Jesus' Death


My historical account for Mel Gibson's film, at his request

My historical account for Mel Gibson
My historical account for Mel Gibson
On this Page:
The Choice of Jesus' Fate
The Journey to the Cross
The Nails
The Sponge
'Dead Enough' is Dead Enough Already
(Click the images for a lightbox slideshow)
Created: August 2003
Modified: Nov 10, 2022
Final

A rational account of biblical events. This account of Jesus' death was written for Mel Gibson at his request, when he was uncertain how to film the crucifixion scene for his film 'The Passion of the Christ." He had been sent myhistorical imagination on the birth of Jesus,Holy Crap!, and had been told I had something unusual to say about the sponge. After reading this, Mel Gibson decided to end the crucifixion scene before the sponge event, with himself just screaming at the camera.

The Choice of Jesus' Fate

Many people's blood are in the Roman roads. Fast military travel was crucial to the empire, so on important routes, they used blood to cement the paving stones over gravel and sand. If they didn't have anyone to kill for blood, they slaughtered the Oxen for blood, eating the oxen afterward, now celebrated in Italy as the popular repast of 'veal.' But that was expensive meat, so they preferred just to slaughter criminals for it, skewering their severed heads on stakes above the city gates (the dried and rotten heads were never removed, they just stayed there). When they ran out of room there, the severed heads went on the spikes on top of the city walls. The rest of their bodies were drained of blood to use in the mortar, and the bodies just thrown into the drainage ditches on each side of the road. Technically, it was a very good solution, as clotted human blood makes an incredibly strong cement. One can still see its dark remains on many Roman roads all over the Western world.

But when Jesus was condemned to death, the roads were done. During rebellious times, the crucifixions were right next to the gates. As there was no violent rebellion at the time, the Romans didn’t want people to realize exactly how many of the civilians were being killed off. So they instead strung up people to die far from the city, in some remote valley. That way, the stench would just sit there in the valley and not blow into the city, and almost no one went there to see exactly how many were dead. If they did, even so, it would have been difficult to count, because so many people were left there to die in the hot sun and winter rains, the ground was covered in skulls and bones, some still with putrefying flesh, and some already bleached dry by the sun.

The Journey to the Cross

And so it was the small band left the city and branched off to Golgotha on a smaller dirt road. There was Jesus, and some soldiers, and a few others due for death. Following them, some distance behind, were the wailing women, grieving as loud they could, as was the custom. Among them was Jesus’ mother, and Jesus’ prostitute friends. There were no men in the grieving party, because the Romans had another problem. The Jewish priests had insisted Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews, and in the Roman provinces, kings were not usually permitted, lest they challenge the empire’s authority. So they had to make an example of him. For instance, they made him carry the wood for his cross through the city. And the squad or roman soldiers were told not to leave until he was dead, in case someone tried to rescue him.

But by the time they got to the city gates, the Roman soldiers were starting to get fed up with how long this was taking. They had just thought they’d be marching some convicts to Golgotha, and there was Jesus, already almost too exhausted to walk at all, let alone carry the cross, covered in cuts and bruises too. Apparently they did not have the foresight to bring any slaves with them, or there weren’t any convicts available as slaves for this type of duty. So the bible says the Romans pulled in a passing negro to carry the post instead. It’s said the negro was a tradesman from the region of Hannibal’s empire around Carthage, now called Libya. If so, he knew well enough to obey anything a Roman soldier told him to do.

Eventually the small party reached Golgotha, which means ‘Valley of the Skull.’ Along the way, other people along the roadside had yelled insults and thrown more stones at Jesus, mocking and jeering him, just as they had on the long road from the city jail to the city gates. So the Roman soldiers were probably in quite a good mood by the time they got there. They would have been worried of some ambush, to save the Jewish King. But instead, people were enjoying the omniversal sport of ridiculing and stoning the condemned. So it turned out they had no reason to worry after all. But still, they had to wait for him to die. One can easily imagine the conversation:

“This place is disgusting! How long are we going to have to wait here?”

The Nails

“We're out of rope,” said the centurion. "Find some rope on a corpse we can reuse."

“What if we nail him to the cross? Then we don’t have to watch so closely. We could go sit on that ridge there instead. And maybe he’ll die faster.”

“That’s a good idea! But we didn’t bring any nails. We just go this rope we used to tie him up with and drag him up here.”

“There’s lots of nails on those old crosses over there. They’re rusted but they’ll still work.”

“Hey you’re right! Who wasted money on that? Good nails used up for something like this? Damn idiots if you ask me.”

So they nailed him to the cross, probably using a boot to hammer them in. Impatiently. One has to imagine what it was like being a Roman soldier in those days. Most of them were in it for the citizenship. If you were a soldier long enough, or saved up enough money for it, you could earn or buy your Roman citizenship. After that, a few stayed, but most left to start farms somewhere nice, like Spain. A squad would have one Roman citizen, and the rest were sort of trapped in it. Oh sure, they volunteered to join the legions, but after they volunteered, they couldn’t leave, or they’d be executed as deserters. Most of them could not read or write. But one of them could, probably the squad leader, and he carved initials ‘here is the king of the Jews’ on a plaque to put over Jesus’ head, while the others were doing the sweaty work of digging holes for the posts, stringing up the convicts, and of course, nailing Jesus to one. In most depictions, the nails are through his palms, but that would not have supported his weight. The nails would have been through his forearm, between the bones, or the nails would have just ripped through his palms from the weight of his body hanging on them. And another of the soldiers cleverly got out of the heavy work to collect some brambles and made a circlet of them to jam on his head, as a parody of a crown for the so-called King.

Finally they got him up there. It must have been quite an effort for them. And they were ready to take off for the pub.

The Sponge

But Jesus actually had one last hope.

He knew from his studies at the Library of Alexandria during his so-called 'lost years,' not only how to perform artificial respiration, but also how to induce a coma (seeJesus' Lost Years on this site). The nails must have been a real horror to him, if he was going to revive from a coma. How was he even going to walk? But if he learned what I think he did, he knew what he had to do. He had to reduce himself to a point of total and absolute exhaustion, almost near death, and then make an enormous effort, all at once, which would so deprive his body of blood sugar that he would pass out. And he knew, even then, he hadn’t reached that point.

So he said, “I’m thirsty. Please give me something to drink.”

Now imagine again what it was like to be a Roman soldier. The typical weight of armor of weaponry, just for a standard soldier, was 70 pounds. They were required to carry it with them all the time when they were on duty, but they didn’t need to wear it all the time. And it was really heavy. So what they did was this. They put their belt over one shoulder and put their sword scabbard through loops in the belt, so it hung down the middle of their back, as a support for a rucksack construction. For this reason, the standard Roman sword, the ‘gladius,’ was quite short. The swords had to be shorter than their torsos, so they could still run with all their armor on their backs (and they were often required to run. Julius Caesar had his soldiers run 50 miles a day, at 7mph, carrying all their gear; and the ones in the vanguard and rear had to be fully dressed for fighting too). Then they put their spear through loops in the scabbard, so it crossed their back at an angle to the sword, with most of the spear above their head. Then on that crosstree of spear and sword, they hung their breast and shoulder plates, and helmet, and heavy boots, and the girdle of studded straps for hanging from their belt over their tunic. And they usually had an extra tunic, because under the armor, the tunic would get really sweaty. They’d roll anything else they needed to carry in the spare tunic. When fully dressed in armor, they’d sling the rolled tunic, with whatever else they needed, on their back. Whether armed for duty or rigged for marching in ranks, they had to carry all 70 lbs.

After carrying all that, they really didn’t want to carry anything else that they didn’t have to. So they didn’t carry water. They drank all they needed before they left. That’s been standard knowledge ever since. If you’re traveling and want to reduce the weight you’re carrying, drink all the water you need first.

But one thing they carried was a sponge and vinegar to clean it.

There was no toilet paper in those days, but the lucky few could get hold of a sponge.

When you first joined the Roman Army, you had to ask for the squad sponge when you’d need to wipe your arse after shitting. The squad sponge was shared. Only one was issued for shared usage. Sponges were expensive. They had to be gathered from the sea bottom by divers. When they cured, they were just as good, if not better, than the sponges we buy in the supermarket today. But they weren’t so easy to get. One reason some people joined the Roman army was because you could get to use the squad sponge to wipe your butt. As a special treat, when you became a citizen, you got your own sponge. But that was a real luxury. Most soldiers used the squad sponge, rinsing it with vinegar afterwards. It wasn’t a very effective cleaner, but it was the best they had. I don’t know exactly how they carried the sponges, in a box or little jar, or if they just carried loose at the waist. In fact we only came to understand the sponges again recently. It was lost a long time, after the Dark Ages, as something people really didn’t want to know. But now we know about the sponges.

After all, when the bible says the soldiers soaked a sponge in vinegar and held it up to Jesus on a spear, why does no one ask, where did the sponge come from? No one thinks how it was an odd thing for soldiers to be carrying. Well it wasn’t. They gave Jesus vinegar on a shit sponge, and held it up on a spear to drink.

~

Now Jesus knew, he had to empty his stomach too. Later, he planned to yell with all his strength “Oh God, oh God, why have you forsaken me?” He must have chosen it a long time in advance, because it sounds like a final cry of despair. But it’s actually the first verse of a victory hymn in the bible. The effort of that yell would make him pass out.

Then the soldiers would look over from their dice games on the ridge and ask, “is he dead yet?” And one would walk slowly down, swearing softly, and do the usual check of cutting his chest, to see if the blood over his heart was coagulated enough yet.

That soldier would look at him, bruised and cut head to toe, nails through his limbs, blood dribbling out his chest, and vomit dribbling out his beard.

And the soldier might say, “Dead enough. Let’s go to the pub.”

And later, much later, there would be the coolness of the tomb, and the sweet smell of myrrh to revive him from his coma.

~

So Jesus munched the sponge.

As much he could.

'Dead Enough' is Dead Enough Already

Some want to claim Jesus never actually rose from the tomb at all, or exen existed. I could say quite a bit on the evidence he did live. Others claim he didn't really rise from the dead. Well, whenever he actually died, by indication of all the events since, he really did rise from a tomb.

That must have been incredibly painful, and there is no account of him at all ever complaining. After thinking about that sponge for many years, at least as far as I am concerned, those are my final words on it.

‘Dead enough’ is dead enough already.