The Swedish scholar Gunnar Samelsson argues that the New Testament is in fact far more ambiguous about the exact method of the Messiah's execution than many Christians are aware.
When the Gospels refer to the death of Jesus, they just say that he was
forced to carry a "stauros" out to Calvary," he told AOL News. Many
scholars have interpreted that ancient Greek noun as meaning "cross,"
and the verb derived from it, "anastauroun," as implying crucifixion.
But during his three-and-a-half-year study of texts from around 800 BC
to the end of the first century AD, Samuelsson realized the words had
more than one defined meaning.
"'Stauros' is actually used to describe a lot of different poles and execution devices," he says. "So the device described in the Gospels could have been a cross, but it could also have been a spiked pole, or a tree trunk, or something entirely different." In turn, "anastauroun" was used to signify everything from the act of "raising hands to suspending a musical instrument."
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