According to Gunnar Samuelsson of Gothenburg University, the story of Jesus’ execution is based on Christian traditions and artistic illustrations, not antique texts, according to a recently published doctoral thesis entitled “Crucifixion in Antiquity – An Inquiry into the Background of the New Testament Terminology of Crucifixion”.
Samuelsson, a committed Christian, alleges the Bible has been misinterpreted, saying there are no explicit references to the use of nails or to crucifixion – only that Jesus bore a “staurus” towards Calvary, which can also mean “pole,” his research states.
Samuelsson 400-page thesis is based on close study of the original texts and was submitted at the university last month.
“The problem is descriptions of crucifixions are remarkably absent in the antique literature,” Samuelsson said in an interview with the UK Daily Telegraph. “The sources where you would expect to find support for the established understanding of the event really don’t say anything.”
Ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew literature from Homer to the first century describe a number of suspension punishments, but none mention “crosses” or “crucifixion.”
“Consequently, the contemporary understanding of crucifixion as a punishment is severely challenged,” Samuelsson told the newspaper. “And what’s even more challenging is the same can be concluded about the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. The New Testament doesn’t say as much as we’d like to believe.”
There is little evidence to suggest that Jesus was left to die after being nailed to a cross, both in ancient pre-Christian and extra-Biblical literature as well as the Bible.
Samuelsson admitted that it is easy to react emotionally instead of logically to the research that is so close to the heart of his faith. He added that the actual execution texts do not describe how Jesus was attached to the execution device.
“This is the heart of the problem. The text of the passion narratives is not that exact and information loaded, as we Christians sometimes want it to be,” Samuelsson explained.
“If you are looking for texts that depict the act of nailing persons to a cross you will not find any beside the Gospels.”
Contemporary literature all use the same vague terminology, including those in Latin. Meanwhile, the Latin word “crux” does not necessarily refer to a cross, nor patibulum refer to a cross-beam.
But despite the findings of his research Samuelsson does not suggest that Christians should reject of doubt the biblical and argued that believed that Jesus was indeed the son of God and argued that there is strong documented evidence to show that “a man named Jesus existed in that part of the world and in that time”.
“My suggestion is that we should read the text as it is, not as we think it is. We should read on the lines, not between the lines. The text of the Bible is sufficient. We do not need to add anything,” he told the newspaper.