Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Locations of Jesus' Crucifixion, His Tomb, and the Route of the Via Dolorosa (Biblical Archaeology)

Is this the "pavement" where Pilate condemned Jesus?

['pre-trip" / archaeological portion of a chapter from my book, Footsteps that Echo Forever: My Holy Land Adventure of Archaeological and Spiritual Discovery]

This is a fascinating topic, that has a lot more to do with deductive speculation, historical accounts, sacred tradition, and reckoning of historical geography and architecture than archaeology per se. But the overlap is obvious. Catholics and other Christians who are interested in the historical grounding of the Christian faith will, by nature, be curious about the facts of the matter: what we know with high certainty, and what is speculation to a more or less degree. 
As I have done in other chapters, my aim is to present readers with a survey of what is believed to be known about these two sites. First, we shall examine the evidences for the location of Golgotha (“Place of the Skull”), or Calvary (Calvariæ Locus: the same name in Latin): the holy place of Christ's crucifixion: where He redeemed the human race (those who accept by grace His free gift of mercy) from sin and opened the way for us to be saved and to go to heaven.

I'd like to first look (as a sort of counter-point) at a densely-argued treatment in favor of the site of the crucifixion in a spot other than where Catholic and Orthodox tradition hold it to be (within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre). Joan Taylor contended for this in her article, “Golgotha: A Reconsideration of the Evidence for the Sites of Jesus' Crucifixion and Burial.”1

She sites as her historical evidence (besides some semi-vague New Testament evidence), Melito of Sardis’ work, Peri Pascha (c. 160):

Melito writes poetically of the crucifixion taking place epi meses plateias kai en mesô poleôs . . ., “in the middle of a plateia and in the ‘middle of a city.’” Elsewhere, he describes the murder of Jesus “in the middle of Jerusalem”. . . . What is clear is that a site in the middle of the city of Jerusalem was pointed out to him as the place where Jesus died. This would tally perfectly with the fact that the quarry was outside first century Jerusalem, but inside the city from the middle of the second century onwards. 
. . . this places the site of the crucifixion in the middle of a main street, the Decumanus.
. . . In common usage, plateia generally means “wide street” (usually colonnaded) . . . and would apply to either the Cardo Maximus or the Decumanus, which met the Cardo at a “T” intersection.

. . . While it is impossible on the basis of Melito’s remarks to say precisely which plateia is being referred to, what we can deduce is that his words would fit with our identification of the site of Jesus’ crucifixion on the basis of the New Testament, if Melito’s plateia is, in fact, the Decumanus.

She then points to what she sees as corroborating evidence:

More importantly, perhaps, is the evidence found in Eusebius’ Onomasticon,written late in the 3rd century or early in the fourth, some time before Constantine built his basilica on the site of the (destroyed) Temple of Venus. In his notes of various Biblical places he could still find in Palestine, Eusebius wrote of Golgotha: “Place of a Skull,” where the Christ was crucified, which is indeed pointed out in Aelia right beside (pros) the northern parts (tois boreiois) of Mount Zion.

By means of various arguments, far too complex to summarize presently, she deduces that this is consistent with Melito's observation, and concludes at length:

For those who are interested in the precise location of the proposed site of the crucifixion in today’s Old City, the spot marked with an “x” is a little to the southwest of where David Street meets Habad Street, but north of St. Mark Street. As the Decumanus is plotted with greater certainty, and excavations take place in this area, the localization may become more accurate.

This spot is almost due south of the site within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and slightly east: at a little less than 200 meters' distance.

Martin Biddle, professor of medieval archaeology at Oxford, whom Dr. Taylor cites several times in her article, disagrees. In his book, The Tomb of Christ2, he states, after much particular and complex argument:

A simpler view is that Melito is using plateia to mean 'open place, plaza, square' rather than 'street' in the strict sense, and is reflecting a rather precise tradition that in his time the site of the crucifixion was believed to lie in the centre of an open space in the middle of Aelia Capitolina. If so, Melito may here reflect the Jerusalem tradition which guided the search undertaken on Constantine's orders a hundred and fifty years later . . . (p. 62)

Dr. Taylor argued that Constantine moved the site of Golgotha northward (close to the tomb) to what was then a pagan temple, but Dr. Biddle, after sifting through the textual evidence of Eusebius, refers in passing (citing Dr. Taylor as the proponent in his footnotes), to “a whole new theory that Constantine shifted the traditional location of Golgotha northwards to the site of the temple [of Venus]. This will not do” (p. 64). He concludes:

The site chosen for the excavations of 325/6 remains, however, the decisive evidence for the survival of knowledge of the site of the crucifixion as a topographical location . . . (p. 64).

Referring to the 1998 article by Dr. Taylor, Dr. Biddle observes:

In a recent article Dr Taylor has maintained her view that the site of the crucifixion lay to the south of the traditional site of Golgotha . . . She now locates Golgotha 200 m away from the tomb, precisely in the middle of the supposed site of the main east-west street of Aelia, the Decumanus, no certain trace of which has yet been located . . .3

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,4 in its article on Golgotha (Vol. II, 1275-76, by E. W. G. Masterman), states, in favor of the traditional site:

For the traditional view it may be said that it seems highly improbable that so sacred a spot as this, particularly the empty tomb, could have been entirely forgotten. Although it is true that Jews and Christians were driven out of Jerusalem after the second great revolt (130-33 AD), yet Gentile Christians were free to return, and there was no break long enough to account for a site like this being entirely lost. Indeed there are traditions that this site was deliberately defiled by pagan buildings to annoy the Christians. Eusebius, at the time of Constantine, writes as if it were well known that a Temple of Aphrodite lay over the tomb.

He [Sir Charles W. Wilson] gives an account of the discovery of the spots still venerated as the Golgotha and the Tomb, and of the erection of churches in connection with them (Life of Constantine, III, 25-40). From the time of Constantine there has been no break in the reverence paid to these places. Of the earlier evidence Sir C. Wilson admits (loc. cit.) that “the tradition is so precarious and the evidence is undoubtedly so unsatisfactory as to raise serious doubts.”

. . . There is no insurmountable difficulty in believing that the site of the Crucifixion may be where tradition points out. As Sir C. Wilson says at the end of his book, “No objection urged against the sites (i.e. Golgotha and the Tomb) is of such a convincing nature that it need disturb the minds of those who accept, in all good faith, the authenticity of the places which are hallowed by the prayers of countless pilgrims since the days of Constantine” (loc. cit.).

The New Bible Dictionary5, similarly, notes two competing claims as to location, but favors the traditional belief:

[T]he one is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the other Gordon's Calvary, commonly known as the Garden Tomb . . .

The Garden Tomb was first pointed out in 1849; a rock formation there resembles a skull; and admittedly the site accords with the biblical data. But there is no tradition nor anything else to support its claim. The more ancient site is much more likely; but any identification must remain conjectural.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, in the article cited above, provided far more damaging counter-evidences to Gordon's Calvary:

The supposed resemblance to a human skull strikes many people, but it may be stated without hesitation that the most arresting points of the resemblance, the “eyeholes” and the rounded top, are not ancient; the former are due to artificial excavations going back perhaps a couple of centuries. Probably the whole formation of the hill, the sharp scarp to the South and the 10 or more feet of earth accumulated on the summit are both entirely new conditions since New Testament times.

The “Garden Tomb” associated with Gordon's Calvary is also given short shrift by Dr. Joan Taylor in her aforementioned article:

[S]cholarly endorsement of this locality has never been very strong. Generally, the current consensus holds that Golgotha was located in the vicinity of the traditional site, somewhere north of the first wall of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, and west of the second wall, though specificity is impossible . . . the traditional tomb of Jesus may very well be authentic. 
Upon further consideration of this matter, it seems to me that the fact that the tomb was considered self-evident is the one most important factor that points to the probable authenticity of the traditional site. The traditional view has one key element in its favor (though one that is usually completely ignored): it gives us a perfect reason why no physical proof or legitimating miracle was required for anyone to believe that the tomb was genuine. The reason it was genuine was that it was in precisely the right place, under the statue of Jupiter, as everyone in the Jerusalem church believed (though Eusebius of Caesarea may well have been more skeptical). People only had to remove the statue of Jupiter to find the perfect tomb just exactly underneath it. No further proof was required. It requires us to believe that Hadrian did indeed cover up the tomb purposely and placed a statue of Jupiter on top of it. 
[Footnote 1] The Garden Tomb has been shown to dale from the Iron Age, and therefore cannot be genuine as the tomb of Jesus, see Gabriel Barkay. The Garden Tomb — Was Jesus buried here? Biblical Archaeology Review 12/2 (March/April 1986) 40–53, 56–7.

Archaeologist Bargil Pixner summed up the evidence:

Today Catholic, Protestant and Israeli archaeologists all agree that the locations for the New Testament places are under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.6

Regarding the authenticity of Gordon's Calvary, on the same page he informed his readers that “today no serious archaeologists shares this opinion.” 
Moreover, he noted that the present Via Dolorosa probably starts at a different place than the beginning of the actual route that Jesus took to the place of His crucifixion. Fr. Pixner provides further details:

It is now widely accepted that N. Avigad discovered the remains of the Gennath (Garden) Gate . . . This gate, by which Jesus was probably led from the city (cf. Heb 13:12), lay south of the crossing of today's Suk es-Zeit and King David Street. (p. 304)

Since that was where the gate of the city was, on the way to Golgotha outside the city, it is one distinct spot where the pilgrim can say with significant assurance: “Jesus carried His cross at this spot.” Fr. Pixner describes the beginning of the “historical Way of the Cross”:

. . . the Praetorium of Pilate, is far more difficult to locate . . . most researchers reject today for historical and archaeological reasons the belief that the Praetorium was in the fortress Antonia. . . . The present majority view for the location of the Praetorium of Pilate prefers instead the area of the Citadel near today's Jaffa Gate . . . (p. 308)

The last part of the procession route, from the Praetorium to Golgotha, is the oldest continuous commemoration for the Way of the Cross and goes back, as we can see, to the first part of the fifth century. . . . If we accept the beginning of this “Way section” within the range of the “archaeological garden,” in which are also the ruins of the German Crusader Church of St. Mary, then the route must have gone first north along today's Nisgav Ladach Road, then left through Chain Street, up to the Suk es-Zeit (the former Cardo Maximus) and from there to the Martyrion of the Anastasis basilica and onto the rock of Golgotha. . . . (p. 310)

Israeli archaeologist Shimon Gibson also opts for an “alternate” Via Dolorosa, based on the same assumption of a different starting point:

In a new book, titled “The Final Days of Jesus,” Gibson says he has found the location of Jesus’ trial, where Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, condemned him to death by crucifixion. Traditionally it is believed that the trial took place at the Antonia Fortress, outside the Temple Mount, near Lion’s Gate. But Gibson believes the trial was actually conducted in an area just outside what is now the western wall of the Old City. “You have a courtyard and a pavement and a rocky outcrop on one side,” he says of the site. “In the Gospel of John, you have a description of the trial taking place at the Lithostratus, Greek for pavement, at a place called Gabata, which is the word for an ancient hillock or a rocky outcrop, and this is what we have here.” So if the trial was outside the Old City, as Gibson believes, and not in the Antonia Fortress, then the traditional Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus took to his crucifixion, is wrong. I retraced with Gibson the route of his new Via Dolorosa, which begins in a nondescript parking lot in the Armenian Quarter. It skirts the Ottoman walls of the Old City, next to what is known as the Tower of David near Jaffa Gate, then heads toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.7

The Wikipedia article, “Via Dolorosa” provides a handy summary of recent findings and theories:

[A]rchaeological discoveries in the 20th century now indicate that the early route of the Via Dolorosa on the Western hill was actually a more realistic path. 
The equation of the present Via Dolorosa with the biblical route is based on the assumption that the Praetorium was adjacent to the Antonia Fortress. However, like Philo, the late-first-century writer Josephus testifies that the Roman governors of Roman Judaea, who governed from Caesarea Maritima on the coast, stayed in Herod's palace while they were in Jerusalem, carried out their judgements on the pavement immediately outside it, and had those found guilty flogged there; Josephus indicates that Herod's palace is on the western hill, and it has recently (2001) been rediscovered under a corner of the Jaffa Gate citadel. Furthermore, it is now confirmed by archaeology that prior to Hadrian's 2nd-century alterations (see Aelia Capitolina), the area adjacent to the Antonia Fortress was a large open-air pool of water. 
In 2009, Israeli archaeologist Shimon Gibson found the remains of a large paved courtyard south of the Jaffa Gate between two fortification walls with an outer gate and an inner one leading to a barracks. The courtyard contained a raised platform of around 2 square metres (22 sq ft). A survey of the ruins of the Praetorium, long thought to be the Roman barracks, indicated it was no more than a watchtower. These findings together “correspond perfectly” with the route as described in the Gospels and matched details found in other ancient writings.

Fellow archaeologist James D. Tabor enthusiastically described Gibson's findings in a review8 of his book, The Final Days of Jesus:

In this review I want to concentrate on what I consider two of the most significant new contributions Gibson offers for our better understanding of Jesus and his last days and I will finish up with a few caveats and observations on the book overall.

The first has to do with the location of Jesus’ trial before the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate, the identification of the Praetorium, that is the headquarters of the governor, the “courtyard,” and more particularly, the “pavement” of the judgment seat, called lithostrotos in Greek or gabbatha in Aramaic (see John 18:28, 33; 19:9, 13, cf. Matt 27:27 and Mark 15:16). The traditional route Jesus took to the place of crucifixion, the Via Dolorosa, traced by pilgrims by the thousands on Good Friday, begins in the northeast of the city, at the Church of St Anne. Indeed this is the 1st Station of the Cross. This is based on the assumption that Jesus’ trial before Pilate was at the military barracks of the Antonio Fortress, located on a high rocky outcrop at the northwest corner of the Temple complex. Today there is a scholarly consensus that this location is incorrect, and that the Praetorium was located at Herod’s Palace, on the west side of the city. It has become clear that this magnificent palace was used by Pilate as his residence as well as the military and civic headquarters of Roman rule in Jerusalem. Gibson offers a full exposition of this correct location and why it has become preferred over the traditional site. 

. . . But he goes much further in details, having excavated with Magen Broshi along the outside of the western city wall in the 1970s. There a monumental gateway was revealed with the remains of a large courtyard and intact pavement between the fortification walls. Gibson, with maps and detailed drawings, makes a compelling case that this is indeed the very spot where the governor would have had his bema or judgment seat, and he shows in detail that the language of the Gospels, particularly in John, with Pilate going inside the palace, and back out again, and the crowds gathered outside below, fits the location we can see today perfectly. In fact, the steps, dating from the Herodian period, are now exposed, leading up to the remains of the gate and the platform or pavement. . . . Since Gibson first took me and my students to this site back in 2000 I have been back many times, studied it thoroughly, and I have become convinced it is indeed one of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries in the past 100 years related to the life of Jesus. The impact of Gibson’s identification is hard to overemphasize, as this would be the precise location, uncovered down to the pavement, of one of the most famous scenes in the life of Jesus, namely Pilate’s “Ecce Homo,” (“Behold the man” John 19:5) declaration.

Once again, it is striking how recent these findings are. If legitimate (there are always other scholars who disagree), they are quite significant regarding the details of Christ's Passion.

On the other hand, apart from archaeological particulars that Gibson may have discovered, his opinion about the location of the Praetorium goes back at least to 1929, since The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia opines in its article on the topic (Vol. IV, 2428-2429, by E. W. G. Masterman):

pre-to'-ri-um praitorion, Mt 27:27 (the King James Version “common hall”); Mr 15:16; Joh 18:28,33; 19:9 (in all margins “palace,” and in the last three the King James Version “judgment hall”); Ac 23:35, (Herod's) “palace,” margin “Praetorium,” the King James Version “judgment hall”; Php 1:13, “praetorian guard” (margin “Greek 'in the whole Pretorium,'” the King James Version “palace,” margin “Caesar's court”): 
The Pretorium was originally the headquarters of a Roman camp, but in the provinces the name became attached to the governor's official residence. In order to provide residences for their provincial governors, the Romans were accustomed to seize and appropriate the palaces which were formerly the homes of the princes or kings in conquered countries. Such a residence might sometimes be in a royal palace, as was probably the case in Caesarea, where the procurator used Herod's palace (Ac 23:35). 
The Pretorium where Jesus was brought to trial has been traditionally located in the neighborhood of the present Turkish barracks where once stood the Antonia and where was stationed a large garrison (compare Ac 21:32-35), but the statements of Josephus make it almost certain that the headquarters of the procurator were at Herod's palace. This was a building whose magnificence Josephus can hardly sufficiently appraise (Wars, I, xxi, 1; V, iv, 4). It was in this palace that “Florus, the procurator took up his quarters, and having placed his tribunal in front of it, held his sessions and the chief priests, influential persons and notables of the city appeared before the tribunal” (Wars II, xiv, 8). Later on, “Florus .... brought such as were with him out of the king's palace, and would have compelled them to get as far as the citadel (Antonia); but his attempt failed” (II, xv, 5). The word translated "palace" here is aule, the same word as is translated "court" in Mr 15:16, “the soldiers led him away within the court (aule), which is the Pretorium.” There is no need to suppose that Herod Antipas was in the same palace (Lu 23:4 ff); it is more probable he went to the palace of the Hasmoneans which lay lower down on the eastern slope of this southwest hill, where at a later time Josephus expressly states that Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice were living (Wars, II, xvi, 3). 
The palace of Herod occupied the highest part of the southwest hill near the northwest angle of the ancient city, now traditionally called Zion, and the actual site of the Pretorium cannot have been far removed from the Turkish barracks near the so-called “Tower of David.” It is interesting to note that the two stations of the Turkish garrison of Jerusalem today occupy the same spots as did the Roman garrison of Christ's time. It is needless to point out how greatly this view of the situation of the Pretorium must modify the traditional claims of the “Via Dolorosa,” the whole course of which depends on theory that the “Way of Sorrow” began at the Antonia, the Pretorium of late ecclesiastical tradition.

This line of thinking goes even further back than that. In 1893, A Dictionary of the Bible: Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, Volume 1, Part 29 stated:

1. In John xviii. 28, 33, xix. 9, it is the residence which Pilate occupied when he visited Jerusalem; to which the Jews brought Jesus from the house of Caiaphas, and within which He was examined by Pilate, and scourged and mocked by the soldiers, while the Jews were waiting without in the neighbourhood of the judgment-seat (erected on the Pavement in front of the Praetorium), on which Pilate sat when he pronounced the final sentence. The Latin word praetorium originally signified . . . the general's tent in a Roman camp (Liv. xxviii. 27, &c.); and afterwards it had, among other significations, that of the palace in which a governor of a province lived and administered justice (Cic. Verr. ii. 4, § 28, &c.). The site of Pilate's praetorium in Jerusalem has given rise to much dispute, some supposing it to be the palace of king Herod, others the Tower of Antonia; but . . . the former was probably the Praetorium. . . . Pilate certainly lived there at one time (Philo, Leg. in Caium, 38, 39); and it is scarcely conceivable that the Roman Governor would have occupied any other palace than that which, with its three great towers, formed the citadel of the Upper City (Jos. B. J. ii. 3, § 2; v. 5, § 8). Herod, who, at the time of the trial of Christ, was at Jerusalem (Luke xxiii. 7), no doubt lived in the old palace of the Asmoneans, which stood above the Xystus, on the east side of the Upper City. . . . It appears from a passage of Josephus (B. J. ii. 14, § 8) that Gessius Florus not only resided in the palace, but set up his judgment-seat in front of it. Winer conjectures, with great probability, that the procurator, when in Jerusalem, resided with a body-guard in the palace of Herod (Jos. B. J. ii. 15, § 5), while the Roman garrison occupied Antonia.

In a 2011 joint volume with chapters from 13 scholars, The World of Jesusand the Early Church: Identity and Interpretation in the EarlyCommunities of Faith,10 Dr. Shimon Gibson contributes the chapter, “The Trial of Jesus at the Jerusalem Praetorium: New Archaeological Evidence” (pp. 97-118). He writes:

It was here [at Herod's Palace] that the trial of Jesus took place, and on this matter there is almost unanimous agreement among scholars. But there is less agreement on whether the trial took place inside or adjacent to the praetorium. (p. 99)

Nowadays, a consensus of opinion exists among scholars that the trial of Jesus took place at Herod's palace.

It is highly unlikely that Jesus was tried at the Antonia, since it served primarily as a military observation tower (pyrgos) with a specific function: to keep an eye on the activities of the Jewish worshipers on the Temple Mount and to prevent rioting or demonstrations there. It was to this spot, one will remember, that Paul was later brought after having been saved from the temple mob (Acts 21:30-36). . . . it would appear that this fortress was no more than a very large and high tower . . . 

Herod's palace lay at the northwest angle of the Upper City, in the area spanning the distance between the present-day citadel, Kishle, and Armenian Garden. (p. 108)

Jesus was most likely . . . paraded down the streets of the Upper City to the Gennath Gate, where he was led out of the city to Golgotha. (p. 118)

This “consensus” data (if accepted), leads to the inexorable conclusion that the actual Via Dolorosa was completely different from the familiar one of tradition. Pious and venerable as that devotional tradition is, it doesn't seem to square with history and archaeology. 

The Catholic faith is not subverted in accepting the new proposed route. Christians, as always, have nothing to fear from new facts of history or archaeology being uncovered or further substantiated. What is non-negotiable is that there was a trial and that Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate, carried His cross to Golgotha, and was crucified. The exact locations of these events may be properly debated.


1 Posted on the Associates for Biblical Research website: 11 January 2010. This article first appeared in New Testament Studies, volume 44. Copyright 1998: Cambridge University Press.

2 Phoenix Mill / Stroud / Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1999.

3 Footnote 54 for Chapter 3; p. 148. In footnote 91 for the same chapter (p. 149), Biddle noted that Dr. Taylor was persuaded by a 1994 article of his that the traditional site of Jesus' tomb is likely authentic (having previously argued in 1993 that it was “very unlikely to be authentic.”).

4 Edited by James Orr, John Nuelsen, Edgar Mullins, Morris Evans, and Melvin Grove Kyle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1939. Available online, on several sites.

5 Organizing editor: J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1962; “Calvary,” p. 181, by D. F. Payne.

6 Paths of the Messiah and Sites of the Early Church from Galilee to Jerusalem (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 304. On p. 305, accessible for viewing via Google Books, is a diagram of this portion of the city and Golgotha during the time of Jesus. 

7 “Archaeologist: Jesus took a different path,” Ben Wedeman, CNN World website, 10 April 2009. A diagram of Gibson's proposed route of the Via Dolorosa can be found in the article, “Pilgrims tracing the last steps of Jesus have been going the WRONG way for 2,000 years, says historian,” by Dalya Alberge, Mail Online, 10 April 2009.

8 “Shimon Gibson: Final Days of Jesus out in paperback,” TaborBlog, 28 March 2010. The article contains a photograph of the proposed site of the “pavement” and courtyard where Pilate judged Jesus, and an artist's conception of what it may have looked like.

9 Edited by Sir William Smith and J. M. Fuller, second edition (London: John Murray, 1893; first edition, 1863); “Judgment-Hall,” 1849-1850).

10 Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. A very helpful diagram showing the locations of the two competing theories of the Praetorium and Via Dolorosa, appears on p. 101: accessible on the Google Books page for this book. A reproduction of Herod's Palace is found on p. 111, and a photograph of the area today, on p. 105.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Great Spanking (Oops, Forgot to Use the "PC" Hitting or Beating) Debate Revisited


These are my off-the-cuff comments on a Facebook thread of a friend. It was a private thread, so I can't cite others. I summarize a few of their comments, so my answer is better understood in context. It started out with an approving link of an article (CNN op-ed) entitled, "Spanking isn't parenting; it's child abuse." I chimed in a little after the discussion had begin. I've written about this previously.

* * * * *

I'm not scared to talk about this issue or any other.

The anti-spanking thing is simply a species of post-Christian, anti-traditional liberalism, based on the fallacious reasoning that if a thing is ever abused it must be everywhere and always wrong: obliterating the clear distinction between proper and excessive, or improper use.

The same sort of reasoning (not saying that anti-spankers are pro-aborts) was used to bring in legal abortion: "some women die from coat hanger abortions, therefore we need to change the entire law and make abortion legal." Same reasoning with "gay marriage": "homosexuals have been treated meanly, so therefore we ought to let them marry."

It's the old fallacy of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." Because some football player was a moron doesn't make me a child abuser, if I gave a two-year-old a swat on the butt. Sorry, I ain't buyin' it.
And I'll stack my four children up against any in the world.

[it was stated that if someone favored "hitting" that they could ignore the thread]
Why would I want to ignore a thread where legalistic falsehood is being promulgated? If a person disagrees, then they try to show why they do, and engage the people they disagree with (assuming discussion is possible).

This is simply another secular idea that is very common today: everything is self-evident, so there is no reason to even discuss anything. Those who disagree are the bad guys, and so they should just disappear and let "normal, compassionate" people dominate, with the accepted, "PC" perspective monopolizing the "conversation" so that all are happy and content as a pig in mud, safely away from the evil folk.

One tires of this sort of thing. We can't disagree civilly; the ones who dare to spank, as the Bible recommends, are now "child abusers." I don't have to demonize anti-spankers. I just think they are thoroughly incorrect on this issue, and victims of postmodernist / liberal / secular fallacious thinking.

Why does it have to be "either/or" [Name]? You act as if no parent who spanks could possibly be doing it with a loving motive. Both things are together. I always did both. Hence I wrote in my paper:
Almost always, after such a spanking, I will take the child on my lap in a loving, nurturing manner and tell them I love them, and that this was the reason they were spanked. I'll ask them to repeat why they think they were spanked, and if they don't know (or pretend to not know; parents know this routine!), then I carefully explain it to them and teach them that such discipline is to make them a better person, by preventing them from doing bad and sinful things that will make their life difficult in the future. So the act is grounded in love and explanation and, in the end, positive reinforcement.

So there are a lot of parents out there who can't control their anger, or use spanking as a controlling mechanism, or get some kind of [disordered] charge doing  it. That doesn't change a thing. Everything is and can be abused. We obviously can't get rid of everything, so our task is to reform and punish abuses. A guy who truly beats and abuses his child should get the book thrown at him.

[Someone claimed that corporal punishment was "always wrong."]

You can't say that, [Name], without disbelieving in the infallibility and inspiration of Scripture. Which is it? Scripture or postmodern secularism, that rejects the wisdom of Scripture and moral tradition?

The point is not that we are God, but that what He does is our example. Paul told us to imitate him, as he in turn imitates Christ, and Jesus (Who is God) is said to be our example. The Bible often refers to God chastising or disciplining us for our own good, and how painful that is. I've often used these passages to prove the principle of purgatory.

Now, what the anti-spanking mentality does is say that this sort of painful discipline is great when God does it (since He can't sin and is always loving), yet the exact same sort of thing, following the example of God, applied by a mother or father to a child, is now intrinsically evil and wicked and can't possibly be loving. That makes no sense. It's moral schizophrenia; literally nonsense.

Do you believe that the Bible is inspired revelation, [Name], or do you believe (as all dissidents do) that you can pick-and-choose what you like from it and reject what you don't like? 

Sometimes discipline can't be done in non-physical ways, with some young children. They're too young to reason with; something like grounding is incomprehensible until they are older. With very young children, sometimes only the raw conditioning of getting a little swat on the butt is all that will make them stop doing something wrong. Children have different temperaments. If one is mild and wants to please (phlegmatic temperament), spanking may very well not be necessary. But with a strong-willed stubborn child, it's very different. 

The Bible does indeed refer to physical discipline, and recommends it for the sake of the child's soul. Therefore, what inspired Scripture teaches, you are condemning and saying is a wicked thing, and never right:
Proverbs 13:24 (RSV) He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. If you beat him with the rod you will save his life from Sheol.

Proverbs 29:15, 17 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. . . . Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.

Please interpret. I'm all ears. What do you do, spiritualize away "rod" as non-physical? You can read those passages and not see anything physical there? A "rod" is not a stick? It isn't used to "beat"? . . . that's flat-out amazing.I haven't "added" anything. It's the plain meaning, and throughout all of Christian history it was understood. You have eisegeted and pretended that what is there is not there, because you don't like it, coming in . . .

Here is the best commentary on the OT (Keil & Delitzsch), on Proverbs 23:13-14 (bolding added):
Verse 13-14

13 Withhold not correction from the child;

For thou will beat him with the rod, and he will not die.
14 Thou beatest him with the rod,

And with it deliverest his soul from hell.

The exhortation, 13a, presupposes that education by word and deed is a duty devolving on the father and the teacher with regard to the child. In 13b, כּי is in any case the relative conjunction. The conclusion does not mean: so will he not fall under death (destruction), as Luther also would have it, after Deuteronomy 19:21, for this thought certainly follows Proverbs 23:14; nor after Proverbs 19:18: so may the stroke not be one whereof he dies, for then the author ought to have written אל־תּמיתנּוּ; but: he will not die of it, i.e., only strike if he has deserved it, thou needest not fear; the bitter medicine will be beneficial to him, not deadly. The אתּה standing before the double clause, Proverbs 23:14, means that he who administers corporal chastisement to the child, saves him spiritually; for שׁאול does not refer to death in general, but to death falling upon a man before his time, and in his sins, vid., Proverbs 15:24, cf. Proverbs 8:26.

See also CCC 2223:
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones." Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

[someone said that quoting Bible passages wasn't "relevant"]

It certainly is for Catholics and other Christians, when claims are being made that something is intrinsically wicked, that God and the Bible recommend. Something ain't connecting there, and we must make our choice.

[someone asked if the New Testament referred to "the rod"]

No, but there is about discipline and chastisement, which in Proverbs is connected with physical punishment, so indirectly it does condone it. The OT is Scripture, too, so we can't just dismiss it as irrelevant. I quoted the Bible to contradict claims that spanking is wicked. The Bible says it is righteous. That's a stark contrast. But you simply spiritualize the passage away, in time-honored fashion. 

It's not a matter of commanding it, but rather, whether it is a moral method of discipline. The Bible says it is. Game, set, match. 

For Scripture to say, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. If you beat him with the rod you will save his life from Sheol" (Proverbs 23:13-14) is almost a command, since what good parent doesn't want to save his child's life from Sheol (by implication, also hell, which was a far less developed doctrine in Solomon's time)?

I never said it was a command. What I argued was that Scripture shows corporal punishment as moral; therefore, those who claim it is intrinsically immoral (for those of us who believe in faith in the inspiration of Scripture) are dead-wrong.

Your side claimed that it was self-evident from the beginning, and that there was no other side. But I have Scripture and longstanding moral tradition on my side and you don't.  

[one person said she was "free" to not spank]

Absolutely. And I am also free from being classified as a child abuser because I follow biblical recommendations in the raising of children.

[one person said she didn't call me a "child abuser"]  

First of all, I said, "classified as a child abuser"; not called one.

You endorsed the article at the top; the title of which is "Spanking isn't parenting; it's child abuse." Therefore, by straightforward deduction you implied that spankers are child abusers.

I didn't see any anti-spanking person make a disclaimer over against the article: that they didn't agree it was child abuse: what wicked people like me and [Name] do (may have missed it tho, since I didn't read every comment).

"Hitting" has the connotation (I think) of being struck on the head, whereas "spanking" clearly has the connotation of "butt."

Thus, when you are trying to overturn longstanding tradition, you use words that have connotations that you wish to get acr
oss for the purpose of your goal: to delegitimize the practice. "Hitting" sounds violent; sounds like wife abuse, etc.

Movements always do this. The pro-aborts did; the pro-"gay marriage" manipulates language with silly terms like "homophobe" (which means, absurdly, "fear of sameness").

The first goal of any movement is to control the terminology and language. That is more than half the battle won, right there, because people more often respond impulsively and emotionally (based on associations), rather than reflectively and reasonably. Serious dialogue tries to get beyond slogans and stereotypes and manipulation of language, to the substance.

[a person said she was a teacher and heard many stories of kids being "hit" or abused, etc.]  

Yes, and you're naturally gonna hear the horror stories. It's just human nature. You're gonna hear a hundred stories about "my dad beat me" (where it is clearly abuse: hit on the head, etc.). You're not gonna hear nearly as much the success stories: "my parents loved me enough to swat my behind once in a while and then explain it was for my good, for discipline."

Therefore, since you hear mostly horror stories, you fallaciously conclude that all spanking is a species of abuse, and oppose it.

It's the demonization of opponents that ends all constructive discussion. I don't demonize anti-spanking advocates (anymore than I would, say, a pacifist, who is also mistaken). They have the best of intentions and mean well. I sincerely disagree with them and think they are dead-wrong, for reasons I have explained. Doesn't make them wicked; makes them (I believe) wrong on this issue.

I think a factor in this that is important to recognize is that many of us struggle a lot with things like a temper, anger, a controlling nature, passion, impatience. Or we may have been truly abused as a child (beaten, not merely spanked on the butt). Those things make it tough to spank in the right way.

In my paper on the topic I made it clear that if one struggled with any of those and couldn't spank in the proper way, that they shouldn't do it at all. Let the other parent do it. If the other parent has the same problems, then better to not do it (because it will likely be done wrongly) and to find an alternative.

But none of that means no one can do it. Human nature is such that there will be so many people who can't do certain things. Some men are womanizers; doesn't mean all men are. Some women are "loose" etc. Doesn't mean all women are. Some people hate homosexuals. Doesn't mean that every person who thinks homosexual acts are sinful hates them as people.

Thus, some folks don't know how to spank properly (with control and love and only the best of motives). The solution to that is not to conclude that all spanking is wicked because some don't know how to do it. It is to advise the particular folks who can't do it, to not do it.

I don't think this is rocket science at all. But it has become such an emotional issue, with all the hot-button associations of wicked or alcoholic fathers, etc. or people like this football payer, that it is hardly able to be discussed rationally anymore.

[someone argued that spanking was never necessary ever. She brought forward as evidence, her 12yo who is wonderful, etc. and claimed that this is because she was never spanked. Then she contended that spanking is a manifestation of power and domination, and equated it with spousal abuse.]

It's just more fallacies. If a child is "gentle, kind, obedient" it is most likely due to prior temperament (the type that doesn't require spanking in the first place). I know, because we had one like that, and three who were not like that (i.e., as small kids). It's the different temperaments. The strong-willed two-year-old likely won't respond to much else, in cases of outright obstinacy.

Like I said, I'll stack my four kids (now 23, 21, almost 18 and almost 13) up against anyone's in the world. Well-behaved, polite, considerate of others, serve others in many ways, active in church and youth groups, completely orthodox, never got in any trouble with the law, never drank, never did drugs, don't swear, don't look at pornography or watch garbage movies or listen to filthy lyrics in music, treat women with respect, great work ethic, chaste before marriage, go on mission trips all the time, great grades in school (my son in college has gotten all A's over two years). Everyone testifies to it.

They are that way because they were loved and taught the right values and morals. A rare swat on the butt has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except for the discipline needed at the time. And they were nurtured with love right afterwards to make sure that they understood this was loving discipline, not some sort of idiotic retribution or domination or the parents' tantrum.

It doesn't [equate with "aggressiveness" and "overpowering" behavior] if it is explained at the time (as we always did). We didn't sit there and say, "you know, I just spanked you because I'm a mean bastard who likes to see children cry and suffer and likes to get my way by violence and force." We explained, "do you know why you were spanked? You did x wrong, and left us no other recourse. We did it because we love you and don't want you to go down a wrong path and suffer for it in your life." And hugs and reassurance with that . . .

If that is "aggressive and overpowering" then we speak two different languages and have vastly different definitions of many things.

I absolutely hated to spank. It was used only as the absolute last resort for young kids below the age of reason (up to maybe 5 or 6). As soon as they had sufficient reason we used other punishments like deprivation of a toy or grounding or not going outside, etc.

I did it because I thought it was right and necessary, not because I loved it and got some charge of being powerful and dominating. These stereotypes are highly insulting and equally absurd.

[it was said that the thread was merely about sharing alternatives to spanking, and that PMs were coming in, resonating with that message]

Some parents do do the bad things, of course. No one is denying that; only denying that it is intrinsically wicked and that all who use it are these moral and mental morons.

It's not just about alternatives because of the sweeping, insulting language being used. If it was just about that, you wouldn't have to condemn those of us who use it: starting with the idiotic article at the top: equating all of us with child abusers.

I agree with alternatives in most cases: above the age of reason; in cases of non-obstinacy, in cases where the parent can't control their anger or were abused as a child (where it is known that they tend to pass that one) . . . there is significant agreement here, but it's the legalism and condemnation that is unacceptable.

We spanked only very rarely: maybe 5-6 times for each child in their entire life. I think with our most compliant child it was only once or twice.

[a person said she was happy no one used the "pejoratives" I used ("moral and mental morons") ] 

What's worse? Calling someone a moron or a child abuser? I'd much rather be called a moron. Being called a child abuser is one of the two or three absolute worst things I can imagine anyone being called or classified as.

Yes, the PMs are (I highly suspect) mostly from folks who did it wrong in the first place. I don't have the slightest regret or guilt about it, because we did it the right way. I said in my paper that one time in my whole life as a parent I lost my temper and spanked when I probably shouldn't have, and I apologized for it. I'm not perfect. But that is my record.  

[I was told that I didn't have to feel bad about being called a "child abuser" if I know that it isn't true]

So you stand by the article and insist (by implication, by linking to something with an outrageous title like that) that someone who spanks is automatically (by definition) the equivalent of a child abuser? This is slander. It's a lie.

Yeah, I know it
doesn't hurt me, because it's wrong; it's untrue. What it does is hurt those of you who believe that we are child abusers, and it poisons discourse. That's not worthy of you.

You can still disagree and argue your point of view without having the baggage of demonizing those who disagree. Just retract that and continue on with your thoroughly fallacious argument.

There is actually much middle ground to be had here, where all can meet. I've staked out some of that. But more extreme language from your side undermines any such mutual understanding by continuing to make out that it is this "us vs. them" sort of issue: black-and-white; the good guys with the white hats, who wouldn't hurt a flea, and us abusive mean spankers with the black hats . . .

I've been called evil many times over: because I'm a pro-lifer and supposedly hate women, because I'm Catholic and supposedly hate Protestants; because I'm politically conservative, or because I think sodomy is a grave sin; I'm a racist because I criticize Obama. I hate women because I criticize radical feminism. Now I'm (along with many millions of others) a child abuser because I believe in spanking in rare cases, because the Bible plainly teaches it.
[it was said that I called anti-spankers "pro-aborts" and "liberals"]

I didn't describe them as that at all. What I said was that the outlook derives from liberal assum
ptions. It doesn't follow that a person with the belief is a liberal; only that he or she has been influenced by the tidal wave of secularist thought. This is true on many issues, such as, e.g., contraception or cohabitation or 80% of young people favoring "gay marriage.".

What I wrote specifically was: "The same sort of reasoning (not saying that anti-spankers are pro-aborts) was used to bring in legal abortion:"

So now you say I was calling non-spankers "pro-aborts." Nice try. Later I also observed that the modification of language for a cause was also a pro-abort tactic (as we all know); not that using the tactic makes one a pro-abort. I was talking about the incessant use of "hit" in this thread rather than "spank."

But the article at the top undeniably classifies us spankers in a sweeping way as child abusers.

[a person denied being a "modernist" or given to fads and trends because of being a certain age]

Age has nothing to do with being influenced by current fashions of secularism and liberalism (which are as ancient as the hills). But I was speaking broadly. There could be many such reasons for non-spanking policies. Some people are too gentle to do it, because it's difficult. As I said, I hated it myself. I did it because I felt that it was right and necessary in a tiny amount of cases. If I was a far more gentle soul than I am, I can see that I would have decided to never do it. But that would have nothing to do with reason. There are parents who discipline hardly at all, so we would expect them not to spank. Lots of reasons. But my generalization remains true. It is a non-traditional tenet of liberal secularism: one of many being forced upon us in terms of more and more laws. It's already to the point where you don't dare spank in public.[a person said she is in a group that discusses "gentle discipline."]

I agree with you in 99% of the cases of disciple. It was only in the worst cases of obstinacy and rebellion that we ever spanked, and we can count on one hand the total times for each of our four children. That's why I was saying that there is a lot of common ground here. 99% of the time! We can all agree and talk about methods in those cases. But you guys won't allow the 1%!

[she said she never condemned spankers]

I appreciate that. But what you did do was use highly charged words like "aggressive" and "overpower" that create this image of the spankers as somehow these terrible people who are trying to dominate children because we have more strength, etc. Maybe even that was not your intention. But in context, perhaps you'll excuse my interpretation . . .

[she denied using the term "child abuser".]

My remark wasn't directed at at you or even at [Name; owner of the combox]. But look at the title of the article at the top of this thread and tell us whether you think that is highly offensive to anyone who thinks it is part of discipline to occasionally spank. [Name] won't retract the implications there (which shocks me).

If I had actually said that a non-spanker was a pro-abort (as you mistakenly believed I did), then you would be offended. Your very reply proves that. But when we're called child abusers no one on your "side" sees the outrageous slander in that? Has anyone renounced it yet?

[the webmaster said that she stands by the lead article and that no one called names.]

Flat-out amazing . . . you think you can have the stupid article at the top with its hyper-polemical title and main thesis and just separate yourself from it . . .

[agreeing with someone else]  I totally agree, as I have said. I said that if you have a temper, or anger problem, or have been abused, never do it. There is no disagreement in that regard.

[someone inquired in a friendly manner about the talk after the spanking, asking why it couldn't be done minus the spanking, if it works so well]

Good question. I think that this is what is called a "false dilemma" though. The fact was that the spanking had occurred in the first place as an absolutely last resort. Reasoning wasn't working. The behavior wasn't stopping. We always try to talk to our kids. Therefore, the spanking was necessary, so to say that the talking was "better" . . . yes it was, if they would only have received it.

After spanking, they do receive it. We showed love. This was especially true with my daughter, because of the special nature of the father-daughter thing. She was rebelling, being a total pill (the last time I spanked her). Then I held her for a long time, was as tender as I could be, explaining that I loved her and had to stop the bad behavior, that it was for her good.

Then it worked. It wouldn't have before the spanking because she was neither listening nor behaving, but being a total defiant rebel. And there was a total behavior change afterward. The line was clearly drawn, and that is the whole point.

[then this person asked about some kids getting spanked more than others, because of more rebellion, and how that makes them feel] 

Sometimes they resent it because that is human nature. I said above that we had one compliant child and three very strong-willed ones. We have simply explained that we had to discipline as parents when someone did wrong (and this extended well beyond spanking, to all discipline, that was resented), because that's our job.

We explain that it doesn't mean one child is "better" than another, but that God made different temperaments for His purposes, and all have a purpose and a calling in His kingdom, and all have faults. If they are better in this way, then surely they will be worse than the other child in some other respect.

I'm very stubborn and strong-willed myself (I almost have to be that in this line of work and all that it entails). I understand how that works.

[I was asked what kind of behavior was "last resort" and deserved a spanking]
Usually it is absolute rebellion, as I said: a total refusal to do what they are told, combined with a contempt for parental authority, talking back, etc. That's against the natural order of things, and so is well-qualified for serious punishment. If they are below the age of reason, spanking. Older kids: serious grounding or other deprivation to bring home the seriousness of total rebellion against authority as God ordained it.

[I was asked how spanking even changes behavior]

It's simple. The bad thing produced an immediate negative reinforcement: spanking. Therefore, below the age of reason a child seeks to avoid the negative thing by avoiding the bad behavior that brought it about.

When they can reason, then being grounded or whatever is such a frightful, dreadful spectre that it keeps them in line. God does the same thing with all of us. When we stray, He disciplines us, as the Bible says several dozen times.

I'm glad you brought up running in the street, because there a life could very well literally be saved. That's nothing to fool around with. The parent has no time to endure ten, twenty times of such disobedience. If a car comes during one of those times, there could be a dead child. Very clear-cut and concrete . . .

So love dictates a very harsh punishment (spanking), to make absolutely sure that they don't do it and endanger their lives. Spanking is absolutely the most loving and merciful thing to be done in that situation.

We're not saying it only takes one time, either. It depends on how strong-willed the child is. And of course there are other ways. In a small number of situations, spanking is by far the most effective way to stop the sin. The sooner it stops, the better for the child. 

The wisdom of spanking in discipline (where necessary) is that often it'll stop the behavior flat and be a deterrent for all or most of the potential violations in the future, because then the threat is almost as effective as the actual thing. These sorts of things used to be instinctively understood by almost all people. But secularism has so undermined traditional Christian values, that now we actually have to discuss what for many of us is (and through history was) almost self-evident. 

It's the same with contraception, too. It used to be instinctively understood (especially by women). Children are blessings, and the primary purpose of marriage. Now even those things are questioned. And so we are engaged in the Great Liberal Death Wish (as Malcolm Muggeridge called it) and see decreasing populations around the world in formerly Christian countries, and the explosion of Islam, because they still have lots of kids.

[my friend denied that secularism had anything to do with her not spanking; it was, rather, "Do unto others . . ."]

As for alternate methods, I have agreed that we can agree on that 99% of the time. We used all "alternate"  methods above the age of 6 or 7.

You may not be affected
by secularism. But the larger culture undeniably is, and this is part of it. I know what secularism is and how it works. I majored in sociology, love the history of ideas and am well-read in that, love history, and philosophy as well. We can have that discussion all night if someone wants to.

If you quote Dr. Greg Popcak, we can just as well cite Dr. James Dobson or Dr. Ray Guarendi (sort of the Catholic Dobson and an acquaintance of mine).

I sure do "do unto others." I don't want my child to be hit and killed by a car, just as I wouldn't want to be (nor want to be the parent of a dead child or make my mother the grandmother of one or my other kids the sibling of one). So I make damned sure that I stop the behavior that could end that way: a decisive swat on the butt, where the fat is, so there is no lasting damage: just a temporary pain that has a marvelous capacity for concentrating the mind on obedience (and in this instance, quite possibly saving a child's life).

I hated spanking, as I have said. I'm as tender with, and love children as much as anyone. Ask anyone who knows me. I adore them. Spanking is very difficult. But it's necessary out of love, and life involves doing things at times that are not easy. The fruit is there. I have four fantastic kids, and they are blessing us every day by how wonderful they are. 


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