The cruxifiction

Immediately after Pilate - reluctantly - had decided that Jesus was to be executed, he was whipped, led out to Calvary (Golgotha), and crucified. Or was he? I will take a closer look at what happened.

To Golgotha

Jesus crucified bewteen two thieves, A Strasburgian painter, possibly Hermann Schadeberg, around 1412. Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France.

In English the word for the place of execution is often given as Calvary, where the Danish and other translations uses the word Golgotha (Golgata in Danish). The English words stems from latin Calvariae Locus, the part of the skull that covers the brain. The Danish word comes from Aramaic word  Golgotha, meaning "The place of the skull". In this article I will refer to the place by this name. Anyway, let me get to the story.

According to Matthew, after the sentencing by Pilate, Jesus was led into the castle by Pilate's soldiers, who undressed him, gave him the crown of thorns, mocked him, and struck him on the head with a staff. Then they dressed him in his own clothes and he was led out to the crucifixion. Markus roughly agrees, but says that the entire guard was assembled before the insults began. Luke knows nothing at all about any crown of thorns or any insults. In Luke Jesus was just handed over to the Jews who led him out to Golgotha. Also in John, Jesus was handed over to the Jews and neither in this gospel, was he crowned with thorns or mocked.

According to Matthew, on the way to the place of execution they met a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was forced to carry Jesus' cross to Golgotha, where he (Jesus) was crucified between two others - one on each side. On the cross was inscribed: "This is Jesus, the king of the Jews" (Matt. 27.32-44)

Also Mark lets "them" (apparently the Roman soldiers) force another man, Simon of Cyrene who "was passing by on his way in from the country" to carry Jesus' cross. "They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it" Incidentally, it is remarkable that the modern translation in Biblica Online has changed the text of Mark 15.22. In King James' Bible the text is instead: "And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull." In this translation as well in the Danish, the word "him" clearly refers back to Simon of Cyrene, not to Jesus. So it is Simon who was led out to Golgotha. He was then crucified. The inscription on the cross, with the accusation against him just said "The King of the Jews". Mark also has the story of the two men who were crucified with Jesus to fulfill an ancient prophecy. (Mark 15.22-27) In King James' the two men were identified as "thieves/robbers", while in Biblica they are called "rebels". I will get back to this below.

Luke roughly agrees with Mark. In this gospel, however, Simon explicitly followed behind Jesus with the cross. In Luke, Jesus was followed on his way by a large crowd, including many women who wept and wailed until Jesus asked them to stop by telling a parable. When they came to Golgotha, Jesus and the two "criminals," as Luke calls them, were crucified. Luke lets the criminals be led to Golgotha with Jesus, which sounds reasonable as they were to be executed together. (Luke 23.26-33) In the other Gospels, you get the impression that the two were already in place when Jesus arrived.

John emphasizes - in contrast to the synoptic gospels - that Jesus himself carried the cross all the way to Golgotha and does not mention Simon of Cyrene at all. Jesus was crucified between "two others", but John does not mention whether they were robbers, criminals or rebels. In John, the high priests protested in vain against the inscription on the cross "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", which was abundantly written in three languages, Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The high priests of the Jews now said to Pilate, "Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written" (John 19.17-22).

All the Gospels agree that after crucifying Jesus, "they" shared his garments among themselves. None of the synoptic gospels specify who "they" are, but John, apparently knew who "they" were. He tells that the clothes were divided into 4 parts apart from the robe, on which lots were drawn. (Here the Biblica has "undergarment" while King James has "coat" and Danish has "kjortel" which translates to "kirtle"). The surprising thing is that John knows that it was soldiers who shared the clothes. Surprising because John has previously said that it was the Jews who had led Jesus to Golgotha and crucified him. John does not mention the Romans with a single word until this time, when it is suddenly Roman soldiers who crucify Jesus and share his clothes.

After Jesus was crucified, he was mocked and insulted by "those who passed by" and by the high priests, the scribes and the elders and even the two men who were crucified with him mocked him. (Matt. 27.39-44 and Mark 15.29-32). According to Luke, "the people stood and watched", and it was the people and the members of the council who mocked Jesus - and the soldiers who stood guard mocked him as well and gave him vinegar to drink. In Luke, however, only one of the two "criminals" person mocked Jesus, while the other asked Jesus to remember him when he came to his kingdom, which Jesus promised. (Luke 2.35-43) John is not at all aware of any kind of mockery or insults of any kind. According to this gospel, those who were at the cross were only Jesus' mother and a few other women.

The words of Jesus on the cross

While Jesus was hanging on the cross, he made various short statements known as "the words" or "the sayings". Unfortunately, the Gospels do not agree in this matter either, but why should they also agree on thia when they are different everywhere else? According to Matthew, it went as follows:

The Cuxifiction seen from the cross. James Tissot, 1890. Brooklyn Museum

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” (Matt. 27.45-47 and Mark. 27.33-35). Mark has Eloi instead of Eli though but besides from that the two stories are the same. The statement is a quote from Psalm 22 in the Book of Psalms. In the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter, Jesus' words are given as "My power, my power! Why have you forsaken me", but this can be explained by the fact that the word Eli in Aramaic can be translated to both God and power. It is stated that the psalm in the days of Jesus was often used in case of deaths, so perhaps it is a later addition, an indication that Jesus really WAS dead.

According to Luke, Jesus made several statements while hanging on the cross.

"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." to the criminal who asked for forgiveness. (Luke 23-43) There are several interpretations of this text. In the original language no punctuation is used and it is therefore unclear whether the sentence should be read as "Truly I tell you: today you will be with me in paradise." This is the most common interpretation among Protestants. Many Catholics see the statement as "Truly I tell you today: you will be with me in paradise." thus implying, "when your time in purgatory is over and you are cleansed"- that is, the irony of the thief believing that he can follow Jesus directly to paradise and skipping purgatory. Finally a more sinister interpretation: "Truly I tell you today: will you be with me in paradise?" that is indicating that the criminal must be mad, if he believes that he will ever go to paradise.

Btw, this is the only place in the Gospels where the word paradise is used.

Earlier Luke had: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23.34) This statement is missing in many of the oldest manuscripts of Luke, and is perhaps a later addition. It seems to be aimed at both the soldiers and the Jews who were behind the crucifixion, according to Luke.

Later, in the 9th hour just before he exhaled his last breath:

"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23.46). Also this is a quote from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 31 verse 6. "Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God". The statement should probably be interpreted in the direction of  "Now I have done my task and I surrender myself to you".

Also John quotes more statements that Jesus uttered on the cross. First, Jesus said to his mother and the "the beloved disciple":

"'Woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.'" (John 19: 26-27) The Catholic Church usually interprets this as Jesus "giving his mother to the church". Some believe that this is proof that Mary did not have other children, for if she had it would have been an insult to them that Jesus handed over the responsibility of his mother to a stranger. On the other hand, it is argued that it was necessary to give responsiblity of his mother to a stranger, because Jesus' siblings were not yet believers. But that does not seem likely, for shortly after the crucifixion, Jesus' brothers take over the leadership of the congregation in Jerusalem. Rather, the statement needs to be interpreted much more practically (and has probably never been uttered). John (or his source) knew that the beloved disciple actually took care of Mary after Jesus' death, and therefore the evangelist put these words into Jesus' mouth. I have previously discussed
who the beloved disciple was, and in this article, I came to the conclusion that, in my best belief, it was Jesus' twin brother, Thomas. It would also be natural for Mary to live with another of her children after the death of the son she had lived with after her husbands death. At least more natural than if she were to move ine with a complete stranger, even if Jesus loved this particular stranger. If this interpretation is correct, it also explains why the brothers were not offended.

And later

"I am thirsty" (John 19:28). This, of course, can be interpreted quite literally, which sounds likely. Some, however, interpret it allegorically: "I thirst for God, who is so far away". Others interpret it from Psalm 69 in the Book of Psalms. In verse 21 it says, "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." Seen in the context of Jesus being given vinegar right after the statement, it might be a reasonable interpretation. One last possibility, which I myself am a supporter of, is that the man on the cross tells that he can no longer cope, and therefore is given poison (see below.)

The soldiers gave him vinegar on a sponge, after which he stated:

"It is finished." Jesus has now died for the sake of humanity and can do no more. Because of his sufferings, all mankind has been forgiven for their sins. Such is the normal interpretation of this statement. However, even this statement can be interpreted in accordance with my conspiracy theory that the whole crucifixion from designed just to save Jesus from Roman persecution. See below.

As the gospels, except for Matthew and Mark don't give the same sayings from the cross, it is hard to make any decision of in what sequence the sayings were made, but ordinarily scholars sequence them like this:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.     Luke
Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.     Luke
Woman, here is your son,' and 'Here is your mother.     John
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani or Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani     Matthew and Mark
I am thirsty.     John
It is finished.     John
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.     Luke

Actually we don't know if Jesus said any of these as none of the authors of the gospels were present at the cruxifiction, so maybe they are all invented. Some could be real though. Personally I believe that at least one of John's sources were an eyewitness to some of the events in Jerusalem, so I actually believe that the two statements in John, "I am thirsty" and "It is finished", might be real. Anyway, scholars usually divide the sayings into seven themes with one saying in each theme:

1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Triumph and 7. Reunion

Jesus draws his last breath

After Jesus' death, Matthew becomes completely exalted. "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people." (Matt. 27.51-52) The officer and the guards at the cross got terrified and acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God.

Later, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked to have Jesus' body delivered. Pilate granted it, and Joseph arranged for Jesus to be buried in the tomb carved for Joseph himself.

Mark largely agrees, but in this gospel Pilate expressed surprise when he learned that Jesus was already dead, and when the centurion (who must have followed Joseph from the place of cruxifiction to Pilate) confirmed the death, Pilate accepted and handed over the body to Joseph.* Jesus was buried in an already carved tomb. Mark apparently does not know that the tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. Neither does Luke, who has a largely identical story, know whose tomb Jesus was laid in, nor does John have this knowledge. He knows though, that Nicodemus came with Joseph and that two anointed Jesus in about 100 pounds of aloe and fragrant ointments before being wrapped in his shroud. This sounds almost like an embalming, and must have been a costly task, which harmonizes with the fact that even if Jesus himself was not wealthy, then he at least had very wealthy followers who did not give away their fortune to be saved. John also tells that the tomb was in a garden.

* This is actually very strange, as the Romans wanted the bodies of the crucified to remain on the cross until the flesh were rotted and the bones fell apart, so they could serve as warnings to others, not to rebel against the Roman empire. So maybe the whole story is false - or maybe some kind of bribe was in place.


That is what the gospels tell us. There are many more details, and some of these I will return to later. But what to believe about these events? There are already many who have wondered about this, and they have come to many different conclusions. Ranging from assumptions that all the narratives are the pure and simple truth, however it may be possible, when they are often in conflict with each other, to all narratives being "lies", written many years after the events.

Personally, I believe that the Gospels here, like everywhere else, hold a core of truth. What is difficult is just to get this core isolated from the ornamentations on the outside. As mentioned above there is reason to believe that when events take place in Jerusalem, that the author of the Gospel of John has been best informed. On the other hand, the Gospel of John is the gospel that is wrapped in most theological ornamentations. When John seems most credible, even though it is probably the gospel that is furthest from the events of time, it is because the gospel contains elements that must almost necessarily be based on eyewitness accounts. And even though the gospel was first written down late, it is believed today that it hasn't been authored all at once, but in several steps and parts, of which the oldest part is possibly from between 50 and 70. This means that these parts are not younger than the other gospels. And these parts can easily be based on even older writings or from oral testimonies from people who themselves witnessed the events. I have an idea myself of ​​who might be among the evangelist's sources, but more on that in a later article.

But what then is the truth behind all the theological ornamentations of the Gospels? As I have previously mentioned in the article on the trial against Jesus, we can exclude all narratives that indicate that it was the Jews who were responsible for the crucifixion. Jews had the right to judge blasphemy and had the right to execute blasphemers by stoning or by beheading, but neither were they allowed to nor would they use crucifixion, as it be deeply contrary to their religious laws and if a man was "hanged on a tree" he was not to hang there overnight: "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." (Deuteronomy 21.23) which is why the Jews wanted the three men taken down before sunset, when the sabbath began. So in my opinion it is absolutely certain that Jesus was executed by the Romans. They even wrote the crime on his cross, which is also entirely in keeping with Roman tradition. In contrast, the Gospels contain no indication that Jesus was whipped before he was crucified as the popular notion is, which the romans sometimes but rarely did to weaken the criminal before the cruxifiction. Jesus my have been crowned with thorns and beaten in the head with a stick, but even that is actually unlikely. He was taken to the execution site by Roman soldiers, and even the Gospels who otherwise believe that it was the Jews who were responsible for the execution, "admit" that it was Roman soldiers present at the place of execution. Jesus was executed for being the King of the Jews, which was a crime against the Roman Empire. And then it kind of doesn't matter if he WAS the king of the Jews or if he was just called the king of the Jews. Both would lead to the same punishment.

Where was Golgotha located?

According to Roman tradition, the condemned himself carried his "cross" to the place of execution. The Gospels tell us that Jesus himself (or a substitute) carried the cross from Pilate's castle to Golgotha. However, it was not the whole cross, but only the crossbeam. So it was with other executions, and so it must have been in the case of Jesus. In modern times, experiments have actually shown that even a very well-trained person (who is probably both bigger and more muscular than the Jews 2000 years ago), could only drag a cross a few hundred meters before he had to give up. Today, no one knows exactly where Golgotha was, but it has certainly been more than 200 meters from Pilate's castle. Most people think that Golgotha was where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is found today, but there is actually no archaeological or historical evidence to confirm that. It might as well have been somewhere else and that was most likely the case. The Romans had a tradition of crucifying criminals along busy roads, just outside the city gates so that they could serve as a warning to travelers who was approaching the city. This has probably also been the case on this occasion, so Golgotha must have been near one of the roads that led into and out of Jerusalem. The name means, as it also appears from the Gospels, "skull place", but whether it was because it resembled a skull, or because skulls from other executions was found there, is not known. Another explanation is that this was the place where Adam's Tomb was and where his skull was buried. Finally, there is also a theory that the name is simply misunderstood; that it should in fact come from the Aramaic term Gol Goatha, which simply means the mountain of execution, which I find likely.

The location of the place of execution is therefore uncertain. The tradion that places it at the site of Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates from as late as 325, from a description of the Empress Helena, mother of Caesar Flavius ​​Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, better known as Constantine the First or Constantine the Great. Before the church as built, Emperor Hadrian built an Athena Temple on the site, but Christians believe that Hadrian had this built at Golgotha to mock the Christians. However, today some scholars suggests that the temple simply had been built according to Roman customs near the main north-south road through the city and next to the Roman square (Forum), of which there are still remains near the Holy Sepulchre. Thus, the temple had nothing to do with Golgotha. It is also a problem that the place is located within the city's old walls and not outside, as the Gospels claims. Various scholars have explained this by saying that Hadrian had just enlarged the city to get Golgotha within the city wall so that he could build his temple within the city wall according to Roman tradition, and still mock the Christians, but modern archeological excavations do not suggest that there was a city wall inside the place where the Holy Sepulchre is today and given the geography it would also have been impractical as the place is located on a slope that any attackers could have used to climb a possible wall.

General Gordon's Golgotha which actually looks as a skull. The crosses would have been raised on top of the hill, where there is now a cemtery.

In 1882, General Charles Gordon believed to have found Gogotha, where now the "Garden Tomb" is located outside the city walls near the Damascus Gate. According to Gordon, the tomb was to be the one where Jesus was actually buried and Golgotha was a high cliff near the tomb. This cliff had (and has) three large depressions, which may look like eyes and mouth in a skull if seen from the right angle, and one can also imagine a "nose". (See this picture from Wikipedia. The "skull" is seen in the middle of the picture just to the left of the sign and Jesus should have been crucified at the top, where there is now a cemetery).

Also the location of the place on a hill by the main road to the north out of the city, where the crucified would be very visible is in accordance with Roman custom seems reasonable. Greek historian (265 - 339) Eusebius pointed out that Golgotha was located north of Mount Zion, which in his day was what we today call the Temple Mount, while the present Mount Zion first got its name in the Middle Ages. The Temple Mount is located just southeast of Gordon's Golgotha, but just east of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. On the other hand, researchers have denied that the tomb near the site may have been Jesus' tomb, as it must have been built around the 8th century BC, not the first. Also Jewish historian Josephus, who knew the town before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, identified Mount Zion as being the Western Hill (the current Mount Zion). So maybe the name, Mount Zion, was used for different hills at different times in history, or Eusebius was mistaken.

Another possible location has been proposed by Rodger Dusatko, a missionary in Germany. He claims that the hill just outside the Lions Gate in Jerusalem has the appearance of a cranium and identifies this hill as the 'Cranium Place' mentioned in the Gospels. All four Gospels use the Greek word "kranion" to describe the place where Jesus was crucified. Unlike skufion ("skull"), kranion (in English – cranium) is just the upper part of the skull excluding the face bones. Since the temple faced east, the curtain in front of the entrance of the temple would have been in direct view of those gathered on this hill at the northeast corner of the Temple Mount, just outside the city wall. And to testify that the curtain ripped at the very moment when Jesus died, there must have been eyewitnesses. If the story is true that is. Anyway it corresponds with the gospel of John "... for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city..." (John 19.20)

A few modern scholars believe that Golgotha must have been in a private garden, and not in a public place. However, there is nothing to suggest that. Executions were public events, not private, and the Romans would hardly have allowed it to take place in private. Also the synoptic gospels indicates that many people were present. We must probably confine ourselves to the fact that today we cannot say with certainty where Golgotha was located.

Who carried the cross?

The Synoptic Gospels all agree that Simon of Cyrene carried the cross, whether he was forced to do so (as the Gospels believe) or did so voluntarily (as some scholars believe). However, John emphasizes that Jesus himself carried the cross all the way. Traditions from medieval times will know that Jesus initially carried the cross himself, but became tired. Then the Romans wanted another Jew to carry it, but this man refused, and mocked Jesus instead. This man, who is sometimes called Ahasuerus, sometimes Cartaphilus and sometimes by completely different names, became "The Wandering Jew" or "The Eternal Jew" because Jesus said to him "I will rest, but you must continue until the last day".

Although three of the Gospels agree that Simon carried the cross, that does not necessarily mean that the story is correct. The authors could have copied the story from one another, but there are also other traditions that mention Simon of Cyrene, as the one who carried the cross of Jesus. Cyrene were a city in present-day Libya, and in early paintings Simon is depicted as a black man, which he may have been, but there is no good reason to believe that he was, as there were about 100,000 Jews living in the city where there had been a Jewish colony for over 300 years at the time of Jesus. The colony had their own synagogue in Jerusalem, where many traveled during the holidays, so it would be only natural if Simon were in Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Mark mentions that Simon was father of two sons, Alexander and Rufus, so one must assume that these people were well known in the congregation that told Mark about the cruxifiction - if not, there were no reason to mention the sons. 1941, a Cyrenic tomb was found in the Kidron Valley. In the grave was an ossuary (a box containing the bones of a deceased). This bore a Greek inscription with the text "Alexander, son of Simon", but whether there is any connection to Simon of Cyrene is not known. But we know that ossuaries were only in use in and around Jerusalem for about 100 years around the time of Christ.

Did Simon of Cyrene replace Jesus on the cross?

The Qur'an says, "And they said we have killed the Messiah Isa son of Maryam, the Messenger of God. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him. On the contrary, God raised him unto himself. God is almighty and wise." (Quran 4:157–158) Some interpret it as if Jesus did not remain on the cross long enough to die and therefore was alive when he was taken down, and thus was alive when he was brought up to Allah. Others believe that he was was alive when he was taken down, but later died, and thus was dead when Allah picked him up. There are also Muslims who believe that Allah made those involved believe that they crucified Jesus, but in reality they did nothing. Finally, there are some who believe that he, who was crucified, actually died on the cross, but was not Jesus at all because Allah had imprinted Jesus' looks on someone else. Som say Simon, while other indicated Judas Iscariot without directly mentioning the name. Most don't indicate though, that the unknown man would have been Simon of Cyrene, but another source do! Most Muslims believe, that Jesus never died but was teaken up to Allah before death appeared. There are actually some disagreements about this between different Muslim sects.

A Gnostic writing, Second Treatise of the Great Seth, found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945 and dating from the beginning of the 2nd century, takes a step further. It states:

"For my death, which they think happened, (happened) to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death... It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I[t] was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns... And I was laughing at their ignorance."

Christ falling on the way to Golgotha, Raphael, 1516, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Leaving aside the very Gnostic wrapping, these lines actually just say that it was not Jesus who was crowned with thorns, that it was Simon who carried the cross, and that, although it is not entirely clear, it was also Simon, who was crucified. It may also explain some of the things that happened in connection with the crucifixion. When Jesus said he was thirsty, he was given vinegar which he drank, but immediately after drinking he drew his last breath. That does not sound likely. The death on the cross happened by suffocation. When all the weight was put on the arms, the pectoral muscles pressed on the lungs, making it impossible to breathe, but it could take several hours - sometimes even days for a crucified person to die. When simultaneously attaching the feet to the cross, whether they were tied or nailed, the crucified could carry some of the weight with the legs and in this way reduce the pressure on the chest, which would cause the process to be prolonged. Vinegar usually has an invigorating effect, and since Jesus had only hung on the cross for three hours, it seems completely wrong that something invigorating should cause his immediate death. The other crucified men were not close to dying. Therefore, the Jews asked that the legs of the crucified was broken. so that they would not hang on the cross on the Sabbath. This may sound sadistic, but in reality it was an act of mercy, because with broken legs, the crucified could no longer carry any weight on his legs, and death would therefore occur sooner. This also testifies to the fact that - contrary to what John has previously said - it was not the Jews themselves who were responsible for the crucifixion, because then they would not have had to ask anyone to break the legs of the crucified, but could have just done it themselve. "They" (presumably the Roman guards) broke the bones of the two criminals, but since Jesus was already dead, they did not have to break his legs. According to John, a prophecy that none of his bones would be broken would come true. "These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken." (John 19.36). Many other Gnostic writings also mention the substitution of Jesus by Simon, and even one of the so-called Fathers of the Church, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, mentions the theory in his book Against Heresies from around AD 180, and he attributes it to an Egyptian Christian by the name of Basilides, who must have said it somewhat earlier, so it's a rather early tradition. Ireneaus of course did not agree, and found the idea to be heretical, which is why he mentions it in his book. Other historians from the time, claim that Irenaeus was wrong and that Basilides had never said anything about any substitution, but Irenaeus was against anything that diverged even the slightest from his own interpretation of Christianity.

As mentioned above, even Pilate, who had many crucifixions on his conscience, wondered how quickly Jesus had died. This may be explained by the fact that it was not vinegar he got, but a poison that made him seem dead, without being so. According to "The Holy Blood, the Holy Grail", Joseph of Arimathea used a Greek word meaning "living body" when he asked Pilate to have Jesus body handed over for burial, while Pilate used a word meaning "corpse". The authors of the book inteprets this as if Jesus was still alive when Joseph asked for his body, while the officer's confirmation of his death can be interpreted as meaning that the Romans believed he was dead. (Mark. 15.44). However, there is another possible explanation. Namely, that it was actually someone else who was crucified in Jesus' place. And that this other man did it voluntarily. So he was crucified for Jesus' sake, perhaps sacrificing himself to ensure that his "king" survived. As I mentioned in the article on The Trial of Jesus, it may be the person who was actually arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and not Jesus. It would also explain why "The Great Seth" can tell that Jesus was not crucified at all but hid while another was crucified in his place. This person may very well have been Simon from Cyrene. It may all have been agreed between Jesus, Judas Iscariot (I will get back to the theory of a conspiracy between Jesus and Judas in a future article) and Simon, and one of Simon's conditions may have been to ensure that the execution went quickly and did not become as long and painful as crucifixions usually were. The saying on the cross "I am thirsty" may have been a pre-agreed code, which meant "Give me the poison now, I can no longer cope with the pain". It could also explain the saying "It is finished", which perhaps suggested that now Simon had done his part, and with his death, he had saved Jesus from the Romans.

Who was present at the cruxifiction?

In addition to the soldiers who were apparently responsible for the execution the Gospels mention several. Markus tells of some women "who watched from a distance". Among these were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joses and Jacob the Little, and Salome, who had all followed him while he was in Galilee. In addition, many other, unnamed women. Also the high priests and the scribes must have been present, and somewhat closer, for otherwise they can hardly have mocked and insulted Jesus. In addition, there were also some others (unspecified), "who passed by". Matthew tells almost the same thing, but does not mention Salome by name. He refers instead to the "mother of the sons of Zebedee," ** so one must assume that Salome was the mother of the two brothers. Luke is most imprecise and just mentions a large crowd, including many women. All who knew him looked on from a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee. (Luke 23.49) John mentions Mary, mother of Jesus, his mother's sister, Mary, wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Moreover, "the disciple whom Jesus loved". Here the women stood so close to the cross that Jesus could speak with them, but John does not mention that any other was present.

* The sons of Zebedee were the disciples James and John, who, according to the Synoptic Gospels, were among the first to be recruited by Jesus. It is also interesting that for several of the named men, they have previously been identified in relation to their fathers, but now it is their mothers who they are connected with. Maybe the fathers have disappeared along the way.

If you were to try to deduce anything from the Gospels, you could imagine that Jesus and the other two who were to be crucified were alone with the soldiers by whom the execution was carried out, at the top of the hill where the crosses were to be erected. The soldiers would hardly have been interested in being surrounded by a crowd as they nailed the condemned to the crossbar and hoisted it into place. If, what is most likely, that there was a crowd, they would certainly have watched from a distance, probably down the hill or even further away. None of Jesus' disciples - except the "beloved disciple" - were apparently present at the crucifixion, which have made some wonder why. However, I do not. If Jesus was executed for rebellion, his closest followers would probably have been wanted as well, and then there would be every reason to stay away. Even greater would be the reason for the disciples who possibly was involved in an attempt to trick the Romans into believing that they executed Jesus. The women, on the other hand, would hardly have been wanted, and may have been present, but at a distance, as the Gospels suggest. When John places them close, it is probably because he needs to let Jesus appoint the beloved disciple to take care of his mother in the future.

Stabath Mater (The standing mother),- Women at the cross Gabriel Wüger 1868, Beuron Archabbey.

One thing that amazes not only me but also many researchers is the confusion of names surrounding those present. Let me disregard Salome and the mother of sons of Zebedee, who may, be one and the same person, but who must at least be among "the women who had followed him from Galilee" as Luke tells. Instead, I want to take a look at the many who are called Mary. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned only in John, who mentions her along with Mary, Clopas' wife, and Mary Magdalene. So three Marys. At the same time, John mentions a sister of Jesus' mother. However, the sentence construction is somewhat messy, so it is not clear whether Mary, Clopas' wife, leads back to Virgin Mary's sister, or whether it should be read as: "His mother and his mother's sister, and Mary, Clopas' wife, and Mary Magdalene", that is, four women and not three. Others have suggested that the sentence should be read as "His mother and his mother's sister, Mary and Clopas' wife, and Mary Magdalene", so that the other Mary is the sister of Virgin Mary, and in return "Clopas' wife" is another person. Again, the lack of punctuation in the original language makes interpretation difficult. Some scholars believe that Mary, Clopas' wife, should rightly be translated as Mary, Clopas' daughter, but this is less important in this context. On the other hand, it would - at least today - be a little strange if two sisters had the same name, so most researchers agree that Mary, Clopas' wife, is not the same as Virgin Mary's sister. Some of these suggest that Mary's sister may be Salome, whose presence John apparently knows nothing about. If this is correct, then the sons of Zebedee must be first cousins ​​of Jesus and since many other disciples are related, see the article on the disciples, it would not be completely unnatural. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip, however, agrees with those who believe that Virgin Mary had a sister who was also named Mary: "There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary." However, the relationship does not become particularly clearer by the fact that in the first sentence "His mother and her sister" are mentioned while in the second sentence there is talk of "His mother and his sister". The question then is whether it was Jesus 'aunt, or Jesus' sister, whose name was Mary. If the latter were the case, it would not be unnatural, since children in a family were typically named after the parents. Incidentally, Mary, Clopas' wife, could also have been the cousin of Virgin Mary, as some Jewish scholars state, as the Hebrew and Aramaic of the time did not have a word for "cousin," but instead typically used the same word as for "sister. "In the article Was Jesus Married - and to whom I already discussed the many Marys in The New Testament.

Attempts have been made from time to time to identify Clopas, who are not mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels. Some believe that he was the brother of Virgin Mary, and thus Jesus' uncle. The woman who was accompanying them, whether her name was Mary or not, was thus the sister-in-law of Jesus' mother. Others believe that Clopas was the brother of Joseph, who was the father of Jesus, and that according to traditional Jewish custom, he had married Mary after Joseph's death. It was thus he who was the father of Jesus' siblings, i.a. Judas, James and Joseph and his sisters too. In that case, John meant with his statement that Mary, Jesus' mother and her sister were present - the Mary who was NOW Clopas' wife. In that case, the sentence construction is even more strange because it then mentions a sister between Mary and an explanation of who she was married to. There is a little "Jelling stone" over this: "King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian." Some proponents of this theory suggest that when the gospel is unclear in this place, it is because John prefers to make it look as if Virgin Mary remained untouched after the birth of Jesus, and therefore neither remarried nor had any more children. There are also some who identify Clopas with Alphaeus, who was the father of some of the disciples, and others identify him, with the Cleopas, whom the resurrected Jesus met on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.18). If one of the last two options is correct, it does not say anything about the wife's relationship with Jesus.

Mark and Matthew add another Mary, namely the Mary who was the mother of Jacob and Joses. This has given rise to the concept of "The Three Marys", which accompanied the fourth Mary, the mother of Jesus, namely 1) Mary, Clopas' wife, 2) Mary Magdalene and 3) Mary, Mother of James and Joses. It has led some scholars to equate "the Mary who was the mother of James and Joses" with Salome. This would be somewhat strange, however, as Markus explicitly mentions Salome as someone other than Mary, and mentions that she is the mother of the sons of Zebedee and none of them was named Joses, even though one of them was named James. None of the synoptic gospels mention that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was present during the crucifixion. However, since it is mentioned in several places in the New Testament that Jesus had four brothers, two of whom were named James and Joses (Joseph), it would give more reason to equate Mary, mother of Jacob, and Joseph and Mary, mother of Jesus. That would then imply that there were actually only three Mary's present, not four, but in my eyes it actually sounds most likely.

In addition to those already mentioned, there were also two others present, namely those who were crucified with Jesus. Matthew and Mark call them "robbers" and Luke calls them "criminals". However, elsewhere they are called "rebels" and are even referred to in some of the oldest manuscripts as such. In connection with the Barabbas episode, some "rebels" who were imprisoned are mentioned, and it is probably reasonable to believe that it was two of these who were crucified with Jesus.

Summary of my opinion

Let me end this article with a brief summary of what I believe happened in days before and during the cruxifiction.

Before The Last Supper, an agreement had been made between Jesus and Judas Iscariot that should in the end save Jesus' life. After The Last Supper the disciples went to The Garden of Gethsemane to talk. Judas in the meantime had alerted the Romans soldiers and led them to the garden. Once here, he identified Simon (who had voluteered to replace Jesus) as the man they were to arrest. When the guard arrived Jesus escaped dressed in a white sheet (maybe he had just changed clothes with Simon). Simon was taken to Pilate while Jesus went to the high priest (Annas or Caiaphas) together with Peter and a disciple who knew the high priest: "Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in." (John 18.15-16)

The next day the substitute, Simon, was led by Roman soldiers to a hill outside the city walls. Accompanied by two others who, like Jesus, had been convicted of rebellion against the Roman Empire, most likely two of Jesus' followers who had taken part in the cleansing of the temple. It is possible that representatives of the Jewish authorities followed, for example, Joseph of Arimathea may have been present as a representative of the council, the Sanhedrin, and there may also have been representatives of the clergy present, but the high priest Caiaphas was not there himself, although it is suggested in the Synoptic Gospels. Nobody, except the guards and perhaps a few representatives, was allowed to get close to the crosses. Everyone else watched from a distance, presumably from the foot of the hill or even further away. Among these were a number of women who knew Jesus and had followed him from Galilee, but probably also women who had helped him in Judea. Moreover, there have probably been other of his followers, among these perhaps some disciples hidden in the crowd. Among the women have been Jesus 'mother, as well as perhaps her sister, Mary Magdalene (who may or may not have been Jesus' wife as mentioned in a previous article, and Salome, who was the mother of some of the disciples. Most of the inner circle, the 12, were most likely not present, as they themselves were wanted. They have rather been busy preparing for escape, possibly together with Jesus, who had thus hidden himself after the arrest. While this was going on, Jesus and a few co-conspirators, like Judas Iscariot, escaped to Galilee, where they awaited the arrival of the other disciples.

One of Jesus' conspirators, perhaps Joseph of Arimathea had bribed a Roman legionary, maybe even the centurion, and arranged for him to offer the man on the cross, Simon, poison so that he died quickly, either to avoid suffering for too long or to prevent him from regret and reveal that he was not Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea, who knew Pilate, asked for the body to be handed over, and he got it, as mentioned above much against Roman tradition, where the crucified were allowed to hang until their bones fell off the cross by themselves. When the Gospels say that it was because of the Sabbath, it may well be the reason for the request, but hardly for Pilate to comply with it. Also Joseph and the other conspirators would have wanted to bury the body, before anyone discovered it was not actually Jesus but an imposter. So possibly here too there was also bribery involved in this case. Pilate was known to be greedy and Joseph of Arimathea was rich!

In the next article I will tell more about the burial and resurrection.

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