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As I understand it, Jesus was sentenced to die "under Pontius Pilate" and was crucified as punishment. It seems to me that Jesus had no choice but to be crucified. After all, if a criminal is sentenced to death by the State today, they are forced to die and don't have a choice. However, I believe Christianity teaches that Jesus chose to die for our sins. So, I am trying to understand:

What are the current, predominant Christian views regarding whether Jesus had to die under Pontius Pilate specifically?

I'm specifically interested in what the beliefs are with regard to his having to die in this particular way, by the hands of the government of Roman Empire. How could he, as man, avoided the death once the sentence was handed down? Couldn't he have chosen to die another, less painful way, to "die for our sins?"

  • I asked a related question (albeit a specifically Catholic one) a while back – Peter Turner Apr 30 at 20:50
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    I think this qualifies as an overview question so answers will have to be much longer than average and cover more than one or two viewpoints and it shouldn't be just a handful of Bible quotes – Peter Turner Apr 30 at 20:53
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    The title question could be improved. As currently stated it could be interpreted as asking whether Jesus could have avoided being killed at all, regardless of method. – Ray Butterworth May 1 at 1:19
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I am mostly familiar with the evangelical perspective, which I think is shared with mainstream Protestant denominations, since they all rely on Bible evidence alone (instead of relying on the writings of the Church Fathers or St. Thomas Aquinas). The Catholic viewpoint may have been answered already (link provided by Peter Turner).

From sermons I heard and books I read about why Jesus had to suffer and die this way, the virtually unanimous reason I keep hearing is to fulfill Old Testament prophecies. (Surprisingly the above Catholic answer didn't touch on OT prophecies at all.) Furthermore, it is very obvious that the Gospel writers themselves refer to those prophecies when writing about the Passion of Jesus, as though they try to find as many of those as possible to give additional proof / authentication that Jesus was really the Messiah promised by God because he died & suffer that way, in addition to non-Passion identifying OT prophecies fulfilled by the life, the saying, and the ministry of Jesus.

The main prophecies about his suffering are in Isa 53, Ps 22, etc.:

  • Isa 53:3 ("like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised")
  • Isa 53:7 (led like a lamb to slaughter, did not open his mouth)
  • Ps 41:9 (betrayal by close friend who shared bread)
  • Zech 11:12 (Judas's 30 pieces of silver)
  • Ps 22:1-2 ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me...")
  • Ps 22:7-8 ("All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him...")
  • Mic 5:1 ("... with a rod they will strike the leader of Israel in the face")
  • Isa 50:6 ("I give my back to those who beat me .... I do not hide from shame, for they mock me and spit in my face")

In addition, the OT verses closest to crucifixion are:

Ps 22:14-16 (NLT): (pierced hands and feet)

My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.

Zec 12:10 (NLT) (pierced)

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.

Ps 22:17-18 (NLT) (stare and gloat, dice for clothing)

I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing

Isa 53:12 (NLT) (exposed himself to death, counted among the rebels i.e. the thiefs on either side, interceded for rebels see Luke 23:40-43)

I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Deut 21:22-23 (NLT) (executed and hung from the tree, cursed, must not remain hanging overnight)

“If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God. In this way, you will prevent the defilement of the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession.

Ps 34:20 (NLT) (bones not broken)

For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

Ex 12:46 (NLT) (Passover lamb's bones should not be broken)

Each Passover lamb must be eaten in one house. Do not carry any of its meat outside, and do not break any of its bones.

By looking at those verses it is obvious that the manner of death Jesus had to undergo had to be crucifixion, if it had to be done during the Roman period. If Jesus were to come today, the nation of Israel / Palestine wouldn't execute someone like that anymore.

For an extensive collection of OT verses that cover most of the above as well as other non-suffering related prophecies see a list of matching OT and NT verses here.

This is an even more extensive list covering all possible types of OT references: prophecies, typologies, shadows, allegories, illusions, also from Reformed / evangelical perspective.

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My answer is based on the fact that I am a Baptist and I hold to a literal, Grammatical, Historical interpretation of the Bible. Although in this case I would think there would be broad agreement among most sects of Christianity.

The first thing is Jesus came in fulfillment of the Old Testament office of the Messiah. There were dozens of Old Testament prophecies that would be fulfilled by the Messiah. They are as simple as the fact that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-6). There are actually quite detailed prophecies that indicate the manner in which the Messiah would die. It was these prophecies that Israel ignored, instead looking at the aspects of the Messiah's reign as the son of David, in hope He would overthrow the Romans. In His first coming He fulfilled the prophecies concerning His death and some additional ones. Then He will reign over His literal kingdom as the Son of David after His second coming (I understand that that aspect would not find agreement here on the Christianity site).

As to His death here are some key starting points from the Scriptures.

First, His death, burial, and resurrection were "according to the Scriptures" or in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

1 Cor. 15:3-4 (KJV)

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

This and other passages indicate that Jesus came to die a specific kind of death in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

An example of something specific is found in John's account of the death of Christ in John 19:28-30.

John 28:28-30 (KJV):

28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

This part of His crucifixion was just prior to His death. Everything had been accomplished, yet there remained one Old Testament prophecy that had not yet been fulfilled. In Psalm 69:21 there was a prophecy that stated that the enemies of the Messiah would give Him "gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." Jesus knew that this had not been fulfilled yet and so He said "I Thirst" knowing the Roman soldiers would give Him gall mixed with vinegar so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.

Psalm 22:16 (KJV)

16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

Psalm 22:16 describes the piercing of His hands and feet, which indicates a death by crucifixion. This is a key point that Jesus knew He would die at the hands of the Romans and not the Jews. Jewish executions were by stoning. It was almost exclusively a Roman practice to employ crucifixion as a means of both torture and death. It didn't have to be by the Romans but in the first century that is how a person would die by having their hands and feet pierced.

Zech 12:10 is a future prophetic message that indicates a day when grace would fall upon the house of David and Jerusalem:

Zech. 12:10 (KJV)

10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

He would crucified with Criminals (Isa. 53:12)

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

His death on the cross also included the mocking by the crowd as predicted in Psalm 22:7-8:

7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

Soldiers would gamble over Garments (Psalm 22:18; Luke 23:34; Matthew 27:35-36).

His bones would not be broken, even though he had been crucified, a common practice by the Romans (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-36).

While not specifically detailing the exact details of a death by crucifixion it comes very close:

Isa. 53 is the last of five songs in the book of Isaiah called the suffering servant songs. In them the Messiah is called God's servant and the theme to all of them is that the servant must suffer. It were these especially that were overlooked by Israel at the time.

Isa. 53:1-3

1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah went on in this most wonderful passage for those who put their trust in Him alone.

Isa 53:4

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Finally the chapter ends with God the Father's assessment of the death of Christ.

Isa. 53:10-12

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

It was the LORD, Jehovah or Yahweh, depending on how you pronounce it who it pleased the LORD in this way. It was the LORD who was satisfied with the death of Christ in this way. Theologically this means that the members of the triune Godhead had planned from before the foundation of the earth that God would take on human flesh (the Son) and that the Father would pour out His wrath upon the Son, then the Son would willingly give up His life as a remedy for sin. The result is the Father would be forever satisfied with the death of Christ as a once for all sacrifice. The theological term for the satisfaction of the Father is called propitiation. He is our propitiation, meaning the for believers this is the way in which God can be satisfied with us, by looking upon His Son.

To be a little more specific, Jesus knew the hour and the manner of His death at the hands of Pilate.

For example in Luke 4 there is the circumstance in which the Jews desired to kill Jesus by throwing Him off a cliff. Jesus had told those in the synagogue that He was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah.

Here is their response and the outcome: Luke 4:28-30

28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. 30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

It was not yet the exact timing of His death and neither was it the manner in which the Old Testament had prophesized His death and so he simply passed through their midst. It might be easy to miss but they driven Him to the edge of the cliff, do you think they would have allowed Him to willingly pass through their midst? It was a miracle because they were filled with wrath.

Matthew 16 provides a very important passage that details His desire to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests of Israel.

Matthew 16:21-23

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

Some key points that come out of this passage: Prior to this point he had don't told the disciples about His death. Notice it says He began to show the disciples. From his point forward He would tell them of what was coming. That means the manner and timing of His death was already known months before it happened. Notice also that at first Peter is shocked and pleads with Jesus for this not to happen. His response indicates Peter knew Jesus was in control and he was asking Jesus to exercise His control by choosing not to die. Yet this would have been a disaster for both Peter and us, as previously noted in Isa. 53 the manner in which He dies was the means that God had planned so that sinners could be forgiven of their sins. If He failed to Die then everyone would still be in their sins. That is why Jesus says that what Peter had suggested could only have come from Satan. It is only Satan who would like to see Jesus in light of something other than what He is, the Messiah who came and died so that sinners might live.

In the garden of Gethsemane the disciples were all asleep on the night he was betrayed.

Matthew 26:48

Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Jesus knew the hour had come when all might be fulfilled even including the fact that Judas had betrayed Him.

The next event is also striking. Jesus wanted to be taken away and through the process of the trials to handed to the Romans.

Peter took a sword and cut off the ear of the high priests servant. Then Jesus said the following:

Matthew 26:

52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? 55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

This indicates the crux of the issue:

  1. Jesus could have called upon His power as the Son of God to called twelve legions of angels to aid him.
  2. If He did that He asked how then could the Scriptures be fulfilled that detailed the manner of His death. That shows He wanted to die in the way it happened because He was always in control of the events. The question imply that Jesus was passive and completely at the mercy of men like Pilate. Pilate was only given the control he had because Jesus had willingly given it to Him. He was anything but passive.
  3. This indicates that even the manner in which He was arrested was in fulfillment of the Scriptures.
  4. Mentioned earlier was the fact that Jesus gave up the ghost. His death was a supernatural death in that He knew all had been fulfilled. While capital punishment involves no choice by the one who dies, in the case of Jesus He always had a choice. That is why the Romans soldiers were shocked when they discovered he had already died in just a few hours on the cross. Death by crucifixion is a slow painful act of torture. It would often take days to die and in a few rare cases people were even allowed to come down off the cross. Yet Jesus dies willingly in a few hours on the cross.
  5. The real agony of the cross is the part that only Jesus experienced. So even if He had died in another way, He still would have been in agony while the Father laid our sins upon Him. It is the aspect in which the Father laid the iniquity of us all on Him. His body was broken for us by the Father so that we might have access to the Father. That's why Jesus had two elements in the Lord's Supper. The bread represents His broken body ad it is the basis of our access to God, and the blood is the means of forgiveness. It takes both to gain access to heaven.
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What are the predominant Christian views on whether Jesus could have avoided crucifixion? Could he have chosen another kind of death?

Answer

1.What are the predominant Christian views on whether Jesus could have avoided crucifixion?

The views that you are looking for if anyone holds that Jesus could have avoided crucifixion is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, therefore it should not be considered as a view coming from Christianity but rather a view coming from other faith but definitely not Christian faith. I don't think any Christian Pastors would identified himself to that kind of view as it is more like a view coming from a Pharisee asking Jesus to come down on the Cross.

  1. Could he have chosen another kind of death?

The biblical answer is NO! The Omnipotent God has to design Jesus mysterious death to drain all of his blood up to the last drop because Jesus having a sinless body cannot suffer nor be subject to death.

"For the the life of the flesh is in the blood." (Leviticus17:11)

Jesus cannot chosen another death other than Crucifixion not just to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy on the death of the coming Messiah that was pierced but most importantly Jesus has to drain His blood up to the last drop.

Can anyone think of a kind of physical death that can remove all on man's blood from his body?And the kind of death that was a voluntary on the part of the victim and the right word is "immolation".

Jesus scourging open up his flesh to pour out his blood, and the Carrying of the Cross put a lot of pressure and stress on the wounds for the blood to come out even more and lastly the Crucifixion enables all his veins to drain all the blood in his flesh and Jesus needed three hours hanging on the Cross to drain his most precious blood. Is this enough? No! Jesus wanted to reveal God's Infinite Mercy by allowing the last drop from His Sacred Heart to flows, without this the Divine Mercy will not be revealed.

So, Jesus "crucifixion" is the Wisdom of God how can Jesus humanity can shed all his most precious blood up to the last drop. Dying of another means will not reveal the Divine Mercy of God.

" O' blood and waqter which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us. I trust in you. "(St.Faustina)

Church and Christian views

The predominant answer for both Catholic and Christian denominations as Vatican II included them as One People of God was summarized in the book of St.Louis De Montfort "Love for Eternal Wisdom"

This is the most important phrase to ponder;

"Wisdom is the Cross and the Cross is Wisdom." (St.Louis De Montfort)

This is certainly true from the very beginning before the creation time begin. The First Act of God is to create the spirit of Created Wisdom in Proverbs8:22.

As it is written in the gospel;Jesus is the Wisdom of God and we cannot separate Jesus from the Cross. The Cross has no meaning without Christ.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written; "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." (1Corinthian 1:18-19)

And St. Paul reminded all the Jews and the Greek even the wise and the scribes:

"For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seeks after wisdom, but we preach Christ Crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews & Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (!Corinthians1:22-24)

For all Catholic faithfuls the Church for 2000 years teaches the "Way of the Cross".

And for all Christian denominations, for those who truly follow the Gospel of Christ it is clearly written as the First Step requirement before embracing the path to Christianity as Jesus uttered the conditional words; "Take up your cross and follow me"

"Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross and follow me."(Matthew16:24)

All Christians since the start of reformation era embraces this call of Jesus and this is the predominant verse that encompasses all Christian views. And Jesus clearly stated this as the first requirement on all the believers who wants to follow the path of Christianity.

In closing, Jesus in no way can avoid Crucifixion when Adam & Eve fall into sin as the wages of sin is death and God had already begotten the Redeemer in eternity as His Wisdom. But, the teaching of the Church Fathers and especially the well known Subtle Doctor of the Church Blessed Duns Scotus teaching on the primacy of Christ, even if Adam and Eve had not committed sin Jesus will still come not as a Redeemer but as King of this world he created according to narration of Fr.Joseph Ianuzzi.

The theology of John Duns Scotus places Christ at the centre of a universe ordered by love. Christ is presented as the basis of all nature, grace and glory – the most perfect model of humanity. He is at the beginning, the centre and the end of the universe. The Primacy of Christ in John Duns Scotus: An Assessment.

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    Can you clarify your basis for this doctrine of exsanguination (i.e., complete removal of blood)? You quote Lev. 17:11, but in the passage's context, this would mean that OT priests would have to exsanguinate the sacrifices, which they did not do. Your quote of St. Faustina shows Christ bled, but not necessarily complete exsanguination. Finally, you rhetorically ask if any other means of execution can achieve exsanguination, but do not provide biblical or historical source documents that show crucifixion did completely exsanguinate the victim's body. – Tim May 1 at 16:10
  • @Tim Exsuagination is a medical term not a biblical term. When you speak the language of the bible in the OT it pertains to typology of Jesus becoming the Passover Lamb and the Jews only eat a lamb that has no blood. And this reflection will lead to Jesus hard teaching in the Gospel on the Holy Eucharist.The key word is immolation but there's one medical mystery here related to Leviticus17:11. Is the heart of Jesus still alive before piercing? In medical terms it is still alive and can be use in heart-transplant. – jong ricafort May 2 at 5:08
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Moses was told by God to raise a serpent upon a cross so that anyone who looked at it would not die from snake bites. That is the earliest prophecy of a cross leading to salvation.

  • Here is how the NET Bible translates the verses you are alluding to: The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and set it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so that if a snake had bitten someone, when he looked at the bronze snake he lived (Numbers 21:8-9). – rhetorician May 8 at 0:25
  • While both Jesus and the serpent were lifted up, the latter was lifted up on a pole, whereas Jesus was lifted up on a Roman gibbet, and he prophesied as much in his conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:14). Just as the serpent attracted, so to speak, the sin of the Israelites if they would only look at the serpent, in like manner, Jesus's death on a cross (whether shaped like a T or like a crucifix is of no consequence) has exhibited a drawing power such that when anyone by faith comes to the foot of the cross, they can exchange their sin for Jesus's righteousness by believing he died for them. – rhetorician May 8 at 0:25
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    This OT reference (Numbers 21:4-9) is an important typology pointing to Jesus's crucifixion, frequently cited by Evangelicals. It's included in the possibly exhaustive list of all typologies and prophecies related to Jesus I referenced in my answer. – GratefulDisciple May 8 at 17:56

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