The Broken Heart Hypothesis

An early proposed mechanism of Jesus’ death was that he experience a heart attack (myocardial infarction) resulting in rupture of the heart muscle. This was originally proposed in 1847 by Dr. William Stroud, and became a popular explanation, namely that Jesus died from a “broken heart”. Cardiac rupture can certainly lead to rapid death. If the heart muscle ruptures, not only does the heart loss power of contraction, but blood can collect around the heart, compressing it, something called “cardiac tamponade”. However, in light of more current knowledge of cardiovascular disease, Jesus seems an unlikely candidate for a heart attack. Thus, the “Broken Heart” explanation of Jesus’ death has fallen out of favor in more recent times.

Another proposed cardiac mechanism of death is that Jesus experience contusion (direct blow or impact) to his heart from his beatings, perhaps by falling, resulting in rupture of the heart muscled and rapid death. This is not impossible, but this mechanism of death would require significant direct blunt trauma to the sternum (the bone covering the heart) and chest wall and would likely be associated with fractures. Also, death by this mechanism is generally fairly immediate. Further, this mechanism of injury is not specifically suggested in the biblical narrative. Rather, it is inconsistent with them.