Accounts of crucifixions are recorded among ancient civilizations, most likely originating with the Persians and then spreading to the Assyrians, Scythians, Carthaginians, Germans, Celts and Britons. Crucifixion was primarily reserved for traitors, captive armies, slaves and the worst of criminals. Over the course of history, different types and shapes of crosses existed for different forms of crucifixion.
Execution by crucifixion became common under the rule of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). Later, during the Roman Empire, only violent offenders, those guilty of high treason, despised enemies, deserters, slaves and foreigners were crucified.
The Roman form of crucifixion was not employed in the Old Testament by the Jewish people, as they saw crucifixion as one of the most horrible, cursed forms of death (Deuteronomy 21:23). The only exception was reported by the historian Josephus when the Jewish high priest Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.) ordered the crucifixion of 800 enemy Pharisees.
In New Testament Bible times, the Romans used this tortuous method of execution as a means of exerting authority and control over the population. Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, died on a Roman cross as recorded in Matthew 27: 32-56, Mark 15:21-38, Luke 23:26-49, and John 19:16-37.
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