Crucifixion in the Ancient Mediterranean World

When the magistrate (“public” crucifixions) has to execute an individual by crucifixion the law mentions pitch and wax, which were used to torture the victims with fire. In classical Latin texts, incidentally, the individual to be crucified never carried a crux (vertical beam or entire cross) but only the patibulum (horizontal piece). When a criminal carried the patibulum, the crux (vertical beam, in this case) was already set in place. That implies that in John 19:17 Jesus only carried the horizontal member of the cross to Golgotha, since Pilate would have followed Roman procedure.

See Also: Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World (WUNT 327, Tübingen, 2014).

By John Granger Cook
Professor of Religion
LaGrange College
June 2014

To read this article in its entirety, we have presented it here in PDF format.

Comments (2)

One of the most important articles on the much discussed subject in many a year. His breadth, depth and commitment is truly remarkable and this will become a classic in the field of biblical scholarship for years to come. Truly impressive body of work.

#1 - Joe Zias - 06/08/2014 - 18:34

Although I have just started to peruse the Google-Books preview ( my budget is extremely limited so I will have to wait until it appears in a library in my local area to read the actual book), it appears to me that he may have misinterpreted some of the Latin and Greek texts, and especially, some of the epigraphy. I have found to my satisfaction that crucifixion frequently -- at least sometimes -- consisted of a "safe" impalement combined with a limb suspension resulting in a slow, lingering death. And this sort of crucifixion may be the kind called for in the Lex puteoli inscription.

I have several articles at my blog, "Fin des Voies Rapides (If Peak Oil Were No Object)", search item "Crucifixion."

#2 - Edward Miessner - 11/05/2014 - 20:40

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