Public Shaming of Christ


AD 200–250 image of a man kneeling before and worshipping the crucified Christ depicted as a donkey.

Earlier this afternoon I was reading along in the book of Hebrews and came across Hebrews 6:4–6:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Now, these verses are among some of the most debated passages within the New Testament. To whom does the author refer? What does it mean they have tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit? While these are all pertinent and necessary questions, I have no intention of addressing any of them. Instead, I want to take a look at the word παραδειγματίζοντας, “holding him up to contempt.”

It is a well known fact that the Romans would use crucifixion as a means of not only publicly shaming the victim but as an advertisement throughout that region that Rome didn’t mess around. If you are found guilty of the same crime, the same punishment would fall upon you.

This is precisely what the word παραδειγματίζω “hold up to contempt” or “disgrace publicly” is getting at. As we look through the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament, we find it used in a number of places. Though crucifixion isn’t in view in these instances [[Edit: As J. K. Gayle has pointed out over at BLT, crucifixion is indeed in view in the Esther passage cited below. My apologizes for this oversight.]], the punishment that befalls these individuals is meant to serve as a warning to the larger community:

  • Num. 25:4 “And the Lord said to Moyses, “Take the chiefs of the people, and make an example of them to the Lord before the sun, and the anger of the Lord’s wrath shall be turned away from Israel.”

  • Esth. 14:11 “O Lord, do not surrender your scepter to those who don’t exist, and do not let them laugh at our downfall, but turn their plan against them, and make a public example of him who began this against us.”

  • Dan. 2:5 “Then the king said in reply to the Chaldeans, “Unless you tell me the dream with certainty and disclose its sense, you will be made an example, and your possessions will be expropriated into the royal treasury.”

In Numbers, those who were initiated into Beel-Phegor (idolatry) were to be made an example of, as was Hammond for his plot against Mordecai in Esther and the Chaldeans if they failed to interpret the king’s dreams.

On Hebrews 6:6, Guthrie writes in his NIV Application Commentary:

The language of crucifixion and public shaming is both potent and ironic. Instead of being blessed by accepting the forgiveness found in the crucified Christ, the ones who have fallen away identify with those who used the cross as an ultimate expression of rejection. Instead of being shamed in the eyes of the world by identification with the Son, “bearing the disgrace he bore” (13:13), the apostates stand with those before the cross who cast insults, disparaging Christ’s claims as the true Messiah (p. 220).

Now, I’d like to offer an inter-textual addition to this interpretation. [[Nota Bene:  I’m not suggesting that the author of Hebrews is drawing upon this text or even that he had it in mind. That is to say, the following observation is not offered on the basis of the Hebrews’ awareness of Colossians or vice versa.]]

In Colossians 2:13–15 we find an interesting understanding of Christ’s crucifixion:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Colossians 2:15 [widescreen]The word used in Colossians is the uncompounded form of παραδειγματίζω and is similar to the usage found in Hebrews. Paul, in Colossians, is saying that, though the rulers and authorities intended to put Christ to public shame by crucifying him, Jesus transforms that shame into his exaltation, the forgiveness of sins, and the shame of the rulers and leaders.

Now, here’s a tentative suggestion I would like to offer. If the Christian community at large understood Jesus’ crucifixion as an act that transforms an inherently shameful form of capital punishment into a means of exaltation and glorification that functions as the salvation of his people, then one’s rejection of Christ after having participated in the covenant community (however one defines that in the context of Hebrews) in effect denies that Christ’s death had any transformative function. Though they once would have seen Christ’s death as a reversal of the shame it was meant to be, they are now confirming that Christ died a shameful death at the hands of the Romans and should, thus, be disgraced and regarded as no better than the criminals and seditionists that experienced a similar fate at the hands of the Roman empire.

As I noted above, these are only some preliminary thoughts based upon the similarity of the two passages and I would love to hear any input you might have.

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QOTD: Mark Strauss on Mark 7:9

downloadI’ve been reading through Mark Strauss’ Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on Mark and found this great discussion on Mark 7:9.

7:9 He continued, “You are very good at rejecting the commandment of God in order to observe your own tradition!” (καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· καλῶς ἀθετεῖτε τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν στήσητε.) Mark introduces Jesus’ second response (vv. 9–13) with an introduction similar to the first (v.6). In standard English we can say, “He continued . . . ” In this case Jesus starts with the statement of principle and then moves to an illustration.

Jesus’ words are probably meant to be ironic sarcasm. While the Pharisees prided themselves in meticulously keeping the law, Jesus congratulates them for become [sic.] experts at “rejecting” or “nullifying” (ἀθετέω) God’s commands. The NAB captures the sense nicely: “How well you have set aside the commandment of God!” . . . . There is also a play on words with v.6. Just as Isaiah prophesied “well” (= “correctly”; καλῶς) about their hypocrisy (v.6), so they have done very “well” (καλῶς) at practicing that hypocrisy (v.9).

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Jacob Cerone answers me these questions three on his recently defended thesis


Kris over at Old School Script interviewed me about my Master’s Thesis!

Originally posted on Old School Script:

I’m frankly surprised Jacob had the energy and desire to say anything more on his recently defended thesis: “A Comparative Discourse Analysis of the Masoretic and Septuagint Versions of Jonah”. Once you get to the end of a project like this, the last thing you want is to re-visit it. But Jacob was kind enough to answer me these questions three, ere the other side he sees. (Actually, there’s four questions—but that doesn’t lend to a fun or felicitous reference).


Who were the biggest players in constructing your framework and methodology for doing discourse analysis?

This is a bit of a difficult question to answer as I took an eclectic approach. The short answer is that I highly favored cognitive functional linguistics, which means that I relied heavily on the work of Stephen Levinsohn, Steve Runge, Christo van Der Merwe, and Joshua Westbury.

The longer answer is that I relied on the…

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Old School Script and Linguistics

Now that I have a couple extra moments of free time, I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to one of my favorite biblioblogs: Old School Script. The authors of the blog are Kris Lyle (BA in Biblical Languages and Sociology Houston Bible College, MA in Biblical Languages Stellenbosch University, and Content Innovator at Logos Bible Software (aka Faithlife Corporation) and Chris Fresch (PhD candidate at Cambridge University).

Old School Script is on a mission to bring the complex field of linguistics to biblical studies in a way that is approachable and understandable for those trying to keep their feet in biblical studies while gleaning from and putting into use the findings of modern linguistics.

I encourage you to check out the two most recent posts at Old School Script entitled The hardships of Biblical Scholar’dom (or, Beware the buzzwords, my son!) and Greek Linguistic Historigraphy, O my! I think you will find both of these posts enlightening and encouraging for those of you that want resources that will help you better understand linguistics and how the field intersects with biblical studies. If you like what you see, become a regular reader. I assure you, if biblical languages are your thing (or just biblical interpretation for that matter), you’ll be glad you did.

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Thesis Defense

Story in pictures (mostly).







As you may have gathered, if you reached it to the end of these pictures, I have now successfully defended my thesis and made all necessary corrections. All that remains is meeting with the librarian, when school reopens, printing the copies, and submitting to the library.

Goodbye Jonah, my good friend, I’ll see you sometime in the not so near future. Maybe we can catch up and get a cup of coffee. But for now, I think we need a bit of space.

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Explanation for My Absence

I thought I’d stop by my blog and let everyone know that I’m still alive. I know I haven’t posted anything in some time, so here’s why:

I’ve been finishing up on a number of projects including my contributions to the Apostolic Readers (1 Clement and Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans), editing a 1 Corinthians Reader, editing The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, and, most importantly, re-reading and editing my thesis on A Comparative Discourse Analysis of the Masoretic and Septuagint Versions of Jonah. The date of my defense draws nigh. Any prayers you might send up on my behalf would be much appreciated.

Also, during the little free time I might have had in the past to blog, I’ve been creating screen cast videos for Logos Bible Software. If you’re interested, you can take a look at them below:

LXX Translation Ring

Exploring the Works of Jonathan Edwards

Building Collections with Logos

Click Here

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Logos’ Perseus Web Lookup

Working with an New Testament or Old Testament apparatus can be a difficulty and frustrating experience for many. Even after you’ve mastered all the text critical notations (or scroll over them in your Bible Software for a quick definition) you’re still left to make sense of the variant reading.

Though the main text has morphological data that you can rely on for translation, the readings within the apparatus lack this information. This is particularly frustrating for those of you that use the Göttingen Septuagint. The vocabulary of the LXX is more diverse than the NT, making it much less likely that you are familiar with the words under consideration.

This, however, isn’t an insurmountable problem within Logos. Let’s look at Jonah 1:4 in the LXX:

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I’ve highlighted the word συντριβῆναι, which means “to break into pieces, to crush” in the clause “and the ship was in danger of breaking into pieces.” When I check the Apparatus I in the Göttingen text, I find the following:

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Instead of reading, “and the ship was in danger of breaking into pieces” some manuscripts read “and the ship was in danger διαλυνθηναι.”

While I could take an educated guess that διαλυνθηναι comes from διαλυω and simply look the word up in my lexicon to test my theory, I could take a different approach. Simply right click on the word in Logos, and you get the following menu:

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Logos automatically  runs a search for the morphological information and definition of the word in Perseus’ database:

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.43.06 AM

I find that the word is used in the same way (aor pass inf) as συντριβῆναι and that its definition is something like “part asunder.” Now the phrase can be translated, “And the ship was in danger of parting asunder,” or something to that effect.

While this is a relatively simple example and one that doesn’t have too much bearing on the meaning of the text, the tool itself has proven invaluable to me as I’ve conducted my research in the LXX and other texts for that matter.

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