The Health of Christ in His Last Hours

A Report Written by Kenny Wells


I. INTRODUCTORY MATTER: Observing Carefully

II. THE EVIDENCE: Biblical and Medical

1. Biblical Reference
2. The Medical Analysis
1. Biblical Reference
2. The Medical Analysis
C. EN ROUTE TO THE VIA DOLOROSA--"The Path of Suffering"
1. Biblical Reference
2. The Medical Analysis
1. Biblical Reference
2. The Medical Analysis
1. Biblical Reference
2. The Medical Analysis



INTRODUCTORY MATTER: Observing Carefully

The Crucifixion of Christ holds many medical secrets. Normally, it is uncommon to hear the medical account of Christ's Crucifixion. The facts remain, and to investigate those facts leads to a deeper faith and strong beliefs about exactly what happened there on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. A Christian who already accepts the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ as true writes this paper. Examination of medical evidence will be in light of the Biblical references. Likewise, to dismiss the medical aspect is to dismiss what really happened, so careful observation is made both towards the Scriptures referenced and to the medical evidence given.

THE EVIDENCE: Biblical and Medical

Thus, it is presumed that to understand the medical issue we must know the Bible references. The Biblical references will be included along with the medical information, and details will be given on Christ's medical status: in the Garden of Gethsemane; during his constant mockery; while traveling to the Via Delarosa, "The Path of Suffering"; upon the cross; at and after the tomb. These two bodies of evidence, taken together throughout, can prove to be spiritually as well as medically enlightening.


Biblical Reference

The Biblical account of the Garden of Gethsemane can be confined to one word--suffering. Jesus' prayer is well known as He says, "Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36b). Christ's focus was on His Father and His mission that He was sent to complete. His reference to a cup is that of a cup of suffering. As seen in Matthew 26:38, His torment is immense, and His pain is beyond human comprehension. The Bible goes on to say "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44b). Scripture does not explicitly say that His sweat was blood, but if it did become blood, this too has a medical explanation which needs examination.

The Medical Analysis

Dr. C. Truman Davis is quick to assert that:

Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away the phenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that it simply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting the medical literature. (Par. 5)

Although it is quite rare, "the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat" (Davis Par. 5). Dr. Gerald H. Bradley, M.D. asserts that it involves "causing great weakness" (26), while Dr. Davis adds that it may produce "possible shock" (Par. 5). During this process, "as a result of hemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin becomes fragile and tender" (Edwards, Gable, Hosmer Par. 8). As for the extent of damage, "Jesus' actual blood loss probably was minimal. However, in the cold night air, it may have produced chills" (Edwards, Gabel, Hosmer Par. 8). Under careful observation, Christ's condition of Hematidrosis can be shown as valid, given the sweat was actually blood.


Biblical Reference

Jesus faces the Sanhedrin after Judas's betrayal. They asked him questions about who He is, and He replies that He will be seen "coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26:64b), which is a direct reference to His deity. "Then they spat in His face...beat Him...[and] struck Him with the palms of their hands" (Matt. 26:67). After going through various trials, the last, final, and most infamous is the trial before Pontius Pilate in which Pilate tries to let Jesus' suffering end. He is unsuccessful and therefore He orders Jesus to be scourged, or whipped, before He is to be sent to execution by Roman Crucifixion. While waiting to begin His journey to the cross, Christ is mocked by some soldiers just standing around. They put a scarlet robe on Him to mock his Royal Deity, while giving Him a reed as a ridicule of a king's scepter. Then, the Roman soldiers "twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head" (John 19:2b). All this was leading up to the Via Delarosa.

The Medical Analysis

The preparation for the scourging was intense. Davis reports the process:

The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. (Par. 8)

Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer report on the scourging's extremities:

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. (Par. 13)

During the scourging, there is "first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins...finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles" (Davis Par. 8). As for Jesus' specific case, he probably had one of the most severe that was possible by Jewish law. As for the crown of thorns that he bore, it was not simply a few briars. The mocking crown of thorns "had thorns up to six inches long" (Chick 28). Likewise, after the scourging, "when the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus' back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds" (Edwards, Gabel, Hosmer Par. 14). It is highly likely that the factors of hematidrosis and a lack of nourishment, sleep, or water contribute to His already weak at this state. Thus, "even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus' physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical" (Edwards, Gabel, Hosmer Par. 15).

EN ROUTE TO THE VIA DELAROSA--"The Path of Suffering"

Biblical Reference

The Via Delarosa, the way to Christ's place of Crucifixion, provided the perfect outlet for people to mock Him as he walked by. This is quite possibly one the longest routes Jesus ever travel, symbolically speaking. Luke 23:26,27,32 has the most comprehensive story of the route to Calvary, or Mount Golgotha. It is recorded:

Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him...[t]here were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death.
Here we catch a glimpse of the agony of the King of the Jews.

The Medical Analysis

The Via Delarosa is by no means characterized by having a man carry a little board of wood as used on a building. It is reported that the "weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb. (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried" (Edwards, Gabel, Hosmer). Also, "the processional to the sight...was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion" (Edwards, Gabel, Hosmer Par. 18). Davis reveals that:

In spite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. He stumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerate skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance. (Par. 12)
After that point of Jesus falling, Simon of Cyrene had to carry the heavy cross the rest of 650 yards to Golgotha.


Biblical Reference

The Crucifixion, with the Bible alone, is shown to be one of the most gruesome events ever imaginable. The events of the Cross can be split into two different topics--the first three hours and the last three hours of His death. We find that in the first three hours, he is basically crucified and mocked the whole time. The Roman soldiers then divided His garments--fulfilling the prophecies of long ago. He was undeservingly crucified along with criminals. It is in the last three hours that darkness covered the land. The temple veil was rent, and Jesus was heard saying, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My Spirit'" (Luke 23:45). This was the Crucifixion of Christ, but the horror can barely be seen without looking at the medical evidence.

The Medical Analysis

After reading of the account in the Gospels, the medical evidence sheds a large ray of light on the true terror and inhumane treatment of Jesus Christ. Dr. Bradley terms crucifixion "the most agonizing death man could face." Furthermore, Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer support this thesis in saying that, "no one was intended to survive the crucifixion" (Par. 25). He mentions:

He had to support Himself in order to breathe...the flaming pain caused by the spikes hitting the median nerve in the wrists explodes up His arms, into His brain and down His spine. (29)

Davis describes the nails:

The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet. (Par. 16)

It is important to note that, "the major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration, particularly exhalation" (Edwards, Gabel, Hosmer Par. 30). Even the very effort to breathe was intensely painful. It is written that "each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia" (Edwards, Gabel, Hosmer Par. 31). The further effects of lack of air show, for Bradley says, "Air is sucked in, but cannot be exhaled until the buildup of carbon dioxide in the lungs and the blood stream stimulates breathing to relieve the cramps" (29). In reference to Christ's heart, Bradley writes that it is the very struggle of his heart to "pump the thick blood as each of His billions of cells die one at a time" (29). Although it was very hard to speak, Christ still uttered those infamous phrases showing His love and forgiveness and lack of bitterness toward his persecutors.


Biblical Reference

It is a well-known fact that Jesus' death did not end there. Also, it is known that, although He did die, unlike some would have us believe, that He arose again three days later. The Bible records that they wrapped Christ's body up and placed it in a borrowed tomb, which is extremely significant, for they expected Him not to stay there long. It is reported in Luke's Gospel, referring to women for Galilee that, "they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils" (23:55b-56a). So, it is evident from the account of Scripture that Christ did die. Furthermore, it is likewise recorded that "He is not here, but is risen" (Luke 24:6a)! So, there must be medical evidence proving Christ's death and what kind of death it was.

The Medical Analysis

Although it was a common practice to break the legs of the crucified to ensure that they would not be able to lift their own body up to get air, but we are told that they did not have to break Christ's legs. Davis proves this point in writing, "when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary" (Par. 26). He further writes:

Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, 'And immediately there cam out blood and water. Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the hear and the blood of the interior of the heart...This leaves the assertion that He did not die the "usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium" (Davis Par. 27).

So, it is obvious that Jesus did die. Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer support this assumption in writing:
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. (46)


It has been shown that Christ died; this is obvious. Whether or not the Resurrection is accepted is mainly a matter of faith. The death of Christ is shown to be like no other. If someone can truly say that Christ's death was not severe, let them look over the medical evidence--the evidence that shows that His death was unique and inexpressibly painful. The evidence is submitted, and faith must be applied; only then can the true torment of Christ's death be realized, when one comes to the conclusion that, it is for me that He died. "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54b)!


Chick, Jack T. The Gift. Chino, California: Chick Publishing, 1977.

Bradley, Gerald H. "The Medical View of His Suffering." The Gift. Jack T. Chick. Chino, California: Chick Publishing, 1977.

Davis, Dr. C. Truman. Home page. 7 March 1999, <>.

Edwards, William D., M.D.; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; and Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI. "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ." JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 256 (1986): 46 pars. 21 March 1986 <http://www.ewtncom/library/CHRIST/DEATH.TXT>.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Kenny Wells
March 26, 1999
Coach Whitmore
Health & Safety Report