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March 26, 2005

The science of the crucifixion

MSNBC reports on a show called "Quest for Truth: The Crucifixion", premiering Easter Sunday on the National Geographic channel. In the show, Biblical archaeologist Jonathan Reed attempts to reconstruct the mechanics of crucifixion as practiced by the Romans at the time of Jesus.

His conclusions, while affirming the details reported in the gospel texts, call into question some of the conventional wisdom about this method of execution. For example, Reed now believes that crucifixion was done on a T-shaped cross, rather than the "Latin" cross of tradition. Reed also challenges the recent consensus that Jesus' arms were nailed through the wrists. There was no need for those nails to support the weight of the body — the nail through the feet would accomplish that. Rather, he thinks it quite likely that the nails were actually driven through the palms of the hands (as was commonly assumed prior to the 20th century), since the cruel Romans would have known that the pain inflicted would be much greater there.

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