The Anatomical & Physiological Details Of Death By Crucifixion

Listed below are 55 incredible details about the crucifixion of Jesus. And today, I want to invite you to read through these details and take a long look at the violence of the cross.

It seems that people today, at least in this country, have this growing aversion to violence. Most want to turn away from it or even deny it. Some even have trouble looking at the cross of Christ. I know believers, teachers, and theologians that suggest we should rethink the violence of the cross. But this is only because they have made a lot of wrong assumptions about total depravity, true love, and perfect justice.

One of the wrong assumptions most make when they look at any act of violence is that someone genuinely innocent is on the receiving side of the act. That the victim was an innocent sufferer. And yes, sometimes people in this life will suffer the unrighteous actions of another person. But the Bible teaches that no one is innocent. No one.

The great apostle Paul states in Romans 3:23:

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

This means we are all complicit when it comes to sin and the suffering that goes with it. We are all guilty of crimes against God that result in suffering.

Jesus tried to explain this in the greatest sermon he ever preached. In Matthew 5, he states:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. — Matthew 5:21-22

His point is that mankind loves to draw lines on our acceptable limits of violence. We always draw them short of our guilt because we want to see ourselves as innocent. But we fail to realize that when we think, feel, or speak with violence, we are perpetuating violence. This means there is no such thing as an innocent sufferer. We have all murdered others with our thoughts, feelings, and words.

And yet as soon as I say there is no such thing as an innocent sufferer, I, too, am wrong. Because there was one. And only one — Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21

So today, as you read this long list of details about the crucifixion of Jesus, remember you are looking at the world's only truly innocent man. Watch him suffer. Look long at the violence of the cross. Experience the thoughts, feelings, words, and actions of sinful humanity that resulted in this act of brutality. And remember, our sin put him there.

And then, after you have reflected on this for a while, transition to a new thought.

The Bible teaches that at this moment in history, what we see transpire on the cross is not merely a deliberate act of human violence. Behind the mortal veil, God is orchestrating this moment. He is offering his sinless Son as a sacrifice to remove the sin that put Jesus there. He is using our sin as an instrument of love to heal the divide between Him and us. And that is what makes this moment so glorious. 1 John 4:10 reads:

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. — 1 John 4:10 (NLT)


1. Crucifixion was invented by the Persians in 479 B.C. and perfected by the Romans in 100 B.C. It is the most painful death ever invented by man and is where we get our term "excruciating."

2. It was reserved primarily for the most vicious of male criminals. Jesus refused the anesthetic wine (Matthew 27:34) which was offered to him by the Roman soldiers because of his promise in Matthew 26:29. "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."

3. Jesus was stripped naked, and his clothing was divided by the Roman guards (Matthew 27:28-30). This was in fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 22:18. "They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots."

4. The crucifixion of Jesus guaranteed a horrific, slow, painful death. Having been nailed to the cross, Jesus now had an impossible anatomical position to maintain.

5. Jesus's knees were flexed at about 45 degrees, and He was forced to bear his weight with the muscles of his thigh, which is not an anatomical position that is possible to maintain for more than a few minutes without a severe cramp in the muscles of the thigh and calf. But remember, Jesus did this with nails in his feet.

6. Jesus's weight was primarily on his feet, with nails driven through them. As the strength of the muscles of his lower limbs tired, the weight of his body had to be transferred to his wrists, arms, and shoulders.

7. Within a few minutes of being placed on the cross, Jesus's shoulders were dislocated. Minutes later, Jesus's elbows and wrists became dislocated.

8. The result of these upper limb dislocations is that his arms were nine inches longer than normal, as clearly shown on the Shroud of Turin.

9. This points to a prophecy that was fulfilled in Psalm 22:14. "I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint."

10. After Jesus's wrists, elbows, and shoulders were dislocated, the weight of His body on his upper limbs caused traction forces on the Pectoralis Major muscles of his chest wall.

11. These traction forces caused his rib cage to be pulled upwards and outwards in a most unnatural state. His chest wall was permanently in a position of maximal respiratory inspiration. To exhale, Jesus was physiologically required to force his body upward.

12. To breathe out, Jesus had to push down on the nails in his feet to raise his body and allow his rib cage to move downwards and inwards to expire air from his lungs.

13. His lungs were in a resting position of constant maximum inspiration making crucifixion a medical catastrophe.

14. The problem was that Jesus could not easily push down on the nails in His feet because the muscles of His legs, bent at 45 degrees, were extremely fatigued, in a severe cramp, and in an anatomically compromised position.

15. Unlike all Hollywood movies about the crucifixion, the victim was extremely active. The crucified victim was physiologically forced to move up and down the cross, a distance of about 12 inches, in order to breathe.

16. The process of respiration caused excruciating pain, mixed with the absolute terror of asphyxiation.

17. As the six hours of the crucifixion wore on, Jesus was less and less able to bear his weight on His legs, and His thigh and calf muscles became increasingly exhausted. There was increasing dislocation of his wrists, elbows, and shoulders and further elevation of his chest wall, making his breathing more and more difficult. Within minutes of the crucifixion, Jesus became severely dyspnoeic (short of breath).

18. His movements up and down the cross to breathe caused excruciating pain in his wrist, feet, and dislocated elbows and shoulders.

19. The movements became less frequent as Jesus became increasingly exhausted, but the terror of imminent death by asphyxiation forced him to continue in his efforts to breathe.

20. Jesus's lower limb muscles developed excruciating cramps from the effort of pushing down on his legs to raise his body so that he could breathe out in their anatomically compromised position.

21. The pain from the two shattered median nerves in his wrists exploded with every movement.

22. Jesus was covered in blood and sweat.

23. The blood was a result of the scourging (Matthew 27:26) that nearly killed him. The sweat is a result of his violent involuntary attempts effort to expire air from his lungs. Throughout all this, he was completely naked, and the leaders of the Jews, the crowds, and the thieves on both sides of him were jeering, swearing, and laughing at him (Matthew 27:42). In addition, Jesus's own mother was watching. (John 19:25)

24. Physiologically, Jesus' body was undergoing a series of catastrophic and terminal events.

25. Because Jesus could not maintain adequate ventilation of his lungs, he was now in a state of hypoventilation (inadequate ventilation).

26. His blood oxygen level began to fall, and he developed Hypoxia (low blood oxygen). In addition, because of his restricted respiratory movements, his blood carbon dioxide (CO²) level began to rise, a condition known as Hypercapnia.

27. This rising CO² level stimulated his heart to beat faster in order to increase the delivery of oxygen, and the removal of CO²

28. The Respiratory Centre in Jesus's brain sent urgent messages to his lungs to breathe faster, and Jesus began to pant.

29. Jesus's physiological reflexes demanded that he take deeper breaths, and he involuntarily moved up and down the cross much faster, despite the excruciating pain. The agonizing movements spontaneously started several times a minute, to the delight of the crowd who jeered him, the Roman soldiers, and the Sanhedrin.

30. However, due to the nailing of Jesus to the Cross and His increasing exhaustion, he was unable to provide more oxygen to his oxygen-starved body.

31. The twin forces of Hypoxia (too little oxygen) and Hypercapnia (too much CO²) caused His heart to beat faster and faster, and Jesus developed Tachycardia.

32. Jesus's heart beat faster and faster, and His pulse rate was probably about 220 beats/ minute, the maximum normally sustainable.

33. Jesus had drunk nothing for 15 hours from 6:00 pm the previous evening. Jesus had endured a scourging that nearly killed him.

34. He was bleeding from all over his body following the scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails in his wrists and feet, and the lacerations following his beatings and falls. See what this might have looked like.

35. Jesus was already very dehydrated, and his blood pressure fell alarmingly.

36. His blood pressure was probably about 80/50.

37. He was in First Degree Shock, with Hypovolaemia (low blood volume), Tachycardia (excessively fast Heart Rate), Tachypnoea (excessively fast Respiratory Rate), and Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).

38. By about noon Jesus' heart probably began to fail.

39. Jesus' lungs probably began to fill up with Pulmonary Oedema.

40. This only served to exacerbate His breathing, which was already severely compromised.

41. Jesus was in Heart Failure and Respiratory Failure.

42. Jesus said, "I thirst" (John 19:28) because his body was crying out for fluids.

43. Jesus was in desperate need of an intravenous infusion of blood and plasma to save His life.

44. Jesus could not breathe properly and was slowly suffocating to death.

45. At this stage, Jesus probably developed a Hemopericardium.

46. Plasma and blood gathered in the space around his heart, called the Pericardium.

47. This fluid around his heart caused Cardiac Tamponade (fluid around His heart, which prevented Jesus's heart from beating properly).

48. Because of the increasing physiological demands on Jesus's heart and the advanced state of Hemopericardium, Jesus probably eventually sustained Cardiac Rupture. His heart literally burst. This was probably the cause of his death.

49. To slow the process of death, the soldiers put a small wooden seat on the cross, which would allow Jesus the "privilege" of bearing his weight on his sacrum.

50. The effect of this was that it could take up to nine days to die on a cross.

51. When the Romans wanted to expedite death, they would simply break the legs of the victim, causing the victim to suffocate in a matter of minutes. This was called Crurifragium.

52. At three o'clock in the afternoon, Jesus said, "Tetelestai," meaning, "It is finished." (John 19:30). At that moment, he gave up his spirit, and he died.

53. When the soldiers came to Jesus to break his legs, he was already dead. Not a bone of his body was broken in fulfillment of prophecy (Psalm 34:20, John 19:33, and John 19:36).

54. Jesus died after six hours of the most excruciating and terrifying torture ever invented.

55. Jesus died so that ordinary people like you and me could go to Heaven (1 Peter 3:18).

Written originally by Dr. C. Truman Davis, "A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion." From New Wine Magazine, April 1982. Originally published in Arizona Medicine, March 1965, Arizona Medical Association.

9 thoughts on “The Anatomical And Physiological Details Of Death By Crucifixion

  1. hank kunel says:

    after reading this reminds me how we need to be the best man of what he wanted, ,and painfully died for us

  2. Alan Anderson says:

    Thank you for sharing this, and thank you Jesus for doing this for me and others.

  3. Jon Creel says:

    To know that my sins caused this and more is heart breaking.
    I thank God and Jesus Christ for the Love Grace and Mercy. Which I do not deserve.

  4. Eddie says:

    It is amazing to understand how much our Redeemer paid for our Atonement.Thanks Vince to helps us to have a clear descriptive steps our Lord Jesus suffered for what you close on 55.
    Praise God and His Son for the Grace and love that the cross death means for repentant sinners like us.

  5. Bill says:

    There is nothing better than loving Jesus, to think of the price He paid for me a sinner

  6. Ron Moore says:

    We have received the best deal ever, through Christ, We take our sin and trade it in for His Righteousness. I am forever grateful and want to offer Him the best return on His investment as I can. He deserves all the glory. Happy Easter! Best day ever!!!

  7. Ron Main says:

    This detailed description of what Jesus experienced during his time on the cross is absolutely the best I’ve ever read or heard. It brought me to tears reading this and now I have a much deeper understanding of what Jesus did for me and all mankind proving how much he loves us and wants everyone to accept him as their Lord and Savior so we can have eternal life in Heaven with the triune God. Thank you Vince for these awesome daily devotionals our God has placed on your heart to do for all of us.

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