Monday, July 13, 2009

Stripes and Rods

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods..
2 Corinthians 11:24-25a

Paul's extensive description of all he suffered for the Gospel's sake is sobering. Here is a bit more information regarding just two of the things he endured. One was a Jewish method of punishment and the other was a specialty of the Romans.

"To explain this singular custom of inflicting "forty stripes save one" a few words from Moses may be quoted. "And it shall be, if the wicked man (brought to the judges for trial) be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed; lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother shall seem vile unto thee" (Deut. 25:2,3). On this subject, as on most others, the Jews refined, and affected great concern. And lest they should accidently inflict more than forty stripes, they resolved to stop short at thirty-nine. And to insure exactitude both ways they invented a scourge of thirteen thongs, and with this instrument the culprit was struck three times. By this ingenious method the law's demands were met, and the prisoner was secured against excessive punishment. This fully explains the nature and details of Paul's punishment.

Beating with rods
was a Roman punishment, inflicted by the civil authorities. It was usually executed by the lictors, who were in constant attendance on the principal magistrates, going before them as they went. The insignia of their office, as well as the dignity of the magistrate on whom they attended, consisted of a number of elm rods, bound with a thong into a bundle, which they carried on their shoulder. An axe was bound up in the bundle, and its head jutted forth from it. Within the city of Rome , however, the axe was omitted, out of respect to the Roman people. The bundle, in fact, comprised the apparatus of the lictor as executioner of the magistrates' sentence. The thong served him to bind the criminal, with the rods he inflicted beatings, and (in capital punishment cases) with the axe he beheaded."