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Title: Perceptions of crucifixion among Jews and Christians in the Ancient World
Author: Chapman, D. W.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis explores the variety of perceptions of crucifixion among Jews and Christians in antiquity, especially focusing on the period from Alexander the Great until Constantine. Earlier studies of crucifixion in antiquity have either concentrated on the Graeco-Roman world more broadly, or have limited themselves to discussing the thorny issue of whether certain Jews in the ancient world favoured the penalty of crucifixion. This study, in contrast, examines Jewish literature more broadly in order to demonstrate the range of general perceptions about crucifixion as a penalty. Early Christian literature is then shown to reflect awareness of, and interaction with, these Jewish perceptions. Knowledge of crucifixion in ancient Jewish communities is frequently reflected, for example, in the writings of the Qumran community, Philo, Josephus, and in early rabbinic literature. These passages are examined, as well as important references from apocryphal and pseudepigraphal literature. Special attention is also paid in this thesis to ancient Jewish interpretations of key Old Testament texts which mention human bodily suspension in association with execution; this concern has led to analyses of Septuagintal and targumic renderings, of other expansions of biblical texts, and of specific halakhic and haggadic treatments. The perceptions attested in this diverse material are then compared with the New Testament and early patristic literature. Pervious studies have rightly demonstrated how pervasive in antiquity was the view of the cross as a terrible and shameful death. This thesis provides further evidence that such views were taken in ancient Jewish communities. In addition, an attempt is made to complement this view by indicating that more positive perceptions could also be attached to crucifixion insofar as the death could be associated with the innocent sufferer or martyr as well as with latent sacrificial images. Christian literature, committed to proclaiming a crucified Messiah, betrays awareness of all these various perceptions by seeking to reject or transform negative stereotypes, or by embracing some of these more positive associations. Thus early Christian literature on the cross exhibits, to a greater degree than is commonly recognized, a reflection upon the various Jewish perceptions of the cross in antiquity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available