relatively short time, pulled by gravity.

Others chime in in support:
John Dominic Crossan, emeritus professor of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago, agrees with Zias that little is known about Jesus' execution.

"Early Christians believed that Jesus was nailed to the cross," he said. "But there is absolutely no proof of this. The only skeleton of a crucified person ever recovered indicated that the two arms were tied to a crossbar, and two nails were used in either shinbone. There was no standard procedure in any of this. The only common feature in the different types of crucifixion is intense sadism."

There are, of course, a number of problems with the statements made here. First, there is archaelogical evidence of nails being used in crucifixion as recorded by a scholar named Joe Zias:
In 1968 building contractors working in a suburb north of Jerusalem accidentally uncovered a Jewish tomb dated to the first century after the death of Christ.6 Lying in a Jewish ossuary bearing the Hebrew inscription 'Jehohanan the son of HGQWL' were the skeletal remains of a man in his twenties, who had been crucified. The evidence for this was based on the right calcaneum (heel bone) of the individual, pierced by an iron nail 11.5 cms. in length.

So this Joe Zias seems to be well aware of a quite famous bit of crucifixion archaelogical evidence showing a nail (see picture). It's also quite evident from the picture of Jesus on the cross from the Passion movie that accompanies the AP article that Jesus is also tied to the cross, thus negating their 3-nails-and-gravity objection.

And in contradiction to their statement that the Gospels do not speak to the use of nails, John--a witness to the crucifixion--records the doubting apostle Thomas as speaking to it:
"Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it." (John 20:25b)

To which the risen Jesus replies one week later:
"Put your finger here; see my hands."

Furthermore, Gospel writer Luke records the apostle Peter as saying on Pentecost:
This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross."

Paul who no one doubts would have been familiar with the details of Jesus' crucifixion, states of the old law that
He took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)

So the issue isn't quite as unsettled as these "scholars" would lead you to believe, nor as they most certainly know.

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