The early Christians also believed Christ was coming back within their lifetimes.
I don't see what difference it makes whether there were nails; the gospels do not mention nails.
Crucifixion could take days. Christ was weakened from the scourging, and had lost blood, so his death came fairly quickly.
To add to the humiliation, it was also fairly common to completely strip the person who was to be crucifed. There's no reason to think Christ was spared this insult.
And the Romans did not take the bodies down after death. If a family member didn't remove the body, it simply hung on the cross, for vultures and other vermin to pick at.
They don't mention nails, but they seem to be understood. As in John 20:27 where Jesus told Thomas: "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here and put it into My side..."
The Apostle Paul understood it as well: "...and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Colossians 2:14b
The whole "argument" is nothing but an attempt, as it has been down through history, to make Jesus & Christianity look false. Hasn't worked, has it?
Read John Chapter 20. The pertinent quote is on this page. Jesus was nailed to the cross.
"One of the twelve disciples Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe." John 20:24-25 (GNT)
Yes, they do. John 20:24 says very clearly that Jesus was nailed through the "hands" (which could also mean that he was nailed through what we would call the wrist).
The technique was probably to nail through the space between the forearm bones next to the wrist in such a way as to sever the nerves (resulting in intense, shooting pain when the victim tried to breathe) but keep the major vessels intact (so the victim didn't bleed to death quickly).
There is an interesting contemporary Roman literary source for this. Petronius, the master of revels for Nero, wrote "The Satyricon," sometimes considered the first novel. Among other stories and incidents, Petronius describes a Roman soldier who was detailed to guard the corpse of a crucified criminal, to keep the family from taking the body and burying it. The widow of another dead man (the place of crucifixion is a cemetery) loudly mourns his death nearby until the soldier convinces her to live and seduces her. They enjoy each other's company until the family of the dead criminal notice the watch is loosely kept and steal his body away. The soldier is ready to kill himself since the penalty for shirking his duty is death. His new lover practically points out that her dead husband's body will do just as well. They mount it in his place and the neighbors wondered how a dead man managed to climb the cross.
The story is seen as an early slam at Christians. I think it is proof of how even by Nero's time, the facts of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection were already well known at Rome. The story is also a good source of crucification information.
Gutenberg text of "The Satyricon" is at http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=5611
This is wrong. The stipes (uprights) were reused... often. Executions were sometimes weekly and sometimes daily... and the stipes were kept in place. The condemned was nailed or tied to the patibulum (the cross piece) and then lifted onto the stipes. The bodies were taken down and tossed into a pit so the crosses could be reused.
The error that Mel makes is in having Jesus carry the entire cross, stipes and patibulum. Most likely the condemned men carried only the patibulum.