Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 24

In Joseph “Rick” Reinckens’s webpage A Lawyer Examines the Swoon Theory we get a short snippet from Origen that allegedly confirms a Roman practice of stabbing victims of crucifixion with a spear: 

In his Commentary on Matthew, Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, says the lance thrust to Jesus was administered “according to Roman custom, below the armpit.”  (See Humber, Thomas.  The Sacred Shroud. New York, Pocket Books, 1977) 


In my last post on this topic (Part 23), I identified the passage that I believe Humber was referencing, in an early Latin translation of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  Here is an image of the relevant passage (GCS, His Origenes Werke, v. 11, p. 290):



I paid a Latin-translation service to translate the portion of the text circled above, and here is the translation I received:

Looking up he was amazed and said: ‘Truly this man was the son of God’. Yet according to the second interpretation it would be the case that since perhaps Pilate wished to surpass the wishes of the entire people who had said: ‘Crucify, crucify him’, and since he was afraid of unrest among the entire people, he did not follow the Roman custom in respect of those who are crucified and order Jesus to be pierced below the armpits. This [i.e. not piercing] is done at times by those who condemn those who have been found guilty of more serious crimes (since those who are not pierced after being fastened to a cross suffer greater torture, and live longer while suffering the greatest torture, and at times survive for the whole of the night and even for the entire day which follows). Jesus therefore, since He had not been pierced and it was hoped that by hanging on the cross for a long time He would suffer greater torments…  

Assuming this translation (from Latin to English) to be accurate,  the passage does appear to speak of a Roman custom of piercing (stabbing? spearing?) a crucified person in order to either kill them off or to hasten their death, as an act of mercy, or (perhaps) in order to bring the death sentence to it conclusion more rapidly (so soldiers would not need to stand guard for two or three days).
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INDEX to Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus posts:
http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2012/05/argument-against-resurrection-of-jesus_03.html

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16360897119962486447 Andyman409

    If you don't mind me butting in, I had another thought.

    Even though most scholars believe that the resurrection narratives are unreliable, I do not know whether or not they consider some or all of the appearances of jesus to have included audible features. The only book I read which even mentions this topic is Dale Allison's "resurrecting jesus", which does so in a footnote on page 279. He kinda made it sound like most scholars do, but he offers no arguments, and just links to two obscure books. needless to say, it leaves one wanting to know more.

    Like, for instance, what can we actually confidently say about the resurrection appearances? can we say anything at all? could only some of them have featured jesus speaking?

    Apologists never actually answer these questions. They just glide over the details. I dunno whether its because they are incompetent, or if they are hiding information that would damage their case, but it's fustrating having to make their case for them.

  • xxxTDAxxx .

    Dear Bradley,

    I’m not quite sure I understand Origen’s statement correctly here. In the book “John 11-21″ (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Joel C. Elowsky, IVP, 2007, p. 326) the (extended) translation of the relevant passage is as follows:

    “Pilate sought to gratify the whole people who had said “Crucify him, crucify him.” He also feared a riot among the people and so did not give the orders (according to the usual practice of the Romans with those who are crucified) for Jesus to be stabbed under his armpits. This is sometimes done by those who condemn people guilty of greater crimes, because greater suffering is endured by those who are not stabbed after crucifixion who end up living in very great torment sometimes even the whole night and still the whole day after. Jesus therefore, since he had not been stabbed and was expected to hang a long time on the cross and endure greater torments, prayed to the Father and was heard. Immediately on crying to the Father, he was taken. Or, as one who had the power to lay down his life, he laid it down when he wanted to.”

    If I understand it correctly, Origen claims that

    a.) there was a Roman custom of stabbing lesser criminals below their armpits to ease their crucifixion and hasten their deaths, if it was ordered. Those crucified for worse crimes did not receive this treatment, thus having to endure the painful crucifixion longer.

    b.) Jesus purposefully wasn’t stabbed according to this custom, so that he had to endure more suffering, because Pilate was looking to appease the agitated people.

    c.) Jesus, on his own accord and will, or God’s (answering the prayer of Jesus) put an end to this expected prolonged suffering and died intentionally (by use of will).

    So, apart from the fact that we have to take Origen’s word for it and this custom was practiced, how does this source actually help the apologist Joseph “Rick” Reinckens who claims: “‘In his Commentary on Matthew, Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, says the lance thrust to Jesus was administered “according to Roman custom, below the armpit.”? It blatantly contradicts what Origin actually wrote.

    Thanks for any input and keep up the interesting articles.


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