[Skip to Content]
Sign In
Individual Sign In
Create an Account
Institutional Sign In
OpenAthens Shibboleth
Purchase Options:
[Skip to Content Landing]
March 21, 1986

On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ

Author Affiliations

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).

JAMA. 1986;255(11):1455-1463. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370110077025

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.

(JAMA 1986;255:1455-1463)

 Matthew 26:17-27:61, Mark 14:12-15:47, Luke 22:7-23:56, John 13:1-19:42 , in  The Holy Bible (New International Version). Grand Rapids, Mich, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1978.
Lumpkin R:  The physical suffering of Christ .  J Med Assoc Ala 1978;47:8-10,47.
Johnson CD:  Medical and cardiological aspects of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ .  Bol Assoc Med PR 1978;70:97-102.
Barb AA:  The wound in Christ's side .  J Warburg Courtauld Inst 1971;34:320-321.Crossref
Bucklin R:  The legal and medical aspects of the trial and death of Christ .  Sci Law 1970; 10:14-26.
Mikulicz-Radecki FV:  The chest wound in the crucified Christ .  Med News 1966;14:30-40.
Davis CT:  The crucifixion of Jesus: The passion of Christ from a medical point of view .  Ariz Med 1965;22:183-187.
Tenney SM:  On death by crucifixion .  Am Heart J 1964;68:286-287.Crossref
Bloomquist ER:  A doctor looks at crucifixion .  Christian Herald , (March) 1964, pp 35, 46-48.
DePasquale NP, Burch GE:  Death by crucifixion .  Am Heart J 1963;66:434-435.Crossref
Barbet P:  A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon . Earl of Wicklow (trans). Garden City, NY, Double-day Image Books, 1953, pp 12-18, 37-147, 159-175, 187-208.
Primrose WB:  A surgeon looks at the crucifixion .  Hibbert J , 1949, pp 382-388.
Bergsma S:  Did Jesus die of a broken heart?  Calvin Forum 1948;14:163-167.
Whitaker JR:  The physical cause of the death of our Lord .  Cath Manchester Guard 1937;15:83-91.
Clark CCP:  What was the physical cause of the death of Jesus Christ?  Med Rec 1890;38:543.
Cooper HC:  The agony of death by crucifixion .  NY Med J 1883;38:150-153.
Stroud W:  Treatise on the Physical Cause of the Death of Christ and Its Relation to the Principles and Practice of Christianity , ed 2. London, Hamilton & Adams, 1871, pp 28-156, 489-494.
Allen AC:  The Skin: A Clinicopathological Treatise , ed 2. New York, Grune & Stratton Inc, 1967, pp 745-747.
Sutton RL Jr:  Diseases of the Skin , ed 11. St Louis, CV Mosby Co, 1956, pp 1393-1394.
Scott CT:  A case of haematidrosis .  Br Med J 1918;1:532-533.Crossref
Klauder JV:  Stigmatization .  Arch Dermatol Syphilol 1938;37:650-659.Crossref
Weaver KF:  The mystery of the shroud .  Natl Geogr 1980;157:730-753.
Tzaferis V:  Jewish tombs at and near Giv'at ha-Mivtar, Jerusalem .  Israel Explor J 1970;20:18-32.
Haas N:  Anthropological observations on the skeletal remains from Giv'at ha-Mivtar .  Israel Explor J 1970;20:38-59.
McDowell J:  The Resurrection Factor . San Bernardino, Calif, Here's Life Publishers, 1981, pp 20-53, 75-103.
McDowell J:  Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith . San Bernardino, Calif, Here's Life Publishers, 1979, pp 39-87, 141-263.
McDowell J:  More Than a Carpenter . Wheaton, Ill, Tyndale House Publishers, 1977, pp 36-71, 89-100.
Hengel M:  Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross , Bowden J (trans). Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1977, pp 22-45, 86-90.
Ricciotti G:  The Life of Christ , Zizzamia AI (trans). Milwaukee, Bruce Publishing Co, 1947, pp 29-57, 78-153, 161-167, 586-647.
Pfeiffer CF, Vos HF, Rea J (eds):  Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia . Chicago, Moody Press, 1975, pp 149-152, 404-405, 713-723, 1173-1174, 1520-1523.
Greenleaf S:  An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice . Grand Rapids, Mich, Baker Book House, 1965, p 29.
Hatch E, Redpath HA:  A Concordance to the Septuagint and the Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament (Including the Apocryphal Books) . Graz, Austria, Akademische Druce U Verlagsanstalt, 1975, p 1142.
Wuest KS:  Wuest Word Studies From the Greek New Testament for the English Reader . Grand Rapids, Mich, WB Eerdmans Publisher, 1973, vol 1, p 280.
Friedrich G:  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament , Bremiley G (ed-trans). Grand Rapids, Mich, WB Eerdmans Publisher, 1971, vol 7, pp 572, 573, 632.
Arndt WF, Gingrich FW:  A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature . University of Chicago Press, 1957, p 673.
Brown F, Driver SR, Briggs CA:  A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic . Oxford, England, Clarendon Press, 1953, pp 841, 854.
Robertson AT:  A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research . Nashville, Tenn, Broadman Press, 1931, pp 417-427.
Jackson SM (ed):  The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge . New York, Funk & Wagnalls, 1909, pp 312-314.
Kim H-S, Suzuki M, Lie JT, et al:  Nonbacterial thrombotic endocarditis (NBTE) and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC): Autopsy study of 36 patients .  Arch Pathol Lab Med 1977;101:65-68.
Becker AE, van Mantgem J-P:  Cardiac tamponade: A study of 50 hearts .  Eur J Cardiol 1975;3:349-358.