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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Why Was Jesus Crucified Rather than Stoned to Death?

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Don Stewart

At the time of Jesus, those who committed crimes worthy of capital punishment were stoned to death. Crucifixion was not the Jewish form of execution. Why then did the religious leaders take Jesus to Pilate in order to have Him crucified? Crucifixion was the Roman form of punishment. Why didn't they stone Him like they eventually did with the martyr Stephen?

There Is A Curse Associated With Crucifixion

One of the reasons may have been the curse associated with crucifixion. The Old Testament speaks of those being cursed who hang upon a tree.

When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang them on a tree, their corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury them that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not defile the land that the LORD your God is giving you for possession (Deuteronomy 21:22,23).

By having Jesus crucified, the religious leaders may have thought that this would end any talk about Him being the Messiah - since the Messiah certainly would not have been cursed.

Only The Lowest Members Of Society Were Crucified

Another reason may have been the way the Romans used crucifixion. A Roman citizen was never crucified- they were put to death by the quick method of beheading. Only slaves, political rebels, and the lowest criminals were put to death by crucifixion. The cross was a symbol of shame for the Romans. The Roman writer Cicero wrote.

Even the word 'cross' must remain far, not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts their eyes their ears.

His Suffering Was Not Overemphasized By His Disciples

The New Testament writers did not emphasize the physical suffering of Jesus upon the cross. The suffering that Jesus went through was more than physical agony - His death paid the penalty for the world's sins. Therefore the symbol of the cross does not have so much to do with the physical suffering of Jesus. It represents the "good news" that salvation has been obtained for those who come to God in faith.


Jesus was put to death by the terrible method of crucifixion. Although we are not told why the religious leaders did not organize a group of people to stone Him, it is likely due to the curse associated with crucifixion. Crucifixion was reserved for the slaves, political rebels and the worst criminals. The New Testament writers spoke of Jesus' death, it was not to emphasize the horrible suffering that He endured on our behalf. Rather it was to proclaim the victory that Jesus won in paying the penalty for sin.

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