More Hope and Controversy Over Crucifixion Nails Linked to Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is probably the central event in the Christian religion. Some researchers now believe that they may have found the crucifixion nails that were used in the death of Jesus because of traces of wood and bone found on them and because of where they were found. This could support the Bible’s description of the crucifixion, but the discovery is highly controversial.
In 1990, archaeologists discovered a cave tomb near Jerusalem in Israel. It contained a number of ossuaries or limestone boxes that stored the bones of Jewish inhabitants of the Holy City, Jerusalem. The cave became known as Caiaphas Cave, because this name was etched on one of the ossuaries. This was an astonishing discovery and the rare crucifixion nails were found in this ancient cave related to the death of Jesus.
Nails used in crucifixions. Nail 1 is bent 65 degrees Nail 2 about 75 degrees at the broken tapered end. Slivers of (light colored) bone are attached to the Aba nail and the Yehohanan Heel Bone nail. The white carapace on the Caiaphas nails is calcite (CaCO 3 ) flowstone. All the nails contain some adhered or perforated remains of bone tissue. (Aryeh Shimron/ CC BY 4.0)
Crucifixion Nails Found In The Tomb Of Caiaphas
Caiaphas was the High Priest in Jerusalem whom the “Gospels say played a key role in sending Jesus to his death,” reports Haaretz. The Bible describes him as seeking the death of the Christian Messiah whom he viewed as a threat to the Jewish religious establishment. He was the high priest of the Temple for 18 years and was a very powerful figure. Most scholars now accept that the cave tomb is the final resting place of the high priest Caiaphas.
Ossuary of the high priest, Joseph Caiaphas, found in Jerusalem in 1990 in the same cave where the crucifixion nails were found. (deror_avi / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Some nails were found in the Caiaphas cave tomb near an ossuary on the floor. The fact that these nails were found in the tomb of Caiaphas led some experts to suggest that these were the Jesus crucifixion nails. However, other experts believe that the spikes found on the floor were used to scratch names and inscriptions on the ossuary boxes.
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The Caiaphas Crucifixion Nails Were Lost And Then Found Again
At some point after the crucifixion nails were found they were lost. The Daily Mail reports that the documentary maker “Simcha Jacobovici would claim to have found the nails, even claiming that they were used to crucify Jesus himself in the 2011 documentary, Nails Of The Cross.” Most scholars at the time strongly disagreed with Simcha’s claims. However, a new study carried out at the Tel Aviv University Anthropology Lab has suggested that the nails were possibly used to crucify someone.
One of the crucifixion nails found in the tomb. (Aryeh Shimron / CC BY 4.0)
According to the Daily Mail the study’s lead author Dr Aryeh Shimron stated that “caves have distinct physical and chemical signatures.” Basically, over the centuries caves develop chemical and physical properties that are unique to each location. The researchers carried out a wide range of tests in the Caiaphas Cave. Shimron is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that “Our analysis clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that these materials are chemically and physically identical to those which have, over centuries, also become attached to the nails.” The metal spikes were a near-perfect match for the properties of the Caiaphas Cave.
The calcaneus of Yehohanon ben Hagkol, with transfixed nail, previously the only confirmed evidence of crucifixion. ( Israel Museum / Ilan Shtulman)
Crucifixion Nails With Traces Of Wood And Bone
Also found with the nails were some fragments of wood. The study’s author is quoted by The Sun as saying that “It is well preserved and entirely petrified… the wood is therefore ancient and not a chance or man-made fake attachment to the nails.” Also found on the nails was evidence of microscopic bone fragments. The nails shape meant that they could have been used to nail a man’s hand to a wooden beam.
Dr Shimron, a retired geologist who worked for many years with Israel's Geological Survey, stated that “I believe that the scientific evidence that the nails were used to crucify somebody is indeed powerful,” according to The Sun. Some believe that the nails could have been used to crucify Jesus.
The metal spikes that were used in the crucifixion of Jesus would have been considered holy and have miraculous healing powers. According to Jacobovici’s documentary “the nails may have been kept by a remorseful Caiaphas,” reports The Sun. This means Caiaphas may have been buried with them. People were often interred with objects believed to be holy. Haaretz claims that the tests on the metal spikes “revives claims linking them to Caphias [Caiaphas].” However, many experts reject that they came from the tomb of Caiaphas including the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Crucifixion Nails Controversy Continues
The discovery of the nails, after they had been lost at some unknow location, means that someone sent them to a scientific lab to be authenticated. One former IAA official, Joe Zias, told Haaretz that “Evidently, during their transfer, the note regarding their provenance was misplaced.” This led some people to make up a story that they were found in the tomb of Caiaphas. Dr Shimron is quoted by The Sun as saying that “the only evidence we have that they were used to crucify the Jesus of the Gospels is that they were found in the tomb of Caiaphas.” He refused to speculate if they were used in the death of the Christian Messiah.
Many Christians are interested in finding physical evidence of the life and death of Christ. Anything possibly connected with the death of Jesus could, therefore, be hugely significant. However, even if these crucifixion nails were not the ones used to hang Jesus on the cross, the spikes could tell scholars more about how people were crucified in the ancient world. It is significant to note that only one undisputed set of remains of a crucified person have ever been found.
Top image: The crucifixion of Jesus is probably the central event in Christianity and the crucifixion nails found in the Caiaphas Cave may have been the ones used to nail Jesus to the cross. Source: Romolo Tavani / Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan