We live in a world that desires proof.
In a society grown cynical and jaded by post-truth ideologies, people want concrete evidence of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Here is what we know.
The History of Crucifixion
By the time of Christ, crucifixion was already an old practice. It had been practiced by the Assyrians since at least the 6th century BC, and the Romans practiced it for 500 years before Constantine outlawed the practice.
So for 1200 years, various societies practiced death by crucifixion.
In Roman society, this brutal form of execution was practiced only on the lowliest or most heinous of criminals. Dishonorable soldiers, slaves, and foreigners were the main victims.
To be crucified was painful in the extreme. The word “Excruciating” comes from the Latin “cruciare” meaning “to crucify”
In the crucifixion, the feet would be nailed not to the front of the support beam, but to the sides, with a nail through each heel.
The hands would not always be nailed. Instead, victims would be tied by their wrists to the crossbeams. However, John 20:27 implies that Jesus had his hands nailed to his cross.
Evidence for the Crucifixion of Jesus
There is no reason to doubt the biblical account of the crucifixion. This method of death was common during the Roman occupation of Israel in the first century, especially as a way of keeping the rebellious Jews in line.
Zealotry was common during this time, and entire factions of Israelites attempted to make trouble for the Roman occupiers. Rome, already famous for its use of violent punishments, were quick to hand out crucifixions to rebels.
It was not uncommon in these days to travel along the road and see entire families crucified as a warning to would-be troublemakers.
However, hard evidence has been hard to come by.
Olive wood, used often in the making of crosses, is an organic material and decomposes fairly quickly.
The nails used for crucifixions were thought by many to have supernatural powers and were often carried away from crucifixion sites to be sold or worn as jewelry.
in the late 1960’s, however, there was a breakthrough. Vassilios Tzaferis, a Greek-Israeli archeologist, was excavating Jewish tombs at Giv’at ha-Mivtar.
In the tombs, he came across a box inscribed with the words “Yehohanan ben Hagkol”
At first thinking this was a name, Tzaferis was confused. Why place the remains in a box this way?
But after further study, it became clear that “Hagkol” referred to crucifixion. The contents of the box confirmed this.
Inside, he discovered remains of a body, and among them, a heel bone driven through with a Roman nail.
What Does This Tell Us?
This discovery lets us know that crucifixion was indeed used in Jesus’s day, and that it was used against the Hebrew people.
Therefore, there is little reason to deny the Biblical account of the crucifixion of Jesus.
If you have more questions or want to find out more about what the death and resurrection of Christ means for you, take a look here.