“Crucifixion was a common form of execution employed by the Romans to punish members of the lower class, slaves, soldiers, the violently rebellious, and those accused of treason. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus reports that during the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Roman soldiers felt such hatred toward the Jews that they crucified a multitude of them in various postures. Crucifixion was a very torturous death. In the first century B.C., Cicero calls it the most horrendous torture. So hideous was the act of crucifixion upon a man that he also writes that ‘the very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes and his ears.’ Tacitus in the second century refers to it as ‘the extreme penalty.’

That Jesus was executed by crucifixion is recorded in all four gospels. However, a number of non-Christian sources of the period report the event as well. Josephus writes, ‘When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified…’ Tacitus reports, ‘Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.’

Lucian of Samosata, the Greek satirist, writes, ‘The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.’ Mara Bar-Serapion, writing to his son from prison comments, ‘Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them?’ Although Mara does not mention crucifixion as the mode of Jesus’ execution, he does say that he was killed. The Talmud reports that ‘on the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged.’ Yeshu is Joshua in Hebrew. The equivalent in Greek is Iesous or Jesus. Being hung on a tree was used to describe crucifixion in antiquity. Clearly, Jesus’ death by crucifixion is a historical fact supported by considerable evidence.” – Excerpt from The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Drs. Gary Habermas and Michael Licona