From Mark Copeland... "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL" Third Missionary Journey (54-58 A.D.)

                    "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL"

                 Third Missionary Journey (54-58 A.D.)


1. Between the first and second journeys of Paul, there was an interval of about two years...
   a. In which Paul spent "a long time" in Antioch - Ac 14:28
   b. During which a visit to Jerusalem became necessary - Ac 15:1-2

2. Between the second and third journeys, Paul did not remain long in Antioch...
   a. He did spend "some time" there - Ac 18:22-23
   b. But he soon departed, perhaps anxious to fulfill a promise made
      to the Ephesians on his second journey - cf. Ac 18:19-21

[As with his second journey, he starts with...]


      1. Strengthening the disciples - Ac 18:23
      2. This would be Paul's third time in the region
         a. He visited this area on his first journey - Ac 14:6-20
         b. He returned on his second journey - Ac 16:6

      1. Where Paul had briefly stopped on his second journey - Ac 18:19-21
      2. Where Aquila and Priscilla had stayed, and converted Apollos - Ac 18:24-28
      3. Where Paul converted twelve disciples of John the Baptist - Ac 19:1-7
      4. Where Paul stayed for about three years (54-57 A.D.)
         a. Teaching for three months in the synagogue - Ac 19:8
         b. Teaching daily for two years in the school of Tyrannus - Ac 19:9-10
         c. Working unusual miracles - Ac 19:11-20
         d. Note the great success Paul had - Ac 19:10,20
      5. During this period of time, several things may have happened
         a. Paul made a short visit to Corinth, his second - cf. 2 Co 12:14; 13:1
            1) His first visit was during the second journey - Ac 18:1
            2) His third visit was later on the third journey - Ac 20:1-3
            3) The book of Acts is silent about his second visit, but most place it sometime during his 
                 extended stay at Ephesus
         b. Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians (now lost), alluded  to in 1Co 5:9
         c. Paul wrote Galatians (55 A.D.) - Ga 1:1-2
            1) Purpose:  To verify his apostleship and the gospel of justification by faith in Christ
            2) Theme:  Stand fast in the liberty of the gospel
            3) Brief Outline:
               a) Defense of his apostleship - Ga 1:1-2:21
               b) Defense of the gospel of justification by faith - Ga 3:1-4:31
               c) The call to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel  - Ga 5:1-6:18
      6. Paul makes plans to leave Ephesus - Ac 19:21-22
         a. Sending Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia, with Timothy to
            eventually go to Corinth - 1Co 4:17; 16:10-11
         b. Though he himself stayed "for a time", during which he 
            writes First Corinthians (spring of 57 A.D.) - 1Co 16:5-8
            1) Purpose:  To correct sinful practices and refute false doctrine
            2) Theme:  Walk together in unity, love, and truth
            3) Brief Outline:
               a) Factions in the church - 1Co 1:1-4:21
               b) Sexual immorality in the church - 1Co 5:1-13
               c) Lawsuits among brethren - 1Co 6:1-11
               d) Moral defilements - 1Co 6:12-20
               e) Marriage and celibacy - 1Co 7:1-40
               f) Meats sacrificed to idols - 1Co 8:1-11:1
               g) Women praying and prophesying unveiled - 1Co 11:2-16
               h) The Lord's supper - 1Co 11:17-34
               i) Spiritual gifts - 1Co 12:1-14:40
               j) Resurrection from the dead - 1Co 15:1-58
               k) Collection for the saints - 1Co 16:1-4
               l) Concluding remarks, instructions, benediction - 1Co  16:5-24
         7. Paul sends Titus and "a brother" to Corinth - cf. 2Co 12: 17-18
            a. To bring Paul word as to how the Corinthians received  the first letter?
            b. To encourage the Corinthians concerning the collection? - 2Co 8:6a
            c. Whose delayed return would later give Paul concern - 2Co 2:12-13
            d. But who would eventually bring Paul good news - 2Co 7:5-7,13-16
         8. The Diana incident - Ac 19:23-41
            a. A great commotion brought on by Demetrius and the other silversmiths
            b. In which a mob takes two of Paul's travel companions, Gaius and Aristarchus
            c. Barely controlled by the city's town clerk
         9. Additional details about Paul's stay in Ephesus
            a. Sosthenes was there, joining Paul in writing to the Corinthians - 1Co 1:1
            b. Paul had been visited by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus - 1Co 16:17
            c. Aquila and Priscilla hosted the church in their house, 
               and sent greetings to those in Corinth - Ac 18:2,19,26; 1Co 16:19
            d. Paul's sufferings while at Ephesus
               1) As related to the Ephesian elders in Miletus - Ac 20:17-19
               2) As mentioned in letters to the Corinthians - 1Co 15: 30-32; 2Co 1:8-11
            e. Paul's preaching while at Ephesus - Ac 20:21-21,25-27,31
            f. Paul's manual labor while at Ephesus - Ac 20:33-35; 1Co 4:11,12

   C. IN TROAS...
      1. The turmoil over Paul provides an opportune time to leave Ephesus - Ac 20:1
      2. With plans already made (Ac 19:21), Paul heads toward Macedonia - Ac 20:1
      3. At Troas, he finds an open door to preach the gospel - 2Co 2:12
      4. But not finding Titus, he continues on toward Macedonia - 2 Co 2:13

[With anxiety over the condition of the church at Corinth, Paul once again travels to...]


      1. Paul finds Titus, who brings comforting news from Corinth - 2Co 7:5-7,13-16
      2. Paul preaches throughout Macedonia - Ac 20:1-2
         a. He had preached in Macedonia on his second journey - Ac 16: 11-17:15
         b. Establishing churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea
         c. On this trip he appears to have ventured to Illyricum - cf. Ro 15:19
      3. The brethren give generously for the relief of the church in Jerusalem - 2Co 8:1-5
      4. Timothy rejoins Paul, and joins Paul in writing Second Corinthians (fall of 57 A.D.) - 2Co 1:1
         a. Purpose:  To vindicate Paul's apostleship and manner of life
         b. Theme:  Open your heart to us, we have wronged no one 
         c. Brief Outline:
            1) Paul explains his ministry of reconciliation - 2Co 1:1-7:16
            2) The collection for the saints in Jerusalem - 2Co 8:1- 9:15
            3) Paul defends his apostolic authority - 2Co 10:1-13:14
      5. Titus and "two brethren" are sent to Corinth - 2Co 8:16-24
         a. Likely taking Second Corinthians
         b. To assist the Corinthians concerning the collection - 2 Co 8:6-8; 9:1-5

      1. Paul spent three months - Ac 20:2-3
      2. It included his third visit to Corinth - 2Co 12:14
         a. A visit he hoped would not be sorrowful - 2Co 2:1
         b. A visit he hoped would not be embarrassing for them - 2Co 9:3-4
         c. A visit he hoped would not require stern judgment - 2 Co 12:20-21; 13:1-3
      3. Paul wrote Romans (spring of 58 A.D.) - Ro 16:23; cf. 1Co 1:14; 2Ti 4:20
         a. Purpose:  To set straight the design and nature of the gospel
         b. Theme:  The gospel is God's power of salvation
         c. Brief Outline:
            1) Justification by faith in Christ - Ro 1:1-11:36
            2) The transformed life - Ro 12:1-16:27
      4. Paul's companions while in Corinth
         a. Phoebe, servant of the church in nearby Cenchrea - Ro 16:1-2
         b. Timothy, Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, Paul's countrymen - Ro 16:21
         c. Tertius, writer for Paul - Ro 16:22
         d. Gaius, host of Paul and the church - Ro 16:23
         e. Erastus, treasurer of the city, and Quartus, a brother - Ro16:23
      5. Paul's plans for when he leaves Corinth
         a. To visit Rome and eventually Spain - Ro 1:8-13; 15:22-24
         b. But first he must go to Jerusalem with the contribution for the needy saints - Ro 15:25-29

[After just three months, then, Paul prepares to leave Corinth and head
straight toward Syria on his way to Jerusalem.  But circumstances demand a change in itinerary...]


      1. Paul's plan to sail straight to Syria spoiled by a plot against him - Ac 20:3
      2. Paul decides to go through Macedonia, joined by seven companions - Ac 20:4
         a. Sopater of Berea - Ro 16:21
         b. Aristarchus (Ac 19:29; 27:2; Col 4:10; Phm 24) and Secundus of Thessalonica 
         c. Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy - cf. Ac 16:1
         d. Tychicus (Ep 6:21; Col 4:7; 2Ti 4:12; Tit 3:12) and Trophimus (Ac 21:29; 2Ti 4:20) of Asia
      3. These seven go on to wait for Paul at Troas, while Luke 
         evidently joins Paul at Philippi and sails with him to Troas - Ac 20:5-6 (note the use of "we"...)

      1. Paul and his companions assemble with the disciples at Troas - Ac 20:6-12
         a. After waiting seven days - Ac 20:6
         b. On the first day of the week - Ac 20:7; cf. 1Co 16:1-2
         c. For the purpose of breaking bread - Ac 20:7; cf. 1Co 10:16-17; 11:23-33
         d. Paul speaks until midnight - Ac 20:7
         e. Eutychus falls from the third story, and presumed dead; 
            Paul reassures them otherwise - Ac 20:8-10
         f. Paul breaks bread, talks until dawn, and then departs - Ac 20:11-12
      2. Paul goes to Miletus, where he meets with the Ephesian elders - Ac 20:13-38
         a. On the way to Miletus...
            1) Paul walks to Assos, the others take the ship - Ac 20:13
            2) Paul joins them at Assos, and sails to Mitylene - Ac 20:14
            3) They sail pass Chios, on to Samos, Trogyllium, finally Miletus - Ac 20:15
            4) Paul's plan is to bypass Ephesus to reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost - Ac 20:16
         b. At Miletus Paul talks to the Ephesian elders...
            1) Reviewing his work with them - Ac 20:17-27
            2) Warning them of dangers within and without - Ac 20:28-31
            3) Commending them to God and His Word, reminding them of his own example - Ac 20:32-35
            4) Parting with prayer and great sorrow - Ac 20:36-38

      1. Sailing to Cos, Rhodes, Patara, catching a ship on the way to Phoenicia - Ac 21:1-2
      2. Passing by Cyprus, sailing to Syria, landing at Tyre - Ac 21:3-6
         a. Staying with disciples for seven days
         b. Paul warned not to go to Jerusalem
         c. Parting with prayer on the shore, sailing on to Ptolemais
      3. Staying at Ptolemais one day with the brethren - Ac 21:7
      4. Arriving at Caesarea, where they stayed "many days" - Ac 21:8-15
         a. Staying at the house of Philip the evangelist - Ac 21:8-9; cf. Ac 6:5; 8:5-13,26-40 
         b. Agabus prophesies of Paul's impending imprisonment - Ac 21: 10-11
         c. Over their objections, Paul is determined to go to Jerusalem - Ac 21:12-14
         d. They leave Caesarea, along with some of the disciples including Mnason, with whom they 
              would stay in Jerusalem - Ac 21:15-16
         e. They arrive in Jerusalem, warmly received by the brethren - Ac 21:17


1. Paul's arrival in Jerusalem must have been with mixed emotions...
   a. He was accompanying the contribution for needy Christians in Jerusalem - Ro 15:25-27
   b. He had intentions of going to Rome, and then Spain - Ro 15:28; cf. Ac 19:21
   c. He knew that chains awaited him in Jerusalem - Ac 20:22,23; 21:11-14

2. Yet Paul could consider his third missionary journey a success...
   a. Strengthening churches in Galatia, Phrygia, Asia, Macedonia,Achaia (Greece), Syria
   b. Three years in Ephesus, from where all Asia heard the Word
   c. Encouraging the churches in Macedonia, with likely excursions into Illyricum
   d. Dealing with the problems at Corinth, with evident success
   e. Writing letters, including Galatians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians,Romans
   f. Motivating Gentile Christians to assist their needy Jewish brethren in Jerusalem

3. A study of Paul's life reveals more than just the life of one man, it reveals much about the life of the early church; 
    we learn of...
   a. Its worship, its dedication to evangelism, edification, and benevolence
   b. The love and hospitality of the early disciples which made such things possible

May the example of Paul and the disciples in the early church inspire us in our service to the Lord today!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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From Mark Copeland... "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL" Second Missionary Journey (51-54 A.D.)

                    "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL"

                 Second Missionary Journey (51-54 A.D.)


1. While Paul undoubtedly enjoyed his work at Antioch, it was not long
   before he was ready to take another journey...
   a. He was concerned about the churches established on the first
      journey - Ac 15:36
   b. He also had the goal of preaching Christ in places where the 
      gospel had not yet been proclaimed - cf. Ro 15:20-21

2. And so begins Paul's second missionary journey...
   a. That will allow him to visit churches established on the first
   b. With new traveling companions
   c. Taking him to a new continent
   d. In which he will establish new churches, experience more
      persecution, and begin writing letters that will become part of 
      the New Testament

[As with the first missionary journey, the second journey begins in...]


      1. They disagree over whether to take John Mark - Ac 15:37-38
         a. Barnabas was determined to take John Mark (his cousin) 
            - cf. Col 4:10
         b. Paul insisted that he was not reliable - cf. Ac 13:13
      2. Their contention required them to separate - Ac 15:39
         a. Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus
         b. Where Barnabas was from, and which was visited on the first
            journey - cf. Ac 4:36; 13:4-12

      1. Paul selected Silas to accompany him - Ac 15:40
         a. One of the two men sent by Jerusalem with the letter 
            regarding circumcision - Ac 15:22-23,27
         b. Who himself was a prophet - Ac 15:32
         c. Who had stayed in Antioch - Ac 15:34
      2. They pass through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches 
         - Ac 15:41
         a. From which Paul was from - Ac 22:3
         b. Where he had spent time preaching before - Ga 1:21
         c. To whom Paul and Silas likely delivered the letter 
            addressed to them - Ac 15:23

[While the separation of Paul and Barnabas was unpleasant, it did not
keep both men from their service to God.  Paul eventually was
reconciled with both men (cf. 1Co 9:6; Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 24),
and this temporary separation provided the opportunity for others to
become involved in the work of spreading the gospel.  With Silas at his
side, Paul proceeded to travel to...]


      1. Where Paul healed a lame man, and was stoned, on his first 
         journey - Ac 14:6-20
      2. Paul desires Timothy to go with him - Ac 16:1-3
         a. Whose mother was a Jew, his father a Greek - cf. 2Ti 1:5; 
         b. Who had a good reputation among the brethren
         c. Whom Paul had circumcised in deference to the Jews
      3. The decrees from the conference in Jerusalem were delivered 
         - Ac 16:4-5

      1. They next went throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia 
         - Ac 16:6
      2. This likely included the churches in Iconium, and Antioch of
      3. They were forbidden by the Spirit to preach the word in Asia,
         i.e., to head southwest toward Ephesus - Ac 16:7

      1. Near Mysia they were not permitted by the Spirit to head north
         toward Bithynia - Ac 16:8
      2. They arrive in Troas - Ac 16:9-10
         a. Where Paul has a vision, a man of Macedonia asking him to 
            help them
         b. Understood as the Lord sending them in that direction
         c. Note the use of "we"
            1) Luke, author of Acts, now joins Paul and his company
            2) He was a physician (Col 4:14), author also of the gospel 
               which bears his name, and was with Paul in his last days 
               - 2Ti 4:11

[From Troas they cross over to Samothrace, and then to Neapolis (Ac
16:11).  They have now entered the continent of Europe, and come


      1. A chief city of Macedonia, and Roman colony - Ac 16:12
      2. The conversion of Lydia and her household - Ac 16:13-15
      3. The healing of the demon-possessed girl - Ac 16:16-18
      4. Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned - Ac 16:19-24
         a. Paul refers to this in his letter to the Thessalonians 
            - 1Th 2:2
         b. Also in his letter to the Philippians - Php 1:30
      5. The earthquake, and conversion of the jailer and his family 
         - Ac 16:25-34
      6. Paul and Silas released, and depart from Philippi - Ac 16:
         a. Not before pointing out the serious mistake made by the
            magistrates beating Roman citizens (not only Paul, but 
            evidently Silas was a Roman citizen also)
         b. Not before going to the house of Lydia and encouraging the
      7. The church at Philippi...
         a. Included Lydia and the jailer, along with their families
         b. Luke, who stayed behind (note the use of "they", Ac 16:40; 
         c. Euodia, Syntyche, Syzygus ("true companion"), and Clement 
            - Php 4:2-3

      1. Passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they come to
         Thessalonica - Ac 17:1
      2. Paul visits the synagogue and reasons with the Jews for three
         Sabbaths - Ac 17:2-4
         a. Proclaiming Jesus as the Christ
         b. Some of whom who were persuaded, along with a great 
            multitude of Greeks
      3. Unbelieving Jews gather a mob, and attack the house of Jason 
         - Ac 17:5-9
      4. Paul and Silas sent away by the brethren - Ac 17:10
      5. Elsewhere, we learn the following about Paul's stay in
         a. He supported himself, aided by the Philippians - 1Th 2:9; 
            2Th 3:6-10; Php 4:16
         b. The dedicated nature of his ministry - 1Th 2:1-10
         c. The faithfulness and love of the Thessalonians - 1Th 1:
            1-8; 2:13-16; 4:9-10

   C. IN BEREA...
      1. The Jews are more fair-minded than those at Thessalonica - Ac
         a. They received the word with all readiness
         b. They searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said 
            was true
         c. Many believed, along with prominent Greeks
      2. Jews from Thessalonica came and stirred up the crowds - Ac 
      3. Paul sent away by the brethren, but Silas and Timothy stay 
         - Ac 17:14
   D. IN ATHENS...
      1. Paul sends for Silas and Timothy - Ac 17:15
      2. Moved by the idolatry, Paul disputes with both Jews and Greeks 
         - Ac 17:16-17
         a. In the synagogue with Jews and other devout persons
         b. In the market place daily
      3. Invited by the Epicurean and Stoic to speak at the Areopagus 
         - Ac 17:18-21
      4. Paul's sermon on "The Unknown God" - Ac 17:22-34
         a. Proclaiming the One True God
         b. Proclaiming the need to repent, the coming Judgment, and 
            the resurrection of Jesus from the dead
         c. Reaction was varied:  some mocked, others agreed to hear 
            more, some believed
      5. At some point, Timothy is sent back to Thessalonica - cf. 1 Th
         a. To encourage the brethren there
         b. Some believe Timothy may have been sent from Berea

      1. Paul arrives and lives with Aquila and Priscilla - Ac 18:1-4
         a. He worked together with them as a tent-maker - cf. 1Co 9:
         b. He also received support from Philippi - cf. 2Co 11:7-10; 
            Php 4:15
         c. He reasoned with the Jews every Sabbath - cf. 1Co 2:1-5 
      2. Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia - Ac 18:5; 2Co 1:19
         a. With good news regarding the church at Thessalonica - 1Th 
         b. Prompting Paul to write First Thessalonians (52 A.D.) 
            - 1Th 1:1
            1) Purpose:
               a) To praise them for their steadfastness under 
               b) To instruct them concerning holy living
               c) To correct any misunderstanding, especially about the 
                  second coming of Christ
            2) Theme:  Holiness In View Of The Coming Of Christ
            3) Brief Outline:
               a) Personal reflections - 1Th 1:1-3:13
               b) Apostolic instructions - 1Th 4:1-5:28
      3. Paul leaves the synagogue, and preaches next door - Ac 18:5-7
      4. His success in Corinth - Ac 18:8; 1Co 1:14-16
         a. Crispus, ruler of the synagogue, believes with his 
            household, and is baptized
         b. Many of the Corinthians believe and are baptized
         c. Gaius is baptized, who later becomes host of the church 
            - cf. Ro 16:23
         d. The household of Stephanas is baptized - cf. 1Co 16:15
      5. Paul's vision from the Lord - Ac 18:9-11
         a. Not to be afraid, nor remain silent
         b. The Lord has many people in the city
         c. So Paul remains a year and six months (52-53 A.D.)
         d. During which he writes Second Thessalonians (53 A.D.) 
            - 2Th 1:1
            1) Purpose:
               a) To encourage them in their steadfastness under 
               b) To correct their misunderstanding about the imminence 
                  of the Lord's return
               c) To instruct the congregation on what disciplinary 
                  action to take toward those who refused to work
            2) Theme:  Steadfastness While Waiting For The Coming Of 
            3) Brief Outline:
               a) Encouragement In Persecutions - 2Th 1:1-12
               b) Enlightenment About The Coming Of The Lord - 2Th 2:
               c) Exhortations To Christian Living - 2Th 3:1-18
      6. Paul before Gallio - Ac 18:12-17
         a. The Jews bring Paul up on charges before Gallio, proconsul 
            of Achaia
         b. Gallio refuses to heed them, the Greeks beat Sosthenes,
            ruler of the synagogue
      7. Paul remains in Corinth a good while - Ac 18:18a

[After such a long and successful stay (comparatively speaking) in
Corinth, Paul begins the backward leg of his journey and his...]


      1. Joined by Aquila and Priscilla - Ac 18:18
      2. Cut his hair in Cenchrea (near Corinth), for Paul had taken a 
         vow - Ac 18:18; cf. Ro 16:1
      3. In Ephesus - Ac 18:19-20
         a. Left Aquila and Priscilla there
         b. Reasoned with the Jews for a short time in the synagogue, 
            who wanted him to stay longer

      1. Anxious to get to Jerusalem in time for the feast (Passover?) 
         - Ac 18:21
      2. Sailed from Ephesus to Caesarea - Ac 18:21-22
      3. Went "up" (elevation-wise) to Jerusalem and visited the church 
         - Ac 18:22

      1. He went "down" (elevation-wise) to Antioch - Ac 18:22
      2. He spent "some time" in Antioch of Syria - Ac 18:23a


1. On this second journey, Paul was able to...
   a. Encourage churches like those in Syria, Cilicia, Derbe, Lystra,
      Iconium, and Antioch
   b. Establish churches like those in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea,
      Athens, and Corinth

2. It was a journey that saw the beginning of long-lasting
   a. Silas and Timothy
   b. The physician Luke, the brethren at Philippi (Clement, Euodia,
   c. Aquila and Priscilla, the brethren at Corinth (Gaius, Crispus, 
      the household of Stephanas)
3. This was a journey that provides much historical background to the
   New Testament...
   a. Describing churches to whom letters were later written
      (Galatians, Philippians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd 
   b. Introducing key persons whose impact is felt in the New Testament
      (Luke, who wrote the gospel and the book of Acts; Timothy, to 
      whom Paul wrote two epistles)

It was also a journey with several notable examples of conversion
(Lydia, the Philippian jailer, the Corinthians).  We also saw the
worthy example of the Bereans in how they listened to Paul, and
searched the Scriptures daily.  May such examples encourage us in our
devotion to the Lord!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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From Mark Copeland... "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL" Conference In Jerusalem, And Return To Antioch (50 A.D.)

                    "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL"

       Conference In Jerusalem, And Return To Antioch (50 A.D.)


1. During his first missionary journey, Paul saw that God "opened a
   door of faith to the Gentiles" - Ac 14:27
   a. The conversion of Sergius Paulus - Ac 13:6-12
   b. The conversion of many Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia - Ac 13:42-49
   c. The conversion of Greeks in Iconium - Ac 14:1

2. It wasn't long before the question of Gentiles in the church became  an issue...
   a. Should the Gentiles be accepted without first converting to Judaism?
   b. Should they be required to be circumcised, and keep the Law of Moses?

[At the end of a two year residence in Antioch of Syria, Paul and the
church were faced with a crisis regarding the issue of the Gentiles...]


      1. Teaching that Gentiles could not be saved without circumcision - Ac 15:1
      2. With whom Paul and Barnabas strongly disagreed - Ac 15:2a

      1. Accompanied by "certain others" (such as Titus) - Ac 15:2a; Ga 2:1
      2. To talk to the apostles and elders, which Paul did "by revelation" - Ac 15:2a; Ga 2:2
      3. On the way, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria - Ac 15:3
         a. Describing the conversion of the Gentiles
         b. Causing great joy among the brethren

[Since the men causing disturbance came from Judea, Paul and his
companions went to the source, to locate the actual origin of this problem.  This led to...]


      1. A formal reception by the church
         a. Paul's party was received by the church, the apostles, and the elders - Ac 15:4
         b. To whom Paul reported all that God had done with them - Ac 15:4; cf. 14:27
      2. A private meeting with some who were "of reputation"
         a. In which Paul explained the gospel which he preached - Ga 2:1-2
         b. Some false brethren tried to compel Titus (a Gentile) to be
            circumcised, which Paul refused - Ga 2:3-6; cf. Ac 15:5
         c. James, Peter, and John commended Paul for his work among the Gentiles - Ga 2:7-10
            1) Extending to him the right hand of fellowship
            2) Asking only that he remember the poor (something he was 
               careful do on his remaining missionary journeys)

      1. The speech of Peter - Ac 15:6-11
         a. How God selected him to be the first to preach to the Gentiles - cf. Ac 10:1-43
         b. How God bore witness to their acceptability by giving them the Spirit - cf. Ac 10:44-48; 11:15-18
         c. That God purified them through faith, just as He did the Jews
         d. That they should not test God, by placing a burden on the Gentiles which they themselves could not bear
         e. That God will save the Jews in the same way, through the grace of the Lord Jesus
      2. The testimony of Paul and Barnabas - Ac 15:12 
         a. How God did many miracles and wonders through them among the Gentiles
         b. Which the multitude listened to quietly
      3. The counsel of James - Ac 15:13-21
         a. Reminding them of what Simon (Peter) had just said
         b. Reminding them of the Old Testament prophecy of Amos - Amos 9:11-12
         c. Offering his judgment:
            1) Not to trouble the Gentiles who were turning to God
            2) But asking them to abstain from:
               a) Things polluted by idols (i.e., meats offered to idols)
               b) Sexual immorality
               c) Things strangled
               d) Blood 
               -- This would go a long way in keeping peace between Jewish and Gentile converts

      1. The idea pleased the apostles, elders, and the whole church - Ac 15:22a
      2. Selected to accompany Paul and Barnabas along with the letter 
         to Antioch were Judas and Silas - Ac 15:22b
      3. A copy of this letter is preserved by Luke - Ac 15:23-29
      4. In which those who caused the trouble are identified as doing 
         so without any authority from those in Jerusalem - Ac 15:24

[So the conference in Jerusalem ends on a very positive note.  But while
the issue of Gentiles was solved doctrinally, in practice it would not
be as easily resolved.  This becomes evident from what happens after...]


      1. Paul and his companions return to Antioch, and deliver the letter - Ac 15:30
      2. The multitude rejoice over its encouragement - Ac 15:31
      3. Judas and Silas exhort the brethren with many words - Ac 15:32-34
         a. Judas eventually returned to the apostles in Jerusalem
         b. Silas stayed in Antioch, later to join Paul on his travels - cf. Ac 15:40
      4. Paul and Barnabas remain in Antioch, teaching and preaching - Ac 15:35

      1. Peter comes to Antioch - Ga 2:11a
      2. Paul had to withstand Peter - Ga 2:11b-21
         a. For at first Peter would eat with the Gentiles
         b. But when some came from James, Peter separated himself, 
            fearing those who were of the circumcision (i.e., Jewish brethren)
         c. Even Barnabas was carried away by this hypocrisy
         d. Requiring Paul to rebuke Peter before them all
      3. Peter would not hold this against Paul, later referring to him as "our beloved brother Paul" - 2Pe 3:15


1. The unpleasant visit and necessary rebuke of Peter simply
   illustrates the great challenge faced  by the church in its infancy...
   a. The challenge of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant
   b. The challenge of accepting into the church those who were considered "unclean" for over a thousand years

2. But it was a challenge that was overcome, in large part due to the apostle Paul...
   a. A Hebrew of the Hebrews, but also an apostle to the Gentiles
   b. Whom God used to help bridge Jew and Gentile together
      1) To fulfill what Jesus died to accomplish on the cross
      2) To bring peace between Jew and Gentile, making one new body - cf. Ep 2:11-16

After some time in Antioch, Paul began to wonder about the brethren who
were converted on the first missionary journey (Ac 15:36).  In our next 
study, we shall survey the second missionary of Paul.

In the meantime, I hope this study reminds those who are Gentiles how
blessed we are to be able to come into the fellowship with God and His
people.  Have we let Jesus add us to His one new body, the church? - cf. Ac 2:41,47

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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An Examination of the Medical Evidence for the Physical Death of Christ by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. Brad Harrub, Ph.D.


An Examination of the Medical Evidence for the Physical Death of Christ

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
[The following article examines the crucifixion and death of Christ from a medical point of view. Because of the scientific nature of the material, readers may wish to know something concerning the educational backgrounds out of which the two authors are writing. Dr. Harrub earned his doctorate in neurobiology and anatomy at the Health Sciences Center of the College of Medicine, University of Tennessee. Dr. Thompson earned his doctorate in microbiology at Texas A&M University, where he also served for a number of years as a professor in the Department of Anatomy and Public Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and as Director of the College’s Cooperative Education Program in Biomedical Science.]
The perception of the death of Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century frequently takes place through human eyes that have been tainted with a sanitized, sterilized, and often stylized “art-deco” depiction of Christ on the cross. Today, it is exceedingly uncommon to hear a description of the medical details attending Christ’s crucifixion, yet a complete and thorough investigation into such evidence can lead to a firmer knowledge and a deeper-rooted faith about what actually transpired on that old rugged cross nearly 2,000 years ago.
Christ’s future appearance and suffering was first foretold in Genesis 3:14-15:
And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, “Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
The phrase, “He shall bruise thy head...” is the assurance that Christ will reign victorious in the end. “Thou shalt bruise his heel...” is without doubt speaking of Satan’s temporary victory over Christ at the crucifixion. While the physical aspects of crucifixion admittedly consist of considerably more than a “bruised heel,” this comparison certainly is valid when contrasted to the ultimate demise of Satan in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). Crucifixions were commonplace during the time the gospel accounts were written. Inasmuch as everyone knew about them, however, great detail was not provided in the Scriptures concerning the actual practice of crucifixion. Sadly, this omission leaves individuals living in the twenty-first century at a distinct disadvantage. How much do we really know, for example, about this ancient practice of torture and death?
Crucifixion is believed to have originated in the Persian Empire; however, Romans are given credit for perfecting it into a heinous means of inflicting death (see Shroud, 1871; DePasquale and Burch, 1963, p. 434). Romans appreciated the cruelty of crucifixion because it demonstrated three clear advantages over other means of execution. First, it was incredibly painful for the victim (so much so that the person being crucified often was rendered unconscious during the proceedings). Second, it provided a lingering death, which was much preferred for extremely vicious criminal acts. Third, it afforded a horrific deterrent for anyone contemplating a similar offense. So what did Christ actually endure in those few short hours? The discussion that follows is intended to be an exhaustive historical and medical review of the physical death ofJesus Christ. It is our hope that the information provided here will enable you to pull back the curtain of history and experience a brief glimpse of the love that Jesus possesses for humankind. We believe you will find this material not only educational, but also edifying as you contemplate the physical agony Christ suffered for each one of us.


Even as Christ was instituting the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29), His private thoughts already were centered on His impending suffering and death (Luke 22:15). Shortly thereafter, Christ and His disciples went to the Mount of Olives, into the Garden of Gethsemane. Previously, Luke had enlightened his readers about the importance of this place, stating: “And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives” (Luke 21:37). This grove of olive trees was a place to which the Lord had retreated before, and a place where He probably received a great amount of solace. However, this particular occasion at the Mount of Olives also provided the means by which His betrayer could deliver Him into the hands of the Jews who sought His death.
The name “Gethsemane” derives from the Hebrew gat shmanim, meaning “oil press” (Kollek, 1995). Not coincidentally, it was within this place that Christ would feel the crushing weight of the things yet to come—so much so that an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43). It also is significant that this is the only place in the King James Version of the Bible where the word “agony” is employed. It is because of this agony over things to come that we learn during His prayer “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Some have tried to defend the impossibility of bloody sweat. However, a thorough search of the medical literature demonstrates that such a condition, while admittedly rare, can occur.
Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis (Allen, 1967, pp. 745-747), this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress (see Sutton, 1956, pp. 1393-1394). For example, a young girl who had a terrible fear of air raids during World War I developed the condition after a gas explosion occurred in the house next door to hers (Scott, 1918). Another report details that after being threatened by sword-bearing soldiers, a Catholic nun “was so terrified that she bled from every part of her body and died of hemorrhage in the sight of her assailants” (von Grafenberg, 1585). During the waning years of the twentieth century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors: “Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes” (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile (Barbet, 1953, pp. 74-75; Lumpkin, 1978), which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.


As the night inched toward dawn, Jesus finally relented and allowed the disciples to sleep (Matthew 26:43-44; Mark 14:41). However, He found no sleep Himself prior to His betrayer’s arrival. Soon after midnight, Christ was greeted with a kiss by Judas Iscariot, who for 30 pieces of silver sold information to the chief priest pertaining to Christ’s whereabouts. The angry, armed mob seized the docile Son of God and led Him away to endure a sham of an illegal trial at the hands of corrupt Jewish authorities.


The persistent procession of physical insults began soon after His arrest. We are told that Jesus was mocked, smitten, blindfolded, and struck on the face (Luke 22:63-64). Hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah had prophesied about this very event, writing, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). It was in response to a question from the high priest that we read where Jesus was struck yet again. “And when he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ‘Answerest thou the high priest so?’ ” (John 18:22). While the exact force with which these blows were rendered is not described, it is easy to estimate that these early beatings were sufficient to incite multiple contusions, especially if Christ had suffered from hematidrosis earlier in Gethsemane.
Shortly after daybreak, Jesus was tried before Caiaphas and the political Sanhedrin (with the Pharisees and Sadducees) and found guilty of blasphemy (Matthew 27:1; Luke 22:66-71). Significantly, we never read of two witnesses coming forward with collaborating stories that would permit the death sentence to be meted out to Christ. Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were bound by Jewish law, which plainly stated: “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is to die be put to death; at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death” (Deuteronomy 17:6). The law went on to state: “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall a matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). However, we are told that at the trial
many bare false witness against him, and their witness agreed not together. And there stood up certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’ ” And not even so did their witness agree together (Mark 14:56-59).
A study of Jewish law reveals that a number of those laws were broken the night Jesus was arrested and convicted (Bucklin, 1970).
  • Arrests could not be made at night.
  • The time and date of the trial were illegal because it took place at night on the eve of the Sabbath—a time that precluded any opportunity for a required adjournment to the next day in the event of a conviction.
  • The Sanhedrin was without authority to instigate charges. It was only supposed to investigate charges that had been brought before it, but in Jesus’ trial, the court itself formulated the charges.
  • As noted earlier, the stringent requirement of two witnesses testifying in agreement to merit the death penalty had not been met.
  • The court did not meet in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin, as required by Jewish law.
  • Christ was not permitted a defense. Under existing Jewish law, an exhaustive search into the facts presented by the witnesses should have occurred—but did not.
  • The Sanhedrin itself pronounced the death sentence. During Roman captivity, however, the Sanhedrin was not allowed to impose the death sentence (John 18:31). As the Roman historian Tacitus recorded, “...the Romans reserved to themselves the right of the sword.”


The Jews were governed by Roman law, and thus did not have the power to execute Jesus. Therefore, we are told that early in the morning the Temple officials took Jesus to the Praetorium. Realizing that any charge of blasphemy was of little concern to the Romans, the charges against Him were upgraded from blasphemy to an allegation that Jesus claimed to be a king who forbade the nation to give tribute to Caesar, thereby fomenting sedition and treason (Luke 23:2). After an initial meeting with Jesus, Pilate admitted to finding no fault with Him. But instead of being restrained by Pilate’s declaration of Christ’s innocence and considering (as they should have!) whether they might be bringing the guilt of innocent blood upon themselves, the angry Jews were all the more infuriated.
Hearing that Christ was Galilean, Pilate placed Him in Herod’s jurisdiction. We know from Luke’s account, in fact, that Herod was in Jerusalem at the time (Luke 23:7). We are told that Herod was “exceedingly glad” because he “hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.” [How fitting that the poorest anonymous beggar who requested a miracle for the relief of his ailment was not denied, while this proud prince, who asked for a miracle merely to satisfy his curiosity, was denied.] Herod returned Jesus to Pilate—an act that sealed the bond of a budding new friendship: “And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day: for before they were at enmity between themselves” (Luke 23:12). Although Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, we are told that he wanted to placate the people and thus “delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified” (Mark 15:15).


The most popular means of travel in Jesus’ time were walking, boating, and riding on the backs of various animals. It is likely, therefore, that the daily rigors of His ministry, combined with His young age, ensured that the Lord was in good physical health before His walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. However, in the short span of time between the institution of the Lord’s Supper and the end of the Roman trial, Christ suffered great emotional stress (as evinced by the probable hematidrosis), abandonment by His disciples, and a physical beating after the Jewish trial. It also is important to note that Jesus was forced to walk more than 2.5 miles to and from the sites of various trials, having slept little if any the night before. All these factors would have rendered Jesus particularly vulnerable to the physiological effects of scourging.


From John’s account, we learn that Pilate had Jesus scourged and then brought Him before the Jews once again, probably in an effort to forego the execution (John 19:1-2). However, the people still demanded Christ’s death. The Greek term translated “scourging” in Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15 is the wordphragellosas, which is translated “having scourged.” The noun form is phragellion, which in Latin is translated flagellum, meaning whip or scourge. John used a word for scourge, emastigosen, the noun form of which is mastix, meaning a whip or a scourge. [It is from this word that we get our English word mastigium, which refers to an organ found in caterpillars that possess whip-like processes to keep parasites away.]
The practice of scourging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution (Hengel, 1977) because it weakened the victim through shock and blood loss. Without scourging, strong, condemned men might live on the cross for several days until exposure, wild animals, insects, or birds resulted in their death. The only allowable exemptions to this law were women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) [Barbet, 1953, p. 45]. In their critically acclaimed article, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” in the March 21, 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, William Edwards and his coauthors (of the famed Mayo Clinic) described the instrument used by the Roman soldiers for flogging as “a short whip (flagrum or flagellum) with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals” (Edwards, et al., 1986, 256:1457, parenthetical item in orig.). Ironically, this is the same type of instrument Jesus Himself used in John 2:15 when He drove the moneychangers from the Temple (although the text does not indicate whether He actually used it, or merely held it out as a symbol of authority).
To position a man for scourging, soldiers tied the victim (frequently naked) to an upright post (Barbet, 1953, p. 46) in a bent position (Vine, et al., 1996, p. 551). The common method of Jewish scourging was via the use of three thongs of leather, the offender receiving thirteen stripes on the bare breast and thirteen across each shoulder (which explains the 40 stripes less one administered to Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24). However, there was no such limit on the number of blows the Romans could deliver during a scourging, thus Christ’s flogging at their hands would have been much worse. Christ would have received repeated blows to His chest, back, buttocks, and legs by two soldiers (known as lictors), the severity of which depended mainly on the mood of the lictors at the time. Initial anterior blows undoubtedly would have opened the skin and underlying subcutaneous tissue of His chest (Davis, 1965, p. 185). Subsequent blows would have tattered the underlying pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles, as well as the medial aspects of the serratus anterior muscle (Netter, 1994, p. 174). Once these layers were ravaged, repetitive blows could fracture intercoastal ribs and shred the three layers of intercoastal muscles, causing superficial and cutaneous vessels of the chest to be lacerated. However we know that Christ did not suffer any broken bones because He was crucified in such a manner that “a bone of him shall not be broken” (John 19:36), as was foretold by earlier prophecies (cf. Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20). Therefore, at best, the exposed superior epigastric artery and vein may have been compromised, while all other major anterior vessels would have been protected behind the ribs themselves (Netter, p. 175). Edwards and his colleagues described Christ’s scourging in the following manner:
Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock (1986, 256:1457).
Figure 1
Figure 1—Artist’s rendition of a man undergoing scourging (via a flagrum) at the hand of a Roman lictor. Note the pieces of metal and/or bone imbedded in the leather flagrum.
During scourging, the victim would experience an oozing of blood from cutaneous capillaries and veins until the wounds went deep enough to cause arterial blood to spurt out rhythmically with each successive heartbeat. In many cases, scourging “was itself fatal” (Kittel, 1967, 4:517).
Blows to Christ’s back would have started in a similar fashion, with skin being torn with the initial strikes. Subsequent blows then would have resulted in the laceration of the superficial back muscles (i.e., trapezius and latissimus dorsi). Continued beatings would begin to flay into the deep erector spinae muscles (iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis) that are innervated by dorsal rami from the spinal cord (Netter, p. 133). The perforation of these muscles would have sent excruciating pain to the spinal cord and then directly to the brain. No doubt in many victims the spinous processes that extend out in a posterior fashion from each vertebrae would have splintered as a result of the harsh blows. Having the ribs intact would protect the posterior intercoastal arteries, the veins, and the intercoastal nerves. During the scourging, it would be commonplace for the lacerated skin and bloodied, underlying muscle tissue to take on the appearance (in a quite literal fashion) of “shredded meat.” Peter referred to the beating of Christ when he reminded first-century Christians that it was Jesus “by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Significantly, the term “stripes” in the original language is in the singular number, suggesting that the back of the Lord was such a mass of bleeding, bruised tissue, that it appeared as a single wound (Wuest, 1942, p. 69).
The blood loss suffered by Christ during His scourging would have been substantial, and would have resulted in a lowered blood pressure and reduced flow of blood throughout His body. If this condition persisted, hypovolemic shock would have set in (characterized by reduced blood flow to cells and tissues), which then would lead to irreversible cell and organ damage, and eventually death. Jewish law originally allowed for 40 blows (Deuteronomy 25:3), but that number later was reduced to 39 to avoid inadvertently violating the law (Barbet, 1953, p. 46). The prophet Isaiah provided a graphic description of the outward appearance of our Lord after He had undergone the scourging: “Like as many were astonished at thee (his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men)” [Isaiah 52:14]. Christ’s body was so disfigured that He almost did not appear human anymore. Yet, sadly, the worst was still to come.


In an act of pure sadistic torment, Roman soldiers placed an imitation crown on Christ’s head and mockingly bowed down to Him in reverence. But this was no ordinary crown. John 19 states:
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple garment; and they came unto him, and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and they struck him with their hands (v. 1-3).
The thorns used to form this special crown were more than a few mere briars. Botanists familiar with foliage of the Middle East have suggested that
the thorns could have come from the lote tree—the Zizyphus spina christi. This tree had thorns averaging one inch in length. It was improbable for anyone to form a wreath-like crown using these thorns without being injured. It would be more probable, therefore, that the crown of thorns was more like a helmet. In fact, it would have been easier to cut off a bush and use it as a helmet of thorns (see “Crown of Thorns,” 2001).
Unlike the traditional crown, which often is depicted in artists’ portrayals as an open ring, the actual crown of thorns probably covered His entire scalp (Lumpkin, 1978). The gospel accounts record that following His crowning, Jesus received continued blows to the head. These blows would have driven these thorns deep into the highly vascularized scalp and forehead, penetrating both the frontalis and occipitalis muscles (Netter, p. 21). Perforations of any of the numerous arterial or venous tributaries encircling the cranium—such as the frontal and parietal branch of the superficial temporal artery and vein—would have caused extensive bleeding. Additionally, branches of the superficial cutaneous nerves of the head, such as, for example, the greater occipital nerve and the auriculotemporal nerve, would have been perforated, causing indescribable pain.
The significance of Jesus bearing a scarlet robe during the course of this agonizing persecution signifies His taking on the sins of the world. Isaiah commented on the meaning of the scarlet color: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Each time Jesus was stripped or made to wear this robe, the fresh wounds would reopen and bleed, inflicting still more pain. And yet He continued on towards the cross, even though He had the power to stop the pain and agony at any given second.


The Jewish historian Josephus aptly described crucifixion, following the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 66-70, as “the most wretched of deaths” (War of the Jews, 7.203). The apostle Paul penned these beautiful words describing Christ: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Knowing that He had to continue on for humanity’s sake, a beaten and scourged Jesus began that long walk to the site of His death. Archaeological evidence strongly suggests that criminals during the time of Christ were not forced to carry an entire T-shaped cross as is commonly portrayed in art-deco jewelry or Hollywood films, but rather only the crossbeam (known as a patibulum), which would have weighed between 75 and 125 pounds. It was customary, however, for convicted criminals to carry their own cross from the scourging site to the place of crucifixion (Barbet, 1953, p. 46; Tenney, 1964, p. 286; Bromiley, 1979, 1:829). Their hands normally were tied (or even left unbound) during the procession, rather than being nailed to the patibulum. The effects of the scourging on Christ’s physical condition can be inferred from His severely weakened condition—as demonstrated by the fact that later, Simon of Cyrene would be compelled to carry the patibulum. As a bloodied Christ struggled with that crossbeam, a centurion led the procession, which usually consisted of a full Roman military guard (Barbet, 1953, p. 49; Johnson, 1978, 70:100). One of the soldiers in the procession carried a sign that later would be attached to the top of the cross, denoting the convicted man’s name and crime (Johnson, 70:100). Measurements indicate that the distance from the Praetorium to the site of Christ’s crucifixion was approximately one-third of a mile (600-650 meters) [Davis, 1965, p. 186; Bucklin, 1970; Johnson, 1978, p. 99; Edwards et al., 1986, 256:1456]. The Bible never actually mentions that Christ collapsed under that heavy load. However, consider the possibility that if His hands were tied to the crosspiece and He had fallen, Jesus would have been unable to break the fall. Researchers have speculated that falling under the weight of a crossbeam very likely would have “resulted in blunt chest trauma and a contused heart” (Ball, 1989, p. 83).
Golgotha is the common name of the location at which Christ was crucified. In Greek letters, this word represents an Aramaic word, Gulgaltha (Hebrew Gulgoleth), meaning “a skull.” The word Calvary (LatinCalvaria; English calvaria—skullcap) also means “a skull.” Calvaria (and the Greek Kranion) are equivalents for the original Golgotha. This particular area was located just outside the city on a rounded knoll that has the appearance of a bare skull. It was here, flanked by two thieves, that Christ would bear the sins of the world. The Roman guards who accompanied Him in the procession were required to stay with Him until they could substantiate His death (Bloomquist, 1964; Barbet, 1953, p. 50).
Having suffered considerable blood loss from the scourging, Jesus likely was in a dehydrated state when He finally reached the top of this small knoll. Jesus was offered two drinks at Golgotha. The first—a drugged wine (i.e., mixed with myrrh) that served as a mild analgesic to deaden some of the pain—was offered immediately upon His arrival (Shroud, 1871; Davis, 1965, p. 186). However, after having tasted it, Christ refused the concoction. He chose to face death with a clear mind so He could conquer it willfully as He submitted Himself to the cruelty of the cross. “And when they came to a place called Golgotha, they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it” (Matthew 27:33-34). This particular drink was intended to dull the pain in preparation for the next step of crucifixion—the nailing of the hands and feet. Thus, it would have been around this time that a battered, bleeding Jesus was thrown to the ground and nailed to the cross. [We will discuss later in this article the second drink offered to Christ.]

Nailing the Hands

Were the gentle hands and feet of Christ truly pierced, or did ropes simply lash them to the cross? Ossuary findings document the fact that nailing was the preferred Roman practice (Haas, 1970; Tzaferis, 1970; Bromiley, 1979, 1:829; Edwards, et al., 1986, 256:1459). Additionally, researchers have discovered a Jewish ossuary—bearing the Hebrew inscription “Jehohanan the son of HGQWL”—that contained a seven-inch spike piercing the remains of two heel bones, with a piece of olive wood at the point (Haas, 1970). Luke recorded for us Christ’s invitation to examine His hands and feet (Luke 24:39), which indicates the wounds Christ suffered were ones that could be identified easily. John’s written account is even more telling, as we learn that Thomas, one of the disciples, stated: “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Clearly, from the text we see that Christ’s hands and feet were nailed to the cross. Archaeological data indicate that the specific nails used during the time of Christ’s crucifixion were tapered iron spikes five to seven inches long with a square shaft approximately three-eighths of an inch across (Haas, 1970; Tzaferis, 1970; Clements, 1992, p. 108). Various studies have demonstrated that the bony palms cannot support the weight of a body hanging from them (e.g., Barbet, 1953). The weight of the body would tear quite easily through the lumbricals and flexor tendons—breaking the metacarpal bones as the nails pulled free—allowing the body to fall to the Earth. However, in ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand (Barbet, 1953, p. 106; Davis, 1965, p. 184; Major, 1999, 19:86). At the base of the wrist bones, the strong fibrous band of the flexor retinaculum binds down the flexor tendons. Iron spikes driven through the flexor retinaculum easily could have passed between bony elements and held the weight of a man. This location would require that the nail be placed through either: (1) the space between the radius and carpal bones (lunate and scaphoid bones); or (2) between the two rows of carpal bones (Barbet, 1953, p. 106; DePasquale and Burch, 1963, p. 434; Lumpkin, 1978; Netter, 1994, p. 426).
A spike driven through this location, however, almost certainly would cause the median nerve or peripheral branches to be pierced (see Figure 2), resulting in a condition known as causalgia. The median nerve is a major nerve that passes directly through the midline of the wrist and services all but one-and-one-half of the muscles in the anterior portion of the forearm. It passes directly under the flexor retinaculum of the wrist as it supplies motor innervation to the three thenar (thumb) muscles and the first and second lumbrical muscles. This large nerve also provides sensory innervation to the palm, as well as to digits two and three in the hand. Any damage to this nerve would have caused extraordinary pain to radiate up the arm, then through the axilla, to the spinal cord, and finally to the brain. Primary arteries travel on the medial and lateral aspects of the wrist, and therefore would be spared if the spike had been driven into this location. [Scientific studies—using volunteer college students—have shown that people suspended from crosses with their arms outstretched in the traditional manner depicted in religious art have little problem breathing (Zugibe, 1984, p. 9). Thus, the oft’-quoted idea that death on the cross results from asphyxiation would be a factor only if the hands were nailed in an elevated fashion above the head of the victim.] And so, with His hands firmly nailed to the cross and His back bleeding and emaciated, Christ was hoisted onto the rough-hewn, upright stake.
Figure 1
Figure 2—Artist’s rendition of crucifixion nail. Note the piercing of the median nerve in the midline of the wrist.

Nailing the Feet

The pain Christ must have experienced up to this point would have been excruciating, and yet the Roman soldiers were about to deliver even more. There were many ways to nail the feet to the stipes, but most required the knees to be flexed and rotated laterally. It is likely that the spikes were driven through either the: (1) tarsometatarsal joint (between the metatarsal bones and cuneiform bones); or (2) the transverse tarsal joint (between the calcaneus and cuboid or navicular bones). While this placement undoubtedly would prevent the bones of Christ’s feet from breaking, it nevertheless would cause severe injury to the deep peroneal nerve or lateral plantar nerve (and artery), and certainly would pierce the quadratus plantae muscle (Netter, 1994, p. 509).
It would not be uncommon by this time for insects to burrow into open wounds or orifices (such as the nose, mouth, ears, and eyes) of a crucified victim; additionally birds of prey frequently were known to feed off the tattered wounds (Cooper, 1883). It was in this position, with His precious blood seeping down the cross, that Christ uttered the amazing statement: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Breathing on the Cross

Even though blood poured from His lacerated back, one major pathophysiological impairment Jesus faced during crucifixion was normal respiration (i.e., breathing). Maximum inhalation would have been possible only when the body weight was supported by the nailed wrists of the outstretched arms. When Christ first was lifted onto the splinter-covered surface of the cross, His arms and body were stretched out in the form of a “Y.” A momentary “T” position would be required to allow proper support for inhalation. Thus, in order to breathe He was required to lift His body using His nailed wrists for leverage. Exhalation would be impossible in this position, and the immense pain placed on the wrists quickly would become too great; therefore, Christ would have to slump back into a “Y” position to exhale. Jesus would be forced to continue alternating between the “Y” and “T” positions with every breath, trying all the while not to reopen the wounds He had received from the scourging. Fatigued muscles eventually would begin to spasm, and Christ would become exhausted from these repeated tasks, slumping permanently into the shape of a “Y.” In this position, chest and respiratory muscles soon would become paralyzed from the increased strain and pain. Without strength for breath, Christ’s body would begin to suffer from asphyxia.

The True Passover Lamb

The agony that Christ would experience on the cross was foretold in Psalm 22:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou answerest not; And in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘Commit thyself unto Jehovah; Let him deliver him: Let him rescue him, seeing he delighteth in him.’ I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; And thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: A company of evil-doers has enclosed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I may count all my bones; They look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, And upon my vesture do they cast lots.”
As insects and dogs circled, and as passersby spat on Him, Christ—with blood dripping from the open wounds on His back and nail holes in His hands and feet—shouldered the sins of the world. As exposed nerves exploded into unbearable pain with each movement, and as His internal organs began failing due to a lack of sufficient oxygen, for the first and only time in His life, Jesus found Himself separated from His Father. Matthew 27:46 describes His anguish: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ” This was the first time in His life, so far as Scripture records, that Jesus did not address God as His Father. Isaiah 59:2 informs us of that separation, and the reason that God had to turn His face from His sin-laden Son: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
The second drink that Jesus was offered on the cross came after this plaintive cry. He accepted this potion, which consisted of wine vinegar, just moments before His death.
After this Jesus, knowing that all things are now finished, that the scripture might be accomplished, saith, “I thirst.” There was set there a vessel full of vinegar: so they put a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop, and brought it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit (John 19:28).
Interestingly, this drink was delivered using the stalk of a hyssop plant. Recall that the crucifixion took place around the Feast of the Passover. In describing the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12:22-23, Moses told the children of Israel to “take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning.” It is worth mentioning that at Christ’s crucifixion, this hyssop stalk pointed to the blood of the Perfect Lamb, which was shed for the salvation of all mankind.

Piercing Christ’s Side

While death on the cross may have been caused by any number of factors, and likely would have varied with each individual case, the two seemingly most prominent causes of death probably were hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia (DePasquale, 1963; Davis, 1965). Others have proposed dehydration, cardiac arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure with the rapid accumulation of pericardial and pleural effusions as possible contributing factors (Lumpkin 1978; Clements, 1992, pp. 108-109;). The ability of Christ to cry out with a loud voice indicates that asphyxia was probably not the major causative factor.
The finality of death upon the cross often was accomplished by the breaking of the legs of the victims, which caused still more traumatic shock and prevented an individual from pushing up in order to fully respire. In an effort to get the bodies off the crosses before the Sabbath day,
the soldiers therefore came, and brake 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 brake not his legs: howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water (John 19:32-34).
Much speculation has centered on the exact location of the puncture wound and thus the source of the resulting blood and water. However, the Greek word (pleura) that John used clearly denotes the area of the intercoastal ribs that cover the lungs (Netter, 1994, p. 184). Given the upward angle of the spear, and the thoracic location of the wound, abdominal organs can be ruled out as having provided the blood and water.
A more likely scenario would suggest that the piercing affected a lung (along with any built-up fluid), the pericardial sac surrounding the heart, the right atrium of the heart itself, the pulmonary vessels, and/or the aorta. Since John did not describe the specific side of the body on which the wound was inflicted, we can only speculate about which structures might have been impaled by such a vicious act. However, the blood could have resulted from the heart, the aorta, or any of the pulmonary vessels. Water probably was provided by pleural or pericardial fluids (that surround the lungs and heart).


It is with both medical and biblical certainty that we know Christ died upon the cross at Calvary. He was laid in a tomb with nail wounds in His hands and feet, and still possessed those scars following His resurrection. The extreme physical insults to Christ’s body left Him ragged, torn, bleeding, and tormented with pain. Yet He endured willingly all the agony and torment of the cross for each one of us. As Paul wrote:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-16).
We would do well to heed the advice of the writer of the book of Hebrews, who said:
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (12:2).
Oh, the overwhelming love that God showed each one of us when He allowed His only begotten Son to suffer that excruciating (Latin, excruciates, or “out of the cross”) pain and agony—for our sake!


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