“Based a True Incident”: Death by Crucifying

I often try to imagine articles for children written decades ago being published in today’s Friend — what were they thinking? is my most frequent response. Here is one such article that leaves me shaking my head, both for the techniques it graphically describes and for the anti-sectarian barb at the end. From the Juvenile Instructor, 1 January 1866 –

Death by Crucifying

Death by crucifixion, represented here, was very, terrible to suffer. It was a very ancient kind of punishment, and was usually inflicted upon great criminals. The cross was a gibbet formed of two pieces of wood, placed across each other, either in the shape of the letter X or in the form of this illustration, and is supposed to have been suggested by the shape which the branches of trees often take, as hanging on a tree was a manner of putting people to death, who had committed crimes, which was used even a longer time ago. When the persons who were being put to death were fastened on the cross, which was usually done by driving nails through their feet and hands, they were in some places left to lie on the ground till they died, and stakes, or sticks sharpened at the ends, were driven through their bodies; in other places the cross was raised up and the bottom end driven violently into a hole made in the earth, which often dislocated, or drove out of their places, the joints of the persons nailed to it. This form of punishment was in use among many ancient nations. The Romans crucified only their slaves who were guilty of crimes, citizens who were guilty of crimes considered worthy of death having the privilege of dying by some other means, death by the cross being thought too degrading.

Hence it is said that Paul, one of the Saints of former days, had the privilege of being beheaded, or having his head cut off, which was a speedy kind of death compared with that of the cross, and not near so painful; while Peter, the President. of the Twelve Apostles chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ before He suffered death himself, was crucified; Paul was a Roman citizen, although a Jew, but Peter was not a Roman citizen. The only crime which these ancient Saints was guilty of was their keeping the commandments of God, and for this they were put to death, with many others, by the wicked, just as some of the Latter-day Saints have been killed for keeping the commandments which God has given them.

The Savior suffered this terrible and shameful death, being crucified between two thieves. And a great many who call themselves Christians, or followers of Christ, pay a great deal of reverence to the cross, more, indeed, to the symbol or sign of the manner in which Christ died than to doing what He told them to do.

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MLA: Parshall, Ardis E. "“Based a True Incident”: Death by Crucifying." Keepapitchin.org, 26 Jan 2018, https://keepapitchinin.org/2018/01/26/based-a-true-incident-death-by-crucifying/.

APA: Parshall, A. (2018, Jan 26). “Based a True Incident”: Death by Crucifying. Keepapitchinin.org. https://keepapitchinin.org/2018/01/26/based-a-true-incident-death-by-crucifying/

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5 thoughts on ““Based a True Incident”: Death by Crucifying”

  1. Yeah, I can’t imagine this in the Friend either. I didn’t realize the anti-sectarian barbs about the Cross were this old.

  2. I think the jury is still out on how “painful” beheading is and how long the brain may still be cognizant which I can only imagine is the worst kind of horror.

    As to the gruesomeness of the article, yes, probably not appropriate for children. Still, it was the middle of the 19th Century and children then were much more familiar with blood, gore, and death than modern children are.

  3. There was a similar article in an INSTRUCTOR Magazine somewhere in the 1960’s which got used extensively in my ward’s classrooms. It was way more graphic than this article in its description of Roman crucifixion. While I agree that this article is more graphic than most would want their children to hear, as Grant pointed out, when this article was published children were more familiar with blood and core. And as a parent, I ask: is it any more graphic than movies many allow their children to watch on the television? Including movies about Christ’s death and resurrection? I’m just asking the question.

  4. 1860s in Utah, kids were probably pretty familiar with the butchering of animals. Still, I shudder to think of this being taught to primary age children. Doesn’t mean that they still couldn’t be traumatized. My own mother, raised on an Idaho farm during the depression, was a great disappointment to her parents when she passed out trying to clean out a newly slaughtered chicken. Nice touch that they defined dislocating joints in greater detail. They appear to have known their audience.

    I also shudder at the grammar, but editing print publications probably wasn’t as easy then as it is now.

  5. Whether or not the audience was familiar in general with death, this piece still feels to me far more gruesome than it need be, even for that era — ostensibly, the article is justified by its helping children understand Christ’s crucifixion … but then why present details that were not part of that? the variation of leaving the victim on the ground, then driving stakes through the body? beheading? dislocation?

    (This is not a case of my expressing outrage — let me forestall that from a voice I expect to accuse me of it any minute now — it’s merely another example of how “then” was different from “now.”)

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