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How many were crucified with Christ?

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How many were crucified with Christ?

Concerning the scene of crucifixion, what most of us bring in mind is Christ crucified on Calvary with two others one on each side. Though this is the tradition and the idea we have all grown with, I would like today to go to the Bible and see what it says concerning this tradition. I see this as a case that will show with clarity the pureness of God’s Word and also the distortions we may get when we read our ideas and traditions into it. What I’m going to present is not something that I’m the first to see. Actually it is mostly based on the analysis of Appendix 164 of the Companion Bible 1 (Title: “The “Others” crucified with the Lord”).

The problem with the traditional view

What I see as a problem with the traditional view is that on the one hand we have the record of Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32 that say:

Matthew 27:44 “Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.”

And Mark 15:32 “Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him”

On the other hand, we have the record of Luke 23:39-43 that tells us:

“ Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us. But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing

1 The Companion Bible, Kregel Publications

wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

To the enemies of the Bible, the record of Matthew and Mark contradicts the record of Luke, and using the tradition that wants Jesus being crucified with only two others in total, they find an opportunity to attack the Bible and the accuracy of God’s Word. It is this reason that makes me to want to present this subject today. My purpose is not to degrade traditions or “say something new”. What is my purpose here is to show the accuracy of God’s Word. It is this amazing accuracy that I hope will encourage you to study His Word and believe it as it truly is: the inerrant Word of God. Before we move further though, another discrepancy that Bible’s enemies see is that Matthew defines the act of the crucifixion of the two thieves, after the dividing of the Lord’s clothes:

Matthew 27:35-38 “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: "They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.”

As it appears from Matthew first Jesus was crucified, then divided His garments casting lots and then they crucified the robbers. On the other hand, here is what Luke says:

Luke 23:32:34:

“There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them,

for they do not know what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on.”

The enemies of God’s Word, using the tradition of only two others crucified with our Lord, see again here one more alleged contradiction: Matthew places the crucifixion of the supposingly two others after the dividing of the Lord’s clothes but Luke places it before. However, as we will see the contradiction is only because we take tradition as truth and try to read it into God’s Word. We suggest therefore that we leave aside all traditions, paintings, art etc that want Jesus crucified with only two others on Calvary and take what God’s Word says, as truth about the subject. Leaving aside all the traditions, and taking things in a chronological order we have the following:

As Luke tell us, Jesus is arriving at Calvary. Two others are led with Him to be put to death as well. Now before we move forward look at how the Word of God calls these two others: it calls them CRIMINALS (Greek: κακούργοι (kakourgoi)). On the other hand those for which Matthew and Mark speak about they are called robbers (Greek: ληστές (listes)). In Luke one of the criminals reviled Him but the other didn’t. In Matthew and Mark both robbers reviled him. In Luke the criminals were crucified together with Jesus before the dividing of his garments. In Matthew they were crucified after the dividing of the garments. Putting therefore all the records together we have:

1. Jesus is arriving at Calvary. With him two criminals are led.

2. The three of them are crucified together.

3. The soldiers divide his garments

4. A description is set up in the cross

5. Then two robbers are crucified as well

6. The one of the criminals reviles Jesus. The other rebukes him and asks the Lord for His remembrance

7. Both of the robbers revile Jesus. None asks for His remembrance

There were two criminals of which one repented and we will see him together with Lord, and two robbers of whom none repented. There were two on the one side of Jesus and two on the other. This we can also see in John 19:32-33 where we read:

John 19:32-33 “Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was dead already, they break not His legs”

The soldiers went to the first crucified and they broke his legs. Then they moved to the second crucified and did the same. Only then, they came to Jesus. So Jesus was third in the row and not second. First was the first crucified, then the other crucified with him and then Jesus. If we read the above record assuming only two others crucified with Him, then the soldiers would break the legs of the first, then they would pass by Jesus, break the legs of the other and then return to Jesus. This would be rather irrational and it is not supported by the text. The text rather presents the act as having to do with people in a row. “When they came to Jesus”, they had already broken the legs of the other two that were before him in the row. Since Jesus was in the middle (John 19:18), this means that there were two “on this side” of Jesus and therefore “two on the other” (please see in the appendix: the record of John 19:18), making the total number of those crucified with our Lord 4.

Appendix Concerning the references of John to the crucifixion, in general John does not focus on when the things happened but on what happened. In John 19:18 we read:

“And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the centre.”

The word “one” is not in the Greek text. Here is the text from the Interlinear version:

οπου {WHERE} αυτον {HIM} εσταυρωσαν {THEY CRUCIFIED,} και {AND} µετ {WITH} αυτου {HIM} αλλους {OTHERS} δυο {TWO} εντευθεν {ON THIS SIDE} και {AND} εντευθεν {ON THAT SIDE } µεσον δε τον{AND IN THE MIDDLE} ιησουν {JESUS.}

Or removing the Greek:

“Where him they crucified and with him others two on this side and on that side and in the middle Jesus”

The phrase “on this side and on that side” is the Greek phrase “εντευθεν και εντευθεν” (enteuthen kai enteuthen) that is also used in Revelation 22:2 and it is translated there “on either side”. The text therefore tell us that they crucified Jesus with others two on either side. Does it mean “with others two, one on each side” or does it mean “with others, two on either side?” It all depends on where the comma is placed (the ancient text had no commas). My personal view, and since this fits with the record of the same gospel (John 19:32-33) speaking of four persons crucified, is the second i.e. “with others, two on this side and two on that side”.

Tassos Kioulachoglou