Monday, July 9, 2012

A Study of Early Christianity: Historical Execution

Historical Execution – “He was crucified” 
                 Jesus upset many of his people’s expectations. He was not the kingly Davidic messiah they anticipated. Instead he was a savior whose mission included enduring crucifixion. This was particularly troubling for people who knew that anyone hanged on a tree was cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
                Jesus was indeed hanged on a tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Philippians 2:8). The Early Christian proclamation that Jesus had been crucified was objectionable to Jews and Greeks alike, though for different reasons (1 Corinthians 1:23). Jesus did become accursed in our place (Galatians 3:13). Peace is now offered to humanity through his death (Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 1:20). His historical execution reveals a pattern for all who would follow him (Matthew 10:38; Mark 8:34; Luke 14:27; Romans 6:4; Galatians 2:20; 6:14; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 2:24).
            The antiquity of the Christian belief that Jesus was crucified can be seen in the early and continued practice of commemorating the sacrificial death of the Savior with a special meal variously known as the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, and Holy Communion (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:20-26; Acts 2:42; 20:7).[1] The Apostolic Fathers make it clear that the cross and the blood of Jesus are vitally important.[2] That blood was shed on a literal and historical cross on the orders of Pontius Pilate.[3]

[1] Didache 14, ANF VII, p. 381 “But every Lord’s day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving, after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”
[2] “Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ whose blood was given for us” I Clement XXI, ANF I p. 11; “…the cross was to express the grace [of our redemption] by the letter T.” Barnabas IX, ANF I p.143;
[3] “…the birth, and passion, and resurrection which took place in the time of the government of Pontius Pilate, being truly and certainly accomplished by Jesus Christ, who is our hope, from which may no one of you ever be turned aside.” Ignatius to the Magnesians XI, ANF I p.64; “it was necessary that He should suffer on the tree” Barnabas V, ANF I, p. 140; “when crucified He had vinegar and gal given Him to drink” Barnabas VII, ANF I p. 141; “…by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, [so also] by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.” Irenaeus Ag. Her. XVII, ANF I p. 545