Israeli Doctor: Clot May Have Killed Jesus

Israeli Doctor: Clot May Have Killed Jesus (AP)

Jesus may have died from a blood clot that reached his lungs, an Israeli physician said Wednesday, challenging the popular conception that he died of asphyxiation and blood loss during his crucifixion. Dr. Benjamin Brenner, a researcher at the Rambam Medical Center in the Israeli port city of Haifa, said he was publicizing his theory to raise awareness pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal disorder often associated with long-distance air travel. However, the author of an earlier in-depth medical report into the cause of Jesus’ death dismissed the theory, and Bible scholars said that while establishing the physical cause of Jesus’ death was interesting, it ignored the spiritual dimension.

“It is known that the common cause of death in the setting of multiple trauma, immobilization and dehydration is pulmonary embolism,” wrote Brenner in Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. “This fits well with Jesus’ condition and actually was in all likelihood the major cause of death of crucified victims.” A pulmonary embolism is caused when a blood clot travels to the lungs, usually from the leg, causing an acute shortness of breath and chest pains. It is frequently fatal.

Brenner based his understanding of Jesus’ condition at the time of his death on a 1986 work based on the New Testament and contemporary religious sources that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That paper found that before his crucifixion, Jesus went 12 hours without food or water, was under emotional stress, was beaten and forced to walk to the crucifixion site carrying the heavy cross beam of the cross on which he was crucified. He also was scourged before being nailed to the cross, leading to some blood loss.


But Dr. William D. Edwards, who co-authored the original paper, dismissed Brenner’s theory, saying he was well aware of the effects of pulmonary embolisms at the time. “We didn’t list it in our article because we didn’t consider it a likely cause,” Edwards said, replying to questions by e-mail from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Jesus was on the cross for only six hours. It seems unlikely that a large deep leg vein thrombus could develop and cause fatal pulmonary embolization in that short time,” he said in a letter published in the journal. He said he wanted to raise awareness of the condition.

Interesting speculation, to be sure. Of course, assessing the cause of death of a patient who’s been dead for nearly 2000 years is problematic, to say the least. I think we can safely say, however, that Jesus did not die from complications resulting from long-distance air travel.

FILED UNDER: Health, Religion
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brian J. says:

    And to think, the post-millenia post-mortem uncovered that Jesus died of the thing the doctor is promoting!

    Talk about luck!