Good Friday

good friday

Today most of the body of Messiah (and the world) remembers the crucifixion of Messiah Yahshua/Jesus.  For those interested, here are some studies related to the topic:

Shadows of Messiah – The Dogwood Tree

Shadows of Messiah – Easter

All the Ends of the World Shall Remember

Musings – All the Ends of the World Shall Remember

Daily Tidbits 4/10 – The Crucifixion

Daily Tidbits 4/9 – Scarlet Worm

Daily Tidbits 4/2 – The Lamb

Love

Musings – Ransom from Heaven

Musings – Yom Kippur – Under the Shadow of His Wings

Passover & the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Prophecies of Messiah – Genesis 3:15: The Seed of the Woman

Prophecies of Messiah – Genesis 3:15: Crushing the serpent’s head

Daily Tidbits 2/26 – War

 

Prophecies of Messiah – Genesis 22:8: The Lamb of God promised

Prophecies of Messiah – Genesis 22:14: Abraham saw His day

Prophecies of Messiah – Exodus 12:5: A Lamb Without Blemish

Prophecies of Messiah – Exodus 12:13: The Blood of the Lamb Saves from Wrath

Prophecies of Messiah – Exodus 12:46: Not a Bone Broken

Random Word – Loan/Debt

Shadows of Messiah – Clock Chimes

The 12 hours on the clock face/dial are a daily reminder of the salvation and grace of God which comes through His Son Yahshua/Jesus.  The chimes which ring out every 15 minutes on the numbers 3, 6, and 9 remind us of the 3rd, 6th and 9th hours which were the hours of prayer in Biblical times and point us to the cross, as mentioned before (Mark 15:25; Matthew 27:45-46).  The clock itself came about as a result of these hours of prayer.

The Cambridge Quarters ring out on the numbers 3, 6 & 9 a total of 72 times in a day.  The sun moves through the ecliptic 1 degree every 72 years, more on this below..  Interestingly, the word בנך ‘beneckha’ (your son) has the numerical equivalent of 72.  This word בנך ‘beneckha’ is used in reference to Isaac in Genesis 22, which is a picture of the crucifixion of Messiah.  In light of this fact, it is fascinating that Big Ben (בן ‘Ben’ means Son) rings the Cambridge chimes on the number 3, 6, & 9, 72 times per day.
72 is also the number of hours Messiah was in the grave (3 days x 24 hours = 72)

The cross & time (eternity)

It is only through faith in the blood of the Lamb that we can find His grace.  It is through the blood of the Lamb of God that we enter into covenant with the Most High and are brought into the camp of the righteous.  The gates of the righteous are opened so that we can enter in through the door of the sheepfold who is the Messiah.

The Hebrew letter ד ‘dalet’ {spelled דלת} is a picture of a tent door.  The word is translated as door or gate in the Scriptures.  Messiah Yahshua/Jesus is the door/gate from whence man can enter into the garden of the Lord (John 10:7-14).  This entrance was made available through His death on the cross (John 10:15-18; Hebrews 10:20).  It is fascinating to note that the Hebrew word הגן ‘ha’gan,’ which means ‘the garden,’ also has the numerical value of 58.

The Hebrew letter ד ‘dalet’ is a picture of a door and has the numerical value of 4 which relates to the 4th dimension of time, of which the sun is intimately connected. Time is the ‘fourth dimension’ and is linked to the love of Messiah (Ephesians 3:17-19).  John 3:16 makes clear that the love of Messiah is made manifest on the cross.

1Jn 3:16  Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Joh 15:13  Greater love than this has no one, that anyone should lay down his soul for his friends.

Messiah lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:15).  In this portion of Scripture, Messiah likens Himself to the ‘door’.  Through His sacrifice, Messiah has opened up the door to eternity.  He has pierced the veil that delivers us from death and allows us to enter in the Kingdom of Light.  At the cross, Messiah ‘pierced the fabric’ of time-space…

The 4th dimension is impossible to depict in a three dimensional world that we live in, yet scientists have attempted to do so in the figure of a tesseract, a ’4 dimensional hypercube.  The tesseract looks like a cross.

For more on this see Shadows & the 4th Dimension

Going back to the day – dial – clock connection….The Hebrew word for day is יום ‘yom’ which comes from the root ים ‘yam’ which means the sea.  This is because the sun sets in the West (also the word ים ‘yam’) which in the Promised Land is the Mediterranean Sea.  The sun rises in the East, displayed in the Hebrew word מזרח ‘mizrach.’  מזרח ‘mizrach’ has the ordinal value (position of the letter in the Aleph-Bet) of 48.  48 is the number of times the Cambridge chimes rings during a 12 hour day.

The rising and setting of the sun is a daily picture of the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

The are multiple words for time in Hebrew, the most used is עת ‘et’ which pictographically means to ‘see the cross’, and in ancient Hebrew thinking meant to ‘see the mark.’  What is this ‘mark’?  It is the sun setting (death) and rising (resurrection) above the horizon.

At sunrise the sky appears red

This word comes from דם ‘dam’ meaning blood.

דם ‘dam’ literally means waters from the door, as in the living waters that come forth from the Temple, or the living waters of blood that come forth from the heart.  The sun moving through the zodiac is also a picture of this.  Psalm 19 speaks of the sun following the path of the zodiac and coming forth from ‘his canopy’ representing the Temple.  A healthy heart pumps on average 72 times a minute, the sun moves a degree through the ecliptic every 72 years.  It seems that the beating of the human heart corresponds with the movement of the sun through the ecliptic.

The ‘circle’ traced by the earth’s axis around the north ecliptic pole is not smooth but wavy, as the moon’s gravitational pull causes the earth to ‘nod’ about once every 18 years (currently 18.6 years), a movement known as nutation. The circle therefore contains about 1440 waves, since 18 x 1440 = 25,920. Note that the average human heartbeat is equal to 72 beats a minute, and on average we breathe about 18 times a minute. 72 years (= 6+60+6 or 6×12) is said to be the ‘ideal’ lifespan of a human being, during which time the sun moves through one degree of the zodiac in the precessional cycle. A human breathes 72 times in 4 minutes, the time required for the earth to turn 1 degree on its axis. In 24 hours (86,400 seconds) we breathe 18 x 1440 = 25,920 times, equal to the number of years in the precessional cycle.”  Patterns in Nature

According to the National Geographic’s ‘Incredible Human Machine’ it takes 72 muscles for man to speak.  The Hebrew word for time, עת ‘et,’ means to see the mark.  What is the mark?  It is when the sun rises directly east (קדם ‘qedem’ ‘sun of blood’) at the time of the תקופה ‘tequphah’ which literally means the ‘sun speaks.’

According to Ecclesiastes 1:5-6, the sun moves upon the wind again linking to the blood which flows through the human body and the living waters which flow forth from the throne of God.

The path of the sun through the zodiac comes from the following Hebrew word:

According to the Revelation 22:1-2, the river of life that comes forth from the throne of God, is linked to 12 fruits of the tree of life.

The word for the constellations/zodiac in Hebrew is ‘mazzaroth’ which traces back to the Hebrew word נזר ‘nazar.’

What was on the crown of the High Priest?  The sacred name of YHWH (Exodus 29:6; 39:30)  According to Josephus (Wars of the Jews Book 5 Chapter 5 Section 7) the sacred name consisted of 4 vowels which are pronounced with our breath.  The Hebrew word for ‘name,’ is שם ‘shem’ which means breath/wind.  It is the root for the word שמים ‘shamayim’ which means heaven.  שם ‘shem’ is also the root of the word שמש ‘shemesh’ which means the sun.  Every breath we take we are proclaiming His Name.  Each breath we take brings oxygen into our lungs which brings life to our blood and to our cells.

Messiah was on the cross for 6 hours in which the heartbeats 25,920 times.  In 24 hours (86,400 seconds) we breathe 18 x 1440 = 25,920 times, equal to the number of years in the precessional cycle.

This precessional is known as the ‘Great Year,’ the time in which it takes the sun to move through all the constellations on the Spring equinox (known as an “age” αἰῶνος ‘aions’).

Eph 3:21  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Throughout all ages, world without end (εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων)

Literally, unto all the generations of the age of the ages. Eternity is made up of ages, and ages of generations.

Ecc 3:11  He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has set eternity in their heart, without which man cannot find out the work that God makes from the beginning even to the end.

Daily Tidbits 2/18 – Love & the 4th Dimension

Shadows of Messiah – Shadows & the 4th Dimension

Jesus’ Death: Six Hours of Eternity on the Cross

PASSION OF THE CHRIST
His body was broken for us…

Unleavened bread מצות ‘matsot’ is spelled exactly the same as the Hebrew word for commandments מצות ‘mitsvot.’

This word מצות ‘mitsvot’ is used 37 times in the Scriptures which corresponds to the word הלב ‘halev’ which means ‘the heart.’

Pro 10:8  The wise in heart accepts commands {מצות ‘mitsvot’}, but the foolish of lips shall be thrust away.

His Word is His ‘heart.’ The Hebrew word תורה ‘torah’ is commonly translated as ‘law’ but is more properly defined as God’s will or heart/mind, His message to mankind…His ‘love letter.’

Unleavened bread pictures the body of Messiah which was broken for us (Matthew 26:12)…the Messiah died of a broken heart…

Psa 55:3  Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
Psa 55:4  My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.

Psa 69:20  Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
Psa 69:21  They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Medical Aspects of The Crucifixion: The Agony of Love

With the knees flexed at about 45 degrees, the victim must bear his weight with the muscles of the thigh. However, this is an almost impossible task-try to stand with your knees flexed at 45 degrees for 5 minutes. As the strength of the legs gives out, the weight of the body must now be borne by the arms and shoulders. The result is that within a few minutes of being placed on the cross, the shoulders will become dislocated. Minutes later the elbows and wrists become dislocated. The result of these dislocations is that the arms are as much as 6-9 inches longer than normal.

With the arms dislocated, considerable body weight is transferred to the chest, causing the rib cage to be elevated in a state of perpetual inhalation. Consequently, in order to exhale the victim must push down on his feet to allow the rib muscles to relax. The problem is that the victim cannot push very long because the legs are extremely fatigued. As time goes on, the victim is less and less able to bear weight on the legs, causing further dislocation of the arms and further raising of the chest wall, making breathing more and more difficult.

The result of this process is a series of catastrophic physiological effects. Because the victim cannot maintain adequate ventilation of the lungs, the blood oxygen level begins to diminish and the blood carbon dioxide (CO2) level begins to rise. This rising CO2 level stimulates the heart to beat faster in order to increase the delivery of oxygen and the removal of CO2.

However, due to the pinning of the victim and the limitations of oxygen delivery, the victim cannot deliver more oxygen and the rising heart rate only increases oxygen demand. So this process sets up a vicious cycle of increasing oxygen demand-which cannot be met-followed by an ever increasing heart rate. After several hours the heart begins to fail, the lungs collapse and fill up with fluid, which further decreases oxygen delivery to the tissues. The blood loss and hyperventilation combines to cause severe dehydration. That’s why Jesus said, “I thirst.”

Over a period of several hours the combination of collapsing lungs, a failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get adequate oxygen supplies to the tissues cause the eventual death of the victim. The victim, in effect, cannot breath properly and slowly suffocates to death. In cases of severe cardiac stress, such as crucifixion, a victim’s heart can even burst. This process is called “Cardiac Rupture.” Therefore it could be said that Jesus died of a “broken heart!”

Crucifixion  (Video based on Dr. C Truman Davis’ research)

Passion of the Christ

Act 1:3  To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

The Greek word translated as ‘passion’ is πάσχω ‘pascho’ which is closely related to the Greek word for Passover, πάσχα ‘pascha.’  πάσχω ‘pascho’ also means to suffer, as in the suffering of Messiah on the cross.

Mat 16:21  From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’} many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Mat 17:12  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’} of them.

Mar 8:31  And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’}  many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Mar 9:12  And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer  {πάσχω ‘pascho’} many things, and be set at nought.
Luk 9:22  Saying, The Son of man must suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’}  many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
Luk 17:25  But first must he suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’}  many things, and be rejected of this generation.
Luk 22:15  And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’} :
Luk 24:46  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’} , and to rise from the dead the third day:
Luk 24:26  Ought not Christ to have suffered {πάσχω ‘pascho’} these things, and to enter into his glory?
Act 3:18  But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer {πάσχω ‘pascho’} , he hath so fulfilled.

Heb 2:17  Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
Heb 2:18  For in that he himself hath suffered {πάσχω ‘pascho’} being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Heb 9:26  For then must he often have suffered  {πάσχω ‘pascho’} since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Heb 9:27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
Heb 9:28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

πάσχω ‘pascho’ is used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word חלה ‘chalah’ which means a piercing.

Isa 53:3  He is despised and abandoned of men, a Man of pains, and acquainted with sickness. And as it were hiding our faces from Him, He being despised, and we did not value Him.
Isa 53:4  Surely He has borne our sicknesses, and He carried our pain; yet we esteemed Him plagued, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the
chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His wounds we ourselves are healed.

Medical Aspects of The Crucifixion: The Agony of Love

by Dr. Mark Eastman

On the evening before His crucifixion Jesus was gathered with His disciples in the upper room, sharing with them some of the most intimate truths of His entire ministry. As He discussed the love of the Father and His love for His disciples he declared:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Though they did not realize it at the time, the disciples were only hours from the practical realization of this truth. One of the subtle evidences of the supernatural origin of the Biblical text is that astonishing events are often described in extremely brief narratives.

This is perhaps best illustrated in the matter-of-fact way in which the crucifixion of Jesus Christ-the most pivotal event in the history of the universe-is described in the Gospel accounts.

After Jesus was examined and declared to be without fault by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate, he delivered Him to be judged by the assembled crowd. When the opportunity arose to decide the destiny of Jesus, the crowd and the Jewish leadership cried out saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”

The horrifying events of the next six hours were preceded by the simple words:

Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. John 19:16

“Great Drops of Blood”

The physical suffering of Jesus began in the Garden of Gethsemane on the evening before His crucifixion. While the disciples slept, the Gospel of Luke records that the LORD “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

The notion that someone could actually sweat blood seems contrived. However, there is a rare but recognized condition called hematohydrosis, in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to express blood. This usually occurs under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress. Jesus wasn’t sweating blood because he was afraid of the physical pain of the cross. Indeed, the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus looked forward to the cross:

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

The Trials

After Jesus’ arrest they led Him away to the High Priest Caiaphas, where the Scribes and elders were assembled. During this inquisition we are told that “some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.

Beatings about the face received by a blindfolded individual cause even worse trauma because the victim cannot “roll with the punches.” In the hours that followed Jesus received two additional beatings at the hands of Roman soldiers. Severe disfigurement of the face would certainly have resulted from the brutal treatment. It is likely that the eyelids were swollen shut as a result of such beatings. This was done in fulfillment of Isaiah 52:13-14:

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.

The Scourging

After His trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was scourged (flogged) by the Roman guards. This process typically involved a whip with numerous leather thongs, 18-24 inches long, with bits of metal, bone or glass embedded in the leather. At times they would use an iron rod to beat the prisoner. According to Jewish custom, a prisoner was usually flogged 39 times (Forty minus one was a sign of Jewish mercy!)

Scourging was an extreme form of punishment. The skin on the victim’s back was usually shredded, thus exposing the underlying muscle and skeletal structures. Severe blood loss and dehydration were the rule. Many victims died from such scourging.

After the scourging of Jesus, the Roman soldiers beat Him a second time with their hands and with a reed. Then they put on him a “crown of thorns.”

Jesus had not drunk since the night before, so the combination of the beatings, the crown of thorns, and the scourging would have set into motion an irreversible process of severe dehydration and cardiorespiratory failure. All of this was done so that the prophecy of Isaiah would be fulfilled:

I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. Isaiah 50:6

And:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Crucifixion

crucifixion
Crucifixion was invented by the Persians between 300-400 b.c. It was “perfected” by the Romans in the first century b.c. It is arguably the most painful death ever invented by man and is where we get our term “excruciating.” It was reserved primarily for the most vicious of criminals.

The most common device used for crucifixion was a wooden cross, which consisted of an upright pole permanently fixed in the ground with a removable crossbar, usually weighing between 75-100 lbs. Victims of crucifixion were typically stripped naked and their clothing divided by the Roman guards. In Jesus’ case this was done in fulfillment of Psalm 22:18, “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

As a gesture of “Roman kindness” the prisoner was offered a mixture of vinegar (gall) and wine as a mild anesthetic. This anesthetic was refused by Jesus. Consequently, He bore it all! The Apostle Peter stated of Jesus:

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

The victim was then placed on his back, arms stretched out and nailed to the cross bar. The nails, which were generally about 7-9 inches long, were placed between the bones of the forearm (the radius and ulna) and the small bones of the hands (the carpal bones). (Figure 1.)

The placement of the nail at this point had several effects. First it ensured that the victim would indeed hang there until dead. Secondly, a nail placed at this point would sever the largest nerve in the hand called the median nerve.

The severing of this nerve is a medical catastrophe. In addition to severe burning pain the destruction of this nerve causes permanent paralysis of the hand. Furthermore, by nailing the victim at this point in the wrist, there would be minimal bleeding and there would be no bones broken! Thus scriptures were fulfilled:

I can count all my bones: they look and stare upon me. Psalm 22:17

He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Psalm 34:20

The positioning of the feet is probably the most critical part of the mechanics of crucifixion. First the knees were flexed about 45 degrees and the feet were flexed (bent downward) an additional 45 degrees until they were parallel the vertical pole. An iron nail about 7-9 inches long was driven through the feet between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones. In this position the nail would sever the dorsal pedal artery of the foot, but the resultant bleeding would be insufficient to cause death.

The Catastrophic Result

The resulting position on the cross sets up a horrific sequence of events which results in a slow, painful death. Having been pinned to the cross, the victim now has an impossible position to maintain. (Figure 2)

crucifixion 2
With the knees flexed at about 45 degrees, the victim must bear his weight with the muscles of the thigh. However, this is an almost impossible task-try to stand with your knees flexed at 45 degrees for 5 minutes. As the strength of the legs gives out, the weight of the body must now be borne by the arms and shoulders. The result is that within a few minutes of being placed on the cross, the shoulders will become dislocated. Minutes later the elbows and wrists become dislocated. The result of these dislocations is that the arms are as much as 6-9 inches longer than normal.

With the arms dislocated, considerable body weight is transferred to the chest, causing the rib cage to be elevated in a state of perpetual inhalation. Consequently, in order to exhale the victim must push down on his feet to allow the rib muscles to relax. The problem is that the victim cannot push very long because the legs are extremely fatigued. As time goes on, the victim is less and less able to bear weight on the legs, causing further dislocation of the arms and further raising of the chest wall, making breathing more and more difficult.

The result of this process is a series of catastrophic physiological effects. Because the victim cannot maintain adequate ventilation of the lungs, the blood oxygen level begins to diminish and the blood carbon dioxide (CO2) level begins to rise. This rising CO2 level stimulates the heart to beat faster in order to increase the delivery of oxygen and the removal of CO2.

However, due to the pinning of the victim and the limitations of oxygen delivery, the victim cannot deliver more oxygen and the rising heart rate only increases oxygen demand. So this process sets up a vicious cycle of increasing oxygen demand-which cannot be met-followed by an ever increasing heart rate. After several hours the heart begins to fail, the lungs collapse and fill up with fluid, which further decreases oxygen delivery to the tissues. The blood loss and hyperventilation combines to cause severe dehydration. That’s why Jesus said, “I thirst.”

Over a period of several hours the combination of collapsing lungs, a failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get adequate oxygen supplies to the tissues cause the eventual death of the victim. The victim, in effect, cannot breath properly and slowly suffocates to death. In cases of severe cardiac stress, such as crucifixion, a victim’s heart can even burst. This process is called “Cardiac Rupture.” Therefore it could be said that Jesus died of a “broken heart!”

To slow the process of death the executioners put a small wooden seat on the cross, which would allow the victim the privilege of bearing his weight on his buttocks. The effect of this was that it could take up to nine days to die on a cross.

When the Romans wanted to expedite death they would simply break the legs of the victim, causing him to suffocate in a matter of minutes. At three o’clock in the afternoon Jesus said, “Tetelastai,” meaning “it is finished.” Then He gave up the ghost. When the soldiers came to Jesus to break His legs, He was already dead. Not a bone of Him was broken!

How Should We Then Live?

I realize that it is difficult to read of the details of Jesus’ physical sufferings. And yet, when we realize that He looked forward, on our behalf, to the cross, we are overwhelmed with His practical demonstration of love and, hopefully, a personal realization of our unworthiness. How should we then live? I believe that the Apostle Paul said it best:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

From New Wine Magazine, April 1982.
Originally published in Arizona Medicine, March 1965, Arizona Medical Association.

A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis.  Dr. C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a book about medicine and the Bible.

Several years ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, or suffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in Jim Bishop’s book, The Day Christ Died. I suddenly realized that I had taken the crucifixion more or less for granted all these years – that I had grown callous to its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details. It finally occurred to me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause of Christ’s death. The gospel writers do not help much on this point. Since crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, they undoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous. For that reason we have only the concise words of the evangelists: “Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified … and they crucified Him.”

Despite the gospel accounts’ silence on the details of Christ’s crucifixion, many have looked into this subject in the past. In my personal study of the event from a medical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French surgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wrote extensively on the topic.

An attempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of the Incarnate1 God in atonement2 for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope of this article. However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord’s passion we can examine in some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazareth actually endure during those hours of torture?

Gethsemane

The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of His initial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is the bloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the only evangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, “And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44 KJV).

Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away the phenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that it simply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting the medical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone could have produced marked weakness and possible shock.

Although Jesus’ betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, the next event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective is His trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. The palace guards then blindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face.

Before Pilate

In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from a sleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. We are familiar with Pilate’s action in attempting to shift responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate ordered Barabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

Preparations for Jesus’ scourging were carried out at Caesar’s orders. The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.

Mockery

The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make their travesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonly used for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaited into the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and again there was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue. After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stick from His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe from His back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed.

Golgotha

In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments. The heavy patibulum of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we know today as the Via Dolorosa.

In spite of Jesus’ efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. He stumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion, selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock. The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finally completed. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loin cloth which was allowed the Jews.

The crucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic, pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the patibulum on the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes4, and the titulus reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” was nailed into place.

The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

The Last Words

Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences that are recorded.

The first – looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice6 for His seamless garment: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”

The second – to the penitent thief: “Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

The third – looking down at Mary His mother, He said: “Woman, behold your son.” Then turning to the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John , the beloved apostle, He said: “Behold your mother.”

The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart.

The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasped His fifth cry: “I thirst.” Again we read in the prophetic psalm: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death” (Psalm 22:15 KJV).

A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus’ lips. His body was now in extremis, and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brought forth His sixth word, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: “It is finished.” His mission of atonement had been completed. Finally, He could allow His body to die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”

Death

The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, “And immediately there came out blood and water.” Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Resurrection

In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man can exhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and is likely to leave us despondent and depressed.

But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man–the gift of atonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Easter morning.

Study on the Physical Death of Jesus Christ
William D. Edwards, MD;   Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI

Although this is a very rare phenomenon, bloody sweat (hematidrosis or hemohidrosis) may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders.  As a result of hemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin becomes fragile and tender. Luke’s description supports the diagnosis of hematidrosis rather than eccrine chromidrosis (brown or yellow-green sweat) or stigmatization (blood oozing from the palms or elsewhere).  Although some authors have suggested that hematidrosis produced hypovolemia, we agree with Bucklin that Jesus’ actual blood loss probably was minimal. However, in the cold night air,  it may have produced chills.

Jewish Trials

Soon after midnight, Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane by the temple officials and was taken first to Annas and then to Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest for that year. (Fig 1) 1  Between 1 AM and daybreak, Jesus was tried before Caiaphas and the political Sanhedrin and was found guilty of blasphemy.  1  The guards then blindfolded Jesus, spat on him, and struck him in the face with their fists.1  Soon after daybreak, presumably at the temple (Fig 1), Jesus was tried before the religious Sanhedrin (with the Pharisees and the Sadducees) and again was found guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.

Roman Trials

Since permission for an execution had to come from the governing Romans, Jesus was taken early in the morning by the temple officials to the Praetorium of the Fortress of Antonia, the residence and governmental seat of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea (Fig 1). However, Jesus was presented to Pilate not as a blasphemer but rather as a self-appointed king who would undermine the Roman authority.  Pilate made no charges against Jesus and sent him to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Judea. Herod likewise made no official charges and then returned Jesus to Pilate. (Fig 1)  Again, Pilate could find no basis for a legal charge against Jesus, but the people persistently demanded crucifixion, Pilate finally granted their demand and handed over Jesus to be flogged (scourged) and crucified. (McDowell has reviewed the prevailing political, religious, and economic climates in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death, and Bucklin has described the various illegalities of the Jewish and Roman trials.)

The rigors of Jesus’ ministry (that is, traveling by foot throughout Palestine) would have precluded any major physical illness or a weak general constitution. Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus was in good physical condition before his walk to Gethsemane. However, during the 12 hours between 9 PM Thursday and 9 AM Friday, he had suffered great emotional stress (as evidenced by hematidrosis), abandonment by his closest friends (the disciples), and a physical beating (after the first Jewish trial). Also, in the setting of a traumatic and sleepless night, he had been forced to walk more than 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to and from the sites of the various trials (Fig 1). These physical and emotional factors may have rendered Jesus particularly vulnerable to the adverse hemodynamic effects of the scourging.

Scourging

scourging
Fig 2.Scourging. Left, Short whip (flagrum) with lead balls and sheep bones tied into leather thongs. Center left, Naked victim tied to flogging post. Deep stripelike lacerations were usually associated with considerable blood loss. Center right, View from above, showing position of lictors. Right, Inferomedial direction of wounds.

Scourging Practices

Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, 28 and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in eases of desertion) were exempt.11 The usual instrument was a short whip (flagellum) with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals (Fig 2).  Occasionally, staves also were used. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post (Fig 2). The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions.  The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death.  After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim.

Medical Aspects of Scourging

As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and Subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock.12The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.

Scourging of Jesus

At the Praetorium, Jesus was severely whipped. (Although the severity of the scourging is not discussed in the four gospel accounts, it is implied in one of the epistles [1Peter 2:24]. A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for this verse indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh. It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to, in accordance with Jewish law.  The Roman soldiers, amused that this weakened man had claimed to be a king, began to mock him by placing a robe on his shoulders, a crown of thorns on his head, and a wooden staff as a scepter in his right hand.  Next, they spat on Jesus and struck him on the head with the wooden staff.1 Moreover, when the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus’ back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds.

The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical.

Crucifixion

crucifixion 3

Fig 3.Cross and titulus. Left, victim carrying crossbar (patibulum) to site of upright post (stipes). center Low Tau cross (crux commissa), commonly used by Romans at time of Christ. upper right, Rendition of Jesus’ titulus with name and crime Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Lower right Possible methods for attaching tittles to Tau cross (left) and Latin cross (right).

Crucifixion Practices
Crucifixion probably first began among the Persians.  Alexander the Great introduced the practice to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans appear to have learned of it from the Carthaginians.  Although the Romans did not invent crucifixions they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.  It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals.  Roman law usually protected Roman citizens from crucifixion, except perhaps in the ease of desertion by soldiers.

In its earliest form in Persia, the victim was either tied to a tree or was tied to or impaled on an upright post, usually to keep the guilty victim’s feet from touching holy ground.  Only later was a true cross used; it was characterized by an upright post (stipes) and a horizontal crossbar (patibulum), and it had several variations (Table).  Although archaeological and historical evidence strongly indicates that the low Tau cross was preferred by the Romans in Palestine at the time of Christ (Fig 3), crucifixion practices often varied in a given geographic region and in accordance with the imagination of the executioners, and the Latin cross and other forms also may have been used.

Copyright 1986, Journal of the American Medical Association

crucifixion 4

Fig 4.  Nailing of wrists. Left, Size of iron nail. Center, Location of nail in wrist, between carpals and radius. Right, Cross section of wrist, at level of plane indicated at left, showing path of nail, with probable transection of median nerve and impalement of flexor pollicis longus, but without injury to major arterial trunks and without fractures of bones.

It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls.  He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs.  Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb. (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried (Fig 3).  The patibulum, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms.then were tied to the crossbar.  The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion.3,11 One of the soldiers carried a sign (titulus) on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed (Fig 3).  Later, the titulus would be attached to the top of the cross.  The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.

Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden stipes, on which the patibulum would be secured. In the case of the Tau cross, this was accomplished by means of a mortise and tenon joint, with or without reinforcement by ropes.  To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat (sedile or sedulum), often was attached midway down the stipes.  Only very rarely, and probably later than the time of Christ, was an additional block (suppedaneum) employed for transfixion of the feet.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic . The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the patibulum. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The archaeological remains of a crucified body, found in an ossuary near Jerusalem and dating from the time of Christ, indicate that the nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. 23,  24,  30  Furthermore, ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin have documented that the nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms (Fig 4). 22-24, 30

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the patibulum and the victim, together, were lifted onto the stipes. On the low cross, four soldiers could accomplish this relatively easily. However, on the tall cross, the soldiers used either wooden forks or ladders.

Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin suggest that nailing was the preferred Roman practice.  Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the stipes or to a wooden footrest (suppedaneum), they usually were nailed directly to the front of the stipes (Fig 5).  To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated laterally (Fig 6) 
Copyright 1986, Journal of the American Medical Association

crucifixion 5
Fig 5. Nailing of feet. Left, Position of feet atop one another and against stipes. Upper right, Location of nail in second inter metatarsal space. Lower right, Cross section of foot, at plane indicated at left, showing path of nail.

When the nailing was completed, the titulus was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head.  The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves.  The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees (erurifragium or skelokopia).

Not uncommonly, insects would light upon or burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim, and birds of prey would tear at these sites.16 Moreover, it was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals.  However, by Roman law, the family of the condemned could take the body for burial, after obtaining permission from the Roman judge.

Since no one was intended to survive crucifixions the body was not released to the family until the soldiers were sure that the victim was dead. By custom, one of the Roman guards would pierce the body with a sword or lance.  Traditionally, this had been considered a spear wound to the heart through the right side of the chest — a fatal wound probably taught to most Roman soldiers.  The Shroud of Turin documents this form of injury. Moreover, the standard infantry spear, which was 5 to 6 ft (1.5 to 1.8 m) long, could easily have reached the chest of a man crucified on the customary low cross.”

Medical Aspects of Crucifixion

With a knowledge of both anatomy and ancient crucifixion practices, one may reconstruct the probable medical aspects of this form of slow execution. Each wound apparently was intended to produce intense agony, and the contributing causes of death were numerous.

The scourging prior to crucifixion served to weaken the condemned man and, if blood loss was considerable, to produce orthostatie hypotension and even hypovolemie shock. When the victim was thrown to the ground on his back, in preparation for transfixion of the hands, his scourging wounds most likely would become torn open again and contaminated with dirt. Furthermore, with each respiration, the painful scourging wounds would be scraped against the rough wood of the stipes. As a result, blood loss from the back probably would continue throughout the crucifixion ordeal.

With arms outstretched but not taut, the wrists were nailed to the patibulum.  It has been shown that the ligaments and bones of the wrist can support the weight of a body hanging from them, but the palms cannot.  Accordingly, the iron spikes probably were driven between the radius and the carpals or between the two rows of carpal bones, either proximal to or through the strong band like flexor retinaeulum and the various interearpal ligaments (Fig 4). Although a nail in either location in the wrist might pass between the bony elements and thereby produce no fractures, the likelihood of painful periosteal injury would seem great. Furthermore, the driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve (Fig 4). The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms. Although the severed median nerve would result in paralysis of a portion of the hand, isehemie eontraetures and impalement of various ligaments by the iron spike might produce a claw like grasp.

crucifixion 6

Fig 6. Respirations during crucifixion. Left, Inhalation. With elbows extended and shoulders abducted, respiratory muscles of inhalation are passively stretched and thorax is expanded. Right, Exhalation. With elbows flexed and shoulders adducted and with weight of body on nailed feet, exhalation is accomplished as active, rather than passive, process. Breaking legs below knees would place burden of exhalation on shoulder and arm muscles alone and soon would result in exhaustion asphyxia.

Most commonly, the feet were fixed to the front of the stipes by means of an iron spike driven through the first or second inter metatarsal space, just distal to the tarsometatarsal joint.   It is likely that the deep peroneal nerve and branches of the medial and lateral plantar nerves would have been injured by the nails (Fig 5). Although scourging may have resulted in considerable blood loss, crucifixion per se was a relatively bloodless procedure, since no major arteries, other than perhaps the deep plantar arch, pass through the favored anatomic sites of transfixion. 

The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration, particularly exhalation (Fig 6). The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the intercostal muscles in an inhalation state and thereby hinder passive exhalation.  Accordingly, exhalation was primarily diaphragmatic, and breathing was shallow. It is likely that this form of respiration would not suffice and that hypercarbia would soon result. The onset of muscle cramps or tetanic contractions, due to fatigue and hypercarbia, would hinder respiration even further.

Adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows and adducting the shoulders (Fig 6) However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the tarsals and would produce searing pain.  Furthermore, flexion of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists about the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the damaged median nerves.  Lifting of the body would also painfully scrape the scourged back against the rough wooden stipes. Muscle cramps and paresthesias of the outstretched and uplifted arms would add to the discomfort. As a result, each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia.

The actual cause of death by crucifixion was multifactorial and varied somewhat with each ease, but the two most prominent causes probably were hypovolemie shock and exhaustion asphyxia.  Other possible contributing factors included dehydration,  stress-induced arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure with the rapid accumulation of pericardial and perhaps pleural effusions.  Crucifracture (breaking the legs below the knees), if performed, led to an asphyxic death within minutes.

Death by crucifixion was, in every sense of the word, excruciating (Latin, excruciatus, or “out of the cross”).

Crucifixion of Jesus

After the scourging and the mocking, at about 9 AM, the Roman soldiers put Jesus’ clothes back on him and then led him and two thieves to be crucified.  Jesus apparently was so weakened by the severe flogging that he could not carry the patibulum from the Praetorium to the site of crucifixion one third of a mile (600 to 650 m) away. Simon of Cyrene was summoned to carry Christ’s cross, and the processional then made its way to Golgotha (or Calvary), an established crucifixion site.

Here, Jesus’ clothes, except for a linen loincloth, again were removed, thereby probably reopening the scourging wounds. He then was offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) but, after tasting it, refused the drink. Finally, Jesus and the two thieves were crucified. Although scriptural references are made to nails in the hands,1 these are not at odds with the archaeological evidence of wrist wounds, since the ancients customarily considered the wrist to be a part of the hand.  The titulus (Fig 3) was attached above Jesus’ head. It is unclear whether Jesus was crucified on the Tau cross or the Latin cross; archaeological findings favor the former and early tradition the latter. The fact that Jesus later was offered a drink of wine vinegar from a sponge placed on the stalk of the hyssop plant1 (approximately 20 in, or 50 em, long) strongly supports the belief that Jesus was crucified on the short cross.

The soldiers and the civilian crowd taunted Jesus throughout the crucifixion ordeal, and the soldiers east lots for his clothing. Christ spoke seven times from the cross. Since speech occurs during exhalation, these short, terse utterances must have been particularly difficult and painful. At about 3 PM that Friday, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, bowed his head, and died.  The Roman soldiers and onlookers recognized his moment of death.

Since the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the crosses after sunset, the beginning of the Sabbath, they asked Pontius Pilate to order erueifraeture to hasten the deaths of the three crucified men. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Rather, one of the soldiers pierced his side, probably with an infantry spear, and produced a sudden flow of blood and water.1 Later that day, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb.

crucifixion 7
Fig 7.Spear wound to chest. Left, Probable path of spear. Right, Cross section of thorax, at level of plane indicated at left, showing structures perforated by spear. LA indicates left atrium; LV, left ventricle; RA, right atrium; RV, right ventricle.

Death of Jesus

Two aspects of Jesus’ death have been the source of great controversy, namely, the nature of the wound in his side and the cause of his death after only several hours on the cross. The gospel of John describes the piercing of Jesus’ side and emphasizes the sudden flow of blood and water.  Some authors have interpreted the flow of water to be ascites or urine, from an abdominal midline perforation of the bladder.  However, the Greek word plvra, or pleura)  used by John clearly denoted laterality and often implied the ribs.  Therefore, it seems probable that the wound was in the thorax and well away from the abdominal midline.

Although the side of the wound was not designated by John, it traditionally has been depicted on the right side.  Supporting this tradition is the fact that a large flow of blood would be more likely with a perforation of the distended and thin-walled right atrium or ventricle than the thick-walled and contracted left ventricle. Although the side of the wound may never be established with certainty, the right seems more probable than the left.

Some of the skepticism in accepting John’s description has arisen from the difficulty in explaining, with medical accuracy, the flow of both blood and water. Part of this difficulty has been based on the assumption that the blood appeared first, then the water. However, in the ancient Greek, the order of words generally denoted prominence and not necessarily a time sequence.  Therefore, it seems likely that John was emphasizing the prominence of blood rather than its appearance preceding the water.

Therefore, the water probably represented serous pleural and pericardial fluid,  and would have preceded the flow of blood and been smaller in volume than the blood. Perhaps in the setting of hypovolemia and impending acute heart failure, pleural and pericardial effusions may have developed and would have added to the volume of apparent water. The blood, in contrast, may have originated from the right atrium or the right ventricle (Fig. 7) or perhaps from a hemoperieardium.

Jesus’ death after only three to six hours on the cross surprised even Pontius Pilate. The fact that Jesus cried out in a loud voice and then bowed his head and died suggests the possibility of a catastrophic terminal event. One popular explanation has been that Jesus died of cardiac rupture. In the setting of the scourging and crucifixions with associated hypovolemia, hyperemia, and perhaps an altered coagulable state, friable non-infective thrombotic vegetations could have formed on the aortic or mitral valve. These then could have dislodged and embolized into the coronary circulation and thereby produced an acute transmural myocardial infarction. Thrombotic valvular vegetations have been reported to develop under analogous acute traumatic conditions.  Rupture of the left Ventricular free wall may occur, though uncommonly, in the first few hours following infarction.

However, another explanation may be more likely. Jesus’ death may have been hastened simply by his state of exhaustion and by the severity of the Scourging, with its resultant blood loss and preshock state.  The fact that he could not carry his patibulum supports this interpretation. The actual cause of Jesus’ death, like that of other crucified victims, may have been multifactorial and related primarily to hypovolemie shock, exhaustion asphyxia, and perhaps acute heart failure.   A fatal cardiac arrhythmia may have accounted for the apparent catastrophic terminal event.

Thus, it remains unsettled whether Jesus died of cardiac rupture or of cardiorespiratory failure. However, the important feature may be not how he died but rather whether he died. Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death (Fig 7). Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.

 Crucifixion  (Video based on Dr. C Truman Davis’ research)

Act 1:3  To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

1Co 15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Co 15:4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Co 15:5  And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1Co 15:6  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
1Co 15:7  After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
1Co 15:8  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Luk 24:13  And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
Luk 24:14  And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
Luk 24:15  And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
Luk 24:16  But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
Luk 24:17  And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
Luk 24:18  And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
Luk 24:19  And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
Luk 24:20  And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
Luk 24:21  But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
Luk 24:22  Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
Luk 24:23  And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
Luk 24:24  And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Luk 24:25  Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Luk 24:26  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
Luk 24:27  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luk 24:28  And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
Luk 24:29  But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
Luk 24:30  And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
Luk 24:31  And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
Luk 24:32  And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
Luk 24:33  And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Luk 24:34  Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
Luk 24:35  And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
Luk 24:36  And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Luk 24:37  But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
Luk 24:38  And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
Luk 24:39  Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
Luk 24:40  And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
Luk 24:41  And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
Luk 24:42  And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
Luk 24:43  And he took it, and did eat before them.
Luk 24:44  And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Luk 24:45  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
Luk 24:46  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
Luk 24:47  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Luk 24:48  And ye are witnesses of these things.
Luk 24:49  And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
Luk 24:50  And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
Luk 24:51  And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
Luk 24:52  And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
Luk 24:53  And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

 

 

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