Pectoral Muscles - Role in Crucifixion

Pectoral Muscles Visual Arts STEM Medicine Tragedies and Triumphs

The Romans had a preferred method of execution. It was known as crucifixion, which meant that executioners would either hang a person on a cross or nail the prisoner to the cross.

People who were crucified would usually not die quickly.  That was part of the plan—to ensure that torture was part of the prisoner's end-of-life experience.

One part of the body impacted by crucifixion was the prisoner's pectoral muscles—depicted in this image.  The late Dr. C. Truman Davis tells us what would happen to the pectorals while a crucified prisoner was still alive:

... as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.

With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled.  (Dr. Davis, quoted in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, at page 186.)

Click on the image for a clearer view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 10, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Dec 10, 2016

Media Credits

Image of pectoral muscle location, online courtesy Wikimedia Commons.




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"Pectoral Muscles - Role in Crucifixion" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 10, 2016. Dec 18, 2018.
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