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Why was Christ Crucified but the Apostle Paul Beheaded?

Updated on December 6, 2008


Why was Christ Crucified but The Apostle Paul Beheaded?



Crucifixion while not invented by the Romans, they perfected Crucifixion so it inflicted maximum pain. It was the cruelest method of killing a person known. Most of the time, the person to be crucified was beaten before crucified; this was to make the dying faster since blood had to flow before the beating stopped. The beating usually took place at a distance from the place of crucifixion, and then the guilty one was required to carry the cross beam to the place of crucifixion on his shoulders. The vertical pole of the cross was anywhere from seven to nine feet tall. It was against Roman law for the Jews to order any form of capital punishment and it had to be both ordered by and the sentence carried out by the Romans.


Why the nails?


Spikes would be a more accurate term, not nails. The spikes could be up to 5-7 inches long. It's very controversial as to the placement of the nails, and even why they were used. Since it is not possible for the hands to support the weight of the body if spikes were driven into the hands, it was usually in the wrist. This is not contrary to Scripture. In the time of Christ, the wrist was considered part of the hand. Ropes were used to tie the person being crucified in securing them to the cross and not nails. The nails, (or spikes) were used to inflict the maximum of pain, even hasten the death of the person being crucified. If the nails were place correctly, they would interfere with the working of the nerve in the hands and arms, so that anytime the person being crucified moved the hands or arms, an excruciating pain would shoot up the arms.


Why break the legs?

 Once the legs were broken, the crucified person would no longer be able to inhale, and suffocate to death. In one way, it was an act of mercy since death would soon follow. Christ did not have His legs broken since He was already dead.

 There are at least four types of crosses. In most pictures, and in some jewelry design what is called the Latin cross is used. The crossbeam was about 2/3 the way up the vertical pole. It would look like the small letter, "t". Christ was probably crucified on this type of cross. St. Anthony's cross is the second type. It may have gotten its name from the famous church by that name. This cross had the crossbeam at the top of the vertical pole, and looked like the capital, "T". St. Andrew's cross has the shape of a capital "X". It's possible this cross was named after St. Andrew. He may have been crucified on this type of cross. The Greek cross is the fourth type. Both beams are of the same length, an it looks like a "+" sign.

 Why was Christ crucified but the Apostle Paul beheaded?

 Bottom line - Paul was a Roman citizen and the Roman's didn't crucify citizens. He may have gotten his citizenship as a result of a special service performed by his parents or grandparent. (This meant he was born into citizenship, and he didn't have to earn citizenship. Read in the book of Acts, chapter 22, verses 25-28.) Being a citizen of Rome carried certain privilege of which one of the privileges was no crucifixion, but beheading. Crucifixion was for criminals and others who weren't citizens of Rome. Beheading was considered an honorable way to die. It was certainly less painful and quicker than crucifixion.  There have been cases where to condemned person ,or family member, would pay the executioner to ensure a quick seperation of the head from the body, causing instant death, rather than "chopping" off the head, which may cause a slow and painful death.


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    • profile image

      S. Phillip 

      6 years ago

      Let us not forget that Jesus was Jewish and some say a Rabbi. He was persecuted not only by the Romans but the Jewish high priests as well. The word Rabbi means teacher and that's what Jesus did. He had a very different and less political view of G-d. His ideals threatened the status quo, so the Jewish priests turned on him and the Romans didn't like the upheaval and therefore, he was put to death as a criminal. I am a Jew and don't believe Jesus was the "savior" of man. However, his teachings were exceptional and I respect him as a great teacher. For his courage he was killed on the cross. Thank you Prof. Barriss for your explanation of crucifiction.

    • profile image

      V. Nehru 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for the information regarding crucifixion. Now i understand more clearly now why my saviour Jesus Christ died on the cross? i.e., to suffer such an agony on behalf me for my sins. I thank my Lord and saviour for redeeming me from eternal fire.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank You for the information, I am a servant needing to know the truth and those that served to their end in faith, I thank God for all those with the love in Jesus to continue His message in reaching the lost

    • drpastorcarlotta profile image

      Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 

      10 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

      When reading this Hub, I am reminded how much Jesus suffered and died for us!! Thus Hub is GREAT and informational! Thank you my fan and God Bless YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Very interesting and informative hub Ray P. Burris. Getting into the details, like you have, makes it easier to understand why certain things had to happen the way it did, especially why the Apostle Paul was beheaded and not crucified. Thank you for sharing this with us.


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