The baptism of Jesus and his crucifixion are considered to be two historically certain facts about Jesus. James Dunn states that these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent" and "rank so high on the 'almost impossible to doubt or deny' scale of historical facts" that they are often the starting points for the study of the historical Jesus. Bart Ehrman states that the crucifixion of Jesus on the orders of Pontius Pilate is the most certain element about him. John Dominic Crossan states that the crucifixion of Jesus is as certain as any historical fact can be. Eddy and Boyd state that it is now "firmly established" that there is non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus. Craig Blomberg states that most scholars in the third quest for the historical Jesus consider the crucifixion indisputable. Christopher M. Tuckett states that, although the exact reasons for the death of Jesus are hard to determine, one of the indisputable facts about him is that he was crucified.
While scholars agree on the historicity of the crucifixion, they differ on the reason and context for it. For example, both E. P. Sanders and Paula Fredriksen support the historicity of the crucifixion but contend that Jesus did not foretell his own crucifixion and that his prediction of the crucifixion is a "church creation" (p. 126). Geza Vermes also views the crucifixion as a historical event but provides his own explanation and background for it.
John P. Meier views the crucifixion of Jesus as historical fact and states that Christians would not have invented the painful death of their leader, invoking the criterion of embarrassment principle in historical research. Meier states that a number of other criteria, e.g., the criterion of multiple attestation (i.e., confirmation by more than one source) and the criterion of coherence (i.e., that it fits with other historical elements) help establish the crucifixion of Jesus as a historical event.
Although almost all ancient sources relating to crucifixion are literary, the 1968 archeological discovery just northeast of Jerusalem of the body of a crucified man dated to the 1st century provided good confirmatory evidence that crucifixions occurred during the Roman period roughly according to the manner in which the crucifixion of Jesus is described in the gospels. The crucified man was identified as Yehohanan ben Hagkol and probably died about 70 AD, around the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome. The analyses at the Hadassah Medical School estimated that he died in his late 20s. Another relevant archaeological find, which also dates to the 1st century AD, is an unidentified heel bone with a spike discovered in a Jerusalem gravesite, now held by the Israel Antiquities Authority and displayed in the Israel Museum.