Artifacts & Biblical History

How Big was Noah’s Ark

by Steve Ray on April 21, 2017

It was a big boat at a time when big boats did not exist. It was a feat of genius ingenuity. You can read the instructions for building in Genesis 6:14-22.

We are also told that the ark is a picture of the Church and salvation. In the ark Noah passed through the waters which is a type of baptism.

St. Peter writes, “God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now” (1 Pet 3:20–21).

Jesus says we are born again by water and Spirit which fulfills the prefiguration of Noah and saves us (John 3:3-5).

With all those animals in the ark I wonder who was in charge of cleaning up the mess. I grew up on a small farm and it was my job to use the pitch fork to scoop up the nasty straw and spread it on the garden every day.

The sons of Noah must of had a monumental task every morning and the smell must have been nauseating.

But sometimes it is worth wading through nasty stuff – I mean piles of poop to get to heaven. We too live in a world full of sin, suffering and abuse, but we persevere and the reward is salvation (Matt 24:13).

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Do the Gospels Conflict?
How Long was Jesus on the Cross?

(See also Was Jesus Crucified Naked? and How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb?)

The question intrigued me sufficiently enough that I spent the best part of a day working on it. On the surface there seems to be a contradiction in the Gospels, mentioning different times for the crucifixion.

Maybe the Apostles forgot to check their watches!

Mark says Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour and John tells us the crucifixion took place after the 6th hour. So, what are we to make of this seeming contradiction? And how long was he actually hanging on the cross?

TRAV Crucifix

For the whole story, click here.

By the way, isn’t this a COOL picture? I took it several years ago at the Cross in the Woods Shrine in Indian River Michigan. It is the largest crucifix in the world and right across the street from my wife’s mom’s summer home.

STAY TUNED TOMORROW FOR “HOW LONG WAS JESUS IN THE TOMB?”

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked? (Updated 4/13/17)

by Steve Ray on April 12, 2017

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 him 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. Soldiers by law were given the right to confiscate the clothing of the convicted felon. They took Jesus’ presumably like they did all the others. There is NO indication that he retained covering, rather the soldiers divided them – outer and under clothes. The Scriptures tell us this.

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

“[Bishop St.] Melito, the second century AD bishop of Sardis, wrote in his sermon on the passion of Christ: ‘The Sovereign has been made unrecognizable by his naked body, and is not even allowed a garment to keep him from view.’  Because people of his day had witnessed crucifixions, Melito knew that the victims were executed without clothing” (Lexham Bible Dictionary).

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)

Rembrandt’s self-portrait in Dutch painters beret. HE raised Christ on the cross and we did too!

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.

  1. A related interesting article: Nudus Nudum Christum Sequi: On Christ’s Genitalia
  2. Naked Crucifix attributed to Michelangelo in Florence from 1492

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When Is the Word “Love” First Used in the Bible?

April 6, 2017

When is the first time the word love is used in the Bible? It is great fun to ask a million questions when you open the Bible. Good questions serve to unlock the treasure chest revealing untold riches. Since the Bible is a book and books are made of words, it is great fun to […]

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Forty Frozen Martyrs – we honor them today March 10

March 9, 2017

In my talk Swimming Upstream I usually tell the story of 40 Roman soldiers who chose to freeze naked on a frozen lake in 320 AD rather than deny Jesus Christ. St. Basil, Doctor of the Church, told of the heroic martyrdom of 40 soldiers in a homily. They had been executed fifty years before […]

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Power of the Olive Wood, Holy Land Rosaries

March 3, 2017

On each of our trips we offer olive wood Rosaries to our groups. These are made by Sisters in Bethlehem. We touch them to all the holy sites, especially all the Rosary sites. They are all blessed in Jerusalem before the pilgrims head back home. A Mother Superior wrote to me about her experience in […]

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Discovering Egypt’s St Macarius Monastery and Bones of John the Baptist and Elisha

February 27, 2017

Today we went into the deserts of Egypt to find the monastery of St. Macarius which was built in 365 A.D. It still has 160 monks. We celebrated the Divine Liturgy with the monks and we accomplished what we intended to do with the bones/tombs of John the Baptist and Elijah’s the Prophet. During our […]

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Discovering Egypt’s St. Macarius Monastery and Bones of Elisha and John the Baptist

February 27, 2017

Today we went into the deserts of Egypt to find the monastery of St. Macarius which was built in 365 A.D. It still has 160 monks. We celebrated the Divine Liturgy with the monks and we accomplished what we intended to do with the bones/tombs of John the Baptist and Elijah’s the Prophet. During our […]

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Live from the Deserts of Egypt 3 Radio Shows Today

February 27, 2017

Today I will be giving a live update from the deserts of Egypt as we discover the tomb of Saint John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet. Sun Rise Morning Show 6:35 AM Eastern Relevant Radio 9:15 AM Teresa Tomeo 9:40 AM

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Risking Our Lives to Discover the Birthplace and Tomb of the Prophet Elisha

February 25, 2017

Today my wife and I traveled through the Palestinian West Bank discovering the birthplace and the tomb of the Prophet Elisha. (Picture: Electric fence border of Israel. Hilltop marks birthplace of Elisha the prophet) We are scouting and preparing for our next Footprints of God DVD on Elijah-Elisha. Hope you enjoy the video of our […]

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Putting our Lives at Risk :-) to Discover Birthplace & Tomb of Elisha

February 25, 2017

 Today my wife and I traveled through the Palestinian West Bank discovering the birthplace and the tomb of the Prophet Elisha. We are scouting and preparing for our next Footprints of God DVD on Elijah-Elisha. Hope you enjoy the video of our adventures today. Do you remember the story in 2 Kings 13:21 where a […]

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Feast of Chair of St. Peter: “Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

February 22, 2017

St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will […]

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Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta

February 10, 2017

I am doing a show with Teresa Tomeo today because February 10 is the Feast Day of the Shipwreck of St. Paul on Malta. So I am reposting this blog from our recent trip to Malta. One of my favorite things is to discover the events and places of the Bible and to share them […]

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“Council of Jamnia” and Old Testament Book Collection

February 4, 2017

The Old Testament Canon and the “Council of Jamnia” Many popular myths are believed simply because people want to believe them—not because they are true. Wishful thinking is a poor substitute for truth. It is always preferable for one to dig deep and discover the facts and not just believe things because one wants them […]

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Free St. Paul Timeline in Honor of Feast of Paul’s Conversion Today

January 25, 2017

Here is a copy of a Timeline I made of St. Paul’s life and writings. Enjoy! Please print and share. Also get a copy of my DVD Paul, Contending for the Faith below filmed in 6 countries. Full study guide included.

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Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

January 8, 2017

With upon us, I thought I would post my article this Christmas season with bits of interesting information and details about Christmas, the Gospels and Epiphany. Join us in Bethlehem for Christmas this year from December 26-January 4 or any of six times in 2015. Visit www.SteveGoes.com. Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?  A […]

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