Pericardium and Its Role in a Crucifixion

Pericardium Medicine STEM Visual Arts

The thin sac which encloses a human's heart is called the "pericardium." It is depicted in this drawing.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health) tells us more about the pericardium and its function:

The pericardium is a thin double-layered sac which encloses the heart. Fluid is contained within the layers and lubricates the constantly rubbing surfaces.

The pericardium played a role in the story of Jesus' death. He was crucified—a preferred way for Roman officials to execute condemned people—just outside the city of Jerusalem.

To verify that Jesus had died, a Roman soldier put his spear through Jesus’ chest. In so doing, he would have pierced the pericardium. 

The Biblical account tells us that watery fluid came out of the wound the soldier had just made. That tells us something about the immediate cause of death:

...there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart.

This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.  (Dean H. Harvey, quoting Dr. C. Davis Truman's medical explanation of the crucifixion of Jesus, at page 38 of Ransom.)

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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, described above, online courtesy The U.S. National Library of Medicine.


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"Pericardium and Its Role in a Crucifixion" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 10, 2016. Dec 15, 2018.
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