Crucifixion Hermeneutics in Judaism at the Time of Jesus

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author: Tom Holmén1
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  • 1 Åbo Akademi University, FINLAND

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This essay strongly suggests that prior to Jesus’ death and its interpretation Judaism knew no interpretative means capable of transforming the ignominious death of crucifixion into something favorable.

  • 3

    Chapman, Perceptions of Crucifixion, 32. Cook, who also incorporates Samuelsson ­(Crucifixion in Antiquity, for instance page 270; Samuelsson on his part is drawing from H.-W. Kuhn), would agree; see Cook, Mediterranean World, 2.

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  • 21

    A. Caneday, “‘Redeemed from the Curse of the Law’: The Use of Deut 21.22–23 in Gal 3.13,” TrinJ 10 (1989) 185–209, at 197.

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  • 46

    Rajak, Jewish Dialogue, 100. This estimate naturally applies to the texts, too, that are dealt with in 3.2. below.

  • 48

    Rajak, Jewish Dialogue, 107. See further, for instance, D.J. Simundson, Faith under Fire: Biblical Interpretations of Suffering (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1980).

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  • 58

    Chapman, Perceptions of Crucifixion, 61–62; Cook, Crucifixion, 318.

  • 61

    Berrin, Pesher Nahum, 165–92; Chapman, Perceptions of Crucifixion, 57–66, 94; Cook, Crucifixion, 319.

  • 62

    Wilcox, “Deut 21:22–23,” 88. However, g.l. Doudna, 4Q Pesher Nahum: A Critical Edition (JSPSup 35; London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001) 421–425, changes and augments after “it [re]ads” (יקרא) so: “[… is cal]led {‘accursed of God’}.” Berrin’s statement (Pesher Nahum, 192) is attractive: “The echo of Deuteronomy here is not legal but theological and deterministic, evidence for prophetic fulfillment. The force of ‘hanged alive’ is not to support crucifixion per se, but to present Jannaeus as having fulfilled Deuteronomy by hanging the guilty ones alive, and to prompt the association of their execution with their being cursed, thereby fulfilling the words of Nahum.”

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  • 63

    Berrin, Pesher Nahum, 188.

  • 89

    Seneca, De Consolatione ad Marciam 20.3. The translation (and text) is according to J.W. Basore, lcl 254, pages (68,) 69, 71. Moreover, some Roman writers and rhetors recount the story of Regulus, honored despite his pitiful death which some depict as crucifixion. He is worthy of admiration and an example of loyalty, who did not renounce his dignity and so gains great glory (see, for example, Seneca, De Providentia, 3.9–10; Florus, ­Epitomae, 1.18, 2.2.25). These characterizations are reminiscent of the Jewish eulogies that we found in texts not describing crucifixions. Pace M. Hengel, The Cross of the Son of God (London: scm, 1986) 156–160. Their absence in texts that present Jews crucified is all the more conspicuous.

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  • 106

    Rajak, Jewish Dialogue, 107.

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