Stoning Isn't Good Enough

Only crucifixion will do.

John 18:12–14, 28–32 (NKJV)

Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”

They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.”

Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.”

Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

Despite their claim that it wasn’t lawful for us to put anyone to death, they obviously had no problem with stoning people to death. We already saw this in Josephus’s report of the stoning of James the brother of Jesus in Antiquities XX 9:1 (200) and in the report of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:59–60.

In truth, they didn’t just want Jesus to die; they wanted Him crucified. They wanted the whole movement suppressed. Ironically, by getting Him crucified they helped establish the veracity of that movement.

One last case of stoning is important—that of Paul in Lystra.

Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. — Acts 14:19-20 (NKJV)

Notice that when he rose up after being stoned, it’s not a resurrection. The multitudes had made the mistake of supposing him to be dead. Paul recovered from being stoned.

If Jesus had been stoned instead of crucified, the swoon theory would make perfect sense.

We’ve knocked down the swoon theory, but only in general terms. We ignored all the different “flavors.” Zugibe patiently goes through, in detail, a great number of specific theories for how Jesus could have survived crucifixion and thus never actually rose from the dead. These theories typically involve wild conspiracies and medical phenomena just as impressive as bringing the dead back to life.

To learn more about the forensics of crucifixion and see all the detailed refutations of the various swoon theories, see Zugibe’s book.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.