What Was the Crucifixion Like?

Happy Easter Weekend. This is a column by Frank Turek. Interestingly, when he sent it to me I was watching The Passion of the Christ on TBN. And to think he endured all this for me!

What was the extent of the physical suffering Jesus endured at the crucifixion? Consider that the English word “excruciating” is from the Latin meaning “out of the crucifixion.” I’ve found that the best way to comprehend the magnitude of the Christ’s physical suffering on Good Friday is to read the following description that we’ve adapted from the work of medical doctor, C. Truman Davis (see I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 380-383).

Crucifixion of Jesus image

WARNING: THIS IS GRAPHIC (You may have a difficult time getting through it).

The whip the Roman soldiers use on Jesus has small iron balls and sharp pieces of sheep bones tied to it. Jesus is stripped of his clothing, and his hands are tied to an upright post. His back, buttocks, and legs are whipped either by one soldier or by two who alternate positions. The soldiers taunt their victim. As they repeatedly strike Jesus’ back with full force, the iron balls cause deep contusions, and the sheep bones cut into the skin and tissues. As the whipping continues, the lacerations tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss set the stage for circulatory shock.

When it is determined by the centurion in charge that Jesus is near death, the beating is finally stopped. The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They throw a robe across his shoulders and place a stick in his hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. A small bundle of flexible branches covered with long thorns are plaited into the shape of a crown, and this is pressed into his scalp. Again there is copious bleeding (the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body). After mocking him and striking him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from his hand and strike him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into his scalp.

Finally, when they tire of their sadistic sport, the robe is torn from his back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal-just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage-causes excruciating pain, almost as though he were being whipped again. The wounds again begin to bleed. In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return his garments. The heavy horizontal beam of the cross is tied across his shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution party walk along the Via Dolorosa. In spite of his efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock.

The 650-yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed. Jesus is again stripped of his clothes except for a loin- cloth that is allowed the Jews. The crucifixion begins. Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild pain-killing mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the cross beam on the ground, and Jesus is quickly thrown backward with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tight, but to allow some flexibility and movement. The beam is then lifted, and the title reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.

The victim Jesus is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain-the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed, and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs but it cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It is undoubtedly during these periods that he utters the seven short sentences that are recorded.

Now begin hours of this limitless pain, cycles of cramping and twisting, partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep, crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over- the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally he can allow his body to die. With one last surge of strength, he once again presses his torn feet against the nail, straightens his legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters his seventh and last cry: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus went through all of that so you and I could be reconciled to him; so you and I could be saved from our sins by affirming, Father, into your hands I commit my life. If you haven’t done that, why not?

This column originally appeared in The Christian Post.

What Separates Louisiana’s David Vitter from Vance McAllister? Time and Politics

This column was originally published in The Christian Post.

Only days after Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) was caught kissing a staffer in his district office, Republicans in Louisiana were calling on the freshman congressman to immediately resign. One question that many in Louisiana and in Washington are asking is if McAllister is being asked to resign, what about the Bayou State’s own Sen. David Vitter?

In case your knowledge of political sex scandals has faded over the last decade or so, Vitter had his own troubles in 2007 when his name surfaced in the black book of an infamous D.C. Madam. Amazingly, Vitter got through the scandal by only acknowledging his involvement with the prostitution service as a “serious sin.”

“I asked for and received forgiveness form God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling,” Vitter said after the scandal broke.

Since then, Louisiana constituents not only reelected Vitter in 2010, he is now planning on running for the top executive spot in the Bayou State next year.

How did Vitter survive? Here are a handful of reasons.

  • Vitter had 3 ½ years remaining on a six-year senate term. There is no question voters don’t care for their elected officials going astray, but time heals all scars and voters are forgiving and grateful it wasn’t their own sin that made national headlines.
  • Vitter had a forgiving, not to mention a “very political” wife. Forget the CBS television series, The Good Wife. Vitter had a great wife – at least one who enjoyed the benefits of being a senator’s wife. In fact, she even introduced him at his post-sin press conference and took over when things got testy. “As David returns to work in Washington,” she continued, “we’re going to return to our life here. I would ask you very respectfully to let us continue our summer and our lives as we had planned.”
  • Vitter refused to discuss the scandal. No matter how hard reporters pressed him on the matter, he walked at a brisk pace and always had a phone to his ear. With no new information, voters tire quickly of the same ole, same ole begin reported each day.
  • Vitter held a seat that if vacated, would have most certainly led to a Democrat being appointed by then Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Regardless of any “sin” Vitter had committed, GOP leaders were not about to give up a seat in the U.S. Senate.
  • Vitter was a political animal. He may have had few political friends, but he had political acquaintances all over the state, many of whom owed him favors. Plus, he had a reputation of helping the other side get what they wanted if he got what he wanted.
  • Vitter never admitted what “sin” he had committed. His number may have been in the little black book, but no one knew what he did behind a closed door.

Here are a few reasons why McAllister might not survive his “kiss-gate”:

  • McAllister is a freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives and must run for reelection every two years, meaning he must seek his first full-term later this year. There’s not much time for voters to forget his misdeeds.
  • McAllister is not a political GOP insider. In fact, he’s an outsider. He defeated a Jindal and GOP machine backed candidate in 2013 and is no one’s favorite son.
  • McAllister may or may not have a wife willing to stand by his side, but if she does she’ll have to convince women voters why they can trust her husband.
  • McAllister apparently has a staff problem too. Several reliable sources have indidcated that a member of his own team leaked the kissing video.
  • McAllister will have a hard time finding any of the congressional leadership team or his colleagues willing to stand by him. This will make fundraising a chore given he has less than $100 in his campaign coffers.

Almost seven years later, Vitter is planning his strategy for governor and now has to relive his past “sins” by answering questions about McAllister kissing a staffer. Trust me, that wasn’t in his campaign plan.

Most striking is Louisiana’s top two GOPer’s, Governor Bobby Jindal and Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, have called on McAllister to step down. Jindal even went as far as calling the freshman congressman an “embarrassment.”

Last Friday I emailed Jindal’s press office and asked these three questions:

1) Gov. Jindal, you have called on Rep. Vance McAllister to resign from Congress, saying he was an embarrassment to the state. Given that Sen. Vitter also engaged in what many believe was adultery with one or more prostitutes, why would you not call on Sen. Vitter not to run for governor or even resign his senate seat?

2) Based on the facts known so far, do you consider Rep. McAllister’s actions more serious than those of Sen. Vitter?

3) Do you believe that any candidate is unfit for office if they have acted inappropriately with someone of the opposite sex at any time in their life?

I wish I could report the governor’s response here, but sadly, there was no reply.

However, Jindal did respond to a reporter’s question on the issue last Sunday and said, “I know there are folks, there are Democrats and others trying to link the two issues,” Jindal told WWL.com. “I’m not going to go down that path. I think the issue before us is the congressman’s actions.”

So, is Jindal a huge fan and supporter of Vitter’s.

“Not hardly,” said Robert Mann, an LSU professor and political columnist. “In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jindal camp is excited about the idea of getting questions about Vitter in hopes that his negative numbers increase. They probably won’t answer them, but they do not want to see Vitter as the next governor.”

An interesting political strategy for sure, especially since Jindal has his eyes on the White House or being asked to play second fiddle as Vice President on the next GOP ticket.

Still, it’s the state’s junior senator that has some questions to answer.

Vitter was in Monroe, Louisiana on Tuesday and like Jindal, dodged questions and an interview request about McAllister. However, it’s hard to dodge the same issue all summer and Vitter’s best defense will be to address the subject sooner, rather than later. The only problem he has is there is not good answer.

Regardless of whether McAllister survives his kissing episode, this will be yet another test on how far voters are willing to be pushed on the moral shortcomings of those who represent them.

David Vitter knows this all too well.

Political and Pulpit Sex Scandals: Should Christians and Christian Journalists View Them Differently Than Non-Believers?

This week two sex scandals – one involving a national political figure and one a prominent pastor – are making national headlines. Sadly, it’s not the first time nor will it be the last we will see these types of stories surface. But as a Christian and a journalist, I am asking myself how I should view and report them.

As I write this column, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) and pastor Bob Coy of Florida both have stories on the main page of <em><a target=”_blank”>The Christian Post</a></em> and other national media sites highlighting their sins and moral failures. McAllister, a married congressman, for a leaked video of him kissing a staff member at a Christmas party and Coy has resigned because of past “moral failures” that appears to be a sexual affair.

In the interest of full disclosure, I understand exactly how these two men feel.

In 2009, while serving in the Tennessee State Senate, I had an affair with an intern in my office that was revealed after her boyfriend attempted to extort money from me. As a born-again Christian before, during and after my sin, the shame and embarrassment is and can be overwhelming for these men and their families. For someone who is a Christian, the stigma is even worse, especially from non-believers or opponents who are joyous in the fact that a Christian has fallen to the same sins they vowed to uphold.

Were they hypocritical in their actions given their professed Christian beliefs? Yes, and such criticism is fair and justified. But as Christians, we should try and help our fallen brothers find their way back.

Religious beliefs aside, these stories are worthy of news coverage. In fact, it is our duty as journalists to report the facts as we know and uncover them, be they Democrat or Republican, Christian or atheist.

The sad reality is: sex sells. For example, is it more enticing to read about a congressman in an inappropriate and sinful situation or about disagreements with the House budget plan? Is it more exciting to see a front-page story about a pastor having an affair than to read about the controversy surrounding building plans for a new youth center? I think you get my point. Sex sells and it sells big.

Secular media editors and reporters are hoping these stories will have a long shelf life so they can, in turn, get more hits and sell more papers, thus generating more advertising revenue to feed the bottom line. That’s simply the business of journalism.

But as Christian journalists, do we have a biblical responsibility to report these stories in a different manner? I believe we do.

We’ll obviously cover and write the scandalous and salacious headlines that will grab your attention. We will point out that adultery or sex outside of marriage is a sin (the same sin as homosexuality), but we also have the responsibility of addressing forgiveness, reconciliation and how these men can be redeemed in the eyes of God.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and former city councilman in Clarksville, Tenn., and understands the public scrutiny placed on both. In a phone conversation we had Wednesday, pastor Edmondson and I talked about the public pressure that both of these men will have to endure for the next few years, and even for the rest of their lives.

“What they need is time alone with their families and pastors, hopefully with no outside involvement, to work through the many issues they are faced with,” said Edmondson. “But unlike the average couple in my church, they won’t have that luxury.”

To read the rest of the column in The Christian Post, click here.

How the LGBT Agenda Tops Religious Liberty

This is a column by Joe Carter of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It’s primary title is The Most Influential Essay You’ve Never Heard Of and it’s a great read on religious liberty (or lack thereof) and the LGBT agenda. You can follow Joe on Twitter here.

The Most Influential Essay You’ve Never Heard Of; How the LGBT Agenda Tops Religious Liberty

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

This frequently cited quote is often misattributed to John Maynard Keynes or Winston Churchill. But since no one knows the originator, I’ll claim it as my own. Sometimes when the facts change, I change my mind. Such is the case with this article.

This is not the article I set out to write. The facts – or at least my recollection of the facts – changed and I had to change with them. My original thesis was that several years ago LGBQT activists gave assurances that their agenda did not have to conflict with religious liberty rights and that they rejected any claims that opposing homosexual rights was akin to racial discrimination. I thought they too had once claimed, as law scholar Doug Kmiec said nine years ago, that it was “inconceivable” that “a successful analogy will be drawn in the public mind between irrational, and morally repugnant, racial discrimination and the rational, and at least morally debatable, differentiation of traditional and same-sex marriage.”

I had thought the claims that those who opposed homosexual behavior were “bigots” and “essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws” was a recent change in radical rhetoric. But I was wrong.

For several weeks I searched to find a single prominent LGBQT activist who supported religious conscience exemptions for individuals. I could not find a single one. The closest I could find was the view expressed by Chai Feldblum, an LGBT rights activist and current Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2006, Feldblum said:

Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.

While it is nearly impossible to find a LGBTQ activist who put religious liberty ahead of their agenda, it is possible (at least in theory) to find one or two who will denounce the “inconceivable” connection between homosexual activism and civil rights for African Americans. Though I was not able to find them, I assume they must exist. Yet even if they do, that view is definitely not widely shared amongst supporters of homosexual rights.

Instead, there is a concerted effort to vilify religious believers who oppose homosexual behavior. I used to believe such claims were the overheated rhetoric of misguided Christians. And even until recently, I would have disputed that vilification of religious opponents to homosexuality was a widespread phenomena within the community of LGBTQ rights activists and their supporters. But the indisputable fact is that I was wrong: Vilification has been a primary tactic of the homosexual rights movement for at least thirty years.

One of the most influential documents to support this tactic is an article written in 1987 for Guide Magazine. Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen wrote ‘The Overhauling of Straight America,’ which they later expanded it into a book, After the Ball – How America will conquer its fear and hatred of Gays in the 1990s, that was published by one of the America’s largest publishing houses (Doubleday) and became a national bestseller.

If you read Kirk and Madsen’s brief, eye-opening essay (and I highly recommend you do), you’ll immediately assume it’s a parody of the “gay rights agenda.” If a modern-day Jonathan Swift set out to satirize the most outrageous ideas about gay activism believed by religious believers, he couldn’t have produced anything like this. If it were satire, it would be deemed to outrageous, too demonizing, to be believable. Sadly, the essay wasn’t satire but an actual PR blueprint for efforts to gain acceptance of homosexual behavior over the past 30 years.

Read the remainder of this article here.

An Evangelical Response to ‘Former’ Evangelical Rachel Held Evans On Gay Marriage

This is a column from Chelsen Vicari, a young evangelical columnist who is making quite a name for herself.

“It feels like a betrayal from every side,” might be how blogger Rachel Held Evans’ sums up last week’s World Vision fiasco over same-sex marriage, but it doesn’t exactly convey the mixed feelings of most evangelicals.

In her recent entry on CNN Belief Blog, “How Evangelicals Won a Culture War and Lost a Generation,” Evans paints conservative evangelical men and women as uncompassionate by lamenting over “misaligned evangelical priorities” and our “leaving thousands of needy children without financial support.” The major flaw in her argument is that conservative evangelicals’ reactions were not due to a “disdain” for the LGBTQ people or an abandonment of the needy. It was the result of heavy-hearted commitments to God’s Word.

The chaos all started when World Vision embraced same-sex marriage within their employment policy, subsequently recognizing their “mistake” and recommitted to uphold biblical sexual morality. It was the organizations reversal that promoted Evans’ blog, in which she launched several inflated accusations against her conservative brothers and sisters in Christ.

On her notorious Twitter page, Evans declared that she is leaving evangelicalism because World Vision’s reversal was “uniquely evangelical.” In her attempt to flee what she assumes to be bigoted discrimination, Evans overlooks the important fact that evangelicalism is more than skinny jeans and potluck lunches.

Built in the wake of the decline of America’s mainline denominations, evangelicalism grew as it committed to uphold the authority of Scripture. In his book The Young Evangelicals, author Richard Quededeaux identifies three key characteristics of evangelicalism: (1) Evangelicals identify the full authority of Scriptures in all matters of faith and practice; (2) Evangelicals pursue a personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; and (3) Evangelicals understand the urgency of seeking the conversion of sinful men and women to Christ.

Despite admitting that the series of events motivated her to leaving evangelicalism, Evans asserts that World Vision’s flip-flop “is not an issue of orthodoxy. But when we begin using child sponsorships as bargaining tools in our debates, we’ve lost the way of Jesus.” Actually, World Vision is the perfect illustration of the un-attachable orthodox tradition of evangelicalism.

Read the remainder of this article here.

Note: Rachel Held Evans has said she is “rethinking” such a move and has posted a response on her blog.

Chick-fil-A Once Again Topples KFC as Nations Top Chicken Choice; Is It a God Thing?

Georgia based Chick-fil-A, whose owners have taken criticism for their biblical views and stance on traditional marriage, have once again secured the top stop as the nations leading chicken chain by beating out KFC. And to top it off, Chick-fil-A did it with half the stores (1,775 to 4,491).

Is this simply better business practices? I think we might be looking at a blessing from God.

From a financial perspective, Chick-fil-A registered sales of over $5 billion, compared to KFC’s $4.2 billion. But the question remains, how can a privately held chain whose advertising budget is much smaller out perform a sixty-something year-old chain owned by a food conglomerate?

Harland Sanders, a Kentucky entrepreneur commonly known as “Colonel” Sanders, founded the original Kentucky Fried Chicken. The concept started in the 1950′s after Sanders developed a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices and then traveled the country selling rights to small restaurant owners. Sanders sold KFC in 1964 but remained a key figure in the company’s advertising strategy until his death in 1980.

Restaurant and business analysts have noted several objective reasons why Chick-fil-A has overtaken KFC, but I believe God’s blessings played a role too.

Let’s first examine the differences in the two chains.

Chick-fil-A’s breakfast menu increased sales by 3.6 percent while KFC’s breakfast tally shrunk 2 percent. This comes at a time when consumer demand for breakfast is at an all-time high. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Hey, meet me at KFC for breakfast.”

Analysts also note the difference in product offerings. Chick-fil-A has wraps, salads and waffle fries to go along with their signature fried chicken sandwich topped with pickles. A wider variety of food offerings aside, I still don’t think this is the real reason why Chick-fil-A is kicking KFC’s wings.

From a business perspective, I believe it comes down to the employees on the front line and the humility of management.

Because I have a 14 and 10-year old, I have multiple requests each week to dine on fast-food fare. My kid’s number one choice is Chick-fil-A because the service is consistent and the food taste great.

Years ago my family frequently stopped at a KFC on the way home from church on Sunday to satisfy my weekly craving for fried chicken. Over half the time our order was never properly filled and on more than one occasion employees had not cooked enough chicken or the right pieces to give us what we ordered. Plus, the restaurant was dirty and the employees seemed to care less I was unhappy over having to receive an order of half original recipe and half extra-crispy.

Not the case at Chick-fil-A.

Employees stumble over one another to ask for your order. They always ask for your name and make a point of saying it when your food is presented. They have staff roaming the restaurant cleaning tables and asking if you need a refill on your sweet tea or soft drink. Moms like the large children’s play area and most important, they never run out of chicken!

Yet above this, I believe God blesses those who are most faithful to Him.

Chick-fil-A has come under intense scrutiny over the past few years for financially supporting a foundation they created that supports traditional marriage. Mind you, they never waged a campaign against homosexual marriage but simply supported and encouraged the lifetime marriage of one man and one woman.

Gay activists reacted with severe threats, going so far as to call for a nationwide boycott that not only failed miserably, but caused sales of Chick-fil-A products to soar when Christians flocked to the chain to show support.

How did Chick-fil-A operators respond when a handful of homosexual protesters would show up to picket a store? They would offer them free food and drinks. I believe Jesus would have done the same.

Atheist and those opposed to Christianity argue that the religious beliefs of business owners should play no part in how their choose to run their enterprises. On the other hand, Christians believe that while their businesses may not be religious in nature, they are called upon to treat others as Jesus would if he too were standing behind the counter.

Is it part of God’s universal plan to make Chick-fil-A the nations number one chicken destination? I doubt it. But I know God sometimes blesses those who are faithful to Him and believe His son is the key to His kingdom.

Well done good and faithful chicken server.

This column was originally published in The Christian Post.

An Outstanding (and fair) Biblical Review of the Noah Movie

My friend Marty Duren saw the Noah movie last night and has written one of the best reviews I have read so far. If you’re planning to see it soon this is an excellent read.

The Noah movie compared to the Bible

I’m still undecided if I’m going to see the movie in the theatre or just wait a couple of months and see it on the movie channels. I do have an issue with giving my hard-earned money to a director whose intent was to make the “most unbiblical bible story” in history.

Teaser: Marty told me today if you are considering seeing it then the flood scene alone is worth the ticket.

Have you seen it? What are your thoughts.


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