Swedish theologian Gunnar Samuelsson of Gothenburg University is making waves with his argument that Jesus was probably never nailed to a cross. In a 400-page paper, Samuelsson makes the case that original Latin, Greek, and Hebrew texts from the time of Homer until after Jesus' death offer no evidence that Romans used crosses, or nails, in their "suspension punishments." How convincing is Samuelsson? (Listen to Samuelsson's claims)
This is just a theory: Samuelsson has "caused something of an unheavenly row" with his thesis, says Theunis Bates in AOL News, and no wonder. If he's right that Jesus was executed by some other "gruesome execution device," that scuttles "the defining symbol of Christianity." But while the New Testament really is somewhat "ambiguous about the exact method" of Christ's death, so too is his evidence that "the Roman Empire was a crucifix-free zone."
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He doesn't take his theory far enough: Samuelsson's "reasoning is sound: No literature of the time describes a cross," says Dianna Narciso in Examiner.com. But it's hardly groundbreaking. Englishman John Denham Parsons, for example, "laid out the evidence against a cross as early as 1896." Samuelsson's big problem, though, is he can't force his great "reasoning skills to the point at which his faith may be dissolved."
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Who cares how Christ died? It's predictable that this study has created "yet another dividing line between Christians and non-believers," says Mark Berman in Opposing Views. But does it undermine basic tenets of the faith if Jesus Christ was killed on a spiked pole or a tree trunk? Samuelsson, a committed Christian himself, doesn't think so — he just wants us to "read the text as it is, not as we think it is."
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