Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:



BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 18 August 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:408

Rapid Response:

JAMA paper "On the physical death of Jesus Christ"

Edwards et al explored the death of Christ in great detail (with 40
references and many illustrations) in the following paper: Edwards WD,
Gabel WJ, Hosmer MS. On the physical death of Jesus Christ. JAMA 1986;
256: 1455-63.

You can access the paper on the web by going to:

Click on "Continue" at the bottom of the web page to advance through
the article.

Here is the abstract for the paper:

"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."

In the body of the paper, the authors comment on the question being
debated in the rapid responses posted above:

"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. Accordingly, interpretations
based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be
at odds with modern medical knowledge."

Competing interests: No competing interests

28 August 2001
Ron Davis
North American editor, BMJ
Henry Ford Health System (Detroit, USA)