The Myth of Pre-Cross Torture?

by Arfaque Malik, London

The Light (Pakistan), 8th October 1980 Issue (Vol. 60, No. 19, pp. 11–12)

Corroborated evidence which lies buried in the pages of Bible proves beyond the shadow of doubt that Jesus did not die on the cross. How could he, when he had remained on the cross for a short time? (Mark 15:25; John 19:14). Was this short time sufficient to kill him? Was he not still living when he was taken down from the cross? Were not the two men put on the cross with him still living when they were removed? (John 19:33). Why were his legs not broken like those of the two criminals? (John 19:32–33).

Christian missionaries have a readymade answer. They will accept that the criminals, when brought down from the cross, were living. They will readily accept that their legs were broken? They will argue that the legs of Jesus were not broken because he was already dead. Was such a short time sufficient to kill Jesus? Yes, they will argue, that Jesus had become weak because of the torture before crucifixion and this hastened his death. The argument is reasonable. But what scourging or torture was Jesus subjected to? There is no external evidence. The internal evidence is most unreliable. The very authenticity of the Christian Scriptures is disputed. What greater proof is there for Christians than the verdict of the Bible? It is for this reason we have elected to examine the supposed we­akness of Jesus in the light of Gospels.

As mentioned above, the Gospels do not enlighten us as to what scourging or torture Jesus was subjected to. We read that when Jesus was led away to be crucified, the Roman soldiers spat on him and took the reed and smote it on the head (Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:19). Then after they had mocked him (Mark 15:20, Matthew 27:31), not only was he not naked but he was given his own garments to wear in preference to the “Scarlet robe” in which they had earlier attired him so as to mock him. (Mark 15:17; Matthew 27:28). And as they started to take him away “they found a man Cyrene Simon by name; him they compelled to bear his cross.” (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). The fourth evan­gelist has set aside the tradition that Simon bore the cross. In John 19:17 we are told that Jesus bore his own cross. Three of the Gospel-writers narrate that Simon bore the cross whereas only one says that Jesus himself carried the cross. In view of the unanimity of the three first evan­gelists we cannot but dismiss John’s assertion. We have no option but to accept the tradition of synoptic Gospels.

It would, then appear that not only were Jesus’ hands not bound to the beams of the cross but he had not even to bear it himself. Looking at the report of the mockery we find that Jesus was led into a hall where the whole band of soldiers were gathered and there they stripped him and put on him a scarlet robe and when they had platted a crown of thorns they put it upon his head and a reed on his right hand and bowed and kneeled before him saying: “Hail, King of Jews!” and then they spat on him and took the reed and smote it on his head. (Matthew 27:27–30; Mark 15:16–19). Does this sound like an actual flogging? There was no flogging. There was no beating? There were no blows. If Jesus suffered, it was from the taunts rather than blows, from the assaults on his dignity rather than on his body. It is the report not of the torture that caused physical scars but of a hackling that caused anguish of the mind.

Even if we accept the report in John 19:1 that Jesus was scourged, no dependable tradition or informa­tion exists that there were any after­ effects, wounds or other external in­jury which the soldiers would at once have seen. If Jesus had been tortured with the normal Roman thoroughness, his body would have shown patent signs of it: he would have bled pro­fusely. He would have scarcely been able to stand on his feet. Certainly he would have been unable to confront the Governor and address him freely (John 19:11). If, however, that had been his state, the evangelists would not have made secret of it. If the evangelists did not describe the pitiable condition of a scourged Jesus it was because there was none and that he was in fact unscathed. His outward appearance was unchanged. This leads us to conclusion that if the looks of Jesus were untouched and unchanged, it would appear that scourging, if at all he was scourged, was so light and superficial as to print no outward mark. The arguments that Jesus was weak and this hastened his death on the cross cannot be accepted.

We have arrived at this conclusion on the basis of internal evidence from the Bible. If our conclusion is wrong, then the report contained in the Bible is wrong. Can then that document be considered reliable? If, however, the report is correct then the accepted Christian belief is baseless.