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Author Topic: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?  (Read 7569 times)

serendipity

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How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« on: March 07, 2011, 07:59:30 PM »
Has anyone here ever tackled the difficulties with the "thieves" and "evildoers" who were crucified with Christ?  An unbeliever recently brought the major difficulty to my attention, although there are three that I see that exist among the four Gospel accounts.

Matthew 27 and Mark 15 seem to be in sync.  But these two accounts differ in some important details with Luke 23 and John 19.  I was discussing with the unbeliever the two "thieves" and the one who was forgiven.  We all know about this, I'm sure.  One of the condemned railed against the Lord, while the other one in Luke rebuked the abuser, and acknowledged his own sin, and asked Christ to remember him when he entered Paradise.  And, of course, Christ forgave him and promised him that he would be with Christ on that very day.  However, as the unbeliever also pointed out, the accounts in Mark and Matthew had both "criminals" railing against Christ, not just one.  The following are the thee major problems that I see:

1. Matthew and Mark call the two condemned men "thieves", which is correct according to the Greek.  But John and Luke call the two condemned persons "criminals" or literally "evildoers", which is a different Greek term.

2.  As stated earlier, in Matthew and Mark both of the condemned hurled abuses at Christ; whereas in Luke only one railed against and taunted Jesus.

3.   In Matthew and Mark, it appears the two condemned men were crucified after lots were cast for Jesus' garments, whereas in Luke and John the two were crucified "with" Christ and, therefore, before lots were cast for his garments.

4. Where all accounts agree is that Christ was crucified between two men.

After careful reading of all the accounts, it appears that John's record might hold the key to reconciling the differences.  His is the only Gospel that tells us about how the Jews made a special request to Pilate to have his soldiers expedite the death of all the crucified on the hill because of the "high day" sabbath (The Feast of Unleavened Bread).  The Jewish leaders asked Pilate to break the legs of the crucified so that they would, presumably,  suffocate before sundown -- before the beginning of the sabbath. 

The account goes on to tell us that the soldiers broke the legs of the "first man" and then of the "other man who was crucified with Him".  But when the got to Christ (the 3rd person in this group), they found he had already died.  If these soldiers did this deed in the order in which the three hanged on their crosses, I finds something rather odd, given that all accounts agree that Jesus was crucified between two men, presumably at the top of the hill -- at the hill's crest.  The soldiers apparently started at the low point on the hill and worked their way up to Christ -- to the top of the hill.  Assuming, there were only three crucified persons on the hill, why would the soldiers break the legs of the man at the lowest part of the hill, pass Christ right on by who was on top in order to break the legs of the second man to the other side of him, and then climb the hill again to break the legs of Christ?  It logically doesn't make sense.  Logically, the soldiers would go in order.  They would go to the first guy, then then second, then to Christ -- but if they did that, then was Christ really crucified in between two men, especially when all the Gospel accounts agree on this detail?

Here is my solution to these difficulties.  Let's start at the point where all the Gospels agree -- that Christ was crucified in between two men.  My solution would question whether the four gospels are all talking about the same two men!  If the Gospels aren't but instead Matthew and Mark were talking about two men who differed from the two in Luke and John, then this solution would solve all the above difficulties.  Maybe four men were crucified with Christ! 

If this was the case, it would neatly explain the different terms the writers used to describe the men.  Two of them were "thieves" and two them were "evildoers".

It would also explain how the two thieves in Matthew and Mark could have been crucified last -- after Christ and the the two "evildoers" in Luke and John..  This would explain how the the two thieves were crucified after lots were cast for Christ's garments, and how the two "evildoers" in Luke and John were crucified before the lots were cast.

It would neatly explain how the soldiers would rationally and logically start at one end of the hill to break the legs of all those crucified and work their way up to Christ who  was the 3rd person they came to out of the 5 total who were crucified.

And since all the accounts tells us that Christ was crucified between two men and the two in the accounts were different men who were crucified at different times during the day, there would be no contradiction in Matthew or Mark with the two who would have been crucified last, according to my theory.  These two were probably on the outside of the hill -- and therefore Christ was still in between them -- just as Jesus would still be in between the two who crucified with him earlier and closest to him.

Finally, if there were four condemned men crucified with Jesus, this would also neatly explain how Matthew and Mark (with their two men) could tell us that both of them railed against Jesus, while Luke could tell us with his two different men how only one of them railed against Christ, while the other repented of his sins.

I'd be interested in hearing thoughts and criticisms.

Doran






lpowell

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2011, 09:34:10 PM »
Doran, here is another possible reason for the difference of the Luke account.  ( John does not address the issue of the nature of the other two crucified men.)
First there are only two crucified with Christ so that these two may portray the two divisions of all mankind.  There are the sheep on the right and the goats on the left.
Second, Luke as a doctor was concerned with the curse of death.  Thus, his use of evil doer points out how Christ is undoing the curse of evil work brought upon all mankind by Adam in Gen 3:18.  I came upon this after reading the Luke 23:43 thread and studying the words paradise and evildoer.
Lloyd

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2011, 10:55:08 PM »
 Thanks lPowell, good answer.
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Jimmy

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2011, 11:30:00 AM »
Hi Doran,
It does seem a little puzzling doesn’t it.  Here is the way that I see it. When we have different accounts of the same event it is often the case that there are not contradictions but rather “additional information”.  For instance, in one case God refers to the two being “thieves” and in the other malefactors.  They can both be one in the same, a thief can be a malefactor and a malefactor can be a thief.  So additional information is provided.
   Also I cannot see anywhere in the Bible that refers to a “hill” that they were crucified on. If I am wrong please correct me.  If not we have to take that out of the equation for it could be a stepping stone leading to error.

Mat 27:38       Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
Mar 15:27       And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.


These verses do say “two” “one on the right and one on the left.  So that is the way I am going to understand it.

It is true the scriptures are saying that both of the thieves next to him railed against him or reviled him.  But this took place from the third hour until the ninth hour.  Plenty enough time for God to change the heart of a rebellious sinner.  I think this just underscores the fact that God can change the heart of the most vile men, and shows the depths of His grace and mercy.

But what I don’t understand are the time references given.
Luk 23:44   ¶   And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
Mat 27:45   ¶   Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
Mar 15:1   ¶   And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried [him] away, and delivered [him] to Pilate
Mar 15:25       And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
Mar 15:33   ¶   And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
Mar 15:34       And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Jhn 19:14       And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

In Jhn 19:14 the reference is to the sixth hour, this takes place at the “Pavement”, this is where they brought Jesus to the judgment seat in front of Pilate

But in Mark 15:25, it says it was the third hour and they crucified Him.
And in the other verses it says that from the sixth hour to the nine hour there was darkness
How can he be crucified in the third hour when he was in front of Pilate at the sixth hour?  Also from the sixth hour till the ninth hour there was darkness that came over the whole land. 
Jimmy
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Reformer

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2011, 01:17:36 PM »
When we have different accounts of the same event it is often the case that there are not contradictions but rather “additional information”.

 This is correct, and often we read the same event from two different people with two different perspectives, which makes it sound like different events. For example, one man sees a fire and reports that the house was on fire but there was no one inside.  Another reports that the house was on fire and there were three people trapped inside. There is no contradiction, one man was reporting what happened earlier and the other man what happened later. But if you were to just read both, not harmonizing them together, it would seem contradictory.


Quote
How can he be crucified in the third hour when he was in front of Pilate at the sixth hour?  Also from the sixth hour till the ninth hour there was darkness that came over the whole land.  
Jimmy



Because again, it is a matter of perspective. mark and John are simply writing using the Roman and the Jewish time. This of course under inspiration of God and for spiritual purposes.  One Apostle notes that Pilate handed Jesus over to be Crucified at about 6 a.m, which is the sixth hour of Roman time. The other Apostle writes that Jesus was crucified at about 9 a.m, which is the third hour in Jewish time. It is probably to denote that though it was the Romans that killed Him, it was also by the hand of the Jews that Christ was crucified.

Jimmy

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2011, 02:41:43 PM »
Reformer,
Thanks, I thought that it was something like that.  But I am not familiar with Roman time or Jewish time.  But using the Bible alone to understand the Bible, I don't know where I'd find that information.  How can we safely apply historical information not in the Bible to help us understand the Bible.  I've seen a lot of historical information used in error to support other doctrines. :-\
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Reformer

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2011, 12:41:31 AM »
Reformer,
Thanks, I thought that it was something like that.  But I am not familiar with Roman time or Jewish time.  But using the Bible alone to understand the Bible, I don't know where I'd find that information.  How can we safely apply historical information not in the Bible to help us understand the Bible.  I've seen a lot of historical information used in error to support other doctrines. :-\

Yeah, except it's impossible for this to be in error because that the time kept by the Jews and the time kept by the Romans is hours apart is one of those rare facts that no one denies. A fact that is documented at the time, not after, so there is no debate. It's kind of like the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. No one denies that, because it is a rare undeniable undebatable fact. If you ever have a chance to go through the old writings of that era you will see what I mean. I mean every old writing. Most things of history are part supposition and speculation, but this is fact which no one denies. Neither Romans, Christians, Jews, Secularists or Historians. There was a difference in time keeping between the two groups.

Apart from that, the biblical facts speak for themselves and agree with this "extrabiblcal" fact. One Apostle says the 6th hour and the other says the 9th. So either you have to claim that one of the Apostles under inspiration of God was in error, or admit that both Apostles were speaking the truth and the two spoke of the exact same time when Christ was crucified, using two different methods. So as my Dad would say, you can take the bus to Buffalo or ride the train, but you still end up in the same place.  ;)


Kenneth White

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2011, 03:13:35 AM »
Jimmy,
  I agree with Reformer. One wrote in the Roman time, which is the time we have today, and another wrote in the Jewish method. That is also borne out if we understand how John wrote in Roman time of day, and Mark in Jewish time of day. For example from the inscription on the cross we can see the difference in Jewish form and non Jewish. Notice that Mark records: "The King of the Jews," and John records, "Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews." This was written in three languages. Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. So Mark wrote the Hebrew form, while John in the Greek form used at that time. we see a clear difference between John's form, and Mark's form, which some call a contradiction. But we know it is not. Another thing we can see is that in John it is mentioned the "Seventh hour"

John 4:52
 "Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him".

Unless the word is mistaken (and we know it is not), there was no "seventh hour" in New Testament Jewish time of day, but indeed there is in Roman time of day! So the Bible does support Reformer's view of Mark and John using these different times.
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William B

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2011, 08:17:13 AM »
This has always been my understanding of the verse as well. Further biblical evidence that John is using Roman time is also found in John 1:39.

 Joh 1:39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

Here we are told that Andrew and Peter met Jesus and abode with Him that day. It was about the tenth hour. If this were Jewish time, that would make it 4 O'clock - too late to spend the "day" with someone.

Jimmy

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2011, 11:33:14 AM »
Thanks for the help on this guys, I should have done some more study on how they use time in the rest of the Bible.  That seems to make perfect sense to me now.  First I trust that the scriptures are true whether I can reconcile apparent contradictions or not. And when using historical evidence outside the Bible, it should only confirm the truth of the Bible, and not contradict it. 
For example some would say since science has "proved" that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago then the six days of creation must have been in millions of years and not literal days.  But of course this contradicts scripture totally.   But for some it is easier to believe man than God.  So I am careful when I consider other sources of information outside the Bible.  Have you ever said to your self, "I don't remember reading that in the Bible",  there's a good chance it might not be there.
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Gameboy

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2011, 12:18:52 PM »
 What we need to understand is that John is writing from Asia Minor at least 30 years after the events transpired 70-95 A.D. When John wrote his Gospel the Jewish temple was destroyed and the nation was scattered. So everyone was now under Roman influence, whereas before they existed partly under Rome still functioning as Israel. So when he wrote there was no more Jewish standard of time only Roman. So John used the official Roman mode of computing time. The 6th hour would be 6 AM as they counted the day from 12 midnight as we still do today. This would coincide exactly with the other writers who used the Jewish reckoning of time. The trial was early in the morning and the crucifixion approximately began at 9:00 in the morning lasting until 3 in the afternoon. So John consistently used Roman time while the other Gospel writers use the Jewish standard. Therefore there is no conflict in the accounts.

Jimmy

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2011, 08:04:58 PM »
It makes more sense to me now, especially after reading this,

Jhn 11:9       Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

Can we know from the Bible alone when John wrote the book of John?

Jimmy
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serendipity

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2011, 02:29:58 PM »
Doran, here is another possible reason for the difference of the Luke account.  ( John does not address the issue of the nature of the other two crucified men.)
First there are only two crucified with Christ so that these two may portray the two divisions of all mankind.  There are the sheep on the right and the goats on the left.
Second, Luke as a doctor was concerned with the curse of death.  Thus, his use of evil doer points out how Christ is undoing the curse of evil work brought upon all mankind by Adam in Gen 3:18.  I came upon this after reading the Luke 23:43 thread and studying the words paradise and evildoer.
Lloyd

Wow!  I haven't been to this site in a few days because I've been so busy.  Previous visits suggested that everyone on the forum may have been raptured (due to lack of responses), and I was left behind.    :laugh:

You explanation for the two different Greek terms used to describe the criminals who were crucified with Christ sounds feasible.  But this still doesn't explain three things:

1. When were the lots cast for Christ's garments -- before or after the crucifixion of the two criminals (assuming there were only two)?

2.  Why would the soldiers break the legs of the two criminals first, then come to Christ last even though he was second in line?  I suppose we could postulate there there were two groups of soldiers involved and each started at the end of the hill (presuming Christ was crucified high up so that he could be seen a good distance away.)  The pertinent text reads:

John 19:32
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other
ESV

The text, admittedly, doesn't say, "...and THEN of the other".  This could leave room for more than one group of soldiers performing this deed.

3.  Mark and Matthew record both criminals (i.e. "evildoers" or "thieves") as having hurled abuses at Christ.  But Luke has only one.  In order to buy into the traditional belief that only two were crucified Christ, we have say that Luke only focused on the criminals  after one of them had repented and rebuked the other criminal.  There's obviously a time issue here; however, there was also a time issue (as I recall) with the difficulties presented when Christ cursed the fig tree.  So, I suppose this could be a feasible explanation. 

Doran

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Re: How Many Were Crucified with Christ?
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2011, 08:57:15 PM »
Getting to this post several months late, but I possibly could help you with your sequence:  Here is a bird's eye perspective looking straight down from heaven on Jesus with the 2 thieves. I use this perspective because it still works whether they were crucified on a hill OR on level ground. I don't believe the bible states which. Correct me if I'm wrong!

                                                                                           X - Christ

                                                                                                       
                                                                                                     X - 2nd thief
                                                                                     
                                                                                 
                                                                                     X - 1st Thief

Hopefully you can see the picture. The thieves are still on our Lord's left and right hand while He is in the midst. These positions should make it clear that soldiers would go to the first thief, the 2nd, and then Christ last. Jesus is really more or less in the "back".

 :)   

 


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