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The Passion of Jesus Christ in the Psalms

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him, John 19:1.

What is meant by scourging? Traditionalists point to Roman records wherein scourging is depicted as an utterly debilitating flogging with a cat o nine tails. In this scenario Roman soldiers would integrate pieces of bone and glass into their whips and attempt to flay the flesh off of their hapless victims who were tied with their hands extended over their heads. Yet when we search the New Testament for some type of confirmation of this, we come up short.

We know from the scriptures that after the scourging, Jesus Christ was still able to carry his cross at least part of the way to Calvary. Just how do we know that he suffered a life threatening scourging? After all, scourging was the punishment for a woman who laid with a man to whom she was not married, but whom the law found not as guilty as a normal adulteress because she was not free. And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free, Leviticus 19:20.

Are we to believe that God wanted this woman's skin flayed off of her back until her very guts were in danger of falling out? The English word scourge merely means to be flogged. How do we know that Jesus Christ received such a severe flogging?

If you have a brain in your head, you know by now that I am making up a crisis. It doesn't upset anybody's theology to believe that Jesus Christ received such a life threatening and debilitating whipping. Therefore they don't mince words when they hear tales of Roman scourging or try to explain it away with the Greek, but if they did, we have a source in the Psalms and in the law that would verify it.

The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows, Psalms 129:3. Does anyone remember a time when a psalmist had his back plowed up like a field in the spring? Of course not, when we apply Peter's rule to the psalm, we learn something about Jesus Christ. Since as Peter reasoned in Acts 2, if a psalm cannot be ascribed to its author, and that psalm is speaking in the first person, it is speaking about Christ. Jesus Christ had his back furrowed with a Roman scourge.

That is in keeping with the law. Among the many sacrifices that depicted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and which you can be sure he fulfilled, is the peace offering. And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat thereof, and the whole rump, it shall he take off hard by the backbone; and the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, Leviticus 3:9. In fulfilling that sacrifice, and in fulfilling Psalm 129:3, Jesus Christ endured a Roman scourging probably more terrible than any that we have heard preached.

A diligent Roman soldier sought to kill the victim before he ever reached the cross by so ripping the skin and fat off of his bones that the very organs themselves would hang out. I don't need Roman history to know this, the psalmist and the law told me. If that interfered with somebody's theology it wouldn't give me pause. What we will see in our next post is how the psalms depict the suffering of Jesus Christ after the cross.

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