The last miracle: did Jesus survive being crucified?

More Christ the dreamer than redeemer: doctor claims the Son of God didn’t die on the cross, he passed out

Per Lav Madsen, a senior doctor and registrar at Rigshospitalet, believes that Jesus wasn’t dead when he was taken down from the cross. 

Yes, you heard that right: 2,000 years after the death of somebody many non-believers dispute the very existence of, a doctor is speculating on the nature of his death, if indeed he has ever died.

Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper reported that Madsen thinks that many of the conventional theories concerning Jesus’s death lack evidence from a physiological circulation standpoint. Madsen, who has researched what happens to the body’s circulation when one gets up from lying in a horizontal position, said his suggestion wasn't meant to shock.

“I’m not looking to offend anyone, but I don’t think that Jesus was necessarily dead when he was taken off the crucifixion cross,” Madsen told Kristeligt Dagblad. “His resurrection could be a sign that he woke up after passing out.”

Two of the more prevailing theories in history about how Jesus died involve suffocation and blood loss. In 1953, Dr Pierre Barbet revealed his theory that the position and angle of the cross slowly suffocated Jesus, while 25 years later on, Dr Frederick T. Zugibe contended that Jesus had succumbed to blood loss from wounds sustained before the crucifixion.

Madsen believes that his research proves that crucifixion victims most often passed out because they were forced to keep still while remaining upright.

“We have done some experiments in which we tilt people in order to investigate the flow of oxygen to the brain and heart. And the tests showed that if 100 people are tilted at a 50-degree angle, 90 of them will pass out within an hour if they can’t use their legs,” Madsen said.

Madsen referred to the queen’s guards who stand still and upright for long periods of time and are told to ”walk in their boots” so as to avoid passing out.

Aside from the terrible pain that Jesus endured during the whipping and crucifixion, the forced upright position on the cross would have made Jesus nauseous, dizzy and lose consciousness, Madsen maintained.

“It is possible that he was killed by a soldier, who according to the Gospel of John, checked if Jesus was dead with a spear. But it is also possible that he passed out, was taken off the cross and placed in the tomb without being dead,” Madsen said.

The latter theory would be particularly miraculous given that there are no records of this ever happening before. In one case, cited by Ist century historian Titus Flavius Josephus, three men were pardoned and taken down, after which two died due to the injuries sustained on the cross.

Dr Niels Svensson, the author of the book 'Det sande ansigt om ligklædet i Torino’ (the true face behind the shroud of Turin), does not agree with Madsen’s theory.

“Per Lav Madsen is simply describing low blood pressure in an upright position because the blood is collected in the legs. Many people are familiar with standing still in a queue for a long time without moving and then feeling poorly,” Svensson told Kristeligt Dagblad. “Orthostatic hypotension was probably a minor factor, but certainly not the only one.”

But Madsen stands by his theory, pointing to the Gospels' description that Jesus was resurrected on the third day, something that echoes old Jewish scriptures.

“The number three is a magical number and it could have been added at a later time. The historical Jesus could very well have resurrected right after coming off the cross, or woke up after passing out if you ask me,” Madsen said.

Madsen’s theory is in some ways not groundbreaking, as other scientists and researchers have mentioned the possibility that Jesus was not dead when he was taken from the cross.

“The idea that Jesus was just unconscious is not a new theory, and you can see traces of it all the way back to the New Testament,” Morten Hørning Jensen, a lecturer at the theological faculty at Aarhus University, told Kristeligt Dagblad. “But that theory has never caught on.”

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