Before being crucified, Jesus was whipped to a point of near death.
• …Roman scourging often caused death before crucifixion.1
• …the Gospel report it explicitly (Mt 27:26, Jn 19:1).
• …he was consequently incapable of carring his crossbar.2
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.]
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
• Our abundant records of crucifixion unanimously end in death.
• Death follows even partial-crucifixion.2
• 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)]
The presiding Roman Centurian felt certain that Jesus was dead, as did the other soldiers (see Mk 15:24).
• …Roman executioners ensure death professionally.
• …the Centurion assured Pilate that Jesus was dead.
• 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].
• For a skeptic like Carrier, this assumes a lot about Mark's intentions, accuracy, and knowledge. Notably, it assumes that Mark's report is historically accurate in saying that, after seeing Jesus's ostensible final breath, the Centurion announced “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (this is Carrier's sole justification for saying he “immediately affirms that Jesus is dead”). It also assumes both that Mark meant Jesus's ostensible final breath was the only reason the Centurion believed, and finally it assumes that Mark was right about this.
• This assumes that the Centurion's confidence in his belief was strong enough to forgo any confirmation before or after Pilate summoned him. However, even if the Centurion flippantly came to believe/assume Jesus was dead after such a short time, the prior probability of his releasing Jesus's body flippantly, i.e. without any of the Roman soldiers having in any way confirmed death, is unacceptably low. (Notably: The assumption also requires that they didn't spear Jesus's side [contra Jn 19:34]).
• This assumes that the Centurion's observing Jesus's ostensible final breath was an unwarranted reason for him to conclude Jesus was dead. But this is unclear. In fact, a crucifixion victim's final weak struggle for breath could be a rather overt indicator.
• 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.
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,
• It was reported in the New Testament (The gospels, Paul's letters etc.).1
• It was reported in non-canonical Christan sources,
• It was reported in non-Christian sources. [Forthcoming]
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.
Victims of crucifixion rarely die within three hours (i.e. when Jesus was taken down).
• We know that crucifixion commonly lasted for days.1 So, naturally,
• Mk 15:44 -- “Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.”
But, so what? Jesus was scouraged nearly to death beforehand.2
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?