Did Jesus need to die on a cross or were there alternative endings? Would being stabbed with a sword or if he died during the beatings have been good enough?

Specifically, are there prophecies held by various denominations that require the Jesus' method of execution specifically to be crucifixion, or was it simply enough that Jesus die in some fashion?

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    Necessary to fulfill justice or necessary to fulfill prophecy? And what about something like Jesus' statement that like Moses' bronze serpent he must be lifted up? If another mode of death had been the plan, Jesus would not have made that statement but it is less clear that the events of Num. 21:4-9 would have had to be different (though it seems likely). If the plan had been different (if that was possible), then the prophecies and foreshadowings would have been different. One could also consider necessary for maximum impact (how much he sacrificed visibly). May 2 '13 at 22:13
  • This is a duplicate of this St. Thomas Aquinas on salvation by a drop of Christ's Blood May 3 '13 at 4:25
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    I disagree on the VTC. That question is asking, "Did Jesus have to die?" This question is asking, "Did it have to be on a cross?" May 3 '13 at 12:16

No Direct Theological Significance

Theologically speaking, crucifixion had no theological significance in itself. Jesus had to die for sins, and God, in His omniscience, foresaw the manner in which this would happen. Then He inspired prophets to predict that kind of death centuries before it happened.

However, it did, perhaps, have some symbolism.

The Tree of Life

In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees--the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and sin entered into the world.

We don't know what happened to the tree of life, though. Presumably, if they had eaten of it, they would have lived forever in their separation from God.

Four thousand years later, though, another tree is introduced--the Cross of Christ. Jesus takes our curse by being "hung on a tree". In essence, then, the Cross is the new Tree of Life. Anyone who receives what hung on that tree receives life.

Interestingly enough, if you take fruit from a tree and remove the seeds, then you bury the seeds, then new life comes. Jesus was taken down from Calvary's tree, buried, and then came forth with new life.


So, crucifixion was not theologically necessary per se. However, it does fulfill prophecies that God gave us, knowing how Jesus would die. It also seems to be symbolic.

  • Phil. 2:8 ("even death on a cross") hints that the tortuous and shameful nature of the death was significant. Likewise in Julian of Norwich's Shewings there is a statement along the lines of 'even if it were not necessary, I would have suffered as much as possible (because of love)', pointing to the extravagance of the Divine love. May 3 '13 at 15:37
  • The statement in Shewings was in Chapter 12: "if I myht suffre more, I wold suffre more" (see that chapter for further context). May 3 '13 at 15:57
  • Psalm 22, "pierced my hands and feet," "heard me from the horns of the unicorns" interpreted by Justin Martyr circa 150 AD as a sign of the cross (intersecting horns of unicorns). May 18 '14 at 5:06

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