From Gethsemane to the Tomb

imageTerry McDermott (pictured) has a very interesting article, The physical effects of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus in Catholic Insight. Using works by Barbet, Zugibe and others as well as with images of the Shroud of Turin, McDermott delves into many aspects of the passion story from Gethsemane to the tomb. For instance:

The crown of thorns

Dr. Michael Evanari, Professor of Botany at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has opined that the Syrian Christ Thorn, which was available in Jerusalem, was the plant most likely to be used for the crown of thorns. Other experts speculate that the Christ’s Thorn was used, although no one can be certain that it grew in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. Both of these plants have sharp, closely spaced thorns and can be easily plaited into a cap. The crown was not a wreath as is typically believed. It was a cap of thorns placed upon Jesus’ head. The pattern of blood flow in the head area on the shroud and subsequent experiments by Zugibe attest to this. “The shroud indicates areas of seepage and blood flow running down the forehead. The hair in the frontal image suggests marked saturation with dried blood, causing the hair to remain on both sides of the face.”

Effects of the crown of thorns

“The nerve supply for pain perception to the head region is distributed by branches of two major nerves: the trigeminal nerve, which essentially supplies the front half of the head, and the greater occipital branch, which supplies the back half of the head.” 6 These two nerves enervate all areas of the head and face.

The trigeminal nerve, also known as the fifth cranial nerve, runs through the face, eyes, nose, mouth, and jaws. Irritation of this nerve by the crown of thorns would have caused a condition called trigeminal neuralgia or tic douloureux. This condition causes severe facial pain that may be triggered by light touch, swallowing, eating, talking, temperature changes, and exposure to wind. Stabbing pain radiates around the eyes, over the forehead, the upper lip, nose, cheek, the side of the tongue and the lower lip. Spasmodic episodes of stabbing, lancinating, and explosive pain are often more agonizing during times of fatigue or tension. It is said to be the worst pain that anyone can experience.

As the soldiers struck Jesus on His head with reeds, He would have felt excruciating pains across His face and deep into His ears, much like sensations from a hot poker or electric shock. These pains would have been felt all the way to Calvary and while on the Cross. As He walked and fell, as He was pushed and shoved, as He moved any part of His face, and as the slightest breeze touched His face, new waves of intense pain would have been triggered. The pain would have intensified His state of traumatic shock.

The thorns would have cut into the large supply of blood vessels in the head area. Jesus would have bled profusely, contributing to increasing hypovolemic shock.

He would have been growing increasingly weak and light-headed. As well, He would have bouts of vomiting, shortness of breath, and unsteadiness as hypovolemic and traumatic shock intensified.

5 thoughts on “From Gethsemane to the Tomb”

    1. I would love to read this article. Look like they present a natural hypothesis involving a dead body as being the source of the image. After all the “lunatic fringe” kind of proposals that have been made in recent years (burst of UV light, electric discharge coming from an earthquake, etc.) it’s great to see some rationality for once! One thing’s for sure: it’s about time that a real forensic expert try to verify all those naturalistic hypotheses under good lab control. This can be done. Rogers made some preliminary experiments, so it is possible that someone else take over and do more testing (and not just of Rogers’ hypothesis but all the others natural proposals that have been made over the years). I think we could be surprise of the results if this would be done properly.

  1. For the Tattoli article, see my reply to “Comment Promoted: Another hypothesis about the image formation.” For this recapitulation of Zugibe’s speculations, we have here nothing new. Interestingly McDermott begins: “Much has been written about the physical and psychological effects of the crucifixion of Jesus, often by surgeons, psychiatrists, and other doctors. While well-intentioned, the writings have largely been inaccurate by forensic standards and until now have relied on educated speculation and outdated medical and other investigative equipment.” I’m sorry to say that correctly translated this means “I have read Fred Zugibe’s book about the Shroud of Turin and accept what he says without further investigation. Every one of McDermott’s references, including the two from Doctor at Calvary, are from Zugibe’s book. Almost every one of his assertions has been questioned on this blog fairly recently.

    1. The focus of the article is the pain Jesus went through in the passion. I don’t think these aspects were refuted in anyway in this blog. I remember the last time we were talking about Rigor mortis we were searching for someone with forensic experience. Guess what, there is none in that blog. with all due respect to everyone, you and Yannick included, Zugibe’s credentials in this field is far stronger than anyone here. His educated speculations have much more weight than our speculative refutations. Anyway, what has been debated in this blog (e.g. the nail entry point in the palm or the wrist..etc) had nothing to do with this article because Jesus would’ve felt the pain (causalgia) in either situations. So the article is a valuable summarization of Zugibe’s finding specially valuable around easter. Where christians are encouraged to reflect more over what Jesus went through for them rather than chocolate and easter bunnies.

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