Cultural Dictionary

Crucifixion definition

The death of Jesus on the cross. After he had been betrayed by Judas Iscariot and arrested, Jesus was condemned by his fellow Jews as a false Messiah and turned over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to be crucified. Pilate found no reason to condemn Jesus; he tried to convince the people that it was absurd to regard Jesus as “King of the Jews” and offered to release him. But when the people insisted that Jesus be put to death, Pilate washed his hands to indicate that Jesus' fate was no longer his responsibility and turned Jesus over to be crucified. Roman soldiers then placed a crown of thorns on the head of Jesus and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” He was made to carry a wooden cross up the hill of Calvary near Jerusalem, where he was nailed to the cross and was placed between two thieves, who were also crucified. Shortly before his death, he said, “ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” After his death, the followers of Jesus placed his body in a tomb.

Note: Jesus had told his disciples that he would sacrifice his life so that believers' sins might be forgiven. Christians believe that his death on the cross and his Resurrection three days later make salvation possible.
Note: Having a “cross to bear” means any painful responsibility that is forced upon one.
Note: To “wash one's hands of it” means to refuse to take responsibility for an action or event.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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