CrucifixionPart 5: The 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 fluid from the lining inside abdomen or urine, from an abdominal midline perforation of the bladder. However, the Greek word used by John (pleura) clearly denoted laterality and often implied the ribs. Therefore, it seems probable that the wound was in the chest 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 heart near 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. The water probably represented fluid draining from the tissues lining the lung and heart and would have preceded the flow of blood and been smaller in volume than the blood. Perhaps in the setting of low blood volume and impending acute heart failure, lung and heart tissue drainage due to cellular imbalances 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 or perhaps from a collection of blood from the lining around the heart.

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.

The actual cause of Jesus’ death, like that of other crucified victims, may have been multifactorial and related primarily to shock from low blood volume, exhaustion asphyxia, and perhaps acute heart failure. A fatal cardiac arrhythmia may have accounted for the apparent catastrophic terminal event.

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.

Reblogged from www.cbcg.org/scourging_crucifixion.htm.

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