Jesus Died on a Tree Trunk?

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The crucifixion is apparently under review. In his doctoral thesis, newly graduated Swedish theologian Gunnar Samuelsson argues that the cross Jesus supposedly died on may not actually have been a cross.  He explains in an interview with DRadio Wissen, a German station: "the New Testament said that Jesus died some way on something called a staurus ... that's a Greek name for a cross or a pole or something ... I call it an execution device only to be [distinguished] from the common notion that it must be a cross, because it mustn't be a cross--it could be a pole, for instance, or a tree trunk, or something else."

Samuelsson did some serious research before advancing this provocative argument: "I spent almost three years," he says, "reading all the ancient texts I could find ... from about Homer until the first century of the Common Era." He says "some kind of suspension of a living or a dead person or a part of a person" was indeed common at the time, but crucifixion is not mentioned. In the Bible itself, all it says is that Jesus carried and then was executed on a staurus--"there is no other description beyond that."

Fans of the humorist David Sedaris may be pleased. The Wire can't help but notice the new light this research sheds on a scene described in Me Talk Pretty One Day, in which non-native French speakers attempt to explain Easter to a Muslim:

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus...oh shit." She faltered and her fellow country-man came to her aid.

"He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two...morsels of...lumber."

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

"He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father."

"He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."

"He nice, the Jesus."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.