The author said it: the message at the very heart of his faith was folly, not worth the paper it was written on, at least to some; but to others it was the very essence of genius, the high bar of wisdom and the core of true spirituality. Indeed, to demonstrate the profound contrasts in the way the crucifixion of Christ was perceived the writer explained plainly, “Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24, NIV).
But why these polar opposite reactions; why was the crucifixion of Christ viewed by some as nonsense but by others as profound wisdom? Further, to the modern reader who is far removed from the crucifixion of Christ, doesn’t the whole business often seem to be, honestly, quite irrelevant in any case? Yet, there was indeed much ado about something for those who experienced the event firsthand; and for those today with a curious mind, the search to know why it had such an impact and why it brought such varying reactions can lead to some interesting insight into this epoch-making death—a death that still touches us to this very day. Accordingly, let us take a look at the history and practice of the act of crucifixion itself with the hope of gaining some insight into this violent death of Jesus.