A nice treat for us — some scholarly paleobabble!
Readers may have seen or heard the “news” that, according to scholar Gunnar Samuelsson, the gospels do not say Jesus died on a cross. This, my friends, is either a good example of sophistry or yet another reason to keep journalists as far away from biblical and ancient studies as possible.
Samuelsson is a scholar. His dissertation work was on crucifixion in the ancient world. One of the news articles has Samuelsson saying this:
In fact, he argues, in the original Greek, the ancient texts reveal only that Jesus carried “some kind of torture or execution device” to a hill where “he was suspended” and died.
“He was required to carry his ‘stauros’ to Calvary, and they ‘stauroun’ him. That is all. He carried some kind of torture or execution device to Calvary and he was suspended and he died.”
A second news article notes that Samuelsson:
“doesn’t doubt that Jesus died on Calvary hill. But he argues that the New Testament is in fact far more ambiguous about the exact method of the Messiah’s execution than many Christians are aware.”
I must be missing something. The second quotation above has Jesus being “suspended” on a cross and then dying – which is exactly what the gospels say. Jesus was put on a cross after a horrific beating. He was alive on the cross for some time before he died (Matt. 27:27-31; 27:40; Mark 15:24-32). In crucifixion, as many experts have noted, the cause of death is asphyxiation. So far the only difference I see between what Samuelsson says in the second quotation and what the gospels say is apparently the nails – ? I’m guessing Samuelsson doesn’t think the gospels say that Jesus was nailed to the cross, but only suspended (?), but then I wonder how, in all the time devoted to his dissertation work, he missed John 20:25. Those weren’t rope burns; they were holes.
The facts are simple here, actually. Whether Samuelsson believes Jesus was nailed to the cross or merely “suspended,” he’s still saying (at least to my eyes) that Jesus died on a cross. And the cause of death would be the same: asphyxiation. So who cares? I’d like to give Samuelsson the benefit of the doubt here and say this is just another archaeo-nonsense-journalistic sideshow. I know what journalists can do to people with what they say (and it has to be malice on some occasions, since to be so endlessly inept at getting a quotation right would require some kind of clinically-treated stupidity). But I’m not entirely sure.