If Jesus did not bleed to death, then he could not have taken away our sins

Monday Musings for December 02, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

What I like about today’s question is that it makes me look at Jesus’ sacrifice physiologically... and that’s something I don’t often do. When I contemplate Jesus’ death, my mind usually goes to the theological implications — first, for me — and then, for the whole world... but only rarely does it go to the bodily particulars of Jesus’ suffering. But today is different. Today I’m wondering, how did the nails feel? How much blood was there? Did Jesus suffocate? ... and what was that like?

Most physicians and commentators on the crucifixion would say that Jesus did not bleed to death. Instead, he likely suffocated to death... because that’s how most crucifixion victims died. Yet, the biblical phrasing about his sacrifice is decidedly bloody... and asphyxiation never gets a mention.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7, NIV)

That being said, few believers would argue with the generic saying that Jesus died to take away our sins. After all, the fact that he died is a critical component of our redemption. But if we sent a medical examiner back in time, would he find that Jesus died differently than did most crucifixion victims? Would he find that Jesus died of exsanguination and not of asphyxiation?

Some Christians say that for redemption to occur, Jesus had to bleed to death for us. I don’t agree... although, with nails driven through his hands and his feet, there would surely be some blood. But there are five reasons why I believe Jesus did not bleed to death... and of course, I’ll share them with you here.

First, items that impale people tend to stop the bleeding after they cause it. This is why EMTs stabilize such items. They never remove such items before transporting the victim to a hospital... and the nails stayed in Jesus' hands and feet until he died.

Second, our blood clots. This is so it will not flow out endlessly through the cuts or lacerations that we all get from time to time. Now, Jesus took on human form. So, the blood coursing through his veins was designed by God to escape through his wounds for a while... but not continuously.

Third, hands and feet are extremities. As such, they do not contain main blood vessels like the aorta or the carotid. If those were pieced, then death would come in seconds! But when God designed us, he put the critical vessels in our core, not out in our extremities. It’s like he knew that the things that stick out will take the occasional ding.

Fourth, the Romans wanted certain criminals to die a slow and humiliating death. This is why they crucified them. Death by exsanguination would have been too quick — and they didn’t want people who were hung on a cross to die quickly. As such, Roman soldiers were experts at placing the nails in such a way that the victims would not bleed out.

Fifth — and most importantly — Jesus did not bleed to death because he didn’t have to. My opponents say that, if Jesus did not die by bleeding, then he could not have taken away our sins. But I say, where in the Bible does it say that? Who says that biblical antitypes (like Jesus’ death) have to conform to the biblical types (like the animal sacrifices) in every detail? No one. But that’s what they are insisting upon.

In symbolism, the author decides which aspect of a relationship to connect via the symbol. He is under no obligation — be it syntactical, epistemological or hermeneutical — to connect them at every point... and a person who insists that we must do just that does not understand how flexible — and, therefore, how useful — symbolism is.

To put a face on it — and sorry, PETA — the sacrificial animals in the Old Testament did indeed die by exsanguination. In fact, the priests had to deal with the blood as part of their rituals. But this doesn’t mean that Jesus had to die by exsanguination... just like the animals.

So, where are we? The cause of Jesus’ death does not matter. What matters is that he did indeed die... and that he did indeed bleed. It just doesn’t matter if he died by bleeding.

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