July 1st, 2010
01:49 PM ET

Gospels don't say Jesus was crucified, scholar claims

Update July 2 8:04 a.m. After this article posted Gunnar Samuelsson got in touch to stress that his research focuses specifically on the narratives of Jesus's execution in the four Gospels, not on the entire New Testament, so "Gospels" has been substituted for "Bible" in the headline.

There have been plenty of attacks on Christianity over the years, but few claims have been more surprising than one advanced by an obscure Swedish scholar this spring.

The Gospels do not say Jesus was crucified, Gunnar Samuelsson says.

In fact, he argues, in the original Greek, the ancient texts reveal only that Jesus carried "some kind of torture or execution device" to a hill where "he was suspended" and died, says Samuelsson, who is an evangelical pastor as well as a New Testament scholar.

"When we say crucifixion, we think about Mel Gibson's 'Passion.' We think about a church, nails, the crown of thorns," he says, referring to Gibson's 2004 film, "The Passion of the Christ."

"We are loaded with pictures of this well-defined punishment called crucifixion - and that is the problem," he says.

Samuelsson bases his claim on studying 900 years' worth of ancient texts in the original languages - Hebrew, Latin and Greek, which is the language of the New Testament.

He spent three years reading for 12 hours a day, he says, and he noticed that the critical word normally translated as "crucify" doesn't necessarily mean that.

"He was handed over to be 'stauroun,'" Samuelsson says of Jesus, lapsing into Biblical Greek to make his point.

At the time the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were writing their Gospels, that word simply meant "suspended," the theologian argues.

"This word is used in a much wider sense than 'crucifixion,'" he says. "It refers to hanging, to suspending vines in a vineyard," or to any type of suspension.

"He was required to carry his 'stauros' to Calvary, and they 'stauroun' him. That is all. He carried some kind of torture or execution device to Calvary and he was suspended and he died," Samuelsson says.

Not everyone is convinced by his research. Garry Wills, the author of "What Jesus Meant," "What Paul Meant," and "What the Gospels Meant," dismisses it as "silliness."

"The verb is stauresthai from stauros, cross," Wills said.

Samuelsson wants to be very clear about what he is saying and what he is not saying.

Most importantly, he says, he is not claiming Jesus was not crucified - only that the Gospels do not say he was.

"I am a pastor, a conservative evangelical pastor, a Christian," he is at pains to point out. "I do believe that Jesus died the way we thought he died. He died on the cross."

But, he insists, it is tradition that tells Christians that, not the first four books of the New Testament.

"I tried to read the text as it is, to read the word of God as it stands in our texts," he says - what he calls "reading on the lines, not reading between the lines."

Samuelsson says he didn't set out to undermine one of the most basic tenets of Christianity.

He was working on a dissertation at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden when he noticed a problem with a major book about the history of crucifixion before Jesus.

What was normally thought to be the first description of a crucifixion - by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus - wasn't a crucifixion at all, but the suspension of a corpse, Samuelsson found by reading the original Greek.

The next example in the book about crucifixion wasn't a crucifixion either, but the impaling of a hand.

Samuelsson's doctoral advisor thought his student might be on to something.

"He recommended I scan all the texts, from Homer up to the first century - 900 years of crucifixion texts," Samuelsson recalled, calling it "a huge amount of work."

But, he says, "I love ancient texts. They just consume me." So he started reading.

He found very little evidence of crucifixion as a method of execution, though he did find corpses being suspended, people being hanged from trees, and more gruesome methods of execution such as impaling people by the belly or rectum.

The same Greek word was used to refer to all the different practices, he found.

That's what led him to doubt that the Gospels specify that Jesus was crucified.

At the time they were written, "there is no word in Greek, Latin, Aramaic or Hebrew that means crucifixion in the sense that we think of it," he says.

It's only after the death of Jesus - and because of the death of Jesus - that the Greek word "stauroun" comes specifically to mean executing a person on the cross, he argues.

He admits, of course, that the most likely reason early Christians though Jesus was crucified is that, in fact, he was.

But he says his research still has significant implications for historians, linguists and the Christian faithful.

For starters, "if my observations are correct, every book on the history of Jesus will need to be rewritten," as will the standard dictionaries of Biblical Greek, he says.

More profoundly, his research "ought to make Christians a bit more humble," he says.

"We fight against each other," he reflects, but "the theological stances that keep churches apart are founded on things that we find between the lines.

"We have put a lot of things in the Bible that weren't there in the beginning that keep us apart. We need to get down on our knees as Christians together and read the Bible."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Jesus

soundoff (1,530 Responses)
  1. Jim

    This scholar must have read different Bibles than I and is much more ignorant of history of the period. This person is an idiot with intentions to do nothing more than lead Christians astray. He will suffer the consequences of this blasphemy.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • Grant

      He did....He read the original ones. Did you read the article?

      July 1, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      But the King James version is so handy! You mean there are other languages, versions and missing books?
      You mean no one reads sanscrit?

      July 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Voig Nederlander

      ...and here we go. It doesn't matter that this researcher read PILES of source materials, because his conclusions fail to agree with yours, you somehow know better, and he's going to "pay."

      Very "Christian" of you. Man, people like you literally nauseate me.

      July 6, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • gg

      Contrary to what you think, the disciples weren't running around with NIV Bibles written in English with the little cliff notes at the bottom tucked under their arms.

      July 6, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • Erik

      look, this guy is just one voice in a sea of people doing honest research into the Bible. And like the guy that says the earth will end in Dec 2012, he's one voice in a sea of voices claiming the end of the world. We choose to believe the guy about the Bible, but we think the 2012 stuff is novelty and it is disregarded.

      Here's the rub, folks - we're talking a single voice out of hundreds of scholars, but who gets the attention in the media?

      If a doctor gives you 3 months to live, you will not like that and won't take his word. You get additional information that either corroborates or disproves by asking other experts.

      If a doctor says you'll live to be 100, you'll gladly pay your increasing medical bill and walk out content. We're creatures of seeking the truth that is most convenient to us. This guy just found a nothing that CNN thought would be convenient for progressing its agenda of moral relativism.

      If you want to get some perspective on the Bible in a quick read, try "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for the Real Jesus" written by Lee Strobel. That guy went to many different and respected researchers and attempted to punch holes in the Bible and historical accounts.

      As it is, one-off guys like the subject of this article often are out just to get noteriety. If I went to the church of the guy who says that Christ wasn't hung on a cross, I would seriously doubt his credentials as a "conservative".

      July 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  2. racnem

    The Bible calls in a torture stake or a tree. The cross is an ancient pagan symbol. You've all been lied to. READ THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELVES. (an old one would be best) Don't let other people tell you what it says.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • dalis

      racnem Calm down, there isn't a lie. At most, it's a scholarly error. A lie would be intentional deception. I'll tell you something: when I was a kid raised in the Roman Catholic Church, everyone seemed pretty secure with telling us that Jesus was likely hung from a tree and not a cross and that the nails went through his wrist not his palms. This stuff isn't a state secret.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • Tom

      Cross was not a pagan symbol. Rather, it was a Roman execution device. Like an electric chair.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • metmo

      So if everyone (I'm assuming you mean religious leaders or teachers at Catholic school or something) knew that Jesus didn't die on a cross, why would the Catholic Church continue to use it as a symbol of his death thereby perpetuating the falsehood? Because they would rather cling to their tradition than "worship in spirit and truth"?

      July 1, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • amnotpm

      @tom- actually the cross is in fact a symbol of paganism. the romans may have used the cross to assist in their tortures simply because it follows the human form, but it is a symbol for celtic paganism as well as other forms. dont limit yourself to one religeon's history. enlightenment isnt really the worst thing in the world.

      July 2, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  3. Alan

    If he wasn't crucified, then why did show Thomas the holes in his hands to prove who he was. You don't get holes in your hands from hanging or impaling. He also stated in foreshadowing His death that everyone must take up his CROSS and follow him.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • Grant

      Again, the Bible as we are all familiar with (translated) cannot be used as proof against mistranslation when it is all subject to the same potential mistranslations.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • anonymous

      umm... yes you CAN get holes from being impaled.... idiot.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  4. Matt

    Umm, you just compared fictional Easter Bunny books written for children to historical texts/manuscripts written by proven reputable sources which have helped found entire religions and our current theological/educational system....who's the idiot?

    July 1, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  5. Jason B.

    "We have put a lot of things in the Bible that weren't there in the beginning that keep us apart." Regardless of what you may think of the rest of the article, this single sentence is the most correct of them all. There are 3 important things to remember: 1) historical fact 2) what got published as the Bible (someone edited the writings together into a book) 3) numerous interpretations of that Bible. Who's to say the original facts didn't get embellished a bit over time into the Bible stories we read today?

    July 1, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • Mike

      Jason B Who's to say the original facts didn't get embellished a bit over time into the Bible stories we read today?

      The Bible! 🙂

      July 2, 2010 at 4:09 am |
  6. CM

    Which verse in Isaiah are you referring to?

    July 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • Leah

      Pick up a bible and find it. Or if you believe the bible will burn you, google it.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • CM

      I read the Bible daily, but since I know that the cross is not found in Isaiah I thought I would ask which verse the writer was referring to.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • DanW

      CM: It's Isaiah 53. A cross is not mentioned, per se, but it does read an awful l ike like a crucifixion.

      July 2, 2010 at 1:31 am |
    • Conqui

      Not only is a cross not mentioned, but neither is an execution. But if you want to pay attention to your imagination rather than what the Bible actually says, go ahead....just don't attribute it to the Bible.

      July 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  7. KDS Irvine, CA

    Wow this is something. Notice he is a New Testament Scholar . The OT tells us clearly that the Messiah will be crucified in the book of Isaiah. Also, if this guy is a New Testament Scholar, shoulden't he know that only Matthew and John were Apostles? Mark and Luke came up through Peter and Paul.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • Jack

      Precisly. I'm not religious by any means and even I know that.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • let's be real

      @ KDS....Good point.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • Bill

      That is the reason that no Jewish discussion of the Messiah before (or after) Jesus ever mentioned it.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • neuron2003

      Don't people realize that Yeshua was a zombie? That all of "Christianity" is based on what a zombie said, before & after he came back from the dead?

      July 2, 2010 at 12:24 am |
    • Ravensun

      @KDS: Um. No – Luke was the earliest written Gospel, dating from circa 70 AD. So we're talking 35 years or so ex-post-facto here. Yes, if you take the Bible as historical fact, there was a Matthew who was an Apostle, but he did NOT write the Gospel of St. Matthew, nor did Mark the Apostle write the Gospel of St. Mark, nor John the Apostle write the Gospel of St. John.

      If you take into account the average life span of someone of that era (Methuselah notwithstanding), it's just not going to have happened that way.

      July 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  8. Insan Mukmin

    The Bible does not say that Jesus was crucified. The Quran even says that Jesus was not crucified. Without any written text that Jesus was crucified, how did Catholics come to the conclusion that Jesus was crucified?

    July 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • Grant

      Christian beliefs are actually a mash-up of several other pre-Christian beliefs. It's all very astrological actually.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • dalis

      @ Insan Mukmin Not just Catholics, all of Christianity.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
    • ndundu

      They made Him carry His 'stauron' and on that object He died. This is what the researcher said. Nowhere in the rest of the Bible does it say that the specific form of the 'stauron' is important. That is very much beside the point. From research it seems as if the 'stauron' was a vertical pole with a horizontal one on top of it, like a T. The traditional form of a cross probably was derived from the notice board on top of Jesus' head, which completed the cross shape.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Zeit-Geist

      mash-up! I lov that!
      yeah Christianity as we know it today is indeed an amalgam of many Pagan theologies, most notably Sumerian and Egyptian
      Osiris was also hung on a tree and Osiris was "resurrected'
      how many of you believe that Osiris is coming back to resurrect your dead body?

      July 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • GrayWanderer

      @Zeit-Geist – Odin was also said to have spent 9 days and 9 nights hanging on the tree of life, and pierced in the side by his own spear; that is how it is believed that he gained knowledge of the runes. All faiths to have similar beliefs in them.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:21 am |
    • GrayWanderer

      @jesusknows – "see you in hell!!"

      Guess that means you'll be damned as well. Be sure to save me a nice little rock by the sulfur lake ...

      July 2, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • Peter

      @jesusknows: “See you in hell!!!!”????
      Christian Mercy at work? Jesus forgives all and doesn’t use “See you in hell” to hurt others like you Sadist Sally. Jesus looks at all beings with Love not your Punishment Peter Principle! Your type is the same as Evangelicals drool at the fact that they only will be “Raptured up to Heaven” and the other people roasted in the Apocalypse! Jesus would have mercy on all beings and wouldn’t gloat at the suffering of others like most of you Religious Fanatics!

      July 2, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • Ana

      Well said, Peter, and others. Zeit-Geist–And Isis, the Mother Goddess found Osiris (trapped within a tree (or pillar) and put him back together again. Eternal life is also promised in the Eleusinian, Dionysian, and Orphic Mysteries of Classical Greece. Also, there's a book in most University Libraries called: The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, or something like that. It's a long tradition on this planet. It's a metaphor.

      July 2, 2010 at 3:22 am |
  9. pyitegroove

    Uhhhh... let's examine Jesus really rising from the dead. I also believe in fairy dust, pixies, and flying spaghetti monsters!

    July 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Jack

      Where in the h3ll did "flying spagetti monster" come into play for the term God? If you don't believe in God and insist that he's a "flying spagetti monster", then why are you here?

      July 1, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Do you doubt that I was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Blasphemer!
      Pillage thy booty!

      July 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
    • Grant

      Pasta Man live up!

      July 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
    • dalis

      @ Jack The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a fictional deity made up by atheists so that they can posture as dogmatists. Google "Flying Spaghetti Monster", "Pastafarianism", "International Talk Like a Pirate Day", and the "Invisible Pink Unicorn".

      July 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Violette

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster was created to make a point that creationism cannot be taught in school without choosing a "version" of creationism. There are various versions from many different cultures and religions. So our friend Bobby was just trying to point that out by advocating that we were created by the FSM. It was all to make a point and nobody truly believes in it. The most interesting thing is the horrible postings professed Christians make on that site, they say profane and disgusting things they say are not in the least in the spirit of Christian love as supposedly taught by Jesus. Gandhi said "I like you Jesus, but I don't like your Christians." I mostly agree.

      July 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
    • Dr RatstaR

      "If the Flying Spaghetti Monster did not exist, we would have to invent him," – Dr RatstaR


      July 2, 2010 at 1:31 am |
    • jesusknows

      I know that people are going to hate me, but the Flying Spagetthi Monster idea is very funny. Just imagine the amount of pasta involved. Anyway, I am a Christian and I think Jesus would get a great joke and laugh out of the FSM. God Bless you all stop the hate, but don't stop the Christ and the pasta!!!

      July 2, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • gg

      ramen to that!

      July 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  10. CM

    The term "early Christians" can be misleading.

    Christians of the first century knew that Jesus was impaled and did not die on a cross.

    Christians of the 3rd Century had adopted various pagan teachings. Veneration of the cross was one such teaching. Veneration of the cross predates Christ. The cross was a symbol of worship in ancient Babylon; and that had nothing to do with Christianity.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Shhh not so loud. They are believing in here.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
    • jonathan

      you're only going by what you've been told...no let me tell you what i have been told...Jesus is alive from the dead,,,,guess what? I know it's true...cause that mighty thing in Acts chapter two sat upon my head too..and i was filled with that same thing...yes filled me he did um hmm ! yes...:)

      July 1, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • kmichaels

      I have seen lots of churches with crosses and lost of people carrying crosses, but none of them venerating the actual cross. I find it a huge assumption on the part of typically non-Christians that make such a big deal about what the cross is supposed to represent.

      Cross, pole, who cares. It is a silly issue.

      July 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
    • Pete

      CM; you know what first century Christians knew? That seems arrogant of you. Maybe first century Christians knew about the crucifixion so a general term sufficed and no great details were needed since you all stated that the idea of cross was so prevalent at the time.

      July 3, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  11. Bryan Bro.

    The evidence leans more towards a single piece of timber that he was nailed to. Either way, the Bible is very clear in taking a stand against using images in worship. No matter what you think the device looked like that Jesus was impaled upon, an image of it is not to be used in worship according to scripture.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Tony

      Amen brother =)

      July 1, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • kmichaels

      The scriptures say not to worship graven images. It does not say you cannot use objects as a reminder of who or what it is that you do worship. To claim that somebody carrying a cross or a photo or whatever object they carry is the same as worshipping that object is really kind of dumb in my opinion. The false religions of old actually worshipped the objects and that was what was condemned. Yes, if you actually worship the cross itself then you are guilty of the same sin, but I have never seen anyone that carries a cross actually worship the cross. It is simply a reminder to them. I myself never carried a cross because to me, it would be emphasizing the wrong message, to me. But I can see where some people could make a good message out of the cross. But to claim that it is the same thing as idol worship is just dumb shallow and simplistic.

      July 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • Pete

      Here we have a common misunderstanding. Few pastors, priest, etc. would stand at the front of a church and claim to be worshiping the cross that is present. We, myself included, worship what the cross stands for, thus we do not worship a graven image.

      This is seen even in the Old Testament. The ark of the covenant was created by God's direction. God instructed that a golden jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the commandments be placed within the ark. The ark, and the items within, are not to be worship, but are to be reminders of why the Hebrews worship God. This is the same with the cross today. The cross is not worshiped, but the cross serves a reminder of why to worship.

      People though misrepresent this though for their own purposes. Any little wedge that they can use to try to make themselves feel superior.

      July 2, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      The arguments against pagan idolatry are a little bit silly.

      The proponents of the Judeo-Christian religion are condemning pagans in those scriptures. That is their goal. Of course they would not want to admit that the pagans might be bowing to a symbol of their own deity–that would legitimize the pagan deity/belief system by admitting that such a deity exists–that's not going to be helpful if the religion you are trying to establish is a monotheism. So, what did they do? They say "These pagans are so stupid. They are bowing to mere objects. Don't be like them."

      Of course they would say that! You forget that when these scriptures were written, the Judeo-Christian religion was a very small minority trying to carve a place for themselves. And now we have the reverse. Non-Christians are criticizing Christians for their stupid beliefs/practices.

      Don't you see how criticizing someone else's belief does nothing to legitimize your own? It is a non sequiter.

      July 5, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  12. Matt

    This guy says he was "suspended". Well it's that the whole "crucifixion"? He was "suspended" on a cross because that's what we make when we raise both arms parallell to the ground. So in other words, he's saying orange is NOT a fruit with this type of logic.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Julian

      No Matt,

      He is saying an orange is a fruit, but not all fruits are oranges.

      All crucifixions are suspensions, but not all suspensions are crucifixion.

      See the logic in that?

      July 1, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  13. Grant

    Just find it kind of funny that people are using other Bible verses as their own kind of proof when the whole basis for this argument is that the Bible might have been mistranslated, making those other verses subject to the same potential mistranslations.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Rex Remes

      Yep. Good point. I agree with you.

      July 2, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
    • Pete

      Also from what I have learned there are no original manuscripts. In other words there are no actual copies written in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John's own hand. So the next question is did the copiers (scribes, monks, ...) up date the language from original Greek to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. century Greek as he was copying? The question goes back to what manuscripts were examined, when were they written, and so on.

      For example in the dead sea scrolls there are many copies of Isaiah. As best as I can remember not a single one of these scrolls was identical. Go figure they had as many different versions of scripture back than as we do today. Somethings just don't change.

      July 2, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  14. guest

    ...And according the Romans, proclaiming that you are the Son of God is worst kind of blasphemy. They also need to read the rest of the bible...?
    Nope that is not blasphemy for Romans/Greek. Their mythology is full of Sons (children) of God, just like christian myths.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      I read the dictionary, no plot. The story seemed to go nowhere.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • Tom

      Anna: Wake up! At the time the Romans and Greeks would not have cared what the bible said. The Romans and Greeks were not xtian.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • jesusknows

      Hey everyone,
      Please research as much as you can without believing in everything people say. I have read that people executed him because of the Bible teachings. The Bible was never put together until the Council of Nicea by the Catholic Church in the 4th century AD after Christ. They've had Greek Codexes of the gospels, including old Hebrew codexes and scrolls of the Law and Torah (Old Testamant). They're not too many codexes left that survived for us in recent times. We also have the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammaddi Library Codexes(The other Gospels and Letters never placed in the form of a Bible), the Gospel of Judas, etc. that is well worth reading. Most of us need to just realize what Jesus came to do and what he taught the best. That is Love. God Bless.....See you all in the afterlife!!!!!

      July 2, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  15. bsbogus

    who cares what this guy says, it won't change the minds of people anyways.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • Luke

      Because some of us enjoy learning.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
  16. guest

    "He admits, of course, that the most likely reason early Christians though Jesus was crucified is that, in fact, he was."
    what kind of logic is this?
    "He admins, of course, that the most likely reason Jews thought Jesus was not messiah is that, in fact, he was not"

    July 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Just2Reason

      It's this kind of "logic." Ask a Christian this: Do you think if you were raised in a Muslim country, by Muslim parents, that you would be taking that argument to your grave, instead of the Christian one?

      July 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • Nic

      It is impossible to compare those two phrases. One belief is based of eyewitness observation (they believe he was hung on a cross because they saw him hung on a cross); the other is a metaphysical presumption that has nothing to do with what our senses can perceive. What a group of people perceives can be understood to be true because they all share the basic methods of perception. Everyone shares the fact that they can see, so when everyone says they SAW him crucified, that means he WAS crucified. Just because everyone BELIEVES something does not mean that BELIEF is fact. Really, the scholar does have good logic, while you have none.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • guest2

      Just- no some wouldn't. Just because people are born in this country doesn't mean they were raised to believe in Christianity.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • Just2Reason

      @Guest2: I never said anything about whether someone raised in the country would be raised Christian.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  17. CM

    The Greek word stauros does not refer to a cross. It refers to a stake or pole.

    The Bible also uses the word xy'lon to identify the device used. Xy'lon is used frequently in the Bible; but it is not translated "cross". It is usually translated "tree".

    July 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • jesusknows

      Stauros was used only once in the Greek codexes of Mark. Why does it seem to be that in recent times that Jehovah Witnesses believes he was executed on a stake? Ok, so he carried his stake to Golgotha(City of Skulls)???? What about Thomas saying that he didn't believe that Jesus was resurrected without placing his fingers through his nailed woumbs?
      Jesus cleary says,"Blessed is he who does not see me, and still believes"

      July 2, 2010 at 1:43 am |
    • Ana

      The Greek word stauros, and related words did originally mean 'pale' or 'stake' according to Lidell, Scott, Jones' Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford U press, 1940 edition. It came to mean 'cross' at the time the Gospels were written say these learned scholars. Tempest in a teacup. The point of the saga is that Jesus was resurrected.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:49 am |
    • Mike

      in reply to jesusknows:
      Jehovah's Witnesses state that it is likely not a cross based on the fact that both stauros and xylon are not accurately translated as a cross and also based on the fact that the cross was often used in the past as a sign for Babylonian Sun worship and even as a phallic symbol.

      The fact is many "Christian" beliefs are not "Christian" in origin. Anyone who calls themselves Christian should agree that the Bible is the basis for resolving any disputes. Afterall, the bible itself states 2 timothy 3:16 " All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.." Since the words used in the original text do not indicate that it was a cross (and in fact are usually translated as a tree or upright pole) it is unlikely that it was a cross. There is no real reason therefore to assume that it was a cross.

      Regardless of whether it was a cross or not, though, the Bible clearly indicates that worship or veneration of images is not acceptable to God. Many use the cross as a sign of worship or veneration which clearly violates Exodus 20:4,5 "You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them..."

      July 2, 2010 at 3:33 am |
    • Pete

      Mike; 2 timothy 3:16 " All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.."

      2 Tim 3:16 was written long before the bible was codified and present orally. So when 2 Tim was written what was scripture? Were the 'lost' scriptures, scriptures then? That is of course assuming that the 'lost' scriptures had not been 'lost' yet. Actually the lost scriptures were never lost, but were rejected by the 'church' of the time and not codified into the Bible. This was many years, if not centuries, after 2 Tim. Also the church did not reproduce none codified 'scripture', as codified scripture was, and probably evenly actually destroyed this 'scripture.'

      So again I ask what scripture is referenced in 2 Tim 3:16?

      July 2, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
  18. Grondahl

    Mountain, meet Molehill.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Ddubbya


      It is these exact misunderstandings and disagreements over irrelivant aspects of stories that keep people divided.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • Ana

      Exactly. But it will be interesting to see if it jolts Christians into some thoughtful reflection that perhaps they are wearing a pagan symbol around their necks and praying in front of one in their churches. I'm a Christian, but was taught to look beyond the cross (or stake) to realize that Life is eternal and therefore death "hath no sting."

      July 2, 2010 at 2:58 am |
    • LilRdVet2

      To: Ana

      Exactly. But it will be interesting to see if it jolts Christians into some thoughtful reflection that perhaps they are wearing a pagan symbol around their necks and praying in front of one in their churches.

      Me: I ask people from time to time: if someone you loved was murdered with a knife or a gun, would you wear one as a pendant around your neck? Of course they say "no"...I then ask "Then why do you wear a cross?"...

      July 2, 2010 at 10:07 am |
    • W0lfman

      Because, not the cross per se, but the crucifix has a real power, a healing power.

      July 2, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      Healing power? Like a video game?

      July 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • W0lfman

      Yes, but real. Better than Paladin's Redemption aura – this is the symbol of the true Redemption.

      July 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • Erik1325

      THANK you!

      July 9, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  19. CM

    Most scholarly works that I have seen indicate that stauroun or stauros means an upright pole or stake. Bible scholars also point to the words of the people crying out for him to be killed. They did not cry out "crucify him". They cried out "impale him". The Romans impaled criminals at that time. They did not crucify them.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • Anna

      Crucifixion was usually reserved for the most atrocious of criminals. And according the Romans, proclaiming that you are the Son of God is worst kind of blasphemy. They also need to read the rest of the bible. Not just the scene of his death. Plus didn't it say that he carried his cross down the road with the other 2 thieves? People spit on him and thrown stones and all that jazz?

      July 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Religious Historian

      @Anna – The Romans didn't execute Jesus because he said he was the Son of God. They executed him for sedition and treason, claiming he was trying to overthrow the Roman leadership in the area and supplant it with his own government. That's why they mocked him by hanging a sign over his head cynically declaring him "King of the Jews."

      It was the Pharisees who were upset that Jesus claimed he was the Messiah and the Son of God. They didn't want Jesus to steal their power and authority over the laity. Because being the Messiah wasn't a crime, they convinced the Romans that by saying he was going to establish a Kingdom, that Jesus was attempting to overthrow the Romans. Of course, the Romans and the Pharisees both missed the point that Jesus was intending to establish his Kingdom at a future time, but that's a totally different discussion. 🙂

      July 2, 2010 at 12:57 am |
    • Trevor Willis

      He was crucified... this story is just a slick way to gain attention, comments, and doubt on the fact.

      1.) Romans crucified many people at the time
      2.) historical evidence supports crucifixion at the time
      3.) Historical evidence supports early Christians, and Pontious Pilate at the time

      Im just speaking historical evidence seeing as how doubters just want that instead of biblical info... but even when presented with historical info... doubters shy away from recognizing it!

      July 2, 2010 at 3:15 am |
    • LB Colorado

      Matthew 27.35, scholar or not, there are a lot of scholars in this world and a lot of them are in the governments. Good Luck, NO JESUS, NO PEACE.

      July 6, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  20. Richard Koffarnus

    If Jesus wasn't crucified, then why did Paul write that our "certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us...was nailed to the cross" (Colossians 2:14)? What was the purpose of the nail wounds in Jesus' hands, which he showed to Thomas (John 20:24-27)? Why did Jesus say that He must be "lifted up from the earth," a statement which John 12:33 says indicated what kind of death Jesus was to suffer? All of these verses and more point to crucifixion as the means of Jesus' death.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      When did Paul write that? Answer: 10 – 20 years after the fact.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • Eric

      The point is that the word "cross" is being misapplied scripturaly. The Greek word actually means "stake" or "post." One piece of wood rather than two. He was still impaled and executed, raised up and left hanging, but with his arms over his head rather than extended. None of this is new information, but if you want more ask any Jehovah's Witness.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • J-dub

      Paul didn't write it in English man. He is saying that the Greek word commonly translated "Cross" didn't come to mean that unitl well after Jesus died. It originally meant to suspend. Many scholars, not just this one, maintain that it was more likely a stake or pole of some sort.

      A commonly held theory is that the cross originated as a phallic symbol and was adopted by the church to appease the pagans who used it in their worship so they would convert. (along with many of the holidays etc.) An earlier poster stated that the Bible is consistent in forbidding the use of images in worship and this is accurate. So, regardless of what Jesus was killed upon, there is no basis for the veneration of any object in the Bible.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Be Unselfish

      Actually 20-30 years afterwards would be considered a legitimate source for providing historical evidence.

      July 1, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
    • Me

      The scholar was not saying he wasn't crucified, merely that the testaments do not specifically SAY that he was crucified in the sense we have come to know it. So, it sounds like assumptions were made during the translation, perhaps.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
    • RSG

      John 24:25

      So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
      But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
      26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

      July 1, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • neuron2003

      Paul (Saul of Tsarsus) never met Jesus, and didn't even know any of his apostles. He clearly states that he was converted after a "blinding light" on his way to Damascus. He then became a true believer, & began spreading the "good word" throughout the gentile community. What we today know as Christianity should really be called "Paulism" because Paul was the first to discuss the Resurrection, the divinity of Yeshua, etc.
      Geez, don't you Christians ever read about the history of your own religion???

      July 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
    • guest111

      Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (vol. 1, p. 256) states under the heading "Cross, Crucify":

      "stauros denotes, primarily, "an upright pale or stake." On such malefactors were nailed for execution. Both the noun and the verb stauroo, "to fasten to a stake or pale," are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed "cross." The shape of the latter had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the "cross" of Christ."

      July 1, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
    • Joe

      Wow come on guys.. you talk as if the bible was written in english.. we all know what the king james version says.. hes says there is a mistake in the original translation from greek to latin or latin to english, etc..

      July 1, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
    • jesusknows

      "Geez, don't you Christians ever read about the history of your own religion???"

      Geez, what religion are you part of????? You don't know yourself you fool.
      Paul did meet some of the apostles, including James in Jeruselam for the 4th time. There he was captured by the Jews for blasphemy, but Paul had a Roman Citizenship card. They shipped him back to Rome only to be martyred by the Romans. Paul and Peter both were missionaries and preached in Rome. Both were executed in Rome, so don't lie about Paul not meeting or knowing any of the apostles. Why do you persecute me? is what Jesus said to Paul. Right before Paul was beheaded, he said" Why do you persecute me?" Learn the truth, brother!!!

      July 2, 2010 at 1:36 am |
    • Your Savior

      quit quoting out of date text.

      July 2, 2010 at 1:52 am |
    • Joseph

      Colossians 2:14 uses "Stauro" not "Cross." A Stauro often was a Wood Beam or Stake that you would Nail a Sign to, or a Corps for public display of a Criminal, and or Nail or Rope a Criminal to for Public Execution. Also is was for Nailing up the Notice of the forgiveness of a Public Debt, and was called "Doubling." In English they translate that as "He doubled all of our Sins," but Hebrew Aramaic and Greek say, "His folded up all of our Miswitness," meaning our error in not witnessing accurately God and the Kingdom of God was written on a scroll for Public Viewing to shame us, but was doubled or folded up to hide our miswitness or shame. That is what the Nailing to the Stauro Paul is referring to about the death of Yahshua. Some write his name "Yehshua," but it has part of the name of the Father whose name is Yahweh, which many use the German transliteration "Jehovah" for, but in German that is pronounced Yahweh. The Religion Jehovah's Witnesses translate Stauro as a "Stake," not a Cross also, which is a more accurate Translation, although the Jehovah's Witnesses often miswitness on some points, but every religion miswitnesses on some points.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • RSG

      @Your Saviour: I suppose Darwins text is out of date too? Or are you the momma who decides when text is out of date. Shut up and get outta here. If you dont like us quoting from the Bible or somewhere else you can get the heck outta here. Oh and you aren't my Saviour pinhead.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • Mike

      depends which bible translation you use and how they choose to translate the word stauros. any translations that choose to use the word cross are choosing am English word that inst true to the original meaning of stauros.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:47 am |
    • Peel

      Richard, you are my hero. I wish I could believe everything I read in books.

      July 2, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • Peel

      (Richard) "If Jesus wasn't crucified, then why did Paul write that blah blah blah..."
      Because Paul realized that fiction sells. He was the Dean Koontz of his time. His most popular character was a guy with supernatural powers.

      July 2, 2010 at 9:15 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      Second hand account 20 years after the fact, and you still think it is "gospel"

      July 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Jeff Fisher

      Amen Richard... you are right for standing up for the Truth! Amen and Amen!

      July 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • Walter A. Murray, Jr.

      Since the late 1950s the attack on the Bible has increased to the point that in 4 of the last five churches I have attended have interpreted the New Testiment to mean what the preachers want it to mean. Each of the four have told me that they know more than the scholars that did the King James version and the Catholic version. God help us from those who know more than our ancesters. Walter

      July 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Joel

      I just read a really good thriller (CIA/Religious conspiracy) called The Hand of Christ (by Joseph Nagle) and the author covers this very topic. He takes it one step further though and writes that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but Joseph of Arimathea helped Jesus escape the crucifixion. It was a really good book, well written, and an exciting piece of fiction and the author covers a lot of history that made me start to wonder if he was on to something. The book was a lot better than the Da Vinci Code and for those that want something that adds to this argument, I suggest that you read it.

      July 5, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
    • 8000acres

      Paul's letters are not part of the Gospels, which consist of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Samuelsson's claim is that the Gospels do not say Jesus was crucified, he doesn't make any claims about whether Paul said Jesus was.

      July 6, 2010 at 3:55 am |
    • Jeremy

      I have never seen so many hateful people comment in my life. In fact, those that take such fear of loss of this idol are ones that are disobeying God's law to not worship idols(Remember the Golden Calf?). What is the big deal? This has been known for decades by other religions, such as Jehovah's Witnesses. I remember them stopping and showing me Greek text that explained this. I diasagreed with many other aspects of theirs. But this rang true, because I read the bible as well. No idols or you will be destroyed at the Judgement. But hey, if you are a Christian these days, it means make it up as you go. Maybe even pray to idols or saints?!? If you are a Christian, read your bible before you proselytze in a public forum and make those that are educated in Greek and Hebrew feel pity for your lack of understanding gift-wrapped in hate. Everyone can have their own beliefs. However, if you join a club(Christianity/Boy Scouts/etc) don't change the rules to meet your own preferences or ignorance beacuse you let someone else tell you what to believe.

      July 6, 2010 at 4:33 am |
    • peace2all

      None of this really matters at all anyway.... Much bigger and larger issues going on in the world to worry about and take care of instead of trying to prove whether there was a Jesus, did he die for you...and did he do it on a cross....etc..etc...etc...

      Really, who cares..... and for those that do, it seems your priorities are misspent.....

      July 6, 2010 at 4:41 am |
    • Voig Nederlander

      Well, what Christianity hasn't had in a long time is a good schism, and this is just the stuff. Now you good folks can fracture your believers yet again, and maybe even start some more wars over who believes in the crucifixion, and who believes he was rather impaled.

      This does nothing to put me off my personal belief that organized religion is evil.

      July 6, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • Conqui

      Richard, Jeff, Walter & others: It is blasphemy not to use the best texts and the best understanding of how those texts were understood by their authors. It was recognized in less than 100 yrs after the KJV that significant portions of those particular Greek manuscripts were not the best available and that besides that, the translators made significant errors in translating those bad texts. If you want to understand what Jesus/Christianity is about, you would be interested in what the NT authors actually said, instead of relying upon bad texts & poor translations to confirm your own preconceived beliefs. As Wesley said, "Sour, self-righteous godliness is the Devil's religion."

      July 6, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Martin

      Actually, Paul never met JC in his life. He became a Christian after JC died and only then did he meet some of the apostles.

      July 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • aatami

      More importantly: Will Luke and Laura ever marry!

      July 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • james

      the point is He died for our sins.

      July 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Dr. J.Jeyaseelan Kanagaraj

      If I am correct in understanding Samuelson, he bases his argument that 'stouroun' means simply "to suspend" rather than "to crucify" from the texts which are only 900 years old. He is not bothered to look into the first-century documents which are the earliest witnesses for Jesus and for what he did. He is wrong to say that the NT was originally written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. It was originally written in Koine Greek which was the official language at that time. Perhaps the translations must have come later into other languages. One cannot argue and conclude anything from the later texts.

      Samuelsson bases his argument only on one verse, that too found in one of the Gospels. He does not seem to be aware that Paul wrote much earlier than the Gospel writers. Paul often speaks of Jesus' victory on the cross, of his atoning sacrifice for human sins meaning "crucifixion", of the message of the cross which is folly to those who perish, but the power to those who are saved by faith in the death of Christ on the cross, etc.

      Even if we follow him to the Gospels, why didn't he write anything about the thieves who were crucified with him? Were they also merely suspended? The scholar does not understand the Gospel texts against the background of the Greco-Roman world of Jesus' time.

      Therefore it is better to ignore what Samuelsson says.

      July 13, 2010 at 6:36 am |
    • BecauseHeLovesUS

      I am glad that some one has pointed that out, thanks Richard. Per my Pastor– What this "scholar" also fails to recognize is that the word "stauron" Jesus carried was exactly the thing that Romans used to cruicy their victims on. There was absolutely no purpose for it. For crucifixion, each person has spikes driven through their hands and feet. It's said that this guy gets a article on CNN, and people think it's the truth. There are thousands of other Biblical scholars out there, but like the Bible says, people will look for what they want to hear, not what is actually the truth.

      July 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • Wikipedia: Jesus_in_Islam

      Not just to be fair to cover the topic from all angles. It's amazing to hear what Quran says about Jesus. Google it after done with Wikipedia

      July 22, 2010 at 8:29 am |
    • murmeister

      This quotation comes from a translation and not a very accurate translation of the original accounts.

      July 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
    • why

      Why is everyone worring about A cross or steak? Its not how he died but Why and thats for our sins maybe we need to meditate on that

      July 24, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.