The Real Means of Roman Executions in the First Century

There are many people around the world that conclude that the means of "crucifixion" of our Savior Yahushua, the Son of Yahuwah, and other victims of the Roman Empire is exactly as the Roman Catholic Church depicts it. (This is where the modern idea of the death of Yahushua hanging on a structure with crossarms originates.) These depictions usually also show ropes around the wrists and ankles that would be required to keep the person attached to that structure and a step (stipes) for the doomed person to stand on. The real possibility exists that the Romans did occasionally use various structures other than a plain post stuck in the ground, but the usual method was the plain post as described below.

The word "cross" appears in most translations of the Scripture only in what is erroneously considered to be the New Testament (Greek language portion of the Scriptures). In fact, it appears only in that part written in the Greek. No word in the Ibriy/Kasdiy language portion of the scriptures (usually erroneously referred to as the "Old Testament" and meaning from B'ereshiyth (Genesis) to Mal'akiy (Malachi) translates as "cross." Of course the word rendered as "cross" from the Greek does not really translate that way either.

The choice of the word "cross" to render the meaning of an upright stake or pole stuck in the ground is sad (maybe deliberate) in that it gives the wrong picture of the means used to kill our Savior, Yahushua The Anointed. The actual means that was used was an upright post as seen in the true meaning of the Greek word translated as cross, stauros (stow-ros') - a stake or post (as set upright in the ground) and that is what was described by the writers of all the gospels.

Here are statements from several "authoritative" books on the word stauros and how it should be rendered.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: "STAUROS denotes, primarily, an upright pole or stake...Both the noun and the verb stauroo, to fasten to a stake or pole, are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two-beamed cross. The shape of the latter had its origin in ancient Chaldea (Babylon), and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name)...By the middle of the 3rd century A.D. the churches had either departed from certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross piece lowered, was adopted . . ."

Dr. Bullinger, The Companion Bible, appx. 162: ". . . crosses were used as symbols of the Babylonian Sun-god . . . It should be stated that Constantine was a Sun-god worshipper . . . The evidence is thus complete, that the Lord was put to death upon an upright stake, and not on two pieces of timber placed at any angle."

Rev. Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, pp. 197-205: ". . . this Pagan symbol . . . the Tau, the sign of the cross, the indisputable sign of Tammuz, the false Messiah...the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and Egyptians—the true original form of the letter T - the initial of the name of Tammus...the Babylonian cross was the recognized emblem of Tammuz."

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, vol. 14, p. 273: "In the Egyptian churches the cross was a pagan symbol of life borrowed by the Christians and interpreted in the pagan manner." Jacob Grimm, in his Deutsche Mythologie, says that the Teutonic (Germanic) tribes had their idol Thor, symbolised by a hammer, while the Roman Christians had their crux (cross). It was thus somewhat easier for the Teutons to accept the Roman cross.

Other Greek dictionaries, lexicons, and study books also declare the primary meaning of stauros to be an upright pole or stake. The secondary meaning of "cross" is admitted by them to be a "later" rendering. At least two of them do not even mention "cross," and only render the meaning as "pole or stake." In spite of this strong evidence and proof that the word stauros should have been translated "stake," and the verb stauroo to have been translated "impale," almost all the common versions of the Scriptures persist with the Latin Vulgate’s crux (cross), a "later" rendering of the Greek stauros.

Along these same lines, the concept called "crucifixion" in the English translations which readers invariably think of as hanging someone on a "cross" with a crossarm, is in the scripture, but it has nothing to do with an upright structure with a crossarm on it. The Greek word used where you see "crucify" in the English literally means to "impale on a tree."

The word "cross" was introduced into the English language from Latin (where it is "crux") and means what we always think about when we hear "cross." An upright post with a crossarm. The word first found its way into the English language when its use in Jerome's Latin Vulgate was rendered as "cross" in English translations from that tome.

Are you thinking, "OK. Now I've read all this, but what meaning does it have for me?" The answer to that question is very simple, and one to which you need to pay very close attention, for it also applies in many other areas of life.

You and I have been misled by some very well meaning people who did not know what they were doing and by some not so well meaning people who knew exactly what they were doing.

Consider that the Romans used "crucifixion" as their normal means of capital punishment just as the muslims use decapitation. Then look at the way the body was affixed to the "cross" in the historical literature (found in your local library) available from those times. Most of the time the person being executed will be on a single upright post placed in a hole in the ground with the person's arms stretched vertically, with his hands crossed over his head, with nails through the wrists and the majority of his body weight supported by his legs which are doubled up under him with one nail through both the ankles and into the post.

How was death caused by this means? With the victim's nailed hands over his head unusual pressure was placed on his diaphragm and he could not breath. He had to stand up on very painful ankles to relieve that pressure and take a breath. Of course with the nail through his ankles that was very painful and he could not stand for long. When he sagged down against the nails through his wrists to relieve the pain in his ankles, he again could not breath (not to mention the pain from the nails). So the restriction of the chest cavity reduced the victim’s ability to breathe thereby causing slow asphyxiation. The continous and painful movements in trying to take a breath led to physical exhaustion in short order. A very cruel, painful, and lingering death.

Why did the Romans break the legs of the victims to hasten their death? How could that cause the desired result of a faster death?

The victim could no longer attempt to stand to relieve the pressure on his diaphragm and that even further restricted the victims' ability to breathe, hastening the asphyxiation process. Breaking a victim's legs would actually be more merciful, if there could be mercy found in this heinous execution.

In recent archeological digs in Yisra'el some ankle bones have been found in the common graves used for victims of this style of Roman execution that still have the single nail through them as depicted at the left.

Now consider the simple physics of a human body placed on and nailed to an upright structure with a crossmember as depicted in the usual scenes dealing with the "crucifixion" of Yahushua. There would be no restrictions on breathing with the arms just outstretched so that slow asphyxiation would not take place. The victim would be more likely to die of starvation, dehydration, blood loss, shock, or fatigue than asphyxiation.

Also check with your doctor or local neighborhood anthropologist about how long it would be for a body attached to a structure by these means before the body parts would separate and the body would fall from the structure due to the unnatural stresses caused by the unsupported body weight. In order for the body to stay on this type of structure in the way depicted without coming apart, other means such as the ropes and stipes pictured in Roman Catholic icons, would have had to be employed to keep the victim’s body on the "cross." Of course the use of those additional supports would increase the time required for the victim to die from a few hours to several days and breaking the victim’s legs would not reduce the time it took for him to die. But there is no evidence in the scriptures of that being the case, and the only means mentioned are the nails and the post.

Look for the answers to these and similar questions yourself in secular literature and I believe that it will become apparent that we have been very seriously misled about the physical aspects of this event.

Let it be fully understood by all however, that the spiritual connotations are still the same. Yahushua died in the manner that He did to fulfill the prophecies concerning His death and so that through Him the world would have the opportunity to be saved.

The manner in which our Master was placed on the tree isn't the important thing here, anyway. It is WHY He was placed there. The immediate point is that we need to look at what we're being told, check it out thoroughly, then believe it or discard it based on factual merit or lack of it. If someone gives us manmade and unsubstantiated information, and expects us to believe it, shame on them. If we blindly accept a man's word about anything, shame on us. If supposed "men of God" will mislead us about this, what else will they, and have they, misled us about?

The really, really, important thing about all of this is that all the statements concerning the how, when, where, and why of the death, burial, and resurrection of the the Anointed (the Messiah, Anointed, or Christ) that are to be found from B'ereshiyth (Genesis) to Mal'akiy and in all four books of the gospel were fulfilled by Yahushua of Nazareth in the early first century CE.

All the necessary proofs are in place and can be seen again and again in writings relating to the world's spiritual history. Yahushua of Nazareth is the very Mashiach, and as such, is the risen Son of the living Eloah, and He is now sitting on the right hand of Yahuwah the Father, and He is the ONLY mediator between man and Yahuwah. Be careful to not allow the means of execution to become the object of worship instead of the One who was executed.

Evidence of that misdirected worship can be seen quite readily in songs such as, "The Old Rugged Cross," "At The Cross," and other songs like that. People also talk about how they "follow the cross" and "look to the cross" and such and forget that it was the One who died on that post that they should be following and looking to instead of a piece of dead wood.

As mentioned above, there is also a large quantity of evidence that shows the "cross" (the letter T or the mystical Tau of the Kasdiy [Chaldeans] and the Mitsrayim [Egyptians]) to be the symbol of the pagan "god" Tammuz well before the life of haMashiach. There were many magical properties attributed to this structure and emblem of Tammuz by the followers of this pagan deity. It was also used by his followers on their clothing and artifacts to show their reverence for and devotion to him. It is also seen as his symbol in the circle and cross, where the circle represents the sun, which Tammuz was considered to be. He is one of the many sun deities of pagan religion. So the cross is really an emblem of the "sun god" and not a symbol of our Savior at all. Beware. The cross was also the sign that the Christianized, but not Christian, sun worshipper and pagan emperor Constantine used.

Some of the various cross-like symbols that have been in use down through the ages are shown below. Every one of these should be easily recognizable as part of the symbology in use today by what is called the "Christian Church," yet each one of these symbols existed as pagan symbols and was used in their various rites and rituals thousands of years before our Savior walked this earth. You can see by this that pagan symbology has been adopted by the so-called "Christian Church" in direct violation of the words of our Creator about learning the way of the heathen (YirmeYahuw [Jeremiah] 10:2).

Note the "cross" with the circle atop it in Item #4 above. That is a symbol of sun worship being joined to worship of Tammuz. The "circled cross" in item 5 represents the insertion of Tammuz into sun worship. Regardless of which symbol you see, if a cross symbol is used, they all represent Tammuz, the sun, or both, and are all of pagan origin and have no place in the life of a follower of Yahushua. They do NOT represent the tree on which our Savior gave His life to redeem this evil and wicked world.

Below is a "priest of Rebo" with some of his followers. Note the "crosses" hanging around their necks and the number of "crosses" decorating the robe of the priest. This is a similar picture that you could expect to see today in some "churches" yet this woodcut represents events from some 15 centuries before our Savior's incarnation.

Remember that you are responsible for what you believe and follow. That includes the symbology that you accept as worthy of worship. There are NO symbols worthy of worship as that is reserved for Yahuwah alone. You will reap the rewards of your actions, whether they are positive or negative.

Believe Yahuwah and not man. Man can be wrong, Yahuwah can't.

C.F. Castleberry