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The Mockery Of The Cross (C.H. Spurgeon)

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Psalm 22:6-8

He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” Luke 23:48

“Earth never beheld a scene in which so much unrestrained derision and expressive contempt were poured upon one man so unanimously and for so long a time. It must have been hideous to the last degree to have seen so many grinning faces and mocking eyes, and to have heard so many cruel words and scornful shouts. The spectacle was too detestable to be long endured of heaven. Suddenly the sun, shocked at the scene, veiled his face, and for three long hours the ribald crew sat shivering in midday midnight. Meanwhile the earth trembled beneath their feet, the rocks were rent, and the temple, in superstitious defence of whose perpetuity they had committed the murder of the just, had its holy veil rent as though by strong invisible hands. The news of this, and the feeling of horror produced by the darkness, and the earth-tremor, caused a revulsion of feelings; there were no more gibes and jests, no more thrustings out of the tongue and cruel mockeries, but they went their way solitary and alone to their homes, or in little silent groups, while each man alter the manner of Orientals when struck with sodden awe, smote upon his breast. Far different was the procession to the gates of Jerusalem from that march of madness which had come out therefrom. Observe the power which God hath over human minds! See how he can tame the wildest, and make the most malicious and proud to cower down at his feet when he doth but manifest himself in the wonders of nature! How much more cowed and terrified will they be when he makes bare his arm and comes forth in the judgments of his wrath to deal with them according to their deserts!

This sudden and memorable change in so vast a multitude is the apt representative of two other remarkable mental changes. How like it is to the gracious transformation which a sight of the cross has often worked most blessedly in the hearts of men! Many have come under the sound of the gospel resolved to scoff, but they have returned to pray. The idlest and even the basest motives have brought men under the preaching, but when Jesus has been lifted up, they have been savingly drawn to him, and as a consequence have smitten upon their breasts in repentance, and gone their way to serve the Saviour whom they once blasphemed. Oh, the power, the melting, conquering, transforming power of that dear cross of Christ! My brethren, we have but to abide by the preaching of it, we have but constantly to tell abroad the matchless story, and we may expect to see the most remarkable spiritual results. We need despair of no man now that Jesus has died for sinners. With such a hammer as the doctrine of the cross, the most flinty heart will be broken; and with such a fire as the sweet love of Christ, the most mighty iceberg will be melted. We need never despair for the heathenish or superstitious races of men; if we can but find occasion to bring the doctrine of Christ crucified into contact with their natures, it will yet change them, and Christ will be their king.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Mourning at the Sight of the Crucified,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on March 14, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 145–146.

Never more shall God, Jehovah,
Smite the Shepherd with the sword;
Ne’er again shall cruel sinners,
Set at nought our glorious Lord. 
– Robert Cleaver Chapman

For me Thou hast borne the reproaches,
The mockery, hate and disdain;
The blows and the spittings of sinners,
The scourging, the shame and the pain;
To save me from bondage and judgment,
Thou gladly hast suffered for me –
A thousand, a thousand thanksgivings,
I bring, blessed Savior, to Thee!
 – Ernst C. Homburg; trans. Mrs. F. Bevan

The Unparalleled Cross

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

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“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8

People sometimes read the account of Jesus’ crucifixion as if it is an ancient event that does not pertain to them. Yet the Scriptures make it plain that everyone – Jews and Gentiles – must reckon with the crucified Christ and what His death on the cross means for them personally. One may not remain neutral in Calvary’s shadow. The Lord Jesus’ death on the cross sets Christianity apart from all other belief systems, and reveals the truth about everyone: ancient or modern; rich or poor; educated or illiterate – as well as every other human demographic.

A Unique Event In The Annals Of Human History

No humanly devised philosophy or religion could invent the Lord Jesus’ unparalleled sacrifice on the cross. Numerous belief systems have martyrs like Socrates or Joseph Smith; others have noted prophets and teachers like Gautama Buddha or Muhammed. Yet only biblical Christianity has the propitiatory offering of Christ, taking place on a despised gibbet of shame. As the classic commentator J.C. Ryle notes:

The cross is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. Other religions have laws and moral precepts, forms and ceremonies, rewards and punishments. But other religions cannot tell us of a dying Saviour. They cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel. This is that special comfort which belongs to it alone. Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross. A man who teaches in this way, might as well profess to explain the solar system, and yet tell his hearers nothing about the sun.[i]

A modern writer agrees in these words:


The cross is the focal point of all of Christianity. Everything hangs on the cross—everything. In the cross the Christian church has something no other religion or philosophy has…None but Christianity has a salvation plan so strong, so poignant, or so absurd to human thinking. None but Christianity has a point in time where God, evil, and mankind collided so violently that it abolished the sin that separated man from God and changed man forever. Men and religions have long despised and stumbled over the cross. The Jews of Jesus’ day could not fathom their Messiah coming and dying. After all, messiahs don’t die. The Romans saw a dying god as weak and unworthy of their allegiance—gods aren’t slain by mortals. Islam flatly rejects the cross, saying it is inappropriate that God’s prophet would succumb to such an end.[ii]

The cross uniquely demonstrates God’s perfect righteousness. It shows that He hates sin, and yet justly extends mercy and forgiveness to repentant sinners while justifying them – declaring them righteous in His sight (Rom. 3:25-26.)

Who Knows What Lurks In The Hearts Of Men?

The cross exposes the human heart by stripping away the façade of human wisdom, culture, religion, and politics. The best and the brightest from Rome and Judea united to put the Son of God to death. An early Christian prayer describes it thus: “       For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27-28; boldface mine.) As Paul further explains it: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8; boldface mine.) Human jurisprudence was found wanting due to human pride, envy, and the desire for personal advancement. The exalted ethical and legal system crafted by the Jews over centuries pronounced God the Son to be a blasphemer (Matt. 26:65.) Additionally, the vaunted Roman justice system executed a patently innocent man, whose perfect righteousness was clearly demonstrated by His many acts of kindness (John 18:38; Acts 10:38.)

Why did religious people like the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees reject their Messiah? The answer lies in Christ’s relationship to their carefully-cultivated religious image. As Stott points out:

Ostensibly Jerusalem rejected Christ on theological grounds, and outwardly the Pharisees condemned Jesus for blasphemy.  But beneath these intellectual and doctrinal objections was a hostile will.  Jesus had exposed their hypocrisy and unmasked their sins.  Their pride was wounded.  They felt humiliated.  They hated him for his holiness.  They were jealous of his influence on the common people.  These things were at the root of their repudiation of Christ.  But it was more respectable to find fault with his theology than to admit their moral embarrassment.  Their doubts were a cloak for their sins.  It has often been so.  I do not say it is always so, because of course many people have genuine theological problems.  But frequently a man’s deepest need is not intellectual but moral, and his supposed inability to believe is really an unwillingness to obey.[iii]

Why did a veteran Roman civil servant knowingly condemn an innocent man to death? The Bible says that what finally swayed Pilate to crucify the Lord Jesus was this jibe: “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar” (John 19:12.) So there it was: career and ambition versus truth and justice; advancement in this world or in the next; Caesar or Christ – all people must take a side on this issue. Either one lives for this world or they live for the one to come. If they love this evil age, they will be condemned with it. But if they love the age to come and lose their life here to gain it there, then the risen, eternal Christ will deliver them unto His kingdom and glory (Gal. 1:4-5; Matt. 16:24-27; Rom. 8:17-18.)

So the dividing lines are drawn. The cross shows man’s wisdom to be foolishness, his religion to be a sham, and his justice a travesty. Jew and Gentile, secular and religious – the crème de la crème of society condemned Jesus to death. Still today people line up for or against the slain Savior. Many invite a fabricated bloodless and cross-less Christianity, vainly pretending to please God by their religious ceremonies and good works. Others – most notably the Muslims – deny that Jesus died at all. Still others think He got what He deserved on the cross. In interpreting the events of the crucifixion thus, they but repeat the folly of their ancient unbelieving predecessors who brutally executed the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, many willingly come to the cross and say: “Yes. Lord, Your cross reveals how bad I am: a Christ-rejecting, hell-deserving sinner. But Your shed blood also shows that You died for my sins according to the Scriptures and you have risen again to demonstrate Your triumph to give me eternal life as a free gift. Thank you for dying for me and rising again so that I might be raised to sit in the heavenlies with You” (Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 John 1:7; John 3:16.) Thanks be to God, that the cross uniquely demonstrates the Lord’s perfect righteousness and love. It reveals mankind to be sinful and evil, but also reveals God to be holy, merciful, and good; the two are accurately depicted in the historic events at Calvary.

Oh, how our inmost hearts do move
While gazing on that cross!
The death of the Incarnate Love!
What shame, what grief, what joy we prove,
That He should die for us!
Our hearts were broken by that cry,
“Eli, lama sabachthani?”

Worthy of death, O God, we were;
Thy judgment was our due;
In grace Thy spotless Lamb did bear
Himself our sins and guilt and shame;
Justice our surety slew,
With Him our surety we have died,
With Him we there were crucified.[iv]

[i] J.C. Ryle, “The Cross of Christ,” in Old Paths: Being Plain Statements of Some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity. London: Charles J. Thynne, 1898,  p. 256. [Italics original.]

[ii] Timothy L. Sanford, “Cross Purposes: Calvary Reveals The Passionate Heart of God.” in Discipleship Journal, Issue 110 (March/April 1999). NavPress.

[iii] John R.W. Stott, Fundamentalism and Evangelism. London: Crusade Booklets, 1956, p. 29.

[iv] James G. Deck, “Oh, solemn hour, that hour alone” in Spiritual Songs, hymn #215, found here: Accessed on 5/18/11.

Alone But Not Alone

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” John 16:32

Abandonment and loneliness are among the most dreaded human experiences. No one wants to be alone in a time of crisis. Whether it is a neighbor, a relative, or just a good friend, human hearts crave companionship in the midst of difficulties. This innate impulse was not absent from the Lord Jesus, who is “God manifest in the flesh,” yet also a perfect man (1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:5.)

On the night before Christ’s crucifixion, His disciples were perplexed and troubled about His repeated statements that He was about to leave them (e.g. Jn. 14:2; Jn. 16:16.) Their fears focused on their personal situation, not so much on what He would endure. What would life be like without Jesus around to guide and protect them? Given that they had left their old lives to follow Him, this sort of talk naturally disturbed them (Matt. 19:27.) Yet the real horror of the coming day would be experienced by the Master, not His followers. His abandonment by the disciples would merely be the beginning of sorrows for the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53:3.)

In The Hands Of The Rabble

Even when the well-armed mob converged upon Gethsemane to arrest the Lord, the unarmed Savior demonstrated His protecting power by orchestrating the release of His eleven loyal followers. Without threatening or invoking angelic aid, He authoritatively said “Let these go their way”; accordingly the captors permitted the disciples to depart unharmed. This seemed counterproductive to their purposes: why not wipe out Jesus’ closest lieutenants with one blow? Yet in their hatred against the Lord, they were blinded to reason, and obeyed His sovereign wishes.

By the end of His arrest, the disciples all rapidly dispersed. Peter and John returned to follow Christ afar off to Caiaphas’ palace. The tragedy of their physical distance was augmented by Peter’s threefold denial of His Master, which the Lord had predicted (Lk. 22:31-34, 60-62.) While it is true that the Lord also prophesied this disgraced disciple’s restoration, it does not diminish the fact that this departure helped fulfill the Old Testament prophesy concerning Christ: “Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” (Psa. 69:20.)

The Harmonious Working Of Father And Son

In spite of this lack of human comforters, the Lord Jesus pointed out to them that He was actually not alone (Jn. 16:32.) Throughout His life on earth, the Father audibly manifested His presence with His only begotten Son (e.g. Matt. 3:17; Mk. 9:7; Jn. 12:28.) Now in view of Mount Moriah – like the ancient patriarch Abraham and his beloved son – the phrase “the two of them went together” described the Divine Father and Son’s approach to Calvary (Gen. 22:6.) The cross was a work of the triune Godhead: God the Father was the righteous judge, the Son was the Lamb offered up through “the eternal Spirit” (Isa. 53:6; Heb. 9:14.) Though the Son was judged as a sin offering at the cross, He remained the uniquely well-pleasing one to His Father. The comfort of their relationship was only displaced by the wrath of God falling upon Him (Matt. 27:46.) He remained the Son of God’s love throughout His sufferings. His great pain is captured by the imagery of Messianic Psalms like the 22nd and the 69th: “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death” (Psa. 22:14-15) and

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God. Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore itLet not the floodwater overflow me, nor let the deep swallow me up; and let not the pit shut its mouth on me. (Psa. 69:1-4, 15.)

The eloquent hymn writer, James G. Deck evocatively pictured the scene in poetry:

Oh solemn hour! that hour alone
In solitary might,
When God the Father’s only Son,
As man for sinners to atone,
Expires — amazing sight!
The Lord of glory crucified!
The Prince of life has bled and died!

O mystery of mysteries!
Of life and death the tree;
Centre of two eternities,
Which look, with rapt, adoring eyes,
Onward and back to Thee.
O cross of Christ, where all His pain
And death is our eternal gain.

Oh, how our inmost hearts do move
While gazing on that cross!
The death of the Incarnate Love!
What shame, what grief, what joy we prove,
That He should die for us!
Our hearts were broken by that cry,
‘Eli, lama sabachthani?’

Worthy of death, O God, we were;
Thy judgment was our due;
In grace Thy spotless Lamb did bear
Himself our sins and guilt and shame;
Justice our surety slew,
With Him our surety we have died,
With Him we there were crucified.i

The Father’s Opinion Of His Son On Display To The Universe

Christ was not irrevocably forsaken, however; instead, the Father demonstrated His pleasure in Him by raising Him from the dead three days later. As Peter later said:

Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’…This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. ‘For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:24-28, 32-36.)

Other passages confirm that the Father demonstrated His appreciation of His Son by the resurrection (Acts 3:13-15; Rom. 1:4.)

Head Of An Innumerable Company

The stricken One was vindicated by the Father and received into glory, where He never shall be alone (1 Pet. 3:22.)

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever (Rev. 5:11-14.)

For all eternity, the redeemed will praise and fellowship with the Lord of glory, who was judged for sin on the cross, and subsequently glorified through resurrection from the dead. For the future ages upon ages the Father and He will be the center of attention (Eph. 1:20-23; Rev. 21:22-24.)

i J.G. Deck, “Oh Solemn Hour, That Hour Alone”;

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The Death of the Cross

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:9i
To modern people the cross is at best a ubiquitous Christian symbol or at worst a mere piece of jewelry. In the ancient world things were far different. In Bible times the cross was a form of execution, “…reserved for the most notable and notorious ne’er-do-wells of antiquity.”ii It was not something one spoke about in polite company; nor was it a desirable end to one’s life. Every facet of crucifixion was meant to demean and demoralize the condemned one. Though it meant a lonely, tortuous death, the Lord Jesus willingly went to Golgotha and laid down His life in obedience to His Father. To fathom the profound shame associated with this act, modern sentimentality about the cross must be stripped away. To appreciate what Christ did for His people one must perceive the humiliation connected with this form of execution.
The Old Rugged Cross
In order to properly understand Christ’s gracious work one must survey ancient opinions on His manner of death. To the Romans, crucifixion was an odious, humiliating process, kept in store for society’s vilest dregs. One writer describes their revulsion in this way: “Origen called crucifixion mors turpissima crucia (‘the utterly vile death of the cross’), and Cicero called it, ‘that most cruel and disgusting penalty.’ It was reserved for rebellious foreigners, violent criminals and robbers, and it was considered the typical punishment for slaves.”iii Another adds: “…Cicero…expresses his feelings about crucifixion as follows: ‘Far be the very name of a cross, not only from the body, but even from the thought, the eyes, the ears of Roman citizens’.”iv A third writer comments on the problems with which early Christians were confronted by pagan adversaries:
The shame of crucifixion was in fact to be widely utilized in precisely this fashion in later anti-Christian polemic. Caecilius, Minucius Felix’s pagan interlocutor, reasoned as follows: ‘To say that their ceremonies center on a man put to death for his crime and on the fatal wood of the cross is to assign to these abandoned wretches sanctuaries which are appropriate to them and the kind of worship they deserve.’ Tacitus had already utilized the dishonor of the crucifixion of Jesus to cast aspersions on the Christian movement. ‘Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate.’ The resulting ‘disease’ (malum) found its way to Rome, ‘where all things horrible or shameful [pudenda] in the world collect and find a vogue.’ For Christians in Philippi, the sharp verticality of their social world would have served only to accentuate the foolishness and shamefulness of worshiping a crucified Christ.v
Suffice it to say that speaking of death by crucifixion in a Roman colony like Philippi would link the executed one with the lowest type of shame.
The Jewish Opinion of Crucifixion
The Jewish view of the cross was just as bad as the Greco-Roman estimation of this gibbet of shame. Deuteronomy 21:23 affirms: “…he who is hanged is accursed of God.” As Martin points out: “…[it] meant that the victim was outside the pale of Israel, and that he was under a ban of excommunication from God’s covenant. It was this thought which proved the stumbling-block of the cross to the Jew (1 Cor. 1:23)…”vi The Dead Sea Scrolls link this verse in Deuteronomy with crucifixion.vii Later Jewish literature scornfully refers to Jesus as Ha-Talui (“the Hanged One”), emphasizing that He died as a condemned and accursed One.viii Before, during, and after the time of Christ crucifixion and crucified people were repugnant to the Jewish mind.
Given the universal abhorrence of crucifixion in the ancient world, Philippians 2: 9 reveals the astonishing fact that the Lord Jesus voluntarily submitted to this sort of treatment. His unparalleled obedience to the Father’s will is demonstrated by His willing self-sacrifice in such a humiliating way. He subordinated His own well-being to the overarching divine plan of redemption. So that the Father might be glorified, the Son laid down His life and abased Himself. His reputation was put in the dust that the Father’s name might be exalted. God must be revealed as Just and the Justifier of the repentant sinner (Rom. 3:25-26.) God’s love was unequivocally declared and His fathomless grace demonstrated for all of the universe to see (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:10.)
Through the resurrection and ascension, the Father exalted the Son to the highest position in the universe for His selfless obedience, which previously led Him to such depths of humiliation. He who went lower than any other, is now exalted over all creation. Every human and angelic being will one day be compelled to confess His position at first place, declaring His peerless Lordship (Phil. 2:10-11.) Thus Christ’s death on a cross is the unlikely launching point for the greatest rise in world history. Paul aptly used this truth to exhort the Philippian Christians to greater selflessness, mutual love, and unity. Elsewhere, he points to the tremendous blessings that comes to every believer and him through Christ’s ignominious death. The benefits of His crucifixion are so vast that the apostle refuses to boast in anything else (Gal. 6:14.)
Oh, my Saviour crucified, Near Thy cross would I abide, Gazing with adoring eye On Thy dying agony.
God is love I surely know, In the Saviour’s depth of woe; In the Sinless, in God’s sight, Sin is justly brought to light.
In His spotless soul’s distress, I have learnt my guiltiness; Oh, how vile my low estate, Since my ransom was so great.
-Robert Cleaver Chapman
i Emphasis mine; all Scripture references are from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
ii Ben Witherington III, Friendship & Finances in Philippi: The Letter of Paul to the Philippians. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press, 1994, p. 64.
iii David J. MacLeod, “Imitating the Incarnation of Christ: An Exposition of Philippians 2:5-8,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 158:631 (July 2001), Dallas: DTS, p. 328f. The quotes from Origen & Cicero may be referenced at Origen, Commentary on Matthew (27:22–26), quoted in Martin Hengel, Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), xi; & Cicero, Against Verres 2.5.165, quoted in Hengel, Crucifixion, 8, n. 15.
iv Ralph P. Martin, Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Vol. 11, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987.
v Joseph H. Hellerman, “The Humiliation of Christ in the Social World of Roman Philippi, part 2,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 160 (Oct. 2003). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 2003, p. 427ff.
vi Ralph P. Martin, Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Vol. 11, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987, brackets mine.
vii Gerald G. O’Collins, “Crucifixion,” in Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1996, p. 1207.
viii A google search of this term reveals that it is still a common slur against Jesus in certain quarters.