What Did Jesus Wear On His Feet

If you think about it, Jesus could have had a pretty large wardrobe for such a small guy. I mean, he grew up in Egypt and went on to teach thousands of people. Consider all of the different weather conditions and terrains that Jesus traversed. This leads me to believe that Jesus wore sandals, but did he wear leather sandals? Or were they made from hay or straw? Let’s explore some popular theories.

What Did Jesus Wear On His Feet

The Bible does not specifically mention what clothing Jesus was wearing when He was crucified, however, many artists have depicted Him in purple robes, a symbol of kingship. Some believe that this is because Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Others believe that it represents the royalty of His kingdom. Either way, Jesus was wearing something special on His feet!

Jesus as he is often depicted - with long hair and a short beard

Everyone knows what Jesus looks like. He is the most painted figure in all of Western art, recognised everywhere as having long hair and a beard, a long robe with long sleeves (often white) and a mantle (often blue).

Jesus is so familiar that he can be recognised on pancakes or pieces of toast.

But did he really look like this?

Probably not.

In fact this familiar image of Jesus actually comes from the Byzantine era, from the 4th Century onwards, and Byzantine representations of Jesus were symbolic – they were all about meaning, not historical accuracy.

They were based on the image of an enthroned emperor, as we see in the altar mosaic of the Santa Pudenziana church in Rome.

Jesus is dressed in a gold toga. He is the heavenly ruler of all the world, familiar from the famous statue of long-haired and bearded Olympian Zeus on a throne – a statue so well-known that the Roman Emperor Augustus had a copy of himself made in the same style (without the godly long hair and beard).

Byzantine artists, looking to show Christ’s heavenly rule as that of a cosmic king, invented him as a younger version of Zeus. Over time, this depiction of the heavenly Christ – sometimes remade along hippie lines – has become our standard model of the early Jesus.

So what did Jesus really look like?

Let’s go from head to toe.

1. Hair and Beard

When early Christians were not showing Christ as heavenly ruler, they showed Jesus as an actual man like any other: beardless and short-haired.

But perhaps, as a kind of wandering sage, Jesus would have had a beard, for the simple reason that he did not go to barbers.

General scruffiness and a beard were thought to differentiate a philosopher (who was thinking of higher things) from everyone else. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus considered it “appropriate according to Nature”.

Otherwise, in the 1st Century Graeco-Roman world, being clean-shaven and short-haired was considered absolutely essential. A great mane of luxuriant hair and a beard was a godly feature, not replicated in male fashion. Even a philosopher kept his hair fairly short.

A beard was not distinctive of being a Jew in antiquity. In fact, one of the problems for oppressors of Jews at different times was identifying them when they looked like everyone else (a point made in the book of Maccabees). However, images of Jewish men on Judaea Capta coins, issued by Rome after the capture of Jerusalem in 70AD, indicate captive men who are bearded.

So Jesus, as a philosopher with the “natural” look, might well have had a short beard, like the men depicted on Judaea Capta coinage, but his hair was probably not very long.

If he had had even slightly long hair, we would expect some reaction. Jewish men who had unkempt beards and were slightly long-haired were immediately identifiable as men who had taken a Nazirite vow. This meant they would dedicate themselves to God for a period of time, not drink wine or cut their hair – and at the end of this period they would shave their heads in a special ceremony in the temple in Jerusalem (as described in Acts chapter 21, verse 24).

But Jesus did not keep a Nazirite vow, because he is often found drinking wine – his critics accuse him of drinking far, far too much of it (Matthew chapter 11, verse 19). If he had had long hair, and looked like a Nazirite, we would expect some comment on the discrepancy between how he appeared and what he was doing – the problem would be that he was drinking wine at all.

2. Clothing

At the time of Jesus, wealthy men donned long robes for special occasions, to show off their high status in public. In one of Jesus’s teachings, he says, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes (stolai), and to have salutations in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets” (Mark chapter 12, verses 38-39).

The sayings of Jesus are generally considered the more accurate parts of the Gospels, so from this we can assume that Jesus really did not wear such robes.

Overall a man in Jesus’s world would wear a knee-length tunic, a chiton, and a woman an ankle-length one, and if you swapped these around it was a statement. Thus, in the 2nd Century Acts of Paul and Thecla, when Thecla, a woman, dons a short (male) tunic it is a bit of a shock. These tunics would often have coloured bands running from the shoulder to the hem and could be woven as one piece.

On top of the tunic you would wear a mantle, a himation, and we know that Jesus wore one of these because this is what a woman touched when she wanted to be healed by him (see, for example, Mark chapter 5, verse 27). A mantle was a large piece of woollen material, though it was not very thick and for warmth you would want to wear two.

A himation, which could be worn in various ways, like a wrap, would hang down past the knees and could completely cover the short tunic. (Certain ascetic philosophers even wore a large himation without the tunic, leaving their upper right torso bare, but that is another story.)

Jesus and woman touching his mantle

Power and prestige were indicated by the quality, size and colour of these mantles. Purple and certain types of blue indicated grandeur and esteem. These were royal colours because the dyes used to make them were very rare and expensive.

But colours could also indicate something else. The historian Josephus describes the Zealots (a Jewish group who wanted to push the Romans out of Judaea) as a bunch of murderous transvestites who donned “dyed mantles” – chlanidia – indicating that they were women’s wear. This suggests that real men, unless they were of the highest status, should wear undyed clothing.

Jesus did not wear white, however. This was distinctive, requiring bleaching or chalking, and in Judaea it was associated with a group called the Essenes – who followed a strict interpretation of Jewish law. The difference between Jesus’s clothing and bright, white clothing, is described in Mark chapter 9, when three apostles accompany Jesus to a mountain to pray and he begins to radiate light. Mark recounts that Jesus’s himatia (in the plural the word may mean “clothing” or “clothes” rather than specifically “mantles”) began “glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them”. Before his transfiguration, therefore, Jesus is presented by Mark as an ordinary man, wearing ordinary clothes, in this case undyed wool, the material you would send to a fuller.

We are told more about Jesus’s clothing during his execution, when the Roman soldiers divide his himatia (in this case the word probably refers to two mantles) into four shares (see John chapter 19, verse 23). One of these was probably a tallith, or Jewish prayer shawl. This mantle with tassels (tzitzith) is specifically referred to by Jesus in Matthew chapter 23, verse 5. This was a lightweight himation, traditionally made of undyed creamy-coloured woollen material, and it probably had some kind of an indigo stripe or threading.

3. Feet

On his feet, Jesus would have worn sandals. Everyone wore sandals. In the desert caves close to the Dead Sea and Masada, sandals from the time of Jesus have come to light, so we can see exactly what they were like. They were very simple, with the soles made of thick pieces of leather sewn together, and the upper parts made of straps of leather going through the toes.

4. Features

And what about Jesus’s facial features? They were Jewish. That Jesus was a Jew (or Judaean) is certain in that it is found repeated in diverse literature, including in the letters of Paul. And, as the Letter to the Hebrews states: “It is clear that our Lord was descended from Judah.” So how do we imagine a Jew at this time, a man “about 30 years of age when he began,” according to Luke chapter 3?

Computer generated image from Son of God TV series

In 2001 forensic anthropologist Richard Neave created a model of a Galilean man for a BBC documentary, Son of God, working on the basis of an actual skull found in the region. He did not claim it was Jesus’ face. It was simply meant to prompt people to consider Jesus as a man of his time and place, since we are never told he looked distinctive.

Despite modeling on ancient bones having been done, I believe the image of Moses found on the walls of Dura-Europa’s synagogue from the third century is the most accurate depiction of what Jesus actually looked like because it demonstrates how a Jewish sage was regarded in the Graeco-Roman era. Moses is imagined in undyed clothing, and in fact his one mantle is a tallit, since in the Dura image of Moses parting the Red Sea, one can see tassels (tzitzith) at the corners. At any rate, this image is far more correct as a basis for imagining the historical Jesus than the adaptations of the Byzantine Jesus that have become standard: he’s short-haired and with a slight beard, and he’s wearing a short tunic, with short sleeves, and a hemi.

Joan Taylor is professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London and the author of The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea.

What Wear for Inauguration

When you’re in a dress code, you have to think about what you wear. Will it be appropriate for the occasion? Will it fit the setting? Will it be comfortable?

As we enter a new era in American politics, we want to make sure that everyone has the chance to dress up for inauguration day. Whether you’re going to a protest or simply looking for a way to celebrate this momentous occasion, we’ve got some ideas for how you can dress up without breaking the bank or breaking any rules.

For the Inauguration of President Donald Trump, I would suggest wearing a business suit.

I believe that this is the best choice because it will be cold outside and you need to be comfortable, warm and professional at the same time. It is also a great way to show respect for our country’s new leader.

Inauguration Day is a special occasion, and you want to look your best. But how do you know what to wear?

First, check the weather. It’s cold outside, but it’s supposed to be sunny. Make sure your outfit isn’t too heavy—you don’t want to be uncomfortable all day.

Second, consider what event you’re attending. If there’s an official swearing-in ceremony that requires formalwear, then you’ll want something more formal than jeans and a t-shirt. But if you’re going to one of the many protests happening around Washington DC today, a nice coat or sweater and some comfortable shoes will do just fine!

Inauguration is a time of celebration, but it’s also a time to remember the importance of fashion. As you head out to celebrate, we recommend wearing a dress that is both comfortable and appropriate for the occasion.

We recommend a dress that has an A-line skirt, because this will make you feel more comfortable on your feet. The A-line skirt also gives you some extra room if you’re going dancing later in the night!

The best part about wearing an A-line dress is that it looks great from all angles, so whether you’re standing or sitting down, you’ll still look fantastic!

Keep in mind that some people will be making political statements with their clothing choices during this week’s events—so if you want to stay safe and avoid any controversy at all costs, we recommend sticking with classic black attire.

Inauguration Day is a day of celebration and reflection, but it can also be a day of uncertainty for many people. How do you dress for this occasion?

Your clothing should reflect your political beliefs and the current state of affairs in America. If you’re a Trump supporter, wear something that shows your allegiance to him—and if you’re not, wear something that demonstrates your opposition to him.

You’ve got your outfit picked out, but what should you wear?

We know you’re going to be in some of the most important and exciting moments in history. We also know that’s pretty intimidating—but we’re here to help!

First off, let’s talk about what not to wear:

-Your granny’s housecoat. It might have served her well for years, but she wasn’t sworn in as President. You can leave it at home.

-Your favorite pair of jeans and t-shirt combo—even if they are super comfy, those clothes don’t belong at an inauguration event! This is a time for celebration, so dress up and look great!

If you’re headed to the inauguration of our 45th president, then let us help you get ready!

The weather in Washington, D.C., is expected to be unseasonably warm for January 20th. The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50s (that’s 14°C) and sunny skies throughout the day. So don’t forget your sunglasses and sunscreen!

As for what you should wear… well, that’s a tricky question. It’s not like there are any “uniforms” for inaugurations, but we’ve done our best to put together some styles that look great and can take whatever weather Mother Nature throws at them.

For women:

Dressy Casual: If you want to look classy but still casual enough to move around comfortably, this is your best bet. A dressy shirt with jeans or pants will do the trick nicely—and if it rains, just throw on an overcoat or rain jacket.

Coat & Jeans: Women who want a more formal look might want to consider wearing a coat with jeans or pants underneath—these two pieces of clothing tend to go together well because they both have an urban style about them. And if it rains?

What to Wear to the Inauguration

There’s nothing like a new presidency to get people excited about fashion. But with so many styles and brands out there, it can be hard to know what to wear! Here are some tips for what you should wear for the Inauguration:

If you’re attending an inauguration party, it’s best to stick with classic, timeless looks. You’ll want to avoid anything too flashy or obscure—you don’t want people talking about your outfit instead of the swearing in of our new president!

For men, a nice suit is always a good bet. Make sure it fits well and isn’t too shiny or wrinkled, though (you want to look presidential, not sleazy). Women can go for simple dresses or pantsuits; just make sure they aren’t too tight or revealing (again: you don’t want anyone thinking about your body at this momentous occasion).

For kids and babies: Well-fitting suits are perfect! Just make sure they’re appropriate for the weather and aren’t too tight or loose on their bodies so they don’t get cold or hot while sitting outside waiting for hours on end.

Whether you’re attending the inauguration in person or watching it from home, you want to look your best. Here are some tips for what to wear:

-Dress in layers. It’s going to be cold outside, but you don’t want to be too hot once you’re inside.

-Bring a scarf or pashmina if you have one. It’s going to be freezing out there!

-If you’re going with someone else, coordinate your outfits!

It’s no secret that the inauguration of our new president, Donald J. Trump, is a big deal. It’s also no secret that a lot of people are afraid.

So what do you wear to an event like this? How do you express your feelings about it, and stand up for yourself in the process?

First of all: don’t go overboard. You can be respectful while still being true to yourself. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of attending the inauguration at all, don’t go—you don’t have to be there if it doesn’t feel right for you. But if you want to be there, but aren’t sure how to dress or behave in order to make your presence known without being too obvious about it, here are some tips:

1) Don’t wear your political affiliation on your sleeve (literally). It’s OK if people know where you stand politically—that’s not exactly a secret now, is it? But don’t come dressed like someone who supports Donald Trump; instead, come dressed like someone who supports decency and equality for all people regardless of who they are or where they were born!

The Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States is an incredibly important event. It marks the beginning of a new era in our country’s history, and it’s one that will shape the future for all Americans.

Inaugurations are typically very formal events and it is important to dress accordingly. For women, this means wearing a dress or skirt suit, or a dress coat (if you work in an office environment). For men, suits are expected as well.

If you choose to wear a suit, make sure that it fits well and is pressed properly. If you have any doubts about how your suit fits or looks on you, get someone else’s opinion on whether it looks good before going out in public! You don’t want to end up looking like an idiot in front of millions of people!

If you’re unsure about what to wear for inauguration day, take a look at some photos from past inaugurations so that you can get an idea of what other people wore during previous inaugurations.

Inauguration day is a time to celebrate the peaceful transition of power, and it’s also a time to dress up. The day will be full of pomp and circumstance, so you’ll want to look your best.

The weather in Washington, DC on inauguration day is usually mild and sunny with temperatures in the mid-60s. You’ll want to wear layers so you can take them off if things get too hot or add more if it gets chilly.

A great option for inauguration day is a dress that has a wrap or cardigan style top so you can cover up when needed. Or try a coat with an open front that lets your outfit peek through for a more casual look.

You can wear whatever color you like for inaugurals—red, white, blue—but keep in mind that this isn’t just any other day of the year. We recommend wearing red or white because they’re the official colors of our country’s flag and have been associated with our nation since its inception over 200 years ago!

What to Wear for the Inauguration

You love America. You’ve seen all of the memes, and now you’re ready to take part in the fun. The inauguration is a great way to show your support for our new president and get involved in the political process. But what should you wear?

First, you need a look that says “I’m here to celebrate our new leader.” One option is an outfit inspired by one of Trump’s favorite colors: gold. Gold accessories are a great way to show your patriotism, but you can also wear a full-on gold suit or dress if you want to go all out!

For those who want something more subtle, try wearing red, white, and blue clothing or accessories such as jewelry or shoes. If you want something even more subtle than that, just wear jeans and a white T-shirt with “Make America Great Again” written on it in black marker!

Finally, if none of these options appeal to you—or if they’re not appropriate for where you’ll be celebrating—you can always go with full business attire like suits or dresses instead!

The inauguration of the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, will take place on January 20th, 2017. Inaugurations are always significant moments in American history, but this one is particularly important for our country—and for you.

It’s important to look your best at this event because you’ll be representing your company and yourself as an individual. If you’re planning on attending the inauguration, here are some tips to help you dress appropriately:

-You should wear business attire. This means suits or dresses with jackets and ties for men and skirts or pantsuits for women. You can also wear a tuxedo if you prefer something more formal.

-The color scheme of your outfit should conform to traditional inauguration colors: reds and blues are traditional choices, but if you want to go bolder than that, purple is becoming popular as well; just make sure it’s not too bright or flashy!

-The inauguration takes place at noon on January 20th. You should arrive with plenty of time before then so that you don’t miss any part of it!

Our advice: dress in layers. It’s important to be prepared for the cold, so make sure you have a good coat and scarf. You might also want to consider wearing gloves or mittens, as well as hats and scarves.

While some will be attending an event with a red carpet, you’ll likely be spending most of your time outdoors—and mix of indoor and outdoor events are common at inaugurations. So don’t forget to pack an extra pair of shoes (or two) if you’re planning on changing clothes multiple times during the day!

The inauguration is a time to celebrate the beginning of a new presidency, and it’s also a time to show your support for the candidate you voted for. To do that, you’ll want to wear something that represents your values and beliefs.

Here are some ideas:

Wear red if you’re a Republican or orange if you’re a Democrat. While this may seem like an obvious choice, it’s important to show solidarity with your party—especially during this election cycle.

If you want to express yourself more personally, try wearing green or blue as a nod to your candidate’s campaign colors. This can also be done in other ways—for example, by sporting a pin that shows support for their campaign!

You might also consider wearing an item from their campaign store or official website. There are many options available that will help you show off your political affiliation without being too over-the-top about it (and without spending too much money!).

Inauguration is a time to celebrate the peaceful transition of power. We look forward to welcoming the new president and first lady as they begin their time in office.

It’s important to remember that this is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation and respect for the office of the presidency. We must also be mindful of our own actions and how they may be perceived by others.

For example, it is not appropriate for men to wear kilts or kilted skirts, or women to wear pantsuits or pantsuits with skirts—unless those pantsuits or pantsuits with skirts are made from silk and have been hand-embroidered by monks at the Abbey of Saint Benedict in Monte Cassino, Italy.

Inauguration Day is about celebrating democracy through fashion, so we encourage you all to dress up in your best clothes!

Why Did Jesus Die?

Why did Jesus go through such excruciating torment?

Paul tells us: “He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14). The “written code” (NIV) or “certificate of debt” (NASB) was a legal document that was nailed to the top of the cross of a guilty person. This document had the person’s name and their crime. For example, if the person was a murderer, it would say, “John Doe: Murderer.” Once the person died, their debt was paid to the state. For instance, Jesus had a certificate of debt nailed to the top of his Cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazarene: King of the Jews” (Jn. 19:19). In other words, Jesus was being crucified for claiming to be the king of the Jews.

This becomes interesting when we read that Jesus screamed, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) from the Cross. This expression (“It is finished”) is the Greek term tetelestai, which literally meant “paid in full.” NT scholar Edwin Blum writes,

Papyri receipts for taxes have been recovered with the word tetelestai written across them, meaning ‘paid in full.’ This word on Jesus’ lips was significant. When He said, ‘It is finished’ (not ‘I am finished’), He meant His redemptive work was completed. He had been made sin for people (2 Cor. 5:21) and had suffered the penalty of God’s justice which sin deserved.[27]

In other words, we all have our certificates of debt nailed to Jesus’ Cross (Col. 2:14), and Jesus claimed that he had paid for this in full “once for all” (Heb. 9:26)

Not too long ago a book was published with the title: What was God doing on the Cross? It appears that there are two questions being asked, not one. First, “What was God doing on the cross?” Why was the God-man impaled on a Roman gibbet? It seems shocking that God should be crucified? Second, “What was God doing on the cross?” Once we’ve agreed that the God-man was on the cross, we wonder, “what was he doing there?” What was he accomplishing through the crucifixion of Jesus? To what end and for what purpose was Jesus, the God-man, suffering?

The problem is that there are growing numbers of Christians who are having an increasingly difficult time answering that question. The reason for this is three-fold: (1) a diminishing sense of God’s holiness; (2) a diminishing sense of mankind’s sinfulness; and (3) an inordinately increasing sense of self-worth. Whereas I affirm the need for a proper self-image, I fear that many are fast becoming so impressed with themselves that they can’t help but wonder why Jesus had to die for them at all! But when we look at the Scripture, we realize that the God-man, Jesus, was on the cross, suffering the eternal penalty we deserved because of the infinity of God’s holiness and the depths of our depravity.

The Pain and Shame of Crucifixion

Any attempt to understand the sufferings of Christ must reckon with the fact that “two thousand years of pious Christian tradition have largely domesticated the cross, making it hard for us to realize how it was viewed in Jesus’ time” (Carson, 573). Both the painful and shameful aspects of crucifixion have become blurred, and no matter what we may think we know about this manner of execution, it simply does not mean the same thing for us as it did to those living in the first century.

The NT itself does not provide much information concerning the details of the crucifixion. There is a remarkable brevity and restraint on the part of all four gospel authors when it comes to the actual crucifixion of Jesus. All that is said in Matt. 27:35a; Mark 15:24a; Luke 23:33; and John 19:18 is that “they crucified him.” Why is there so little recorded for us? There are at least two reasons. In the first place, crucifixion was so frequent and its details were so common knowledge that they must certainly have believed it unnecessary to be more precise. People in the first century were all too painfully familiar with crucifixion. More important is the fact that the crucifixion was so utterly repugnant and so indescribably shameful that they deemed it improper to go beyond the barest minimum in describing our Lord’s experience of it. More on this later.

Historical Crucifixion

We must remember that the theological significance of the cross cannot be separated from the historical and physical event itself. The kinds of crosses used would vary according to their shape: X, T, and t were the most common forms. The height of the cross was also important. Usually the victim’s feet would be no more than one to two feet above the ground. This was so that wild beasts and scavenger dogs common in the city might feed on the corpse. Martin Hengel (Crucifixion, 9) quotes Pseudo-Manetho as saying, “Punished with limbs outstretched, they see the stake as their fate; they are fastened and nailed to it in the most bitter torment, evil food for birds of prey and grim pickings for dogs.” Jesus may well have been made an exception to this rule (cf. Matt. 27:42,48). If so, it wasn’t out of mercy, but in order to increase his humiliation by exposing his shame more readily to passersby.

The Nails

The nails were spikes used to impale the victim to the tree. In 1968 in a cemetery at Gi’vat Ha-Mivtar (near Jerusalem), a bulldozer unearthed the skeletal remains of a man named “John” who had been crucified:

The legs were next to each other, the feet joined nearly parallel, both fixed by the same nail at the heels, the knees doubled, the right one overlapping the left, the trunk contorted, and the upper limbs stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm (cited in Lane, 565).

Prolonging the Victim’s Agony

The crucified man’s right tibia, the larger of the two bones in the lower leg, had been brutally fractured into large, sharp slivers, perhaps to hasten his suffocation by making it virtually impossible to push himself up the vertical beam, an action required to sustain breathing (although this theory has been challenged by Frederick T. Zugibe in his article “Two Questions About Crucifixion,” in Bible Review, April 1989, 35-43). Although this man was crucified through the forearm, it is possible to do so through the palm, contrary to what some have said. If the nail enters the palm through the thenar furrow (an area between three bones) it breaks no bones and is capable of supporting several hundred pounds.

Often times a small peg or block of wood, called a sedecula, was fixed midway up the vertical beam, providing a seat of sorts. Its purpose was to prevent premature collapse and thus prolong the victim’s agony.

Cause of Death on the Cross

The precise cause of death has been debated for years. D. A. Carson summarizes:

“Whether tied or nailed to the cross, the victim endured countless paroxysms as he pulled with his arms and pushed with his legs to keep his chest cavity open for breathing and then collapsed in exhaustion until the demand for oxygen demanded renewed paroxysms.” The scourging, blood loss, and shock from the pain all caused agony that could last for days, eventually leading to suffocation, cardiac arrest, or blood loss. When there was reason to hasten death, the execution squad would smash the victim’s legs. “Death followed almost immediately, either from shock or from collapse that cut off breathing” (574).

Crucifixion as Capital Punishment

It is hard to imagine a more hideous form of capital punishment. Crucifixion was believed to be an effective deterrent in the ancient world and was thus frequently employed.

Appian reported that following the defeat of Spartacus, the victorious Crassus had 6,000 prisoners crucified on the Via Appia between Capua and Rome (Bella Civilia, I.120). Before their last battle, Spartacus himself had a Roman prisoner put to death on a cross to show his men what would happen if they lost. It is strangely ironic that Julius Caesar was hailed as being merciful to his enemies when he ordered their throats cut prior to their being crucified in order to spare them the indescribable suffering of prolonged agony on the cross

Siege of Jerusalem

Josephus described the fate of the Jews taken captive in 70 a.d., when Jerusalem was destroyed. The soldiers, “out of the rage and hatred they bore the prisoners, nailed those they caught, in different postures, to the crosses, by way of jest, and their number was so great that there was not enough room for the crosses and not enough crosses for the bodies” (cited in Hengel, 25–26). Josephus indicates that the Roman general Titus hoped that this would hasten the surrender of those still in the besieged city.

Obscenity and Humiliation

Worse than the pain of the cross was the shame of the cross. See 1 Cor. 1:18-25. Why does Paul refer to the cross as foolishness and a stumbling-block? It isn’t because the concept or practice of crucifixion was intellectually incoherent (like 2 + 2 = 5) or illogical. Rather, the message of salvation through faith in a crucified Savior was deemed “foolishness” and a “stumbling-block” because the cross was itself the embodiment and emblem of the most hideous of human obscenities. The cross was a symbol of reproach, degradation, humiliation, and disgust. It was aesthetically repugnant. In a word, the cross was obscene.

The cross was far more than an instrument of capital punishment. It was a public symbol of indecency and social indignity. Crucifixion was designed to do more than merely kill a man. Its purpose was to humiliate him as well. The cross was intended not only to break a man’s body, but also to crush and defame his spirit. There were certainly more efficient means of execution: stoning (cf. Stephen in Acts 7), decapitation (cf. James in Acts 12), etc. Crucifixion was used to humiliate as well as to harm.

Publicly Naked

For example, crucifixion was always public. In fact, the most visibly prominent place was selected, usually at a crossroads, in the theatre, or elsewhere on high ground. The reason was to intensify the sense of social and personal humiliation. Victims were usually crucified naked. Jewish sensitivities, however, demanded that the victim wear a loincloth. In the Bible physical nakedness was often a symbol of spiritual shame and ignominy. John Calvin wrote:

“The Evangelists portray the Son of God as stripped of His clothes that we may know the wealth gained for us by this nakedness, for it shall dress us in God’s sight. God willed His Son to be stripped that we should appear freely, with the angels, in the garments of his righteousness and fulness of all good things, whereas formerly, foul disgrace, in torn clothes, kept us away from the approach to the heavens” (194).

The first Adam, originally created in the righteousness of God, by his sin stripped us naked. The last Adam, suffering the shame of nakedness, by his obedience clothes us in the righteousness of God.

The “Foolishness” of a Crucified Savior

The ancient assessment of crucifixion is seen in the way it was dealt with in their literature. Historians once mistakenly assumed that the scarcity of references to crucifixion in cultured literary sources was proof that it was rarely employed. More recently it has been determined that the more refined literary artists omitted reference to crucifixion, not because it was unknown, but because they did not want to disgrace or defile their work by mentioning such a vile and obscene practice. In Greek romances and the theatre, crucifixion of the hero/heroine was routine, but in every instance he/she was delivered from the cross and set free. In other words, heroes could not on any account be allowed to suffer such a shameful death. This was one reason why the notion of a crucified savior was “foolishness” to the Greeks.

Cruellissimum taeterrimumque supplicum, which means “that most cruel and disgusting punishment,” was used to describe the crucifixion. Pliny the Younger (112) called Christianity a “perverse and extravagant superstition” because it preached Christ crucified (Epistulae, 10.96.4–8). Tacitus called it a “pernicious superstition.”

The Cross Forbidden for Romans

The shame associated with crucifixion was so intense that it was expressly forbidden that a Roman citizen be executed in that manner. Cicero wrote:

“Even if we are threatened with death, we may die free men.” But the executioner, the veiling of the head, and the very word “cross” should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears. “For it is not only the actual occurrence of these things or their endurance, but their liability, their expectation, nay, their mere mention, that is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man” (Defence of Rabirius, 5:16).

A Symbol of Indignity

The symbolic emphasis of the cross in the ancient world is also seen in the practice of hanging on a cross the corpse of a man who had been executed by some other means. What possible reason would there be for doing this, except to subject his name/reputation to the worst possible social indignity

The Contradiction of a “Crucified Messiah”

The obscenity of the cross explains Paul’s early opposition to the church and its gospel. Paul was “ravaging” the church (Acts 8:3; a word that literally refers to a wild beast tearing at its prey, ripping flesh from bone); he was “breathing murderous threats” at the church (Acts 9:1); he “persecuted” the church “to the death” (Acts 22:4); he was “furiously enraged” at the church (Acts 26:11); and “tried to destroy it” (Gal. 1:13). Why?

It wasn’t primarily because the church claimed that Jesus was God incarnate, nor because of any perceived threat to the Mosaic law or the Temple (although that accusation was raised; cf. Acts 6:13). The principal stumbling-block for Paul was that Jesus had been crucified. A crucified messiah was a contradiction in terms. One may have a Messiah, or one may have a crucifixion. But one cannot have a Messiah who is himself crucified! The concept of the Messiah evoked images of power, splendor, and triumph, whereas that of crucifixion spoke of weakness, degradation, and defeat.

Crucifixion as Curse

In Jewish law (see Deut. 21:23) “the corpse of a judicially executed criminal was hung up for public exposure that branded him as cursed by God. The words were also applied in Jesus’ day to anyone crucified; and therefore the Jews’ demand that Jesus be crucified rather than banished was aimed at arousing maximum public revulsion toward him” (Carson, 574). (See Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; 1 Pt. 2:24; and esp. Gal. 3:13 where reference to death on a “tree” is prominent.)

Thus, what Paul (or Saul, actually) was hearing proclaimed by Christians was that he who was to enjoy God’s richest blessing instead endured God’s most reprehensible curse. How could these Jews honor as God and Savior one whom God himself had openly and obviously cursed? Worse than a contradiction in terms, a crucified Messiah was an outrageous blasphemy! Yet, note how the early church highlighted this very fact! See Acts 2:23; 4:9–12; 5:29–31.

The Offense of the Cross

Thus the offense of the cross does not come from the fact that it is theologically incoherent or intellectually illogical or legally impermissible. The offense of the cross came from the fact that the cross, itself a visible symbol and physical embodiment of moral shame and aesthetic repugnance, was the instrument of death for him who claimed to be Messiah and Savior. This explains why Paul was himself so horribly mistreated and scorned when he preached the gospel.

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