Was Christ really crucified?

Christ probably did not die on the cross

Swedish theologian finds no evidence to confirm the main Christian symbol

Even if the defenders of the Christian West fight for the presence of the crucifixes in schools and other public places, there is nothing to suggest that Jesus was actually crucified. At least that is the thesis of the Swedish theologian Gunnar Samuelsson, which he came to in his 400-page doctoral thesis "Crucifixion in Antiquity: An Inquiry into the Background of the New Testament Terminology of Crucifixion" at the University of Gothenburg. The thesis that the "cross" could have been a stake or a trunk is not new, but is hardened by the study of the Swedish theologian.

After evaluating numerous historical Greek, Roman and Hebrew texts from the time of Homer to the 1st century AD, he found, as he also reported in an interview on Deutschlandradio, that crucifixions are hardly mentioned as punishments there Even in Roman times there were no common methods of execution, as is often rumored. You won't find anything about it in the sources in which this type of punishment should appear, says Samuelsson, but there are a lot of other cruel methods.

Although there is often talk of hanging, crosses are just as little mentioned here as a crucifixion with nails, with which Jesus was supposedly killed. Living or dead people, often only parts of people, were hung up, but this was more likely to serve as a display than as a means of the death penalty.

Crucifixion is mentioned as a form of hanging, but only in a very vague form. The word "stauros" (also xylon) used in the New Testament does not have to be a cross, but can also mean a trunk, a stake or anything else. Otherwise, the descriptions of the crucifixion in the New Testament are very sparse and imprecise. According to Samuelsson, Christ's death on the cross was interpreted and imagined in the reports, even if he could not rule out the crucifixion, the image of which later spread and became the central symbol of Christianity.

Other interpretations are that it was not a cross in the usual shape with a longitudinal beam, but a pole on which a transverse beam was attached as on a T. The convicts may already have been tied to this crossbar, which they then had to carry to the place of execution. It is also often doubted whether the condemned were really nailed to the cross. Presumably they were only hung from it and then died from suffocation or circulatory collapse.

While Christ may not have died on the cross, Samuelsson does not deny that he was "crucified" or, more precisely, "hung up," whatever that means, and died in the process. There were also witnesses for this, as well as for the fact that he was resurrected three days later. Samuelsson is not only a philologist, as he says, but also a pastor and Christian, so that for that very reason he does not want to question the biblical descriptions in their entirety.

Nonetheless, his analysis, should it be correct, will be a severe blow to the Christian tradition and the Christian church. After all, Jesus, who was martially nailed to the cross, bleeding and twisted in pain, is the most important symbol of Christianity as a sign of hope in death, and the cruel redemption of humanity by the crucified Son of God is the center of faith. The cross is an old symbol that was adopted from Christianity, and it has become so catchy because the crucified Christ with his feet nailed on top of each other and his arms outstretched himself has the shape of a cross and a person who spreads his arms while standing that welcomes others. (Florian Rötzer)

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