Eaten By Wild Animals

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Conspiracy Theories, History Related
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Christianity all revolves around a critical facet of the New Testament; the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. If Jesus never resurrected from the dead that Christianity is pointless for the most part. His conquering of death is the climax of His divine life. Though there are many conspiracies regarding whether Jesus died or not, there is one in particular regarding His burial that stands out. This is the conspiracy that Jesus’ body was eaten by dogs or other wild animals. And therefore there was no resurrection because there was no body left to resurrect.

Before proceeding, it should first be put to rest the debate on whether Jesus was actually crucified. The vast majority of scholars (secular and non-secular) agree Jesus was crucified. The writers of the gospels wrote an incredibly detailed and accurate account of it. It was also the most shameful way to die, which leads one conclude the stories were not concocted, as why would followers write of their Messiah dying in the most humiliating and shameful way? Unless it was true. Also non-Christian Roman historian Tactitus recorded Jesus’ crucifixion. So rest assured it can be logically established that Jesus was crucified. But what happened to Jesus’ body after it was crucified.

J.D. Crossan writes, “The norm was to let the crucified rot on the cross or be cast aside for carrion.”[1] Crossan believes Jesus most likely incurred the same fate of being left on the cross, his body then eaten by wild animals. Crossan’s conclusion is reached from evidence from the historical event from AD70 when Emperor Titus captured and crucified 2,000 Jewish rebels leaving their bodies to rot on the crosses from which they hung. There are numerous occasions when mass executions were recorded in Rome with bodies left to rot. Many Roman writers mentioned crucifixion in their literature, “The Vulture hurries, from dead cattle to dead dogs to crosses.”[2] Lastly Crossan points out that of the tens of thousands of crucified people killed for centuries, only one bone has been found of a crucified person. This, he claims, is testimony that the crucified had their bodies consumed by wild animals.

“In the ancient mind, the supreme honor of crucifixion was to lose public mourning, to forfeit proper burial, to lie separate from one’s ancestors forever… In normal circumstances the soldiers guarding the body until death and thereafter it was left for carrion crow, scavenger, dog, or other wild beast to finish the brutal job. That non-burial consummated the authority’s dreadful warning to any observer and every passerby.” John Dominic Crossan, Jesus Seminar.[3]

Jewish Law:

Sure, in most areas of theRoman Empirecrucified bodies were left for the wild animals. But Jesus was crucified inJudea, a Jewish country. AndJudeawas governed by Jewish Law, particularly Deut. 21:22-23; “If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance (NIV),” and Ezekiel 39:14-16, “People will be continually employed in cleansing the land. They will spread out across the land and, along with others, they will bury any bodies that are lying on the ground. After the seven months they will carry out a more detailed search. As they go through the land, anyone who sees a human bone will leave a marker beside it until the gravediggers bury it in theValleyofHamon Gog, near a town called Hamonah.And so they will cleanse the land (NIV).”

The Temple Scroll from Qumran from before the time of Christ also testifies to this, “You shall not allow bodies to remain on a tree overnight most assuredly, you shall bury them, even on the very day of their death,”[4]  The Jewish Book of Tobit written between the OT and the NT says that burying an abandoned corpse is an act of supreme piety.[5]

Rabbis of the time also recorded that even the death of criminals deserved proper burial.[6] Then take into consideration that Jesus died on the eve of a significant Jewish holiday, Passover. If there is one time you don’t break Jewish law, it’s a major holiday like Passover. That’s plenty of motivation to bury Jesus’ body, which is exactly the gospels say happened. Now you might be thinking, so what? Roman Law supersedes Jewish Law, so it doesn’t matter what the Jewish Law were.

Roman Law:

True it didn’t matter what the Jewish Laws were during periods of war. Like the Jewish revolt in AD 70, when the Romans crucified thousands of Jews and left their bodies to rot on crosses. But we’re talking about Jesus’ crucifixion forty years earlier. Jesus wasn’t crucified during a time of war, but in fact during a relatively peaceful time inJerusalem.

During times of peace, Romans respected the laws of the nations they controlled, in this case the Jewish law. Jewish-Roman historian Josephus wrote the following, “The Romans do not require… their subjects to violate national laws.”[7] Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria wrote the following of Jewish practices, “I’ve known cases when, on the eve of a holiday of this sort, people who have been crucified were taken down, their bodies handed over to the families, because it was considered good to give them burial and allow their ordinary rites. It was appropriate that the dead also should have the advantage of kindness upon the emperor’s birthday and also that the sanctity of the festival should be maintained.”[8]

Josephus records an event where Herod Antipas gave the body of John the Baptist back to his disciples after John was beheaded.[9] It is very probable Pontius Pilate gave the body of Jesus back to His family based off what was common place at that time, even though Roman law didn’t command it. It would have been in Pilate’s best interest to keep the peace anyways before such a big Jewish festival took place.

Even the Roman Law itself allowed leeway for this. Pandectae summarized Roman legal code for crucifixion as follows; “The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives; and [Caesar] Augustus the Divine, in the tenth book of his Vita, said that this rule had been observed. At present the bodies of those who have been punished are only buried when this has been requested and permission granted; and sometimes it is not permitted, especially when the persons have been committed of high treason… The body of persons have been punished should be given to whoever requests them for the purpose of burial.”[10]

So then why is their so much recorded history of people being left on the cross and their bodies left to rot and be picked apart by wild animals? Because being crucified was the ultimate form of humiliation, torture and death, reserved only for the worst criminals. It was the most shame one could endure. So if a family member was crucified it would be a shame to the family to take the body down. Many people sent to the cross were disowned by their families. Then take into consideration that theRoman empirecovered vast regions of the earth were there were no Jewish inhabitants with such strict burial laws and it becomes clear why there are so many accounts of bodies being left to rot on the cross. But when taking into consideration Roman and Jewish law and the circumstances of Jesus’ death on the eve of Passover, there is no reason to assume Jesus’ body was left to rot.

What about their being only one bone of a crucified person found? This claim comes from the fact that there has only been one bone discovered in which a crucifixion nail was still imbedded in the bone. But there could be dozens of reasons why only one has been found in such a fashion: Not all crucifixions involved nails penetrating actual bone. If a body was taken off a cross the nails would be removed and why would someone bury the crucified body along with the nails? Just because we haven’t found any more bones with nails in them doesn’t mean they’re not out there. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And just because nails were not found among the skeletal remains of a body does not mean there was no crucifixion. In other words, it’s quite a stretch to draw such a conclusion that only one bone found with a nail means that all crucified bodies were eaten by wild animals.

In conclusion, if one understands Jewish and Roman Law and crucifixion practices at that time, it becomes pretty clear that there is no basis to speculate Jesus’ body was left to rot, eaten by wild animals.


[1] J.D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, (Harper One 1995) Pg. 127

[2] Juvenal, Satires 14:77-78

[3] As quoted in Crossan and Reed’s, Excavating Jesus; Beneath the Stones, Behind the Text, (Harper Collins 2002) pg.290-291; J.D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, (Harper One 1995) Pg.153.

[4]11QT64:11-13, 4Q524l 11QT48:10-14

[5] Book of Tobit 1:18-20, 2:3-8, 4:3-4,14:10-13

[6] Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:4-6

[7] Josephus, Contra Apionem, 2:6

[8] Philo of Alexandria, In Flaccus, 10.81-85

[9] Josephus, Antiquities Judaica, 18:5

[10] Corpus Iuris Civilis, Pandectae 48.24.1-3

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