In 2022, Lent started on Ash Wednesday, March 2, and terminates with the celebration of Easter, April 17. During this time, there will be a great deal of talk about Jesus, a cross, and his crucifixion.
The Holy Week story is filled with lots of myths but little reality. The first time one sees a crucifixion story is in the Gospel of Mark, which was written some forty years after the actual event. This narrative is not a historical history but a religious history.
Let’s look at some of the myths.
First, almost everything that happened to Jesus during Holy Week can be found in Old Testament prophesies (such as in Isa. 53, for starters).
Myth 1: Jesus died for our sins as part of the divine plan.
If God planned on having his Son tortured and killed, that makes God a child abuser who masterminded the murder of his Son’s crucifixion. I think this not a divine plan but rather a Jewish high priest plan to get rid of Jesus.
A clergy friend once pointed out, “Jesus was not executed because he said, ‘Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow’ (Matt. 6:28) but because he said, ‘Woe to you, O scribes and Pharisees’ (Matt. 23:1).”
Myth 2: The cross on which Jesus died was shaped like a small t.
No one has any idea what that stake looked like. It could have been a single stake (an I) or a capital T or a tree with branches in the form of a t. However, they all would have caused tremendous suffering.
Myth 3: Jesus was attached to the stake with just nails.
In reality, cords were most likely used to make sure the nails didn’t rip through the hands and cause the body to fall to the ground.
Myth 4: Jesus and Simon of Cyrene (who supposedly volunteered, according to a centurion) dragged the cross or a cross beam to the crucifixion site.
Bear in mind that no reporters were there to witness this, especially at daybreak. Roman soldiers would have never allowed spectators so near crucifixions. And no one knows why Simon was named specifically.
Myth 5: The cross has been a symbol for Christianity since the beginning of the church.
The primary theme for the first two hundred years of early Christianity was on gaining entrance to paradise, not on Jesus dying for our sins. The cross symbol didn’t enter the picture until the fourth century.
Myth 6, the biggest myth: Jesus is all about the cross.
In reality, the cross is a symbol of violence, hatred, spite, and vengeance—all negatives. My Jesus is about agape, a love that is unconditional, constantly forgives, accepts everyone, and cares for “the least of these”—all positives and not a myth.
Good Friday and Easter are metaphors about loving transformations, not violence.
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash
4 thoughts on “The Myths Surrounding Holy Week”
Nicely stated. Simple, direct, to the point. Your willingness to challenge traditional teaching of retributive violence is refreshing. Perhaps you could reflect sometime on that equally complex, multi-layered, and often misunderstood concept of Myth. It too needs some help.
This is very well stated and accurate to all the new Testament scholarship that I have been exposed to. I’m with you on the central message of Jesus. Agape Love, Inclusiveness, Compassion, and Justice.