Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

by Steve Ray on April 17, 2014

A gentleman heard me on Relevant Radio earlier. I had mentioned on the air that one of the great humiliations of a crucifixion was that a man was crucified naked. This thoughtful gentleman wrote to challenge my comments. Below is his e-mail and my response.

Dear Mr. Ray,

Please correct your description of the Passion. You have said that Christ was crucified naked on the cross because it was the Roman way of executing condemned prisoners.

Realize that in Christ’s case the Romans were following instructions of the Jews—Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus, thus he finally gave orders that the soldiers do as the Jews requested. Thus the gospel explicitly describes how the Jews requested the legs of the condemned be broken so that their dead bodies would be removed before the Passover, and this was done per their request.

Nudity in 1st century Jewish culture brought shame to the beholder, and it was the Jews that had Jesus crucified—thus Jesus would have had a cloth to cever his loins, which is consistent with the visions of various mystics of the Church. Otherwise, the gospels would have mentioned the Jewish displeasure, much like it does with their demand to remove the sign above Christ’s head, had Pilate ordered Jesus to be stripped completely naked against the wishes of the Temple leaders.

God bless, A Friend

Dear Friend:

Thanks for writing– and for your thoughtful comments. I always appreciate feedback especially from studious listeners. Please take my comments below in the same irenic tone in which you kindly wrote to me.

However, I disagree with your assessment. There is no reason to believe that Jesus was crucified according to Jewish “specifications.” The Romans had little regard for the Jews, their laws and their sensibilities (e.g., Acts 18:12-17).

The Jews were very scandalized by the sign put on the Cross “Jesus, King of the Jews.” Yet when the Jews specifically went back to Pilate with the demand it be reworded, the Romans refused to change it or take it down even though that was probably more offensive to the Jews than the nakedness of a convicted criminal. Jews were also limited in the number of lashes one could receive, but they certainly paid no heed to that Jewish concern either. They were there to uphold Roman law, not cater to Jewish religious sentiments.

You say the Romans were instructed to do what the Jews requested, but that had only to do with Pilate’s willingness to grant the Jews request to have Jesus crucified instead of just flogged. It did not mean that the Romans wrote down a list of the Jewish sensibilities to insure that none of them were upset. The Romans were to do what the Jews requested only, presumably, in terms of their willingness to allow Jesus to be crucified even though Pilate found his innocent.

Even among the Jewish rabbis there was allowance for nakedness during execution. The Mishnah (Jewish tradition from earlier centuries compiled around 200 AD) records three opinions held among the Jews, saying,

A [When] he was four cubits from the place of stoning, they remove his clothes.
B “In the case of a man, they cover him up in front, and in the case of a woman, they cover her up in front and behind,” the words of R. Judah.
C And sages say, “A man is stoned naked, but a woman is not stoned naked.”

Here we have the recording of three Jewish traditions. Two out of three claim that a man was executed naked even among his own Jewish countrymen. If even the Jews stripped their own naked according to two out of three of their traditions, why would we think the Romans would practice more scruples than the Jews?

I would agree he was robed on the Via Cruses, but even Scripture says they divided his garments but for the outer garments they cast lots. There is NO indication that he retained covering, rather the soldiers divided them – outer and under clothes.

One good historical commentary says, “The replacement of Jesus’ own clothes for the walk to Golgotha was probably a concession to Jewish scruples about public nakedness (Jub. 3:30–31; cf. Gen 9:20–27). Crucifixion was normally naked, and in v. 35 Jesus’ clothes will again have been removed; m. Sanh. 6:3 specifies that the clothes should be removed only at the place of execution, not on the way there.”

An excellent commentary on the details of the life of Christ relays, “Even though Jesus has been flogged, Mark/Matt have Jesus dressed again before he sets out to the place of crucifixion. Normally the criminal, carrying the lateral beam of the cross behind his neck with his arms fastened to it, would go naked to the place of crucifixion, being scourged as he went. We know this from passing references in Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities 7.69.2) and Valerius Maximus (Facta 1.7.4). Indeed, Josephus (Ant. 19.4.5; #270) reports that even Roman nobles involved in the assassination of Gaius Caligula had their clothes removed before being taken to the place of execution.

“In having the final disrobing of Jesus only at the place of execution (Mark 15:24 and par.), the evangelist may reflect a local concession that the Romans made to the Jewish abhorrence of public nudity. Josephus reports that the Roman tribune Celer, who was executed in Jerusalem by imperial order, was dragged across the whole city as a public spectacle before being beheaded; but there is no mention of his being disrobed (War 2.12.7; #246; Ant. 20.6.3; #136).”

Another commentator says, “To distribute the garments of Christ among the soldiers, the clothes had to be removed from Christ. Thus, Christ was crucified naked. The suffering was great at the crucifixion but so was the shame. No artist dares to picture Christ as naked—they put a loin cloth around Him for modesty. But Scripture indicates He was naked.”

Another says, “[T]he normal undergarment was either a tunic or a loincloth, and Jesus’ tunic was taken from him (v. 23; Brown 1970:902), it is perhaps more likely he was naked. Early Christian tradition is divided on the subject (cf. Brown 1994:2:953).”

Catholic Monk and prolific writer Thomas A Kempis wrote a meditative prayer on the death of Christ including the words, “Of the Crucifixion, naked, of the Lord Jesus; and of His hanging for many long hours aloft upon the Cross.”

Typical Crucifixion scene

In my opinion and others, there is NO reason to believe that the Romans covered Jesus’ privates with a loin cloth. In fact, it would be unreasonable to think they would do this since crucifixion was to be the final humiliation and degradation. They had very little respect for Jewish sensibilities in general. Even if they made a concession to the Jews by covering him as he processed through the streets, they would have removed his clothes at the site of the execution, even as the Jews did with their own executions. Roman custom gave the soldiers the right to appropriate for themselves all the clothes of the convict – kind of as a bonus.

And if you suggest they crucified Jesus with his loins covered, do you suggest that ALL executions were done with private parts covered? Were the thieves on his right and left also covered? I don’t think they treated Jesus differently than any other criminals crucified.

You mention various Mystics who have “revealed” that Jesus was covered on the cross. I suspect this has to do with pious puritanism more than historical reality. I often enjoy the writings of mystics and are benefited from them, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in their often contradicting visions, especially when it contradicts historical realities and Scripture.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to these revelations of Mystics in a category called “private revelation.” Commenting on private revelation the Church teaches, “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. (no. 67)

Just an interesting parallel to ponder: The first Adam was naked and due to sin had to be clothed; the last Adam was clothed but to redeem was stripped naked. The first brought death at the tree of life, the last brought life at the tree of death.

In this regard The Fathers of the Church loved to play with the concept of the naked Christ. In that regard I suggest, Jesus born naked in a cave provided by a man named Joseph and he was then wrapped in swaddling clothes. In his death he was stripped of his clothes and later covered by a shroud and placed in a cave provided by another man named Joseph.

Lastly, I agree that this goes contrary to all our Catholic sentiments of decency and modesty which is why artists always portray, and properly so, Jesus in a loin covering. But real life is not controlled by polite conventions especially in pagan Rome.

My friend, may you and those you love have a wonderful Easter and may the joy of our risen Lord Jesus shine in your heart for all of eternity. Thanks for your thoughtful e-mail.

Steve Ray

{ 11 comments }

Wow, what a fun show. Great questions and lively discussion. Listen on-line HERE and other audio options HERE. the audio links as soon as they are available on Thursday.

Also, for those who are interested in my audio talks on this topic, visit Steve Ray’s Store/audio. Look for “Stations of the Cross” and also “Pain of the Crucifixion.”

Questions I answered: Coming soon…

1) When Jesus was asked by Pilate if he was the Messiah he responded, “You have said so.” Why didn’t Jesus just say “Yes”?

2) Is it reasonable to assume that Jesus got splinters from falling with the cross? It is a suffering we don’t hear about but it probably happened, right?

3) One gospel says Judas was offered a morsel of bread by Jesus at the Last Supper. Was that morsel the Eucharist or did Judas leave before the consecration?

4) What was the approximate weight of the cross: Also, do we have any actual pieces of the original cross and how do we know?

5) Was Judas pre-ordained to betray Christ? Do he have free will or was he programmed to betray him and be damned?

6) How did they find the true cross and were miracles performed?

7) When Jesus told his disciples to “take up their cross and follow him” how would they have known what he meant since he had not yet been crucified?

8) Did Mary know that Jesus would be raised from the dead?

9) How did the Stations of the Cross begin?

As Promised, an Answer to the Question: Did Judas eat the Eucharist?

There is a LOT of discussion and comments on this question. In St. John we read:  John 13:25–27 (RSVCE)  ”So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.’ So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’”

From an article on EWTN’s website: 

Combining texts from the Gospel of St. John and that of the Synoptic Gospels (Mt, Mk, Lk), it is possible to determine that Judas was NOT present at the time that our Lord blessed and broke the Bread which was His own Body, the Eucharist…

…It is clear from the Gospel of St. John that Judas left the company of our Lord and apostles IMMEDIATELY after having dipped bread in the sign of betrayal; the Gospel of St. Mark makes it clear that only after the dipping episode did our Lord then offer the blessed Bread and Cup which is the Eucharist. So Judas was not present for the sharing of the First Eucharist itself, and who can imagine a more unworthy vessel of reception for Holy Communion? And so we see a solid basis and case in point for the insistence of the Church–and St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians–that a Christian be properly disposed and worthy by the presence of grace in order to receive the Most Holy Eucharist.

 Here is Aquinas’s Conclusion (can I do better than him?)

Article 2. Whether Christ gave His body to Judas?

Objection 1. It seems that Christ did not give His body to Judas. Because, as we read (Matthew 26:29), our Lord, after giving His body and blood to the disciples, said to them: “I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of My Father.” From this it appears that those to whom He had given His body and blood were to drink of it again with Him. But Judas did not drink of it afterwards with Him. Therefore he did not receive Christ’s body and blood with the other disciples.

Objection 2. Further, what the Lord commanded, He Himself fulfilled, as is said in Acts 1:1: “Jesus began to do and to teach.” But He gave the command (Matthew 7:6): “Give not that which is holy to dogs.” Therefore, knowing Judas to be a sinner, seemingly He did not give him His body and blood.

Objection 3. Further, it is distinctly related (John 13:26) that Christ gave dipped bread toJudas. Consequently, if He gave His body to him, it appears that He gave it him in the morsel, especially since we read (John 13:26) that “after the morsel, Satan entered into him.” And on this passage Augustine says (Tract. lxii in Joan.): “From this we learn how we should beware of receiving a good thing in an evil way . . . For if he be ‘chastised’ who does ‘not discern,’ i.e. distinguish, the body of the Lord from other meats, how must he be ‘condemned’ who, feigning himself a friend, comes to His table a foe?” But (Judas) did not receive our Lord’sbody with the dipped morsel; thus Augustine commenting on John 13:26, “When He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon the Iscariot [Vulgate: ‘to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon,” says (Tract. lxii in Joan.): “Judas did not receive Christ’s body then, as some think who read carelessly.” Therefore it seems that Judas did not receive the body of Christ.

On the contrary, Chrysostom says (Hom. lxxxii in Matth.): “Judas was not converted while partaking of the sacred mysteries: hence on both sides his crime becomes the more heinous, both because imbued with such a purpose he approached the mysteries, and because he became none the better for approaching, neither from fear, nor from the benefit received, nor from the honor conferred on him.”

I answer that, Hilary, in commenting on Matthew 26:17, held that Christ did not give His body and blood to Judas. And this would have been quite proper, if the malice of Judas be considered. But since Christ was to serve us as a pattern of justice, it was not in keeping with His teaching authority to sever Judas, a hidden sinner, from Communion with the others without an accuser and evident proof. lest the Church’s prelates might have an example for doing the like, and lest Judas himself being exasperated might take occasion of sinning. Therefore, it remains to be said that Judas received our Lord’s body and blood with the otherdisciples, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii), and Augustine (Tract. lxii in Joan.).

Reply to Objection 1. This is Hilary’s argument, to show that Judas did not receive Christ’sbody. But it is not cogent; because Christ is speaking to the disciples, from whose companyJudas separated himself: and it was not Christ that excluded him. Therefore Christ for His part drinks the wine even with Judas in the kingdom of God; but Judas himself repudiated this banquet.

Reply to Objection 2. The wickedness of Judas was known to Christ as God; but it was unknown to Him, after the manner in which men know it. Consequently, Christ did not repelJudas from Communion; so as to furnish an example that such secret sinners are not to be repelled by other priests.

Reply to Objection 3. Without any doubt Judas did not receive Christ’s body in the dippedbread; he received mere bread. Yet as Augustine observes (Tract. lxii in Joan.), “perchance the feigning of Judas is denoted by the dipping of the bread; just as some things are dipped to be dyed. If, however, the dipping signifies here anything good” (for instance, the sweetness of the Divine goodness, since bread is rendered more savory by being dipped), “then, not undeservedly, did condemnation follow his ingratitude for that same good.” And owing to that ingratitude, “what is good became evil to him, as happens to them who receive Christ’s body unworthily.”

And as Augustine says (Tract. lxii in Joan.), “it must be understood that our Lord had already distributed the sacrament of His body and blood to all His disciples, among whom was Judasalso, as Luke narrates: and after that, we came to this, where, according to the relation ofJohn, our Lord, by dipping and handing the morsel, does most openly declare His betrayer.”

{ 0 comments }

Lots of Radio Shows this Week; Join Us!

by Steve Ray on April 16, 2014

I love Catholic Radio and all that it is doing for the Catholic Faith. I love contributing as much as I can. Here are shows I am doing this week.

Monday

1) Son Rise Morning 7:10 AM EST: Palm Sunday

Tuesday

1) Son Rise Morning 7:10 AM EST: Mary, Martha and Lazarus: Jesus preparing for the Passion

2) Archangel Radio: Mobile Alabama 8:00 AM EST: The Passion of Christ

3) Good Book Club, Spirit Catholic Radio 9:05 AM EST: Acts 15 “Must Gentiles be Circumcised to be Christians? (Men flinch)

Wednesday

1) Son Rise Morning 7:10 AM EST: Holy Thursday and the Upper Room

2) Sean Herriot Show on Relevant Radio: Holy Week and the Sufferings of Jesus

 3) Guadalupe Radio: 9:10 AM EST Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

4) Catholic Answers Live at 7:00 PM EST: The Pain of the Crucifixion

Thursday

1) Son Rise Morning Show 7:10 AM EST Garden of Gethsemane, Trial and Prison 

Friday

1) Sean Herriott Show: 8:00-9:00 AM EST: Whipping, Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion

2) Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio 5:00 PM EST: The People at the Foot of the Cross

{ 0 comments }

Do You KNOW if Your Tax Returns Are Correct?

April 16, 2014

Donald Rumsfeld served as secretary of defense under both President Gerald Ford and President George W. Bush, but he can’t master the tax code.    Every year on Tax Day, Rumsfeld sends a letter to the IRS explaining that he doesn’t know whether he did his taxes properly. Rumsfeld published his newest letter on his Twitter [...]

Read the full article →

Steve Ray about Holy Land & Holy Week on WNGL Archangel Radio

April 16, 2014

This is about an hour show on Archangel Radio in Mobile Alabama. We discuss the Passion from Holy Thursday the Easter Sunday. Steve takes you on an audio tour. 

Read the full article →

While You Celebrate Easter, Remember the Christians Slaughtered by the “Rebels” in Syria – rebels supported by our government

April 14, 2014

The Stuff of Nightmares: Christians Forced from Homes in Syria’s Kassab Eyewitness Reports of Violent Expulsion of 2,500 Armenian Christians from Historic Syrian Town By Lela Gilbert DAMASCUS, April 14, 2014 (Zenit.org) – An Armenian friend on Facebook alerted me to the tragic story of Kassab, Syria: On March 21, Sunni rebels violently expelled around [...]

Read the full article →

20 Years After Cairo Conference on Population and Development

April 14, 2014

20 Years After Cairo Conference on Population and Development Family Life and the Economy By Father John Flynn, LC ROME, April 14, 2014 (Zenit.org) – Last week the United Nations held a review of the 20 years since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994. The meeting looked at [...]

Read the full article →

Feverishly Working on Abraham Script for our Next DVD; please pray for me :-)

April 14, 2014

The story of Abraham is not only seminal and foundational, but very interesting and full of typology and lessons for our own day. I just finished the section of Abraham’s hospitality when visit by unknown strangers who the Church sees as the Trinity coming down to visit Abraham. I think it was to meet the [...]

Read the full article →

What Did Sister Jane Actually Say in Charlotte?

April 9, 2014

Dr. Ed Peters, canon lawyer, actually has a good point about the flare-up at the Catholic High School in Charlotte NC. Does anyone REALLY know what Sr. Jane Dominic actually said at the High School that started such a flurry of protest and defense? Much ado about, literally, who-knows-what by Dr. Edward Peters We either know [...]

Read the full article →

Welcome to the Reign of “Gay”

April 8, 2014

Make no mistake, it has nothing to do with fun and games, and everything to do with the forced rationalization of grave depravity By Carl Olsen, April 8, 2014 Editorial in Catholic News Report In the summer of 1992, I took my first real job, working as a graphic designer for the venerable Meier & [...]

Read the full article →

Update of Catholic School Uprising over “Theology of the Body” and Sr. Jane Dominic

April 8, 2014

News   Print Article  |   Email Friend  |  Reprint Permissions Charlotte diocese backs nun who gave school talk promoting Church teaching on homosexuality BY KIRSTEN ANDERSEN   Mon Apr 07, 2014 18:27 EST CHARLOTTE, NC, April 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The bishop of Charlotte is backing a Dominican nun who has been at the center of a fiery controversy since last [...]

Read the full article →

The “Religion of Peace” Strikes Again in Syria as the USA Continues to Support the Radical Muslims

April 7, 2014

Dutch Missionary Priest in Syria Shot Dead: Stayed With Christians Unable to Evacuate Homs ZENIT UPDATE HERE 4/8/14      ROME REPORTS VIDEO HERE ROME, April 07, 2014 (Zenit.org) – A priest helping Christians find shelter in Syria’s Old City of Homs has been murdered. Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt was shot twice in the [...]

Read the full article →

Laughter in the Bible: A Quiz

April 7, 2014

1. Which couple laughed at the incredibility of God’s promise to them? 2. Which son brought laughter to his mother? 3. Which king was laughed at when he invited people from all over Israel to celebrate the Passover? 4. Who advised that laughter should change to mourning? 5. Who referred to himself as laughingstock? 6 [...]

Read the full article →

My Wife’s Dad just Died

April 7, 2014

My wife Janet’s father died this morning after a heart attack last week. He was in the arms of his wife and four daughters who were praying the Our Father. He was a great dad for those girls. I thanked him many times for raising such a wonderful daughter and for allowing me to marry [...]

Read the full article →

Books for Lovers (Recommended) – Radio Show on Loving Your Spouse

April 3, 2014

I was on the Sean Herriott Show today on Relevant Radio. The topic was Loving Your Spouse. You can listen to it HERE.  During the show I promised to post a link to my list of Books for Lovers. You can see it HERE. Two earlier show: Raising Daughters

Read the full article →

Brilliant 12 Year Old Exposes Abortion and all the Arguments for it

April 3, 2014

This girl presents a 5 minute speech to her class – eloquent and comprehensive.

Read the full article →