Bible Question:

Can you provide me with any historical facts about the cross?

Bible Answer:

Ancient writers have left us with comments and descriptions about the cross. These comments come to us from Cicero, Josephus, Tertullian, and Seneca to name a few. The cross as a tool for torture was borrowed by the Roman Empire from the Phoenicians. Here is a summary of some of the information that is available.

Punishing The Victims

The cross was used by the Romans to execute slaves, robbers, assassins, people in rebellious provinces, and only rarely for citizens. The victims were first abused with whips. After the victims’ sentence was declared, they were flogged with leather whips which had metal, rocks, and bones embedded in the leather. The victim was then required to carry his or her cross to the place of death. A sign was also hung from the victim’s neck declaring the reason for the torture. Once they arrived at the place of the crucifixion, they were stripped naked and then either tied or nailed to the cross. There were different types of crosses, including the use of trees.


Ancient Eye Witnesses

The use of crosses to kill men, women, and children was common. Here are some quotes from Josephus.

. . . they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they . . . were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them. While they caught every day five hundred Jews . . . So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one . . . by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses . . .[1]

. . . so the citizens fled along the narrow lanes, and the soldiers slew those that they caught, and no method of plunder was omitted; they also . . . brought many before Flarus, whom he first chastised with stripes, and then crucified. Accordingly, the whole number of those that were destroyed that day, with their wives and children (for they did not spare the infants themselves), was about three thousand six hundred . . .[2]


The Romans were cruel. It is at their hands that Jesus died a horrible death for our sins. He did it so that we could live with Him some day. All He asks us to do is to believe Him and turn our life over to Him (Romans 10:9). Thank you Jesus! Thank you . . .



1. Flavius, Josephus. War of the Jews. 5.11.1.
2. Flavius, Josephus. War of the Jews. 2.14.9.