May 23, 1986

On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ

Author Affiliations

University of California at Berkeley

JAMA. 1986;255(20):2759. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370200054024

To the Editor.—  Knowing JAMA's dedication to responsible discussion and scientific accuracy, I was very surprised by the article "On the Physiical Death of Jesus Christ."1 The scientific standard of its historicographical assumptions concerning the Gospel narratives reaches a nadir that I would not tolerate in work done by my undergraduates.In unacknowledged defiance of the past two centuries of New Testament scholarship, the authors cite the evangelical Passion narratives as if they were dependable, factual reports of Jesus' crucifixion. But Jesus died circa 30 AD, while the Gospels were composed between circa 70 and circa 100 AD. Aspects of the four Passion stories, which this article blends into one smooth narrative paste, vary irreconcilably between themselves. Finally, their respective presentations, hardly neutral, express and evince the pressures of their contemporary religious and political situations.For example, Mark and, following him, Matthew attest to two Sanhedrin trials (Mark 14:53f