Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Did STONING Cause the Messiah's Early Death?
Have you ever wondered WHY the Messiah died BEFORE the two criminals who were crucified alongside him? Was our Savior LESS healthy, or NOT as physically fit as the other two? Was there some OTHER factor or agent in his death that we are unaware of? Did the spear wound in his side or, perhaps, the scourging he received at the hands of the Romans, cause Yeshua to succumb? The Old Testament sacrifice of the Red Heifer PREFIGURED the death of our Passover Lamb and provides us with clues to his death -- showing that the Jewish (or Mosaic) penalty for BLASPHEMY is what PRIMARILY caused his death!
by John D. Keyser
Writes Nancy L. Kuehl:
"It is Passover -- Racham, a lone Galilean pilgrim, approaches the final leg of his journey to Jerusalem...He lets his gaze wander southward toward the Red Heifer bridge spanning the Kidron Valley below. Near the public square Racham could trace the outline of the administrative temple buildings, where he must report to the Chamber of the Census to be counted for the season. In Beth Pagi were the numerous other executive offices, like the chamber where the witnesses for the New Moon gathered, and the Arch of Accounts where the ledgers were kept. Near the Plaza was also the altar Miphkad where the Red Heifer was slain and the Bet HaDeshen, the pit for burning the sin-offering. Its sacred ashes were to be used in purifying Passover pilgrims for entrance into the Temple. Near the Plaza, itself, were the four Bazaars of Annas and the two famous cypress trees under which the dovecotes were located...
"But something didn't seem quite right with the scene before him this year. He found it unsettling. Ordinarily, the booths would be crowded and chaotic. Racham's eyes darted toward the double-arched bridge where pilgrims often gathered to exchange their Roman coins for the half-pieces of silver required for the Temple tax. It, too, was almost devoid of people. His eyes followed the path of the bridge back to the Plaza of Gulgoleth. Now he knew what he found so disturbing. A throng was gathered around the Bet HaSeqilah, the execution site!...From this far distance, Racham saw only that there appeared to be three naked criminals suspended on the ancient olive tree in the center of the Plaza...The sight of the Roman-type crucifixion, adopted and modified by the Babylonian-Alexandrian priesthood, was appalling! They, like the High Priest Alexander Jannaeus before them, had begun to execute criminals by hanging them alive on the tree. Never in all Israel's history had such atrocities been committed!
"Racham had begun to slowly descend the mount and to make his way along the southern Jericho Road, passing by Gethsemane on his way to the Plaza...He pushed his way through to the edge of the droning din crowded around the tree. His vision was hindered by the closeness of the masses, and he was unable to see the man suspended on the front...It was not the other two but the man facing westward that seemed to be the object of the crowd's derision. Hushed insults hissed from lips of pilgrims passing through the Plaza on their own journeys to the Temple...It had been unlawful for them to speak while stoning a man. The only sounds to be heard came from the criminals, themselves, crying out for mercy. The two criminals on back slipped into merciful unconsciousness, and the crowd's attention riveted to the man on front. There appeared, at first, some apprehension on the part of some within the group to cast their stones at this quiet, meek man...It was not until the aristocratic priests urged the crowd that the pilgrims began hurtling stones at the naked man on front, sending their silent curses to bite sharply into the man's already bloody flesh, peeling away tiny hunks of skin and leaving it flapping from his exposed and whitened bones.
"Racham, too, would soon be required to curse the mesith, excommunication him forever from the congregation of Israel. He stooped to pick up one of the loose limestone fragments from the rock-strewn ground nearby and drew close to the tree" (A Book of Evidence: The Trials and Execution of Jesus, Resource Publications, Eugene, OR. 2013, "Prologue," pp. xvii-xviii).
While the character of Racham is fictitious, the scene described so vividly in the prologue above is based on fact -- and is an historically accurate representation of the way our Messiah died while suspended from the living tree in the Plaza of Gulgoleth.
The mode of Yeshua's execution, as graphically portrayed in the Gospels and above, has long been the subject of historical research and, until recently, more than some skepticism. The April 16, 1990 issue of U.S. News and World Report makes this observation:
"During the 19th and early 20th centuries, some scholars questioned the crucifixion story on a number of counts. Some have argued, for instance, that it was MORE COMMON in first-century Palestine for criminals to be executed by some other means -- stoning, burning, beheading or strangling -- and their bodies "hanged on a tree" as a WARNING to others. Other theologians have added that crucifixion was a Roman mode of execution and was not permitted in Jewish law. Consequently, it is unlikely that the Temple priests would call for Jesus to be crucified as the Gospels report...But ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES AND TEXTUAL RESEARCH in recent years have added considerable weight to the Gospel accounts" (Article, "The Last Days of Jesus," p. 46).
Let us make use of this recently recovered information, and determine WHY the Messiah died BEFORE the two criminals executed with him.
The Survival Factors
In chapter 15 of the gospel of Mark we read:
"It was now evening, and since it was the Preparation Day (that is, the vigil of the Sabbath), there came Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate, ASTONISHED THAT HE SHOULD HAVE DIED SO SOON, summoned the centurion and inquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted the corpse to Joseph...." (Verses 42-46).
Notice Pilate was ASTONISHED that the Messiah had died so soon -- in fact he didn't believe it; so he sent for the centurion to confirm Joseph of Arimathea's assertion. WHY was Pilate so unwilling to believe the Messiah was already dead?
This has not gone unnoticed by the commentators. The Imperial Bible Dictionary, edited by Patrick Fairbairn, makes this observation:
"Instances are on record of persons surviving on a cross for nine days. But in our Lord's case THERE WERE CIRCUMSTANCES ALTOGETHER PECULIAR, which must have GREATLY TENDED TO SHORTEN THE PERIOD OF SUFFERING. Ignorant of these, Pilate indicated his surprise that the death of Jesus should have occurred so soon, Mar. XV. 44. And as there were PECULIAR CIRCUMSTANCES TENDING TO PRODUCE AN UNUSUALLY SPEEDY DEATH, so there were reasons for effecting the removal of the body with the least possible delay" (Vol. II, Blackie & Son, London).
Presumably the Messiah was as healthy, or healthier than the two criminals who were crucified with him. He understood and observed the health laws of YEHOVAH God his Father; and this, therefore, should have guaranteed a LONGER survival time at Golgotha than those who suffered with him.
Not only that, but there is evidence to suggest the Messiah was NOT scourged as harshly as the usual victim of crucifixion! Notice what Luke 23:20-23 says:
"Pilate was anxious to SET JESUS FREE and addressed them again, but they [the mob] shouted back, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" And for the third time he spoke to them, "Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, SO I SHALL HAVE HIM PUNISHED AND THEN LET HIM GO."
The Greek word for punished is "paideuo," and it means "to train up a child, i.e. educate, or (by impl.) DISCIPLINE (by punishment):- chasten (-ise), instruct, learn, teach." This word in turn comes from "pais," meaning "a boy (as often BEATEN with impunity), or (by anal.) a girl." Pais comes from the primary root "paio," meaning "to hit (as if by a single blow and LESS VIOLENTLY than 5180); spec. to sting (as a scorpion):- smite, strike" (See Strong's Concordance, #3811, 3816 & 3817). The word "paideuo" in NO way denotes a severe scourging as is usually associated with crucifixion.
The Old Testament indicates the same thing! In Isaiah 53:5 we read: "...The CHASTISEMENT for our peace [health, welfare] was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." The word "chastisement" here in the Hebrew means the same thing as "punished" does in the Greek: "Muwcar, moo-sawr; from 3256; prop. chastisement; fig. reproof, warning or instruction; also...correction, discipline...instruction, rebuke" (#4148 Strong's Exhaustive Concordance).
Since those subjected to scourging often died at the hands of the lictor, it was quite probable, then, that the Messiah was treated LESS SEVERELY since Pilate FULLY INTENDED TO SET HIM FREE. An interesting work by Haim Cohn -- The Trial and Death of Jesus -- agrees with this completely:
"...if the Roman governor had, indeed, before sentencing Jesus, ordered him to be scourged, as is reported in John and hinted at in Mark and Matthew, he was probably scourged, but NOT TORTURED AS SEVERELY AS IN THE NORMAL ROMAN PRACTICE respecting persons accused of "laesa maiestas," ...but...may have been given several blows or strokes, not with the view to extracting further confessions of guilt from him, but SOLELY with a view to compelling or inducing him to express regret and repentance and to promise that he would no longer air royal pretensions" (KTAV Publishing House, New York. 1977, pages 206-7).
In fact, the scourging associated with crucifixion was NORMALLY administered AT THE EXECUTION SITE; and the "punishment" meted out by Pilate (Luke 23:20-23) WAS NOT part of the usual Roman practice. In the standard Roman crucifixion, the malefactor was first undressed then his head was covered, then a forked instrument with two prongs (called "furca") was placed on his back and his two hands bound to it -- each hand to one of the prongs. In this fashion the one condemned had to drag the furca to the place of crucifixion; and WHEN HE ARRIVED THERE he was scourged while remaining bound to the furca.
Roman records indicate a MILDER FORM of crucifixion was sometimes permitted. In this case the malefactor was allowed to FORGO THE USUAL SCOURGING at the execution site and, instead of dragging the furca, had to carry his own gallows. The transverse beam (patibulum) was loaded on the back of the one to be crucified, and sometimes he was already bound or nailed to the patibulum when starting out on his final journey. Other times, the malefactor was allowed to carry the patibulum FREELY on his back, and would be bound or NAILED to it when he ARRIVED at his destination.
While it seems apparent that the Messiah was inflicted with a milder form of scourging, "we might also remember that Pilate seemed shocked when he was told that Jesus had already died. He knew that crucifixion sometimes took days, yet it had only been six hours since Jesus had been 'hanged' on the tree. Pilate 'wondered whether already he was dead,' and even 'calling near the centurion, questioned him -- whether he had already died' (Mark 15:43-44). The reason, perhaps, for Pilate's surprise is because he hadn't expected the Sanhedrin to stone Jesus" (A Book of Evidence: The Trials and Execution of Jesus, p. 198).
The gospel records clearly show the Messiah was allowed the MILDER FORM of crucifixion, probably because Pilate wanted to be as lenient as possible -- especially after his wife's warning (Matthew 27:19); or maybe he realized only too well what awaited the Messiah at Golgotha.
Stake or Tree?
Ian Wilson, in his work Murder at Golgotha, states that "the Romans were ever a practical people. As known from the writings of Roman historians, the prescribed procedure was for the victim to carry only the patibulum, or crossbeam of the cross. The stipes, or upright -- USUALLY A BEHEADED TREE-TRUNK STILL ROOTED IN THE GROUND -- remained permanently in position, so that the crossbeam carried by the victim could simply be lifted up and dropped into position for each fresh execution. That THE UPRIGHT WAS A SIMPLE TREE TRUNK also makes sense of a later statement by Jesus' disciple Simon Peter that 'they killed him by hanging him on a tree' (Acts 10:39)" (St. Martin's Press, New York, N.Y., 2006, p. 87).
Is it indeed true that the Romans were responsible for the Messiah's execution -- as inferred above by Ian Wilson?
While the vertical stake of the cross -- whether it be a TREE or an actual stake -- was a PERMANENT FIXTURE at the crucifixion site, or (in the case of a stake) already installed BEFOREHAND for each particular execution (see: Mommsen, op. cit., pp. 919, 983; Hentig, Die Strafe, Vol. I, p. 254; Scott, op. cit., pp. 169ff.; Berger, op. cit., q.v. "Castigatio," p. 382; Seneca, Ad Marciam, 20, 3; Lactantius, 6, 17, 28; Plutarchus, De Sera Numinis Vindicta, 9; Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 359), the fact is, the Messiah was executed according to the procedures carried out by the Judean authorities of his day. His execution was carried out in a Jewish fashion down to the most minute details. Writes Nancy L. Kuehl:
"That the execution was a Jewish affair, we have verification in Acts 4:9, where the rulers of Israel are confronted with the execution of Jesus. There is just no getting around the fact that the ENTIRE PROCESS was a Jewish affair from beginning to end, and it is the only conclusion we can draw from the Talmudic writings, which speak NOTHING of the Romans" (A Book of Evidence: The Trials and Execution of Jesus, p. 71).
This being the case -- what mode of execution did the Jewish authorities of the Messiah's day inflict upon perceived criminals?
From the time of Alexander Jannaeus' death in 78 B.C. the nation of Israel was primarily ruled by the Babylonian-Alexandrian priesthood -- having been imported by Herod the Great from both Babylon and Egypt. This priesthood was both illegitimate and corrupt. While the traditional Israelite "hanging" or crucifixion was generally a procedure that occurred only AFTER death and on a living tree (see Deuteronomy 21:22-23), the Babylonian-Alexandrian priesthood reversed the procedure by adopting the methods of their predecessor Alexander Jannaeus who had "hanged" ALIVE 800 Pharisees. Hanging convicted criminals on a tree while still alive was a fairly common practice by the time of the Messiah. This is corroborated by historian Nancy L. Kuehl:
"...we must believe Jesus was hanged ALIVE on a LIVING TREE. The evidence is overwhelming. From the New Covenant, we have several references to it. NEVER is the word xulon translated as the 'cross.' The word for 'cross' would have been stauros, and even then the Greek word only reflects the upright nature of the tree! The word xulon, however, is the same that Luke uses in 23:31 for 'moist wood' and refers to a LIVING TREE! The Hebrew equivalent would be the 'ets (derived from 'atsah), which is also used as a term for 'gallows' in the book of Esther where Haman is 'hanged' (Esth. 5:14; 8:7). It is the same word used in Genesis 40:19 and Deuteronomy 21:22 to describe the hanging of an individual on a 'tree.' These 'gallows' do NOT refer to a Roman cross. The word is even used to describe the FRUIT TREES of the Garden of Eden, including the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the New Covenant, the disciples were quite clear about how Jesus was hanged, and it wasn't upon a Roman cross. The disciples, in fact, confronted the Jewish judicial Sanhedrin later that decade with the ultimate accusation that they had hanged Jesus upon a 'living' tree" (A Book of Evidence: The Trials and Execution of Jesus, p. 199).
We see this in Acts 5:30: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree [xulon]."
Also, in Acts 10:39: "And we are witnesses of all things which he [the Messiah] did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree [xulon]."
This is repeated in Acts 13:29, Galatians 3:13, and in 1 Peter 2:24. When we look at Revelation 2:7 we can clearly see that the Greek word xulon means a LIVING TREE -- not a Roman cross! Notice!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to EAT from the the tree [xulon] of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."
Now that we have established exactly what the Messiah was "hanged" on and the factors mentioned above that led up to his death, the question must be: Since these factors should have ensured that the Messiah would OUTLIVE the two criminals put to death with him -- WHY did he succumb so soon?
The Blood On the Ground!
How, then, did the Messiah die? HOW did he shed his precious blood for humankind?
The most important theological argument surrounding the execution of the Messiah is the "blood" that he shed -- yet crucifixion alone does not account for the amount of blood Christian traditions imply he would have shed. During the Passover Seder the shed blood of the Messiah is emphasized time and time again. Did the blood our Savior lost while being SCOURGED by the Romans qualify for our atonement? True, he probably lost quite a bit of blood during this ordeal; but the Old Testament shows that his blood had to be shed at the PLACE OF HIS DEATH!
The sacrifice of the RED HEIFER clearly points to this. During this ceremony the Red Heifer, which PREFIGURED THE MESSIAH, was taken EAST from the Temple in Jerusalem, across the arched bridge over the Kidron Valley, to the MIPHKAD ALTAR located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. (For further details read our article Just Where in Jerusalem Did Our Savior Die?). Here it was killed and the BLOOD SPRINKLED SEVEN TIMES ON THE GROUND before the east entrance of the Temple. Obviously, the scourging the Messiah received did NOT fulfill this, because it occurred within the city -- WITHIN THE CAMP.
What about the blood released from the Messiah's hands when he was nailed to the tree? Would this qualify? A recent article published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (March 21, 1986) shows that VERY LITTLE BLOOD was released by the crucifixion itself: "Although scourging may have resulted in considerable blood loss, crucifixion per se was a RELATIVELY BLOODLESS PROCEDURE, since no major arteries, other than PERHAPS the deep plantar arch, pass through the favored anatomic sites of transfixion."
Ernest L. Martin verifies this:
"It has always been a mystery why so much EMPHASIS is given in the New Testament to the SPILLING OF CHRIST'S BLOOD, while in normal crucifixion LITTLE BLOOD EVER REACHED THE GROUND. Only a SMALL AMOUNT of blood would ordinarily have issued from Christ's wounds in his hands or feet while he was hanging on the tree (the blood that came forth by use of the spear WOULD NOT COUNT in a theological sense because that occurred AFTER HIS DEATH)" (Secrets of Golgotha, ASK Publications, Alhambra CA 1988, page 202).
Although the spikes or nails were actually driven through the wrists and not the hands, the same result applied -- notice!
"An iron spike was driven through the middle part of each wrist between the carpal bones. The loss of blood was MODERATE since the spike did not penetrate a major artery" (Erich H. Kiehl, The Passion of Our Lord, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003, p. 128).
What, then, occurred to the Messiah, while he was hanging on the tree, that would FULFILL the sacrifice of the Red Heifer -- which PREFIGURED his own death?
The Marring of the Front of the Messiah's Body
Remember that Pontius Pilate was ASTONISHED the Messiah had died so early -- BEFORE the two criminals crucified with him. SOMETHING ELSE caused the Messiah to die more quickly, and it was this "something" which fulfilled the sacrifice of the Red Heifer.
Notice Isaiah 53:5-6:
"But He was WOUNDED for our transgressions, He was BRUISED for our INIQUITIES; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His STRIPES we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has LAID ON HIM the INIQUITY of us all."
In the margin of the New King James version of the Bible, published by Thomas Nelson (1983), the following words are given an ALTERNATE translation, as follows: "Wounded," PIERCED THROUGH; "bruised," CRUSHED; "stripes," BLOWS THAT CUT IN; and "laid on him," CAUSED TO LAND ON HIM. Using these ALTERNATE words in the above verses we get this:
"But He was PIERCED THROUGH for our transgressions, He was CRUSHED for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His BLOWS THAT CUT IN we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the LORD has CAUSED TO LAND ON HIM the iniquity of us all."
The phrase "pierced through for our transgressions" obviously refers to the CRUCIFIXION process itself, while "blows that cut in" must refer to the SCOURGING Yeshua received.
But what about the phrase "CRUSHED for our iniquities"? If we couple this with the last phrase (both verses are talking about "our iniquities") we can readily see that whatever CRUSHED OR BRUISED our Savior was CAUSED TO LAND ON HIM!! Now, WHAT could that be? Let's look at Isaiah 52:14:
"Just as many were astonished at you, so His VISAGE WAS MARRED more than any man, and His FORM more than the sons of men; so shall HE SPRINKLE many nations."
Here we see his face and his body were MARRED and he SPRINKLED his blood for "many nations."
According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance the Hebrew word for marred is "moshchath," meaning "disfigurement:- corruption, marred" (#4893). This word comes from "shachath," a word that can mean "BATTER." It is easy to deduce that the Messiah's FACE AND BODY were disfigured BY BATTERING. WHAT caused this battering?
Another clue can be gleaned from Psalm 22, which also highlights the suffering of the Messiah: "They pierced My hands and My feet; I CAN COUNT ALL MY BONES. They look and stare at Me." Think about this a minute. This "battering" that so marred the face and body of the Messiah by "crushing" or "bruising" had to have occurred ON THE FRONT OF HIS BODY! How else could he "count all [his] bones" that were exposed by whatever was "CAUSED TO LAND ON HIM"?
Historian Nancy L. Kuehl goes into detail --
"The only manner in which a man's bones might view him is if they were no longer enclosed in flesh...there is a very important discrepancy in wording here that has failed to receive close scrutiny. The word 'PIERCED' [in Psalm 22:16-18] does NOT mean 'to pierce through.' The Hebrew word here is 'aryeh and is derived from the root 'arah. Those words literally mean 'to pluck away skin' as a young lion might maul and tear the flesh of a carcass, exposing the whitened bones. Anyone who has ever been slapped by a cat knows that the skin is not pierced through but literally pulled away. A stone, especially if sharp, would have the same effect as a lion's claw. William Wilson gives the following exact usage of the word: 'arah, 'like a lion.'
"Again, crucifixion could NOT 'pluck' into the flesh and tear it away. Had the prophecy been meant to imply a puncturing of nail marks, the word daqar (as used in Zech. 12:10), 'to stab or thrust through,' would have been used instead. The word for 'feet' [in Psalm 22:16-18] is pudenda and indicates the generative parts of a man's body, but might well refer to the abdominal cavity in general. Certainly, anyone who was stoned would receive wounds all over the body...
"But it is the portion of the Psalm [22:16-18] that gives us the best evidence of stoning. Looking down upon his own body from the tree, the individual speaking in the Psalm SEES HIS BONES, and THEY BEHOLD HIM! The phrase would indicate that there is no flesh on his bones, that the skin had been removed from them. The wording is used to indicate that the bones are bared and stare back at him. The fact is the scourging by either party (either the Sanhedrin or the Romans) would have been injurious TO HIS BACK, not the front, where he might look down and view his own bones. He would NOT have been able to see his back while hanging on the tree. Crucifixion, in no way, would cause bones to be so exposed as to be viewed by the victim himself" (A Book of Evidence: The Trials and Execution of Jesus, p. 195).
Consider this: the Messiah's FACE and the FRONT PART OF HIS BODY could NOT have been so marred by the scourging he received! To undergo the scourging he was tied to a large flogging post THAT COVERED, AND THEREBY PROTECTED, THE FRONT PART OF HIS BODY from the Roman whip! Also, the face was NOT flogged. The report in The Journal of the American Medical Association explains this: "For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The BACK, BUTTOCKS, AND LEGS were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions." Even Isaiah 50 shows it was the BACK PART of the Messiah that received the whipping: "I gave MY BACK to those who struck Me" (verse 6).
Another point to consider is the SPRINKLING of the Messiah's blood. To fulfill the SACRIFICE OF THE RED HEIFER our Savior was crucified FACING WEST towards the Temple and the Holy of Holies; and his blood was sprinkled on the ground BEFORE the Temple -- BETWEEN himself and the Temple. This, in itself, ELIMlNATES SCOURGING as the agent responsible for the shedding of his atoning blood. The blood obviously had to come from the FRONT OF HIS BODY -- AND AT THE SCENE OF THE CRUCIFIXION! So WHAT was it that so BATTERED AND BRUISED the front of the Messiah's body?
The Key to the Enigma!
The book of John contains the key:
"As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him [the Messiah], they shouted, 'Crucify! Crucify!' But Pilate answered, 'You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.' The Jews insisted, [saying] 'WE HAVE A LAW, AND ACCORDING TO THAT LAW HE MUST DlE, because he claimed to be the Son of God'" (John 19:7).
What was this LAW the Jews were talking about? Leviticus 24:16 reveals the answer: "And he that BLASPHEMES the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly STONE HIM: as well as the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemes the name of the LORD, shall be put to death." The Acts of Pilate (a 4th-century apocryphal work) contains verses PARALLELING John 19:7 that irrefutably prove the Jews were indeed referring to the law in Deuteronomy 24:16. In these verses Pilate could not see any blasphemy in the utterance of Yeshua:
"If this word is blasphemy, take him, bring him into your synagogue, and JUDGE HIM ACCORDING TO YOUR LAW. The Jews answered Pilate: It is contained in our law, that if a man sins against a man, he must receive forty strokes save one, BUT HE WHO BLASPHEMES AGAINST GOD MUST BE STONED. Pilate said to them: Take him yourselves and punish him as you wish" (IV, 3-4).
THE REASON THE FRONT PART OF THE MESSIAH'S FACE AND BODY WAS SO "CRUSHED" AND "BRUISED" BY OBJECTS THAT WERE "CAUSED TO LAND ON HIM" WAS BECAUSE HE WAS STONED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW OF MOSES!!
Was the Messiah accused of blasphemy? Indeed he was! Notice Matthew 26:63-66:
"The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.' 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied. 'But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.' Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'HE HAS SPOKEN BLASPHEMY! Why do we need any more witnesses: Look, now you HAVE HEARD THE BLASPHEMY. What do you think?' 'HE IS WORTHY OF DEATH,' they answered."
And what was the PENALTY for blasphemy? STONING!
Ernest Martin notes, in his book Secrets of Golgotha, that this was NOT the first time the Jews tried to stone him:
"During the time of Christ's ministry many of the people who did not like his teaching had SEVERAL TIMES tried to carry out this Mosaic Law against him. 'Then they took up STONES to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the Temple, going throughout the midst of them, and so passed by' (John 8:59). 'Then the Jews TOOK UP STONES AGAIN TO STONE HIM. Jesus answered them, many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you STONE ME? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we STONE you not; but FOR BLASPHEMY; and because you, being a man, make yourself God' (John 10:31-33). The fact is, TIME AND TIME AGAIN the authorities were trying to KILL, HIM BY STONING. 'His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought TO STONE YOU; and go you [to Judea] again?' (John 11:8). It is made clear in the Gospel record that the people who were hostile to Christ were looking for EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO STONE HIM FOR HIS BLASPHEMY (as they considered it). And, THEY FINALLY GOT THEIR WISH when they went to Pilate and said: 'We have a law, AND BY THAT LAW HE OUGHT TO DIE' (John 19:7)" (page 188).
Reading through the gospel of John it becomes readily apparent the Jews were indeed out to kill Yeshua by STONING from an early date. The first mention of the Jews plotting to kill him is found in chapter 5: "For this reason the Jews tried all the harder TO KILL HIM; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD." (Verse 18). In the eyes of the religious authorities this amounted to BLASPHEMY -- the worst crime imaginable! And, as we have seen, the law of Moses required the penalty of STONING for blasphemy!
Later on, in chapter 7, we find this statement: "After this, Jesus went around Galilee, PURPOSELY staying away from Judea BECAUSE THE JEWS THERE WERE WAITING TO TAKE HIS LIFE" (Verse 1). And how were they planning to take his life? BY STONING!
Now notice verse 30: "At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, BECAUSE HIS TIME [HOUR] HAD NOT YET COME." What "time" is John talking about? The "time" for the Messiah TO BE KILLED -- to be sacrificed according to the preordained schedule of his Father! We see this again in John 8:20: "Yet no one seized him, BECAUSE HIS TIME HAD NOT YET COME." The "time" for the Messiah to die and fulfill ALL the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to himself had not yet arrived!
In chapter 8 we see the Jews becoming so upset they tried to stone him on the spot! "I tell you the truth," Yeshua answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, THEY PICKED UP STONES TO STONE HIM, but Yeshua hid himself, slipping away from the temple guards (Verse 58). In chapter 10 it is PLAINLY revealed the Jews were trying to STONE HIM FOR BLASPHEMY:
"'I and the Father are one.' Again the Jews PICKED UP STONES TO STONE HIM, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you STONE me?' 'We are not STONING you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for BLASPHEMY, because you, a mere man, CLAIM TO BE GOD.'...Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp" (verses 30-33,39).
The disciples became very concerned and were aghast when Yeshua determined to return to Judea: "Then he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.' 'But Rabbi,' they said, 'a short while ago the Jews tried to STONE you, and yet you are going back there?'" (John 11:7). The Messiah knew exactly what he was doing -- his "time" had arrived and the events were to move inexorably towards the conclusion of his ministry and his life.
Putting all this together we can CLEARLY see the authorities were out to STONE the Messiah FOR BLASPHEMY, and from an early date. But they were not permitted to carry out their plan UNTIL THE MESSIAH'S TIME HAD ARRIVED -- the time set aside at the end of a long series of events that had to be fulfilled before the Son of God could be offered up in our behalf. And when that time arrived, the Jews WERE NO LONGER HELD BACK FROM STONING THE MESSIAH FOR WHAT THEY CONSIDERED TO BE BLASPHEMY!
Haim Cohn came to the same conclusion! Notice what he says:
"Two incidents, reported only in John, are often cited to prove JEWISH ENMITY against Jesus: they are INCIDENTS OF STONING, when that animus took violent form. When they heard him say in the temple -- of all places -- that he had been before Abraham, the Jews 'took up stones to cast at him' (8:59); and again, when he proclaimed that he and God, his father, were one, 'the Jews took up stones again to stone him' (10:31)...when Jesus had spoken and taught in the temple, 'no man laid hands on him, for his hour WAS NOT YET COME' (7:30; 8:20). How then can it be that, though HIS HOUR WAS NOT YET COME and no man could lay hands on him, THE JEWS STONED HIM? If his hour was not yet come, why did they seek to take him, and he had to escape out of their hands (10:39)? The words 'for his hour was not yet come' carry a DOUBLE MEANING. On the one hand, they PREPARE THE GROUND FOR WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN THE HOUR COMES: then, it appears, THE JEWS WILL BE FREE FROM ALL INHIBITIONS AND GIVE FULL PLAY TO THEIR MURDEROUS AGGRESSIONS. On the other, there is a hint of the predestination of JESUS' FATE, as if it were not the hostility and contumaciousness [rebelliousness, stubborn disobedience] of the Jews which DETERMINED THE EVENT [STONING], but solely the will of God, Who appointed His own time and CHOSE HIS OWN INSTRUMENTS" (The Trial and Death of Jesus, page 64).
There is absolutely no doubt that this is what the Jewish authorities were petitioning Pilate for permission to do. And what did Pilate do? "Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves and JUDGE HIM BY YOUR OWN LAW"' (John 18:31). In saying this Pilate permitted the Jews to execute Yeshua ACCORDING TO THE BIBLICAL LAW. This was an UNCOMMON allowance because it subjected the Messiah to suffer the scriptural (Mosaic) execution (STONING) for blasphemy, thus fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies.
The apostle Paul, in the sixth chapter of Galatians, affirms that our Savior died as a result of STONING. This is what he claims: "Finally, let no one cause me trouble, FOR I BEAR ON MY BODY THE MARKS [SCARS] OF JESUS" (Verse 17). Obviously, these "marks" could NOT be the result of crucifixion -- Paul was never crucified; and, if he had been, he would NEVER have lived to tell the tale! Paul's scars, therefore, were the result of something else.
The book of Acts reveals that Paul was STONED about four years prior to his statement in the New Testament. The very first act of persecution against Paul that's recorded in the New Testament, was STONING -- see Acts 14:19, 20. During this incidence, which occurred in Galatia, Paul was STONED and left for dead. By a miracle from YEHOVAH God he got up and walked away from it, but suffered for many years as a result of the terrible punishment his body received.
The Different Modes of "Hanging"
According to Deuteronomy 21:22-23 the Jewish mode of execution included "hanging" AFTER the offender was put to death -- notice!
"If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and [then] you hang him on a [living] tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God."
However, this changed when the Alexandrian priesthood adopted the methods of their predecessor Alexander Jannaeus, who had hanged ALIVE 800 Pharisees. This we find mentioned in the Qumran documents:
"[And chokes prey for its lionesses; and it fills] its caves [with prey] and its dens with victims (ii, 12a-b). Interpreted, this concerns the furious young lion [who executes revenge] [Alexander Jannaeus] on those who seek smooth things [Pharisees] and HANGS MEN ALIVE,...formerly in Israel. Because of a man hanged ALIVE on [the] tree, He proclaims, 'Behold I am against [you, says the LORD of Hosts'] ("Commentary on Nahum (4Q169)," G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 280).
It should be noted that the missing words prior to "formerly in Israel" in the above passage are translated in contradictory ways by the scholars: 1) "as was never done" and 2) "as was done." Whether Israel had always hanged their criminals alive or not makes little difference to this discussion -- the fact remains that Alexander Jannaeus -- the Hellenized leader of Israel during the 1st century B.C. -- DID hang men ALIVE on a living tree! Josephus, the first-century A.D. Jewish historian, provides the details:
"Now as Alexander fled to the mountains, six thousand of the Jews hereupon came together [from Demetrius] to him out of pity at the change of his fortune; upon which Demetrius was afraid, and retired out of the country; after which the Jews fought against Alexander, and being beaten were slain in great numbers in the several battles which they had, and when he had shut up the most powerful of them in the city of Bethome, he besieged them therein, and when he had taken the city, and gotten the men into his power, he brought them to Jerusalem, and did one of the most barbarous actions in the world to them; for as he was feasting with his concubines, in the sight of all the city, HE ORDERED ABOUT EIGHT HUNDRED OF THEM TO BE CRUCIFIED; AND WHILE THEY WERE LIVING, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes" (Josephus, Antiquities 13. 14. 2).
By this time the Temple itself had evolved into a corrupt financial institution with the priesthood as its bankers. Writes Herschel Shanks:
"It was not until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. that the Pharisees again gained control of Israel's religious affairs, the primary reason that the Jewish writings reflect the Pharisaic death penalties. THE SADDUCEAN MODE OF EXECUTION WAS, HOWEVER, DIFFERENT. John the Baptist calls them a 'brood of vipers,' reflecting the Hebrew equivalent ma'ase 'eph'eh 'creatures of the snake' [Satan]" (ed. Herschel Shanks, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Vintage Books, New York, NY 1993, p. 212).
"The Babylonian-Alexandrian priesthood ruling during the first century were," notes Nancy L. Kuehl, "Edomites, appointed first by the Edomite King, Herod. These Herodian appointed Alexandrian priests were Sadducees, and it was this group to which Alexander Janneus allied himself. It was Alexander Janneus, too, who had hanged men ALIVE on living trees! The Pharisees of the first century B.C.E. had found the practice to be utterly abhorrent, and this is reflected in the writings of the Essenes" (A Book of Evidence, chapter 9, "The Execution").
Another Qumran document was discovered that indicates hanging convicted criminals on a tree while still alive was a reasonably common practice during the years leading up to the rabbinic period that followed the destruction of Jerusalem -- notice what this document has to say:
"If a man is guilty of a capital crime and flees (abroad) to the nations, and curses his people, the children of Israel, YOU SHALL HANG HIM ALSO ON A [LIVING] TREE AND HE SHALL DIE. But his body shall not stay overnight on the tree. Indeed you shall bury him ON THE SAME DAY. For he who is hanged on the tree is accursed of God and men" ("The Temple Scroll," Col. LXIV; G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 156).
It should be noted that this Dead Sea scroll states that the offender is to be FIRST hanged upon a tree and the, SECONDLY, that he shall die. This indicates that this sequence was common practice during the years of the Sadducean-Alexandrian priesthood in Israel. Neil S. Fujita understands this in his book, A Crack in the Jar: What Ancient Jewish Documents Tell Us About the New Testament:
"The passage [in the Temple Scroll] ordains that the death penalty shall be carried out by 'suspending' the convict ALIVE for the charge of treason on the basis of Deuteronomy 21:22-23. What we have here is a pre-Christian halakhic interpretation of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (crucifixion in the form of a hanging on a tree)" (Paulist Printers 1986, p. 133).
We find almost the same wording in the Nahum Pesher as in the Temple Scroll:
"If a man has informed against his people and has delivered his people up to a foreign nation and has done evil to his people, YOU SHALL HANG HIM ON THE TREE AND HE SHALL DIE. On the evidence of two witnesses and on the evidence of three witnesses, he shall be put to death [a reversal in wording here] and they shall hang him on the tree. If a man committed a crime punishable by death and has run away unto the midst of the Gentiles [i.e. a mesith], and has cursed his people and the children of Israel, YOU SHALL HANG HIM ALSO ON THE TREE, AND HE SHALL DIE" (Nahum Pesher, Col. 1, Lines 1-11).
Most people believe that the Messiah was crucified according to the Roman practice of the time -- but this is far removed from the truth. The Sadducean priesthood took full responsibility for the execution of the Messiah. The "crowd" of priests and Herodians who demanded Pilate condemn him, along with the witnesses (the accusers, who would have been the priests themselves) made a statement that reflects exactly upon whose shoulders the blame should rest:
"And all the people, answering said, 'His blood be upon us and upon our children!'" (Matthew 27:25).
And what did Pilate say when confronted with these demands? "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law"!
Writes Nancy L. Kuehl --
"The Jewish euphemism demehem bam was used only by the judges in a capital case. It was designed to make them think about the responsibility they take upon themselves in rendering a verdict. It was well known that if the judges of Israel found one guilty of a capital crime, the verdict necessarily made them responsible for not only the blood of the accused but of the physical descendants that might have followed him had he been acquitted. What is indicated more particularly by the expression, however, is the TYPE of death the accused was to suffer" (A Book of Evidence, chapter Nine, "The Execution").
The Jewish Encyclopedia elaborates:
"With reference to all other capital offenses [blasphemy included], the law ordains that the perpetrator shall die a violent death, occasionally adding the expression, his (their) blood shall be upon him (them). This expression, as we shall see presently, post-Biblical legislation APPLIES TO DEATH BY STONING...the law says (Leviticus 20:27), 'They shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them'...Here the expression 'Demehem bam' is plainly used in connection with death by stoning: hence it is argued that, wherever the same expression occurs in the Pentateuch in connection with the death penalty, it means death by stoning, and consequently the punishment of the crimes mentioned in Leviticus 20:9, 11, 12, 13, 16, is the same: DEATH BY STONING" (Melek., Mishpatim, 17; Sifra, Kedoshim, 9; Sanhedrin 53b, 66a; "Capital Punishment, The Jewish Encyclopedia, pp. 554-557).
In the case of the Messiah it was meant to infer that the judges themselves would take responsibility for his death. Anyone who was sentenced to death by stoning was also hanged. This mode of execution was entirely legal and accepted during the first century. However, the Pharisaic and Sadducean methods of stoning an individual were quite different. Whereas the Pharisees used only one large stone and threw the individual down from a great height, the Sadducees demanded that the entire congregation of Israel have an active part in putting the accused to death. Each person passing by the execution site on the Mount of Olives would have been required by law to pick up a stone and cast it at the accused -- thus "casting out" that individual from the nation of Israel. It was a process similar to the placing of hands on the sin-bearer goat to be "cast out" into the "wilderness" as a "curse" of YEHOVAH God on the Day of Atonement. Since the Sadducean priesthood was the powerful sect during the life-time of the Messiah, it was their law that carried the day.
The Messiah Was Blinded!
According to Nancy L. Kuehl "there is other evidence in the New Covenant that we must consider. The apostle Paul had been STONED in Antioch, dragged out of the city and left for dead [Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:25]. As a result of having been stoned, Paul carried with him the lasting results. His eyes had been damaged. When a man was stoned, it was the head and eyes that were usually targeted [Mark 12:4]. But we have Paul's own words to provide the evidence we need" (A Book of Evidence, Chapter 9 -- "The Execution").
Paul mentions this in Galatians 4:13-15:
"And you know that on account of a PHYSICAL INFIRMITY [Gr. WEAKNESS OF THE FLESH] I preached the gospel to you formerly; and though I was a trial to you IN MY FLESH, you did not reject or despise me; but you received me as an angel of God, EVEN AS CHRIST JESUS. Where then is your self congratulation? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have PLUCKED OUT YOUR VERY EYES AND GIVEN THEM TO ME."
In the parable of the wicked vinedressers (Mark 12:1-11) the Messiah himself points out that the primary places of injury during stoning was the head and the eyes (Mark 12:4). If anyone was fortunate enough to escape death from stoning, he instantly became an outcast from Israel and would have been called a "leper" and spat upon "in disgust" (Deuteronomy 25:9). So how do we know, then, that Paul was not a leper but was referring to his having been stoned? Notice Galatians 6:17!
"From now on let no one trouble me, for I BEAR IN MY BODY THE MARKS OF THE LORD JESUS."
The word "MARKS" in Galatians 6:17 is translated from the Greek word stigma (from the root stizo) which means "TO MAKE INCISED OR PUNCHED MARKS" (i.e. bruises) that result in "scars." These "marks" that the apostle Paul carried in his own body were the result of having been stoned -- and he claimed that they were the same as those that the Messiah received! Simple logic tells us that these marks on Paul's body do not refer to the crucifixion of the Messiah because Paul was NOT crucified -- HE WAS STONED!
Just like the Messiah, Paul's face and EYES were the PRIME TARGETS of those hurling the stones. It was to the HEAD AND EYES that the stones were mainly thrown, especially during the initial phases of the execution (see Mark 12:4); and remarkably, Paul indicates, in these verses, that his principal affliction had SOMETHING TO DO WITH HIS EYES!
Ernest Martin elaborates on this:
"Since it was common for hostile people to hurl stones at the FACE of a person, it can readily be understood why such a stoning could have ALMOST BLINDED Paul. He wrote with LARGE ALPHABETIC LETTERS (Gal. 6:11), and this may well indicate that he had difficulty in seeing clearly. The lacerations had apparently so injured Paul that there was permanent damage TO HIS EYES AND FACE. When he told the Galatians that 'my trial in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected,' it STRONGLY implies that his wounds (even four years after his stoning) were ostensibly so bad and unattractive that the common thing for people to do would be to reject him from being in their company. The Galatians, however, did not reject him, but treated him like an angel of God, 'EVEN AS CHRIST JESUS' (BECAUSE THEY KNEW THAT CHRIST WAS ALSO STONED AND BLINDED). Since there were no plastic surgeons to improve Paul's outward appearance, this is no doubt why Paul made a special point in telling the Galatians that he BORE THE SCARS OF JESUS IN HIS BODY (6:17). Those SCARS no doubt CAME FROM THE WOUNDS HE SUFFERED DURING HIS STONING" (Secrets of Golgotha, page 198).
YES, THE MESSIAH WAS STONED IN THE FACE AND BLINDED!
Notice Psalm 38, which is a prophecy of HOW the Messiah would have to suffer: "For thine arrows [piercers -- to chop into, pierce or sever] stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore...My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: AS FOR THE LIGHT OF MINE EYES, IT ALSO IS GONE FROM ME." (Verses 2 and 10). Psalm 69, which is FULL of references to the sufferings of the Messiah, also indicates this! "I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; MY EYES FAIL while I wait for my God." (Verse 3).
These verses show that the Messiah WAS TO BE BLINDED; and there can hardly be a doubt that sometime during the six hours the Messiah hung on the tree, being constantly struck by stones, some of them hit his eyes and blinded him!
Mangled Beyond Recognition!
His "visage" and his "form" -- the front parts of his body -- were MARRED BEYOND RECOGNITION. How do you account for the fact that Mary couldn't recognize her Master at the tomb?
"They [the angels] asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?' 'They have taken my Lord away,' she said, 'and I don't know where they have put him.' At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, BUT SHE DID NOT REALIZE THAT IT WAS JESUS. 'Woman,' he said, 'why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?' THINKING HE WAS THE GARDENER, she said, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means teacher)" (John 20:13-16).
Explains Nancy L. Kuehl --
"Had Jesus been stoned (as seems to be prophesied) he would have been so marred (or disfigured) and so malformed as to be indistinguishable as a man at all. The result of having been stoned would have obscured his identity, and not even his closest disciples would have, at first, recognized him (John 20:14-15; Mark 16:12; John 20:19-25; John 21:4, 12). It was probably for this reason that Mary the Magdalene did not recognize him until he spoke to her (John 20:14-15). He would have been so marred that Thomas, the one apostle who was even willing, at first, to follow Jesus into Judea to his death (John 11:16), only truly believed Jesus had been resurrected when he had placed his hands into the nail prints and into his side (John 20:24-29). He hadn't even trusted his own eyes!" (A Book of Evidence: The Trials and Execution of Jesus, p. 197).
The Messiah's flesh was so mangled and his body so disfigured that even a close friend could not recognize him! "His visage was so marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14). For six long hours our Savior was tormented by volleys of small, sharp flint-stones (such as are found on the Mount of Olives to this day) hurled at the front parts of his naked body while he was nailed to the tree -- facing the east gate of the Temple and the great curtain that hung from the eastern portal. These stones struck his face, his midsection and his legs, breaking the skin and dislodging the flesh -- crushing and bruising and tearing, but without the force to break his bones. No wonder the Messiah was marred more than any man!
The Seder Symbolism
The Passover Seder or Service has long puzzled scholars. They have been unable to see how breaking off pieces of matzos (unleavened bread) could in any way represent the body of the Messiah at his crucifixion.
Ernest Martin explains:
"When Christ instituted the Lord's Supper on the eve of his crucifixion, he took bread and BROKE it and he said this BREAKING was like his body WOULD BE BROKEN for them (Matt. 26:26). He spoke of the BREAKING of his body in the same context as the wine which represented his BLOOD which was shed at his crucifixion for the remission of sins...Since the New Testament specifically states that NO BONES in his body would be broken (John 19:36), many scholars can see no reference whatever to the death of Christ in the BREAKING of the unleavened bread...There are a number of Greek manuscripts and writings of several Church Fathers which provide a comment of explanation to the text of First Corinthians 11:24 concerning the BREAKING of the bread at the Lord's Supper and they associated it with the BREAKING of Christ's body at his crucifixion. They added their comments that the bread represented Christ's body: "WHICH IS BROKEN FOR YOU" (see The Greek New Testament, UBS, p. 604). THIS MEANS THAT THERE WERE EARLY BELIEFS THAT THE "BROKEN BREAD" IN THE CEREMONY OF THE LORD'S SUPPER DID INDEED REPRESENT THE "BROKEN BODY" OF CHRIST AT THE TIME OF HIS CRUCIFIXION...
"Thus we have the beliefs of early Christians and the prophecy of Isaiah itself that Christ's body would indeed be BROKEN like BREAKING OFF pieces of unleavened bread. But the scourging of the soldiers before his crucifixion or the simple act of crucifixion itself COULD NOT ACCOUNT FOR SUCH BREAKING OFF OF PIECES OF HIS BODY. But the act of STONING would fit the description precisely. The hurling of small and sharp stones at Christ's body would tear away pieces of his flesh ever so slowly until after about six hours of such treatment he would have been hanging on the tree of crucifixion as a person whose VISAGE AND FORM would have been so marred that he would not have resembled a normal human any longer. This is how Isaiah 52:14 describes the Suffering Servant, whom all the New Testament writers identified with Christ Jesus, and I see no reason for not believing it. THIS IS JUST ANOTHER EVIDENCE THAT CHRIST MET HIS DEATH BY STONING (his body torn to shreds in its frontal areas) and that he did not die by crucifixion alone" (Secrets of Golgotha, pages 189-190).
The next time you observe the Passover Seder remember how, when you BREAK the unleavened bread, our Passover Lamb was TORMENTED for hours by the constant barrage of sharp, flint-like stones that bruised and crushed and gouged and BROKE OFF pieces of his flesh, SPRINKLING his atoning blood on the ground before the presence of his Father's Shekinah Glory in the Temple.
Remember, the sacrifice of the Red Heifer, which PREFIGURED the Messiah's death so accurately, did so right down to the very LOCATION of his death!
Remember also that the Messiah shed his blood for the ENTIRE human race -- you and me, Gentile and Jew (Israelite).
Jewish and Other Evidence
Are there other sources of information that show the Messiah died as a result of STONING? Indeed there are. The early Jewish people have long known that this was the way the Messiah was put to death. The Talmud (body of Jewish civil and religious law) has an account of his very death:
"On the eve of Passover Yeshua the Nazarean WAS HANGED. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth TO BE STONED because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favor HE WAS HANGED on the eve of Passover" (Sanhedrin 43b).
The word "hanged" in this instance does NOT refer to hanging by the neck, but to being "attached" or "transfixed" to a tree. This historical reference in the Talmud shows that the Jews were aware that Yeshua the Messiah was actually STONED WHILE HANGING on the tree of crucifixion.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had been PUBLICLY PROCLAIMING (during the forty days before the Passover in 31 A.D.) that Yeshua deserved to be STONED for his teachings and statements. The book of John shows that the apostles were well aware of this pronouncement and constantly reminded the Messiah of it. Notice John 11:8 once again: '"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to STONE you, and yet you are going back there [to Judea]?"
Verses 55 to 57 show that the chief priests and Pharisees had issued orders for his arrest: "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, 'What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?' But the chief priests and Pharisees HAD GIVEN ORDERS that if any one found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him."' And true to the words of the Talmud, they had Yeshua STONED while hanging on the tree of crucifixion in order to fulfill the Law of Moses regarding a person who BLASPHEMED against YEHOVAH God.
In the book Rabbinic Essays, by Jacob Z. Lauterback, we find FURTHER EVIDENCE our Savior died as a result of stoning. Recalling a Jewish Baraita (Jewish teaching that was not codified when the first part of the Talmud was put together), the author states that the Messiah met his death BY STONING and NOT by crucifixion alone. After a long discussion on this subject, the Baraita says: "he [the Messiah] is going out TO BE STONED," followed by "they hanged him" (pages 494-497). This early Jewish tradition PLAINLY SHOWS that our Passover Lamb was indeed STONED TO DEATH while hanging on the "accursed tree."
In Luke 23:27-28 we read:
"And a great multitude of the people followed Him [to Golgotha], and WOMEN WHO ALSO MOURNED AND LAMENTED HIM. But Jesus, turning to them, said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.'"
Mark notes what happened when the Messiah and the women arrived at the execution site: "Then they gave Him WINE MINGLED WITH MYRRH to drink, but He did not take it" (Mark 15:23). The "wine mingled with myrrh" was given to the condemned to deaden the pain, and was part of an old Jewish custom.
Haim Cohn explains this:
"From Luke we know that "there followed him a great company of people, AND OF WOMEN, which also bewailed and lamented him" (23:27), and they would of a surety have followed him all the way to Golgotha. Combining both traditions [Luke 23:27 and Mark 15:23], it may, I think, be permissible to infer that it was the WOMEN ACCOMPANYING JESUS on his way to execution, and attending him in his last hours on the cross, who BROUGHT THE WINE AND BEGGED HIM TO DRINK: it was an ancient Jewish custom that a condemned man, when led to the place of execution, had to be given a DRAFT OF WINE WITH INCENSE IN IT, 'in order that he may lose his mind,' that is, become unconscious; and it was 'the dear women of Jerusalem who volunteered and brought the wine' and offered it to him [B Sanhedrin 43a]. This custom is told in the Talmud IN CONNECTION WITH CONVICTS ABOUT TO BE STONED...'the dear women of Jerusalem' saw to it that...a man ABOUT TO DIE BY STONING should be anesthetized against excess of pain..." (The Trial and Death of Jesus, KTAV Publishing House, N.Y. 1977, pp. 217-218).
This custom passed into law, Maimonides (Jewish philosopher of the 12th century) ruling that, when being led to his execution BY STONING, the convict had to be given a DRINK OF WINE WITH INCENSE, so that he may get intoxicated and insensible -- and ONLY THEN was he to be STONED. (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Sanhedrin 13, 2). This is FURTHER PROOF the Messiah suffered according to the Mosaic law!
Ernest Renan, one of the leading biographers of the Messiah during the nineteenth century, understood clearly that he had been STONED as he hung on the gallows or tree:
"And if ever a crime was that of a nation, it was the murder of Jesus. It was a 'legal' murder, in the sense that its primary cause was THE LAW WHICH WAS THE VERY SOUL OF THE NATION. The MOSAIC LAW pronounced the death penalty for any attempt to CHANGE the established cult. Jesus, no doubt, attacked that cult and aspired to destroy it...Christianity has been intolerant; but intolerance is not essentially Christian. It is Jewish, in this sense that Judaism was the first to vest religion with a theory of the absolute, postulating that every reformer -- EVEN THOUGH SUPPORTING HIS DOCTRINE WITH MIRACLES -- MUST BE DRAGGED TO THE GALLOWS [TREE, CROSS] AND STONED BY ALL AND SUNDRY" (La Vie de Jesus, 8th ed., Paris, 1863. Pages 411-412).
The Final Fulfillment
Once we realize that people were throwing sharp, flint-like stones (such as those found on the Mount of Olives) at Yeshua's naked body for almost SIX HOURS, we can easily understand WHY he died so quickly. Isaiah 52 and 53 were PERFECTLY fulfilled. His flesh was so TORN AWAY from the bones on the front part of his body that bystanders could hardly tell he was a human being. His flesh was so mangled and his body so DISFIGURED that it was almost impossible to recognize him. "His VISAGE was so marred MORE than any man, and His FORM more than the sons of man" (Isaiah 52:14).
In the initial stages of the stoning the head received the brunt of the punishment; and there can be no doubt several of the stones at least struck his eyes and BLINDED him, thus fulfilling Psalm 38.
His body was truly BROKEN FOR YEHOVAH's PEOPLE ISRAEL; and it is this terrible stoning that we commemorate when we break the matzos during the Passover Seder. How much MORE MEANING the Passover Service will have for us now that we understand this crucial truth about the death of our Passover Lamb.
The tremendous symbolism pictured by the sacrifice of the Red Heifer really comes to life when we see how the Messiah SPRINKLED his blood on the ground before the Sanctuary. And the only action that could sprinkle the blood on the ground in such a manner, was the STONING he received. THE MESSIAH DIED FOR US PRIMARILY AS A RESULT OF THE TERRIBLE STONING HE ENDURED AS HE HUNG ON THE TREE -- THUS BECOMING AN ATONEMENT FOR ALL OF ISRAEL!
We should thank our Heavenly Father for giving up His only begotten Son; and thank our Lord and Savior for the SACRIFICE he made on our behalf so those of us of Israel can qualify to become members of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and inherit the entire universe. May YEHOVAH God help us to continually keep this in mind!
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