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May 23, 1986

On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ

Author Affiliations

Michigan State University East Lansing

JAMA. 1986;255(20):2753-2754. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370200054012

To the Editor.—  The article on the death of Jesus Christ is interesting.1 It is theological, since Christ is only used as a postresurrection title. Moreover, the authors seem to be largely unaware of the nature and results of New Testament scholarship over the last 200 years. This results in some degree of historical distortion and distant (admittedly not malevolent) echos of anti-Semitism. The extent of New Testament study and the careful scholarship with which it has been done need to be briefly examined. Moreover, the current understanding of the historical man Jesus, without which his death is unintelligible, also needs to be touched upon.New Testament scholarship relies on a carefully developed historicocritical methodology. Its major elements include the following.

  1. Textual criticism. All our available ancient texts are Greek, and the earliest complete codices date from the fourth century. By this time, a considerable amount of copying