The word "triclavianism" was recently resurrected by Baptist minister Andrew Miller (OBJECTIVE: Ministries) as yet another synonym for the modern, scientific worldview (cf. "secular humanism"). The term comes from the Greek or Latin words "tri" ("three") and "clavus" ("nail"). The "ism" part is used by "theologians" to refer to heresies (ideas they don't like) and in this case refers to the belief that archeology or history or any non-Biblical sources might shed some light on Jesus' "passion" (a Latin-Christian word for "ignominious execution").

The traditional depiction of the Crucifixion suffers from the dubious assumption, based on the story of "doubting Thomas" placing his fingers in the holes in Jesus' hands, that Jesus was nailed to the cross through the palms of his hands, rather than through his wrists, as archeology suggests was the standard Roman practice.

"Dr." Miller's beef with triclavianism is not that he thinks more or fewer nails than three were used to affix Jesus to his cross. He seems to acknowledge that there were, likely, three. Rather, the pastor disputes the notion that archeology can tell us anything worth knowing about the Crucifixion. Oh sure, "Dr." Miller acknowledges, it might be useful to know some archeology for "apologetics" (convincing unsaved people of the Truth of the Gospel) but not for dogma.

The heresy in triclavianism is not the belief in the use of only three nails, per se. Rather, it is the insistence that fallible, non-Biblical sources of information should be used as a guide to important matters of Faith.

The Higher Criticism, the Quest for the Historical Jesus, the Jesus Seminar, and just about all modern biblical scholarship clearly fall into this pernicious trap of relying on any source of information other than the Holy Scripture to discern the truth of matters of Faith.

"Dr." Miller's critique of triclavianism, however, suffers from the errors of "fabricationism" (the heresy of making shit up) and "obscurantism" (the heresy of applying fancy labels to ideas). "Dr." Miller desires to assert that if God wanted us to know something important, he would have put it in the Bible. This "anti-triclavianism" is itself un-Biblical. I would refer the good "Dr." to Paul's letter to the Romans 1:20:

For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. (KJV)

or, in a more modern translation:

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse ... (NRSV)

Surely God's power is important? Paul affirms, however, that God's power is manifest in nature, if we only care to look.


  • Dr. Miller:http://objective.jesussave.us/pastorscorner.html
  • The nails: naturesdesignsonline.com/crucifixion_nails.htm
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia on various theories and depictions of the Nails: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10672a.htm

Note: OBJECTIVE: Ministries a hoax? You wish it were.

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