Accursed By God When Jesus Was Crucified?
Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the fact that serves as proof for Judaism that he is not the Messiah. Jewish belief holds that a person who is hanged is accursed by God; therefore, Jesus was accursed by God disqualifying him as the Messiah:
“The very form of his punishment would disprove those claims in Jewish eyes. No Messiah that Jews could recognize could suffer such a death; for “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. xxi. 23), ‘an insult to God’ (Targum, Rashi).” – JewishEnclopedia.com
Scriptural basis is found in the Law of Moses, Book of Deuteronomy. Very plainly it says that anyone who is hanged on a tree is accursed of God:
- DT. 21:23 “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.(NKJV)
Hanging of a victim was not intended to be the Jewish form of execution; instead, death was to be accomplished first by stoning, then the corpse was to be publicly hanged briefly for a day. Contrary to the Roman humiliation component of crucifixion, the Jewish-style hanging was not intended to humiliate, but rather to send a message. The Babylonian Talmud defines the process:
“All who are stoned are [afterwards] hanged. (Soncino)
“The rabbis taught: It reads [Deut. xxi. 22]: “And he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree.””
“The rabbis taught: If the verse read, “If a man committed a sin, he shall be hanged,” we would say that he should be hanged until death occurs, as the government does; but it reads, “He shall be put to death and hanged,” which means he shall be put to death and thereafter hanged.”(Rodkinson)
Connecting “tree” and “cross” is made through translations of the Deuteronomy Hebrew text word `ets meaning “a tree or wood timber.” Some 300 years before Jesus was crucified, Jewish Hebrew translators of the Septuagint LXX used the Greek word xulon meaning “tree” or “wood.” Jewish and Christian Bibles alike nearly all translate `ets as “tree” or “pole.”
Crucifixion involved a victim being hanged from its wood cross-timber beam attached to an upright wood pole. Therein lies the connection of the Deuteronomy Law to a cross being a “tree” or “pole.”
Thousands of Jews were crucified by the Romans. Some were executed as judicial punishment for committing commonly recognized serious crimes such as murder, robbery and insurrection; however, reasons for crucifixions expanded with time.
Many Jews including priests were crucified for non-criminal, nefarious reasons such as simple hatred, spitefulness or merely for entertainment. Jews of the Roman era could not conceivably have viewed these hapless victims of crucifixion as being accursed by God. In fact, Jewish practice was to take great care in burying the crucified Jews before sunset:
“Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.” – Josephus, Wars
Jesus of Nazareth was crucified like any other Jew by the Romans. Following customary Jewish practice after a crucifixion death, his body was taken down from the cross and buried with care by none other than two prominent Jewish Council members.
A person accursed by God, according to the Talmud, was to have committed an offense so reprehensible, the punishment deserved an execution death by stoning, but execution was not enough. The corpse was to be hanged publicly whereby all would know the person was accursed by God.
“… the sages say: only the blasphemer and the idolater are hanged. (Soncino)
“…but thou shalt surely bury him the same day for he is hanged [because of] a curse against God, – as if to say why was he hanged? – Because he cursed the name [of God]; and so the name of the name of Heaven [God] is profaned.(Soncino)
“The sages, however, say: that as with a blasphemer who has denied the cardinal principle of our faith (i.e., he does not believe in God), the same is the case with an idolater who denies the might of God…” (Rodkinson)
An exception to Jewish Law was needed to distinguish the crucifixion of Jesus from that of other crucified Jews. Sanhedrin 43a describes after-the-fact that an exception was made for “Yeshu, the Nasarean.” The exception: Jesus was connected to the government, presumably the royal lineage of King David.
“…On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [#34 the Nasarean] was hanged…But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!.…With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].’” – Soncino Babylonian Talmud translation
“Rather, Jesus was different, as he had close ties with the government, and the gentile authorities were interested in his acquittal.” – William Davidson Talmud translation
Caiaphas and the Jewish leadership found Jesus guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be I AM. Problem was, Rome had prohibited executions by the Jewish theocracy. The exception justified the Jewish leadership to hand over Jesus to the Romans to be executed and hanged on a tree.
Rome did not recognize a Jewish court verdict, especially for the capital Jewish crime of blasphemy. Instead, the Jewish leadership handed Jesus over to the Roman government under the accusation of failure to pay taxes and insurrection. Either crime would result in the same outcome – crucifixion on a cross, a wooden tree.
Indeed, Jesus was judged by the Roman government for insurrection. However, the plan seemed to backfire when neither Tetrarch Herod nor Procurator Pilate found any guilt in Jesus despite admitting to Pilate that he is a King.
Not guilty of any Roman crimes, Pilate still condemned Jesus to crucifixion at the strong behest of the Jews. Pilate was compelled to wash his hands of the aberrant circumstances saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”
Does the crucifixion of Jesus mean that he was hanged on a wooden pole and thus accused by God?
Updated October 24, 2022.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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