Huggins lecture explains physiology of crucifixion

By Brooklin Byrd
Guest Writer

Just in time for the Easter season, a biology professor provided an eye-opening perspective on the horrors of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ from a physiological standpoint March 19 in the Bowld Student Commons.

James Huggins, university professor of biology, said the Romans took the Persian idea of crucifixion to a new level.

“They really made an art out of crucifixion,” he said, adding that the goal was to prolong the pain for as long as possible, an act that required an extensive knowledge of the human body.

A crown of thorns was hammered into Jesus’ head. He was beaten mercilessly with whips with glass, metal, and other sharp objects intertwined within the leather.

Then he was covered in a purple robe so that people could ridicule Him, and just as the blood began to clot against the robe, the robe was torn away, opening the wounds again.

Huggins pointed out that a popular misconception is that Jesus was nailed to the cross through His palms.

However, it was possible to pull free from the cross with this form of bondage, so it was more likely that the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross through his wrist, aiming for the carpal tunnel where an important nerve runs to the hand — and through which escape is impossible.

The Romans aimed for nerves when nailing people to the cross so that continuous impulses of crippling pain were sent to the brain.

“They wanted to hit that nerve because it would just continue to send bands of pain up, just shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting if they could hit that median nerve,” Huggins said.

When slumped against the cross, breathing in was possible, but breathing out was impossible, because the person who was being crucified was forced to pull himself up to let out air.

However, once the person pulled up, it was impossible to breathe in, so he was forced to slump again.

This process was taxing on arm and leg muscles, and eventually the person would be unable to continue these motions and would die of asphyxiation.

Sometimes people on the cross bled to death or died because their blood pressure was too low; thus not enough oxygen was carried throughout the body. At other times dehydration, congestive heart failure due to fluid buildup around the lungs, arrhythmia, heart attack, or blood clots could occur and lead to death.

The crucifixion of Jesus lasted from around nine in the morning to three in the afternoon, the hour that the Passover lambs were to have been sacrificed.

Cara Nance, sophomore cell and molecular biology major, said the lecture allowed her to develop a greater appreciation for the suffering Christ endured.

“It was good just to dwell for a while on all the implications of the physical death that Christ died on the cross,” she said. “It really helped me to see — just a reminder that we follow the God who came and dwelt among us and felt our pain and went to the place where we couldn’t go for ourselves.

“It helps us to remember that Jesus is a real person and that He bled blood for us.”

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