April 30, 2022

Subject: Evidence #1 for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – His Death by Crucifixion

John 19:34 “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”

Ed Croteau

It is the first week since, nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Alot was happening that first week after His resurrection. No one was anticipating He would be coming back from the dead.

Even His disciples, who spent 3 years with Him, were now hiding, in complete disbelief that the One they were so sure was the Messiah had just been put to death by public crucifixion. But Jesus had often prepared them for this: “You will stumble this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered (Zechariah 13:7)’. But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matthew 26:31).

There is a problem though. There are those who deny Jesus died on the Cross, including Islam’s Quran: “They did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them…” (4:157). So, the place to start, in presenting the evidence for the Resurrection, is the evidence for His death by crucifixion.

Besides the historically reliable New Testament records of His crucifixion, we have 4 additional sources to validate the fact that Jesus was put to death by crucifixion: 1) Non-biblical contemporary historians, 2) Archaeological evidence for crucifixion, 3) Medical analysis of what Jesus’s scourging and crucifixion, and 4) The testimony in John 19:34, where John records the medical science of pericardial effusion.

Evidence 1 = Non-Biblical Contemporary Historians: (1) Cornelius Tacitus (Roman Historian, 115 AD): “Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.”. (2) Flavius Josephus (Jewish Historian, 93AD): “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus… Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive.” (3) Lucian of Samosata (Greek Historian, 170 AD), “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account… they worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.” (4) Babylonian Talmud (200 AD): “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. ‘Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.” Here are 4 independent, non-biblical sources confirming Jesus was put to death, by crucifixion, on the eve of Passover, by Pontius Pilate (as well as being worshipped and rising from the dead).

Evidence 2 = Archaeology: Archaeological evidence of Roman crucifixion is rare because victims did not receive a proper burial and most crucifixions used rope rather than nails to bind the condemned to a cross. The New Testament accounts detail Jesus’s crucifixion as nailing to the Cross. This is also predicted in 1,000BC by King David: “They pierced My hands and My feet” (Psalm 22:16). There have now been 4 physical examples of Roman crucifixion discovered: one in Cambridgeshire, England, one in Gavello, Italy, one from Mendes in Egypt; and one from Giv’at ha-Mivtar in north Jerusalem. In all 4 cases, a metal spike is in the heel bone.

Evidence 3 = Medical Analysis of Crucifixion: In their 1986 article ‘On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ’, authors William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel and Floyd E Hosmer evaluate the death of Jesus Christ: “It is our intent to present not a theological treatise but rather a medically and historically accurate account of the physical death of the one called Jesus Christ.” The results of their evaluation: “It remains unsettled whether Jesus died of cardiac rupture or of cardiorespiratory failure. However, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted. Accordingly, interpretations that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”

Evidence 4 = Pericardial Effusion: “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34). James Warner Wallace, a former Cold Case Homicide detective and atheist, explained how this little-known fact helped lead him to Christ: “Today we understand the medical science explaining the existence of water in Jesus’ body cavity. Anyone beaten as badly as Jesus in the hours prior to his crucifixion would surely have suffered circulatory shock and heart failure. When this happens, pericardial effusion results. Water begins to form around the heart or in the lungs. If this happened to Jesus, water would pour from his body if the soldier’s spear entered into either of these two regions. John’s report of water was not allegory; it was an example of hidden science lending credibility to the original observation.”

From these 5 credible evidences (the Gospel accounts, non-biblical contemporary writers, archaeology, medical analysis, and pericardial effusion), we can be certain Jesus in fact died by crucifixion.

Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.