What Killed Jesus?

It is perhaps the most read article in the history of the Journal of the American Medical Association and it has particular importance during the Easter season.

On March 21, 1986, the Journal published a scientific article by William Edwards, M.D.,  then of the Mayo Clinic, Medical Artist Floyd Hosmer and Pastor Wesley Gabel of the West Bethel United Methodist Church in Bethel, Minnesota.

The article is not for the squeamish, as it provides painstaking detail on the act of crucifixion and how it would have painfully ended the human life of Jesus. And, it makes it abundantly clear that Jesus didn’t merely faint or “swoon” on the cross.

The article’s abstract reads:

Jesus  of  Nazareth underwent  Jewish  and  Roman   trials, was flogged, and  was sentenced to  death by crucifixion. The  scourging produced deep stripelike lacerations and  appreciable blood  loss, and  it  probably set  the stage for  hypovolemic shock, as  evidenced by the  fact that  Jesus  was  too weakened  to   carry  the   crossbar  (patibulum) to   Golgotha. At  the   site   of crucifixion, his  wrists were nailed to  the  patibulum and, after the  patibulum was lifted  onto   the  upright post (stipes), his feet were  nailed  to  the  stipes. The  major pathophysiologic effect of  crucifixion was  an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly, death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and  exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus’ death  was ensured by the  thrust of  a soldier’s  spear into   his  side.   Modern  medical interpretation of  the  historical evidence indicates that Jesus was  dead  when taken down from  the  cross. (JAMA 1986;255:1455-1463)

You can access the full article by clicking the link below. (You’ll be able to read the article but not download a copy.)

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On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ