Was the event of Jesus being nailed on a cross fulfilling ancient prophecy? Could the Romans have killed Jesus in another way or did it have to be done on a tree (cross) to fulfill ancient prophecy?
Was Jesus nailed to the cross? The Old Testament scriptures do not specifically prophesy that Jesus would be nailed to a cross or tree. But the prophecy in Psalm 22:16-18 strongly suggests that the cross was required. A cross was the only method the Romans used to put people to death that would have resulted in the prophecy’s fulfillment. The prophecy states the Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced.
Old Testament Prophecy — Messiah’s Hands and Feet Pierced
Most of the Psalm is a description of the events of Jesus’ death on the cross.
For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
Psalm 22:16-18 (NASB)
In verse 16 we are told that Christ’s hands and feet were pierced, but we are not told how. The fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 22:18 is recorded in Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33 and John 19:18 where we are told that Christ was crucified.
Zechariah 12:10 also refers to Christ being pierced, but we are not explicitly told if He was pierced in the side, feet or hands.
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10 (NASB)
The Hebrew word for pierced is daqar. The verb means “to pierce through.” Important examples of this word in the Old Testament can be found in Judges 9:54; 1 Samuel 31:4; 1 Chronicles 10:4; Isaiah 13:15 and Zechariah 13:3. In each of these examples, the NASB translates daqar as pierced through. Since the word says that something went through His body, this would suggest His hands and feet were pierced. Jesus died a cruel death for you and me!
Jesus Nailed To The Cross
It is John 20:25 that tells us Jesus hands and feet had been nailed to the cross and His side was pierced with a sword. This occurred when Thomas wanted to put his finger into the holes as proof that Jesus was resurrected.
So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” John 20:25 (NASB)
The Greek word for nail is helos. It refers to a stud or nail head.
Flavius Josephus writes that the Romans would nail Jews to crosses due to the Romans hatred of Jews. While this does not prove that Jesus was nailed to the cross, it does demonstrate that the Romans exacted the severest punishment on Jews by nailing them to crosses.
So the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.
Irenaeus of Lyons writes in Irenæus against Heresies that the disciples saw the marks of the nails in Jesus’ side.
In the same manner, therefore, as Christ did rise in the substance of flesh, and pointed out to His disciples the mark of the nails and the opening in His side . . .
Tertullian writes in his book The Five Books against Marcion that Jesus was nailed to the cross.
For against Him did they wreak their fury after they had slain His prophets, even by affixing Him with nails to the cross.
In summary, the prophetic evidence, New Testament statements, and comments by the early church writers affirm that Jesus was nailed to the cross.
Yes, Jesus fulfilled ancient prophecy when He died on the cross. You might be interested in a series of prophecies about Jesus Christ. We would encourage you to visit the “Prophecies of Jesus.” Here you can read more of how Psalm 22 is fulfilled prophecy about His death.
1. Flavius Josephus. Wars of the Jews. 5.11.1. William Whiston. The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged. Kregel. 1974. p. 565.
2. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrickson Publishers. 1995. p. 532.
3. Tertullian, “The Five Books against Marcion,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrickson Publishers. 1995, pp. 336–337.
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Prophecies of Jesus
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