by Dr. Mark Eckel, Ratio Christi Professorial Ministries

How does crucifixion kill you?

Balancing the scales

Their killings were retaliations to avenge death.

A score had to be settled. They had to keep things “even.” There had to be payback.

The word in their language that kept things “an even trade” was duputapό (do-poo-ta-po).

When the correct amount for repayment had been reached an elder would say sųpό (sue-po).

It happened like this for the Folopa (foe-low-pa) people of Papua New Guinea.

The Folopa

Let’s say a man was cutting down a tree in the forest. It was a large tree and it was taking him some time to cut it down with an axe. A woman was working in the vicinity. She was harvesting sago, a food source from a plant down the hill. The man who was cutting the tree knew when it fell, the woman would be in danger. He told her so, multiple times. The woman continued to work despite the warnings.

The fall

Tragedy struck. The cut tree fell sooner than either anticipated. The trunk of the tree crushed the woman’s skull killing her instantly.

Chaos erupted. Clans living near the tragedy responded. Men from the woman’s tribe fetched their weapons; they wanted justice. The man who had cut the tree ran to his clan’s meeting house. His clansmen surrounded the house protecting their member of the tribe.

Both groups shouted at each other.


Our mission is to equip students and faculty with reasons for following Jesus. “Thoughtful” denotes a double meaning. It is both compassionate and considerate as well as rational and reflective.

The argument

“Wrongdoing demands payment!” the woman’s clan shouted.

“It was an accident! He warned her!” the man’s clan yelled back.

Back and forth rang the shouts. Both groups knew what had to happen next.

The tree-cutter stayed in the meeting house but other men in his group began to bring valuables from their homes. In between the two groups were placed cloth, axes, salt, and pigs tethered to the ground.


At some point one of the elders from the woman’s tribe yelled, “Sųpό!” meaning “Enough!”

The leader of the man’s house responded “Duputapό!” or “It’s an even trade!”

Men from the woman’s tribe gathered the items and animals, returning to their village.

The tree-cutter was free. Because of duputapό he would not face any punishment for his crime.

Villagers familiar with the story were trying to help a translator understand what the Bible meant when it said, “The Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).


Duputapό was the word in their language for ransom. Jesus “made a trade.” He gave his life because humans were in danger of being punished for wrongdoing, for sin.

And when Jesus paid the ransom Jesus’ Father said, “Sųpό!” The trade is enough.

One of the elders of the tribe had been listening carefully during the translation discussion. When he spoke all others stopped speaking, turned, and listened.

“The duputapό the Bible speaks of is a person. In the past we’ve given a great deal to trade for a clan brother. A great deal. But we’ve never given a person. And a person would never give himself!” [1]

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians celebrate because Jesus freely traded Himself to ransom us from our sin (1 Timothy 2:6). He paid the price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Our sin was bought, purchased. Jesus’ death offered liberation from future punishment for sin (Matthew 20:28).

The offer of freedom could only come through the sinless sacrifice of Jesus (John 8:36). The Father sent His Son Jesus to be the liberator (Acts 7:35). Jesus’ duputapό is the exact payment needed to deliver us from our sin (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus fulfills the payment necessary to release we, the captives, from our wrongdoing (Luke 4:18).