How probable is it that the cross Jesus was crucified on had been used for previous crucifixions, or that it was subsequently used for other crucifixions after the death of Jesus?
There have been many reflections and assertions, both dogmatic and devotional, about “The Cross”, often as if Jesus were the only person ever crucified. He was, of course, one of many thousands crucified, in a variety of ways, by the Romans and other regimes of the classical world, as a vicious and humiliating means of enforcing their authority, with no regard for persons, communities or causes. The history of empires is full of gibbets and gallows and their callous over-usage.
Both wood and iron being costly, it is almost certain that Jesus’s nails and cross — both the stake in the ground and the horizontal that he carried (even a carpenter could not have carried the whole thing after 39 lashes) — would have been used both before and afterwards, which, as more than mere historical trivia, opens up the matter of his prophetic identification with his oppressed fellow Jews, and all who have ever been victims of violence and injustice.
There is not enough textual nor archaeological evidence to answer the question for certain; but the most likely facts of the matter should be fundamental to our understanding of our Lord’s self-sacrifice as Immanuel: God entirely and unflinchingly with us.
(The Revd) Stephen Southgate
I would think almost inevitable on both counts, and entirely in keeping with Jesus’s status as a member of the human race who used everyday objects which we can touch and use. A happier thought is that due to the number and mobility of water molecules, a small number in each chalice at communion will have been blessed by Jesus at the Last Supper. The wine is therefore thrice blessed, by Jesus, by priests down the ages, and by the modern celebrant.
John Foxlee (Reader)
Tafarn-y-Gelyn, Mold, Flintshire
What are the Apocrypha, particularly the History of Susanna, doing in our Bibles? [Answers, 17 February]
The Apocrypha is part of all the Reformation Bibles, along with the two Testaments. Cranmer provided for more than 100 passages of the Apocrypha to be read at daily Morning and Evening Prayer (and very few from the Revelation). The Homilies often quote from the Apocrypha, and even refer to it as “the Word of God”.
Unfortunately, the number of these deutero-canonical readings has been steadily reduced and now they are even optional. To me, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, for example, are of far greater value than much, for example, in Leviticus or Numbers; and Tobit is more interesting than Jude or 2 Peter.
(The Revd) John Bunyan
Campbelltown, NSW, Australia
Why are couplets such as “Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer” used in modern communion services? Psalm 139.4 states: “Before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, thou hearest it altogether,” and Matthew 6.8 and 1 John 5.14 and the Prayer of Humble Access say much the same thing. Do we think that God needs to be respectfully prodded from time to time? P. R.
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