After watching 'Passion of the Christ' and reading various accounts (including threads made here in ATS) I see that there are conflicting ideas
about the crucifixion - especially where
the nails were driven during the crucifixion of Christ (palms or wrists) so decided to do a bit of
research to try to get to the bottom of it.
The conflict occurs due to this quote from John's gospel, in which Jesus makes reference to his hands.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and
put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said,
Peace be unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not
faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God
John, Chapter 20: 24-28
From this, one can see that the obvious answer is 'Christ was crucified by having the nails driven into his hands
' and indeed, most pictures
and statues of Jesus do show the wounds as being in his palms.
The problem comes when you realise that if someone is hung up by nails thrust through their palms, the skin will tear, releasing the victim. That
obviously didn't happen during crucifixion - the Romans would never have been so inefficient as to design a method of execution that didn't work.
Also to the Greeks, the meaning of 'Hands' includes the wrist.
The Science of the Crucifixion
It is more likely that the nails went through Jesus’ wrists. If the nails were driven into the hand, the weight of the arms would cause the
nail to rip through the soft flesh ... If placed in the wrist, the bones in the lower portion of the hand support the weight of the arms and the body
remains nailed to the cross.
Logical - but there's a problem. Archaeologists have discovered the skeleton of a victim of crucifixion with a nail embedded in the ankle bones. (The
knees were flexed at approximately 90 degrees with the weight of the body pushing down on the nails and the ankles supporting the weight). However,
the wrists of this man were undamaged. His skeleton is the only one so far found bearing evidence of crucifixion. See:
The Crucified Man from Giv'At Ha-Mivtar
So was Mel Gibson right ? Was Jesus tied to the cross after having the nails driven through his palms
According to WordIQ
"For the sake of expediency, the victim was probably affixed to the
cross by ropes, nails, or some combination of the two.
Actually, it is probably that the Romans varied the method used to crucify people depending on the materials at hand. According to
, wood was a scarce commodity around Jerusalem at the time of Christ's
crucifixion, so the 'crosses' may well have been used more than once.
The site continues:
We know from Josephus that during the first century C.E. wood was so scarce around Jerusalem that the Romans were forced to travel ten miles
outside the city to secure timber for their siege machinery (War 5.522-23). From this one account we can reasonably assume that the scarcity of wood
may have affected the economics of crucifixion, so that the horizontal bar as well as the vertical beam may have been used repeatedly.
With this collection of evidence, we can say that at times the Romans nailed their victims through the wrists, sometimes through the palms (using
ropes to ensure their security) and sometimes just used ropes. The effect would be the same no matter the manner used - the victim would die in
Re-reading the quote from John's gospel with this new information makes the whole thing more understandable. Jesus' description of his hands
includes his wrists. The wounds could therefore be either in his palms or
his wrists, which were considered as part of his hands
writers of the New Testament. So there is no conflict between Biblical accounts and historical evidence.
Finally, and purely out of interest, the Shroud of Turin - thought to be either the burial cloth of Jesus or a mediaeval forgery depending on whose
account you listen to - shows a large puncture wound which could have been caused by impalement by a large nail. It is on the wrist.
[Edited on 27-10-2004 by Pisky]