Before being crucified, Jesus was whipped to a point of near death.
We know this because…
This is relevant because, even with the best of medical treatment, Jesus was likely doomed to die within hours even before being nailed to the cross.3
The whip itself was designed to maximize damage.
• Philo Judaeus of Alexandria (c. BC 20 – c. AD 50): “…they were flogged …some of them the moment they were carried out died of their wounds, while others were rendered so ill for a long time that their recovery was despaired of.” [Flaccus 75 (trans. by Yong)]
• Craig Keener: “[Victims were] then beaten with flagella—leather whips 'whose thongs were knotted and interspersed' with pieces of iron or bone, or a spike. (Apul. Metam. 7.30.154; Codex Theodos. 8.5.2; 9.35.2; Goguel, Jesus, 527; Blinzler, Trial, 222.)” [The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009), 321.]And there was no limit to the amount of whipping.
• Ben Witherington (NT proessor. at Asbury): “In Roman law, unlike Jewish law, there was no maximum number of lashes; the amount of flogging depended on the malice of the one wielding the flagellum.” [New Testament History: A Narrative Account (Baker Academic, 2003), 156.]Their entrails would be visible.
• D. A. Carson: “…beaten by several torturers (in the Roman provinces they were soldiers) until they were exhausted, or their commanding officer called them off. For victims who, like Jesus, were neither Roman citizens nor soldiers, the favoured instrument was a whip whose leather thongs were fitted with pieces of bone or lead or other metal. The beatings were so savage that the victims sometimes died. Eyewitness records report that such brutal scourgings could leave victims with their bones and entrails exposed. [“The Gospel According to John” in The Pillar New Testament Commentary (IVP, 1991), 597.]
• Titus Flavius Josephus (AD 37 – c. 100 historian): “…whipped till every one of their inward parts appeared naked.” [Jewish Wars 2.612 (trans. by Whiston)]; “…whipped till his bones were laid bare” [Jewish Wars 6.304 (trans. by Whiston)]
• Eusebius of Caesarea (c. AD 260/265 – 339/340): “[Victims were] lacerated by scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view.” [Hist. eccl. 4.15.4]
• Shimon Gibson (NT archaeologist; professor): “The earlier scourging would undoubtedly have led to a massive loss of blood and the effect of carrying the heavy crossbeam on his shoulders to Golgotha would also have brought about substantial dehydration and exhaustion. Hence, it is not surprising that Jesus did not last very long on the cross, perhaps 3 to 6 hours at the most.” [The Final Days of Jesus (Harper Collins, 2009), 123.]
The presiding Roman Centurian felt certain that Jesus was dead, as did the other soldiers (see Mk 15:24).
Consider 2 arguments:
This is relevant because the Centurion's belief was likely warranted.1, 2
• Bruce Chilton (NT professor at Yale): “These executioners knew what they were doing, and theories that Jesus somehow physically survived the cross represent a combination of fantasy, revisionism, and half-baked science.” [Mary Magdalene: A Biography (Doubleday, 2005), 75.]
Perhaps the Centurions belief was unwarranted? By way of response, however, consider three points:
• Richard Carrier (Classicist, speaker/author for atheism): “[The Centurion, upon Pilate's inquiry about Jesus's ostensible death,] does not go back to make sure or apply any other tests, but immediately affirms that Jesus is dead” [Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story (6th ed., 2006), online].
• Mike Licona (NT scholar/historian, apologist): “…the majority opinion is that He died by asphyxiation-or from a lack of oxygen.… A number of ancient sources report the practice of breaking legs in order to expedite death on the cross (Cicero, Orations, Speech 13, 12:27; Gospel of Peter 4:14. In the Gospel of Peter, breaking the legs is forbidden so that the crucified victim would suffer longer.)… Since the muscles used for inhaling are stronger than the muscles used for exhaling, carbon dioxide would build up and the victim would die an uncomfortable death. Experiments on live volunteers, suspended with the inability to touch the ground, revealed that one could not remain conscious longer than twelve minutes in this position, as long as their arms were at a 45- degree angle or less. Breaking the legs of a crucified victim would prevent them from pushing up against the nail in their feet, an excruciating move, in order to make it easier to breath, albeit temporarily. It is the opinion of my two ER physician friends that, due to the trauma already experienced by a crucified victim, once He had died on a cross from a lack of oxygen, and had remained dead in that position for five minutes, there would be no chance of resuscitating Him.”[“Can We Be Certain that Jesus Died On A Cross?” online at 4truth.net]
A Roman soldier speared Jesus in the side to ensure that he was dead.1 (Moreover, “blood and water came out,”2 a symptom of one of two conditions that requires the patient be dead.)3 This helps us answer or question because it is hardly plausible that someone in Jesus's condition who was moreover speared in the side, and specifically speared in a way so-as to ensure death, would after all this survive.
- J.P. Holding (apologist, researcher): “…the testimony of our physician consult [Dr. Ted Noel], who is trained in critical care, says… ‘There is only one circumstance which fits both the story as given and medical science. That is the one where a patient has died and the blood in his heart has pooled long enough to fractionate into packed cells and serum. A spear thrust into the heart would allow these fluids to pour out with exactly the appearance recorded. … One alternative has been proposed with some plausibility. That one states that Jesus's trials lead to the accumulation of a pleural effusion. The apear then allowed that water to flow out. But such a circumstance would not lead to blood flowing out as described. That would require the spear to penetrate the heart.’” [And it is “rare”] [Defending the Resurrection (Xulon, 2010), 385.]
Everyone from AD 30 onward persisted in believing that Jesus had died by crucifixion. This should be granted because sources from AD 30 onwards reported Jesus's death. Notably,
Everyone involved in taking down Jesus's corpse, wrapping, and burying it felt that Jesus's body went lifeless (no breathing etc.). This is relevant because, if Jesus was still alive, the individuals handling and carrying Jesus's corpse would have inevitably heard/felt/saw Jesus breathing, pumping blood etc.
All throughout the history of the Roman world, and specifically the duration in which they employed crucifixion as a particularly harsh mode of executing criminals, were their victims of crucifixion essentially always crucified to death. Were survivors of crucifixion non-existenent or virtually so.1
Consider 2 arguments:
This is relevant because, truly, Jesus was crucified.3
• Titus Flavius Josephus (AD 37 – c. 100 historian): “I saw many captives crucified; and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I… went… to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.” [The Life of (Flavius) Josephus 1.421 (trans. by Whiston)]
Victims of crucifixion rarely die within three hours (i.e. when Jesus was taken down).
But, so what? Jesus was scouraged nearly to death beforehand.2
- Seneca, Dialogue 3:2.2 -- “Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly wounds on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony? He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross”
Rather than simply dying on the cross during his crucifixion, Jesus survived. More than that, he escaped the tomb and presented himself as alive to his disciples (i.e. the swoon theory is true). This plays into our question because a part of the swoon theory is that Jesus did not actually die on the cross as is often supposed.
See: Was Jesus crucified?