Category Archives: Historical Studies

Eric W. Edwards: 23rd April 1944 – 13th July 2017


It is with great sadness that I announce that my father and author of this beautiful site passed away peacefully on 13th July 2017. A brilliant mind and exceptional father.

His site will remain here and I will also add on any further pieces for you all enjoy in time. Thank all you of who have enjoyed this site over years.

Owen P. Edwards




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The Legend of Saint George and the Dragon



St. George and the Dragon. Raphael.


St. George is a Christianised representation of the mythic sun-horse that reflects the inter-changeability of the hero and the horse. Another example is the ancient Celtic mare goddess known as Epona. Therefore, as a saint George is a patron of “…soldiers and sailors, the protector of rocky and dangerous coasts.” (Brown, 1950). In another aspect a descendant of the seafarers horse (Clarke, ). St. George is a representation of the Thracian ‘Rider God’ depicted in Hero-reliefs as a fight between a hero and a boar. The image has a religio-mythic significance of a hunting god that is “…principally honoured as a chthonic divinity.” (Kazarow, 1938). The Hero is presented as a powerful nature divinity, an ancestral image of the hunter-rider-hero.

Tradition places the birth of St. George at Lydda on the coast of Palestine not far from Phoenicia. The two locations where the activities of St. George centre are firstly those of Lydda or Ludd in Palestine where he was martyred, and secondly in Libya where he killed the dragon. The Phoenician version of the legend is derived from the hero and dragon in the myth of Perseus and Andromeda. In their turn the Phoenicians took the ancient story with them to Carthage and thence to Gades, the ancient Roman colony of Cadiz. It is most likely that the myth, the legend, became attached to the saint, each representing “…the powers of light destroying the powers of darkness.” (Brown, 1950), with the dragon that threatened Andromeda coming out of the sea.

In folklore St. George is closely connected with the ‘hero’ although he “…appears to be almost as mythical as the monster he disposed of…” (Leach, 1955). Two reliefs from Moesia show him protecting two horses accompanied by Epona. The Thracians, who were later absorbed by invading Slavs, had their beliefs absorbed by the Slavs as they overran the Balkans. There developed a mutual influence of Thracian and Christian beliefs. It is noteworthy that in Thracian beliefs the quake, or ‘Kraken wakes’, is a symbol of the soul not that of a dragon.

The cult of St. George is of greater antiquity than that of St. George himself, and one of “…those saints whose history is almost entirely a matter of mythology of folklore.” (Heath-Stubbs, 1984). The legend of St. George centres about a soldier martyred by Diocletian for refusal to denounce his Christian faith. The offender was a Roman soldier who tore down Diocletian’s edicts of his intention to persecute the Christians. This historical incident refers not to but to George but to Nestor. The dragon is the mythic element, a “…typical specimen of the maiden-eating variety.” (Leach, 1955). There is some identification with George of Cappadocia, the Arian Bishop of Alexandria who died in 362 and a nameless hero executed for destroying the edicts of Diocletian. George of Cappadocia was a corrupt and unattractive individual, put in prison for his crimes, and thence released by a pagan mob and torn to pieces (Heath-Stubbs, 1984).

The question therefore arises concerning the existence of a cult of an entirely fictitious saint. In the legend the hero, St. George, was tormented and then executed seven times in succession, whereupon on each occasion he was resurrected to life by St. Michael. to life. St. George was worshipped widely from the 3rd century onwards in the Near East, though it “…seems doubtful whether there ever was an historical St. George.” (Leach, 1955), who was adopted as England’s patron saint only at the time of the crusades.

The popularity of St. George of England has nothing to do with Richard the Lion Heart ((1157-199), but originates in the 15th century (Morris, 2009). The cult of St. George did originate in the eastern Mediterranean during the 4th century AD , being transferred to England at a later date. It was during the 13th century, during the reign of Henry III, that interest in royal and aristocratic circles became centred on St. George. Indeed, it seems that the belief in St. George, who was known to the Anglo-Saxons as an early Christian martyr, was transferred to England only in the middle ages.


Sources used.

Brown, T. (1950). Turtullian and Horse-Cults in Britain. Folklore LXI (1).

Clarke, C. P. S. (1927). Everyman’s Book of Saints.

Davidson, H. R. E. (1984). The Hero in Tradition and Folklore. UCL. London.

Heath-Stubbs, J. (1984). The Hero as Saint: St. George. In: Davidson (1984).

Kazarow, G. (1938). The Thracian Rider and St. George. Antiquity, 47, September.

Morris, M. (2009). Slaying Myths: St. George and the Dragon. History Today, 59.

Williams, M. E. (1936). Whence came St George? Bulletin de la Societe Royale d’Archeologie d’Alexandrie.

Leach, E. R. (1955). St. George and the Dragon. In: Myth or Legend. G. Bell & Sons. London.


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The Earth Mother


Notes on ‘Mothers’

Spencer, B. & Gillen, F. J. The Native Tribes of Central Australia. Macmillan. 1889.

`A man, for example, will call his actual mother Mia, but at the same time he will apply the term not only to other grown women, but to a little girl child, provided they all belong to the same

group…the term Mia expressed the relationship in which she stood to  (58).

Bachofen, J. J. Myth, Religion and Mother Right. Princeton UP. 1967.

`Every woman’s womb, the mortal image of the earth mother Demeter will give brothers and sisters to the children of every other woman; the homeland will know only brothers and sisters until the day when the development of the paternal system dissolves the undifferentiated unity of the mass…’ (80).

Frazer, J. G. Totemism and Exogamy. Macmillan, 1910.

‘…we confuse our word “mother’ with the corresponding but by no means equivalent terms in the languages of savages who have the classificatory system. We mean by “mother” a woman who has given birth to a child: the Australian savages mean by “mother” a woman who stands in certain social relation to a group of men and women, whether she has given birth to any of them or not.’ (34, vol 1).

Briffault. The Mothers.

`The word “medicine” is derived from a root meaning “knowledge” or “wisdom” — the wisdom of the “wise woman”. The name of Medea, the medical herbalist witch, comes from the same root… ‘ (486, vol 1).

The power of witchcraft is universally regarded as appertaining specifically to women. The witch is a woman, the wizard is but a male imitation of the original wielder of magic power…every woman, wherever magic powers are believed in, is credited with the possession of those powers because she is a woman.’ (556, vol 2).

Malinowski, B. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Dutton, NY. 1961. it is clear that in a matrilineal society, where the mother is the nearest of kin to ter children in a sense quite different to that in our society, they share in and inherit from her all her possessions.’ (178).

Reed, E. Woman’s Evolution. Pathfinder Press, NY. 1975.

`…the maternal clan system was the original from of social organisation.’ (xiii).

‘…a clan and tribal system based on maternal kinship and in which women played a leading role.’ (xiv).

the maternal clan…was founded upon a collectivity of women who were sisters to one another and mothers to all the children of the community…’ (14).

`…the maternal clan system, which gave an honoured place to women, was also a collectivist order where the members of both sexes enjoyed equality and did not suffer oppression or discrimination.’ (xiv).

matriarchy was the necessary first form of social organisation because women were not only the procreators of new life but also the chief producers of the necessities of life.’ (xv).

`To us as mother is an individual woman who bears a child; she does not become a mother until and unless she gives birth. But in primitive society motherhood was a social function of the female sex; thus all women were actually or potentially “the mothers’ of the community” ‘. (13).

`Women’s pre-eminence as cultivators was registered in the fertility rites and other practices conducted by the female sex, as well as their glorification as “goddesses”.’ (131-132).

The hearth fire has always been associated with women…The renewers of fire, the tenders of fire, and the transporters of fire were from the most ancient times women.’ (145).

The witch and the sorcerers were predecessors of the goddess. In primitive society women were witches because of their mysterious powers of production and procreation. They could bear children and make crops grow; they could control fire; establish settlements, and make rules for the disciplined social behaviour of men.’ (148).

`With the rise of patriarchal influences some of the witches became transformed into goddesses, the subordinate wives or companions of the gods. In the transitional period from matriarchy to patriarchy, former female deities were even replaced by male figures.’ (149).

‘…the male culture-hero of the matriarchal epoch evolved into the patriarchal god…’ (149). After this shift took place ‘…the mythical world was no longer populated by mothers and culture-hero sons and grandsons but by gods and their sons (sun-gods). The goddesses were by and large reduced to wives bearing sons for the gods.’ (149).

‘As Mother Earth or the Goddess of Fertility, women bring forth abundance of food from the earth and also bear children. In their cooperative groups they are known as “The fates”, the spinners and weavers of the destiny of mankind, as well as “The Graces” and “The Charities”. But whatever the specific names given to women — whether Pot or Venus, witch or goddess — in the beginning they were the mother-governesses of the matriarchy.’ (151).

‘Once men came into possession of their own disposable property, they could effect the full transition from the matrifamily to the one-father family…the new social order founded upon private property and the father family vanquished the matriarchy.’ (405-6).

‘Baal, the lord deity of the sacrificial era, now takes an earthly, patriarchal form as lord and master of livestock, of women and children, and other properties… a new posture is ordained for women… down on their knees in worship of their lords on earth and in the heavens.’ (428).

Smith, W. Robertson. Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia. Beacon, Boston. 1903.

On ‘dominion marriage’ — ‘Accordingly the husband in this kind of marriage is called, not in Arabia only, but also among the Hebrews and Aramaeans, the woman’s “lord” or “owner” (bag,

ba’al, be’e/) ….I propose to call it ba’al marriage or marriage of dominion, and to call the wife be-ulah or subject wife.’ (92-93).

Hoebel, E. Adamson. Man in the Primitive World. McGraw-Hill, London. 1949.

‘The word chattel, which means any object of personal ownership is derived from the Old French chatel… cattle has the same origin. Chatel has its ultimate etymology in the Latin caput, or head. Chatel in ancient France referred to the property of greatest value, head property. Cattle were so much the chief form of property among our pastoral ancestors that our specialised word for personal property grew from the same root.’ (342-43).

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The Forensic Pathology of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ


  Illustration in the public domain.


1.  Introduction

2.  Crucifixion in Antiquity

3.  Methods of Crucifixion

4.  The Crucifixion of Christ

5.  Pathology and Death by Crucifixion

6.  Resurrection or Resuscitation?

1.  Introduction

Crucifixion is a slow and agonisingly painful form of execution “…by which a person is hanged, normally by their arms, from a cross or similar structure until dead.” (Macien, 2006). The victim was nailed or roped or thonged to a large wooden structure, a pole, tree or cross, and left to die in a manner which was “…in every sense of the word, excruciating, (Latin excrusiatus or ‘out of the cross’). (Edwards, 2006).

Crucifixion is known primarily from ancient times and in particular with the first century AD execution of Jesus Christ. This pivotal event in the history and development of Christianity was a “…form of punishment…familiar to both Jews and Romans…” (Andrews, 1996), where its intention was the death of the victim. The act of crucifixion was one of the “…most disgraceful and cruellest methods of execution and usually was reserved for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals.” (Johnson, 1978). The gruesome execution of Jesus Christ was a humiliating and public spectacle and “…identical to that meted out to numerous other radicals, upstarts, protestors and petty criminals.” (Andrews, 1996), and employed to dissuade others from committing similar offences.

2.  Crucifixion in Antiquity

In ancient societies there were three brutal forms of execution practised and described as “…crux (crucifixion), crematia (burning), and decollation (decapitation)…” (Retief, 2006). Crucifixion, or impalement, took several forms in antiquity and was “…one of the most brutal and shameful modes of death.” (Retief, 2003). This barbaric form of execution originated with the Assyrians and Babylonians, becoming practised by the Persians in the 6th century BC, as well as the Carthaginians, Macedonians and Romans.

In pre-Roman times Alexander the Great brought this form of execution to the lands of the Mediterranean during the 4th century BC. Crucifixion was thus introduced into Egypt and Carthage where it became a systematic and accepted form of execution (Edwards, 1986). It was also Alexander who was said to have, after the siege of Tyre, crucified some 2000 survivors. However, in Pre-Hellenic Greece this form of execution was opposed as too brutal a method by the ancient Greeks so was hardly used. Nonetheless the Greeks of antiquity had two verbs to describe crucifixion. Therefore ana and stauro were derived from the word stauros for stake. The term apo-tumpanizo meant to ‘crucify on a plank’, with anaskolopizo meaning to ‘impale’.

The earliest form of crucifixion was being impaled on an upright post or tied to a tree (Edwards, 2006). The English word ‘cross’ is from the Latin term ‘crux’. The later ‘cross’, or what became the ‘true cross’, comprised the horizontal cross-bar (patibulum) attached to an upright post (stipes). These crosses came in various forms and sizes. In the Greek of the New Testament there occurred four verbs based on the term stauros or ‘cross’, hence the common parlance stauroo meaning ‘to crucify’. In general terms the word ‘crux’ refers to a framework, a tree, or wooden construction for execution. In English the word ‘crucifix’ comes from the Latin crucifigure meaning ‘to fasten to a cross’. The act of crucifixion was copied from the Carthaginians by the Romans. As an ancient practice archaeology provides evidence of a crucified body in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus Christ. The Romans had perfected execution by crucifixion by the time Constantine I abolished it in the 4th century AD – after a period of 500 years (Retief, 2003).

During the period of the Roman Empire crucifixion was used as a means of punishment but also as a cruel form of public social control (Hengel, 1986). On this basis crucifixion was used, during Roman times, to execute slaves (the so-called ‘supplicum servile’), foreigners, Christians and disgraced soldiers (Retief, 2003). As a result of the Third Servile War led by Spartacus between 73 and 71 AD there were many crucifixions en masse. In this respect the Romans perceived crucifixion “…as a most shameful mode of death.” (Retief, 2006).


Crucifixion of Spartacus from the film ‘Spartacus’.  Public domain.

The Romans of antiquity not only employed crucifixion for state enemies, slaves and pirates, but later also for humiliores or members of the lower classes. Victims were suspended by their arms from a cross or similar structure. In other words crucifixion in the penal practice of Rome was used as a means of exhibiting the lower social class victims.

The second and first century BC Roman civil wars led to the crucifixion of many as did the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In Roman occupied Palestine, before its abolition by Constantine I in 320 AD, crucifixion was commonplace. In first century AD crucifixion was used for rebels, for ethnic Jews as well as slaves. This means crucifixion was not a component of Judaic law until after the second century BC.

3.  Methods of Crucifixion

A prelude to crucifixion was the cruel practice of scourging. This flogging was a legal preliminary to all Roman executions (Hengel, 1977), the scourging being carried out by two lictors who whipped the victims back, buttocks, and legs with a flagrum (Masien, 2006).

Roman flagrum

The Roman flagrum of flagellum.  Public domain.

After scourging the victim was made to suffer the burden of carrying the cross-piece or patibulum to the specially designated site of execution or crucifixion (Thomas, 1987). This obligation in the case of Christ waived and the cross-piece was carried by Simon of Cyrene.

Roman Crucifixion

Carrying the patibulum to crucifixion site. Source: public domain.

The scourging and execution was commanded by a specialised squad of a centurion accompanied by four soldiers. In the case of Jesus scourging could have reduced him to a state of pre-shock with haematidrosis.

The instrument of scourging was called a flagellum or flagrum. This instrument was a short whip to which was interwoven sharp pieces or balls attached to braided leather thongs (Edwards, 1986; Masien, 2006). Sometimes wooden staves were also used. Scourging inflicted deep cuts and bruises to skin and underlying muscles with concurrent loss of blood, therefore the “…extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.” (Edwards, 1986).

Crucifixion consisted of a variety of ways of impaling the victim to a stake, or affixing to a tree, upright pole or crux simplex, upright stipes with a crossbeam or patibulum. Some forms of impalement meant the hands and feet were attached to the cross using cords, thongs or nails. If this was done to the victim with their head upwards then death could be delayed for several days. Crucifixion in ancient Persia was originally on pole structures or on trees.  Originally the Romans crucified by impalement on trees or infelix lignum or wooden post or crux simplex (Retief, 2006). In antiquity “…crucifixion was the ultimate Roman punishment, the cruellest of all forms of death…” (Thomas, 1982). Crucifixion was a most gruesome reality of ancient punishment (Williams, 2013).

Crucifixion implies the victim was attached to a cross-like structure either by rope or nails, a combination of both humiliation and execution. The method included positional variations, head up or head down, fixed with nails through the wrists not the hands (Williams, 2013).

Crucifixion St Peter Caravaggio

Crucifixion of St Peter (1601).  Caravaggio   Public domain.

The vertical crucifixion stake was, in Latin, called a crux simplex. Most crosses were of the Latin type, the crux immissia, the  X-shaped St Andrew’s cross being the crux decusiata. The crux commissia was the Tau cross consisting of the upright post and cross-piece form a T-shape. Some of these gibbets were Y-shaped. The crux immissia is the most common form found in Christian symbolism.

A low cross was known as the crux humilis and  the tall form the crux sublimis.  Nailed to the post or stipes was the inscription called the titulus. In the New Testament the Greek word for a pole, upright stake or cross was stauros. The term xylon refers to the live tree or wooden construction. Sometimes the victim’s buttocks, according to ancient sources, were supported by a sedile or sedicula that was attached to the upright. If the support was a footrest nailed to the cross, it was called the suppedaneum.

The standard Roman crucifixion, though still debated, required nailing through the wrists. Most crucifixion victims were impaled naked but women were affixed facing the cross (Thomas, 1987). Nailing the feet to either side of the stipes or to its front meant tying with cords was not required. Nailing of the feet also provided adequate support for the suspended victim, with further support ensured by nailing between the radius and ulna of the forearms.

From a tomb of Roman times in Palestine there is an archaeological case of crucifixion expertly analysed in 1985 (Zias & Sekeles). The remains showed that a 11.5 cm iron nail had been driven through the right calcaneus laterally to medial.

Calcaneus fixed by iron nail Ist C Jewish tomb.

Nailed foot bone from 1st century AD tomb in Palestine.

However, even though “…there is no evidence that crucifixion was actually carried out in this way in classical times.” (Masien, 2006), the heels of the remains were nailed to the sides of the cross. No evidence was found of nail insertion through palms or wrists. Pictorial interpretations in art tend to show nails passing front to back through the feet.

4.  The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

The majority of accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth and his death are found in passages in the New Testament (Masien, 2006). Details of the crucifixion are found in the four canonical gospels, non-Christian historical and other ancient sources, even though exact details vary from place to place, and time to time.

The chronology of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is also derived from the New Testament. Even though there is no con-census on the actual date it is generally accepted that the event took place on a Friday near the Passover. The execution of Jesus Christ took place in the first century AD during the Palestine governorship of Pontius Pilate between 26 and 36 AD. The arrest, trial, sentencing, scourging and execution has come to known as the Passion of Christ. The year of the Passion is estimated to be between 30 and 33 AD with the favoured dates of either 7.4.30 or 3.4.33 AD.

Jesus Christ, after enduring both Jewish and Roman trials, was scourged according to custom and then executed by crucifixion (Edwards, 1986). Indications are that Jesus was nailed through the wrists to the patibulum which was then raised onto the stipes, whereupon his feet were nailed as well. The crucifixion as portrayed and described  thus becomes “…a study in the agony of a man whose arms and legs – their major nerves possibly cut by spikes – shot shearing jolts of pain throughout a body already ravaged by blood loss from severe whipping.” (Parachini, 1986).

Descent from the cross Ruisdael

Descent from the Cross (1611-14).   Peter Paul Rubens.

The Romans preferred crucifying victims with spikes some 5 to 7 inches in length (Johnson, 1978; Haas, 1978), with feet affixed either by ropes or nails. In addition evidence from history and archaeology indicates “…the low Tau cross was preferred by the Romans in Palestine at the time of Christ.” (Edwards, 2006).

Jesus was offered a wine vinegar drink from a sponge on a hyssop stalk -some 20 inches long – which suggests the cross was of the low  Tau type. At crucifixion sites the victim was, by law, given a bitter drink of wine mixed with gall (myrrh) as an analgesic (Davis, 1965). The analgesic and narcotic mixture of wine and myrrh was called exactor mortis (Thomas, 1987).

Two beamed cross from Sainte Bible (1866).

Two beamed cross from Sainte Bible (1866).

It was customary Roman practice for a crucifixion guard to pierce the side of the victim with a spear or lance (Edwards, 2006). Sources say the spearing caused a watery effusion, of serous and pericardial fluid preceding blood flow (Bucklin, 1970; Davis, 1965). Even though crucifixion was, relatively, a somewhat bloodless practice, guards would hasten death by the breaking of limbs called crucifracture. The Roman guard would not leave the execution site until it was assumed or assured the victim had expired. An indication of death or its nearness would have been judged also by swarms of flies on bodies as well as the nearing presence of carrion birds (Thomas, 1987).

It is believed that at 3 pm Christ cried out live and died (Johnson, 1978), probably because the major “…pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations.” (Edwards, 1986) as well as hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxiation.

5.  Pathology of death by crucifixion

With regard to the medical aspects of crucifixion of Jesus Christ a number of theories have been postulated. The ruptured heart theory was put forward in 1847, followed by the theory of asphyxiation, cardiovascular collapse, massive trauma, blood loss and dehydration, as well as hypovolaemic or profound shock theory. The number of theories suggests that in reality “…different individuals died from different physiological causes…” (Masien, 2006).

The Excruciatus

The Crucifragus.  Public domain.

Many physicians have failed to reach agreement on the specific mechanisms of death from crucifixion (Bergeron, 2012) but several hypotheses include: (1) dehydration; (2) cardiac rupture; (3) pleural and pericardial effusions; (4) suspension trauma; (5) fatal spear wounds; (6) cardiac arrhythmias induced by stress; (7) congestive heart failure; and (8) asphyxiation. These contributing factors and postulated causes are all aspects of “…cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and psychological pathology.” (Masien, 2006). A major factor is traumatic shock that has been “…complicated by trauma-induced coagulopathy…a contributing factor and possibly the primary mechanism…” (Bergeron, 2012).

Hypovolaemia results from a lowering of blood volume resulting from traumatic loss of blood, and was a probable cause of death with exhaustion asphyxia (Lamkin, 1978: Johnson, 1978; Davis, 1965; De Pasquale, 1963). Hypovolaemic shock was caused by circulatory collapse as well as multi-organ failure. Further circulatory involvement would or could include a pulmonary embolus due to leg thrombus resulting from immobilised legs. In addition emboli in coronary arteries would have led to myocardial infarction and death.

Crucifracture, the deliberate breaking of the tibiae led to a rapid death, due to asphyxia within minutes. This was known as crucifragium or shelokopia (Edwards, 2006), and was at the time of impending death signified by the not uncommon burrowing of insects into the eyes, orifices such as ears and nostrils, and open wounds of the agonising victims (Cooper, 1883). At this stage of crucifracture death was “…probably commonly precipitated by cardiac arrest, caused by vasovagal reflexes, initiated inter alia by severe anoxaemia, severe pain, body blows and breaking of large bones.” (Retief, 2003).

Asphyxiation could occur during crucifixion when the whole weight of the body is supported by the arms, causing hyperextension of the lungs and muscles of the chest. In other words there ensues “…progressive asphyxia caused by impairment of respiratory involvement.” (Retieff, 2003) with hypovolaemic shock and anoxaemia the end result. Crucifixion would lead to the inevitable asphyxiation caused by diaphragmatic respiration, which implies that a “…major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration.” (Edwards, 2006).

Death from crucifixion occurred between six hours and four days as a result of multifactorial pathology. The length of time between the impalement also ranged from hours to days depending on the method used and the health of the victim. Death was also compounded by the pre-crucifixion scourging, maiming, shock, pain, dehydration and haemorrhage,  leading to death.

Causes of death include “…progressive asphyxia caused by impairment of respiratory movement.” (Retieff, 2006), as well as: cardiac rupture (Stroud, 1871); asphyxia (Barbet, 1953); heart failure (Davis, 1962); arrhythmia (Edwards, 1986); pulmonary embolism (Brenner, 2005); hypovolaemic shock (Zugibe, 2005); as well as acidosis, sepsis, dehaydration, or a combination of all of these factors (Edwards, 1986; Retieff, 2003).

6.  Resurrection of Resuscitation?

The suffering of Jesus Christ, and his redemptive death by crucifixion, became the central elements of the post crucifixion doctrines of salvation and atonement of the Christian church. The crucifixion of Christ has to be seen, firstly, against the historical background of “…the appearance of various messiahs and the use of crucifixion as a form of punishment were familiar to both Jews and the Romans living out their uneasy coexistence in Palestine.” (Andrews, 1996). secondly, only a few medical papers reflect input from historians and osteoarchaeologists. Therefore, without an awareness of all the available research there is “…insufficient evidence to safely state exactly how people did die from crucifixion in Roman times.” (Masien, 2006). From the evidence that is available it appears that the execution of Christ was “…identical to that meted out to numerous other radicals, upstarts, protestors and petty criminals during the whole period…” (Andrews, 1996).


Entombment of Christ (1603).  Caravaggio.  Public domain.

Archaeological and historical evidence contradicts the images of the crucifixion portrayed by the church. For example, the Turin Shroud has been claimed to be the funereal wrapping of Christ’s crucified body. However, the evidence of Zugibe (2005) indicates the shroud “…appears to be a medieval forgery, dating from between 1260 and 1390 CE, since the fibres taken have been radiocarbon dated by three separate laboratories.” (Damon, 1989).

During the Roman period it was not common for anyone to die on the cross within the first few hours (Masien, 2006). If the death of the victim happens after only three to six hours then this suggests the “…possibility of a catastrophic terminal event.” (Edwards, 2006). The implication is if only after a matter of hours on the cross death occurs, the actual cause is “…multifactorial and related primarily to hypervolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia and perhaps acute heart failure.” (Edwards, 2006). Therefore death after only a short period is surprising (Lamkin, 1978; Bucklin, 1970; De Pasquale, 1963).

Usual crucifixion procedures meant it was “…customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals (Edwards, 2006), a process known in ethnography and archaeology as encarnation (Tenney, 1964; Hengel, 1977). After the crucifixion the body of Christ was removed from the cross and placed in a prepared tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea. If, as some believe, the victim was drugged and only appeared to die, then recovery could be attempted later (Masien, 2006). This implies that the ‘risen’ Christ had in fact been resuscitated. This in contradiction to the fact that crucifixion was intended as a “…long slow method of death, lasting over days and even weeks, deliberately chosen to give a slow agony.” (Thiering, 1992).

In addition, well after the gospel described events, the name ‘Christian’ was not adopted until after 44 AD. Again, another suspicion is that the descriptions by the apostles were not contemporaneous. It also follows that Petrine and Pauline Christian doctrines and theology were developed at a much later date in Rome. The atonement and the Passion were sublimated within the background of local pagan and ancient seasonal resurrection rituals to produce the new religion of Christianity- the elevation of the ‘Virgin Mary’ the replacement of the ancient Great Mother goddess.

Other interpretations, assuming that Christ was removed from the cross alive, tended in a readied ‘tomb’ for three days by an Essene physician called Nicodemus, and then ‘resurrected’ to his followers. Followers and attendants who included Mary Magdalene. Henceforth, it has been conjectured, Jesus having made ‘the supreme’ or having been the ‘supreme sacrifice’, “…remained with his followers for many years after the crucifixion…for the most part in seclusion…” (Thiering, 1992). Other theories postulate journeys to Egypt, and India, and even the fortress enclave of Masada.

Completed 1.02.2015.

References and Sources Consulted

Andrews, R. & Schellenberger, P.  (1996).  The Tomb of God.  Little, Brown & Co, London.

Baigent, M. (2006).  The Jesus Papers.  Harper Element, London.

Ball, D. A. (1989).  The Crucifixion and death of a man called Jesus.  J. Mississipi State Med. Assoc.  30 (3).

Bergeron, J. W.  (2012). The Crucifixion of Jesus.  J. Forensic and Legal Medicine.  19 (3). April.

Bucklin, R.  (1970).  The legal and medical aspects of the trial and death of Jesus Christ.  Sci. Law. 10. 14-26.

Cooper, H. C.  (1883).  The agony of death by crucifixion.  NY Med J.  38. 150-153.

Damon, P.E. et al.  (1989).  Radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin.  Nature.  337. 611-15.

Davis, C. T.  (1965).  The crucifixion of Jesus.  Ariz. Med.  22. 183-187.

DePasquale, N. P. & Burch, G. E.  (1963).   Death by crucifixion.  Am. Heart. J.  66. 434-435.

Edwards, W. D.  et al. (1986).  On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.  J. American Medical Assoc.  255 (11). March 21.

Hengel, M.  (1986).  Crucifixion in the Ancient World.  SCM Press, London.

Inglis-Arkell, E.  (2013). This is the horrible way that crucifixion actually kills you.  Daily Examiner, USA.  June 12th.

Johnsson, C. D.  (1978).  Medical and cardiological aspects of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ.  Bol.Assoc.Med.PR.  70. 97-102.

Kersten, H. & Gruber, E. R.  (1994).  The Jesus Conspiracy.  Element Books, Dorset.

Lamkin, R.  (1978).  The Physical Suffering of Christ.  J. Med. Assoc. Ala.  47. 8-10.

Macien, M. W. & Mitchell, P. D.  (2006).  Medical Theories on the cause of death in crucifixion.  J. Roy. Soc. Med.  99 (4). April.

Parachini, A.  (1986).  Christ’s Death Under Medical Examination.  Los Angeles Times.  28.3.1986.

Picknett, L.  (2003).  Mary Magdalene.  Robinson, London.

Primrose, W. R.  (1949).  A surgeon looks at the crucifixion.  Hibbert J.  382-386.

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Filed under Historical Studies

If they should come in the morning…


A Free Angela Davis poster.  Public domain.

For years, the lynching mob, the armed police, and incarceration in prisons has been the life of Black America. The story of Angela Davis is the story of a vital new generation of Black people in the United States, a new awakened generation of people who are at the front, in the vanguard of the struggle for freedom and equality, against the growing danger of racism and fascism.


Angela Davis has become the symbol, the focus, of a movement in her support and defence that is growing amidst the Black and White people of the world. Yet Angela Davis herself insists that her case should not be viewed in isolation, must not be taken apart from the other trials that have taken, and are taking place. The arrest of Angela Davis is an integral part of a concerted effort to attack judicially and physically the Black organisations in the USA. Many Black militants and Black Panthers have been killed by the police and prison guards, not to mention the attacks on other revolutionary groups, radical white organisations and individuals, at the instigation of the Nixon regime.

Black Panthers

Numerous have been the cases of political, national and racial repression in the United States – Sacco and Vanzetti; the Scotsboro Boys; Joe Hill; the Rosenbergs; Bobby Seale; Paul Robeson; Huey Newton; Eldridge Cleaver; to mention just a few – there are thousands more! The most recent example of methods that are resorted to was the deliberate assassination of George Jackson.


What is the present situation in the United States? It is one where repression of a political nature has reached enormous proportions – and that this is a planned, vicious and calculated attack based upon class, national and racial oppression. The most prominent victims of the system being the black and brown populations. At the beginning of colonisation of America the aboriginal ‘Red Indian’ population was estimated to be in the region of some 40,000,000, and during the history of America they have been systematically reduced to a present estimated 5,000,000.


The Scotsboro Boys.  Public domain.

Racial suppression is nothing new to American ‘democracy’. Some of the very men who helped formulate the Declaration and the Constitution were back on their slave labour plantations before the ink was hardly dry. Many of the provisions have never been implemented. An important fact to be recognised  is that the repression reflects serious defects within the social system of America. The whole apparatus of coercion, manipulation, harassment and provocation is indicative of a profound social crisis, of a disintegration of the bourgeois democratic constitution of the USA. A situation where power is exercised by means of coercion rather than by a legitimately respected leadership.


Arising out of this situation is an aspect of real importance – that radical, democratic, revolutionary elements of the Black and White working class are developing a mass movement, a mass resistance to the escalation of repressive measures and laws. Hence in such a situation the demand to free all political prisoners assumes great tactical validity.

Coupled with the demands of the necessity to expose the fascist tendencies of the instruments of repression, and to expose the exploitation nature of the capitalist system itself, great efforts are being made to resist the attacks on the democratic rights by the authorities – thus justifying the demands for penal reform and the desire for eventual social change, for socialism.

The coercive apparatus of America, with its now obvious fascist tendencies and methods persistently attacks the Black, Brown, Mexican and Puerto Rican minorities – as well as increasingly moving against the politically conscious sections of the working class and students as a whole. Not only the Black Panthers, but now the growing movement for peace in Viet Nam and the draft resistors are being more and more the target of police and National Guard provocation.


Photo in the public domain.

There is a developing political understanding amongst the working class of the USA, of all ethnic groups, for an uncompromising resistance to all the forms of racism and fascism that are present in the country. The stock in trade of reaction in America is the ideology of race hysteria, of anti-communism, and erosion of constitutional provisions. A perversion of the judicial machinery to function as political tribunals – the railroading of innocent victims of racist oppression into the prisons.

Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale poster.  Public domain.

Repressive measures in the USA have escalated under the Nixon administration – to a situation where workers of all groups, revolutionaries and even Democrats are victims of police persecutions, arrests, penal victimisation, legalised murders, and prosecutions. The fascist nature of the aggressive, genocidal war in Viet Nam is self-evident. It being no mere coincidence that Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated soon after his declaration that the Viet Nam War and the repression at home were inseparably connected, and that the Vietnamese people were fighting for liberation as was the Black American and that they had a common cause, a common enemy.


To return to Angela Davis – what is the case? What is the  reason why that she is in prison awaiting trial? Are we to accept that the frame-up charges of murder, kidnapping and inter-state flight? Or is there another reason? A political motivation behind her arrest and trial, that has been engineered by Reagan, Nixon, and Hoover?

Angela wanted

The arrest of Angela Davis was on a doubtful legal pretext, a fabrication, in order to attempt to silence a Black woman, who is also a communist and radical intellectual. Her arrest is directly traceable to her intense and consistent revolutionary activity for prison reforms, equalities and rights and freedoms. Well known were here efforts in the campaign for the release of the Soledad Brothers. Therefore the reactionary forces vowed and schemed to have her silenced.


Angela Davis recognises this only too well as she has said previously – “I am a Black woman communist. The corrupt government of this country could not accept such a combination. This is why they use the events of San Rafael to launch an effort to murder me.”


“If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night.” (Angela Davis).

Source: book cover. Public domain.

The real crime that has been committed by Angela Davis and the other political prisoners is that they were actively participating with their brothers and sisters in the struggle against political and racial oppression in their land. Angela Davis has put her life on the line for all the oppressed in America, and that is why the racism must be defeated and Angela Davis and all other Black people, progressive Whites and the people of the world know she is perfectly innocent – and that there is the greatest confidence that what she wrote to her parents can become a reality – “Have no fear Mother and Father, the people of the Wold will set me free.”

The charges against Angela arose out of an incident on August 7th, 1970, at the San Rafael courthouse in Marin County, California. Jonathan Jackson, younger brother of George Jackson, invaded the courtroom armed with guns to demand the release of George and the other Soledad Brothers. The actual hearing concerned a charge against a Black defendant James McLain – accused of murdering a prison guard.


The ensuing events are well known, where the San Quentin guards opened fire, killing the hostages plus Jackson, Christmas and McLain. Angela Davis was nowhere the scene of the insurgency, but on a spurious pretext that she allegedly owned the guns used by Jackson (and this is not proven) a warrant for her arrest was issued.

Yet what serious social pressures and frustrations are there that should force a 17 year-old to take such precipitate action? As a result Angela Davis immediately went into hiding. As she herself said – “I was convinced that there was little likelihood that I would get justice in California…To turn myself in would have been tantamount to delivering myself into the hands of my self-appointed executioners.”

When eventually arrested in New York after one of the most intensive FBI investigations ever, Angela Davis offered no resistance and was unarmed – despite the pre-judgement of the whole case by Nixon on television who stated that he was glad that “…a dangerous terrorist…” had been arrested.


So today Angela Davis awaits trial for a crime she did not commit. She resides in a jail in Reagan’s California. The state where she was an assistant professor of philosophy at UCLA. The university at which the Head of the Board of Regents is Governor Ronald Reagan. The UCLA dismissed Angela from her post at the instigation of Reagan because she was a Black communist. This in spite of her enormous popularity and support in the university and on the campus.

Today in America, and throughout the world, there exists a campaign for the freedom of Angela Davis and all political prisoners. This resistance takes many forms and different levels. Some of which is spontaneous and most of which is organised – based upon the forms of mass struggle and activity.


In the USA there is the utilisation of as much of the existing democratic and constitutional provisions as possible. The aim is to achieve the widest possible support in the community. The fundamental aspect, the critical issue, is not just the freeing of an individual, the movement stresses that all political prisoners must be free. The movement points out its relationships with all liberation, democratic and revolutionary movements.

Free all

In the resistance to political, national and racial oppression the movement raises the objective of more than Angela’s freedom  – the development towards creating amongst the masses the understanding of the political issues involved and that the system is the real enemy not the Black man. The case of Angela’s defence raises political implications that rise above the release of a central figure.


As the Reverend Ralph Abernathy has written – “A racist, oppressive criminal society is attempting to kill a militant, Black woman activist because of her political beliefs, and her commitment to those beliefs, and you and I will be just as guilty as the racist society if we permit it happen. Let we warn all of you that today it is Angela, but if we sit silent and keep our peace, tomorrow it will be you and it will be me.”  


Ralph Abernathy poster. Public domain.

This extremely relevant point of responsibility was further echoed by James Baldwin who in an open letter to Angela wrote – “If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own – which it is – and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

save Developing from this resistance is the pressing political necessity for the organisation and consolidation of a United Front. A front that unites all sections of the revolutionary, radical, Black and working class movements. The prior requisite is that this front should be led by the liberation and working class movements. This organisation would then be capable of giving a resounding ideological, theoretical and practical rebuff to the increasing racist and fascist, genocidal tendencies of the reactionary ruling class of the United States.

kathleen Cleaver

As Ralph Abernathy so correctly stated – “It is not only Angela Davis’s life that is at stake. We must also see that this trial is an attempt to intimidate, to suppress all people who would stand up and speak their minds and who will join in the struggle for a decent and just society.” It is of tremendous importance to realise that racist ideas can be attendant upon the development of more extreme forms of political oppression if they are not RESISTED and DEFEATED. To acquiesce to racist acts and ideas is to be as guilty as the racist. To sit back and be an armchair philosopher, to hide behind a desk or in a library is one sure way of aiding and abetting racialism.  

A pamphlet entitled ‘Free Angela Davis and all Political Prisoners’, written as part of the Free Angela Davis Campaign, Oxford (New College, 1972). Illustrations added when this was included on my blog site, August, 2014. Inspired to put on my blog by the militarised police oppression of the black and white protestors in Ferguson, USA.

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Filed under Historical Studies