In a comprehensive and detailed survey on its remarkably widespread employment in the Roman empire, Dr. Hengel examines the way in which “the most vile death of the cross” was regarded in the Greek-speaking world and particularly in Roman-occupied Palestine.
His conclusions bring out more starkly than ever the offensiveness of the Christian message: Jesus not only died an unspeakably cruel death, he underwent the most contemptible abasement that could be imagined. So repugnant was the gruesome reality, that a natural tendency prevails to blunt, remove, or domesticate its scandalous impact. Yet any discussion of a “theology of the cross” must be preceded by adequate comprehension of both the nature and extent of this scandal.
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The book is rewarding both for the extensive amount of historical information about crucifixion which is provided and for an appreciation of the stigma which would have been attached to this punishment.
—Religious Studies Review
The author’s formidable survey of the classical literature gives new eloquence to Origen’s description of crucifixion as mors turpissima (more vile death), or to Paul’s preaching of the ‘scandal of the Cross.’
—The Bible Today
This valuable book deserves a wide circulation. It is worth reading and rereading. Its implications within the theological framework and message of the New Testament need to be most carefully thought through and meditated on.
One can probably find more about crucifixion in this book than anywhere else. . . . Teachers and ministers will not want to deal with the crucifixion of Christ again without first reading Hengel.
Martin Hengel is an emeritus professor of New Testament and early Judaism at the University of Tübingen, Germany. Among his many important books are Judaism and Hellenism, Between Jesus and Paul, The Atonement, and Property and Riches in the Early Church.