Jesus' cause of death was crucifixion. However, the specific physiologic mechanism of how Jesus died has been the subject of controversy among physicians. The medical factors leading to death by crucifixion are not obvious, as with other forms of execution.
The crucifixion of Jesus is the most well known and controversial execution in history due to the deeply held belief of Jesus' early followers that he returned again to physical life after death by crucifixion. Some have suggested Jesus survived crucifixion, a proposition popularly referred to as the “swoon theory". Whatever one's viewpoint, it is a historical fact that Jesus’ early followers held staunch beliefs that Jesus died by crucifixion, and later returned to physical life again. To them, this verified Jesus was the Messiah of Hebrew prophetic literature. Many of Jesus' early followers suffered violent deaths, even crucifixion themselves, rather than recanting this belief. Christianity rose to a major world religion from this small group of Jesus' early disciples.
A discussion of how Jesus died, in light of current medical knowledge, is warranted due to the historical significance of his crucifixion and the conflicting opinions about his death. Archeological information regarding Jesus' death is not available, leaving us to consider a forensic reconstruction of the mechanism of his death. Medical writers have suggested several possible means of Jesus' death, including; fatal pulmonary embolism, cardiac rupture, suspension trauma, asphyxiation, fatal stab wound, and the effects of shock. Shock, with complications of impaired blood clotting (trauma-induced coagulopathy), is herein suggested as a medically logical mechanism of Jesus' death that well correlates with the biblical descriptions of Jesus' crucifixion.
The information contained in this website is a synopsis of my article in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, The crucifixion of Jesus: review of hypothesized mechanisms of death and implications of shock and trauma-induced coagulopathy. I trust the information contained in this website will prove enlightening and thought provoking.
Joseph W. Bergeron, M.D.