Every good Christian is familiar with the story of the Passion of Jesus Christ. If you are not a Christian, but have seen the movie, Passion of ChristIt’s hard to forget the gruesome parts: his brutal punishment, the arduous path to the cross, and the gruesome crucifixion. Most of the media, from early medieval paintings to modern films, show a bent, fatigued Jesus carrying the wooden cross to Golgatha (the place of the skull) where he was crucified. However, many scholars believe that Christ only carried the cross beam into which his wrists were nailed. Many others are traditionalists who agree that art confirms the “complete” crossover view. Incredibly, the Bible never says that Jesus carried His own cross, except in the Book of John.: Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (called Golgotha in Aramaic) (John 19:17, NIV). All the other gospels include Simon of Cyrene as the reluctant man who helps Jesus on the way to Golgatha. However, I believe that Christ carried the full or partial weight of the cross.
In my opinion, the Shroud of Turin is the famous large cloth that is the true canvas on which the temporarily dead body of Christ lay for three days. It bears the imprint of the body of Jesus. Through careful analysis of the biological and forensic evidence, we can learn about how Jesus suffered.
Jesus was so weakened by the scourging that he could barely carry the cross beam. On the back of the Shroud two large straight diagonal abrasions are marked from the right shoulder blade down to the left. The arms and hands of Jesus were tied to the crossbar. It would have to have been heavy for a person who had not been severely beaten, like Simon of Cyrene, to carry the crossbeam of Jesus. According to Dr. Pierre Barbet, first pioneering author of A doctor at Calvary: the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ described by a surgeon, the cross beam called pitabulum would have weighed about 125 pounds and the large upright pole, the stipes it would have weighed 250 pounds. (Rent 861, Kindle)
To make matters worse, Jesus’ arms and hands were tied to the cross beam. Therefore, he could not have walked half a mile to Golgatha without falling due to navigating barefoot through the rough and uneven terrain. The Shroud reveals evidence that Christ’s nose appears to be broken and his right cheek swollen, injuries consistent with one or more falls while holding the crossbeam for as long as he did. Under microscopic analysis, the Shroud shows dirt and limescale on His face.
When Jesus and Simon arrived at the crucifixion site, the pitabulum and Jesus were placed on the ground. Then the Roman soldiers drove nails into his wrists. Later, they hoisted the whistle and Jesus on a wedge located in the middle of the stipes (stick) that were already buried in the ground. Then they drove a nail through his feet. This type of cross is known as a “T” shaped “tau” cross.
On the other hand, many of today’s Shroud scholars believe that Christ carried the entire cross. According to Andrè Marion & Gerard Lucotte, French authors of the groundbreaking 2006 book, The Shroud of Turin and the Argenteuil RobeJesus carried the entire cross. Using computer models, which analyzed the back of the Shroud, they discovered that there were more than two abrasion marks on the Shroud; there were nine marks of blood corresponding to the robe that Jesus wore (John 19: 23-24). The markings on the tunic indicate a crisscross pattern, created by the pressure of the entire cross, the pitabulum, and the striations, on his back, despite the tunic cushioning bruising.
What about the two diagonal bruise marks on his back? The new computerized data clearly shows more bruises that form a perpendicular cross pattern from his bruised shoulders to where the stipes meet the pitabulum between and below both shoulder blades. Marion’s analysis of the Argenteuil Shroud and Robe suggests that the upper part of the vertical beam was carried on the left shoulder, while the total weight of the horizontal beam fell on the right shoulder. This could have dislocated your shoulder.
But Jesus could not have carried a cross that weighed 350 pounds. However, for Jesus to have carried the entire cross, the stipes (vertical post) and the pitabulum (cross beam), it would have weighed much less. According to legend, in 326 AD, Elena, the mother of Emperor Constantine of Rome, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to find the location of the cross of Christ. Witnesses commented that he not only found the cross of Jesus in an area below Golgatha, but also the crosses of criminals. She could not determine which cross belonged to Jesus, so a terminal woman touched each cross until she placed her hand on the one that miraculously made her illness disappear.
Helena took the relics related to the crucifixion to Rome. In the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem the pitabulum of the good thief is exhibited. Measures 180cm long x 13cm wide x 13cm high. His weight is 20 kg or 45 pounds. The stipes are estimated to measure 250 cm long x 11.5 cm wide x 11.5 cm high. Its weight is 25 kg or 55 pounds. So the total weight of Jesus’ cross would be about 90 pounds. (From an anonymous article, Why did Jesus carry the entire cross and not just the gallows). Interestingly, this evidence supports the fact that the bruise marks were the same size – between 11 and 13 cm long.
Jesus would have had a severe walking disorder, restricted to a 45-pound gallows mounted only on his shoulders with his hands and arms tied to him. By carrying the entire 90-pound cross, he would have had his hands free, while dragging some of his weight behind him. So if Jesus carried a much lighter full cross, it would have been the traditional “Latin” cross, a “t”.
It has also been speculated that Jesus had to carry the entire cross, because the dirty, used stipes, covered in blood and feces were taken out of their holes in the ground and stored. This was probably done because in and around a holy place like Jerusalem, religious law prohibits anyone from touching anything unclean. So, Jesus and the two thieves crucified with him had to carry both stipes and pitabulum. In more secular places around the Roman Empire, disgusting stipes were on the ground waiting for their next victim. So, the tau cross was used traditionally and not the Latin cross, exclusive to Jesus.
The first experts who analyzed the Shroud of Turin believed that the condemned Messiah was only wearing the pitabulum because only two abrasion marks were visible on the upper right of the back and on the lower left of the back. Today, using the latest computer technology, more evidence has emerged that Jesus carried the entire cross by reexamining the Shroud of Turin, the robe of Argenteuil, and the cross of the good thief. The robe that Jesus wore at the crucifixion overlaid the marks of the Shroud. The good thief’s crossbeam measurements indicate that he weighed much less than previously thought, as do the stipes probably. With this evidence, it is more likely that Jesus carried the entire cross, with the help of Simon of Cyrene, to the site of the crucifixion, validating the traditional artistic view of Jesus carrying the entire cross.