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HOW JESUS REALLY DIED; SCIENTISTS REVEAL TRUE STORY OF THE CRUCIFIXION.

Byline: DONNA WHITE

SCIENTISTS tonight will try to unlock the truth behind events leading up to the Crucifixion.

In the final programme of the BBC series Son of God they will fill in details they say the world has interpreted in the wrong way.

They will prove his hands weren't nailed to the cross - and that he could well have sweated blood.

The scientists aren't looking to rewrite the story which is the cornerstone of Christianity.

But they do challenge the most lasting image of Jesus Christ's life - his death nailed to the Cross.

He is portrayed in millions of religious icons and paintings across the world with holes driven through the palms of his hands.

But American forensic pathologist Dr Fred Zugibe has proved this to be false.

Since the flesh of the hands is not strong enough to support a person's weight, this method would have resulted in Jesus tumbling to the ground within 10 minutes.

Dr Zugibe, chief medical examiner for Rockland County, New York, and a committed Christian, believes the nails were most likely hammered between the small bones of the wrists.

He has spent half a century engaged in a post-mortem 2000 years after Christ's death. He has been seeking the exact cause of death and it has involved him ruling out many theories.

The first, and most popular among medical historians, was that Christ asphyxiated when he became unable to pull himself upwards to breathe in air.

But Dr Zugibe's research on live volunteers in his laboratory showed that as long as the arms were outstretched level with the shoulders - not above the head - the victim would not suffocate.

"The Romans were experts in crucifixion. They could keep someone alive on the cross for days if they wanted," he says.

The most bizarre theory is that Christ didn't die on the Cross, but merely passed out, reappearing two days later with his wounds bathed and wrapped.

"Total baloney," says the doctor. "After half an hour nailed to the cross, his feet would be swollen to double their normal size. He wouldn't be able to walk for a month."

Not one of these theories would have gained credence on Christ's death certificate, but Dr Zugibe is in no doubt as to what would have appeared.

He says: "Cause of death was hypovolemic shock. This is brought on by reduced bloodflow to the cells and tissues, leading to irreversible cell and organ injury and eventual death."

The last physical fact is one which many of us would have only been too ready to dismiss - that Jesus sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before his arrest.

Surely this is a myth for which there is some other scientific explanation?

Well, medics can explain it. And what they say is that it's most probably true.

There are numerous documented cases of such a physical act happening to people under intense anxiety - a sailor in a storm, a girl during the London Blitz, prisoners going to the gallows. Arteries can burst, with blood seeping into the sweat glands. And, faced with the knowledge of his approaching demise, it is conceivable Jesus's emotional state caused him to sweat blood.

The final two important issues cover matters of ancient etiquette.

Having examined the dining habits of the period, the programme-makers contend that Leonardo Da Vinci's interpretation of the Last Supper is not how Jesus's last meal would have appeared.

Instead of sitting on chairs, the Lord and his 12 disciples would have reclined on cushions on the floor around a low, U-shaped table.

As guest of honour, Christ would not have taken his place in the middle of the gathering, but at one end of the table, leaning on his left elbow, eating with his right hand. A poll published last week in the Fortean Times found that one-third of Britons believe that Easter Day actually commemorates the physical resurrection of Christ.

This contradicts claims by a growing number of academics that religion is dying in our society.

Son of God presenter Jeremy Bowen may have uncovered certain facts which give us a better understanding of how Christ lived.

But the most important fact scientists have been able to prove is that Jesus of Nazareth actually lived.

Frail, 80-year-old Pope John Paul II today will cap a demanding Holy Week with his Easter message . It will be delivered in 50 languages to tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square, Rome.

Because of failing health he was able to join in only at the end of the Good Friday procession to mark the stations of the Cross.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 15, 2001
Words:769
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