The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem
Resurrected God or healed man?
"And remember the time when you slew a person and differed amongst yourselves about it?
And God would bring to light what you were hiding"
Examination of Biblical passages in support of survival theory:
1.Jonas and Jesus
2. Pilate at Antonia
3. Pilate sets the time of the Crucifixion
4. Pilate and the Centurion?
5. Kersten on Longius
6. On Dying on the Cross
7. Jewish Burial practices--A Short but powerful note
8. After the Crucifixion
Conclusion: Was Jesus the first savior?--29 Saviors before Jesus
was sent by Titus Caesar with Ceralius and a thousand riders to a certain town by the name of Thecoa to find out whether a camp could be set up at this place. On my return I saw many prisoners who had been crucified, and recognized three of them as my former companions. I was inwardly very sad about this and went with tears in my eyes to Titus and told him about them. He at once gave the order that they should be taken down and given the best treatment so they could get better. However two of them died while being attended to by the doctor; the third recovered.”
When the average person hears the word crucifixion, two things come to mind: (1) The crucifixion of Jesus Christ; (2) Death. In fact, for most of us crucifixion means death. That is simply because of the fact that there is only one individual that comes to mind when we see the word crucifixion: Jesus Christ. And as we “know,” Jesus Christ died on the cross, right? Well, according to the ancient and noted historian, Flavius Josephus, whom we quoted above, it was more than common for a crucifixion victim to be taken down from the cross alive and given “treatment so they could get better.” And, in the case of Flavius’s friends, one of them recovered from his crucifixion wounds. Dr. James Deardorff views Josephus’s testimony as the most powerful evidence that crucifixion victims could survive their ordeal.
We originally wanted to include a number of case studies demonstrating the capacity of human beings to survive all forms of the most horrendous trauma—even for periods of months. Then, as we did the research, we came across so many unbelievable cases that it was simply overwhelming. We did not even know where to begin. Suffice it to say that if the reader studies the matter at a library, or goes to the Internet and searches on “trauma” or “torture,” you will discover some absolutely shocking cases of survival. Seeing these, there should truly be no reason to be surprised that a human being could survive a crucifixion. Countless human beings have recovered from much worse.
Why do we assume that someone who was crucified automatically died on the cross? Well, there is an historical reality that cannot be forgotten. And that is that the Church at one time was the most powerful entity on earth. It was so powerful that it could pull down entire governments. Even though the Church is no longer viewed [by some] as this powerful, we can still get a hint of its might in past times just by recalling that a contemporary Pope, Pope John Paul II, is openly credited with being partially responsible for the downfall of the powerful Soviet Union, through the efforts of the Polish labor union Solidarity, the Catholic population in Poland and underground organizations.
We must remember that the Church carried on one of the most ruthless campaigns in human history for the purpose of establishing its doctrine as the uncontested religious doctrine on earth. One such operation lasted for 603 years (1231 to 1834) and was called the Inquisition [though the most brutal period, it seems, was between 1478 and 1834]. The Inquisition was initiated by Pope Sixtus IV in 1478 under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella of Spain, and was first called the Spanish Inquisition. In the beginning, the primary targets of the Spanish Inquisition were Muslims and Jews. But the enemy list quickly broadened to include witches, political enemies, scientists who dared propose theories contrary to the Church’s official theories and others.
The Inquisition expanded widely into Europe and found some of its most savage expression during the Protestant Reformation. The methods of the Inquisition included torture, confiscation of property, the ripping of body parts while the victim was still alive through a rack-type device, and execution through burning. Everyone knew that the Church would not hesitate to torture and kill in order to establish its doctrine. Europe had witnessed the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492 and the genocide of the Moriscos—converted Muslims living in Spain who had maintained some of their Islamic practices—under the direction of the Inquisition’s first Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada.
The Inquisition was effective as a weapon against the Reformation. It has been estimated that the Church murdered an astounding 50 million human beings over the period of the Inquisition, which, shockingly, did not end until the 19th century.
Censorship was the rule for the 600-year history of the Inquisition. Pope Paul IV is the Pontiff who created the Index of Forbidden Books, and anyone caught in possession of any of the books listed on that Index could be subject to ex-communication, horrendous torture and painful death. This Index of Forbidden Books was not abolished until the year 1966.
So, it is quite clear why the only understanding that humanity had about the crucifixion was the one given to it by the Church. And it simply was not even possible, as you can see from the above history, that anyone, even though he or she may have fully known that crucifixion victims did not always die, would have even dared speculate about the possibility that Jesus Christ may have survived the crucifixion. [Incidentally, the Church has re-named the Inquisition as the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One can only hope that humanity will never again see 600 years of oppression from any religious institution—Christian or otherwise—claiming to be acting “in the name of God.” It is a great blessing we have, in this modern age, to be able to obtain any kind of information that we wish, no matter its level of controversy].
But what happened to Jesus Christ? We are fortunate to live in modern times, when science and the field of medicine lend us powerful tools of analysis, as well as a language of medical and scientific terminology. These things even allow us to determine what may have occurred physiologically to Jesus Christ during and, assuming he survived the crucifixion, even after his ordeal on the cross. [Later, we will quote Joe Zias of the Century One Foundation, in which he demonstrates that crucifixion was a torture that often lasted for days].
We are even more fortunate that Dr. Trevor Davies, former (and now retired) personal physician to the Queen of England, has offered his expert medical opinion regarding what might have occurred to Jesus physiologically during and after the crucifixion, concluding that Jesus could not have died on the cross, and that he survived the crucifixion. Dr. Davies and his wife, Margaret, herself a theological scholar, teamed up to write an article entitled, “Resurrection or resuscitation” for the globally prestigious, Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London. We will only present his hypothesis and conclusion, which he offered at the end of the article, though the entire document is well worth reading.
In our view, one could not find a more perfect team—a prestigious medical doctor and a theological scholar—to evaluate the Biblical verses describing the passion of Jesus Christ. What is even more powerful is the fact that the Davies are Christians. Yet, as you will read in Dr. Davies’ conclusion, he believes that Christians should be willing to accept “proven knowledge,” no matter the theological ramifications.
Dr. Davies’ article begins with an analysis of the crucifixion scene. It then covers various theories regarding how Jesus died. And then, finally, it offers his hypothesis, which we present below. Any emphasis is ours:
“All condemned persons
were flogged but they were not so weakened as to be unable to carry the patibulum.
The strong presumption is that the abuse Jesus received at the Praetorium
rendered him unable to carry out a task which other condemned persons were
able to perform. This additional abuse, including the blow to the head, accounted
for his early collapse on the Cross. At
his crucifixion, Jesus was in shock and
hypotensive, and lost consciousness because of diminished blood supply to the brain.
His ashen skin and immobility were mistaken for death and there is no
doubt that the bystanders believed he was dead. The cry (and there is little
agreement about what may have been said) may not have been any more than a
loud expiration preceding syncope. Oxygen supply to the brain remained minimal,
but above a critical level, until the
circulation was restored when he was taken down from the Cross and laid on
the ground. Chill during the eclipse of the sun helped to maintain the
blood pressure. As Jesus showed signs of life he was not placed in a tomb
(which may have been the intention to avoid burial rites on the Sabbath) but taken away and tended...”
“The abuse meted out to Jesus in the Praetorium led to his collapse and early removal from the Cross, and to resuscitation. Individual and corporate suggestibility among the disciples and the women explains the reports of subsequent appearances. This hypothesis accepts the historical events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus but explains what happened in the light of modern knowledge. “Faith does not require the abandonment of thought or the assent to the concepts not scientifically acceptable. The Church will be stronger if it accommodates proven knowledge with its creeds. If it does not, all that is left is blind belief, far beyond the credulity of most people.”
Dr. Davies’ analysis
is quite fascinating. But what puzzles me is the following. While he clearly
states that, in his opinion, Jesus survived the crucifixion and was attended
to, he then suggests, in later parts of the article which are not quoted above,
that the appearances of Jesus to his disciples and followers after the event
of the cross were attributable to “transmarginal inhibition, a state of activity
of the brain in which hysterical suggestibility (or alternatively counter-suggestibility)
frequently occurs.” While we certainly cannot deny the existence of such a
phenomenon, we don’t understand why this necessarily means that Jesus did
not appear to his followers physically. After all, since Dr. Davies clearly
believes that Jesus survived the crucifixion, why then is it not possible that he met his followers physically? He introduces a
psychological or even mystical element into what was otherwise a physiological
analysis. If Jesus Christ physically survived the crucifixion, then most certainly
it is possible that he physically met his followers after the event of the
“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Master, we would see a sign from thee.’ But he answered and said unto them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’”
Christians refer to the above passage of the Bible to demonstrate Jesus’ confidence that, in his capacity as the Son of God, he would rise from the dead after his crucifixion. In the view of Christianity, this prophecy is one of the various Biblical signs that establish the truth of Jesus Christ. Well, how could Jesus Christ have known that he would come out of the “heart of the earth” after being buried in the open and airy tomb of Joseph of Arimathea? Whether he was the Son of God, as Christians believe, or a prophet, as Muslims believe, or an enlightened Buddha, as Buddhists believe, if it is assumed that he was some kind of great, spiritually endowed person, then it is not surprising that he may have received some kind of premonition or even direct verbal revelation from God that he would be “resurrected.”
The parallels that are always drawn between the Biblical account of Jonas’ three days in the belly of a whale and Jesus’ three days in the open and airy Garden Tomb are two: First, the fact that the time elapsed in both Biblical events was three days; second, the fact that both Jonas and Jesus escaped their confinement after three days. But there is another parallel: Jonas came out of the belly of the whale alive. Since Jesus Christ is reported, in the New Testament, to have drawn this parallel, must we also conclude that just as Jonas came out of the belly of the whale alive, so Jesus came out of “the heart of the earth” alive? Christian doctrine, of course, would state that Jesus was “alive,” but that he had a special body that was both human and Divine. Of course, most of humanity is not Christian. So, it is quite legitimate for non-Christians to examine the Biblical texts and draw their own conclusions. Even Christians may want to take a second look.
Before continuing, we feel it necessary to say the following. Agnostics, atheists, and religious skeptics would view this use of the Bible to examine alternative possibilities surrounding the events of the crucifixion as meaningless, if not absolutely ridiculous. They would point out that since the Bible contains many questionable verses, and since the compilation of the Bible is to be held highly suspect, that it is a totally unreliable document. As such, the use of the Bible as a reference book would be deemed by them to be wasted exercise.
We do not believe that. One of the things that can lend weight to any document is whether or not the information in it can be found duplicated elsewhere in other documents, or whether or not the information can somehow be corroborated. In fact, one of the charges made by atheists, agnostics, mythicists [people who believe that Jesus Christ never even existed], and skeptics is that since the events of Jesus’ life as recorded in the bible—particularly the Resurrection and the Ascension—cannot be corroborated by historical documents written at the time, then the Biblical account of Jesus Christ must be either false, embellished or pure myth. For instance, Acharya S, a mythicist and author of The Christ Conspiracy, says:
“Despite this fact, however, there are basically no non-biblical references to a historical Jesus by any known historian of the time during and after Jesus’ purported advent.” [Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy (Kempton: Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999), p. 49]
But we contend that the reason one can examine the Bible for evidence of the historical Jesus is that, contrary to what mythicists claim, non-Biblical evidence does exist to support not only the existence of Jesus Christ, but his survival from the crucifixion and his subsequent travels to Kashmir. Of course, mythicists do not, for whatever reasons, seem to wish to study the books of the East, such as the Bhavishya Mahapurana (see later), written in 115 A.D. when Jesus is said to have been still alive, which clearly mentions the sojourn of Jesus Christ to Kashmir, and his meeting with King Shalivahana in the year 78 A.D.
Obviously, since non-Christian documents do exist that record that Jesus Christ lived long after the crucifixion, then a reexamination of the Bible becomes necessary and is also a very legitimate exercise. In reexamining the Bible, you find that the Biblical evidence itself clearly supports the idea that Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion, just as it is stated in many books of the East. What is that Biblical evidence? We’ll first examine Biblical verses that lead to the conclusion that Jesus survived the crucifixion. Then we’ll cover the documents and evidence from the East.
And now when the even [evening] was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.”
Perhaps the most intriguing idea put forth by some of the proponents of the Jesus-in-India theory is the notion that Pontius Pilate was intimately involved—at every step of the way—in assuring that Jesus Christ would not die on the cross. In this view, the involvement of Pilate actually goes back to the trial of Jesus, conducted before Pilate at the castle of Antonia. It was at this trial that Pilate might have revealed his sympathy toward Jesus Christ:
“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death...”
“And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, saying, ‘Art thou the King of the Jews?’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou sayest.’ And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, ‘Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?’ And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, ‘Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?’”
There are two things to note here. First, the Biblical account claims that a custom existed that allowed people to ask for the release of a prisoner of their choosing. If we are to believe the above account, something seems curious. The “chief priests and elders of the people” had taken Jesus Christ before Pilate, specifically, as is stated in Matthew 27:1, for petitioning Pilate to put Jesus to death. Even many non-Christians are very familiar with the Biblical accounts of the absolute hatred that the scribes and Pharisees had for Jesus Christ. One can well imagine the frenzy of a crowd of Jewish priests escorting Jesus to Pilate—they wanted him dead. So what was Pilate’s reaction? After questioning Jesus (not before), he decided to take advantage of a custom and allowed the priests to choose whether they wanted Jesus or Barabbas to be released. If this account is to be believed, it most certainly must have been clear to Pilate how badly they wanted Jesus dead. Yet, after questioning Jesus, he offered to release Barabbas instead, even though it was clear to Pilate that they were extremely anxious to see Jesus executed. Was he doing this just to honor a custom? Or was he doing it in hopes that they might choose freedom for Jesus? Or perhaps he was using his wits for the purpose of gauging the degree of hatred that the priests had for Jesus. Later events suggest that Pilate, after hearing Jesus speak, was impressed, and tried to use a prevailing custom in order to avoid succumbing to the demands of the priests. The following verse might reveal Pilate’s motivation:
“For he knew that
for envy they had delivered him.”
Laying aside the question of how the recorders of the Bible knew that “he knew,” [perhaps through his personal aides and spies], the above verse is quite interesting. It seems to me that although he knew the true, underlying reason—jealousy—motivating the priests, Pilate’s offer of Barabbas was his way of measuring the level of discontent against Jesus. Supposedly, Barabbas was a very notorious criminal. Yet the priests preferred that Jesus be put the death. So, the request by the Jews to free Barabbas was unusual and was Pilate’s first confirmation that the priests were unjustified in their charges. Also, any intelligent leader of any era would know what happens when a new religious and spiritual teacher enters the scene: The orthodox authorities rally against him. It is a common occurrence in religious history, and Pilate knew precisely what was happening.
“When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, ‘Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.’”
Again, laying aside the question how the Biblical writers knew that Pilate’s wife had had this conversation with Pilate, We’ll examine the above Biblical account. To fully appreciate the above verse, one must understand the times. The Romans, though fierce conquerors and powerful rulers, were also very superstitious. So it is quite believable that Pilate was startled by his wife’s dream. He had stood before an extraordinary man. He knew perfectly well why the Jewish priests were scheming to execute Jesus. He had heard of Jesus and his profound teachings, as well as Jesus’ constant admonishment of the priest class; he had heard of the jealously and envy of the priests against Jesus. Finally, there stood The Man—Jesus. It must have been a powerful experience. So, is it difficult to believe that the superstitious Pilate would have done all in his power to help Jesus? This becomes clear later when we see that he washed his hands as a sign indicating not only that he was removing himself from the matter and giving Jesus over to the priests, but also of his belief in Jesus’ innocence.
“But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask [for] Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, ‘Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?’ They said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate saith unto them, ‘What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?’ They all said unto him, ‘Let him be crucified! And the governor said, ‘Why? What evil hath he done?’ But they cried out the more, saying, ‘Let him be crucified!’”
Did Pilate ask the question, “Why, what evil hath he done?” because he was
ignorant of the charges against Jesus Christ? Obviously he did not. He knew
full well what those charges were. So why did he ask the question? He asked for
the obvious reason that he did not agree that Jesus Christ had done anything
wrong. Many of us have been in situations where we’ve asked that same question
about someone who was going to be punished—even if only a child for some minor
infraction—for something that the person either did not do or which did not
merit any punishment. One can almost hear the plaintive tone in Pilate’s voice.
He did not believe the charges against Jesus, and he did not believe that Jesus
had done anything wrong. So why didn’t he use his rank and dismiss the crowd?
Because the Roman Empire followed a policy dictating that it would not
interfere in the religious customs of the people it governed.
“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.’ Then answered all the people, and said, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children.’”
Here Pilate openly stated, according to this Biblical account, that he did not want to be responsible for the execution of a “just person.” He reluctantly handed Jesus over to the people. It seems that this episode at Antonia set the stage for the next significant decision by Pilate—his setting of the time of the execution of Jesus Christ.
“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he is to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
Did Pilate purposely set the execution time to interfere with Jewish religious law as outlined in Deuteronomy? In the eyes of the Jewish priests, it would have been a huge violation of Jewish religious law to allow Jesus to hang on the cross once the Sabbath had begun. Pilate set the time of execution close enough to the Sabbath so that Jesus would not hang on the cross long enough to die. At the approach of the Sabbath, Jesus would have to be removed from the cross.
But why would he do this? You saw earlier that Pilate was very reluctant to hand Jesus over to the priests to be put the death. He also openly expressed his belief that Jesus was an innocent man. One does not have to assume that he was devoid of human sympathy simply because he was a bureaucrat of a powerful and feared empire. Also, the Biblical narrative states that Pilate was fully aware that the prime motive—jealousy—for the priests’ desire to execute Jesus was an unworthy one. And perhaps most important, his wife had had a frightening dream and had informed Pilate that he should not be involved in the matter at all. And, of course, Pilate washed his hands of the matter. It certainly is not beyond the realm of possibility that Pilate, using his authority, purposely set the time of the execution so that Jesus would have a chance to survive.
Mark states that Jesus was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15: 25). Mark and Matthew state that Jesus died on the cross at the ninth hour (Mark 15: 33-37). So, according to them, Jesus remained on the cross for six hours. But Luke claims that Jesus died at the sixth hour (Luke 23: 44-46), which means that he would have been on the cross for only three hours.
Dr. Fida Hassnain (A Search for the Historical Jesus) is of the opinion that Jesus may have been placed on the cross at the sixth hour. It appears that he is more convinced of the account offered in the book, Crucifixion by an Eye Witness, which claims that Jesus died on the ninth hour and had been on the cross for three hours. It seems that Dr. Hassnain’s attempt is to place the time of Jesus’ “death” closer to the approaching Sabbath. Perhaps in his view this would better demonstrate the sense of urgency in the need of the Jews to take the body of Jesus down from the cross before the Shabbat so that Jewish law would not be broken, as well as Pilate’s collusion in this matter. Hassnain states:
“During ancient times, among the Jews, a day was counted from sunrise, so the third hour could be 9 am, the sixth hour 12 noon and the ninth hour 3 pm. Taking together the information given in the Gospels, I would be inclined to chalk out the events of the day as follows:
“9 am (third hour): the case against Jesus presented before Pilate. Discussions until the sixth hour (12 noon) when final orders were given;
“12 noon (sixth hour): Jesus was put on the cross at Golgotha;
“3 pm (ninth hour): Jesus Christ was taken for dead and was allowed to be taken down from the cross. Thus it seems possible that Jesus remained on the cross for three hours only, because it was both the day before the Sabbath and also the day of preparation for the Passover.”
In summary, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Pontius Pilate purposely set the time of crucifixion in a way that would assure Jesus’ survival after his removal from the cross before the Sabbath. In fact, the Biblical verse we presented earlier, “And Pilate marveled that he were already dead,” shows that Pilate understood that Jesus should not have died so quickly, because he was very surprised when the Centurion told him that Jesus had died. And if, as some believe, Jesus had merely been unconscious, it is possible that he may still have been alive when he was taken down from the cross.
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.”
There does not exist a single record, that we know of, documenting a collusion between Pilate and the Centurion. So although we realize that the suggestion of collusion might be labeled speculation, We’ll examine that possibility. Did Pilate issue advance orders to the Centurion instructing him not to break the bones of Jesus? The actions of this Centurion are puzzling. The Bible documents the actions of the Centurions who were on the scene as nothing least than beastly. Jesus Christ had been treated with deep contempt. He had been beaten, crowned with a crown of thorns, mocked and abused. So whether or not Jesus was “dead already,” why should it be believed that the Centurion suddenly adopted some sense of morality and decided to leave the poor corpse alone? Why wouldn’t he have broken the bones anyway out of sheer brutality and the bloodlust of the moment? Also, did the breaking of the bones really ensure that the victim would soon die as a result of suffocation, as popularly believed? [More on that later when we examine a college experiment performed in modern times].
How could the Centurion have believed that Jesus was dead, when the very next verse states that to “ensure” that he was dead, the Centurion “pierced” his side? Well if the reason he did not break his bones was because he was dead, then why pierce the side? If he pierced the side because he wanted to be certain that Jesus was dead, then why not break the bones also to be doubly sure?
Supposedly, the breaking of the bones was meant to ensure that the victim would die, as this breaking removed the support the victim had had from his lower body, thus causing him to sink downwards, crushing his lungs with his ribcage. Who was the Centurion?
I’d like to reproduce a lengthy passage from Holger Kersten’s book, The Jesus Conspiracy: The Turin Shroud and the Truth about the Resurrection. Kersten offers background on the soldier who spared Jesus’ legs. Referring to the identity of this soldier, Kersten states:
“In the apocryphal Acta Pilata he is called Longinus and presented as the captain who supervised the Crucifixion. According to a tradition testified to by Gregory of Nyssa, Longinus was said to have later become a bishop in his Cappadocian homeland. This change of heart may mean that he had some connection with Jesus and his followers before the Crucifixion, or was even a secret follower of Jesus. This would make many of the problems about the events during the Crucifixion understandable. Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and the centurion Longinus were among the secret followers of Jesus. Since they held influential positions, they were informed well enough in advance about what the revolutionary exposure of Jesus was leading to.
“Joseph was highly respected as a member of the Sanhedrin. Since the second century BC this had been the high council of the supreme Jewish authorities for all affairs of state, judicature and religion. It consisted of seventy members under the chairmanship of the high priest. Nicodemus, who was initiated by Jesus under cover of night (John 3: 1-22), was also a Jewish Councilor. Thanks to their positions Joseph and Nicodemus had surely been kept well informed about the time and place of the execution and were thus able to plan the rescue of their master. We hear an echo of the advance information given to Nicodemus in a highly revered hagiographical legend of the Middle Ages. It tells how Nicodemus, in a letter sent to Mary Magdalene, warned Jesus about the attack by the Jews, when he was in Ephraim (John 11:53f)
“Joseph and Nicodemus knew the Crucifixion itself could not be avoided. But if they could manage to take Jesus down from the cross early enough, and everything was well planned, it would be possible to keep him alive, and he would probably be able to continue his mission unobserved. It was crucially important to the whole operation that the apostles were not involved. They had gone into hiding for fear of persecution. Nothing would be done against the respected councilors Joseph and Nicodemus or the Roman centurion. So for a limited period there was a chance that the daring operation could be carried out.”
Let’s examine the issue of the lance that was “thrust” into Jesus’ side and the question of the vinegar that was given to him, after which he “gave up the ghost.” Kersten (p. 249) points out that the original Greek word for the thrust by the soldier is nyssein. That word does not suggest a forceful thrust. The word means a light scratch, or a light puncture of the skin. This was considered a test designed to determine if the victim was actually dead. If the victim showed no reaction to this light stabbing, then it was assumed that the victim had died. The second issue has to do with the vinegar given to Jesus by the Centurion:
“Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’: and he bowed his head and gave up the Ghost.”
Did the vinegar contain some kind of opiate? Opium was well known to Jews at that time. Was the vinegar purposely brought to the crucifixion scene by the supporters of Jesus, particularly Joseph and Nicodemus, to serve two purposes: first, to act as a painkiller; second, to render Jesus unconscious?
Joe Zias, of the Century One Foundation, observes the following in his piece, “Crucifixion in Antiquity—The Evidence”:
“A series of experiments carried out by an American medical examiner and pathologist on college students [F.T. Zugibe, 1984: “Death by Crucifixion”, Canadian Society of Forensic Science 17(1):1-13.6.] who volunteered to be tied to crosses, showed that if the students were suspended from crosses with their arms outstretched in the traditional manner depicted in Christian art, they experienced no problems breathing. Thus the often-quoted theory that death on the cross is the result of asphyxiation is no longer tenable if the arms are outstretched. According to the physiological response of the students, which was closely monitored by Zugibe, death in this manner is the result of the victim going into hypovolemic shock. Death in this manner can be in a manner of hours, or days depending on the manner in which the victim is affixed to the cross. If the victim is crucified with a small seat, a sedile, affixed to the upright for minimum support in the region of the buttocks, death can be prolonged for hours and days. In fact, Josephus reports that three friends of his were being crucified in Thecoa by the Romans who, upon intervention by Josephus to Titus were removed from the crosses and with medical care one survived.”
Newsweek Magazine reported the following:
“In most cases, the experts think, death on the cross came within a span of several hours to a day or more, either from loss of blood or from suffocation as the victim’s rib cage collapsed over his diaphragm.”
So there is no question that it is possible to survive a crucifixion. Stroud claimed that in former times, in Central Africa, crucifixion victims would live as long as three days on the cross before finally expiring.
And as is reported each and every year through UPI (United Press International) and API (Associated Press International), during Easter celebrations in the Philippines, actual crucifixions occur and are conducted by overly-devout Christians whose intentions are to atone for their sins. Most of the victims remain on the cross for only a few minutes, and throughout the ceremonies antibacterial agents are administered to prevent infection. But it is claimed that some of the crucifixion victims avoid these more public celebrations and opt for a deeper experience (in remoter areas), actually remaining on the cross for several days before authorities finally discover them, take them down, send them to a hospital for treatment and recovery, then charging them with something akin to disorderly conduct. The account in Stroud’s book claims that such victims can remain alive for days.
To see pictures of crucifixion victims, visit the following website: http://www.crucifyme.com/details.html
See article at: http://www.tombofjesus.com/Tombrundown.htm#ondying
While one might register a doubt as to whether or not someone would have himself nailed to a cross for several days, those of you unfamiliar with the Philippine crucifixions probably would have thought, before reading this link, that no one would have himself or herself crucified period, whether for four minutes or three days. So it is quite possible that the rumored Philippine crucifixions that are alleged to take place out of the sight of the authorities involve people who survive the crucifixion for days.
In general, ancient crucifixions were not meant for quick death, but for prolonged torture. The cross was sometimes affixed with various wooden attachments that would allow the weight of the victim to be supported so that he would not die quickly, but slowly. One such device was known as the suppedaneum. The victim would actually stand on this wooden platform. Another was the sedile. This was a wooden attachment on which the victim could sit. As the philosopher Seneca, Nero’s personal secretary, stated: “The life of the person thus sentenced trickled away drop by drop.”
“And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”
We contacted, via email, the Shema Israel Torah Network International Burial Society and asked them the following question:
“Have Jewish burial customs changed
much in 2000 years? The Bible claims that Jesus was covered with some kind of
ointment [I think the Bible says 100 pounds weight of some kind of
substance—seems to be quite a lot of weight]. Does that Biblical account
actually fall in line with Jewish burial traditions? Because I thought I heard
that it was forbidden to touch the body. Could you be so kind as to explain?
We present below the email response We received from Mr. Fishel Todd, a member of that society. Any emphasis is Mr. Todd’s:
“Jewish Burial Law, along with the rest of TRADITIONAL JEWISH LAW has not changed in 2000 years [but more] precisely, 3500 years. You’re right: the body is not to be touched except by giving it a ritual bath called a TAHARA, standing for purity and then the body is put in the ground in the quickest most simple fashion available with only traditional BURIAL SHROUDS.”
For what reason did Nicodemus take a mixture of myrrh and aloes—a full one hundred pounds—to Joseph of Arimathea’s open and airy tomb, not in the manner which the Jews bury their dead, as the last phrase of the verse wrongly contends? Though he may have wound the body of Jesus in linen clothes with spices, it certainly was not to bury a dead man, because no such custom ever existed, according to Mr. Fishel Todd of the Shema Israel Torah Network International Burial Society. If the Biblical account is true, then it is obvious that Nicodemus carried those herbs to the scene for the purpose of applying them to Jesus’ wounds, so that he would be healed. Kersten states:
“The theologian Paul Billerbeck makes the event appear as if an embalming was to take place with the aromatic substances added to oil. But the Rabbinical texts refer only to an oiling of the bodies of the departed. The addition of spices is nowhere mentioned, let alone in these quantities, and was never part of Jewish custom; nor was embalming. Moreover it would be pointless to perform the embalming in the way described. One would have had to remove the entrails to stop the decomposition gases from bursting the body; an incision which would be extremely repulsive to the Jews, and the substances applied would not have served this purpose on their own...”
“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead?’”
When the women came to the tomb, they encountered two individuals who asked a simple question: Why are you here looking for a living person at a burial site? Let’s examine another verse:
“And he said unto them, ‘Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.’ And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, ‘Have ye here any meat?’ And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them”
In order to convince the Disciples that he had survived the crucifixion, Jesus asked them to realize that spirits or ghosts or apparitions are not composed of human flesh and human bones. To make his point firmly, he asked them for a piece of meat. They gave him fish and a honeycomb, and he ate in front of them while they watched. The question becomes: What was the need for a supernatural divinity, a supernatural god, or God Himself, to eat food? Aside from his attempts to assure them that they were not seeing an apparition, it is most probable that Jesus was extremely hungry, having gone through pure hell in being beaten and nailed to a cross.
Christians are bound by the doctrine that defines Jesus as both man and God. They view his post-crucifixion appearance as the appearance of this dual being. Non-Christians are not bound by religious faith to believe that Jesus was a special, supernatural being. When one reads the verses above without the condition of religious faith, then those verses become clear and simple, and they demonstrate one reality: Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion.
It is probably not commonly known that there existed as many as 29 saviors before the advent of Jesus Christ, whether real or mythical. We do not deny that Jesus Christ was crucified. But the conclusion, drawn by Christians, that Jesus was a unique savior-god is simply not true. It appears that this pre-Christian savior-god motif was borrowed [by Paul?] and attached to the events surrounding the Passion of Jesus Christ. And since the idea of the savior-god was borrowed in this manner, how can the veracity of the Biblical count of Jesus rising to heaven be trusted? And if he didn’t rise to heaven, where did he go?
Had Jesus been the only such savior-god in human history, then the internal accounts in the Bible pertaining to the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ would have to be analyzed only on their own merits. But he was not the only such savior-god. Some believe that the doctrine of Christianity was fashioned to incorporate pre-Christian beliefs that were still prevalent during the time of Jesus Christ—beliefs that were very familiar to people. In short, some of Jesus’ errant followers, such as Paul, created an updated version of an ancient theme for the purpose of accommodating the Gentiles and converting them to the new religion. The savior-gods that have appeared in human history, whether fictional or real, have all or most of the following in common:
Their mothers were virgins.
They were born in a cave or in a stable.
They worked for the salvation of humanity.
They were called Saviors, Mediators, Healers, etc.
They were overcome by evil powers [Jesus was tempted by the devil].
They made a descent into hell
After being slain they arose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
They founded religious institutions.
They were commemorated by Eucharistic rites.
Many of these savior-gods were believed to make a second coming to the world.
|Hermes/Har-Makharu/Taht||Egypt/Greece (Greek Kurios = Lord in N.T.)|
|Mercury/Har-Makharu/Taht||Egypt/Rome (Greek Kurios = Lord in NT)|
|Nimrod||Babylonia (The Two Babylons, by A. Hislop)|
|Tammuz/Adonis||Babylonia (Adonis = Adonai (Hebrew) = Lord in O.T.|
|Orisa Oko||Yoruba (West Africa) (Osiris/Horus)|
Kersey Graves states the following
“The story of the crucifixion, therefore, whether true or false, deified or helped deify many great men and exalt them to the rank of Gods. Though some of the disciples of Buddhism, and some of the primitive professors of Christianity also (including, according to Christian history, Peter and his brother Andrew), voluntarily chose this mode of dying in imitation of their crucified Lord, without experiencing, however, the desired promotion to divine honors. They failed of an exaltation to the deityship, and hence are not now worshiped as Gods.”
There exists another view, different from the one offered by the above author, regarding the origins of the crucifixion theme. It is stated that the idea of birth, death, and resurrection was a religious theme that evolved amongst primitive peoples based on their observation of nature. In viewing nature, their assumption and conclusion was that the Supreme Deity operated in the same manner as could be seen in nature. Spring and summer represented birth; fall and winter represented death, as the land, so to speak, would “die,” and then the return of spring and summer represented resurrection.