01 June 2006

Did Jesus die on the cross?

All the following facts are taken from this excellent BBC documentary which investigates the stories surroundiung the New testament account of the crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, by interviewing historians, theologians and historical researchers.

Death from crucifixion could take 3 days. According to the conflicting stories in the gospels, Jesus was only on the cross either 6 hours or at most 9 hours.

In the gospels, Pontius Pilate finds it difficult to believe that Jesus could have died so quickly and has to be reassured by a centurion (the same one who earlier proclaimed Jesus as the son of God) that Jesus is really dead.

You don't have to believe in a conspiracy theory or that the gospel is lying to think that Jesus didn't die on the cross, it was possible it was a mistake by the disciples. They might have thought it was a miraculous resurrection, Jesus could have gone into a coma through shock and been revived in the tomb. There are records of plenty of people who did survive 1st century crucifixion. The resurrection is explicable. But what about the ascension?

The ascension is not mentioned in any of the original gospels. It was in the last 16 verses of Mark which were added some 300 years later. And it is inserted as a sentence into some versions of Luke because Luke was assumed to have written the Acts of the Apostles which talk of the ascension. That is the lie, the cover story to get Jesus out of the country. It would have been dangerous for Jesus to remain in the Roman Empire, and there are stories of him fleeing the Roman Empire to the East, to India.

There are a number of stories that Jesus went to India, one tells of his time there during the missing years from the ages of 12 to 29. We know at least one of the disciples - Thomas, went to India so it would not have been unusual for Jesus to also have visited.

Buddha pre-dates Jesus by 500 years, so if Jesus did go to India he would have been exposed to Buddhist teachings, which bear a remarkable similarity to Jesus's miracles and teachings. After his crucifixion Jesus returns to India and carries on his ministry in Kashmir. The stories bear this out with the legend of the 'prophet from Israel' who arrives in Kashmir around 30AD and dies there in 80AD. Shortly before his death this prophet - Jus Asaf (leader of the healed) claims to be Jesus Christ. His shrine can be found there and he is buried in the Jewish tradition (facing East-West) and his shrine contains a carving of his feet which bear the scars of crucifixion.

Most academic theologians and intelligent churchmen, or a very significant number of them, do not believe that the resurrection is the literal truth. To them it's a metaphor to tell us that there is hope.


  1. Interesting. Hadn't heard of that documentary - thanks for the heads up!

  2. Several points though!

    1) To believe in the timeframe of the cruxifiction, you would have to take into account that a centurion speared Christ's side after he was thought to be dead and blood and water came out!

    2)One would have to also take into account that he was scourged, almost to the point of death, beforehand. His body would have gone through accumulative stress

    3)A seal was put on the tomb. To move it was on pain of death.

    4)Many of the first Christians were killed, some in horrific ways, for their beliefs. They knew the cost and would they have been prepared to stand for a lie if it meant dying like that. When Nixon tried to cover up Watergate (and we are talking about a US Presidential administration here), it was a matter of weeks before John Dean went to the prosecutors!

    5)If the disciples truly believed he was the risen Lord, why the need to smuggle him out of the country!

  3. Paul.

    1) The same centurion who had earlier pronounced him the son of God? I get the impression that this is only a flesh wound, not enough to kill.

    2) True, but 6-9 hours is nowhere near enough to die of crucifixion, most people took days, some over 3 days.

    3) Jesus's followers were curious people, they thought he was the son of God. Jesus could have revived before he was put in the tomb, or the disciples could have been checking the tomb when he revived.

    4) I'm not saying Christians didn't believe he was the son of God, Waco people believed in David Koresh.

    5) The disciples believed he had been resurrected and they believed this to be the work of God. They wouldn't question Jesus, they had so much faith in him. And of course he was their friend, you help your friends. Remember the gospels of the disciples make no mention of the ascension, and the gospels of Luke and Mark were altered later to mention it.

  4. I saw this (or similar doc) on doscovery channel or nat geographic or something.

    Surely it is a complete waste of time arguing about the science of all of this?

    It's a question of faith - either believe it or don't. If you look at the science of it, maybe it doesn't stack up, but then if you believe Jesus was God Incarnate then why would you believe science has to apply to how long it took him to die?

    That bit just seems seems largely irrelevant to me...

    The buddhist bit of the documentary was interesting. Although I think you could make any story like that sound plausible if you tried (like the thousands who believe the DVC for example).

    On the matter of things being in the Bible or not to start with - there are many doctrines that are not directly in the Gospels and that doesn't make them any less valid, so the Ascension being added after 300 yrs (and I don't know if that's true or not) wouldn't matter, as events are handed down through tradition and the early Church etc.

    And I simply do not believe that a significant proportion of the clergy don't believe in the Crucifixion and Resurrection and just use it as a convenient myth to keep the masses happy. The death and resurrection of Christ is so intrinsic to Christianity, and absolutely so to the Catholic Church, that the idea that Priests just don't believe in it, but thing it was actually a silly mistake by the Apostles is ludicrous.

  5. Interesting stuff.

    I wonder if the BBC will ever do such a rigorous analysis of the Koran.

  6. Neil

    1)The point is, and this was confirmed to me by a friend of mine who's a Doctor, if blood AND water gush from someone in the way it did from Christ when he was speared, it is clear they are dead.

    2)Neil, if I had been punched about a bit, then mocked,then scourged about forty times with something possibly worse than a cat o'nine tails, made to carry a heavy cross to a hill outside the city where I was arrested, then crucified (and think of the constant pain and pressure on your lungs and heart that crucifixion does), I would want to die

    3) That is possible, but to believe a no of points here, you would have to believe the disciples were lying and deceiving in a way which the Bible (in Old and New Testament)is very harsh about. There were many "messiahs" around this time and when they had the first wiff of persecution they scattered! It would have been easy, extremely easy, for the Disciples to give up and go home, but they didn't!

    4)Part of the problem with this debate is that we are both holding to what we believe to be core truths. I from my belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, you from your belief that Christians are a bunch of nutters! But the way I see it, to believe the arguments you put forward would mean that the early church behaved in a way which was utterly alien to the way they appeared in the Gospels and Epistles!

    5)Mark possibly has been tampered with at the end, but what evidence do you have for Luke!

  7. I am a christian. I believe that a being just 'made' the light, then just 'made' the earth, then just 'made' critters, then just 'made' a man, then just 'made' a woman. Then he split a sea, threw mana from heaven, made a bush burn, then some man built a boat and put two of EVERY single critter in the world on it, then it floated for a month and a half, then a woman just got pregnant on her own, then an 'angel' came to talk, then the baby grew up and healed people, walked on water, took 5 fish and 2 loaves and fed thousands, then predicted the future, then he was crucified, then he went to hell for three days, then he came back and rose from the dead, then he went up in the air and went to heaven.

    I have enough faith to believe all of that. 6-9 hours for him to stop breathing on the cross is no problem for me to believe

  8. 1) John did not see the blood and water himself, he just reports that the centurion (who had earlier proclaimed Jesus as the son of God) told Pilate that an eyewitness had seen this happen. Unlike the others crucified, the centurion wouldn't carry out orders to break Jesus's legs. He told Pilate that Jesus was already dead so it was unnecessary and gave this 'blood and water' story to Pilate to aquiecse him.

    2) Well it's possible, but so is Walsall winning the Champions League. Crucified people just didn't die in 6-9 hours.

    3) "you would have to believe the disciples were lying and deceiving"

    Not really. As I've explained the Acts of the Apostles (written by Luke) was the cover story. The original gospels don't mention the ascension.

    4) "the early church behaved in a way which was utterly alien to the way they appeared in the Gospels and Epistles!"

    There are many religions, and each one has its sincere followers. Being sincere doesn't mean you are right.

    5) The documentary states that some versions of Luke don't contain the 'ascension line' and some it has been added afterwards (as an afetrthought to fit in with Acts of Apostles which are assumed to be written by Luke).

  9. The science argument is ludicrous. Science does not explain the virgin birth... The science of how long it takes to die is completely irelevant, it's simply a matter of faith and trying to explain it scientifically is silly.

  10. Lola, why is it just this issue that's a matter of faith? Why should we only cease to look for evidence/test hypotheses on religious issues?

    Another point: if crucifixion was survivable, why should we think Jus Asaf *must* be Jesus?

    Interesting yarn, though!

  11. Hmmmmm. Is difficult.

    I don't think there is harm in looking for evidence, as such. I just think that science cannot really explain a huge amount of religion - that's kind of the nature of miracles etc - I don't expect or need science to be able to explain many of the strange things I believe in. And if science could explain them as naturally occurring incidents that could occur randomly again then it would kind of defeat the point of believing that when it happened last time it had something to do with God.

    The virgin birth is a case in point - if you believe it's true then why look for scientific explanations for it? Science simply can't explain God becoming incarnate through the Virgin Mary, just as I don't think it can explain the resurrection, the ascencion, the assumption, the Mass etc etc etc.... But that doesn't bother me because I believe anyway.

    I can appreciate that people who don't believe in it would be interested in scientific explanaions, and I don't have a problem with that...

    But as joel says, if you believe in lots of unexplainable things then believing that Christ died comparatively quickly is not really a big problem.

    And the nature of faith is believing things without evidence...

  12. lola: "if you believe in lots of unexplainable things then believing that Christ died comparatively quickly is not really a big problem."

    I suppose I can't really argue with that.

    Personally I assume that evidence based decisions make more sense. For instance when I cross the road I look for traffic that might run me over rather than placing my trust in some invisible God and crossing with my eyes shut. Making decisions on some belief in an imaginary God seems dangerous to me.

    B4L: "if crucifixion was survivable, why should we think Jus Asaf *must* be Jesus?"

    Maybe he wasn't Jesus, we don't even know for sure Jesus existed (any more than Dionysis whoose legend Jesus's story has an uncanny similarity to), but there seems to be more evidence to believe the Jus Asaf story than the story Christians believe.

  13. I would have thought that if he had not ascended, then the disciples would have known he wasn't the Son of God by their understanding of Old Testament prophecy. Never heard of anything being changed in luke before looking at this blog ;p Altho if it was changed, which I dont believe it was, then I dont think it was malicious, see a later point...

    1) I don't accept that the ascension isnt in the gospels. How many times does Jesus refer to Himself requiring to die and be ressurected in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Did the authors at the time write that down and not notice some inconsistancy? If some of the gospels focus on his life more than his death then perhaps thats because teaching of his death was so fundamental to first and second generation Christianity already.

    2) I would have thought we can only date the gospels we have by the earliest copies we have. Tomorrow those dates might change if we find another manuscript. Its hard to then state hard fact like 'this was written Tuesday 4th of May, 300 BC'. Here is a table arguing that the timespan between authorship and earliest remaining copies of the bible compares extremely well to other historical lit.

    3) The following was written before 300 years passed:
    "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve..."
    1 Corinthians 15: 3-4 above is reckoned to be an extremely early creed of Christian belief.
    See also Romans 6:4, and every other book in the New Testament, again and again and again.

    I think the idea that Christian teaching was made up three centuries later (possibly in italy) is compelling but not something that we arrive at from a proper objective read of the new testament.
    The people of the time were brilliantly placed to discuss the validity of the disciples claims. We don't have to believe them, but cant help but look at them.

  14. I saw the documentary on google video and I was shocked by the poor scholarship. There was no mention of the soldier piercing Jesus' side, and often many contentious issues were presented as fact by the condescending narrator. Very poor, how can this pass for a documentary?

  15. lithgo: If you want to believe something and you believe someone has come back from the dead, it would be easy to overlook the ascension bit.

    1) The ascension was added later, the earlier versions of Luke don't mention it.

    2) Is there supposed to be a link here to back up your claim?

    3) It is Mark where it was inserted 300 years later. A sentence was added to Luke because of the Acts of Apostles. The change to Mark was maybe after Romans and Corinthians but that does not alter the fact that the ascension was not in any of the original gospels. Do you not find that odd?

    Anon: "and often many contentious issues were presented as fact"

    Not really, the narrator constantly refers to 'legends' and 'stories' whereas you lot contend the gospel as God's true word despite the evidence to the contrary, it's funny how you get all scientific when it is claims you don't agree with.

  16. I saw this doco, and thought it made some very interesting points. I find the idea of Jesus not dying much easier to swallow than the idea of the resurection and asencion, etc. Besides, it makes perfect sense that Jesus had buddist influences, because christian ideals have many more parallels with buddism than with the major religion if the time, Judaism.
    Well, thats my 2 cents. Going back under my rock now....

  17. I have to say, as a conservative Christian that it takes a lot of faith to so easily choose not to believe something you were not even there for.

    Why don't you check out some sources other than the sources the liberal BBC dug up. They are not going to look for sources that are 1. unbiased nor 2. back up their beliefs in Christ with more reputable information such as archaeology, and records from the time that support the facts. they are going to look for and easily find people who will say what you want to hear.

    Also, if you want to find God and the Truth (his name is Jesus) ask HIM to reveal to you whether HE is real or not. If you dare, if you really are interested in knowing the Truth. Of course if you are only interested in hearing what you want to hear and believing what you want to believe then go ahead and get your information from people who are paid money to believe something else.

    Also, read the Bible for yourself. There is no evidence that it was the same centurion.

    in fact John 19:33 states "But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. (fulfilling prophecy mind you) But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear (again fulfilling prophecy), and immediately blood and water (this only happens when your DEAD) came out.

    I think a Roman of all people who is used to many crucifixions he had seen would be able to tell if he is dead. The people who live through them were not nailed, but tied, nor were they pierced in their side, let along scourged and beaten beyond recognition.

    Pilate found out from the centurion that made the statement that Jesus had in fact been dead for some time ("centurion" and "soldier" do not necessarily refer to the same person) because this centurion had been there as Jesus breathed his last breath. this is in Mark 15. Also, if you didn't know already, every single breath is a huge labor when your feet are nailed to the cross. the stance the person is forced to be in causes their body to cut off their air supply so that each breath they take, they must lift themself up (with their feet with the big nail through them) in order to take a breath. So it would be pretty obvious if a person were getting any air or not. The centurion also made this statement after "the earth shook, rocks were split, graves were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and coming out of the graves." Matthew 27:51-53

    Regardless of your faithfulness to the BBC, and liberal clergy, there is many many many prophecies concerning Jesus in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the New. And you cannot say that the Jews were in on this either. There are documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls predating the Bible that are some of the very same scrolls that the Hebrews believe in and they most certainly have not been in on this gigantic conspiracy that you believe in.

    All of this said, I do not wish to argue, I had to refute some of your points because I think you were ignorant of some things and need to have a more objective view. I hope that you do find the Truth. I hope and pray that God reveals Himself to you. I also hope that you have the courage to visit some places where the miracles of the Bible still go on. You will rarely see these in the news, but they are there and real. People still get healed, people are raised from the dead, see www.enterthefurnace.blogspot.com/
    and www.irismin.org/wordpress/index.php
    Check out the Bible too, you might be surprised. God bless you.

  18. it is so much more dangerous to not believe in an "imaginary" God. 1. Where do you think the universe came from? ..dust? then where did the dust come from?
    2. what happens when you die and find out hell is real and you are there for eternity? If hell is real, which it is, then it is a REAL danger to YOU. God is dangerous, He is dangerous if you pretend He does not exist. because God makes the call whether you spend eternity with Him or not. But if you want to avoid "danger" then be on the safe side, the God who promises life, no pain, no sorrow, and joy. the dangerous side is one with flames, fire, pain, torture, demons and this never EVER ends. Do you at this point decide oh, maybe there is a God? at this point once you are in hell, it is too late. fire and brimstone? no, it is love. I would not wish hell on any man, nor does God. God does not want to destroy you. satan does. if he can keep you in disbelief, he will destroy you. God wants good things for you. God wants to restore peace, wisdom, joy! Think about this, what is it that you have to lose? your pride? to say you may have been wrong? these are trivial things in the grand sceme of things.