Jesus’ cause of death was crucifixion, but the specific physiologic mechanism of how Jesus died has long been the subject of controversy. Unlike other forms of execution, the medical factors leading to death by crucifixion are not obvious.
A discussion of how Jesus died, in light of current medical knowledge, is warranted due to the historical significance of Jesus’ crucifixion and the conflicting opinions about his death. Archeological data of Jesus’ death are not available, leaving us to consider a forensic reconstruction of the mechanism of his death. Medical writers have suggested several possible means of Jesus’ death, including; fatal pulmonary embolism, cardiac rupture, suspension trauma, asphyxiation, fatal stab wound, and the effects of shock. Shock, with complications of impaired blood clotting (trauma-induced coagulopathy), is possible and medically logical mechanism of Jesus’ death. The biblical descriptions of Jesus’ crucifixion by medically uneducated observers correlates with current medical understanding.
The crucifixion of Jesus is the most famous execution in history. Whatever one’s view of Jesus or Christianity, it is a historical fact that Jesus’ early followers held staunch beliefs that Jesus died by crucifixion, and later resurrected to bodily life again. Many of Jesus’ early followers suffered violent deaths, even crucifixion themselves, rather than recanting this belief. Christianity rose to become the largest major world religion from this small group of Jesus’ early disciples.
The information presented in this website is based on my article in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, The crucifixion of Jesus: review of hypothesized mechanisms of death and implications of shock and trauma-induced coagulopathy. I trust you’ll find the website enlightening and thought provoking.
Joseph W. Bergeron, M.D.