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Why We Say That Jesus Received Thirty-Nine Stripes





 
We have all heard it said that Jesus received 39 stripes. I sometimes say it too but there is actually no biblical reference that specifically records this. When we say that Jesus received 39 stripes, we do so only by inference.

In 2 Corinthians 11:24 the Apostle Paul says, "Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one." Of course, mathematically, that amounts to 39 but why not just say that rather than "forty lashes less one"?

When Paul mentioned forty less one, he was alluding to the Jewish law that limits the maximum lashes imposed as a penalty to forty stripes only. This is commanded in Deuteronomy 25:1-3 - "If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight."

The Jews were very legalistic and since there is a commandment that 40 was the maximum that any man could receive, they were always very careful not to exceed this punishment. The sentencing judge or a witness would count the strikes as they fell; and in case someone made a mistake they stopped at 39 so as to never risk breaking the Lord's commandment. This is why Paul said "forty lashes less one" or thirty-nine and we often infer this number to the lashes that Jesus received.

In Paul's case, we know he was scourged at least five times by his own admission. Historians agree that Paul was most likely lashed by the Jews themselves and not Roman soldiers. For Paul, it would most certainly have been 39 lashes.

For Jesus however, we know he was not scourged by Jews but by Roman soldiers (Matthew 26:27, Mark 15:15). At this time historically, the Roman flagellum or scourge would have been used. According to records, the Roman scourge has three leather ropes attached to a wood handle. Each length of rope would measure about three feet and on each length there would be a number of bone pieces attached at intervals of every three inches. The bone was reputedly cut from lamb pelvis. Shaped as cubes, they had a hole drilled through it for the leather lash to run through. The pieces of bone were secured in position with knots and they would chip and crack as someone was whipped. This gave them sharp edges and they would cut deeply. Skin would definitely be broken and flesh torn out. In place of bone, metal may also be used.

History also records that metal hooks were sometimes added to the ends of each leather lash. These hooks were designed to dig into and gouge-out flesh. This kind of scourge was called the "scorpion". While there is no specific reference regarding the type of scourge used on Jesus, we can reasonably conclude that the Roman scourge was used since the lashings were administered by the Romans. In all likelihood, with the extent of opposition and hatred that Jesus faced, He most likely endured the scorpion.

The Roman scourge was at its time regarded as one of the most painful punishments a man could receive. Heavy bleeding would result and unless the strikes were limited, a man would die from blood loss and physical trauma. Jesus would have been disfigured when He received His stripes. The spot where He was beaten would have been slick with His blood. By the time He carried the cross, His body would have been so badly cut that even bone would have been exposed through His minced flesh.

Some church historians postulate that Jesus received 13 strikes with the Roman scourge. Because the Roman scourge has three ropes, the count of each strike would be a triple-lash, or in other words, one strike equals three stripes. They reason that the maximum number of times that a Jew may be struck with a Roman scourge is only 13 because 13 x 3 = 39 and it could not have been more because an additional lash would mean 42, exceeding the limit of the commandment. Perhaps this would be the case if the Romans honoured Jewish laws and did observe the maximum count. However, historians have not conclude this with certainty. It could well be that Jesus received more than that. The number of stripes Jesus received would only have been limited by the Roman soldier's judgement of the maximum He could endure short of death. Unless the strikes were limited, Jesus would have died from it. However, because scourging always preceded crucifixion, they would limit the beating to keep Him alive - but just barely and only enough so as to suffer the crucifixion itself.

Frankly, I don't know whether Jesus' flogging was limited to 39 stripes but I do know that whatever the number He endured; it was more painful than anything I can ever imagine. I know that what He bore for us was more than enough to cover every one of our past, present and even future sins. He bore it all, everything, and He has redeemed us from every curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). I know that by those stripes, we are healed (1 Peter 2:24). It is complete. It is done. Accomplished... and I can never thank Him enough...

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Susan Cope+(@lilysvalley)

 


Jamie Degonia(@girlforgod)

  By His stripes we are healed... Your knowledge is profound, yet, it is still so hard to read and listen of the agony he endured for the likes of me. Thank you for reminding me of His suffering and through His blood I am whole.


Elizabeth Fox(@whobelieve)

  Whenever I think of it... How terrible! How awful! There is nothing worse on this earth than what Christ endured. My savior. I think it is likely that Jesus had more than 39... Wasn't crucifixion itself a disgrace? Why not heap on the shame by also getting more than 40 lashes? My Jesus, my savior... Who am I that you would suffer so for me?


Caddie Hart(@laminin)

  That was hard for me to read But very informative. Thank you!


T Sia+(@doulos)

  When I think about what Christ endured I experience many emotions. There's definitely the sorrow and pain in my heart that my Saviour had to go through such suffering. There's the unfathomable gratitude that He did and an ever deepening love for Him. I'm overwhelmed that the Son of God, the Word of Creation Himself would do that for me. I'm incredibly touched by His love. I'm indignant towards the blind religiousness that punished Him and angered by the cruelty and humiliation focused against Him.

Then I am amazed that while suffering the worst injustice, He could still love, forgive and pray for those who so severely wronged Him. Imagining Jesus in pain, inches from death, I am just staggered that He had the presence of mind to ensure that His earthly mother would be looked after by the disciple He most loved. His love and care for those around Him was so thorough that His concern for their wellbeing never diminished. And even as He hung on the cross himself, He still welcomed one more soul into Heaven. His ministry to save the lost was not forgotten despite the moments when His own need for comfort and relief would have been most acute.

From the Stripes to the Cross, not one step was easy. Every act was an indescribably profound demonstration of God's love for us. I wrote about the stripes because I am reminded of it during this season. We say "by His stripes I am healed" - and those are not light words when we appreciate just how terrible each of those stripes were. Through the magnitude of suffering by those lashes, the promise of healing is purchased... By our Saviour's suffering, we are saved, healed and delivered.

Thank you all for your comments and blessings to you also...


Melany Vos(@melvos)

  Thank you for the insight. This was extremely informative and insightful. Everytime I read about what Jesus went through when he was persecuted, its not just a man that was persecuted. He becomes my saviour, through the pain he endured for us. Thanks again.


T Sia+(@doulos)

  Thanks for your comment Melvos and PK, your confirmation about Paul taking Jewish lashings is much appreciated. I wasn't very sure about that point but your reference to Acts 22:25-29 does indeed show that Paul, being a Roman citizen, could not have been scourged by the Romans without due legal process. Thank you for that insight.


K Reynolds+(@kreynolds)

  I can only think of these words:
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Psalm 53:5 (KJV)


Rejected, abandoned, beaten, broken and humiliated for all the world to see...and He didn't have to do it. He chose to do it...for us.

K :princess:


Joanna Lee(@jnissi)

  Indeed by His stripes, we are healed- it is DONE and FINISHED... so now I guess it for us to receive this truth... to know that because of His sufferings and because He has paid the cost {His body broken and His blood shed }-we can now call upon His name and be set free and healed... I am forever grateful... and thank you Lord...


Richard Trimble(@richardwayfarer)

  Just curious... has anyone ever noted that the word in 1 Peter 2:24 for 'stripes or wounds' is actually singular rather than plural?


Yuriy Maksimuk(@maksimillian)

  Excellent post. I personally don't think I've ever heard the "39 stripes" expression but like you said, it was more painful than we can imagine.


Valarie Quick(@secondrider)

  Excellent blog, doulos! It is a hard one to read, no matter how many times. In our daily walk, we tend to forget that He has suffered all that we have. Love, family, rejection, sorrow, being alone, exhaustion, laughter, weddings, funerals. All of it. He is the One who has "been there, done that". That doesn't seem the right terminology, but you get the point. But, joy comes in the morning. He did it for love. shalom! secondrider



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