Medical Doctor Confirms Jesus’ Death on the Cross
This week is Easter and we should fully understand how Jesus died. It was necessary for Jesus to die before He could be resurrected. This is vitally important because our hope as Christians rests on Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.
DeAth By CRucifixion
In the Lee Strobel’s 1998 book The Case For Christ(1), he interviews Doctor Alexander Metherell, who possesses both medical and engineering degrees and was a former research scientist. Metherell explains the medical causes of Jesus’s death, although we must remember that Jesus voluntarily surrendered his spirit as is reported in Matthew 27:50. Dr. Metherell discusses the following:
- The Scourging
- The Crucifixion
- The Proof of Death
Metherell explains, “Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of 39 lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows.
“The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flash, those balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely.
“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was terrible.”(2)
Metherell continues, “We know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock.”(3)
This occurs when a person has lost a large amount of blood. The blood pressure drops causing fainting, and the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the blood. Metherell continues, “Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there is no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.”(4)
Jesus would have been crucified at 9 AM on Friday and a would have died by 3 PM. The Romans used spikes that were 5 to 7 inches long and were driven through the wrists. Metherell explains that the nails would have crushed the median nerve, creating extreme pain. The word “excruciating” means “out of the cross.” Most people died by asphyxiation when crucified. With the arms stretched out, the chest is locked into the inhale position. To exhale, you have to push up with your feet. However this is extremely difficult if your feet are nailed to the cross. According to Metherell a patient such as Jesus would die from cardiac arrest. Hypovolemic shock would have caused a rapid heart rate that would have contributed to heart failure, resulting in the collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart, called pericardial effusion, as well as around the lungs, pleural effusion.
The Proof of Death
In John 19:34 it records that a Roman soldier confirmed that Jesus was dead by thrusting a spear into his side. When the spear was pulled out, a clear fluid like water poured out, along with a large volume of blood. This would have been the pericardial and plural effusion that the Roman soldier saw, confirming that Jesus had died.
The accounts of the Bible don’t require blind faith to believe. Many details are provided for corroboration. This is the case with Jesus’ death, in which details, such as the pericardial and pleural effusion are reported, so that we may believe that Jesus actually died.
For Further Reading
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus(Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998)
- Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998)
- Ibid, 195.
- Ibid, 196.