William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI
Reprinted from JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association
March 21, 1986, Volume 256
Copyright 1986, American Medical Association
From the Departments of Pathology (Dr. Edwards) and Medical Graphics (Mr. Hosmer), Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; and the Homestead United Methodist Church, Rochester, Minn., and the West Bethel United Methodist Church, Bethel, Minn. (Pastor Gabel).
Reprint requests to Department of Pathology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905 (Dr. Edwards)
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 indicate that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.