Updated: Dec 17, 2022
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INTRODUCTION. Crucifixion was an extremely cruel form of punishment and was inflicted by the Romans upon slaves, foreigners, and the worst criminals. Roman citizens could not be executed in this manner. The victim was forced to carry his own cross to the site of the execution, which was always outside the walls of the city. The cross was very heavy, and in Jesus' case, He was unable to carry it due to his battered condition. A stranger, Simon of Cyrene, was compelled to assist Jesus.
There is disagreement among scholars as to the type of cross used in Jesus' crucifixion.
Was the shape of the cross an upright pole which projected above the shorter crossbeam such as t, or was it the shape of a T, or an X? Tradition is that it was the former, the crux immissa or Latin cross. Did the condemned person carry the whole cross, or was the upright beam fixed in the ground, and the victim carry only the crossbeam? These questions cannot be answered with certainty.
Reaching the place of the crucifixion, the victim was stripped of his clothing, although in
the case of a Jew, a loin cloth was allowed. Sometimes the victim was tied to the cross and then left to die of starvation. In other cases the condemned person was thrown backward on the ground with his shoulders against the wooden crossbeam. Nails (heavy, square, iron nails) were driven through the wrists into the wood. The crossbeam was then lifted into place. The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot and a nail was driven through the arch of the feet into the upright post.
When the victim's body sagged with the weight on the nails in the wrists, there was excruciating pain in the fingers and arms. When the victim pushed himself upward to relieve the pain in the arms, then there was agonizing pain in the feet as the weight of the body was on the nail through the feet. As fatigue set in the muscles cramped; breathing was difficult; infection set in producing fever; the thirst was unbearable. Crucifixion was a slow, agonizing death with many victims living more than a day.