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Though the Bible does not specifically describe the instrument that Jesus died upon, tradition has it that he was put to death on a cross; consisting of a stake and a crossbeam. The Greek stauros is sometimes used to describe a simple stake, and other times a more complex form such as the cross. To determine what appearance the stauros took in Jesus' death, we need to consider what the Greek language tells us, what history tells us, and most importantly, what the Bible tells us. Furthermore, we must consider the significance of the stauros to the Christian, and whether it is a subject of shame or of great joy.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says this about the Greek stauros:
Corresponding to the vb. (stauroo) which was more common, stauros can mean a stake which was sometimes pointed on which an executed criminal was publicly displayed in shame as a further punishment. It could be used for hanging (so probably Diod. Sic., 2, 18, 2), impaling, or strangulation. stauros could also be an instrument of torture, perhaps in the sense of the Lat. patibulum, a crossbeam laid on the shoulders. Finally it could be an instrument of execution in the form of a vertical stake and a crossbeam of the same length forming a cross in the narrower sense of the term. It took the form either of a T (Lat. crux commissa) or of a + (crux immissa). (Vol. 1, page 391)
The Greek word xylon can mean "wood, a piece of wood, or anything made of wood," and can refer to a cross as well, as pointed out in Vine's Expository Dictionary, Vol. 4, p. 153.
Historical findings have substantiated the traditional cross. One finding is a graffito
In June of 1968, bulldozers working north of Jerusalem accidentally laid bare tombs dating from the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Greek archeologist Vasilius Tzaferis was instructed by the Israeli Department of Antiquities to carefully excavate these tombs. Subsequently one of the most exciting finds of recent times was unearthed - the first skeletal remains of a crucified man. The most significant factor is its dating to around the time of Christ. The skeleton was of a man named Yehohanan son of Chaggol, who had been crucified between the age of 24 and 28. Mr. Tzaferis wrote an article in the Jan/Feb. 1985 issue of the secular magazine Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), and here are some of his comments regarding crucifixion in Jesus' time:
At the end of the first century B.C., the Romans adopted crucifixion as an official punishment for non-Romans for certain limited transgressions. Initially, it was employed not as a method of execution, but only as a punishment. Moreover, only slaves convicted of certain crimes were punished by crucifixion. During this early period, a wooden beam, known as a furca or patibulum was placed on the slave's neck and bound to his arms.
...When the procession arrived at the execution site, a vertical stake was fixed into the ground. Sometimes the victim was attached to the cross only with ropes. In such a case, the patibulum or crossbeam, to which the victim's arms were already bound, was simply affixed to the vertical beam; the victim's feet were then bound to the stake with a few turns of the rope.
If the victim was attached by nails, he was laid on the ground, with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms were held out and nailed to the two ends of the crossbeam, which was then raised and fixed on top of the vertical beam. The victim's feet were then nailed down against this vertical stake.
In order to prolong the agony, Roman executioners devised two instruments that would keep the victim alive on the cross for extended periods of time. One, known as a sedile, was a small seat attached to the front of the cross, about halfway down. This device provided some support for the victim's body and may explain the phrase used by the Romans, "to sit on the cross." Both Eraneus and Justin Martyr describe the cross of Jesus as having five extremities rather than four; the fifth was probably the sedile. (p. 48,49)
In a followup article on this archeological find in the Nov/Dec. issue of BAR, the statement is made:
According to the (Roman) literary sources, those condemned to crucifixion never carried the complete cross, despite the common belief to the contrary and despite the many modern re-enactments of Jesus' walk to Golgotha. Instead, only the crossbar was carried, while the upright was set in a permanent place where it was used for subsequent executions. As the first-century Jewish historian Josephus noted, wood was so scarce in Jerusalem during the first century A.D. that the Romans were forced to travel ten miles from Jerusalem to secure timber for their siege machinery. (p. 21)
Similar are the details mentioned under "Cross" in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology:
It is certain only that the Romans practised this form of execution. But is is most likely that the stauros had a transverse in the form of a crossbeam. Secular sources do not permit any conclusion to be drawn as to the precise form of the cross, as to whether it was the crux immissa (+) or crux commissa (T). As it was not very common to affix a titlos (superscription, loanword from the Lat. titulus), it does not necessarily follow that the cross had the form of a crux immissa.
There were two possible ways of erecting the stauros. The condemned man could be fastened to the cross lying on the ground at the place of execution, and so lifted up on the cross. Alternatively, it was probably usual to have the stake implanted in the ground before the execution. The victim was tied to the crosspiece, and was hoisted up with the horizontal beam and made fast to the vertical stake. As this was the simpler form of erection, and the carrying of the crossbeam (patibulum) was probably connected with the punishment for slaves, the crux commissa may be taken as the normal practice. The cross would probably have been not much higher than the height of a man. (Vol. 1, p. 392)
OTHER ARCHEOLOGICAL FINDS:
Aside from the most recent discoveries, there are a few others of interest we will note. Here is one involving a discovery in 1873:
In 1873 a famous French scholar, Charles Clermant-Ganneau, reported the discovery of a burial chamber or cave on the Mount of Olives. Inside were some 30 ossuaries (rectangular chests made of stone) in which skeletal remains were preserved after their bodies had disintegrated. . . . One (ossuary) had the name "Judah" associated with a cross with arms of equal length. Further, the name "Jesus" occurred three times, twice in association with a cross. . . .
It would be unlikely that Christian Jews would have been buried in that area after 135 A.D. since the Romans forbade Jews to enter Aelia Capitolina . . . after the second Jewish revolt. (from Ancient Times, Vol. 3, No. 1, July 1958, p. 3.)
In 1939 excavations at Herculaneum, the sister city of Pompeii (destroyed in 78 A.D. by volcano) produced a house where a wooden cross had been nailed to the wall of a room. According to Buried History, (Vol. 10, No. 1, March 1974 p. 15):
Below this (cross) was a cupboard with a step in front. This has considered to be in the shape of an ara or shrine, but could well have been used as a place of prayer. . . . If this interpretation is correct, and the excavators are strongly in favor of the Christian significance of symbol and furnishings, then here we have the example of an early house church.
In 1945 a family tomb was discovered in Jerusalem by Prof. E.L. Sukenik of the Museum of Jewish Antiquities of the Hebrew University. Prof. Sukenik is the world's leading authority on Jewish ossuaries. Note his findings:
Two of the ossuaries bear the name "Jesus" in Greek. . . . The second of these also has four large crosses drawn. . . . (Prof. Sukenik) concluded that the full inscriptions and the crosses were related, being expressions of grief at the crucifixion of Jesus, being written about that time. . . . Professor Sukenik points out . . . (that) the cross may represent a "pictorial expression of the crucifixion, tantamount to exclaiming `He was crucified!'" As the tomb is dated by pottery, lamps and the character of the letters used in the inscriptions--from the first century B.C. to not later than the middle of the first century A.D. this means that the inscriptions fall within two decades of the Crucifixion at the latest. (Ancient Times, Vol. 3, No. 1, July 1958, p. 35. See also Vol. 5, No. 3, March 1961, p. 13.)
BIBLICAL TESTIMONY ON THE CROSS
One cannot help but notice the series of events as recorded in Matthew 27:26, 31-37, Mark 15:14-26, Luke 23:26-38, and John 19:1-22 (regarding the death of Jesus) and their harmony with the method of crucifixion as described by the articles in BAR and other sources. It appears that Jesus carried the crossbeam, or patibulum to Golgotha. There, the patibulum was affixed to an upright stake, perhaps having a seat or footpiece, and Jesus was nailed onto the whole structure. Above him was placed the title, JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
A SYMBOL OF VICTORY
While the Jews may have considered the cross a shameful thing, the apostle Paul boasted of the cross of Christ. In Galatians 6:14 he says:
But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
The Greek word translated as "boast" is kauchomai, which is translated to boast or glory over something. Paul plainly gloried in the symbol of the cross; it was a sign of victory, not defeat. In 1 Cor. 1:17,18 he tells us that Christ sent him to preach the message of the cross, and that people would stand or fall according to their response to such a simple message! He goes on to say that some (like the Jews and the JWs) would stumble over the cross (because of its shameful significance in their minds), while others would consider it foolishness (verses 21-23). But to Christians the cross meant the power and the wisdom of God! He says that this is because God deliberately chose the weak, foolish and despised things of the world to make his point, so that his children could glory in what others consider despised!
Paul tells the Corinthians that he had decided to use the message of the cross of Christ as his main emphasis (1 Cor. 2:2); even to the point of avoiding more scholarly arguments or fine points. Why? Because of God's ability to weed out those with wrong motives by using a humble message as his calling card! He does not want to attract people to Christianity by giving them material or intellectual hopes, but he desires to reach those who realize the degree of sin in the world and who would appreciate Jesus' having died for their sins.
This has been the message of the church throughout the centuries--that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and that he is alive and lives through us (1 Cor. 15:13; Luke 24:45-47). This message only appeals to certain people; most often the lowly and simple (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
Paul also uses the cross as a symbol for the cause of Christianity, as well as the death of the old nature. He speaks of the cross in various contexts. He tells us that some have become "enemies of the cross" (Phil. 3:18). He talks about the old nature and the Law as being "nailed to the cross" (Col. 2:14). He picks up on the theme of Jesus regarding the cross (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23; 14:27) and talks about "crucifying the old nature" (Gal. 2:20; 5:24). Over and over, Paul considers the cross a sign of victory, not defeat! He boasted in the cross!
Christians are not afraid of the cross nor are they to worship it. It is rather a symbol of the greatest act of love ever!
While the Christian church has never considered the exact method of Jesus' crucifixion or impalement as a major concern, the WT has certainly made an issue of it. In doing so, they hold true to their pattern of majoring in minor issues; often distracting their followers from more important issues.
The WT considers the churches as "unclean" for using the cross as a symbol of the death of Jesus. While it is agreed that worship of the cross or any other symbol is wrong, the use of a symbol for illustrative purposes has never been wrong, either in the NT or OT records. For instance, cherubs (angels) were embroidered on the curtains of the tabernacle in Moses' time (Ex. 26:1). The Watchtower even uses a tower as their own special symbol.
Up until the late 30's the WT pictured Christ as dying on the traditional cross. However, while later eliminating the cross as well as the name of Jesus on their front cover, they continued to use a watch tower as their symbol. In the book Enemies, President J.F. Rutherford attacked the traditional story of the cross as wrong because "The cross was worshipped by the Pagan Celts long before the [birth] and death of Christ." (pages 188-189) With no accompanying historical or archaeological evidence, Rutherford stated his new doctrine as fact. Actually, what pagans did with crosses before the death of Christ has nothing to do with how the Romans crucified people. Besides, Jesus did not choose his instrument of death.
The current WT objections to the cross are:
1. The Biblical Greek doesn't suggest a cross, but rather a "pole" or "stake."
2. The cross was a pagan symbol later adopted by the "apostate" church.
3. Archaeology proves that Jesus died on an upright stake rather than a cross.
4. The cross is to be shunned rather than mentioned or displayed.
Let's consider the answer to these objections one by one:
JW: THE GREEK "stauros" DOESN'T REFER TO A CROSS.
As the years went by, "proof" was supplied by the WT to substantiate its position on the cross. In 1950 with the release of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, the appendix (pages 768-771) first argues that the Greek words stauros (Matt. 10:38) and xylon (Acts 5:30) do not mean a cross, and stated that these words only mean an upright stake without a crossbeam, and that there is no proof to the contrary.
The Greek stauros has the primary meaning of a pole or stake, as the WT points
out. What they don't mention is that the word often refers to more complex constructions,
such as the cross. The Latin word crux usually translated "cross," was
also at times used to refer to a mere stake. What the WT specifically ignores is that the
Romans DID execute prisoners on crosses--an issue they are careful to sidestep in their
presentation. The horizontal bar of such crosses was called the patibulum, and the
slaves to be executed were customarily made to carry the patibulum to the place of
execution. (Seneca, De Vita Beata 19:3; Epistola 101:12;
Authoritative lexicons give the definition of stauros as a "stake sunk into
the earth in an upright position; a crosspiece was often attached to its upper part."
Xylon, like stauros, can also be used to refer to a cross, a fact carefully side-stepped by the WT in their effort to prove their point. They thus fail to prove anything with regard to stauros and xylon. Therefore we must look to the historical record for more decisive proof on the method of crucifixion.
JW: "THE CROSS WAS A PAGAN SYMBOL LATER ADOPTED BY THE CHURCHES"
Whatever usage of the cross existed before or after the time of Christ is irrelevant to the issue. Additionally, there is no conclusive evidence that 1st century Jews or Christians looked upon the crucifixion cross as a symbol of false worship. It was used as a means to an end--the punishment or death of a criminal. Symbols mean different things at different times. Furthermore, Jesus did not choose his instrument of death.
While the Catholic church may have later capitalized on the imagery of the cross, and some people even today regard it as an idol, that does not affect the earlier, Biblical usage of the cross as a symbol of the gospel (see the fourth objection). Evidence reveals that as early as the first century there were Christians who used the cross as a symbol for Christianity. The Romans even mocked them by depicting Jesus as an ass on a cross (see appendix for illustration). Apparently the cross did not readily remind the first century Christians of previous pagan meanings, but stood for Christ and his message as far as believers and even non-believers were concerned. Today it is much the same. People usually consider the cross a sign of Christianity.
JW: ARCHEOLOGY SHOWS THAT JESUS DIED ON A STAKE, NOT A CROSS."
In the 1950 and 1969 editions of the New World Translation (in their appendix),
the WT reproduces one of sixteen woodcut illustrations by the 16th century writer Justus
Lipsius, who authored a work called
De Cruce Liber Primus, Secundus and Tres. They
reproduce his picture of a man impaled on an upright stake, failing to mention that
Lipsius produced fifteen other illustrations (most of which picture various crucifixions
on crosses). The WT makes the statement: "This is the manner in which Jesus was
impaled." They then refer to an article in the Catholic Ecclesiastical Review
of 1920 that states that the cross was not used until after A.D. 312 as the sign of the
The 1950 New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (Appendix, p.770) states: "Rather than consider the torture stake upon which Jesus was impaled a relic to be worshiped, the Jewish Christians like Simon Peter would consider it to be an abominable thing." They then quote Paul's reference to Deut. 21:22,23 at Galatians 3:13 to prove that the cross was an abomination. They continue, "Hence the Jewish Christians would hold as accursed and hateful the stake upon which Jesus had been executed." The NWT makes its final point in stating,
The evidence is, therefore, completely lacking that Jesus Christ was crucified on two pieces of timber placed at a right angle. We refuse to add anything to God's written Word by inserting the pagan cross into the inspired Scriptures, but render stauros and xylon according to the simplest meanings. . . . The passing of time and further archaeological discoveries will be certain to prove its correctness. Even now the burden rests upon all who contend for the religious tradition to prove that Jesus died on more than a simple stake. (p.771)
In 1969 the Kingdom Interlinear translation's appendix contained much the same information, as does the 1984 New World Translation Reference Bible and the 1985 revision of the Kingdom Interlinear. The 1985 edition adds comments by Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words that supports the view that pagans before the time of Christ used the symbol T representing the Babylonian god Tammuz, and that this practice apparently influenced the Catholic Church in the issue of cross worship. Vine claims the Catholic ecclesiastical system adapted the symbol of the cross as a holdover from paganism.
The most amazing thing of all is that the WT could make a statement such as "evidence is completely lacking" that Jesus was crucified on a cross, when the VERY BOOK they use as "proof" to support their claims SAYS JESUS DIED ON A CROSS! One of the woodcuts of Lipsius not mentioned by the WT, shows a crucifixion on a cross. A partial translation of the Latin text alongside this woodcut says:
In the Lord's cross there were four pieces of wood, the upright beam, the crossbar, a tree trunk (piece of wood) placed below, and the title (inscription) placed above.
Also they hand down (this account by) Irenaeus: "The construction of the cross has five ends, two on the vertical and two on the horizontal, and one in the middle where the person attached with nails rested." (De Cruce Liber Secundus, pg. 661)
The earlier (1950 and 1969) editions of the NWT, after referring to Lipsius' picture of a man on an upright stake stated, "This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled." They thereby attempted to convey the idea that Lipsius' book was proving their point. Since then the exposure of their dishonesty induced them to leave this statement out of the 1984 and 1985 versions of the NWT; but they STILL use Lipsius' illustration to make their point, while failing to tell the real story! They are intentionally avoiding the truth.
Furthermore, their reference to the Catholic Ecclesiastical Review (1920) is outdated, as there have been further archaeological finds that indicate otherwise, such as mentioned in Biblical Archaeology Review of Jan./Feb. 1985.
This brings up another very embarrassing issue for the WT--that of recent archaeological finds. In the earlier editions (1950 and 1969) of the NWT they had said, "The passing of time and further archaeological discoveries will be certain to prove its correctness. . . ." Why did they omit this statement from the 1984 and 1985 versions of the New World Translation? Precisely because of the more recent archaeological finds! While the WT has made use of obscure and long-outdated sources in an attempt to prove their point, the bulk of the historical finds as well as the most recent excavations reveal substantial proof for the traditional crucifixion story, as long held by the churches.
JW: "THE BIBLE DOESN'T SAY THAT JESUS DIED ON A CROSS."
There is even greater evidence than Lipsius' works for the traditional crucifixion story, though, and this evidence comes from the Bible itself. When Jesus reappeared to his disciples in his resurrected body, he still bore the marks left by the nails in his hands. The disciples were afraid that this was a spirit form rather than their Lord in the flesh. Luke 24:37 tells us that "they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit." Jesus spoke up:
Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch me and see,for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (Luke 24:38,39)
The WT, incidentally, would have us believe that Jesus WAS a spirit at that time and actually DID just materialize a body so as to comfort them. How much better to believe the Word for what it says, that it WAS Jesus' body, and his hands still had the marks of the nails.
This brings up the most conclusive passage of all, which reveals that Christ was not killed as the WT portrays in their publications. The apostle John tells us that Thomas, who was not there when Jesus first appeared to the rest, refused to believe it was actually Jesus (he thought it must have been a spirit, too!). He told the others,
Unless I see in His HANDS the imprint of THE NAILS, and put my finger into the place of THE NAILS, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. (John 20:25, emphasis added)
Note that Thomas knew there was more than one nail that punctured Jesus' hands. Yet, the WT always pictures Jesus as having ONE NAIL through both hands! When Jesus reappeared for the sake of Thomas, he showed him his hands so that Thomas could see and believe (John 20:26,27).
Apparently feeling that they needed to respond to this challenge, a "Questions From The Readers" article appeared in The Watchtower of April 1, 1984 (p. 31). They cloud the issue with a partial quote from The Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature (which doesn't support their claim) in an effort to make it appear as a "waste of time" to speculate on how many nails Jesus was affixed with. (They are right: We don't know; but we do know that there were at least two in his hands!) Then they try and imply that Thomas was sloppy in his speech--saying that even though Thomas only mentions the nail holes in his hands, he might have been referring to the nails in Jesus' feet as well. The article concludes with the statement:
Thus, it is just not possible at this point to state with certainty how many nails were used. Any drawing of Jesus on the stake should be understood as artists' productions that offer merely a representation based on the limited facts that we have. Debate over such an insignificant detail should not be permitted to becloud the all-important truth that "we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son." Rom. 5:10.
It appears that since the evidence has swung against them, they are resorting to their old technique of accusing the opposition of what they themselves are guilty of. They are the ones that have made statements such as "evidence is lacking . . ." that Jesus died on a cross.
As usual, they shift the blame to cover themselves. Remember, they are the ones who accuse people of "false worship" for using the symbol of the cross. As far as Christians are concerned, the exact method of crucifixion is not a big issue. Rather, the emphasis that the Bible puts on the cross is the real issue!
JW: "THE TORTURE STAKE (cross) WAS SHAMEFUL AND SHOULDN'T BE GIVEN ATTENTION."
It is true that the Jews viewed execution by the cross as an accursed way to die, for it meant shame, and no hope for a resurrection. Similarly, the WT views the whole concept of Christ dying on a stake in a negative light. Note these statements in the Awake! magazine of Nov. 8, 1972:
How would you feel if one of your dearest friends was executed on false charges? Would you make a replica of the instrument of execution, say a hangman's noose or an electric chair? Would you kiss that replica, burn candles before it or wear it around your neck as an ornament? "Of course not," you may say.
To the Jews and the Romans the manner in which Jesus died was humiliating and shameful. He was executed like a criminal of the lowest sort, like the wrongdoers impaled alongside him. (Luke 23:32) His death therefore misrepresented him in the worst way possible. To Christians the instrument of execution itself would therefore have been something very repulsive. Venerating it would have meant glorifying the wrong deed committed on it - the murder of Jesus Christ. (p. 27)
The WT is again confusing the issue by classing those who "venerate" or worship a cross with those who consider the cross as a symbol of Christianity. Certainly there is no justification for worshipping before a cross or kissing it; but there IS justification for considering the cross as a symbol of Christianity.
1 Buried History, Vol. 9, no. 2, page 41 (June 1973, Australian Inst. of Archeology)
2 Biblical Quarterly, Volume 13, Number 4, page 442.
3 A GreekEnglish Lexicon, Arndt and Gingrich, page 772.
4 The cross has been discovered in excavations of Christian tombs much earlier than the fourth century. (compare Awake!, Nov. 8, 1972, p. 27)
"Two Questions About Crucifixion" reads the title of a fascinating article in the April 1989 issue of Bible Review. Below it were two subheadings, "Does the Victim Die of Asphyxiation," and "Would Nails in the Hand Hold the Weight of the Body?"
In it the author discredits the previous theory of crucifixion as formulated by A. A. LeBec in 1925 and given widespread publicity by Dr. Pierre Barbet from 1953 on, that (1) Jesus died of asphyxiation due to being unable to raise himself up to breathe, and (2) the nails through his hands were actually through his wrists (assuming the palms of the hands could not hold the body weight). It now appears that the evidence does not support Barbet's theory.
Medical research for this project was done by Frederick T. Zugibe, who is adjunct associate professor of pathology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as author of The Cross and the Shroud--A Medical Examiner Investigates the Crucifixion. Zugibe demonstrates quite conclusively that:
(1) Jesus did not die of asphyxiation, but rather from shock and trauma. Additionally, an impaled man with arms stretched straight over his head (as the Watchtower depicts) would suffocate in minutes, whereas a man with hands outstretched to the side at an angle of 60 70 degrees (as on a cross) could live for hours without suffocating.
(2) There are two locations in the PALM of each HAND that will allow a nail to penetrate and carry the full body weight up to several hundred pounds, making the "wrist theory" unnecessary to explain how Christ's arms were attached to the cross.
Years ago, LeBec and Barbet had concluded that a person hung by his arms overhead would suffocate in a manner of minutes, due to the inability of the lungs to expand and contract in such a position. Additionally, an Austrian radiologist, Hermann Moedder, experimented with medical students in the 40's, hanging them by their wrists with their hands directly above their heads (much like the Watchtower pictures Jesus on a stake). In a few minutes, the students became pale, their lung capacity dropped from 5.2 to 1.5 liters, blood pressure decreased and the pulse rate increased. Moedder concluded that inability to breathe would occur in about six minutes if they were not allowed to stand and rest.
The same would apply to Christ, IF he were suspended on a stake as the Watchtower depicts him, hung from hands bound directly overhead. He would have suffocated in a matter of minutes.
Zugibe, however, discovered that if students were hung by hands outstretched to the side at 60-70 degrees, they would have no trouble breathing for hours on end. Since Luke 23:44 and Matthew 27:45,46 show that Christ was on the cross for about three hours, the evidence points again to death on a traditional cross.
Zugibe carried out his experiments using a number of volunteers who were willing to try hanging from a cross with several variations, none requiring the mutilation of their flesh or bodily damage. Special leather gloves were used to attach the hands to the crossbeam. To demonstrate that a nail through the hand could hold several hundred pounds, Zugibe, in another experiment, used the severed arms of fresh cadavers, nailing them through either of two locations in the palm of the hands (see illustration) and suspending weights from the arms (a rather gruesome experiment, to say the least!).
If Jesus did not die of asphyxiation, then what was the cause of his death? Let's review the events of the day Christ died.
First, Jesus experienced loss in blood volume both from perspiration and from the sweating of blood, due to his mental anguish. After being arrested, he was scourged with a leather whip that had metal weights or bone chips at the ends. As the tips penetrated the skin, the nerves, muscles and skin were traumatized. Exhaustion with shivering, severe sweating, and seizures would follow. Much body fluid would be lost. Even before being hung on the cross, Jesus may have already entered a state of shock, due to the scourging, the irritation of the nerves of the scalp due to the crown of thorns, and by being struck several times. Finally, he was nailed to the cross by large, square iron nails driven through both hands, as well as his feet. The damage to the nerves brought incredible pain, adding to the shock and loss of water. Over a period of three hours, every slight move would have brought excruciating pain. Death would result from extreme shock due to a combination of exhaustion, pain and loss of blood.
The "Z" area and "Destot's space" will hold several hundred pounds
when a nail is driven in the precise spot. (Frank Netter, courtesy of CIBA Pharmaceutical
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