The Death of Jesus

This is the crux of the arguments here. It is entirely possible Jesus never died. The Romans were not doctors after all. Since we cannot travel back in time with a medical team to certify the death of Jesus, isn’t it possible He never really died? If there is a chance, then the resurrection is a hoax, which means Christianity is built on a deception. Paul teaches if Christ is not risen, then Christian faith is vain.

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. (1 Corinthians 15:13-18)

THE DEFENSE

To understand whether Jesus really died, we must look at the Roman method of execution. The following is excerpted from Dr. Mark Eastman’s (M.D.) medical analysis of crucifixion (Mark Eastman and Chuck Missler “The Agony of Love: Six hours in eternity” page 18-25), as well as the preceding events the night before.

The Flogging

After his arrest, Jesus was struck about the face by one of the Temple guard. Then a cover was put on his face and he was further beaten about the face. Blows to the face such as these would cause severe facial bruising and cause his eyelids to be swollen almost shut. The result would have been that he was probably unrecognizable. This was foretold by Isaiah 700 years before. [Note: even if you doubt when Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name, remember the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek occurred about 250 years before Jesus birth, so this prophecy predates Jesus by at least 250 years. This is easily verified in any public library - Editor]

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: (Isaiah 52:13-14)

Flogging a victim before he was crucified was the Roman tradition. This involved a whip with several leather thongs, 18-24 inches long, with bits of metal, bone or glass embedded in the leather. The prisoner was usually flogged 39 times (forty minus one was a sign of Roman mercy).

The effects of flogging were staggering. Many people died as a result. The skin and muscle were shredded and torn from the back. Large volumes of blood were typically lost.

The Crucifixion

Crucifixion was invented by the Persians between 300-400 BC. It was “perfected” by the Romans in the first century BC. The most common type of cross in the first century was a low Tau. It consisted of an upright pole permanently fixed in the ground, called the stipes; And a crossbar called the patibulum, which usually weighted between 75-100 pounds.

Fixing the Hands to the Cross

For centuries, most artists rendered the crucifixion of Jesus with nails in His hands. However, anatomical studies have shown that this will not support the weight of an adult male. Archaeological discoveries have shown that the nails were placed between the radius, ulna, and carpal bones. By this manner no bones would be broken.

Fixing the Feet to the Cross

After flexing the feet into an extreme position the feet were nailed, usually with one nail, to the stipe, between the second and third metatarsal bones. The result was that the individual was pinned in place with the knees bent, bearing full weight on the nails. This was an incredibly difficult position to maintain due to strain on the thigh muscles (try to stand with your knees flexed for just five minutes.)

Physiological Effects of Crucifixion

Flogging

  • Severe dehydration due to blood loss.
  • Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure).
  • Muscle tremors and tetany.

Nailing the Hands

  • Paralysis of Median Nerve.
  • Unimaginable pain at first, then paralysis and numbness.

Nailing the Feet

  • Paralysis of deep peroneal nerve of the feet.

Respiratory effects

  • Inability to exhale fully.
  • Hypercarbia (increased carbon dioxide).
  • Muscle tetany creates a viscous circle. To properly exhale required lifting the body. Each respiratory effort required so much muscular effort that muscle fatigue would cause the victim to die by asphyxia.

Cause of death

The primary cause of death by crucifixion is asphyxiation. That is, the victim slowly suffocates until dead.

Other contributing factors:

  • Hypovolemic shock
  • Exhaustion
  • Dehydration
  • Stress induced arrhythmias
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pericardial and pleural effusions
  • Cardiac rupture.

***** End of excerpts from Dr. Mark Eastman *****

It strains credibility to believe someone could survive such an ordeal. Crucifixion was the most painful, medically disastrous way to die; the Romans designed it to be cruel. But even if we traveled back in time with a modern team of doctors, and the most advanced hospital we have, it is difficult to believe they could have done anything to save Jesus. A simple study of the medical effects of crucifixion leave no doubt it was deadly.

The prosecution would have you believe only the Roman soldiers certified Jesus was dead, so isn’t it likely they could have made a mistake? Unlikely for two reasons. First, the Romans were experts at crucifixion. They were not doctors, but they knew how to execute people - they executed many. And after all, you can’t fake not breathing for very long; death is difficult to fake. But more importantly is something about the Romans you may not know. The soldiers performing the execution had a large stake in being sure the victim was dead. Why? If they made a mistake, they paid with their life. The penalty for letting a prisoner escape was the soldier paying the penalty for the prisoner. For a person condemned to death, the punishment for the soldier would also be death. You can be sure the soldiers were confident Jesus was dead, after all they were quite literally betting their life on it. If you were in their place, wouldn’t you be sure?

Both the medical evidence and the motivation of the Roman soldiers to be sure Jesus was dead makes it difficult to believe Jesus could have survived, even if given expert modern medical help the moment he was removed from the cross.

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