Health Jesus (as)

Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion of Jesus(as)

32 The Review of Religions – August 2005 Much has been written and many theories have been put forward as the cause of Jesus’(as) death on the cross. None of these theories, however, explain the historical, biblical as well as medical accounts of the event. Pontius Pilate (the Roman Governor responsible for the trial of Jesus( a s )) believed in Jesus’ innocence, but delivered Jesus(as) to his enemies when they threatened to complain against him to Caesar, were he to release J e s u s( a s )1. Nevertheless, he secretly did everything possible to save Jesus(as) from death. He prolonged the trial until a very late hour on Friday, knowing that it was unlawful for Jews to keep anybody on the cross after nightfall on the Sabbath day. The time left for crucifixion was so short that it would be impossible for Jesus(as) to die on the cross. The two thieves who remained on the cross for the same duration as Jesus(as) were both alive, and to kill them, their legs had to be broken. Jesus(as) was spared this ordeal2. Joseph of Arimethea, a secret disciple (follower of Jesus(as)), besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus(as), and contrary to the prevailing custom, Pilate allowed him to do so. Then he and Nicodemus, a physician, took the body, but did not bury him in a common burial ground. Instead, they laid him in a tomb. Jesus(as) had in fact fainted on the cross, was believed to be dead, but recovered after a period in a state of coma. When told of Jesus’ death, Pilate wondered how Jesus(as) could have expired so soon3. MEDICAL ASPECTS of the Crucifixion of Jesus (as) By Dr. H.U. Rehman – Chelmsford, UK 33 MEDICAL ASPECTS OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS(AS) The Review of Religions – August 2005 Jesus(as) had to undergo scourging before he was put on the cross. This would have consisted of being flogged with a whip that had approximately twelve strips of braided leather extending from a handle, tied to small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones. The first few strokes would cause bruising and contusions, then as the flogging continued, the sheep bones would cut into the subcutaneous and muscular tissues. Pain and blood loss would result in circulatory shock, depending on the extent of the blood loss. Jesus had to pick up the p a t i b u l u m (wooden cross weighing 75 – 125 lb) over his shoulder and walk up a rock path through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, the place of the crucifixion. He fell many times. A Roman centurion summoned the aid of Simon to help Jesus(as) carry the cross to Golgotha which was around 600 metres away. The fact that Jesus(as) was able to carry the cross at least part of the distance to Golgotha, albeit with difficulty, points to a reasonable circulatory status for Jesus(as) after his scourging, since a man in circulatory shock would not be able to carry even his own weight on his feet. The crucifixion took place around noon and Jesus’ apparent death occurred suddenly around 3pm. J e s u s( a s ) only remained on the cross for 3-6 hours, while the true purpose of crucifixion was not to cause an immediate death; on the contrary it was intended to be a drawn-out torture lasting three or four days. The duration of suffering on the cross varied with the state of nutrition of the victim, the amount of blood and fluid loss, the weather conditions and the age of the victim. According to Barbet, it was usually 24 to 36 hours4. A healthy young man of 33 years and of strong physique could not have succumbed within so short a time. He became unconscious, was taken down from the cross, and had his wounds treated with an ointment (which has since been known as the ointment of Jesus(as)). 34 MEDICAL ASPECTS OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS(AS) The Review of Religions – August 2005 According to one theory, Jesus(as) died of asphyxia. The asphyx- iation theory states that the weight of the body pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would result in the intercostal muscle being stretched to its limit, thus hindering exhalation. In order to exhale fully, Jesus (as) had to push himself up against the spike in his feet, permitting the chest wall musculature to relax. The common practice of breaking the femurs with a heavy metal rod would prevent the victim from pushing himself up, resulting in rapid asphyxiation. This ritual was usually carried out at a time when the victim was severely exhausted and close to death. H o w e v e r, Zugibe showed conclusively that the asphyx- iation theory would hold true if the hands of the victim are tied directly above the head, but not if the victim is suspended with the arms spread apart at an angle of 65-70 degrees with the stipes, as was the case with Jesus(as). He performed the most important experimental studies on cruci- fixion using volunteers5. He suspended healthy young men between the ages of 20 and 35 on JERUSALEM 35 MEDICAL ASPECTS OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS(AS) The Review of Religions – August 2005 a cross, using leather gauntlets for the wrists and a strap for the feet. The period of suspension lasted from five to forty-five minutes. Abdominal breathing developed and after four minutes, the respiratory rate quadrupled. He noted other symptoms such as profuse sweating, tachycardia, muscular twitching and cramps, and feelings of panic. Interestingly, none of the volunteers reported d i fficulties in breathing, either inhaling or exhaling. The oxygen saturation and arterial pH remained unchanged and muscle enzymes increased. Moreover, the reconstruction of the position on the cross confirmed that the legs were not broken to prevent the individual from lifting himself to breath because the body was already in a lifted position6. An analysis of the Shroud of Turin confirmed that the body of a crucified man lay in the holy shroud and that this man would have suffered exactly the same fate that Jesus ( a s ) did. It also confirmed that the man did not die on the cross and was taken down and buried alive. The twenty-eight blood stains on the Shroud support this theory. The investigators stated that it would be impossible for a dead body to bleed in the manner in which the body wrapped in the Shroud had bled. An analysis of the wounds caused by the spear of the Roman soldier showed two wounds; one on the right side of the thorax as the spear penetrated the chest wall, and another high on the left side of the thorax caused by the point of the spear as it came out of the body. If a horizontal line is drawn towards the left side of the body starting from the wound made by the spear as it entered, and angle at which the spear moved as it entered the body with reference to the entry wound is 29 degrees. As the spear entered between the fifth and sixth ribs, the straight line traced in this way made by the spear, passes above the heart. It is therefore wrong to assume that the reason that blood and water flowed from the wound was due to the penetration of a chamber of the heart. They are more likely 36 MEDICAL ASPECTS OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS(AS) The Review of Religions – August 2005 to be pleural effusion secondary to small pulmonary emboli causing haemorrhagic collection. A second outflow of blood from the side wound occurred when the body was placed in a horizontal place, and this supports that view since this would be expected in a pleural effusion because of the gravity effect, but would not have been the case had it been the result of a penetrative wound of the heart7. Several factors were involved as a cause of death in crucifixion victims. These were acute renal failure secondary to traumatic shock, hypovolaemia and rhabdomyolysis, metabolic aci- dosis and later in the course of the crucifixion itself, respiratory acidosis. Traumatic chest injury would result in atelectasis. H o w e v e r, a hypercoagulable state due to dehydration and rhabdomyolysis would cause recurrent small pulmonary emboli. This as well as some degree of cardiac failure secondary to acidosis would have caused pleural effusions. Millions of people still believe that the Turin Shroud is the very linen cloth in which Jesus(as) was wrapped after he was taken down from the cross. There are others who believe that it is fake and therefore challenge its authen- t i c i t y. However, those who regard it as a fake and declare that the imprint on the Shroud was the work of an artist have never given a satisfactory explanation of how and why a negative image was created on the cloth. The marks left by the crown of thorns, the semi- coagulated blood on the middle thorax, the multiple wounds caused by scourging, the holes made by nails in the wrists and feet, and the significantly unbroken legs of the victim, and the presence of fossilized pollen from eleven different species, six of which were identified as coming from plants now extinct, but known to have existed in Palestine 2000 years ago, makes it unlikely that the image is man- made, and that the person on the Shroud is anyone other than Jesus(as). 37 MEDICAL ASPECTS OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS(AS) The Review of Religions – August 2005 It is interesting that Jesus(as) was taken to a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea and that this tomb was not filled with earth as was the Jewish custom of the time. A large stone or rock only closed it. On Sunday, the Jews were free to visit the spot where Jesus(as) was kept. But early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus(as) was not there. Shortly afterwards, he was seen by Mary, who at first took him for the gardener8. Later, Jesus(as) talked to his disciples, travelled to Galilee, ate bread and fish, showed the wounds on his body to his followers, and escaped secretly from the jurisdiction of P i l a t e9. To his disciples who thought he was a spirit, he said: 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.10 Having survived the cross, Jesus(as) was a persecuted man and had to disappear from Palestine. He had some final contact with his disciples (at which he would have imparted instructions on how to carry on spreading his message) and went on his way towards the East. If he had in fact died on the cross, Jesus(as) would have failed in the task he had been given to save the lost tribes of Israel. References 1 John 19:12 2 John 19:32 3 Mark 15:44 4 Barbet P., A Doctor at Calvary, Translated by the Earl of Wicklow, P. J. Kennedy and Sons, New York, 1953, pp.41-174. 5 Zugibe F. T., Death by Crucifixion, Can. Soc. Forens. Sci. J. 1984; 17:1- 13. 6 Haas N., Anthropological observations on the skeletal remains from Giv’ at ha-Mivtar, in Discoveries and Studies of Jerusalem, Israel Exploration J, 1970; 20 (1-2): 38-59. 7 Johnson C. D., Medical and cardiological aspects of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ, Bol. Assoc. Med. P. Rico, 1978; 70:97-102. 8 John 20:15 9 Matthew 28:7 10 Luke 24:38-39