Christians know from the Bible that Jesus was flogged by the Romans at Pilate’s command. But exactly how many times was Jesus whipped before being crucified?
How many times was Jesus whipped?
We know Jesus was flogged by the Romans just before His crucifixion (John 19:1; Mark 15:15; Matthew 27:26). However, contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not actually give the specific number of lashes Jesus received.
Some scholars argue that Jesus was whipped 39 times. This widespread but tentative guess is based on Deuteronomy 25:3. It states that a person should not be whipped more than forty times under Jewish law.
Apostle Paul also said he received “forty lashes minus one” (2 Corinthians 11:24) on several occasions under Jewish authority.
However, Jesus was scourged by the Romans – not the Jews. Thus, it is unlikely that the Roman soldiers felt obligated to abide by Jewish norms.
In short, no one knows for sure exactly how many times Jesus was whipped before he was crucified.
What was Jesus whipped with?
Many historians believe that, during the time of Jesus, Roman flogging involved the accused first being stripped of his garments. He was then tied to a low post or pillar and repeatedly whipped in humiliation.
Based on evidence we have, Jesus was most likely whipped by a scourging whip known as the flagrum or flagellum – though this assertion is not definitive.
This sadistic torture tool was made up of a short handle with bits of iron or bones attached to strips of leather. It is designed to maximise pain, ripping into flesh to expose arteries, veins, and at times organs.
Roman soldiers likely whipped Jesus many times with this instrument. In addition, the Son of God was also stripped, mocked, spat at, made to wear a painful crown of thorns, and physically assaulted (Matthew 27:27-31).
In addition, the watching crowd turned on Jesus, demanding PIlate to put him to death by crucifixion (Mark 15:13).
Why did Jesus choose to face such ridicule, punishment, and death – despite his innocence and sinlessness?
At any time, Jesus could have spoken up against his wrongful persecution. Yet, he chose not to defend himself. Why?
The short answer is: Jesus did it out of his love for his Father and his love for us.
As Isaiah prophesied:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,Isaiah 53:5
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed
By contrast, God is sinless. He is absolutely righteous and perfectly just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 9:7-8). Thus, the rightful punishment for our sin is our eternal separation from Him. God is holy; we are not.
Yet, to reconcile us with Him, our Father sent His sinless son to suffer and die for our sake (John 3:16). By his perfect love, Jesus paid for our sins on our behalf. This is a salvation we did nothing to deserve.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23
In short, Jesus took God’s just punishment for our sins upon himself, thus “canceling the record of debt that stood against us” (Colossians 2:14).
He did this by taking on the emotional, spiritual, and physical punishment that was actually meant for us.
Physically, this includes subjecting himself to the pain and shame of his undeserved Roman lashing, despite his innocence. His perfect sacrifice on the cross is the death we rightfully deserve for our sins. Him being whipped and crucified is a vivid historical reminder of this.
Jesus chose to suffer all these things because he knew that, by paying off all our debts, he blesses all believers with the gift of eternal life with God (1 John 5:11).
This is Jesus’ ultimate act of love and reconciliation for those who have faith in him.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:8