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Crucifixion

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is a central event in the Christian faith. Accounts of the crucifixion can be found in all four Gospels: that is, of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Crucifixion was a popular form of execution during the Roman Empire. As Jesus was the most important figure crucified according to Christian tradition, the cross symbol is closely linked to Jesus of Nazareth. It is believed that the crucifixion occurred in 30 or 33 CE.

The process of Jesus’ crucifixion began with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was arrested after one of his apostles, Judas Iscariot, turned Jesus over to the Roman authorities for thirty silver pieces. The New Testament describes that Judas told the authorities that the man they were seeking was the one whom he would greet with a kiss.

After his arrest, Jesus was brought to Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here, Caiaphas questioned Jesus regarding rumors that Jesus wanted to challenge Roman authority. When he did not answer, a soldier struck him. In addition, Jesus was blindfolded, spat on and tortured by the Roman soldiers, who mocked claims that he was king of the Jewish people. This is recorded in Matthew: “And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him” (27:30).

The following day, Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate questioned Jesus about the reasons behind his arrest. Pontius Pilate ordered the crucifixion of Jesus, releasing another individual condemned to death, Bar-Abbas, instead.

When Jesus was condemned to crucifixion, he was dressed in a purple robe as well as a crown of thorns. He was then scourged and beaten so as to be humiliated. According to the New Testament, Jesus was required to carry a wooden cross from Pilate’s palace to Gologtha (The Place of the Skull). Biblical tradition holds that Simon of Cyrene helped carry the cross for Jesus, who fell three times during this arduous journey.

The gospels record the crucifixion in great detail. Luke, for example, describes the physical suffering endured on the cross: “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). According to the Gospels, Jesus was crucified on Friday, the eve of the Sabbath. He was crucified with two other men, one of which flanked either side.

Shortly before death, Jesus of Nazareth cried out that he was thirsty and a Roman soldier held a sponge of bitter wine up to his lips. Finally, after the other two men had already died, Jesus called out to God and gave up his spirit: “Father! Into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). According to the Gospels, the sky turned dark for three hours following Jesus’ death.


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