The crucifix is the defining symbol of Christianity, a constant reminder to the faithful of the sacrifice and suffering endured by Jesus Christ for humanity. But an extensive study of ancient texts by a Swedish pastor and academic has revealed that Jesus may not have died on a cross, but instead been put to death on another gruesome execution device.
Well, this Pastor, Gunnar Samuelsson, has his doubts. He's taken three or so years of his life, studied as many texts as he could get his hands on, from about 800BC to the end of the second century AD and he has his suspicions that Jesus died in some other cruel way.
"If you search for ancient texts that specifically mention the act of crucifixion [as we understand it today]" he says, "you will end up with only two or three examples."
Not of course that it makes any difference to anyone how this supposed god-man died -
(I'm sure someone named Jesus, who was a great philosopher/teacher of his times, or even someone named Jesus who tried to start a new sect of the religion he was brought up under, did actually die - but so what? That is not proof that he actually was a 'son of god', it's simply proof that he was careless and got himself killed for his troubles.)
- at least not to me or I'm sure my fellow atheists, but it has apparently caused a bit of an uproar in theistic circles. Unsurprisingly, really.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Samuelsson's thesis has caused something of an unheavenly row. While fellow theologians have complimented his highly detailed research, many critics in the blogosphere have claimed that he wants to undermine Christianity.While I find this article an interesting read, I find it neither adds nor subtracts anything from the issue as a whole. Discussing how, where or when a man named Jesus died is - at least to me - patently ridiculous if the central issue of whether or not that man actually was the 'Son of God' has yet to be proven.
Basically, what's the point? There is no evidence that this Jesus was anything other than an ordinary man, and there is no evidence that what is described in the Bible is anything more than pretty stories (and horrific stories) and an awful lot of badly written prose.
Until they get their fingers out and actually come up with some real evidence to prove their deity actually exists, I see little point in talking about the minutea of the religion.