Yet, Strauss’ most convincing point concerned Jesus’ condition upon reaching his disciples. Very few would doubt that he would be in sad physical shape, limping badly, bleeding, pale and clutching his side. He would obviously be in need of physical assistance and, at any rate, would not appear to be the resurrected and glorified Lord of Life! As Strauss pointed out, the disciples would have gone for a doctor’s help rather than proclaim Jesus the risen Son of God! Strauss asserted that even if the swoon theory was conceivable, it still could not account for the disciples’ belief in the risen Jesus. Since they did proclaim him to be the resurrected and glorified Lord, the swoon theory is not able to account for the facts.^13
Shortly after the turn of the century, Schweitzer referred to Strauss’ critique as the “death-blow” to such rationalistic approaches.^14 After Strauss’ views were circulated, the liberal “lives of Jesus” usually shunned the swoon theory.^15 By the early twentieth century, other critical scholars proclaimed this theory to be nothing more than a historical curiosity of the past. Even critics no longer considered it to be a viable hypothesis.^16
2.Death by asphyxiation
Modern medical research has leveled at least two additional critiques against the swoon theory. First, crucifixion is essentially death by asphyxiation, as the intercostal and pectoral muscles around the lungs halt normal breathing while the
13 David Strauss, A New Life of Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 408–412.
14 Schweitzer, Quest, pp. 56–67.
15 Ibid., cf. pp. 161–166 with 166–179, for example.
16 Eduard Riggenbach, The Resurrection of Jesus(New York: Eaton and Mains, 1907), pp. 48–49; James Orr, The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 92.
body hangs in the “down” position. Therefore, faking death on the cross still would not permit one to breathe; one cannot fake the inability to breathe for any length of time. Breaking the victim’s ankles insured death even quicker, since the person could not push up in order to free the lungs for breathing. The Romans were knowledgeable in these matters, as indicated by the broken leg bones of a first century crucifixion victim whose skeleton was recently discovered (see Chapter 8 for details). Since Jesus’ ankles were not broken, we have the Roman’s assurance that he was previously dead. Otherwise, this method would have killed him. Either way, the end result of Jesus’ death is very probable.