On the Physical Death of Jesus

William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,”  Journal of the American Medical Association 255.11 (Mar 21, 1986): 1455-63 (HT: Justin Taylor).

Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross. 

This is useful on multiple fronts. Theologically it is a reminder that our Lord was like us in every respect, sin excepted (Heb 4). He was (and remains) truly human. We have a true human and truly righteous substitute as our Savior.  Apologetically it is obviously useful as a rebuke to the gnostics and dualists, (Marcion, Manichaeans, Cathars/Albigenses/Bogomils, docetic Anabaptists with their doctrine of Christ’s “celestial flesh,” and those contemporary Pentecostal sects that downplay Jesus’ true humanity). It is a powerful reply to the ancient lie of the Pharisees and rabbis and Muslims (from where do you think Mohammed learned the “swoon theory”?) who deny that Jesus actually died. 

We confess:

40. Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer “death”?

Because the justice and truth of God required, that satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other way than by the death of the Son of God.

41. Why was He “buried”?

To show thereby that He was really dead.

42. Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?

Our death is not a satisfaction for our sin, but only a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.

This essay work is also a reminder that our faith is grounded in God’s historical saving actions in history. The ground of our faith is not, first of all, our private, personal religious experience, however valuable that may be. The ground of our faith is the reality and factuality of Christ’s obedience, death, resurrection, and ascension. The Christ who speaks to us in the gospel and sacraments is the same Christ who suffered the things chronicled in God’s Word.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!