*** WARNING ***









                             Death on a Cross



  In the first century, at a time when the Roman Empire ruled most of

  the known world, a favored method of execution was to hang the

  accused upon a cross until death.


  In executions today, at least within the free world, death comes

  quickly and is never public.  That is, not displayed in a public

  area, nor on TV.  There is little or no pain involved.


  The Romans believed that execution, when used as a means of

  punishment, should be as painful and as humiliating as possible, and

  that death should linger on to enhance the pain.  They also believed

  that the execution should be a public event.


  All this was done with design and purpose.  For the death penalty

  then, as now, was used as a deterrent to crime.  They believed that

  a public display of such an horrible death as with crucifixion would

  give a message to the people that "crime does not pay".


  Many of us still believe this today, and much can be said concerning

  both sides of the debate.


  Death upon a cross was the most hideous and anguishing of any type

  man could devise.





  One cannot discuss crucifixion without explaining scourging.  Usually those

  who were going to be crucified were first SCOURGED.


  Scourging is a form of beating with a type of whip.


  The Jews had a law that prohibited them from beating the accused more than

  40 times.  Because of this law, they always stopped at 39, counting

  carefully as they went.


  The Romans had no such law, and there were no specific number of lashes

  which could be inflicted upon an accused, therefore the Romans commonly

  called scourging, "halfway death".


  In the room of scourging, which was a room of torture, there was a low

  thick stump or post.  It was about knee high, or a little higher.  At the

  base of the post were four metal rings, used for tying the wrists and

  ankles.  The accused was stripped naked.  He was bent forward, over the

  post, and tied in that position.


  The instrument of torture was called a flagellum.  It was a piece of wood

  from 14 to 18 inches long, circular in shape, to which were tied long

  leather thongs.  To these thongs were sewn bits of glass, bone, pellets

  of lead, and pieces of metal, adding weight to the flagellum.


  The user of the flagellum was called a lictor.  He was a professional in

  the grim art of torture.  The lictor would place himself about 6 feet from

  the accused.  The flagellum was then brought all the way back, over his

  shoulder, then whistled forward, making a dull drum sound as the strips of

  leather smashed against the back of the rig cage.  The bits of bone and

  chain and glass curled around the sides of the body, raising small

  hemorrhages about the back, chest, stomach, and sides.


  The flagellum came back again, aimed slightly lower, and again, aimed

  higher, as it crashed against the skin and flesh.  The flagellum now moved

  in a slow heavy rhythm - "flagellations".


  One historian writes, "It reduced the naked body to strips of raw flesh,

  and inflamed bleeding wounds."


  It was not uncommon for a man to die on the stump.  It was also not

  uncommon for a man to go insane.  Invariably the victim passed out -

  through pain.  Blood came from all the holes in the face and head during

  flagellation.  If one of the lead weights hit the face just right, an

  eye could be popped out.


  Victims would fall into spasms.  Their bodies would shake uncontrollably.

  Their teeth rattled audibly.  Victims would be revived by buckets of salt

  water, as the Romans used pain to keep the level of pain conscious.



                                On to the Cross



  The accused was chained to the crossbeam, and was forced to carry

  this to the place of execution.  The crossbeam was a rough piece of

  timber 4 inches by 6 inches, and about 6 feet long.  A board was hung

  from the victim's neck, upon which was written his name and his crime.


  The victim did not carry the upright board.  It would have been much

  too heavy.  He was led through the streets on the way to the execution

  place.  He was forced to walk inside an imaginary square - in the

  hollow of the square.  A soldier walked at each corner of this square

  with a centurion in the lead.


  The actual upright portion of the cross was already at the execution

  site, and in place.




  Facts about Death on the Cross:


  Note that the normal practice for crucifixion in those days was to

  break the subject's legs. This was so that the subject could not lift

  himself up with his legs to relieve the pain in the arms and chest. The idea

  of the crucifixion was really to induce death by suffocation, slowly but


  Consider too, that the knees are a second heart.  When you move they

  pump the blood back up to the heart.  When your legs are immobilized, the

  blood collects in your legs, and with less and less blood to pump, the

  body goes into shock, where only the brain and lungs are getting blood.

  Then, as there is even less blood, the lungs fill with liquid. This

  results in a person loosing consciousness.


  Those who have been trapped in cave-ins where their legs are

  immobilized are treated by the medics for both of these problems; low

  blood pressure and pneumonia.  Those who stand at attention for long

  periods of time will also pass out if they fail to move their knees.

  These, then, fall flat on their face, or the other way. 



  Not only was crucifixion the most painful of deaths, it was also the

  most debasing.


  The condemned was striped naked, and left exposed in his agony.

  Often the Romans denied burial to the victims - allowing the body to

  hang until it disintegrated.


  But death by crucifixion did not originate with the Romans.  It was

  developed by the Phoenicians much earlier in history.  In Phoenicia

  they believed in a god "ORMUZD".  The god of earth.  The pure god.

  No criminal would be allowed to contaminate the earth with their

  impure blood.


  So they devised an ingenious plan where the victim could be lifted

  off the ground and left in that position to die.  This allowed the

  earth to remain pure.


  This type of death was passed on to the Egyptians and then on to the

  Romans.  The Romans embraced it and developed it into an actual art.

  They devised the very best plan by which to carry it out.


                             The Roman Procedure



  The executioner laid the crossbeam behind the accused and brought

  him to the ground quickly by grasping his arm and jerking him

  downward.  As the condemned fell, the beam was fitted under the back

  of his neck.  On each side soldiers quickly knelt on the inside of

  each of the elbows.  Once again, the matter was done quickly and



  The executioner wore a leather apron with pockets.  He placed two

  square five inch long nails between his teeth, and a hammer in his

  hand, kneeling beside the right arm.


  The soldier whose knee rested on the inside of the elbow, held the

  forearm flat on the board.  The executioner probed with his hand,

  the wrist and hand of the victim, to find the little hollow spot,

  meaning, where there would be no vital blood vessel.


  When he found it, he took one of the square cut iron nails from his

  teeth, held it against the spot - directly behind the so-called

  "lifeline".  Often a piece of wood, such as olive wood, was

  fashioned into a sort of washer to be fitted on the nail so that

  the nail could not be torn through the flesh.


  He then raised the hammer over the nail head, and brought it down

  with force.  As soon as he was satisfied that the victim, in

  struggling, could not pull himself free, he did the same on the

  other hand.


  The two soldiers would then grab each side of the crossbeam and as

  the executioner motioned, they lifted.  As they pulled up, they

  dragged the victim by the wrists.  When the soldiers reached the

  upright, the four of them began to lift the crossbeam higher, until

  the feet of the accused were completely off the ground.


  By then, the accused writhed with pain.


  When the crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner reached up and

  set the board which listed the prisoner's name and crime.


  Then the executioner knelt before the cross.  Two soldiers hurried

  to help.


  Each one took hold of a leg, at the calf.  The procedure was to

  nail the right foot over the left foot.  This was probabaly the most

  difficult part of their work.  If the feet were pulled downward too

  far, and nailed too close to the foot of the cross, the prisoner

  always died quickly.


  Over the years, the Romans had learned to push the feet upward,

  buckling the knees so the comdemned man could lean on the nails

  through his feet and stretch himself upward.


  The victim was now in a "V" position with his arms, and became

  conscience of two unendurable circumstances.


  First; that the pain in his wrists was beyond bearing, and that

  muscle cramps knotted the forearms, upper arms and the pads of his



  Second; that the pectoral muscles at both sides of his chest were

  momentarily paralyzed.  This induced in him an involuntary panic,

  for while he found that while he could draw air into his lungs, he

  was powerless to exhale.


  Victims upon the cross were literally in constant motion, so as to

  keep breathing.


  To hang strictly on the hands, long enough, would prohibit the

  breathing process.  And so, he literally rubbed himself up and

  down, up and down, against the rough timber, in order to keep

  breathing and stay alive.


  The victim would ultimately die, not from the loss of blood, but

  by suffocation.  He no longer could breath properly once he became

  unable to lift himself up.


  With each second the pain mounted.  The arms, limbs, torso screamed

  with pain.  The force of gravity pushing downward on the body, with

  the arms at the "V" position, was using leverage to literally tear

  muscles, tendons, and flesh, and nerves, to where the length of the

  arms would be increased by several inches.


  Slowly, but steadily, he was being asphyxiated by his own loss of

  strength and will to raise himself for another breath.


  On occasion when they wished the condemned to die after a certain

  time, they would merely have to break the legs.  Thus the victim

  would no longer be able to raise up to breath, but would sag, and



  It is recorded that some lived as long as several days in this

  position before finally dying.  Obviously, they would have to

  have been given water in order to survive that long.


  Eventually though, one would weaken, tire, become overcome with

  pain and struggle, and involuntarily begin to sag and loose the

  ability to raise again.


  Eventually one would cease movement, struggle, and life.





       It is difficult to imagine a more terrible suffering and death.




                          torture of insects

                     exposure to brutal spectators

                 the absolute horror of rigid fixation

             all, continuing interminably, and combining to

        make death by crucifixion a supreme humiliation and torture.


  I wonder, after reading this, if I were condemned to die upon a cross,

  would any of you volunteer to take my place?



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                              JESUS DID