For Bible Study Nerds

“They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues…”

Don’t gloss over Jesus’ promise of flogging that’s recorded in Matthew 10:17—you can be sure his disciples didn’t. Here’s what happened when one of Jesus’ disciples was flogged in a synagogue:

  • Any person—man or woman—deemed guilty of entering the temple while unclean would be subject to the punishment of flogging. After Acts 10:9-16 happened (when God lifted the ban on eating certain meats), synagogue officials would have deemed most Christians guilty of being unclean.
  • After the synagogue officials had passed judgment, Jesus’ disciple was stripped to the waist and made to lie down, or crouch low to the ground. His or her hands were tied to a pillar for the duration of the flogging.
  • Four people were required to conduct the flogging. A hazzan (“administrator”) did the actual whipping. A second person counted the number of blows. A third person gave the commands. And a fourth person read aloud Deuteronomy 28:58-59 while the beating took place.
  • The hazzan would use a sturdy leather whip for the flogging. This was usually a whip made of four plaited thongs attached to a handle.
  • The standard number of lashes was 40, though most often one of Jesus’ disciples was whipped 39 times (known as 40 less one). This was done just in case the hazzan and/or the counter lost count sometime during the bloody delivery of punishment.
  • One-third of the lashes (about 13) were delivered to the disciple’s chest, and the remainder (about 26) were delivered to the back.
  • If Jesus’ disciple appeared near death as a result flogging, the hazzan was supposed to stop. In spite of that, “there are records of people dying” from a synagogue flogging.


Works Cited:

[ZB1, 69]



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