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posted by LaminatorX on Saturday April 19 2014, @11:06AM   Printer-friendly
from the Down-the-hall-to-the-left dept.

Each year, Cahleen Shrier, associate professor in the Department of Biology and Chemistry at Azusa Pacific University, presents a special lecture on the science of Jesus' crucifixion detailing the physiological processes a typical crucified victim underwent based on historical documentation of crucifixion procedures used during that time period. According to Dr. Chuck Dietzen, the Romans favored it over hanging because it was a slow death taking as long as two days making it quite effective for quelling dissent. "It is important to understand from the beginning that Jesus would have been in excellent physical condition," says Shrier. "As a carpenter by trade, He participated in physical labor. In addition, He spent much of His ministry traveling on foot across the countryside."

Evidence suggests that Jesus dreaded his fate. The New Testament tells of how he sweated blood the night before in the garden of Gethsemane. A rare medical condition known as hematohidrosis may explain this phenomenon, Dietzen says. In this condition, extreme stress causes the blood vessels around the sweat gland to rupture into the sweat ducts. While few of these cases exist in the medical literature, many of those that do involve people facing execution.

Crucifixion was invented by the Persians in 300-400 BC. It was developed, during Roman times, into a punishment for the most serious of criminals and is quite possibly the most painful death ever invented by humankind. The Romans would tie or nail the accused to the cross being sure to avoid the blood vessels. While many people envision the nail going into a person's palm, it was placed closer to the wrist. The feet were nailed to the upright part of the crucifix, so that the knees were bent at around 45 degrees. "Once the legs gave out, the weight would be transferred to the arms, gradually dragging the shoulders from their sockets. The elbows and wrists would follow a few minutes later; by now, the arms would be six or seven inches longer," says Alok Jha. "The victim would have no choice but to bear his weight on his chest. He would immediately have trouble breathing as the weight caused the rib cage to lift up and force him into an almost perpetual state of inhalation." Suffocation would usually follow, but the relief of death could also arrive in other ways. "The resultant lack of oxygen in the blood would cause damage to tissues and blood vessels, allowing fluid to diffuse out of the blood into tissues, including the lungs and the sac around the heart," says Jeremy Ward.

Eventually the person being crucified would go into shock and die after organs failed. Medical science can also explain why blood and water spurted out of Jesus's body when a Roman stabbed him with a spear. That was likely a pleural effusion, in which clear lung fluid came out of his body as well as blood. Shrier says Jesus' stamina and strength were, most likely, very well developed so if the torture of the crucifixion could break a man in such good shape, it must have been a horrific experience. "I am struck every time with the stunning realization that as a flesh and blood human, Jesus felt every ounce of this execution," concludes Shrier. "What greater love than this can a man have for his friends?"

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by sgleysti on Saturday April 19 2014, @03:02PM

    by sgleysti (56) on Saturday April 19 2014, @03:02PM (#33344)

    or were the descriptions based on an actual crucifixion, not necessarily Jesus's?


    I think this makes the most sense. The gospels peg Jesus' followers as uneducated Palestinian Jews, while the writers of the gospels were literate Greek speakers. The gospels were written anywhere from 40 to 70 years after the crucifixion supposedly happened, and they show signs of literary embellishment and borrowing from other myths.


    As an example of literary embellishment: Mark's gospel was written first. It has no birth narrative, and the resurrection account is fairly simple -- at the tomb, the women find a boy in a white robe (literary device to represent an angel) who tells them Jesus isn't there. Matthew and Luke have conflicting birth narratives, both as regards the date (look up a guy named Quirinius) and the events that took place. Furthermore, the tomb scene in Matthew involves an earthquake and a legion of Roman soldiers who are paralyzed by an angel. No other accounts mention this.

    If these things interest you, there is good material available on it: Debates on the resurrection between Mike Licona (evangelical christian) and Bart Ehrman (agnostic, former evangelical) and, separately, Richard Carrier (atheist) are quite good. Licona is more thoughtful in his argument and far more fair in debate than a blowhard named William Lane Craig, who debates the same topic.

    Richard Carrier and Robert Price both write for the mythicist position, which states as you do that Jesus probably didn't exist. My favorite book on this topic, however, is "The Myth of the Resurrection" by Joseph McCabe. I share his sympathy with the mythicist position and also his belief that there may have been an itinerant preacher in Judea at the time who was later embellished into the Jesus we know.

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