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For your discernment:
FROM THE MAILBAG: CRUCIFIXION EXPERT TAKES ISSUE WITH EMMERICH AND GIBSON
(Note: The following was received from Dr. Fred Zugibe, an anatomy expert who has studied the Crucifixion as well as the Shroud of Turin and was medical examiner for Rockland County, N.Y.)
When I heard Mel Gibson wanted to do an accurate movie of the Crucifixion, I wrote him, offered my assistance and gave my credentials having had studied the Crucifixion for over 52 years, but I received no response. I figured that he did not receive it but I was told by a friend who knew him that he had recommended me about the same time so I figured he had his own ideas of how he wanted to do it. From my viewpoint, however, I was disappointed when I saw the movie.
First of all, let's put things in proper perspective; for the general public, this movie is better than anything that had previously been produced and I believe will assist the masses in appreciating the sufferings of Jesus and His great love for man although it contains gross medical and scientific inaccuracies; also in part, historical inaccuracies. Most people will, however, not notice the scientific inaccuracies that I will point out. I also do not believe that the movie portrays anti-Semitism because Jesus had to die for the original sins for all of us and the players did not matter.
Apart from the medical and scientific inaccuracies, an important defect is that the movie lacks the major message inherent as to why He was so brutally tortured and put to death instead of the ineffective brief flashbacks utilized. This is important because many people are not fully aware of the prelude to His crucifixion as to why He suffered and died. Gibson failed to understand that Jesus not only suffered the severest form of physical suffering but He also suffered the severest form of mental suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane that Gibson grossly underplayed. This is something many Christians fail to realize. It was here, because of His beatific vision that he could see all of His sufferings to come and all of sins of man which took a great toll on Him causing the hematidrosis, (sweating of blood) and literally rendering Him limp. Since he included the hooded diabolical figure that is not even mentioned in the scriptures, Gibson should have depicted Him limp in the arms of the comforting angel who came to minister to Him. Remember, Jesus chose to suffer as a man and not as God with all of His sensitivities. Gibson even went so far as to use Aramaic and Latin to reinforce his aim for authenticity but he obviously was unaware that the Roman soldiers spoke Greek in the Holy Land not Latin.
Much of his information allegedly came from the revelations of Catherine Emmerich, Saint Brigit and Marie Aggreda. My studies of their revelations, and those of Marie Valtorta and others show marked discrepancies between each other. Moreover, many of their revelations are contrary to scriptures. Catherine Emmerich indicates that two executioners first beat Jesus with "a species of thorny stick, covered with knots and splinters. The blows from these sticks tore his flesh to pieces; his blood spouted out so as to stain their arms, and he groaned, prayed, and shuddered." She then relates, "Two fresh executioners took the places of the last mentioned, .........their scourges were composed of small chains, or straps covered with iron hooks, which penetrated to the bone, and tore off large pieces of flesh at every blow." She further relates, "they passed cords round his waist, under his arms, and above his knees, and having bound his hands tightly into the rings which were placed at the upper part of the pillar, they recommenced scourging him with even greater fury than before; and one among them struck him constantly on the face with a new rod. The Body of our Lord was perfectly torn to shreds,—it was but one wound." This of course is not only not in keeping with scriptures but is totally contrary to the findings on the Shroud of Turin. In Time magazine, David Van Biema relates that one mystic reported that Jesus told her that He was beaten on the body 6,666 times, on the head 110 times, pricks of thorns on the head 110 times, mortal thorns in the forehead 3 and the drops of blood he lost were 28,430. Sounds like an angel's computer.
In spite of my critique, and in spite of the bleeding and brutality depicted in the movie, I, however, want to emphasize that Jesus actually suffered more than the movie depicted as I will indicate below. In this regard, my expertise is primarily in the medical and scientific aspects of Crucifixion particularly in forensic pathology. In this regard, the movie had gross inaccuracies. Here is why:
If Jesus was brutally scourged over thirty times with rods followed by numerous scourgings with the flagrum containing leather thongs with scorpiones (bits of bone or metal) (appeared to be razor sharp in the movies) on their ends by the big burly soldiers with full swings as was depicted in the movie, this would have killed him pretty quickly. Remember, He had also been beaten previously at the house of Caiphas the high priest, and brutalized with the crown of thorns causing a trigeminal neuralgia characterized by severe, lancinating pains across the face. It may be of interest that I had a case about a year and a half ago that I autopsied and subsequently testified in, where a young, healthy person was beaten to death across the back using only a belt and lamp cord. Both lungs were collapsed and markedly hemorrhagic and the chest wall inside the cavity was infiltrated with hemorrhage. Imagine what a flagrum with bits of metal or bones at the tip of leather thongs and full body scourges wielded by a strong Roman soldier would do. Moreover, He certainly would not have been able to carry a 150-200 lb. cross. Did you ever receive a sharp punch to your chest or an injury to your rib? Not only are the pains terrible but there is difficulty taking a deep breath. This is known medically as splinting. Now recall the severity of the scourging across the chest shown in the movie. He would be gasping for breathe because of the inability to take deep breaths and even pressing the cross against His chest or shoulders would cause brutal pain. Moreover, with the number of lashes He received, he would be displaying severe shortness of breathe. In the condition that Jesus was in, how could He possibly carry it since he was in brutal pain and with difficulty breathing with increased pain with every breath. The man who played Simon of Cyrene in the movie was a big, burly man who was delegated to carry the cross the rest of the way and he had difficulty lifting the cross. Moreover, there was also nothing scripturally in support of Simon also carrying Jesus. In support of the fact that the crucarius (victim to be crucified) did not carry the full cross, the historic literature indicates that the stipes (uprights) were already in the ground outside the city gates and the victim, the crucarius only carried the patibulum (crosspiece ). Also, it is strange that Pilate ordered a brutal scourging, worse than the usual in order, to appease the crowd yet later was surprised that Jesus died so soon. An accurate depiction or just Hollywood style! Also the suppadenim (foot rest) was an invention of later day artists. There are other inaccuracies and here is where he left out a critical part of Jesus' suffering.
When the spikes pierced His hands and feet, He suffered one of the the worst pains ever experienced by man due to injuries to the median nerves of both hands and the plantar nerves of both feet called causalgia. The pain is so brutal that unless measures are taken quickly, the victim may go into severe shock. During the World War, shrapnel injuries to the median nerve caused pain to such an extent that even morphine was ineffective and they had to either sever or inject the corresponding nerve near the spinal column to prevent the victim from going into into severe shock. A person inflicted with causalgia involving only one hand, let alone involving both hands and feet, would scream out in in agony with loud shrieks of pain. Another point I noticed was large amounts of blood on the pavement being cleaned up by the Blessed Mother and Mary Magdalene. This would not be true even with the brutal scourging depicted. I think this was done for effect as I have routinely visited every homicide scene over the past 34 years and you only see blood strewn all over in cases like multiple stabbings and penetrating injuries.
But to conclude, as I said in my introduction, the movie was powerful in depicting that Jesus suffered brutally for original sin.
With best regards,
Fred Zugibe, M.D.
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