From Connie Fletcher, What Cops Know, a Studs-Terkel-like compendium of interviews with Chicago policemen, talking about their jobs:

One of the worst days in the police department is Good Friday. An awful lot of Gypsies steal on Good Friday. What’s taught to the young Gypsy kids is that when Christ was put on the cross, they had four nails to nail him to the cross. A Gypsy kid came by and stole one of the nails. That’s why, on the crucifix, Christ’s feet are nailed with one nail on the other two are in the hands.

That’s passed down from generation to generation. So, according to the Gypsy lore, Christ on the cross is supposed to have said, From now and forevermore, Gypsies can steal and it’s not a sin.

I have no idea whether this is true, but I’m not prepared to gainsay it without evidence to the contrary. I had heard the legend that Jesus gave Gypsies the right to steal as he was hanging on the cross, but I didn’t know that it was in thanks for removing one of the nails. This is interesting, because until I heard Sara Lipton‘s paper at the 2014 Kalamazoo conference, I had no idea that the number of nails was in any way significant. You always see three, but apparently before the twelfth century it was usually four. Three nails would mean that Jesus would not have been able to support his own weight and would have suffocated quicker. Apparently “triclavianism” (the belief that Jesus was crucified with three nails) was quite controversial when it first appeared. Who knew?

I had thought that the whole thing was a joke, after reading this satirical website. Not so, apparently!

The Error Of Triclavianism

There have been some questions as of late on why we moved our web-site. As stated, it was due to our previous host’s lack of strong condemnation of triclavianism. I would like to clarify this situation as I think it illustrates an overlooked heresy in today’s Church.

Triclavianists hold that three, and only three, nails were used to affix our Lord Jesus Christ to the cross. While it might be true that three nails were used — and, in fact, archeological evidences uncovered by Biblical researchers positively point to this conclusion — it is erroneous, and theologically dangerous, to make this a doctrinal position. The Bible does not enumerate the Lord’s nails and any extra-Biblical research on the subject — while both interesting and useful for apologetic purposes when dealing with those afflicted with a Secular world view that denies even the historicity of our Lord’s passion and crucifixion — cannot be considered of any substantive import to the Faith.

The Bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God; everything that He wanted us to know about Faith can be found in its pages. If He remains silent on the issue of the number of nails used in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, then it is not for us to presume to make it a point of contention. Those that do are like the Pharisees, hypocritical in their righteousness based on their own worldly learning, and they will lead people astray and away from the True teachings of God. Therefore, we must oppose their strident and irrelevant teachings on the triune nature of the implements of our Lord’s impalement.

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. Triclavianism is merely a pernicious symptom of a greater illness inflicting today’s Christians: the allowing of Secularists to subvert the authority of Christ’s teachings, thereby replacing Faith with skepticism and knowledge with ignorance. Those who do not oppose this illness strongly enough, although their motives may be pure, are only helping to spread it.