My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat.
They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing.Psalm 22:16-18
Crucifixion wasn’t conceived of until 700 years after those words were written. That’s amazing. Conceived by the Persians in 90 BC then adopted by the Romans and perfected further. We are not talking about a statement made when people knew about crucifixion, we are talking about a statement made 700 years before crucifixion was even conceived of.
What proportion of people over the world were ever crucified? A very small percentage of all the people who have ever lived have been crucified. There are crucifixions that take place today in the world. They crucify people every year in the Philippines. But only to re-enact the crucifixion of Christ. On occasions, there are some in the Philippines who dare to go to the extreme and ask to be nailed so they might experience what Jesus felt. But never to the point of death. Most are simply tied on to the cross while standing on a little platform which bears their body weight. They are not suspended in such a way that causes torturous pain to the lungs with every breath.
In many countries where believers in Christ are tortured for their faith, the predominant way of killing them is by beheading or decapitation. But there have been times when pastors or members of their congregation have been recorded as having been nailed to the outside wall of the church and left to die. In some cases, in order to hasten their death, the persecutors have set fire to the church. There are only a handful of cases like that. I would guess the percentages are minuscule. In the case of death by crucifixion as well as burning, the actual death would be attributed to being burnt to death seeing as crucifixion takes so long. I am trying to dispassionately examine the likelihood of the process, despite the fact that crucifixion is such an awful death.
Crucifixion outside of Roman times was a rare event. It was a practised on occasions by the Assyrians and Babylonians in antiquity but used as a tortuous death by the Persian more consistently in the 6th Century BC. When Alexander the Great invaded Persia he discovered the practice and brought it to the Eastern Mediterranean in the 4th Century BC. For the next 500 years, the Romans “perfected crucifixion” until Constantine abolished it in the fourth century A.D. However the practice became popular across the Roman Empire to dissuade the oppressed from rebellion. There are recorded accounts of mass crucifixions especially in the occupied Holy Land. In 4 B.C., the Roman General Varus crucified 2,000 Jews, and there were other mass crucifixions during the first century AD, recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. There were also times of retaliation by those under Roman occupation when the local inhabitants retaliated in kind by using crucifixion as the means of killing their oppressors. In 9 AD, the victorious Germanic leader Arminius crucified many of the defeated soldiers who had fought with Varus, and in 28 AD, Germanic tribesmen crucified Roman tax collectors.
I have read in past research a figure of 56,000,000 being the population of those under Roman rule during the peak of the Roman Empire. While the accuracy of that figure is debatable it gives us a bench mark to hazard a guess. Let’s allow an upper limit of one person in one hundred thousand to have died by crucifixion. That would result in a figure of 56,000 to have died by crucifixion. That figure may well be realistic as the upper limit for the Roman practice but there is no figure available for other perpetrators. In this day and age the figures are not broadcast even in the countries where crucifixion or beheading has taken place. Such practices are not made public.
I would say one in a hundred thousand would be a reasonably conservative estimate. Let’s allow a probability factor of 1:100,000.