Subject Area



The Crucifixion and the Resurrection are two of the most important foundational elements of the Christian religion. There are some skeptics, however, who believe that the Crucifixion was not “completed”, and that Jesus never actually died on the cross. If this hypothesis were true, it would call the entire Christian system of beliefs into question. One theory of this sort that grew in popularity with 18th century rationalists became known as the “Resuscitation Theory”, or “Swoon Theory”. Put simply, this theory states that Jesus did not actually die during the Crucifixion. Rather, he simply “swooned” and fell unconscious while hanging from the cross. Later, while he was in the tomb, he recovered from his injuries and was resuscitated. This is a highly unlikely theory. Here, we examine the medical aspects of the Jesus’ ordeal in order to show, with certainty, that Jesus died on the cross. We first examine the arguments put forth by proponents of the Swoon Theory. Then, we briefly touch upon the history of crucifixion as capital punishment, paying special attention to the Roman tradition. We discuss the events that led up to Jesus’ Crucifixion, and detail, in medical terms, the physical torment he was put through before being hung from the cross. Finally, we examine hypotheses put forth by contemporary medical doctors and surgeons, which attempt to explain how Jesus died, focusing primarily on argument put forth by Joseph W. Bergeron, MD. Dr. Bergeron concludes that shock, complicated by trauma-induced coagulopathy, was likely the primary mechanism of Jesus’ death on the cross. Medically, it was impossible for Jesus to have survived the ordeal on Good Friday.


Providence College