There are reasonable doubts about each of the major wounds allegedly inflicted upon Jesus. This in turn leads to reasonable doubt about the claim that Jesus died on the cross on the same day that he was crucified.
Because the occurrence of each alleged major wound significantly increases the probability that Jesus died on the cross on the same day he was crucified, the non-occurrence of each major wound significantly decreases the probability that Jesus died on the cross on the same day he was crucified.
But we don’t have certain knowledge on any of these claims about the major wounds/injuries allegedly suffered by Jesus, so a rational approach is to examine the evidence and it’s quality and make a probability assessment for each claim about an alleged major wound or injury. Once we have assigned an estimated probability to each claim about an alleged major wound or injury, then we can attempt to draw some general conclusions about the probability that Jesus died on the cross on the same day that he was crucified.
In the last post I argued for reasonable doubts about the Doubting Thomas story, which contains the only explicit reference in the Gospels to the use of nails in the crucifixion of Jesus. Because there are good reasons to doubt the historicity and the historical reliability of the Doubting Thomas story, and because the use of ropes to attach victims to crosses was more common than the use of nails, there is reasonable doubt about the following assumption:
HAF = On Friday of Passover week, just before the first Easter Sunday, Jesus’ hands and feet were nailed to a cross.
Because the Gospel evidence for HAF is weak and questionable, I would only bump up the probability of HAF a little bit more than what background information suggests.
On the basis of background information only, I would estimate the probability that nails were not used at all in Jesus’ crucifixion to be .6 (six chances in ten), and thus the probability that nails were used would be .4 (four chances in ten). But even if nails were used, they might not have been used to secure Jesus’ arms/hands and also his legs/feet. There is a significant chance that nails were only used to secure his arms/hands and not his legs/feet, and there is a significant chance that nails were used to secure his legs/feet but not his arms/hands. Thus, on the basis of background information only, I would estimate the probability of HAF to be about .2 (two chances in ten). Since there is some (weak and dubious) evidence for the use of nails in the crucifixion of Jesus, I will bump this estimate up a little, to .3 (three chances in ten).
Another significant alleged injury of Jesus is also mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel:
DSW = On Friday of Passover week, just before the first Easter Sunday, Jesus received a deep spear wound to his chest (i.e. the tip of the spear penetrated at least 3” deep, measured perpendicular to the surface where the spear entered his chest).
Part of the evidence for this event is the Doubting Thomas story, which I have previously shown to be of dubious historicity. The second bit of Gospel evidence for this event is the description of the crucifixion in the Fourth Gospel. I have already given a number of reasons to doubt the reliability of the Fourth Gospel, so in the next post I will focus on more specific problems with the account of the crucifixion given in the Fourth Gospel.
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