In what is likely the ultimate "Cold Case File," a researcher in Haifa may have figured out the cause of Jesus' death.
Professor Benjamin Brenner, a Technion Medical School and Rambam Medical Center hematology expert, said the problem was not blood loss, but a blood clot that likely traveled to Jesus' lungs.
"That Jesus was put on the cross on Friday before noontime and died only three to six hours later leads me to believe he did not die from crucifixion and blood loss alone," Brenner said. The blood clot, or pulmonary embolism, "would be a common result from the physical and psychological adversity Jesus underwent during his final day."
Brenner relied on descriptions of the events of Jesus' death from the Christian Bible as well as Jewish and Roman sources. His findings were published last week in the online edition of the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.
Brenner believes that Jesus' Jewish heritage may have provided additional, inherited risk factors that made him more susceptible to blood clots. Two clot-related genetic mutations, "Factor V Leiden" and "Prothrombin 20120," are common in Israel, especially in the Galilee, the boyhood home of Jesus, according to Christian tradition.
Matters concerning Jesus' death have been a source of interest and speculation for centuries, and modern times ushered in modern theories. In 1986, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) considered whether Jesus died of a blood clot, but concluded his death was due to blood loss. However, Brenner said that medical science's understanding of blood clots has since advanced dramatically.
Pulmonary embolisms occur when an artery in the lung becomes blocked, typically by one or more blood clots that have traveled to the lungs from another part of the body. The clots often originate in the legs, but can also form in veins in the arms, for example, or on the right side of the heart.
Some of Jesus' symptoms may have a familiar modern ring: dehydration, severe physical and emotional stress and prolonged immobilization. It's what can and does occasionally happen today to unlucky passengers on long plane flights, especially in this no-frills era. Also at risk are others who remain inactive for long periods of time, like those confined to bed and people who have had surgery, a stroke or heart attack. Each year about 30,000 Americans die from pulmonary embolisms.
Brenner hopes his research will raise public awareness about this largely preventable disease. Treatments include medication to break up clots or prevent new clots from forming. On long plane flights, it also helps to move around the cabin.
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