Waiting in the Las Vegas airport for my delayed flight home last night, I finished a short book on the ancient execution method of crucifixion. I read the book after hearing it referenced by a number of top NT scholars, and pulled it out of my library recently in the spirit of the upcoming passion week. I learned many things from Martin Hengel's 90-page book aptly named "Crucifixion" (1977 Fortress Press). The book can be broken down into two primary areas of focus: 1) the history of the cross and 2) how people of the time perceived it.
"Crucifixion" is a well-researched book chock full of examples from ancient literature (despite Hengel's own claim that many writers dared not mention the term because of it's unsavory reputation). But the book's biggest contribution is how it helps the modern reader appreciate Paul's reference to "the folly of the cross."