Jn 19:31-33  Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. (ESV)

Jn 20:25  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Some scholars used to think the crucifixion story was contrived because it was thought that the Romans used ropes, not nails, to secure victims of crucifixion to the cross.  It was also thought that such victims were only thrown in common graves, not given proper burials.  But in 1968 Vassilios Tzaferis found an ossuary containing the bones of Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol in northern Jerusalem.  It was contained in a tomb with ~35 other bodies.  Yohanan was killed by crucifixion sometime between AD 7-70.  He still had a 7” nail in his right heel and his legs were broken (as described in Jn 19:32-33).  Apparently the nail in his right heel had hit a knot in the wood of the cross and could not be removed from the ankle when attempting to remove Yohanan from the cross.  To get him off the cross they had to remove part of the cross itself, leaving the nail in his heel.

(more…)