It seems maybe Jesus didn’t die on a cross.
Yep. Apparently, we kind of flubbed that fact. At least that’s what Gunnar Samuelsson is saying. He thinks there’s no evidence of crosses or nails being used for executions in Roman times, and we just assume that when the Bible says “crucifixion” it means “on a cross.”
That’s one I didn’t expect. I would’ve thought that a notorious method of executing criminals and enemies of the state would be well known and rather indisputable. People have debated since the Monday after whether Jesus actually came out of the grave. But I’ve never heard of anyone arguing that he didn’t died on a cross. Thing is, this guy is a Christian. He says that Jesus was in fact executed by the Romans…just not on a cross. He just thinks we should stop “reading between the lines” in the Bible and read what it really says.
While my first reaction to the guy was, “Cram it, Captain know-it-all,” I thought of three slightly better reactions to this news.
What else have we gotten wrong?
This is an obvious one. When someone starts picking apart something you take for granted, it kind of opens up Pandora’s box. When I found out Santa might not be literally factual, I immediately shouted at my parents, “I suppose the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are all lies too!” My world came crashing down that day.
It would be a real shock if the cross is made up. The Episcopalians and Catholics wouldn’t know what to do with their hands. Think of all the homies wearing their giant gold crosses on chains that reach their crotches. They’d sure look ridiculous and phony, now that the cross is certifiably made-up! Then there’s The Passion of the Christ, and every other Jesus movie, relegated to status of “cute relic of a more innocent time” status. Not to mention the Jesus fish people would corner the market of Christian symbols. With no competing Jesus symbols, the market for Christian regalia would plunge into a socialist style dystopia. You can have any symbol of Jesus you want…as long as it’s a fish. I don’t want to live in that world.
But most troubling would be the thought of what else is right under our noses in the Bible that we’ve just misinterpreted? It could be something small. Perhaps Peter wasn’t a fisherman, but a British shoeshine. “G’day, gov-na! Shine ya shoes fer a sixpence!” Not a huge deal, but it makes you think. Maybe we’ve misread something important. It wouldn’t be the first time. People used to think when Moses came off the mountain with God, he radiated with “horns.” Charming. They later found their mistake. Turns out it was “light.” The correct answer was “light.”
Why did we get it wrong?
If the cross never existed, why would we think it did? Was it just a cosmic, centuries-long game of telephone, where the original word was “post” and we got “cross” by the time the game was over? Or was it more sinister? The Romans could’ve killed people in any number of ways. But some of them were more memorable than others. Maybe the Romans fancied hanging people on streetlamps or Burger King signs. Maybe they made prisoners sit in comfy chairs, like during the Spanish Inquisition. If the Romans weren’t that good at killing people in memorable ways, maybe some monk with a flair for showmanship decided Jesus’ death needed more pizazz. Maybe by the time the Tower of London was in business, people were desensitized to violence and needed a bit more gore in their Bibles just to keep their attention.
I’m willing to admit that the Bible isn’t very graphic when it comes to the actual crucifixion. But I’m also not willing to take him at his word that there’s no evidence of crosses being used to execute hundreds of people in public. Still, if we did get it wrong, it would be a pretty big, “Why?”
Does this really matter?
I don’t like to think about this. I don’t like to think that something that seems so basic might not have happened the way we think it did. I mean, we already know that virtually all Hollywood portrayals don’t quite capture the crucifixion in its reality. But if the cross never really existed, would it really matter? These days, it’s hard to imagine that people really believed that Moses had horns or that the Earth was the center of the universe, and to believe otherwise made you a heretic. It’s hard to imagine, but I don’t want to be laughed at a hundred years from now because I believe in the cross like a simpleton.
But really, does a piece of wood have any significance? Does God change if the shape of the cross changes?
The question does matter because we’ve believed it so long, it would call the rest of our beliefs into question…for a while. But then I suppose we’d get over it. We’ve gotten over a bunch of other things, like not being the center of the universe, or being the only planet. But then again, it would make us all look like morons, and it could be the final stake in the coffin for Christianity in an increasingly skeptical world.
What do you think? Would it matter to you, beyond personal sentimental feelings? Or does the rest of the Bible rise or fall on the cross?