Book Notice: The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus

Mohr Siebeck has just announced David W. Chapman and Eckhard Schnabel’s new monograph The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus. Before getting to Chapman and Schnabel’s book, a quick word on the research picture of crucifixion today.

Before Martin Hengel wrote “Mors turpissima crucis” (“shameful death of the cross”) and Heinz-Wolfgang Kuhn wrote “Die Kreuzstrafe während der frühen Kaiserzeit,” modern scholarship hadn’t addressed crucifixion extensively. Since Hengel and Kuhn, several scholars have written and published their doctoral theses on the crucifixion. David W. Chapman’s thesis Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion was published in 2008 and, as the title explains, gives a survey of Jewish attitudes towards crucifixion rather than focusing on a Greco-Roman context.  In 2010, Gunar Samuelsson successfully defended and published his thesis Crucifixion in Antiquity, which literally argues semantics. Samuelsson argues that the pre-ancient Christian word for ‘crucifixion’ or ‘cross’ means essentially ‘suspended,’ and that a ‘cross’ may have been simply a pole (|) rather than a ‘cross’ (+, T). His thesis grabbed the scholarly world’s attention (with some calling for a change in all lexica) selling out all copies of his original thesis. His thesis has seen two revision publications in the WUNT series.  Finally, John Granger Cook’s thesis Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World takes a ‘holistic’ approach. As Kevin Brown notes, “Cook investigates the evidence of crucifixion by examining Latin texts and inscriptions together with the archaeological evidence… and then once he has shed light on the meaning of Latin crucifixion terms (e.g. patibulumand crux), Cook turns towards the Greek texts and their crucifixion terminology.”

Schnabel and Chapman’s book is a little different. From the publisher:

“The purpose of this comprehensive sourcebook by David W. Chapman and Eckhard J. Schnabel is to publish the extra-biblical primary texts that have been cited as relevant for understanding Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The texts in the first part deal with Jesus’ trial and interrogation before the Sanhedrin, and the texts in the second part concern Jesus’ trial before Pilate. The texts in part three represent crucifixion as a method of execution in antiquity. For each document the authors provide the original text (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, etc.), a translation, and commentary. The commentary describes the literary context and the purpose of each document in context before details are clarified, along with observations on the contribution of these texts to understanding Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.”

First, it isn’t focused specifically on any one of the previous topics mentioned, but on all of them. It is a translation and commentary on ancient texts related to Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Second, the commentary on these texts will also bring everyone into the modern research picture simply from its footnotes and bibliography. Third, a modern exploration of Jesus’ trials is long overdue.

Schnabel’s portion of book explores the Jewish and Roman trials of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. He explores the legality of the trials, both in a Jewish and Roman context. Chapman focuses on the crucifixion itself, continuing his doctoral thesis in light of Samuelsson and Cook’s research. See the table of contents here.

Put this one on your library’s radar or start saving up now. A 900 page book published by Mohr Siebeck certainly will not be cheap.

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