Time spent on the cross
First and foremost, you have to know that IT IS possible to survive from crucifixion. Although it was one of the most atrocious punishments inflicted on criminals in ancient times, there are known cases of people who survived the experience. The 1st century Jewish historian Josephus reported (In the Life of Flavius Josephus) seeing three of his friends crucified, and after having appealed to the Roman commander Titus to free them, they were brought down from the cross and given medical attention. Two of them died eventually, but one of them survived.
With accounts of historians like Josephus, we know that criminals who were crucified had to be left on the cross for several days before they died. And death would occur because of exhaustion and suffocation, not because of their wounds. As time passes, the criminals, feeling exhausted, would have less strength to hold on their feet. Being held up in position only with their arms stretched, it would cause their lungs to be compressed, making it impossible to breathe properly until they suffocate. But in general, this would happen after two or three days. Sometimes, to hasten their death, the legs of the criminals would be broken very soon, making them suffocate immediately and die more quickly.
In the case of Jesus, the accounts of the canonical gospels themselves provide us with some information about how much time he spent on the cross. Many scholars believe that this time is not long enough to have caused death.
In Mark’s account, chapter 15, verse 25, we can read the following: “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him” (The third hour in Jewish time corresponds to in the morning)
With verses 34 to 37, we read the following: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?....... And one ran, and filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let be; let us see whether Elijah cometh to take him down.. And Jesus uttered a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.” (The ninth hour corresponds to in the afternoon).
That would mean that he remained on the cross at least six hours before he appeared as dead to all. While some have suggested that people gave him a substance to drink with the vinegar, causing him to fall unconscious, it is clear that he spent only 6 hours on the cross.
With the other accounts of Mathew, Luke and John, we either note the same time spent on the cross or even less. But it is with John’s account that we have the shortest time:
“Now it was the Preparation of the passover: it was about the sixth hour. And he saith unto the Jews, Behold, your King!..... They therefore cried out, Away with [him], away with [him], crucify him! Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then therefore he delivered him unto them to be crucified.”
(John – 16)
In this account, the trial took place much later, at , which means that Jesus spent even less time on the cross according to this account. The next day was to be the Sabbath for the Jewish and the bodies of the criminals could not remain on the cross because of this.
“The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the sabbath (for the day of that sabbath was a high [day]), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and [that] they might be taken away.”(John 19:31)
The bodies of the crucified had therefore to be removed from the cross before the end of the day, and not surprisingly, the two other men who had been crucified along with Jesus were still alive. And their legs had to be broken to hasten their death. But in the case of Jesus, they apparently found him unconscious and thought that he was dead.
The blood flow
But one detail should strike the reader in the gospels’ accounts. In John – 34, we read the following:
“The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs. How be it one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water.”
If Jesus was already dead then, we might wonder why so much blood and water came out of his body when his side was pierced with the spear. This can only happen when his heart is still beating, even if, faintly. Blood stops circulating inside the body as from the moment the heart stops beating. In the case of Jesus, this is a clear proof that it hadn’t happen yet.
Another detail we should note is that Pilate himself, when asked if his disciples could take the body of Jesus, was surprised to hear that he had died so quickly. In Mark, chapter 15, verse 44:
“And Pilate marvelled if he was already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.” And the centurion reporting to him is the same who said earlier on: “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark )
It is a noble man named Joseph of Arimathea who went to ask for the body of Jesus. It is said that he was a disciple of Jesus; he was a rich man and clearly had influence in
“And when even was come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus` disciple. This man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded it to be given up.” (Matthew 27:57-58)
If we read accounts of that period, we would learn that condemned men, under Roman rule, those who were crucified, had their bodies simply left in the desert to be devoured by wild beasts. They didn’t have the honor for being placed in a tomb anymore, unlike Jesus. The fact that Pilate authorized the body of Jesus to be taken by the disciples is probably a sign that Pilate himself had a certain degree of respect for Jesus.
We know of at least one letter of Pilate which testifies that. In one letter written to the Emperor Tiberius, Pilate talks of his admiration for Jesus, and even the protection he granted to him at times. An authenticated copy of this letter is found in the Library of Congress in Washington:
“A young man appeared in
Later, I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the Praetorium. He came. When the Nazarene made His appearance I was having a morning walk and as I faced Him my feet seemed fastened with an iron band to the marble pavement and I trembled in every limb, as a guilty culprit, though He was calm. For some time I stood admiring this extraordinary
Now, Noble Sovereign, these are the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth and I have taken time to write you in detail concerning these matters. I say that such a man who could convert water into wine, change death into life, disease into health, calm the stormy seas, is not guilty of any criminal offence and as others have said, we must agree truly this is the Son of God!
Your most obedient servant,
The herbs brought by the disciples
In John’s account, we also learn that after the body of Jesus was taken away by Joseph, Nicodemus brought some herbs to the tomb:
“And there came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to him by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. So they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:39-40)
This famous mixture of myrrh and aloes has intrigued scholars a lot, since these were also healing herbs. These herbs had curative properties, and known to have been used by Romans and Greek as far as 300 BC for their healing properties. Myrrh could be used as anti-inflammatory and aloe could also be used to heal wounds. (Read here) Could these herbs have been used by the disciples themselves to heal Jesus’ wounds or at least start a treatment before putting him in the tomb? The tomb belonged to Joseph himself and it was very close to the crucifixion scene. (Read here as well). If Jesus was really dead, one may wonder why they needed so much herbs for him, because this is really an extravagant amount. In ancient medical treaties, it is known that a mixture of these two herbs could be a very effective remedy for wounds.
What might have happened inside the tomb
This is a question that has intrigued scholars for years. Should we accept the official version of the church and believe that Jesus was really dead on the cross, or do we consider all the signs that I’ve just enumerated? We know, according to gospels’ accounts that the tomb was guarded, at least most of the time, but some of the guards were very fearful of the signs that they saw around them in nature. Did they stay in post all the time?
Another point to note is that it was a new tomb, belonging to a disciple of Jesus. It could well have had a secret passage inside leading somewhere else, a secret passage allowing someone to reach Jesus while the tomb was closed from outside. In Luke 23:53, it is said:
“And he took it down, and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that was hewn in stone, where never man had yet lain.” We know that Joseph of Arimathea was an influential and rich man. There is a possibility that he could have intervened himself.
But we don’t even have to stretch it that far to believe that Jesus was indeed not dead when he was put in the tomb. Notovitch account of Jesus’ life reveals to us, that during his stay among the Brahmin priests and yogis, he was taught a number of things, like healing wounds and restoring the human body. We know that he has always been a good healer, doing so many extraordinary feats in public. If he came out of his sleep, or coma while being in the tomb, he could have healed himself, even using the herbs that were there with him. Later, I will tell you of another possibility to explain his survival.
In all cases, there are numerous accounts that show that Jesus did not die on the cross, but continued to live hereafter for a long time, and died at an old age. But most of these accounts exist outside the Christian canon. For some very obvious reasons, they have been suppressed and ignored by the Church. That’s why most Christians have either never heard of them, or believe them to be rumours, when in fact some of these accounts are from texts that have very significant importance in other traditions….Like Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.
The attitude of the Orthodox Christians has always been to treat these texts as heresies, and it would be hard to make them even look at some of these texts. These texts simply frighten many of them. It can be a difficult experience for people to learn that what you’ve been taught to believe throughout your life suddenly appears as not true. But if only they would dare to go outside tradition, they would see that there is even more to discover about Jesus, that the picture that is now being projected of him by the Church is an incomplete one, even a distorted one. The real Jesus was a far more impressive being than what orthodox Christians have been made to believe. People need to realize that, if indeed Jesus survived crucifixion and continued to live after that, he would have left the Roman jurisdiction at all cost to avoid further trouble with the Roman authorities. It would mean that we would probably find signs of his post-crucifixion life in texts elsewhere, texts outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, these precise texts that a Christian would never consider to study.