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Re: orion Orion: Commentary on Nahum- "hanging alive upon a tree"

Vernon Chadwick wrote:

<Holiday greetings & best wishes to all... I hope someone can help me with
<this.  Referring to the Lion of Wrath's vengeance against the Flattery
<Seekers (Alexander J vs. Pharisees), Deut 21:23 clearly (to me) indicates
<that the victim of crucifixion was cursed by God (this in contrast with the
<act itself being cursed).  If this is a correct understanding of the verse,
<can one go as far to assert that crucifixion was an approved method of
<punishment according to Jewish law during the first century bce?
<I ask this because it seems that there is no consensus amongst scholars on
<this matter; some assert that the act of crucifixion was forbidden under
<Jewish law.

Dear Vernon,

It is important to define the word crucifixion before we discuss it. The
instrument on which Haman was hanged is in Esther 5:14 (Hebrew) described
as ("C, while the LXX has CULON and the Vulgate has CRUX. In 7:9 the Hebrew
text has ("C, LXX has CULON but the Vulgate has LIGNUM ("piece of wood").
The LXX uses, however in the same verse the verb STAUROW. In the NT,
STAUROS  and CULON are used for the instrument to which Jesus was fastened.
The point is that neither the latin CRUX, from which we got the English
"crucify", nor the Greek STAUROS indicate the shape of the instrument
denoted or the manner by which a victim was fastened to it. Both words
could just signify a stake or a piece of wood.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary I 1207 defines "crucifixion" as "The act of
nailing or binding a living victim or sometimes a dead person to a cross or
stake (stauros or skolops) or a tree (xylon)." For Seneca (c.4 BC-65 CE) a
"cross" could be different things. He wrote (Dialogue 6 (De consolatione ad
Marciam) 20,3): "I see crosses there, not just of one kind, but made in
many different ways; some have their victims with head down to the ground;
some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the
gibbet.". In his comment on what happened at the time of the fall of
Jerusalem in 70 CE, Josephus wrote (The War of the Jews, 5.11.1) : "The
soldiers out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their
prisoners in different postures; and so great was their number that space
could not be found for the crosses (plural of stauros) nor crosses for the
bodies." Because of the huge numbers of bodies it is likely that for
economical reasons they used one piece of timber for each one rather than
two pieces.

If we use "crucify" in the "original" sense, encompassing all kinds of
hanging or fastening to a stake of wood, we can say that crucifixion (with
the victims killed before they were hanged) was an approved method of
punishment according to the law. If we use "crucify" in the modern sense,
we must say that it was not an approved method.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo