Awakening the Serpent

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
(Genesis 3:1-5 KJV)

Satan assaulted our first parents, to draw them to sin, and the temptation proved fatal to them. The tempter was the devil, in the shape and likeness of a serpent. Satan’s plan was to draw our first parents to sin, and so to separate between them and their God. Thus the devil was from the beginning a murderer, and the great mischief maker. The person tempted was the woman: it was Satan’s policy to enter into talk with her when she was alone. There are many temptations to which being alone gives great advantage; but the communion of saints tends very much to their strength and safety. Satan took advantage by finding her near the forbidden tree. They that would not eat the forbidden fruit, must not come near the forbidden tree. Satan tempted Eve, that by her he might tempt Adam. It is his policy to send temptations by hands we do not suspect, and by those that have most influence upon us. Satan questioned whether it were a sin or not, to eat of this tree. He did not disclose his design at first, but he put a question which seemed innocent. Those who would be safe, need to be shy of talking with the tempter. He quoted the command wrong. He spoke in a taunting way. The devil, as he is a liar, so he is a scoffer from the beginning; and scoffers are his children. It is the craft of Satan to speak of the Divine law as uncertain or unreasonable, and so to draw people to sin; it is our wisdom to keep up a firm belief of God’s command, and a high respect for it. Has God said, Ye shall not lie, nor take his name in vain, nor be drunk, etc.? Yes, I am sure he has, and it is well said; and by his grace I will abide by it. It was Eve’s weakness to enter into this talk with the serpent: she might have perceived by his question, that he had no good design, and should therefore have started back. Satan teaches men first to doubt, and then to deny. He promises advantage from their eating this fruit. He aims to make them discontented with their present state, as if it were not so good as it might be, and should be. No condition will of itself bring content, unless the mind be brought to it. He tempts them to seek preferment, as if they were fit to be gods. Satan ruined himself by desiring to be like the Most High, therefore he sought to infect our first parents with the same desire, that he might ruin them too. And still the devil draws people into his interest, by suggesting to them hard thoughts of God, and false hopes of advantage by sin. Let us, therefore, always think well of God as the best good, and think ill of sin as the worst evil: thus let us resist the devil, and he will flee from us.
(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

In the Genesis narrative of the Torah and Biblical Old Testament, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is situated in the Garden of Eden together with the Tree of Life and the Serpent. In many myths the chthonic serpent (sometimes a pair) lives in or is coiled around a Tree of Life situated in a divine garden. In Greek mythology Ladon coiled around the tree in the garden of the Hesperides protecting the entheogenic golden apples.

Similarly Níðhöggr (Nidhogg Nagar) the dragon of Norse mythology eats from the roots of the Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Under yet another tree (the Bodhi Tree of Enlightenment), the Buddha sat in ecstatic meditation. When a storm arose, the mighty serpent king Mucalinda rose up from his place beneath the earth and enveloped the Buddha in seven coils for seven days, not to break his ecstatic state.

The Vision Serpent was also a symbol of rebirth in Mayan mythology, fueling some cross-Atlantic cultural contexts favored in pseudoarchaeology. The Vision Serpent goes back to earlier Mayan conceptions, and lies at the center of the world as the Mayans conceived it. It is in the center axis atop the World Tree. Essentially the World Tree and the Vision Serpent, representing the king, created the center axis which communicates between the spiritual and the earthly worlds or planes. It is through ritual that the king could bring the center axis into existence in the temples and create a doorway to the spiritual world, and with it power.

Sometimes the Tree of Life is represented (in a combination with similar concepts such as the World Tree and Axis Mundi or “World Axis”) by a staff such as those used by shamans. Examples of such staffs featuring coiled snakes in mythology are the Caduceus of Hermes, the Rod of Asclepius, the Staff of Moses, and the papyrus reeds and deity poles entwined by a single serpent Wadjet, dating to earlier than 3000 BCE. The oldest known representation of two snakes entwined around a rod is that of the Sumerian fertility god Ningizzida. Ningizzida was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head, eventually becoming a god of healing and magic. It is the companion of Dumuzi (Tammuz) with whom it stood at the gate of heaven. Ningizzida was the ancestor of Gilgamesh (Nimrod), who according to the Epic of Gilgamesh dived to the bottom of the waters to retrieve the plant of life. But while he rested from his labor, a serpent came and ate the plant. The snake became immortal, and Gilgamesh was destined to die.

Ningizzida has been popularised in the 20th century by Raku Kei Reiki (“The Way of the Fire Dragon”) where “Nin Giz Zida” is believed to be a fire serpent of Tibetan rather than Sumerian origin. Nin Giz Zida is another name for the ancient Hindu concept of Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning either “coiled up” or “coiling like a snake”. Kundalini refers to the mothering intelligence behind yogic awakening and spiritual maturation leading to altered states of consciousness. There are a number of other translations of the term usually emphasizing a more serpentine nature to the word (serpent power). The symbol of snakes coiled around a staff is an ancient representation of Kundalini physiology. The staff represents the spinal column with the snake(s) being energy channels. In the case of two coiled snakes they usually cross each other seven times, a reference to the seven energy centers called chakras.

The Guardian Eye of Horus, which is guarded by the goddesses of Lower and Upper Egypt, Nekhbet and Wadjet.

In Ancient Egypt, where the earliest written cultural records exist, the serpent appears from the beginning to the end of their mythology. Ra and Atum (“he who completes or perfects”) became the same god, Atum, the “counter-Ra,” was associated with earth animals, including the serpent Nehebkau (“he who harnesses the souls”), the two headed serpent deity who guarded the entrance to the underworld. He is often seen as the son of the snake goddess Renenutet. She often was confused with (and later was absorbed by) their primal snake goddess Wadjet, the Egyptian cobra, who from the earliest of records was the patron and protector of the country, all other deities, and the pharaohs. Hers is the first known oracle. She was depicted as the Crown of Egypt, entwined around the staff of papyrus and the pole that indicated the status of all other deities, as well as having the all-seeing eye of wisdom and vengeance. She never lost her position in the Egyptian pantheon.

The image of the serpent as the embodiment of the wisdom transmitted by Sophia (Isis, Persephone or Pandora) was an emblem used by gnosticism, especially those sects that the more orthodox characterized as “Ophites” (“Serpent People”). The chthonic serpent was one of the earth-animals associated with the cult of Mithras. The Basilisk (Isaiah 14:29), the venomous “king of serpents” with the glance that kills, was hatched by a serpent, Pliny the Elder and others thought, from the egg of a cock.

Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
(Isaiah 14:29 KJV)

On the Caduceus of Hermes (used as a symbol in modern medicine) the wings symbolize the awakening, the staff the spinal cord, and the serpents the forces of active equilibrium (duality). The other symbol representative of this concept is the epitome of all occult magick, Baphomet. In reality, the staff actually represents the spinal column and the snake(s) represent deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

Kundalini awakenings experiences can be blissful and filled with feelings of love and a sense of the interconnectedness of all things. For others, it can feel more like a bad drug trip, or even a psychotic break, where practitioners go through altered sleep cycles, changes in identity, or depression. This discrepancy has led many Westerners to fear the coiled serpent resting in their spine, ready to strike.

The third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric (ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated) concept referring in part to the ajna (brow) chakra in certain dharmic spiritual traditions, in particular Hinduism. This concept was later adopted by Christian mystics and spiritualists as well as people from other religious faiths. It is also spoken of as the gate that leads within to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. Among Christian mystics, the term is used in a broad sense to indicate a non-dualistic perspective. In New Age spirituality, the third eye may symbolize a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply personal spiritual or psychological significance. The third eye is often associated with visions, clairvoyance (which includes the ability to observe chakras and auras), precognition, and out-of-body experiences. People who have allegedly developed the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as seers.

The third eye is used in many meditation schools and arts, such as in yoga, qigong, many Chinese martial arts, Zen, and in Japanese martial arts such as Karate and Aikido. In terms of Kabbalah, the Ajna chakra is attributed to the sphere of Chokmah, or Wisdom, although others regard the third eye as corresponding to the non-emanated sephirah of da’ath (knowledge).

Kundalini awakenings and similar experiences are the result of the stimulation or activation of the pineal gland. The pineal gland (also called the pineal body, epiphysis cerebri, epiphysis, conarium or the “third eye”) is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. It produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions. Its shape resembles a tiny pine cone (hence its name), and it is located near the center of the brain, between the two hemispheres, tucked in a groove where the two rounded thalamic bodies join.

The secretory activity of the pineal gland is only relatively understood. Historically, its location deep in the brain suggested to philosophers that it possessed particular importance. This combination led to its being a mystery gland with superstition and occult theories surrounding its perceived functions. The Eye of Horus is an Ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health. The eye is personified in the goddess Wadjet (The Eye of Ra). The name Wadjet is derived from “wadj” meaning “green” hence “the green one” and was known to the Greeks and Romans as “uraeus” from the Egyptian “iaret” meaning “risen one” from the image of a cobra rising up in protection.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 KJV)

We may not understand the pineal gland today, but it would appear that the Ancient Egyptians and many esoteric societies like the Freemasons, Ordo Templi Orientis, Hindus and those who practice Thelema certainly did, either that or the spirits that were leading them understood the pineal gland and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Eye of Horus and the dissected human brain which shows the pineal gland in the above photo are far too similar to be a coincidence.

This is why people shouldn’t dabble with the occult, Ouija boards, tarot cards, astrology and unbiblical “Christianized” pagan rituals like “Holy Yoga” and meditation. It is far to easy to open doorways that are difficult or impossible to close. Demons cannot enter a a person unless that person has done something specific on their end that will open up the door for the demons to be able to come into them, and that something action will give the demons a legal right to enter a person.

In order to have Yeshua come into our lives, we first have to be willing to give Him our direct permission to be able to do so, as God will never force Himself on any of us. He will let us know that He will want to come into our lives and that He will always be knocking on our doors, but we will always be the ones who will decide whether or not we will be willing to open up that door for Yeshua to be able to come into our lives. The reason being is that God has given each one of us free will and He will never violate that free will that He has given to each and everyone of us. Demons must work under the same rules.

Yeshua said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:20-22 KJV).

The Bible makes it perfectly clear who the serpent is, don’t awaken the serpent. The serpent and his followers don’t have much to look forward to in the future.

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
(Revelation 20:1-15 KJV)

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Yeshua HaMashiach: Our Passover Lamb

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(John 3:16 KJV)

The life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have formed the basis for a major world religion (Christianity), have appreciably influenced the course of human history, and, by virtue of a compassionate attitude toward the sick, also have contributed to the development of modern medicine. The eminence of Jesus as a historical figure and the suffering and controversy associated with his death have stimulated us to investigate, in an interdisciplinary manner, the circumstances surrounding his crucifixion. Accordingly, it is our intent to present not a theological treatise but rather a medically and historically accurate account of the physical death of the one called Jesus Christ.

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.

After Jesus and his disciples had observed the Passover meal in an upper room in a home in southwest Jerusalem, they traveled to the Mount of Olives, northeast of the city. Owing to various adjustments in the calendar, the years of Jesus’ birth and death remain controversial. However, it is likely that Jesus was born in either 4 or 6 BC and died in 30 AD.  During the Passover observance in 30 AD, the Last Supper would have been observed on Thursday, April 6 (Nisan 13), and Jesus would have been crucified on Friday, April 7 (Nisan 14)   At nearby Gethsemane, Jesus, apparently knowing that the time of his death was near, suffered great mental anguish, and, as described by the physician Luke, his sweat became like blood.

Jesus left the Upper Room and walked with His disciples to the Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane,where he was arrested and taken first to Annas and then to Caiaphas. After His first trial before political Sanhedrin at Caiaphas' residence, Jesus was tried again before religious Sanhedrin, probably at Temple. Next, He was taken to Pontius Pilate, who sent him to Herod Antipas. Herod returned Jesus to Pilate, and Pilate finally handed over Jesus for scourging at Fortress of Antonia and for crucifixion at Golgotha.

Although this is a very rare phenomenon, bloody sweat (hematidrosis or hemohidrosis) may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders.  As a result of hemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin becomes fragile and tender. Luke’s description supports the diagnosis of hematidrosis rather than eccrine chromisdrosis (brown or yellow-green sweat) or stigmatization (blood oozing from the palms or elsewhere).  Although some authors have suggested that hematidrosis produced hypovolemia, we agree with Bucklin that Jesus’ actual blood loss probably was minimal. However, in the cold night air, it may have produced chills.

Soon after midnight, Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane by the temple officials and was taken first to Annas and then to Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest for that year.  Between 1 AM and daybreak, Jesus was tried before Caiaphas and the political Sanhedrin and was found guilty of blasphemy. The guards then blindfolded Jesus, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face with their fists. Soon after daybreak, presumably at the temple, Jesus was tried before the religious Sanhedrin (with the Pharisees and Sadducees and again was found guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.

Since permission for an execution had to come from the governing Romans,  Jesus was taken early in the morning by the temple officials to the Praetorium of the Fortress of Antonia, the residence and governmental seat of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea. However, Jesus was presented to Pilate not as a blasphemer but rather as a self-appointed king who would undermine the Roman authority. Pilate made no charges against Jesus and sent him to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Judea. Herod likewise made no official charges and then returned Jesus to Pilate. Again, Pilate could find no basis for a legal charge against Jesus, but the people persistently demanded crucifixion, Pilate finally granted their demand and handed over Jesus to be flogged (scourged) and crucified. McDowell has reviewed the prevailing political, religious, and economic climates in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death, and Bucklin has described the various illegalities of the Jewish and Roman trials.

The rigors of Jesus’ ministry (that is, traveling by foot throughout Palestine) would have precluded any major physical illness or a weak general constitution. Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus was in good physical condition before his walk to Gethsemane. However, during the 12 hours between 9 PM Thursday and 9 AM Friday, he had suffered great emotional stress (as evidenced by hematidrosis), abandonment by his closest friends (the disciples), and a physical beating (after the first Jewish trial). Also, in the setting of a traumatic and sleepless night, he had been forced to walk more than 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to and from the sites of the various trials. These physical and emotional factors may have rendered Jesus particularly vulnerable to the adverse hemodynamic effects of the scourging.

Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in eases of desertion) were exempt. The usual instrument was a short whip (flagellum) with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. Occasionally, staves also were used. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim.

Left, short whip (flagrum) with lead balls and sheep bones tied into leather thongs. Center left, Naked victim tied to flogging post. Deep stripelike lacerations were usually associated with considerable blood loss. Center right, View from above, showing position of lictors. Right, inferomedial direction of wounds.

As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.

At the Praetorium, Jesus was severely whipped (although the severity of the scourging is not discussed in the four gospel accounts, it is implied in one of the epistles [1Peter 2:24]. A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for this verse indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh.) It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law. The Roman soldiers, amused that this weakened man had claimed to be a king, began to mock him by placing a robe on his shoulders, a crown of thorns on his head, and a wooden staff as a scepter in his right hand. Next, they spat on Jesus and struck him on the head with the wooden staff. Moreover, when the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus’ back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds.

The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical.

Crucifixion probably first began among the Persians. Alexander the Great introduced the practice to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans appear to have learned of it from the Carthaginians. Although the Romans did not invent crucifixions they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. Roman law usually protected Roman citizens from crucifixion, except perhaps in the case of desertion by soldiers.

 In its earliest form in Persia, the victim was either tied to a tree or was tied to or impaled on an upright post, usually to keep the guilty victim’s feet from touching holy ground. Only later was a true cross used; it was characterized by an upright post (stipes) and a horizontal crossbar (patibulum), and it had several variations. Although archaeological and historical evidence strongly indicates that the low Tau cross was preferred by the Romans in Palestine at the time of Christ, crucifixion practices often varied in a given geographic region and in accordance with the imagination of the executioners, and the Latin cross and other forms also may have been used.

Left, victim carrying crossbar (patibulum) to site of upright post (stipes). center Low Tau cross (crux commissa), commonly used by Romans at time of Christ. upper right, Rendition of Jesus' titulus with name and crime Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Lower right Possible methods for attaching tittles to Tau cross (left) and Latin cross (right).

It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb., only the crossbar was carried. The patibulum, weighing 75 to 125 lb., was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms.then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign (titulus) on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the titulus would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.

Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden stipes, on which the patibulum would be secured. In the case of the Tau cross, this was accomplished by means of a mortise and tenon joint, with or without reinforcement by ropes. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat (sedile or sedulum), often was attached midway down the stipes. Only very rarely was an additional block (suppedaneum) employed for transfixion of the feet.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the patibulum. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The archaeological remains of a crucified body, found in an ossuary near Jerusalem and dating from the time of Christ, indicate that the nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 inches long with a square shaft 3/8 inch across. Furthermore, ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin have documented that the nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.

Left, size of iron nail. Center, location of nail in wrist, between carpals and radius. Right, cross section of wrist, at level of plane indicated at left, showing path of nail, with probable transection of median nerve and impalement of flexor pollicis longus, but without injury to major arterial trunks and without fractures of bones.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the patibulum and the victim, together, were lifted onto the stipes. On the low cross, four soldiers could accomplish this relatively easily. However, on the tall cross, the soldiers used either wooden forks or ladders.

Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin suggest that nailing was the preferred Roman practice. Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the stipes or to a wooden footrest (suppedaneum), they usually were nailed directly to the front of the stipes. To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated laterally.

Left, position of feet atop one another and against stipes. Upper right, location of nail in second inter-metatarsal space. Lower right, cross section of foot, at plane indicated at left, showing path of nail.

When the nailing was completed, the titulus was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees (erurifragium or skelokopia).

Not uncommonly, insects would light upon or burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim, and birds of prey would tear at these sites. Moreover, it was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals. However, by Roman law, the family of the condemned could take the body for burial, after obtaining permission from the Roman judge.

Since no one was intended to survive crucifixions the body was not released to the family until the soldiers were sure that the victim was dead. By custom, one of the Roman guards would pierce the body with a sword or lance. Traditionally, this had been considered a spear wound to the heart through the right side of the chest (a fatal wound probably taught to most Roman soldiers). The Shroud of Turin documents this form of injury. Moreover, the standard infantry spear, which was 5 to 6 ft long could easily have reached the chest of a man crucified on the customary low cross.

With a knowledge of both anatomy and ancient crucifixion practices, one may reconstruct the probable medical aspects of this form of slow execution. Each wound apparently was intended to produce intense agony, and the contributing causes of death were numerous.

The scourging prior to crucifixion served to weaken the condemned man and, if blood loss was considerable, to produce orthostatie hypotension and even hypovolemie shock. When the victim was thrown to the ground on his back, in preparation for transfixion of the hands, his scourging wounds most likely would become torn open again and contaminated with dirt. Furthermore, with each respiration, the painful scourging wounds would be scraped against the rough wood of the stipes. As a result, blood loss from the back probably would continue throughout the crucifixion ordeal.

With arms outstretched but not taut, the wrists were nailed to the patibulum. It has been shown that the ligaments and bones of the wrist can support the weight of a body hanging from them, but the palms cannot. Accordingly, the iron spikes probably were driven between the radius and the carpals or between the two rows of carpal bones, either proximal to or through the strong band like flexor retinaeulum and the various interearpal ligaments. Although a nail in either location in the wrist might pass between the bony elements and thereby produce no fractures, the likelihood of painful periosteal injury would seem great. Furthermore, the driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve. The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms. Although the severed median nerve would result in paralysis of a portion of the hand, isehemie eontraetures and impalement of various ligaments by the iron spike might produce a claw like grasp.

Left, inhalation. With elbows extended and shoulders abducted, respiratory muscles of inhalation are passively stretched and thorax is expanded. Right, exhalation. With elbows flexed and shoulders adducted and with weight of body on nailed feet, exhalation is accomplished as active, rather than passive, process. Breaking legs below knees would place burden of exhalation on shoulder and arm muscles alone and soon would result in exhaustion asphyxia.

Most commonly, the feet were fixed to the front of the stipes by means of an iron spike driven through the first or second inter metatarsal space, just distal to the tarsometatarsal joint. It is likely that the deep peroneal nerve and branches of the medial and lateral plantar nerves would have been injured by the nails. Although scourging may have resulted in considerable blood loss, crucifixion per se was a relatively bloodless procedure, since no major arteries, other than perhaps the deep plantar arch, pass through the favored anatomic sites of transfixion.

The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration, particularly exhalation. The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the intercostal muscles in an inhalation state and thereby hinder passive exhalation. Accordingly, exhalation was primarily diaphragmatic, and breathing was shallow. It is likely that this form of respiration would not suffice and that hypercarbia would soon result. The onset of muscle cramps or tetanic contractions, due to fatigue and hypercarbia, would hinder respiration even further.

Adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows and adducting the shoulders. However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the tarsals and would produce searing pain. Furthermore, flexion of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists about the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the damaged median nerves. Lifting of the body would also painfully scrape the scourged back against the rough wooden stipes. Muscle cramps and paresthesias of the outstretched and uplifted arms would add to the discomfort. As a result, each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia.

The actual cause of death by crucifixion was multifactorial and varied somewhat with each case, but the two most prominent causes probably were hypovolemie shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Other possible contributing factors included dehydration, stress-induced arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure with the rapid accumulation of pericardial and perhaps pleural effusions. Crucifracture (breaking the legs below the knees), if performed, led to death by asphyxia within minutes.

After the scourging and the mocking, at about 9 AM, the Roman soldiers put Jesus’ clothes back on him and then led him and two thieves to be crucified. Jesus apparently was so weakened by the severe flogging that he could not carry the patibulum from the Praetorium to the site of crucifixion one third of a mile away. Simon of Cyrene was summoned to carry Christ’s cross, and the processional then made its way to Golgotha, an established crucifixion site.

Here, Jesus’ clothes, except for a linen loincloth, again were removed, thereby probably reopening the scourging wounds. He then was offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) but, after tasting it, refused the drink. Finally, Jesus and the two thieves were crucified. Although scriptural references are made to nails in the hands, these are not at odds with the archaeological evidence of wrist wounds, since the ancients customarily considered the wrist to be a part of the hand. The titulus was attached above Jesus’ head. It is unclear whether Jesus was crucified on the Tau cross or the Latin cross; archaeological findings favor the former and early tradition the latter. The fact that Jesus later was offered a drink of wine vinegar from a sponge placed on the stalk of the hyssop plant (approximately 20 in long) strongly supports the belief that Jesus was crucified on the short cross.

The soldiers and the civilian crowd taunted Jesus throughout the crucifixion ordeal, and the soldiers east lots for his clothing. Christ spoke seven times from the cross. Since speech occurs during exhalation, these short, terse utterances must have been particularly difficult and painful. At about 3 PM that Friday, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, bowed his head, and died. The Roman soldiers and onlookers recognized his moment of death.

Since the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the crosses after sunset, the beginning of the Sabbath, they asked Pontius Pilate to order crucifracture to hasten the deaths of the three crucified men. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Rather, one of the soldiers pierced his side, probably with an infantry spear, and produced a sudden flow of blood and water. Later that day, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb.

Left, probable path of spear. Right, cross section of thorax, at level of plane indicated at left, showing structures perforated by spear. LA indicates left atrium; LV, left ventricle; RA, right atrium; RV, right ventricle.

Two aspects of Jesus’ death have been the source of great controversy, namely, the nature of the wound in his side and the cause of his death after only several hours on the cross. The gospel of John describes the piercing of Jesus’ side and emphasizes the sudden flow of blood and water. Some authors have interpreted the flow of water to be ascites or urine, from an abdominal midline perforation of the bladder. However, the Greek word plvra, or pleura) used by John clearly denoted laterality and often implied the ribs. Therefore, it seems probable that the wound was in the thorax and well away from the abdominal midline.

Although the side of the wound was not designated by John, it traditionally has been depicted on the right side. Supporting this tradition is the fact that a large flow of blood would be more likely with a perforation of the distended and thin-walled right atrium or ventricle than the thick-walled and contracted left ventricle. Although the side of the wound may never be established with certainty, the right seems more probable than the left.

Some of the skepticism in accepting John’s description has arisen from the difficulty in explaining, with medical accuracy, the flow of both blood and water. Part of this difficulty has been based on the assumption that the blood appeared first, then the water. However, in the ancient Greek, the order of words generally denoted prominence and not necessarily a time sequence. Therefore, it seems likely that John was emphasizing the prominence of blood rather than its appearance preceding the water.

Therefore, the water probably represented serous pleural and pericardial fluid, and would have preceded the flow of blood and been smaller in volume than the blood. Perhaps in the setting of hypovolemia and impending acute heart failure, pleural and pericardial effusions may have developed and would have added to the volume of apparent water. The blood, in contrast, may have originated from the right atrium or the right ventricle or perhaps from a hemoperieardium.

Jesus’ death after only three to six hours on the cross surprised even Pontius Pilate. The fact that Jesus cried out in a loud voice and then bowed his head and died suggests the possibility of a catastrophic terminal event. One popular explanation has been that Jesus died of cardiac rupture. In the setting of the scourging and crucifixions with associated hypovolemia, hyperemia, and perhaps an altered coagulable state, friable non-infective thrombotic vegetations could have formed on the aortic or mitral valve. These then could have dislodged and embolized into the coronary circulation and thereby produced an acute transmural myocardial infarction. Thrombotic valvular vegetations have been reported to develop under analogous acute traumatic conditions. Rupture of the left ventricular free wall may occur, though uncommonly, in the first few hours following infarction.

However, another explanation may be more likely. Jesus’ death may have been hastened simply by his state of exhaustion and by the severity of the Scourging, with its resultant blood loss and pre-shock state. The fact that he could not carry his patibulum supports this interpretation. The actual cause of Jesus’ death, like that of other crucified victims, may have been multifactorial and related primarily to hypovolemie shock, exhaustion asphyxia, and perhaps acute heart failure. A fatal cardiac arrhythmia may have accounted for the apparent catastrophic terminal event.

Thus, it remains unsettled whether Jesus died of cardiac rupture or of cardiorespiratory failure. However, the important feature may be not how he died but rather whether he died. Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.

The source Material concerning Christ’s death comprises a body of literature and not a physical body or its skeletal remains. Accordingly, the credibility of any discussion of Jesus’ death will be determined primarily by the credibility of one’s sources. For this review, the source material includes the writings of ancient Christian and non-Christian authors, the writings of modern authors, and the Shroud of Turin. Using the legal-historical method of scientific investigation, scholars have established the reliability and accuracy of the ancient manuscripts.

The most extensive and detailed descriptions of the life and death of Jesus are to be found in the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The other 23 books of the New Testament support but do not expand on the details recorded in the gospels. Contemporary Christian, Jewish, and Roman authors provide additional insight concerning the first-century Jewish and Roman legal systems and the details of scourging and crucifixion. Seneca, Livy, Plutarch, and others refer to crucifixion practices in their works. Specifically, Jesus (or his crucifixion) is mentioned by the Roman historians Cornelius Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Suetonius, by non-Roman historians Thallus and Phlegon, by the satirist Lucian of Samosata, by the Jewish Talmud, and by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, although the authenticity of portions of the latter is problematic.

The Shroud of Turin is considered by many to represent the actual burial cloth of Jesus, and several publications concerning the medical aspects of his death draw conclusions from this assumption. The Shroud of Turin and recent archaeological findings provide valuable information concerning Roman crucifixion practices. The interpretations of modern writers, based on a knowledge of science and medicine not available in the first century, may offer additional insight concerning the possible mechanisms of Jesus’ death.

When taken in concert certain facts including the extensive and early testimony of both Christian proponents and opponents, and their universal acceptance of Jesus as a true historical figure; the ethic of the gospel writers, and the shortness of the time interval between the events and the extant manuscripts; and the confirmation of the gospel accounts by historians and archaeological findings, ensure a reliable testimony from which a modern medical interpretation of Jesus’ death may be made.

This article was abridged from a much longer work called The Study on the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.