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.
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Whether 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.