Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Study Bible Media

There is an exciting new Study Bible gracing the Internet: the online study edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.[1] Regardless of your religious paradigm or persuasion, whether you are Muslim, Mormon, Trinitarian, or something else, this is really good news. For instance, it features study notes that “provide cultural, geographic, and linguistic insight into many Bible verses.” Additionally, it has a Media section that has photos and artwork, along with silent videos and animations that “illustrate various details recorded in the Bible.”[2] One such silent video is from a drone flight showing Bethphage, the Mount of Olives, and Jerusalem.

Significantly, it also showcases what it calls the “Nail in a Heel Bone.” In part, the explanation for this artifact explains why this is significant: “It provides archaeological evidence that nails were likely used in executions to fasten the person to a wooden stake. This nail may be similar to the nails employed by the Roman soldiers to fasten Jesus Christ to the stake. The artifact was found in a stone box, called an ossuary, into which the dried bones of a deceased person were placed after the flesh had decomposed. This indicates that someone executed on a stake could be given a burial.” (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; 24:39; John 19:18)[3]

Let me elaborate. The discovery of this artifact is absolutely amazing—it’s one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th Century, after the Dead Sea Scrolls. Additionally, there are remains of a wooden washer under the nail head, showing that the executioners went to great pains to secure the victim with nails. However, just looking at this heel bone may be confusing. Therefore, a restoration may be helpful:

Here, the heel bone is mirrored from the first image, and the rest of the foot bones are added along with the wooden washer. Thus, it can be more clearly seen now that this victim’s feet were nailed at the sides of the stake and not on top of each other through the metatarsals.

Now, while it’s possible that this nail was pounded directly into the vertical stake, as typically shown in restorations of this nailing, I suppose it is also possible that, in the spirit of wanting to preserve the stake from repeated nailing, that the heel was nailed to the end of a replaceable footrest attached to the stake. Such a location would also position the legs better for delivering the coup de grâce with the iron club, setting up a shear plane facilitating breaking the lower leg bones. The initial report explaining this discovery displayed another heel bone, not found in that ossuary but an actual one for comparison, with a nail hole through it for the purposes of illustration, which was not shattered.[4] This all shows that the Roman executioners knew how to nail a heel bone without breaking it: This would solidly secure the victim and would also reduce blood-loss. This proves that they were experienced, efficient, and equally brutal.

Considering this naturally invokes the question: Could Jesus’ feet have been nailed in this manner? The only scripture weighing in on this is Psalm 34:20 that John identified as a messianic prophecy, that “not a bone of his will be broken.” (John 19:36) However, considering that the heel bone was pierced, and not broken, may allow for this type of nailing to be permissible in Jesus’ case.

Be sure to also read about the “Sahidic Coptic Translation of John 1:1,” by navigating to John 1 and scrolling down on the right-hand side under the gem to its Media section, to see how its final clause may be translated as “the Word was a god.” This would be consistent with Biblical monotheism which is monolatrism. Displayed and discussed there is the Chester Beatty 813.

[1] This can be accessed by navigating to the Bible from and

[2] As announced in the December 2017 Our Christian Life and Ministry—Meeting Workbook, “New Feature of the Midweek Meeting.”

[3] The Greek word typically translated as “crucified” (or loquaciously in the RNWT as “nailed him to the stake”) is σταυρόω (stow-ro’-o), which by itself does not necessarily imply nailing, but merely fastening the condemned by some means to the σταυρός (stauros), and could include ropes only. (BDAG, σταυρόω no. 1) Thus, the importance of this “Nail in a Heel Bone” artifact is emphasized due to it specifying nails, as specifically mentioned in Jesus’ case at Luke 24:39 (where nails are implied in Jesus’ “see my hands and my feet” directive) and at John 20:25 where Thomas said “nails” in accordance with eyewitness observation.

[4] N. Haas. Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv'at ha-Mivtar. Israel Exploration Journal. Vol. 20, No. 1/2 (1970), Plate 21A p. 63.

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