The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb by Hans Holbein the Younger

“Then they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the aromatic spices, in strips of linen cloth according to Jewish burial customs.  Now at the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden was a new tomb where no one had yet been buried.  And so, because it was the Jewish day of preparation and  the tomb was nearby, they placed Jesus’ body there.” John 19:40-42


The washing of the feet by Ghislaine Howard

And before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that His hour hath come, that He may remove out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own who are in the world — to the end He loved them. And supper being come, the devil already having put it into the heart of Judas of Simon, Iscariot, that he may deliver Him up, Jesus, knowing that all things the Father hath given to Him — into His hands — and that from God He came forth, and unto God He goeth, doth rise from the supper, and doth lay down his garments, and having taken a towel, he girded himself; afterward he putteth water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, and to wipe with the towel with which he was being girded. He cometh, therefore, unto Simon Peter, and that one saith to him, `Sir, thou — dost Thou wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, `That which I do thou hast not known now, but thou shalt know after these things;’ Peter saith to him, `Thou mayest not wash my feet — to the age.’ Jesus answered him, `If I may not wash thee, thou hast no part with me.’ Simon Peter saith to him, `Sir, not my feet only, but also the hands and the head.’ Jesus saith to him, `He who hath been bathed hath no need, save to wash his feet, for he is clean altogether; and ye are clean, but not all;’ for He knew him who is delivering him up; because of this He said, `Ye are not all clean.’ When, therefore, He washed their feet, and took His garments, having reclined at meat again, He said to them, `Do ye know what I have done to you? Ye call me, “The Teacher” and “The Lord”, and ye say well, for I am; if then I did wash your feet — the Lord and the Teacher — ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given thee an example, that ye should do as I have done to ye. Verily, verily, I say unto ye, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” John 13:1-15

Apparently by trauma-induced coagulopathy! according to a new study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine:

Joseph W. Bergeron, The crucifixion of Jesus: Review of hypothesized mechanisms of death and implications of shock and trauma-induced coagulopathy, doi:10.1016/j.jflm.2011.06.001 (subscription required).

My understanding was that crucifixion victims would likely have died of suffocation, so exhausted that they could no longer pull themselves up to breathe – yes a brutal way to die!!!  (For further reading on crucifixion in the ancient world check out Larry Hurtado’s blog entry.)

However, according to this article this is only one of six leading theories on the exact mechanism of Jesus’ death:

1) Pulmonary embolism

2) Cardiac rupture

3) Suspension trauma

4) Asphyxiation

5) Fatal stab wound

6) Shock

A reconstruction (left) showing how the skeletal foot of the crucified man from the Giv'at ha-Mivtar tomb (1st C Jewish remains) would have been fixed to the cross, with the original nail and heel bone (Calcaneus) on the right.

This new article has already been trashed by Piers Mitchell, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cambridge (see this link), who himself wrote a paper on the subject in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in early 2006:

Matthew W Maslen and Piers D Mitchell, Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion, J. R. Soc. Med., 2006; 99: 185 – 188. 

Here is a quote from their conclusions on the matter:

“Our conclusion is that, at present, there is insufficient evidence to safely state exactly how people did die from crucifixion in Roman times. It is quite likely that different individuals died from different physiological causes, and we would expect that the orientation in which they were crucified would be crucial in this respect. Until new archaeological or textual evidence comes to light then it is only through more realistic humane re-enactment research that we may move closer to an answer.”