An Unholy Trinity

There is a complication of shock that is reported to occur in 25% of emergency room trauma cases, referred to as trauma-induced coagulopathy. The term “coagulopathy” refers to a malfunction of the blood’s normal clotting mechanism when bodily injury occurs. This is more likely to occur in the face of pronounced physical injury. When coagulpathy occurs it can be dramatically worsened if the body’s pH drops (acidemia) and/or when the body’s temperature drops (hypothermia). Coagulopathy with acidemia and hypothermia has been called a “lethal triad”. (David Malakoff, a writer from Science magazine, called this lethal triad an “Unholy Trinity“). When this occurs, there is a high prevalence of death even with aggresive modern medical intervention. In Jesus’ time, trauma-induced coagulopathy would have lead to certain rapid death.

From the biblical descriptions of Jesus’ execution, the factors to cause trauma-induced coagulopathy were present. He received several beating and widespread lacerations from scourging which would have caused blood loss and diffuse tissue damage. His body temperature could have been diminished due to blood loss, blood vessel constriction from blood volume depletion, as well as from environmental exposure of hanging naked on the cross. (Average ambient temperatures in Jersusalem range from 8-14 degrees Celsius during the first week of April). The effects of hypothermia on coabulopathy become more pronounced when the body temperature reaches 35 Celsius or below. Acidemia would occur as a consequence of shock.

While it cannot be proven that Jesus experience trauma-induced coagulopathy, it is likely that this may have been the case since the factors that cause this complication appear to have been present. If so, this acute coagulopathy would have caused a progressive loss of Jesus capability to stop bleeding. It would explain why Jesus died so rapidly, namely in six hours, when crucifixion often last much longer, even days. It also would explain why blood would flow from Jesus’ chest stab wound even though he was already dead.