St. Paul identifies the cross of Christ as 'a stumbling block' to the Jews, but few studies have examined the range of crucifixion imagery in Jewish antiquity or traced the impact of those perceptions on the early Church. Chapman reviews an impressively broad array of early Jewish sources--Old Testament passages, rabbinic and historical narratives, magical texts, proverbs, even ossuary inscriptions--that mention crucifixion or related forms of bodily suspension such as hanging. The picture that emerges is complex: early writers emphasized the outrage and horror of the cross, while later accounts by Josephus and others familiar with Roman practice view crucifixion at times almost matter-of-factly as a method of social control. An extreme punishment typically meted out to rebels and bandits, crucifixion also had associations with innocent or sacrificial suffering such as martyrdom, the Akeda (Isaac bearing the wood for his sacrifice would come to be viewed as a prefiguration of Christ carrying his cross), and the Passover lamb, which Justin Martyr notes was offered in the form of a cross. The book's strength lies in its comprehensive analysis of each source, including key scriptural passages such as Deuteronomy 21:22-23, and its carefully constructed reading of how views of crucifixion may have played into both Jewish polemics against Christianity and the Christian response.
An Eighth Day View:
This thorough study covers all the primary data on how early Jews and Christians perceived crucifixion. The author examines Second Temple and early rabbinic literature and material remains to demonstrate the range of ancient Jewish perceptions. He also surveys ancient Jewish historical accounts of crucifixion, magical literature, and the proverbial use of crucifixion imagery. The volume pays special attention to Jewish interpretations of key Old Testament texts and early Christian literature that reflects on Jewish perceptions of the cross in antiquity. Originally published by Mohr Siebeck and now available as an affordable North American paperback edition, the book provides indispensable background for scholarly work on the death of Jesus.