Accordance Blog
Apr 15, 2014 David Lang

Crucifixion: Forget What You Think You Know

PhotoMuseum_120 Of all the articles I planned to write for the Bible Times PhotoMuseum, I figured the article on Crucifixion would be relatively easy. After all, I already had a pretty good idea of who invented the practice (the Romans), how crucifixion was practiced (nails through hands and feet, fully assembled crosses raised to position, etc.), and how it caused death (by asphyxiation as the crucified became too tired to lift himself up to breathe). When I started doing my research, however, I was shocked to discover how little we actually know about crucifixion.

First, I was surprised at the scarcity of evidence for crucifixion. Though crucifixion was widely practiced in the Roman world, ancient writers appear to have seen it as distasteful to discuss in detail. Even the authors of the Christian Gospels, who regarded the crucifixion of Jesus as a pivotal event, offer almost no details about the crucifixion itself. They simply read, "they crucified him" (Matt 27:38; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 19:18). Even a detail as important as that Jesus was nailed to the cross is omitted, except for the fact that the scars from the nails are mentioned later (John 20:25).

Not only are there few literary descriptions of the practice of crucifixion, there is a shocking lack of archaeological evidence for it. To date, only one set of remains has been discovered which clearly belonged to someone who was crucified. Discovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem in 1968, the remains of a first-century man featured a heel bone with an iron nail driven through it. Such nails were usually pulled out and re-used, but this nail could not be removed because it had become bent.

NailedHeel

Even though we now have one crucified skeleton, the question of exactly how that man was nailed to a cross is debated among scholars. Some say he was nailed through the wrists and his legs were twisted so that a single nail was driven through both heels. Others say his arms were tied to the cross and each heel was nailed to opposite sides of the upright beam. The PhotoMuseum article lets you see both reconstructions.

Also debated among scholars is what exactly caused the death of someone who was crucified. Most people have heard that victims of crucifixion died of asphyxiation, but this theory was only proposed in the 1950s and is based on limited evidence. More recently, a forensic pathologist has concluded that crucified people likely died of a very different cause.

So forget what you think you know about crucifixion. Much of what you've heard is less certain than you've been led to believe. If you want to learn what we do know for sure, check out the article on Crucifixion in the PhotoMuseum. There you'll learn that for all the questions surrounding the practice of crucifixion, the ancients who witnessed it were certain of one thing: it was "the most lamentable of deaths" (Josephus).


 

Dec 27, 2013 David Lang

The PhotoMuseum: An Odyssey of Learning

PhotoMuseum_120 On Monday, I announced the release of the Bible Times PhotoMuseum, a richly illustrated guide to the people of the Bible along with the activities they engaged in and the objects they used. Today I want to tell you about how this unique new resource was conceived and developed.

Dr. J was apparently the first to suggest that we develop a resource similar to the Bible Lands PhotoGuide that would focus on Biblical people, activities, and objects rather than places. It was a great idea. We already had a huge collection of photos that we couldn't really use in the PhotoGuide, but that would be perfect for a resource like Dr. J had suggested.

Since I had written the original PhotoGuide years ago, I was asked if I would like to tackle this new resource focused on Biblical objects. On the one hand, I was excited at the prospect of writing the PhotoMuseum. I learned so much about the Bible in writing the PhotoGuide, and I knew researching all these Biblical objects would be a fantastic learning experience. On the other hand, I well remembered the massive amount of work involved in writing the PhotoGuide and the challenge of trying to get it ready for release. I was admittedly a little hesitant about taking on another project of that magnitude, and my employers were a little hesitant about assigning it to a perfectionist notorious for missing deadlines!

In spite of the hesitations, the PhotoMuseum was assigned to me and I began wading through thousands of photos of ancient artifacts: weapons, coins, weights, altars, seals, inscriptions, artwork … you name it. Based on the photos I had available at that time, I sketched out a tentative list of articles and began researching the various topics.

Writing the PhotoMuseum has been a very organic process. Sometimes I would start by writing on a given subject. I'd do my research, write my article, and then begin combing through our photo collection for images which illustrate what I had written. At other times, it was the images which inspired the writing or led me to explore things I hadn't thought about before. Usually it was a combination of both, with writing leading me to photos which prompted additional writing which in turn led to more photos! Often my search for pictures to illustrate one article would lead me to pictures that would illustrate other articles. It seemed that at every turn I was learning something new and, much to my chagrin, finding new topics I felt I needed to include.

I began writing the PhotoMuseum just over two years ago, and in that time we've added thousands more photos to our collection. Consequently, "completion" of the PhotoMuseum became something of a moving target. This initial release of the PhotoMuseum is really just the beginning. Those who purchase it can look forward to additional content and photos in future updates. And I can look forward to continuing my odyssey of learning.


 

Dec 23, 2013 David Lang

What in the World is a PhotoMuseum?

PhotoMuseum_120 I'm very pleased to announce the release of a unique new Accordance resource: The Accordance Bible Times PhotoMuseum. What in the world is a “PhotoMuseum”? I'm so glad you asked.

Many of you are familiar with our Bible Lands PhotoGuide, which is essentially a richly illustrated guide to Biblical places like Gibeon, Hazor, and Jerusalem. Set the PhotoGuide as the tool to link to when you double-click a place name in the Accordance Bible Atlas, and the Atlas becomes infinitely more useful. (You can do that in the Map Tab Display settings of the Preferences.)

Where the PhotoGuide covers Biblical places, the new Bible Times PhotoMuseum covers ancient peoples (Edomites, Moabites, Philistines), along with the objects they used (Altars, Houses, Weapons) and the activities they pursued (Fishing, Music, Personal Grooming). It's a bit like an illustrated Bible dictionary, but it's like no Bible dictionary you've ever seen.

You see, most Bible dictionaries offer a general treatment of a subject and then illustrate it with a picture or two. The PhotoMuseum is unique in that it begins with the artifacts themselves, treating each subject by exploring the actual archaeological finds which inform our knowledge of that subject. In other words, it lets you look at the actual clues so you can better understand how they help unravel the mystery of the Biblical world.

For example, 2 Samuel 2:14-16 relates how the generals Joab and Abner chose twelve pairs of young soldiers to duel one another for the entertainment of the troops. Each of these soldiers then "grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his sword into his opponent’s side." Commentaries on this passage sometimes mention a stone relief found in the Aramean city of Sam'al which shows two men dueling in exactly this way, indicating it may have been a stylized form of combat. Yet no commentary I saw included an actual picture of this relief. Because we began with the artifacts themselves, combing through thousands of photos for artifacts which illustrate the Bible, we found this relief (which is unassumingly displayed in a museum alongside dozens of similar reliefs), and immediately recognized its importance. You'll find it illustrating the article on "Sword and Dagger."

PhotoMuseum1

This is just one example. The PhotoMuseum is packed with nearly 600 high quality illustrations of important Biblical artifacts, and the significance of those artifacts is thoroughly explained and related to the Biblical passages they help us understand. Anyone familiar with the PhotoGuide knows that it is far more than a collection of photos of Biblical sites. In the same way, the PhotoMuseum has been carefully researched and designed to give you another window into the Biblical world.

PhotoMuseum2

I'll be blogging more about the PhotoMuseum throughout the week: detailing how it was conceived, how it was developed, some of the things that make it unique, and our plans to expand it further. We're really excited about this new resource, and hope it will be as well-received as the PhotoGuide has been.

The Accordance Bible Times PhotoMuseum is on sale now through January 3, 2014 for just $47.99, a savings of $12.00 off the regular price of $59.99. It is immediately available to be downloaded through Easy Install. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present and start exploring it today.