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The wounds in Christ's hands - Is there a conflict between the Bible and historical evidence?

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posted on Oct, 27 2004 @ 04:28 PM
After watching 'Passion of the Christ' and reading various accounts (including threads made here in ATS) I see that there are conflicting ideas about the crucifixion - especially where the nails were driven during the crucifixion of Christ (palms or wrists) so decided to do a bit of research to try to get to the bottom of it.

The conflict occurs due to this quote from John's gospel, in which Jesus makes reference to his hands.

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God

John, Chapter 20: 24-28

From this, one can see that the obvious answer is 'Christ was crucified by having the nails driven into his hands' and indeed, most pictures and statues of Jesus do show the wounds as being in his palms.

The problem comes when you realise that if someone is hung up by nails thrust through their palms, the skin will tear, releasing the victim. That obviously didn't happen during crucifixion - the Romans would never have been so inefficient as to design a method of execution that didn't work. Also to the Greeks, the meaning of 'Hands' includes the wrist.

It is more likely that the nails went through Jesus’ wrists. If the nails were driven into the hand, the weight of the arms would cause the nail to rip through the soft flesh ... If placed in the wrist, the bones in the lower portion of the hand support the weight of the arms and the body remains nailed to the cross.

The Science of the Crucifixion

Logical - but there's a problem. Archaeologists have discovered the skeleton of a victim of crucifixion with a nail embedded in the ankle bones. (The knees were flexed at approximately 90 degrees with the weight of the body pushing down on the nails and the ankles supporting the weight). However, the wrists of this man were undamaged. His skeleton is the only one so far found bearing evidence of crucifixion. See: The Crucified Man from Giv'At Ha-Mivtar

So was Mel Gibson right ? Was Jesus tied to the cross after having the nails driven through his palms ?

According to WordIQ "For the sake of expediency, the victim was probably affixed to the cross by ropes, nails, or some combination of the two.

Actually, it is probably that the Romans varied the method used to crucify people depending on the materials at hand. According to, wood was a scarce commodity around Jerusalem at the time of Christ's crucifixion, so the 'crosses' may well have been used more than once.

The site continues:

We know from Josephus that during the first century C.E. wood was so scarce around Jerusalem that the Romans were forced to travel ten miles outside the city to secure timber for their siege machinery (War 5.522-23). From this one account we can reasonably assume that the scarcity of wood may have affected the economics of crucifixion, so that the horizontal bar as well as the vertical beam may have been used repeatedly.

With this collection of evidence, we can say that at times the Romans nailed their victims through the wrists, sometimes through the palms (using ropes to ensure their security) and sometimes just used ropes. The effect would be the same no matter the manner used - the victim would die in agony.

Re-reading the quote from John's gospel with this new information makes the whole thing more understandable. Jesus' description of his hands, includes his wrists. The wounds could therefore be either in his palms or his wrists, which were considered as part of his hands by the writers of the New Testament. So there is no conflict between Biblical accounts and historical evidence.

Finally, and purely out of interest, the Shroud of Turin - thought to be either the burial cloth of Jesus or a mediaeval forgery depending on whose account you listen to - shows a large puncture wound which could have been caused by impalement by a large nail. It is on the wrist.

[Edited on 27-10-2004 by Pisky]

posted on Oct, 27 2004 @ 06:50 PM
In regards to nail placement:

As you pointed out, the hand includes the wrist so placement is just a matter of minor details.

But, there is also a theory saying that the nails entered the palm at an angle and exited in the wrist. This would supply the support needed while allowing for the entry through the palm.

A 2 second google search turned up this quote:

Another possibility, suggested by Frederick Zugibe, is that the nails may have been driven in on an angle, entering in the palm in the crease that delineates the bulky region at the base of the thumb, and exiting in the wrist, passing through the carpal tunnel.

From this site.

A 10 second google search turned up this site which is an medical perspective revisting Pierre Barbet's theories of the shroud of turin by Dr. Zugibe.

As far as the shroud is concerned, I recently saw a documentary that covered "means, opportunity, and motive". It was enough to convince me it is likely the world's first photograph created by Leonardo DeVinci.

The duplication experiment in the documentry gave a very impressive replication of the shroud's properties, including but not limited to the "photographic negative" images. Furthermore, Leonardo definately had the anatomical knowledge of the human body to properly determine where nails would have had to been placed to support the weight of the body.

Of course, I still maintain an open mind concerning the shroud. After all one cannot really exclude the possibilty that an item that was "bathed in holy light" would have its physical properties altered in some way. (image left, carbon 14, etc.

posted on Nov, 2 2004 @ 03:02 AM
there is also some evidence that it was common practice to tie the arms to
the cross beam. if this was the case the hands would then not be load bearing.

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