My disclaimer here is that I have no religious affiliation. I do however love history and stories. A couple years ago I purchased a book for Jamie's birthday and it is a most interesting read. "The God Tree" by Janis Fry & Allen Meredith.
It is a history of the yew tree and its connection to legends and actual events throughout our past. And definitely has a different perspective on some stories that we take for granted.
One of these is the story of when Jesus was killed and of his resurrection. Please note that this book has extensive references and you almost have to read the whole book as so much relates to one another. (For instance they spend a couple chapters explaining why the Tree of Life is a Yew tree, then this is the understanding for the rest of the book.)
The first glaringly different idea that they present (though not the first to do so) is that Jesus was hung on a Yew tree - not nailed to a cross.
Apparently, the original scriptures of the old testament state that to fulfill the phropecies the Messiah was to hang on the tree. Interesting note here is from Gerald Massey in his book "Ancient Egypt. The Light of the World". In it he states that in Hebrew, Messiah is actually MesIah. Mes is from the Babylonion texts for Tree of Life and Iah is a short name for God.
There is a legend that when Adam was buried three seed were placed in his mouth and a branch was planted on his grave. This branch grew into the tree at Golgatha (Gagultâ) where Jesus was hung. And that this was a yew tree and also the tree (or one of them) that Moses took his burning branch from.
These prophecies were in reference as to how the original sin/curse of Adam & Eve taking the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge was to be lifted. It is stated that the ritual Jesus chose - to be hung on a tree - was to lift the original curse (sin) . The authors reference the Dead Sea Scrolls (150BC - 200 AD) "for he who is hanged on the tree is accursed of God and men...". Meaning that Jesus was making this ultimate sacrifice to be seen as accursed to lift the curse off mankind (not to die for their future sins).
There is also a move from the known story in the suggestion that it was actually the Sanhedrin (Jewish priesthood) were the ones to oversee and carryout this ritual hanging, in accordance with Jewish law. Jesus was considered guilty of treason by the Sanhedrin, as he refused to follow some of the Jewish laws (like the stoning of women), was guilty of blasphemy by claiming to be the son of God and was seen to be working against their religion.
From the Qumran Temple Scrolls (200BC)
"If a man guilty of a capital offence is put to death and his body is hung on a tee, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight."
Joseph of Aramathea - who had knowledge of medicinal plants - and Nicodemus - who was a physician - were part of the Sanhedrin. One or both of them were involved in the removal of his body and taking it to the tomb. The authors suggest that it is very likely Jesus was given 'soma' or an elixir of life, made from the flesh of the yew tree berries (the only non-toxic part of the tree) and the sap of the yew and that this would have given him "the appearance of death, that is to say, it would induce the pulse to slow down so that any signs of lie would be indiscernible". And therefor his resurrection days later would have been known to Jesus and his helpers.
Peter: "Why must you go, they will surely have you pout to death"
Jesus: "Have you not heard, have you not understood Moses and the burning bush? Have you not understood the story of Jonah and the Whale?
The authors put forward that it was during the of the Roman Constantine that the story of Jesus being hung on a tree was changed to a crucifixion on a piece of wood. This was because of the powerful connection to other gods hung in trees. References to other Gods hung on trees and resurrected - Nommo (God of Ancient Egypt); Esus (God of Gauls); Odin (Norse God); Tammuz (Babylonian & Sumerian God); Ninhursag (Summerian Goddess); Attis (Phrygian God). And that this is also the time the cross as a symbol for Christianity was introduced.
A couple interesting references. The first from "The Dream of the Holy Rood":
He who once suffered on the gallows tree
Declare in words 'this is the tree of glory'
And heavens King exalted me above all the other trees,
Just as almighty God
I lay there watching the Saviour's tree.
And from "The Leaves of Light" (a ballad for oral tradition):
All under the leaves and the leaves of light, I met with virgins seven,
And one of them was Mary mild, our Lord's first Mother in Heaven
Oh where are you going you seven pretty maids, all under the leaves of light?
Oh we are going, Thomas they said - Seeking for a friend of thine
And they went down into yonder town - And sat in the gallery
And there they saw sweet Jesus Christ hanging from a big Yew Tree.
There is so much more to this book that is so very intriguing - the Secrets of the Grail, origins of Gods, staff carriers, and how these (and much more) connect to the Yew tree. If you can find a copy, worth a read!