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The Passion and the Scourging

September 3, 2011

imageDavid Winkle writes a thoughtful meditation for a reading from Mark for September 1, 2011* in his blog Sunday Education:

In 2004 my wife and I were among the millions of Christians who packed into theaters to see the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” It is a very powerful film, and it burns indelible images into your mind. Many of the critics of the movie attacked the explicit violence depicted during those last twelve hours of Jesus’ life. (Indeed, in 2005 there was a rerelease of the movie with about five minutes of the most graphic violence removed.) The violence was indeed graphic, but it was also accurate. It was the accuracy and historic truth of it that made it difficult to watch (at least for me). It is one thing to read a sentence that tells us Pilate had Jesus flogged. It is quite another thing to watch it. The same is true for the abuse of Jesus as the soldiers made sport of him.

. . .

imageWhether we want to look or not, the truth is that Jesus was taken and shackled to a post . The soldiers then beat him with a type of whip which is called a flagrum, which had shall lead balls and mutton bones at the ends of the leather straps. These objects were designed to tear the flesh and to cause contusions. The idea was to weaken the victim, in order to shorten the times needed for crucifixion. Although Jewish law limits the number of lashes a person may receive to forty. Roman law had no such limitations. If indeed the Shroud of Turin holds the image of Jesus, he received somewhere between one hundred and one hundred twenty lashes. The soldiers then placed a crown of thorns on his head, dressed him in a purple robe, mocked him, and made sport of him. We may not want to see this or read about it, but it happened.

Or was it about 40 lashes with a flagrum with three thongs? This seems to be the consensus among many shroud researchers. See Not True: The Shroud of Turin and Flagrum Proportions and Measurements Are Identical and More on Flagrum Proportions and Measurements and Now the Side Strip.

* Mark 15:12-21 for Thursday, September 1, 2011 from the Book of Common Prayer Daily Office as commonly used by many Protestant churches. Not to be confused with the Revised Common Lectionary used by the Roman Catholic Church and almost all liturgical Protestant and Anglican churches worldwide.

Passionate Passion – Mark 15:12-21 [Daily Devotional] | Sunday Education

Categories: Flagrum, Other Blogs
  1. Yannick Clément
    September 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Warning : The opinion that will follow doesn’t come from a doctor or a specialist in blood but come from someone who can think and who have read a lot on the subject. Of course, my point of view can be wrong but this is really what I think…

    I have to disagree a bit with the point of view of M. Winkle. The first thing that came in my mind when I saw the scourging scene of Mel Gibson’s movie was : Not realistic at all !

    Gibson, for theological purpose more than for the sake of realism, wanted his Jesus to be bleeding as hell and one way he found to achieve that was to put cutting things in metal (almost like claws) at the end of the leather tongues of the flagrum but, sorry, this is not historically accurate AND this is NOT what we see on the Shroud ! The real flagrum had metal BALLS or round animal BONES at the end of the leather tongues, not metal CLAWS. The goal wasn’t to cause maximum bleeding as many people seem to believe but instead, the principal goal to achieve was to take away the strength out of the person to avoid any kind of resistence from him before the crucifixion. The person was so weakened by the scourging that he could not put up a fight before the crucifixion. And the fact that Jesus had problems to complete his way to the cross and that he died after only 3 hours is an indication that the scourging must have been pretty hard on him. So, the fact that there’s around 120 marks of scourging on the Shroud and that we see them on around 65% of the body is a good indication for this.

    Sure, the flagrum had multiple leather tongues (2 or 3 tongues and sometime, more than this), so it’s not really 120 hits that he received but, on the other hand, it is almost sure that some bloody scourge marks were not transferred to the Shroud because they didn’t touched the cloth. Here we can think that those hidding scourge marks were mostly on the belly under and around the arms and some could have been under the knees. Also, we must not forget that some more scourge marks could have been on the upper arms and shoulders but, unfortunatelly, the 1532 fire did great damage to this area, so, we’ll never know how much marks could have been there.

    Little interesting information about this part of the cloth : In the UV fluorescence photos examination made by Miller and Pellicori of STURP, they reported that they could see some scourge or blood marks in the same zone than the scorch marks. Of course, those scourge or blood marks were extremely difficult to see in normal photographs, but they could see them on their UV photos ! Very interesting. It’s an observation that tend to confirm what I once said here : that the scourge marks were made of bloody material transferred to the cloth and they have nothing to do with the body image. It’s a clue for this because, if those scourge marks were part of the body image, it would have been VERY difficult to see them under the scorch marks because both types of image possessed almost the same intensity.

    The balls or bones at the end of the leather tongues caused probably more a “bloody bruise” kind of injury than all the cutting that is shown in Gibson movie. As I say, Gibson find this trick to achieve his theological goal : showing as much blood as possible to make people understand the sacrificial aspect of the Passion and death of Christ (like the sacrificial lamb of the Passover). Sure, the tongues of the flagrum could have caused some cutting injuries that caused some bleeding (probably where there was more than one hit at the same place) but, in the end, the most important injuries were the bloody bruises that we see on the Shroud and those injuries didn’t causes much bleeding…

    This is my opinion and you’re free to think something else…

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