Evidence #449 | May 30, 2024

Pre-Roman Crucifixion

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Scripture Central


Several Nephite prophets spoke of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ long before the specific Roman form of crucifixion developed. However, several ancient forms of execution existed that could fall under the general term crucifixion and that predate Lehi’s escape from Jerusalem. Other linguistic considerations could also help account for the presence of this concept in the Nephite record.

The Book of Mormon contains several prophetic descriptions of Jesus’s crucifixion given at various times before his coming. Around 600 BC, the prophet Nephi saw in vision Jesus being “lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world” (1 Nephi 11:33). Nephi later declared that Jesus was “to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum” (1 Nephi 19:10). Later Nephite prophets, including Jacob, King Benjamin, and Abinadi, echoed these sentiments.2

Because Jesus was crucified in a Roman style that would likely have been unfamiliar to early Nephite prophets, these mentions of the cross and the crucifixion have sometimes been viewed as anachronistic. However, there are several plausible explanations for the presence of these concepts in the Book of Mormon.

It is important to consider the various linguistic layers that might be involved. The English word crucify is derived from a Latin term whose meaning has evolved over time, but the term translated as “crucify” in the New Testament comes from a Greek word that was slightly broader in meaning than the Latin term. Further, the Nephite usage of crucify presumably derived from an even more general Hebrew or Egyptian word, which was probably dependent on the traditions of the Hebrew Bible. Parsing out what this term might mean in different historical contexts can shed some needed light on this matter.6

Latin Terms

The English term crucify comes from the Latin words crux (“pole, cross”) and figo (“to fix”), meaning “to fix to a pole or cross,” with a secondary meaning of “to torture.” The term invokes imagery for modern readers of “the remarkably stable iconography of Jesus’s crucifixion that was formulated by the late sixth century and circulated widely.”8 However, the mechanics of ancient crucifixion are far from a fixed concept. The most detailed accounts of crucifixion in antiquity pertain to the execution of Jesus, and yet even the specific mode of his crucifixion is debated.

Alexamenos graffito, first–third century AD, inscription, Rome. This is an early inscription mocking the crucifixion of Christ by giving him a donkey head; the depiction includes both a seat and footrest. Image courtesy of World History Encyclopedia.

Part of the debate is the meaning of crux. Though the term is used occasionally to describe an agricultural implement, Charlton Lewis and Charles Short define it as “a tree, frame, or other wooden instruments of execution, on which criminals were impaled or hanged.” The shape of Jesus’s cross has been questioned and is unclear from the text itself. Debated elements include whether there was a crossbar, whether there was a seat, and whether Jesus’s feet were nailed.12 Crucifixion is typically mentioned in conjunction with a few other Latin words like patibulum that were perhaps part of the cross apparatus but also appear independently and have uncertain usage.13

Heelbone of Yehohanan, first century AD, bone and iron nail, Israel Museum, Jerusalem. This is the only known archaeological evidence of a crucified body.

Scholars also disagree on when the mechanics of crucifixion became fixed. John Cook, looking at the final definitions of crucifixion, reads them back onto earlier Latin and Greek sources and assumes a more standardized definition. Gunnar Samuelsson, working forward from pre-Christian Latin and Greek sources, suggests that crucifigo gained its current fixed definition after and because of the crucifixion of Jesus and that the word previously referred more broadly to methods of torture and suspension. The shape of the crucifixion fixture, the method of attachment, the cause of death, and whether the individual was already dead is often unclear in the earliest Latin sources.16 Though the Roman use of the term crucifixion rarely indicated impalement (and probably never denoted hanging by the neck), the act of crucifixion in Latin literature could be categorized more generally as fatal suspension.17

Greek Terms

The Greek term for “crucify” is stauróō. It is a verb derived from the noun stauros (meaning “stake”) and is even more ambiguous than the Latin term crux, which it predates. In its earliest usages in the Archaic and Classic eras by Homer, Aesop, Herodotus, and others, it literally meant “to stake up or suspend” and was used to refer to impaling, hanging by ties, and nailing to boards both living and dead bodies or body parts. The term remained ambiguous in the Hellenistic period, though in the Roman period it came to mean something closer to the crucifixion experienced by Jesus.19

Pereire ‘Crucifixion’ gem, second–third century AD, inscription on jasper, British Museum, London. This is one of the earliest depictions of the crucifixion of Christ and depicts a T-shaped cross.

The mechanics of crucifixion upon a T-shaped cross seem to have become a fixed concept after the death of Christ, as attested by graffiti and a few written sources, though the term may have had a looser meaning than it currently does when it was used in the New Testament to describe the death of Christ. Because the definition wasn’t standardized until a later date, it is difficult to discern whether crucifixion as we know it was introduced in the Roman period or whether it occurred earlier in the times of Herodotus.

Puteoli graffito, first–third century AD, inscription, Puteoli, Italy. This depicts the crucifixion of Alkimilla, featuring a T-shaped cross and feet nailed to the side of the pole. Image courtesy of the Biblical Archeology Society.

If the Greek terms equated with crucifixion consistently referenced a broad range of punishments, as some scholars argue, it may mean that the New Testament authors also used the term in this broader sense. As Samuelsson argues, “Crucifixion is also a suspension punishment, not the suspension punishment. It is one part of a broad punishment group. Conclusions drawn about the punishment of crucifixion cannot always be applied to the whole group of suspension punishments—and vice versa.”

However, as with the Latin usage, some scholars work in the opposite direction, suggesting that the early usages of the Greek term should be understood by the final meaning of the term until proven otherwise. If the Greek terms for crucifixion referred to a very specific method with a fixed meaning over time, then this method of execution could possibly have been known toearly Israelites like Lehi (either through Greek texts or by other means of cultural exchange).22

Salvator Rosa, The Crucifixion of Polycrates, c. 1662, etching with drypoint in black on ivory laid paper, 52.6 x 77 cm, Art Institute, Chicago. Herodotus (fifth century BC) described the death of the king Polycrates, who lived in the sixth century BC.

Hebrew Terms

Hebrew lacks a specific term for crucifixion. It primarily uses the words talah or talaʾ to refer to any suspension of an object or an individual whether before or after death, but a few other terms can also be used. The verb talah is usually employed in conjunction with ʿal-ʿets, meaning “upon a tree” or “upon wood,” though the manner of suspension is unclear. The Hebrew Bible uses words for suspending bodies when discussing the hanging of the baker imprisoned with Joseph, the laws against suspending a body for more than a day, the execution and suspension of foreign kings in Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, the suspension of the bodies of Saul’s sons, and the execution of Haman, among other examples.24

Most instances of hanging in the Hebrew Bible seem to refer to the suspension of a dead body (or a body part), though some of the passages are unclear and could describe executions. Later Jewish traditions, however, interpreted several of these passages as referring to death by suspension or even crucifixion. Paul actually connects talah to the crucifixion of Christ when alluding to a passage in Deuteronomy: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13; cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). Thus, although the term talah is much broader than the modern crucify, it certainly encapsulates it.

Impalement in the Ancient Near East

Lehi’s family probably would not have been familiar with the Greek or Latin terms for crucifixion and would not have had the later Roman version in mind (unless seen in vision). However, they likely would have been familiar with the Near Eastern traditions of suspending bodies through impalement. Hammurabi’s Code and the Middle Assyrian Laws, before Lehi’s time, both prescribed impalement as a punishment. The Assyrian military also brutally impaled individuals as part of its conquests.28

Assyrian impalings from the Lachish reliefs, 700–692 BC, British Museum, London.

The Egyptians and ancient Canaanites also suspended bodies as a form of torturous punishment or to shame a dead individual.The Persians, a bit later and further from Lehi than the Assyrians, practiced both impalement and early forms of crucifixion. As with later Roman crucifixion, these Near Eastern impalements could be performed before or after death and with all or part of a body.

Mesoamerican Executions

Mesoamerica has not exhibited evidence of the complex Roman style of crucifixion. Nevertheless, among the many attested forms of execution in this region, an ancient Maya figurine depicts bodily suspension: an individual being hung with rope by the neck (though whether before or after death is unclear).This may have been the form of execution used in the Book of Mormon for Zemnarihah.31

Late Classic Maya rattle in the form of a bloated hanging corpse, AD 650–850, ceramic, 16.2 x 4.6 x 3.4 cm, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ. 

Another potential American analog to crucifixion is arrow sacrifice, in which a victim was bound to a post and then shot with arrows during a ritual dance. Though suspension does not seem to be crucial, several artistic depictions show an individual suspended above the ground during the ritual. Suspension does not seem to be the cause of death itself, but it is also true that the various Latin, Greek, and Hebrew words for suspension punishments do not describe the exact cause of death, which could include hunger and thirst, exhaustion, organ failure, or a subsequent execution.

Codex Nuttal: Facsimile of an Ancient Mexican Codex, belonging to Lord Zouche of Harynworth, England (Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, 1902), 84. The Mixtec codex is now housed at the British Museum.

A stretching or splaying of the body, similar to the function of a crossbar or patibulum, could also be part of the arrow sacrifices in Mesoamerica. Interestingly, the Cakchiquel Mayan verb for that stretching was later used by Colonial-era Maya to describe crucifixion. Ruud van Akkeren, analyzing an arrow sacrifice description in Annals of the Cakchiquels, notes, “The text states that [the victim] is spread-eagled on the wood-work—the verb rip is also [later] used for Christ being crucified.”

Thus, although Mesoamerica does not seem to have had Roman-style crucifixion with nails and a cruciform cross, the concept of death with or by suspension was probably familiar in Nephite times, even if other forms were more common.

Book of Mormon Description of Crucifixion

The verbiage surrounding the death of Christ in the Book of Mormon is also significant. Although this critical event is mentioned repeatedly, its mechanics are not fully clear. Besides using the term crucified, one of the most common phrases for describing Christ’s death is lifted up. This phrase (as well as raised up) is also used for describing the brass serpent lifted up by Moses.36On at least one occasion, the text clearly distinguishes between the two. As recorded by Nephi, the prophet Zenock prophesied that Christ would be “lifted up,” while the mysterious prophet Neum prophesied that he would be “crucified” (1 Nephi 19:10).

Despite this distinction, the two processes seem to be closely related, and emphasis is made on the elevation of the body rather than the specific means of suspension. Because the Nephites seemed to practice suspension executions of their own, they would likely have had at least a general conception of the category under which crucifixion falls.


Some have taken issue with the term crucifixion in the Book of Mormon because the specific Roman mode of execution (as we understand it today) seemingly postdates Lehi’s lifetime and was not practiced in the Americas. There are several possible solutions to this concern.

First, it isn’t any more implausible for Nephi (or Neum, whom he references) to know what Roman crucifixion was than for Nephi to know that Jesus Christ would be crucified at all (1 Nephi 11:33; 19:10). The spirit of prophecy, if accepted as plausible, allows for knowledge that is not limited by chronology. In fact, the reason prophecy is such a valuable spiritual gift is precisely because it transcends what could be reasonably known in a given time and setting.

In the Hebrew scriptures, the word talah means “to hang or suspend” and could easily incorporate crucifixion as a subcategory or equate it. It seems plausible, then, that this word (or an Egyptian word with a similarly general meaning) was used by Nephite prophets to describe the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After all, the Book of Mormon describes the event as Christ being “lifted up” and “slain” as a result, while the nails as the means of suspension may not have been known until Christ’s visitation. Assyrian impalements, utilized by the Assyrian military in Judah during the century before Lehi, would have offered a notable precedent for bodily suspension upon a wooden implement.

It is also possible that, on some level, the Book of Mormon’s use of “crucifixion” correlates with the term’s meaning in the New Testament at the time of Christ’s death. Under that scenario, it is notable that the Latin and Greek definitions of crucifixion covered a range of meanings throughout their history, including the general ideas of suspending on a pole, impaling, and torturing. Thus, use of the term in antiquity was much more ambiguous than it is in modern English, as it only implied death (probably torturous) by suspension.

It should be remembered that the Book of Mormon only comes to us in an English translation carried out by the gift and power of God. Since Joseph Smith never gave many details about how this translation took place, we can’t be certain how loose or literal it might be in any given passage or what ancient or modern vocabulary it is intended to reflect.

In the end, the evidence suggests that the Nephites and early Israelites may very well have had terms sufficient to communicate the essential concept of Christ’s crucifixion. While this doesn’t add compelling evidence in favor of the text’s authenticity, it shows that this alleged anachronism lacks merit and that the text’s descriptions on this point are more historically plausible than might be assumed.

Gaye Strathearn, “The Crucifixion,” in New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament, ed. Lincoln H. Blumell (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2019), 358–376.

1 Nephi 11:33 1 Nephi 19:10, 13 2 Nephi 6:9 2 Nephi 9:18 2 Nephi 10:3, 52 Nephi 25:13 Jacob 1:8Mosiah 3:9Mosiah 15:73 Nephi 12:303 Nephi 27:14–153 Nephi 28:6 Ether 4:1

1 Nephi 11:33

1 Nephi 19:10, 13

2 Nephi 6:9

2 Nephi 9:18

2 Nephi 10:3, 5

2 Nephi 25:13

Jacob 1:8

Mosiah 3:9

Mosiah 15:7

3 Nephi 12:30

3 Nephi 27:14–15

3 Nephi 28:6

Ether 4:1

  •  The words of Zenock and Neum were contained on the brass plates. We don’t know when these authors lived, but their writings likely predated Nephi’s description by dozens or hundreds of years. See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Brass Plates Consistencies,” ID# 0392, February 14, 2023.
  •  The Book of Mormon mentions forms of the word crucify in 1 Nephi 19:10, 13; 2 Nephi 6:9; 10:3, 5; 25:13; Mosiah 3:9; 15:7. In several other instances, it mentions the word cross in connection with Christ, sometimes accompanied by the phrase lifted up. See 1 Nephi 11:33; 2 Nephi 9:18; Jacob 1:8; 3 Nephi 12:30; 27:14–15; Ether 4:1. In one other passage (3 Nephi 28:6), the idea of Jesus being lifted up is mentioned without any explicit reference to crucifixion or the cross. Note that the usages in 3 Nephi and Ether were given after Christ’s death and resurrection.
  •  One author wrote, “In 1 Nephi 11:33 (and elsewhere) the ‘cross’ is mentioned. The cross upon which Jesus died would have had no meaning to the Nephites or Lamanites, as crucifixion was not a practice in and around Jerusalem when Lehi and his family supposedly left that place. It was Persian in origin, and became widely used under the Romans, five centuries after Lehi landed in the New World. The word would have meant nothing to someone who lived on this continent two millennia ago.” James R. White, Letters to a Mormon Elder (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1993), 145.
  • “In antiquity, there was no single word to designate ‘crucifixion’ in the narrow way that term is used and understood in various modern languages today. Hence the recovery of ancient understandings of crucifixion is a complex process, more so than is customarily assumed, with the methods of doing so contested, as a recent body of literature has demonstrated. When searching for descriptions of or references to crucifixion in ancient sources it is often difficult to discern the precise nature of punishments. For instance, punishments that we now regard as distinct (crucifixion versus impalement for instance), are not clearly differentiated. Similarly, the precise shape of a suspension device (whether a singular vertical pole, or one intersected by a horizontal bar to form a ‘cross’) is rarely mentioned or described by ancient writers. The term crux in Latin, as used by Martial, or stauros, could refer to an upright post, not the cross-shaped device we assume, unless there are clear contextual indicators to indicate otherwise. Similarly ambiguous are descriptions of execution by suspension in ancient sources: it is not always clear whether a victim is attached to a suspension device before or after death, since the terminology for execution by suspension and suspension of a corpse were often conflated, and terms for crucifixion and impalement were used interchangeably. A broad semantic field described a range of punishments involving suspension, including impalement (the suspension of a corpse or live victim by forcing a pointed pole into the abdomen or rectum) and ante-mortem suspensions, but also post-mortem suspension for display.” Felicity Harley, “Crucifixion in Roman Antiquity: The State of the Field,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 27, no. 2 (2019): 305.
  •  The Nephites may have potentially used a form of the Egyptian term Ꜥḫꞽ but could have used several other words for raising or suspending a body. See Raymond O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, modernized by Boris Jegorovic (Oxford, UK: Griffith Institute, 2017), s.v. “Ꜥḫꞽ,” “fꜢꞽ,” “sṯsꞽ,” “sḫdḫd,” “ṯsꞽ.” “twn,” “wṯs.
  •  For a thorough study of the topic, see Harley, “Crucifixion in Roman Antiquity,” 303–323; David W. Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion (Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2008); David W. Chapman and Eckhard J. Schnabel, The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus (Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2015); Gunnar Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity (Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2013); John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World (Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2014); Gaye Strathearn, “The Crucifixion,” in New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament, ed. Lincoln H. Blumell (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2019), 358–376.
  •  Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1879), s.v. “crucio,” “crux,” “figo.”
  •  Harley, “Crucifixion in Roman Antiquity,” 304.
  •  “It has frequently been observed that the canonical Gospels present perhaps the most detailed accounts of a crucifixion from antiquity. Thus the Gospels are in many ways our best source on crucifixion methods, yet even they do not provide answers to every question.” Chapman and Schnabel, The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus, 670. See also Harley, “Crucifixion in Roman Antiquity,” 308–309.
  •  Samuelsson notes, “crux does not ‘mean’ cross. The English term ‘cross’ implies two crossing lines, an implication the Latin crux lacks. The field of etymology is of no help in any effort to trace a supposed original meaning of crux.” Crux most often appears to refer to a pole and sometimes the attachments to the pole, but it also “appears to be a collective label for various punishment tools.” Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 203.
  •  Lewis and Short, Latin Dictionary, s.v. “crux.” See also Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 203.
  •  In the sixteenth century, Justus Lipsius coined names for various shapes of a stauros or crux: crux simplex (a lone pole), crux immissa (shaped like a dagger), and crux commissa (T-shaped). Because Jesus is described as carrying his cross (stauros), some have argued that he only carried a lone pole or a pole with a crossbar. However, it is likely that the cross he carried actually referred to a crossbar (Latin patibulum) that was then attached to the true stauros or crux at the site of crucifixion to create a crux immissa or crux commissa, though even this is debated. Other Latin authors describe crosses as having a T-shape and stretching out the arms. See Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 27–28; Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 3–10, 294–296; Chapman and Schnabel, The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus, 310–316. Samuelsson asserts that there is no evidence for a seat (sedile) or footrest (suppedaneum) on Christ’s cross or other crucifixions, though later Christian writers and early graffiti seem to depict them. See Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 3–10, 294–296; Strathearn, “The Crucifixion,” 362. The Gospels do not explicitly state that Jesus’s feet were nailed (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 25–26), though 3 Nephi 11:14 asserts that his feet were nailed. See Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 296; Strathearn, “The Crucifixion,” 361–362.
  •  Samuelsson sees the crossbar (patibulum, meaning “to stretch out”) as not being an essential part of crucifixion but instead as potentially being used for torturous humiliation before the individual was fixed to a lone pole. Cook argues, however, that it was regularly used in Roman crucifixion. Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 293–296; Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 16–34. The Romans also used the wooden furca (or “fork”), with a V, Y, or Ɐ shape, as a method for torturous stretching and execution, though it was somewhat distinct from crucifixion. Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 37–44.
  •  See Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 450–452.
  •  See Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 202–203, 303–307.
  •  See Harley, “Crucifixion in Roman Antiquity,” 305.
  •  Harley, “Crucifixion in Roman Antiquity,” 304.
  •  See Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 37–64. A synonym of (ana)stauroō that is not found in the New Testament, (ana)skolopizō, also occurs in these texts with the same meaning. Homer also describes a suspension death in roundabout language. Herodotus describes the only explicit crucifixion without the use of stauros or skolops. Many of the suspensions that Herodotus describes are done by Persian rulers, though the only explicit crucifixion is done by the Greeks, suggesting a potential Greek origin.
  •  Samuelsson argues that the term begins to solidify but still remains quite ambiguous up until the early Roman era. In contrast, Cook argues that the term is much more fixed by Roman times. See Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 90–131; Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 5–11, 158, 216–217.
  •  Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, 58; emphasis added.
  •  Cook argues against Samuelsson and asserts that stauros had a more fixed meaning from an earlier time: “Samuelsson’s view that σταυρός ‘is a pole in the broadest sense. It is not the equivalent of a “cross” (†)’ is almost certainly incorrect.” Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 5.
  •  For example, the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus uses stauróō to describe the execution practices of ancient Assyrians centuries before his lifetime; Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 2.1.10.
  •  The Book of Ezra uses an Aramaic word for raising something, zaqaf, to describe Persian impalement. The verb used in 1 Samuel 31:10, later treated as synonymous with talah, means to “drive in” and suggests that Saul’s body was hung or fastened through stabbing or impalement. See Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, 13–33; Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johann J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. Mervyn E. J. Richardson, 2 vols. (Boston, MA: Brill, 2001), s.v. “תלה,” “תלא,” “זקף,” “תקע,” “יקע.”
  •  See Deuteronomy 21:22–23; Genesis 40:18–22; 41:12–13; Numbers 25:4; Joshua 8:29; 10:26–27; 1 Samuel 31:8–13; 2 Samuel 18:10; 2 Samuel 21:12; Esther 7:9–10; inanimate objects are also hung in Psalm 137:2; Song of Songs 4:4; Isaiah 22:23–25; Ezekiel 15:3; 27:10–11. See Daniel L. Belnap, “‘They Did Fell the Tree’: The Hanging of Zemnarihah as a Ritual Resolution for Nephite Trauma,” in They Shall Grow Together: The Bible in the Book of Mormon, ed. Charles Swift and Nicholas J. Frederick (Provo, UT; BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2022), 144–152. For a summary of how Jewish tradition later associated these instances with crucifixion, see Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, 97–177.
  •  Most biblical texts that reference hanging, if they did not refer to crucifixion, were interpreted by later Jews as referring to death by suspension or crucifixion, such as with the Esther hangings. “The word order of Deuteronomy 21:22 in the Hebrew text (and in the LXX) could imply that hanging on a tree comes after death (a central conclusion of some rabbinic treatments and of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan). Nevertheless, the Peshitta reverses these clauses, thus likely indicating that it perceived the suspension to precede (even to cause) the execution. This order (suspension then death) is all the more prominent within the Qumran Temple Scroll. The first-century Jewish philosopher Philo … actually asserts that the Lawgiver in Deuteronomy 21 ordained capital punishment via suspension/crucifixion.” Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, 148, 170.
  •  “To the extent that the Hebrew biblical authors intended to invoke memories of penalties that paralleled widespread ancient Near Eastern practices, it is quite possible that the OT suspension penalties imitate those forms depicted in Assyrian reliefs. … Thus the OT authors themselves could very well be referring to public impalements on tall stakes; and these impalements either would have been performed post mortem, or they would have produced immediate death. However, Jewish readers in the Second Temple era began understanding these texts in light of the various suspension penalties practiced in their own day.” Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, 97.
  •  See Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, 99; Chapman and Schnabel, The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus, 322–410.
  •  See Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, 100.
  •  For a review of references to Egypt, Ugarit, and Philistia, see Chapman and Schnabel, The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus, 329–348, 375–376. See also Genesis 40:18–22; 41:12–13; 1 Samuel 31:8–13; 2 Samuel 21:12.
  •  See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Treatment of Prisoners,” ID# 0220, July 31, 2021; Linda Schele, Hidden Faces of the Maya (Poway, CA: ALTI, 1997), 119.
  •  See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Zemnarihah’s Hanging,” ID# 0034, September 19, 2020.
  •  For potential causes of death in regular crucifixion, see Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 430–435; Strathearn, “The Crucifixion,” 364–365. Martial describes an instance when a man was killed by a bear while on the cross; Harley, “Crucifixion in Roman Antiquity,” 304.
  •  Ruud van Akkeren, “Sacrifice at the Maize Tree: Rab’inal Achi in Its Historical and Symbolic Context,” Ancient Mesoamerica 10, no. 2 (1999): 283.
  •  Mark Wright suggests that the Nephites would have expected Jesus, who had been sacrificed, to have a side wound where his heart had been pulled out and thus prioritized touching his side over his pierced hands. See Mark Alan Wright, “Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 12 (2014): 90–91; Book of Mormon Central, “How Does the Book of Mormon Fulfill the Purposes Declared on the Title Page? (Title Page of the Book of Mormon),” KnoWhy 706 (December 28, 2023).
  •  See 1 Nephi 11:33; 19:10; Helaman 8:14; 3 Nephi 27:14–15.
  •  See Helaman 8:14. See also 2 Nephi 25:20; Alma 33:19.
  •  See 3 Nephi 4:28. Perhaps Alma 1:15 also qualifies. See also John W. Welch, The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: BYU Press; Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2008), 313–322; Belnap, “‘They Did Fell the Tree,’” 143–178; John A. Tvedtnes, “More on the Hanging of Zemnarihah,” in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon: The FARMS Updates of the 1990s, ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 208–210; John W. Welch, “The Execution of Zemnarihah,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992), 250–252. 
  •  Nephites seem to have known that Jesus would die after suspension or by means of suspension rather than being suspended after his death like many usages of talah in the Old Testament would imply. Note the distinction between and order of “lifted up” and “slain” or “crucified” in 1 Nephi 11:33; 19:10. Perhaps this knowledge and unique usage of suspension terminology came through prophetic revelation.
  •  In numerous ways, the Book of Mormon is intertextually connected with the Bible and often uses biblical language as preserved in the King James Bible. Since the Book of Mormon is a modern, divinely revealed translation, it is possible that some of these instances are meant to reflect biblical concepts and language that would have been outside the linguistic and cultural purview of Nephite prophets.
Customs and Ceremonies
Pre-Roman Crucifixion

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