ISRAELI archaeologists recently discovered the remains of a victim of the ancient punishment of crucifixion in a hillside cave near Jerusalem. The skeleton found included the nail-pierced heel bones of a young man executed about 2,000 years ago. Some immediately speculated — could the skeleton be that of Jesus Christ? What is the evidence? Said Dr. Avraham Biran, director of the Israeli Department of Antiquities and Museums, "The statistical odds against it are overwhelming." But there is more proof than mere statistical odds. The ossuary (bone container) preserving the skeleton bore an inscription that read: "Jehohannan Ben...." The last part of the inscription is unclear, but, said Dr. Biran in a lecture given at Ambassador College recently, it would appear to be something like "Haskol" or "Ezekiel" (but not the prophet, of course).
"Ben," in Hebrew, means "son of." Thus the inscription identified the skeleton as that of Jehohannan, the son of Ezekiel, or someone with a name approximating that. Jehohannan's bones had badly deteriorated over the centuries. However, Israeli scientists theorize he was a young man of about 24-28 years, with a slightly misshapen head possibly due to fetal malnutrition in his mother's womb or a difficulty in delivery at birth. Vasilius Tzaferis, Israeli archaeologist, who was one of the excavators of the burial site, says Jehohannan was most likely crucified around 7 A. D. when the Jews rebelled at a Roman census. Jehohannan was apparently crucified in a position somewhat different from the traditional concept. His legs were twisted to one side and bent at the knees, with a single large iron spike about 7 inches long driven through his two calcaneal (heel) bones. However, the spike struck a knot in the wood of the stake and bent. It became tightly stuck in the wood and the executioners were unable to remove it afterwards. They took an axe and chopped the feet off above the ankles. Jehohannan's relatives or friends then placed his amputated feet in the 3 x 2 x 2 foot limestone ossuary along with the rest of his body, and that of a small child. The scientists who made the discovery all agree there is no chance at all the bones could be those of Christ. Why is it impossible that the body could have been that of Christ? Here are ten separate Biblical and logical proofs: • Christ did not remain in His tomb. His early followers, by the hundreds, bore eyewitness that He arose from the dead! (See Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-9; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-17). The disciples did not find His body in the tomb — it was MISSING! • Christ was about 33 years of age when crucified — not about 24-28. (He was about 30 when He began His three and one-half year ministry — Luke 3:23) • Jehohannan's bones were severed when his feet were amputated, but not a bone of Christ's was broken (John 19:31-37). • The young Jehohannan was given the traditional blow in which both his legs were broken to hasten his death; but the soldiers did not do so to Christ. Instead, His side was pierced and He died by the loss of all His blood! (John 19:31-37; Isaiah 53:12) See the article Did Christ Die of a BROKEN HEART? • Jehohannan's features were those of a delicate Hellenistic youth who apparently never performed much hard labor; however, Christ worked hard as a carpenter and mason until He was about 30 years of age (Matt. 13:55; Luke 3:23; Mark 6:3). During His ministry, He walked throughout the land of Judea, preaching the Gospel. He slept out-of-doors much of the time. No doubt, therefore, Christ was a rugged, strong, masculine, muscular man — not at all "delicate" or "feminine" in appearance! • The skeleton of Jehohannan revealed a slightly, left palate and a slight deformation of the skull, possibly due to malnutrition in his mother's womb. But Christ was the picture of health, with no physical blemishes or defects. He was the fulfillment of the type of the sacrificial Passover lamb which was without blemish (Ex. 12:5). There is no evidence in the Scriptures that Christ suffered from any physical defects. His parents obeyed the health laws God established and their children were robust and healthy as a result (Matt. 1:19; Luke 1:26-38; 2:39-40). • Christ never was called by the name Jehohannan, or anything similar. His Hebrew name was Joshua (sometimes spelled Jehoshua) which translated is Jesus, meaning "Savior" (Luke 2:21; Hebrews 4:8, plus margin). • The body of Jesus was buried in a rich man's tomb hewn out in a rock near Golgotha, with a great circular stone door (Matt. 27:57-60). However, the bones of Jehohannan were found more than a mile north of Jerusalem's Damascus Gate in a small limestone bone box. • Christ was buried alone. But archaeologists found the bones of a 3 or 4-year-old child with Jehohannan's bones. • The body of Jesus was wrapped in a linen cloth and placed in the tomb; it was not put into a limestone ossuary (Matt. 27:59; John 20:5-7). All the evidence carefully considered, both Biblical and archaeological, it is clear that the body of Jehohannan is simply that of a young malefactor who was crucified in the first century A.D. During those times, crucifixion was a common punishment for criminals. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., 500 Jews were crucified on the outskirts of the city every day as a warning to the Jews. He wrote, "So the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies" (see Wars of the Jews, Book V, chapter XI, paragraph 1). Death by the torture of crucifixion was not uncommon in those cruel days. Jehohannan, like many others, lost his life in this horrible fashion. But his body is not that of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, who ROSE from the dead and is ALIVE at God's right hand today! (Heb. 7:24-25; Rev. 3:21)