A retired neurologist who became a priest claims to have solved an age-old debate about how Jesus died. The Rev. Prof Pullicino, based in London, has written a scientific paper about his theory which has been published in the Catholic Medical Quarterly and attracted world-wide interest.
Jesus, says Pullicino, died from fatal bleeding after dislocating his shoulder while carrying the cross to his crucifixion.
The Bible tells how Jesus fell while carrying the cross. Later his side was pierced by a Roman soldier’s spear, causing ‘blood and water’ to shoot out.
Many scholars agree that Jesus probably dislocated his right shoulder when he fell carrying the cross but Patrick Pullicino believes that he may have ultimately have died from complexities linked to this wound.
The Turin Shroud
Pullicino also believes he can explain the story in the Gospel of John that ‘blood and water’ poured from Christ’s crucified body.
He analysed studies by forensic and medical experts on the Shroud of Turin, also known as the Holy Shroud, within which some believe Jesus was wrapped after the crucifixion.
For centuries there have been arguments about the authenticity of the shroud, which since 1578 has been preserved in the royal chapel of the cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin, Italy.
The shroud bears the faint image of a man whose body appears to have nail wounds to the wrists and feet. Some believe it to be an image of Jesus of Nazareth. Others, however, regard it as an elaborate forgery.
In 1988, radiocarbon tests on samples of the shroud dated the cloth to the Middle Ages, between 1260 and 1390. However, more recent studies in the 2010s challenge the forgery claim, and instead believe that the linen sheet dates from the time of Jesus.
Dislocated Shoulder Theory
Looking at the imprint on the shroud, which appears to show a figure bearing the wounds of crucifixion, Pullicino said the position of the man’s dislocated shoulder was significant. He said it was pulled so far out of its socket that the right hand stretches 4 inches (10cm) lower than the left.
When stretched out for crucifixion like this, Pullicino argues, it would cause the subclavian artery – a pair of large arteries in the thorax that supply blood to the head, neck, shoulder and arms – to rupture which would result in huge internal bleeding and ultimately death.
Around three pints of blood would fill the cavity between the ribcage and the lung, which he argues explains why blood spurted out of Jesus when he was stabbed with the spear.
The ‘water’, Pullicino claims, was possibly cerebrospinal fluid, which has a translucent appearance.
‘Because of this right arm stretching, the right subclavian/axillary artery was also subjected to stretch, as it was one of the only remaining intact structures connecting the body and the right arm,’ he said.
‘Transferring of body weight to the arms in inspiration is likely to have caused further stretching of the right subclavian artery. Transferring weight to the legs in exhalation would reverse this stretch.
‘This would cause the stretched subclavian artery to move across the rib surface with each breath and its underside would be subject to friction.
‘This paper postulates that over the course of three hours, the subclavian artery became abraded, injured and its wall attenuated until finally the artery ruptured and profuse bleeding ensued.’